A concerted effort against him

Passion of Christ-Bearing of the Crossis what Duterte calls the ICC preliminary investigation (link). Isn’t that a bit like a counterflowing driver in Manila who sees everybody driving the wrong way around? Funny though that in Manila, those who insist on their right of way against such jerks can be seen as obstructive. So it might well be that Duterte might get sympathy for effectively showing contempt of court, painting himself as a victim of oppressive foreign forces – even if he is seen as a coward by many already. That might just be my “yellow” (Westernized, educated) bubble though, just like those who sympathize with Chief Justice Sereno. Who knows what the typical man on the street or the OFW in Saudi Arabia thinks of CJ Sereno, does he see her as an arrogant bitch who refuses to leave even if “many people” (link) don’t like her as a boss anymore? Or didn’t people ask Maggie Dela Riva once “how it feels to be responsible for the death of four men”? (link) Her answer was: “I’m not responsible for the death of four men. They did it to themselves. They had the power of choice. They chose to be evil. They had to meet the consequences of their action.” They had raped her, a famous actress, back in 1967.

Facing the Consequences

Dela Riva’s idea of people having to face the consequences of their actions seems downright quaint if one looks at the sad state of the Philippines today. The President himself, quintessential Filipino everyman, shirks the consequences of his actions. Leaves the ICC, tries to impeach a Chief Justice who admonished him due to drug lists that included judges, puts a Senator who tried to investigate extrajudicial killings in jail based on testimonies of alleged drug lords who now have been released by his own Secretary of Justice, gives the mastermind of the pork barrel scheme Witness Protection and will most probably use her testimony against political rivals – while many of those originally accused are free. Or isn’t there a Vice-Presidential Candidate over 60 who still acts like a petulant, spoiled dictator’s teenage son who refuses to acknowledge obvious defeat in the last elections? He may well be still able to rig things, much like Admiral General Aladeen of Wadiya in “The Dictator” (link) who has servile minions rig a sprint for him while shooting down those who get too near. Counterflowing drivers, wang-wang politicians, children of dynastic politicians – similar attitudes.

Even in middle-class families it can be bad enough. One woman who dared take her philandering husband to court for bigamy in the late 1960s was vilified by her husband’s folks – he got pity. Spanish colonial accounts of Filipinos in court mentioned that each side tried to show up in as large as possible numbers to make it look as if their own side was right. For me, one of the biggest culture shocks when coming to Germany was reading that courts really give smaller sentences when a culprit shows a sense of regret. Filipino courts might see it as drama and give a greater sentence. Friends might tell the culprit what kind of fool are you to admit, stupid enough if you get caught! There is no true presumption of innocence in the culture. And indeed – corruption, extortion and dishonesty prevail. Mila Aguilar said in a Facebook post that the Juan Pusong (link) or trickster attitude is quite common among Filipinos and that Duterte is a prime example of that Visayan folk hero. And there is a certain disbelief among many that the Daang Matuwid government of former President Aquino could ever have been that honest. Some examples of possible bias are mentioned.

Them or Us

There are pressures to be biased. There was even once a Filipino overseas association where the clique of its President tried to pressure him to rig a raffle so they could win the main prize. There can be enormous petulance and even a sense of being treated unfairly if one is not favored. The massive incompetence of most Duterte appointees is an extreme manifestation of this attitude. At least most appointees of the previous President were competent, even if there always will be some favoritism in this world, even in the corporate world with its harsher, more competitive winds.

And though there may have been some rigging the game in the previous administration, the present administration is downright antisocial in its ways, just barely even minding the legality of matters. The pre-Marcos elites were monopolistic and exploitative for sure, but a certain sense of decency and at least keeping appearances kept things polite. Even the Marcos era tried to maintain a certain veneer of legality and propriety. Nowadays one has a sense of piranhas in the water, biting away. And a constituency that mostly does not seem to mind if poor people die – for their peace of mind.

Do Others Matter?

