June 2018
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A stable country

Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyinecessitates stable institutions, first and foremost. Then it needs stable politics. If politics are like in the Philippines, winner-take-all and leave nothing for those outside one’s group, there can never be enough trust to be able to work together. Germany is able to have varying coalitions of colors not because all parties are basically the same (the extreme right and the extreme left would disagree) but because there is enough self-discipline to stick to the commonly agreed rules and not to be sophists about them like Filipinos often are. And to negotiate in good faith when making coalitions.

Engage or Avoid?

Contrast that with the bad faith which I think was present from the very beginning between the Philippine Left and the Duterte government. Dealing with Filipinos can sometimes mean that you are on very shifting ground. Transactional, one-off stuff works better, longer-term cooperation for mutual benefit is not easy to establish. Extortion attempts, reinterpreting rules and possibly even whining about unfairness can happen easily. And then getting mad because you tell them to stick to their part of the deal, or even trying to insult or intimidate the other side – tiring power games.

Which brings us to the major part of stability – stable people. If you are dealing with people who shift the goalposts all the time, forget it. It is the kind of Filipino mentality the leaders of today represent. PLUS the narcissistic rage than some may know who have heard of “My Way” killings or white foreigners getting bludgeoned because they accidentally pissed off someone drunk or high. Possibly just wounded his fragile ego, maybe even so long ago that they forgot about it, but not the man who waited for them in the night with a knife in his hand. Why deal with that willingly?

Dangerously unstable egos

Who knows why Jee-Ick Joo, the Korean they wanted to extort money from, was strangled in Camp Crame? Did he get fed up and ask why are you doing this to me, thereby pissing of the cop’s egos and they just killed him. How about Kian Delos Santos? All he asked the police who were hurting him was to go home as he had to review? Did they take his forthrightness as “arrogance”, thinking “who is he to mention that he is studying, does he think he is better than us”? People have indeed gotten beaten up by security guards and cops in the Philippines for “answering disrespectfully”.

An unstable President who has the same hang-ups as many a Filipino drunk (link): “So you think that you are the conscience of the people? That you are the right ones because you are the white? Excuse me. Are we talking of a monkey here or…” will of course bring out the worst in his people. The threats against the more Westernized and educated sections of the population (so-called “yellows”) at present might only be the beginning, just like Hitler’s propaganda only gradually led to more and more harassment legal and illegal, then expropriation and finally killing of its targets.

Cut the excuses

Colonial centuries are excuses even some very intelligent Filipinos use as a bargaining chip, again one more example from Duterte’s recent ramble: “When you left my country after 400 years, you brought home the best of everything in this country. Tapos ganunin ninyo ako? [laughter]”. Probably the worst logging in the Philippines took place during Marcos times with forest cover visibly reduced. There are indications that some of the most rapacious mining has taken place in the last 20 years. And population increased 5 times since the 1950s, when Manila was still spacious.

So there certainly was colonial exploitation, but the stewardship of the land by its own people was not much better. Who is apparently allowing the Chinese to take soil from the Philippines to build islands on atolls in the West Philippine Sea? Of course many Filipinos think that wealth is usually stolen – again Duterte’s rant: “You were ahead in the industrial race of the planet Earth because you stole the greatest resource of the Arabs and that was — that’s oil.” Wrong. The English mined coal in the late 18th century, had to drain mines, and invented the steam engine to help in this.

That started the Industrial Revolution, including steamships and the Suez Canal. Later on, different kinds of internal combustion engine were invented, making oil interesting. Germany probably also was calculating when it helped its ally, the Ottoman Empire, build the train line from Istanbul to Baghdad. To blame Western powers alone for the chaos after the Ottoman empire disintegrated is foolish, but so is most of Duterte’s half-analyzed history. Or not to see that China is very calculating in helping the strategically located, mineral-rich Philippines. And play one’s cards better.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 14. October 2017


9 comments to A stable country

  • – by Gideon Lasco

    BERLIN — The best place to start a tour of the German political system is the Reichstag, its historic seat of power. Home of the Bundestag or Federal Diet, this magnificent building served as seat of Germany’s legislature from 1894 until the infamous fire of 1933 that heralded Hitler’s dictatorship. Despite its storied past and neobaroque architecture, the interior is ultramodern and Coruscant-like, boasting of an iconic steel and glass dome open to the public.

    According to our guide, the dome’s design is symbolic: The myriad glass panels represent transparency, while the ability of ordinary citizens to go up the dome and actually “look down” on the plenary hall signifies the superiority of the people over their representatives.

    The same themes of transparency and people’s sovereignty can be found in the Bundesrat, the Federal Council which also participates in the legislative process. But while the Bundestag emphasizes the unity of the German state, the Bundesrat emphasizes the diversity of 16 different states or Länders. Germany, after all, is a federal republic..

    Where does Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, fit in? Legally, her mandate is to set policy and run the federal government, but people are divided as to the extent of her influence. While she remains fairly popular, her decision to open Germany to refugees has cost her some political capital, and so has the perception that she is more concerned about Europe than Germany itself..