Possibly not much different from their President in showing (link“gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness”. One only needs to look at the dirt in most Philippine urban waters – notable exceptions like Iloilo City prove the rule. Or also a “grandiose sense of self-entitlement” – or what do barangay councilors have who build their houses on allotted green spaces as I recently read? Or wang-wang convoys, or counterflowing drivers. My way or the highway. Sing My Way the wrong way and you might even get killed. When is the point reached where society barely exists and most people act in an antisocial way? Rule of law becomes a farce the moment everybody cheats, from top to bottom. Where the call for violent solutions is sheer desperation. That all did not happen overnight. A society where people become ruthless, ready to “violate the rights and feelings of others” (also in Duterte’s psychological report) may already have started to develop in times when people laughed at a child made to dance ridiculously at Wowowee. It may have been there when people took smiling pictures of themselves in front of the bus where Hongkong tourists were killed.

The roots of it may even go as far back to people reelecting known rapists like Mayor Sanchez and Governor Jalosjos. There is not necessarily ruthlessness there, but indifference that tolerates evil. Or that accepts evil as good if it is for one’s own convenience, like for example “clearing the streets”.

Such a system eats itself up at some point. Rules become merely tools for winning instead of being there to guide the fundamental consideration for others that should be at the heart of any society. Yes, others. Even those – whose heads one hunted before. Culture and civilization are about that.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17 March 2018

Others thinking you think you’re better

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Serenoare dangerous – in the Philippines and elsewhere. Sara Duterte about EDSA veterans (link), Supreme Court Justices about CJ Sereno, probably many about President Aquino’s handling Dengvaxia – which may have proven successful given recent indications (link). Damn, time for Martial Law and censorship! Increase the number of dengue cases, as yellow must be made bad! And they deserve hatred that is deep and personal, just like Harry Roque wishing Leila de Lima a life in jail (link) – yes, they messed up some things, but what did they do to deserve all of that?

Pakikisama and Schadenfreude

One accusation hurdled against Chief Justice Sereno is lacking pakikisama towards her colleagues in the Supreme Court – again a propaganda strategy that is very Filipino. Pakikisama often means subduing oneself to fit into a group. You don’t like the movie everybody in the barkada has seen? Bad enough if you weren’t there to see it with them. Worse if you say you think it is a stupid movie. An individual opinion against the assumed majority opinion – wow, does he think he is BETTER? Put a UP graduate into the midst of some working-class OFWs without escape. What could happen?

They might probably wait for the first slip-up of the UP graduate, and then display Schadenfreude. Sara Duterte brought the word Schadenfreude into the Philippine vocabulary (link) with regards to Mariel de Leon not topping Miss International – because she criticized the present administration. The sentiment against “yellow”, the previous administration and all related to it, is however more like the Serbian saying Da komsiji crkne krava – “If only the neighbour’s cow would die” (link) – related to the Serbian concept of inat: spitefulness, vindictiveness, hardheadedness + much more.

Spitefulness and Feindbilder

There is a similar spitefulness visible and audible among those who hate Aquino, Sereno, De Lima. Aquino? Sure he messed up certain things. But is the present government doing so much better? Sure it was easy to make him – and Mar Roxas – bogeymen due to their plantation owner origins. Feindbild is the German word for a cluster of prejudices and fears pertaining to a given group. There is also the Feindbild of the English-speaking elite, easy to trigger among common Filipinos. Why otherwise would Mocha focus on Leni Robredo’s US visits and her daughter in Harvard?

There is I think deep envy about what is perceived to be a privileged life, as opposed to one’s own.  Why otherwise make a big deal about Leni’s dresses, like some have done – yet admire the dresses of Isabelle Duterte at a lavish debut? Of course, Leni Robredo has already been identified as part of the other tribe, those who have “had it all” (not true for Leni who lived in the dormitory when she studied at UP) while “we” never had anything and now have the right to luxury and the good life. Even if no one can claim that Leni is lighter in color than most, or Sereno’s nose way too sharp!

Country and town

are both called bayan in Filipino. In a town especially a small one, there is a certain conformity. There is indeed a certain sameness, anywhere in the world. You are ruling a quite homogeneous group of people. The Philippines is a country – forced upon a collection of small communities. Countries need specialized people to be governed properly. The probably first specialized people in the Philippines were the town scribes the Spanish friars trained. More sophisticated governance and business brought about the present “elite” universities that are in international rankings (link).

That the provinces and the poor were left behind is an effect of this development until today. But the present government is playing a dangerous game in mobilizing envy of those left behind against those who had better chances. Mayors can still run their cities by sheer instinct, like Duterte did. For larger entities like countries you need truly competent people – unless you want to return to olden days with plenty of epidemics, pogroms and witch hunts. Isn’t the Philippines getting there? Measles spreading due to fear of vaccines. Pogrom mentality against drug users. And witch hunts.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 March 2018

The ruler always means well

MuseumMalacanan9714 23and how dare anyone doubt that! Especially if the ruler is a narcissist, hooked on being admired. Surely there have been benevolent rulers, no matter how they were called in the past. But there are two factors which kept rulers from seeing only their own interests – popular and ethical pressure.

Pressures upon rulers

Ethical pressure could be social standards as to how a good ruler should be – whether he was a Christian King in Medieval Europe, held at least theoretically to standards the Church set for him, or an Islamic Sultan especially in the Arab world, held to ideals of the Islamic religion, a Chinese Emperor held to Confucian ideals of a balanced and harmonious society, a Japanese Emperor bound by ancient rules of honor, or tribal leaders held to honor the memory of their ancestors.

Popular pressure would be groups of people seeking that they have their share within society. Whenever the natural balance, a certain satisfaction with how things are, was disturbed, history has shown that people eventually react – more often than not constructively if their voices are heard and especially if their needs are met. Aggressively if they are not heard and their needs are not met. Passive-aggressively if the channel of aggression is blocked – even to the point of social stagnation. The passive aggressivity was very obvious in Eastern Europe of the late 1980s, just before the anger at Communist repression finally boiled over – from Berlin to Bucharest. People simply did what they had to, were cynical about nearly everything. Nothing moved forward anymore as a result.

Golden Age coming?

Well, maybe I am wrong about the Philippines. It could well be that President Duterte is the future. That the country will return to a golden age, when rulers loved their people like strict fathers and the people loved them in return! Not like the “ungrateful” and “un-Filipino” reporter Pia Ranada Robles, who was let into Daddy Diggs entourage and still dared to criticize him, and when given the punishment she deserved, still dared ask and ask the Praetorian Guard of the Philippines WHY!?

Why isn’t the kind of question traditional authoritarians in the Philippines like. Why is like asking what the hell are you doing to them, challenging their authority. Everything is so very personal. That however keeps things from advancing. Because someone always has to be the scapegoat. Insufficient focus on fixing issues like for example the MRT 3, instead the current group of datus and rajas tries to pin the fault on the ousted yellow datus or rajas. To completely isolate from the society all those who are not on the side of the ruler. Which is what Marcos did during Martial Law.

The Rude Awakening

Yes, and what happened, finally. Much like the Communist rulers in Eastern Europe, the rulers of the Philippines in the 1980s usually got to hear what they wanted to hear. Their regimes imploded. Yet Duterte’s Philippines seems to not even need formal dictatorship and full censorship for that. The warning signs – political, economic, social – are there to see yet people choose to ignore them. There will be demonstrations again this weekend, in memory of the two million on EDSA in 1986. Yes, I only recently was reminded they were that many. But that desperate remembrance may fail. The comfortable illusion of a national barangay with a jovial chieftain which is at the same time as progressive as and orderly as Singapore, a kind of Malay Wakanda, is political shabu for many. In reality China surrounds it, mines its vibranium, and will give it overpriced loans. Still dreaming?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 24 February 2018

Kneeling before Duterte

RamsesIIEgypt(his picture) was what two youths in Davao were forced to do by police recently (link). MAYBE they should be happy they were not shot in today’s Philippines. But MAYBE not. Is it normal to make young people revere a President like a God-King? Did the Philippines ever have its own Pharaoh? Datus in smaller communities, rajahs in bigger agglomerations like Manila or Cebu, but rajahs were basically paramount chiefs controlling an alliance of chieftains. There was certainly a hierarchy. It is documented that commoners had to prostrate themselves before datus. The most complex hierarchy probably was in Manila and the surrounding Tagalog regions. The Tagalog language itself has not only “po” (also documented by early colonial chroniclers) but other forms of courtesy in it, and is probably the most complex of all Philippine languages in its pure form.