    The German system is an interesting case for countries like the Philippines, where federalism is being pushed by the government. Like Scotland, Catalonia, and our Bangsamoro region, Bavaria has a distinct culture and a deep sense of identity, but it has much less of their separatist impulses. Though that may change in the future, surely the federal structure deserves some credit for its ability to satisfy each Land’s desire for autonomy.

    But the more I talk to the Germans about their political system, the more I think that the glue is not so much political as cultural. “Everyone knows that it’s their duty to help each other,” Christian, a Berlin-based scholar, told me, pointing to the example of Bavaria. “They used to receive money, but now they’re among the richer states supporting the poorer ones. We all know that it’s in our best interest to support one another.”

  • karlgarcia

    Galit sya sa EU ngayon dahil nagpapalakas sya sa Middle East, sa China, sa Russia ngayun pati sa Amerika matapos nya itong lait laitin.

    Madami syang pledges sa mga ito di nya alam na madami ng existing contract ang EU di lang pledges ano ngayun kung makialam sila at mag lecture, may mawawala ba?

  • karlgarcia

    What if he just reads the script of his writers, I am sure siome of them have correct historical facts?
    Nah, he prefers to dig his own grave by being “ true to himself” and “ no pretenses”. (my foot!)

  • karlgarcia

    Defending institutions

    “Critics of President Duterte accuse him of undermining the nation’s institutions — especially those charged with upholding the rule of law and maintaining the constitutional mechanisms of checks and balance — by attacking their current occupants. Mr. Duterte’s avid supporters, on the other hand, accuse his critics of destabilizing the presidency and laying the ground for regime change by their ceaseless attacks on his integrity.

    Which one is more plausible? Is President Duterte destroying our institutions, or are his detractors destabilizing the presidency?

    First, it is quite obvious that not every criticism of incumbents is an attack on the institutions they represent. Indeed, most such criticisms aimed at persons may equally be viewed as valid attempts to preserve the integrity of the institution.

    Second, it is important to bear in mind that state institutions, and the public offices that constitute them, are ultimately based on the people’s continuing trust in their government. Though they may often feel they have no choice in this matter, the people nonetheless abide by them not because they are coerced to do so, but because they believe in these institutions as essential instruments of public order, justice, and the common good.

    Let us now consider the ongoing “word war” between the President and the Ombudsman. Mr. Duterte has accused the Office of the Ombudsman of allowing itself to be a tool of the opposition by giving due course to a complaint for undeclared wealth filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. Claiming that the complaint is malicious and has no basis, the President warns that he will set up an “independent body” to investigate the Office of the Ombudsman for its “partiality” and for soliciting bribes to settle cases.

    The Ombudsman has replied with a terse statement: “Sorry, Mr President, but this Office shall not be intimidated. The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s ongoing investigation into issues that involve him. This Office, nonetheless, shall proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution…. If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear.”

    While the two officials can be removed from office only by impeachment, the Ombudsman’s powers are no match to the powers of the President. The President draws a considerable amount of his authority from his being elected to office. In our political culture, people tend to think that elective positions command greater legitimacy than appointive ones supposedly because they represent the will of the people. This has no basis either in law, or in fact.

    The enormous powers of the state are distributed across a myriad of elective and appointive positions. Indeed, appointive positions are typically more demanding in the qualifications they set for occupants. But, it is true: Holders of appointive positions in our country tend to be vulnerable to attacks by politicians.

    This is particularly so in the case of state agencies that are charged with investigating public officials and monitoring their performance, but whose functions cannot be categorized in any clear way under the judiciary or any other branch of government. Not familiar with their work, the public may often be inclined to think of them as dispensable agencies without clear mandates. Examples are the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights.

    I call them “reflexive institutions” because, even as they are part of the state, they are there to observe the actions of the state itself — in their capacity as society’s “self-protecting device.” They exist basically to protect the people from the abuses that may be committed by state authorities.

    This concept is clear in the way the Office of the Ombudsman defines its mission: “As protectors of the people, we shall endeavor, in cooperation with all sectors of Filipino Society, to promote integrity and efficiency and high ethical standards in public service through proactive approaches in graft prevention and public assistance, prompt investigation of complaints and aggressive prosecution of cases against government officials and employees.” The phrase “protectors of the people” is not a self-serving description; this is how the role is defined in Section 12, Article XI, of the 1987 Constitution.

    Interestingly, the same phrase in its singular form, “protector of the people,” appears in the Constitution’s Sec. 3, Article II: “The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State.” But, unlike the AFP, the Office of the Ombudsman does not have an army or even a small police force to carry out its decisions.

    It is thus far easier for the President to thwart the work of the Office of the Ombudsman than it is for the latter to destabilize the presidency. Mr. Duterte does not have to intimidate this small agency by threatening its officials with arrest if they fail to appear before any special commission. Anyone can file an impeachment case against the Ombudsman, and the President’s loyal majority in Congress could give this due course if he so wishes. Moreover, under Republic Act No. 6770, the President himself may dismiss any of the Ombudsman’s deputies, after due process, on the same grounds for impeaching the Ombudsman.