Courtesy and Dignity

Not quite as complex as Javanese with its Kromo (polite), Ngoko (informal) and Madya (medium) styles of speech, but effectively similar to Chavacano (link) which although it is a Spanish-based creole has distinct formal and colloquial forms of speech. Now is Duterte speaking Ngoko to all? Someone told me that he indeed sounds more like a gangster boss speaking to subordinates than a street person talking to other street people. He lacks something traditional Filipinos, even some of the most simple peasants used to have – BEARING. Most traditional Asian people still have it. Indonesians for example have nearly the same polite body language as traditional Filipinos, I just recently observed. Duterte tells Middle Eastern nations to treat Filipinos with dignity (link) yet exudes little of it. In fact he gives OFWs the signal that it is OK to be sloppy, rude and plain stupid.

Contrast that with Vice-President Leni Robredo. Recently, she said that Lorraine Badoy is not worth talking about (link) – and that Mocha Uson is not a good example of a government employee (link). With the simple good breeding that is hers, and is far from being artificial or “plastic”. Contrast Duterte with Ombudsman Morales, who refuses to implement a patently illegal order by the President to suspend her own Deputy (link) and is now being threatened with sanctions by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (link). Contrast that also with Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who has so far defied all attempts to make her appear before the dubious impeachment proceedings against her in Congress. Women who will not kneel before Duterte. Now when will Congress find time to impeach Morales? Too many fronts to fight on.

Bilibid or not

Meanwhile, it seems Chinese drug lords have taken over Bilibid (link). Prof. Vicente Rafael says: “Far from being a site of discipline and punish, of panoptic surveillance and reformation, the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa is a haven for privileged drug lords and other gangsters where they enjoy the protection of guards and other higher ups to run their rackets. It is like a country within a country, or better yet, a mirror reflection of the country itself, where wealthy boss-criminals live in comfy apartment-cells with expensive lounge chairs and special rooms for conjugal visits, keep lots of cash and guns, and govern the place while the lesser con men, petty crooks and the innocently framed know their place and follow orders.” Speaking of innocently framed, the case against De Lima looks flimsier each day. Shouldn’t Aguirre be blamed this time?

Crazy suggestions like having Chinese ships patrol Sulu and Celebes Seas are being slammed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano (link): “I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” he explained. Aside from the fact that even Machiavelli already recommended alliances among equals as smarter. With regards to Benham Rise, oceanographer Jay Batongbacal of UP in a long post (link) debunked the statement of Presidential spokesman Harry Roque that “Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise” – making clear that Filipinos had done plenty of expeditions by themselves for years.

Do not complain

Towards leftist UP students protesting, Duterte threatened to replace them with Lumads or children of soldiers (link). The reaction has been to stage bigger protests next time. The interesting thing is that Duterte had threatened to bomb Lumad schools (link) before for alleged leftist links. The kind of ideal Filipino that Duterte seems to want is a non-complaining, non-thinking person. Probably even beholden to him via utang na loob – a value which was valid in the older settings from which it originated as a cement for personal loyalties as well as cashless give and take, in times when communities were still small and intuitively manageable. An instrument for making people subservient in early colonialism, and increasingly unbearable as modern times approached, because the key factor in modern societies is merit, not indebtedness. Like at UP – ever since 1908.

The Philippines is in a major crisis these days. Struggling with plenty of legacies and hang-ups. But to reject practically all institutions including UP, the Constitution and democracy – for all their imperfections and contradictions to the already contradictory and confused Filipino culture – and then throw away even natural dignity and bearing, yes even respect for one’s fellow man in the culture itself – to finally have a gang-like rule backed by the Chinese both legally and illegally – is WHAT? National suicide, and I am not even talking about ill-conceived, rushed, fake Federalism. There is a lot more to keeping a country together than forcing the young to kneel before Duterte. Even the Japanese emperor always knelt before Amaterasu, the Sun-God (link). Even Kings knelt before Popes in medieval Europe. Higher principles always guided good rulers. Not just EGO.

Datus of old had people prostrating themselves before them. But they did not have guns and gold like Filipino politicians from the 20th century onward. Not even goons, as ancient warriors had to take real risks in battle – and only had bladed weapons just like peasants had their bolos. And even in Spanish times it was easy to go up the mountains. Today people have less escape and recourse. But Filipinos have also been known to be like carabaos – patient until “enough is too much”, like Popeye famously says before eating his spinach. And modern developments have created a society more complex than in 1521. Professional elites may have more chances of leaving the country, and what if more than the MRT will break down? Will Mocha and Tulfo fix things? Will Dante Jimenez and Persida Acosta cure diseases like modern-day witch doctors? Will Robin Padilla teach Tagalog?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 February 2018

 

The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

Philip II's Law on the PrincipaliaA Bavarian once told me. Was he right? China claims sovereignty over Panatag (link). Duterte seems to trust China (link) just like Aguinaldo trusted the USA in 1898 (link), proclaiming independence “under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America”. One wonders how the datus behaved who were made into principalia by decree of King Philipp II (picture). Did they behave like today’s Congress supermajority? There was a sizable group that resisted in 1574 in Manila (link): “all punished with some put to death and others exiled”.

Remontados and Rebels

There were rebels like Bohol’s Francisco Dagohoy (link) – a cabeza de barangay (basically a chieftain coopted into the Spanish system) who initiated an 85-year revolt from 1744 to 1828, with the mountains as protection. Heading for the hills was probably a common way of avoiding the colonial state,  with the topography of the country as an ally (link), one probable example being the Cimarrones of Bikol who: “inhabited the slopes of Mount Isarog and forested hills of Siruma and Camaroan. These groups were cultivators and hunters but were most renowned for the raids they conducted on those in the lowlands. As their names suggests, they were probably fugitives from Spanish control, and as such emerged as a distinct group only in colonial times.” Cimarron means wild cattle in Spanish and was also used for escaped black slaves in the Caribbean, called Maroons (link) in English.

The 19th century brought ideas of nationalism into the Philippines, groups like Filipino priests and Filipino intellectuals (link) brought about the First and Second Propaganda movements. The short-lived Liga Filipina may have been the spark that started the Katipunan, which combined ideas of Rizal which were European in origin with native ideas, including cultic amulets or anting-anting. Revolutionary brotherhood inspired by Western examples plus the kind of brotherhood one sees during the Black Nazarene was the fuel of the 1896 revolution, even if it started only in 8 provinces, only one of which (Pampanga) was not Tagalog-speaking. Aguinaldo, a former cabeza de barangay, quickly made the revolution his own, had Bonifacio killed, and pacted with the Spanish in 1897. The Biak-na-Bato pact even included payments to him in exchange for his voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo came back on an American vessel, later fought with the Americans, probably had his best general killed (link) before finally being captured. The Philippine Republic was completed later on under American tutelage (link) – but that was not its major flaw. Blaming others is easy.

Cuba vs. Collaboration

It was, I believe, the Filipinos themselves. After all, Cuba had its own Republic from 1902 (link) even if was occupied for three years before that and again from 1906-1908. And it aside from its own war of independence from 1895-1898 (link), it fought from 1868-1878 and 1879-1880. Same colonial powers before and after 1898. And possibly the Philippine revolution was also simply a bit opportunistic as Spain was already weakened – and the Spanish-American war made that worse. Manolo Quezon’s “Malakas at Mahina” (link) shows how Filipino politics plays out based on who is “strong” or “weak”. Going back to the beginnings of Spanish rule, it helps to remember that Manila was allied to Brunei, even through family ties. Was the Castilian war of 1578 (link) wherein Spain defeated Brunei decisively the more motivating factor for Filipino datus to fall in line. Malakas!