    Institutions like the Office of the Ombudsman are the state’s self-correcting mechanisms. They can perform this almost improbable function only when they are able to stand their ground against those that seek to emasculate them, or make them an instrument for political ends.”

  • karlgarcia

    I meant past blog of yours.

    • similar topic, even if this blog is more about the hangups that cause it to be that way…

      Edgar’s comment on FB:

      White vs. monkey.

      Inferiority complex: “an unrealistic feeling of general inadequacy caused by actual or supposed inferiority in one sphere, sometimes marked by aggressive behavior in compensation.”

      JoeAm on Twitter – just after sharing this article, so it could be a reaction to it:

      “Filipino dementia is a condition born of presumed subjugation to colonizers and elites. It is a denial of one’s own ability to be meaningful”

  • karlgarcia

    May I bring up this past blog if youre.

    You got right then, you still got right now.


      By Alan Robles

      ..The barangays had typically been ruled by chieftains who were called “datu”, “raja” or “pangolo”. According to one history book (Cortes et al., 2000), this system of strongman governance was “pre-political” because it was “informal, folk-sustained, uncentralised and still without specific agencies”. There was no distinction between the family and the community. Leaders’ authority was based on kinship, subservience, deference and dependence.

      A few hundred Spaniards easily conquered most of the archipelago. The exception was the southern island Mindanao, where Islam had taken a firm root. The colonial power thrived on native disunity, enlisting allies to help subdue the holdouts…

      ..However, the conquerors also built their empire on the islands’ pre-Hispanic foundations. Cooperative chieftains became village officials who used their positions to the advantage of their families and clans. They soon formed a separate class, the “principalia”, and eventually turned into a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Under Spanish rules, “elections” were confined to village positions with the members of the elite always electing each other..

      ..What the people did learn over the centuries was that government, laws and bureaucracy were instruments of oppression, exploitation and abuse. Even well-intentioned laws were implemented in oppressive ways, but the victims never understood that. All colonial laws were written in Spanish after all. Those in power seized land, imposed taxes and demanded tributes, including forced labour..

      ..The new imperial power promised to build an American style republic. It introduced policies to promote everything from education and hygiene to infrastructure. Laws and institutions were supposed to teach Filipino leaders the mysteries of democracy. English became the archipelago’s official lingua franca, and learning it was officially encouraged. However, the schools were never expanded in a way that would have allowed to the majority of the people to do so. Even today, English is the nation’s official language, but most Filipinos do not speak it. Legislation has been written in English for more than a century, but to most citizens, it remains as inaccessible as Spanish law was..

      ..It is true that Americans introduced popular elections, but these events were games of musical chairs played by the small groups of dynastic families. Landowning oligarchs and warlords dominated at the local level and shared the spoils at the national level. As Quiason put it, “what evolved was democracy in form but not in substance”. The dynasties treated the country’s institutions as tools for increasing their own wealth and power. Policy-making served clan interests…

      • – by Randy David

        ..Notwithstanding the increasingly strident voices heard on both sides of the political divide, public opinion still seems to clearly favor Mr. Duterte. I don’t think this is due to any specific policy or program, or to anything by which he has tried to define his presidency — like the bloody campaign to rid the country of the menace of illegal drugs. Neither is it attributable to any visible or concrete achievement of his in any area of governance. I suspect it is due, rather, to a deep public disenchantment with the old political order that the former Davao City strongman has been expressly recruited to dismantle..

        ..It was this antisystemic impulse that catapulted Mr. Duterte to the presidency; it is this same force that keeps him there and makes the people unmindful of his lack of clear direction and basic unpreparedness for the nation’s highest office. What the people showed in the last elections is that they were ready to try anything in the name of change, any kind of change..

        ..if we look back more closely, we might find that there were already telltale signs of a growing disaffection with a government that seemed chronically unable to respond to what appeared at first glance as simple problems. Emblematic of this state of affairs was the Metro Rail Transit that kept breaking down and couldn’t seem to meet the minimum standards of public service. Always, the dark shadow of corruption and incompetence loomed as an explanation for the sad state into which the mass transport system in general had fallen..

        ..As it happened, therefore, Filipinos went to the polls last year looking for a strong-willed president who would punish the corrupt, rid the country of criminals, waste no words on incompetent public officials, and whip the whole government service into line. In their eyes, the entire system had become so corrupted that only a confirmed outsider to the ruling political class would have filled the bill..

        This antisystemic impulse will likely outlive President Duterte. So deep are its wellsprings that the people will learn to resolve their cognitive dissonance (the conflict between beliefs and information about events) by reinterpreting events rather than by altering their beliefs. They will find ways to rationalize and reinforce their trust in the card they had picked—until a more persuasive symbol of change comes along, someone who will offer a coherent plan and a bolder but optimistic view of government. One thing is certain, though: There can be no return to the old discredited system.

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