Or how quickly the Filipino ruling class, with notable exceptions, fell in line to collaborate with Japan when they occupied the Philippines. And then fell back in line before McArthur in 1945. Even Diego Silang (link) – whose wife Gabriela is better known for taking over when he got killed – was allied with the British in his quest for Ilocano independence in the 1760s. There is a Filipino saying about the bird on the back of the carabao – are most Filipinos just that after all? The few dramatic outbursts of nationalism just that – drama – and often just bullying easy targets (link) like Robin Padilla with the Korean recently. Would Padilla dare say that to a  Chinese ambassador? The Filipino UN delegates who once annoyed a Soviet into taking out his shoes probably felt strong as UN founding members and close allies of the USA. Just like I personally experienced how Filipino diplomats acted rude to Germans – when Germany was still divided and they hobnobbed with American diplomats, for example at the US Embassy club in Bonn. Birds on a really big carabao. Not much difference to Duterte being rude to the EU (seen as mahina, documented comments by Andanar on Brexit show that attitude) but subservient to both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Bietnamese bersus Balimbings

Contrast that to Vietnam, which fought the French, then the United States, then the Chinese. Inspite of enormous sacrifices they never gave up. Pretty rude people, not friendly Filipinos. Somehow though I would trust the word of a Vietnamese more, I am very sorry to say by now. Filipinos often are subservient when they think they can get an advantage or think they are weak (mahina) then turn around to be rude, act as if you exploited them when they think they are strong (malakas) – probably with a new ally or backer or someone they have ingratiated themselves with.

Gago, anong year iyan (Asshole, what year was that?) was Senator Gatchalian’s answer to netizens who criticized him for being highly critical of former President Aquino now and praising him to high heavens in 2012 (link). Balimbing, the fruit that easily changes sides, was one analogy used. My first memory of hearing balimbing was in 1986. Well, yes, I guess it is gago to assume that a typical Filipino politician will NOT praise the one who is malakas at a given time. Fool me twice. Even among Filipinos overseas I have seen the kapit mentality of hanging on to people for favors – and dropping them like hot potatoes once these people lost access to resources they could dispense. Possibly I am too Germanic by now, preferring people who deal straight, not caring about favors. Not lick the boots of the current patron and bark at its enemies – or all who are not that powerful.

Aso o Astig

To be a really tough guy, stop being a lapdog. Stand on your own two feet like a human being. Indonesian death penalty is not something I like – but it has due process and therefore much more character than secretly killing people via most probably staged “nanlaban” (fighting back at police) or masked vigilante groups which are most probably off-duty cops (link). Shouting down a lady reporter (link) like Pia Ranada Robles is seen as macho by some (or many?) Duterte supporters.

That is about as macho as the slum bullies who go home to beat up their wives and rape their stepdaughters in Filipino classic movies like Insiang (link) – one good and observant movie. People who laugh at necrophiliac rape jokes like the famous one Duterte made are clearly dysfunctional. Only few admire those who stand up to power like Trillanes. Would Filipinos cheer Tell or Gessler? Yes, Landvogt (bailiff) Gessler as opposed to heroic Wilhelm Tell of Swiss revolutionary legend. Sure, Filipinos have their heroes and are proud of them. But how much solidarity do their heroes get while alive? My impression, more and more, is that Filipinos prefer their heroes DEAD.

Pride Chicken is not Preedom

Because living heroes remind them of their mostly deficient characters? Put heroes in cement and put them in Rizal Park instead of sinking them in Manila Bay, but still letting the next scoundrels rule the country as always, while the majority, as Rizal already noted in the Fili “feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed.. wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty”. Collaboration with a new empire in 1571. Revolution against a fading empire in 1896, as one of the LAST remaining colonies. Quick collaboration with the USA, then Japan, then USA again. What Filipino pride? Pride chicken. Fuck the EU, Mr. Duterte? Bend over for China.

Patriotically deny the French access to research in Benham Rise (link) while letting China (link)? Rizal also said in the Fili: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”. But, oh well, he was a Westernized elitist. Not counted. But then again, both fraternities and state often seem to breed subservience, not character (link). The powerful have all the rights (link) and are usually spoiled because they are rarely challenged. True, the frontier elites of Mindanao have faced more challenges  which made it easy for them, in my opinion, to take over Manila (link). But what would Duterte have become without his goons? Datus of old had to prove their mettle in the old warrior tradition, last manifested in Northern Luzon mountain tribe headhunting. Centuries of comfort and hereditary rank, first established in Spanish times and indirectly continued by political dynasties of later on, weakened their class.

Character and Charisma

Strangely, those who criticize the faults of former President Benigno Aquino – which do exist and are because of his growing up in that kind of elite – do not see the even worse spoiled brat faults of both Bongbong Marcos and President Duterte. In fact, Aquino has shown balls on occasion, like showing up at the Dengvaxia hearing – even if there were occasions like after Mamasapano where he did not. Yet many Filipinos take the barking of Bongbong and the bluster of Digong for bravery. Or the stupidity of Robin Padilla for patriotism. For sure, President Duterte has his charisma. It is the charisma of a trickster and a joker. The German word for that is Schlitzohr, a “sly fox” or a “shark” depending on the context. Many Filipinos still believe Duterte is a trickster with the best interests of his people in mind, just wait. Yet to me it seems character and perspective is missing. His “hidden qualities” seem more like wishful thinking of those who do not wish to see what might be the painful truth – that character is mostly missing in the Philippines for lack of being cultivated. Further self-delusion might lead the country to a point of no return. If it has not yet been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 January 2018

 

 

What real effect

Rappler Logowill #StandWithRappler and #BloggersForFreedom (link) have for the Philippines? We shall see. The Black Friday Protests today were well-attended by journalists, students and others (link) but will that even reach the general Filipino public? Will they care at all. Or will it be more like (link): Ayaw nilang makarinig ng ibang balita. Palakpak ang masarap sa tenga nila. Makuntento na sa mga balita sa patayan, naholdap, nagahasa, nasunugan at tingay ng baha, buhay ng artista at drama sa telenobela. Pagkatapos, makinig sa update nina Mocha, Andanar at Roque… This is about the so-called masa, the majority that Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo sees as “not educated” enough to vote on Charter Change (link) and who Speaker Alvarez claims to truly represent (link) – but who threatens provinces that do not cooperate with “no-funds” (link).

But even most of the “educated” Filipinos might care more about their material comfort and security than their freedom. In a country of rote learning, most lessons probably never were more than skin-deep – Christianity, rule of law, democracy. Maybe what stuck was more like this (link): “Many of the things you heard about Davao were about extrajudicial killings, but look at Davao. I invested a lot. Lives? Yes. You have to kill to make your city peaceful,” Duterte said. Rest in Peace. Recently, 2 hit men who killed 2 jail guards in Muntinlupa – turned out to be policemen (link).

Charter Change may be the point of no return for Philippine democracy, as local politicians may want to secure their rule by keeping populations misinformed and intimidated. This might after all be what Filipinos really want, who knows? A smiling population ruled by a dirtily smiling Alvarez.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 19 January 2018

Black and arrogant

Obama Portrait 2006is what Duterte called Obama (link). Or what he said to jeepney drivers (link) makes it even weirder. Misguided pro-poor, pro-Filipino officials, journalists and academics have gone too far at times in blaming the rich, educated (link) or white people (link) for everything, reasoning with “oppression”. But this is more like the attitude some Filipino upstarts show, claiming higher rank where possible. Lorraine Badoy’s (link) or Krizette Laureta Chu’s (link) towards Pinoy Ako Blog are very similar. So much for a group ostensibly against “elitism and pretentiousness.”

The Duterte crowd looks more and more like a group of wannabes who want privilege without any of the usual reasons for it: performance in the case of a meritocracy, service to the people in the case of a truly pro-people movement – or self-control and bearing for traditional, aristocratic elites. Duterte will have seen the degree of self-control the Japanese imperial couple exercise at all times. He will have seen the performance of Prime Minister Abe, what a work schedule he keeps, while Duterte is reportedly often two hours or more late for speeches in Manila (link) for no reason.

What remains if there is no performance, service or bearing. Pure force? Possibly intimidation. Force will hardly work since the military is not going to help with a revolutionary government (link) while low-key intimidation through continued “drug” killings and political chicanery might work. And Philippine territory shall not remain protected, as recent events are showing (link) – and now? Those who voted him will have to ask themselves whether all of that was worth a few junkies less. The economic situation may even go to worse (link) and if it does, what was this bumpy ride all for?

To hit back, even if it is just with jokes, against the “colonialists” of yore (link). Or to feel like the “white man” just for a short time by making stupid comments about Obama? Or feel like oligarchs by making comments about Jover Laurio of Pinoy Ako Blog who looks like – an average Filipina!? To feel like the sidekicks of the rising superpower China, when all they want is access to sea lanes? Which is what everybody coming to the islands wanted – Brunei, Spain, England, the USA, Japan – and China. Is basking fake victories satisfying – while all one has for the MRT is a prayer (link)?

That is as fleeting as the high of a drug addict. Based on the assumption of no real achievements. This includes the constant misleading nonsense propagated by trolls. And the planned reliance mainly only loans from abroad, and trains one has no capability to maintain, like with the MRT. Why not work in small steps and enjoy the small victories, like VP Leni with her programs (link)? That finally leads to solid successes. But many a Filipino has a wounded ego, similar to Duterte. Dislikes confidence and basks in mediocrity as if nothing else were possible. But is that a solution?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 November 2017

Morals and Action

Daraga Church Albayoften seem incompatible in the Philippines. Women pray rosary, men act. Read the Bible or Constitution for theory, use the gun or fake witnesses to get things done. Be concerned about what the UN and the US think and deny EJKs – boast about them when one is with one’s “own people”. Colonial residues, when some Spanish priests used morality to make people subservient, while sneaking up on the wives even of chieftains – alluded to in the Noli with respect to Padre Damaso and the mother of fair-skinned Maria Clara, officially the daughter of dark-skinned Kapitan Tiago.

While Padre Damaso was sad when Maria Clara decided to become a nun after Ibarra was “dead”, Kapitan Tiago increased his consumption of opium until he eventually died. A barangay captain who was a drug addict, in Rizal’s novel? Yes! Nothing is really new under the sun. Or in Pilipinas. Will the disente people always be not decent as in good, but simply the rich who hobnob with the hypocritical Church, while the poor are subjugatedly obedient and polite? While the true heroes are pistoleros who tell Church and the disente to fuck themselves, and free the people into rudeness?

This simplistic interpretation has been handed down by generations of educators and activists, ignoring for example the role of Filipino priests in helping free their own people since the First Propaganda Movement – before the Second Propaganda Movement (link) of the intellectuals. Completely going back to the Philippines before 1521 is impossible, and stripping the country of elites developed during colonialism leaves us with Kapitan Tiago, probably on a stronger opiate, making rape jokes about a white missionary, or a mestiza (link) – to get even with Padre Damaso?

One would forget how the Filipino church has gone native since the Second Vatican Council, developing Filipino liturgy and preaching not in Latin anymore, but in a language the people understand. Like today’s homily by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas (link): Kapag ibinuhos ng tao ang dugo ng kanyang kapwa, wala itong dulot na biyaya, kundi sumpa at parusa. One would forget that the time a socialite beauty contestant said “I speak Tagalog only to the maids” is past. But yes, the gap between action and morals remains. Nice words in theory, shortcuts in practice.

The ruling groups have taught the Filipino to be so obedient, so patient – until he no longer is, like in a recent riot (link) in the Quezon City jail. Was the rage that led to Duterte something similar? Morals is not about being nice always, especially not to Padre Damaso or Kapitan Tiago on opiates – they can also mean saying NO, setting limits. The Filipino I think is still learning to resist steadily – instead of exploding in useless rage. Grassroots groups against drug killings (link) or VP Robredo’s projects (link) are examples. The future may yet come, not loudly but in small steps. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 November 2017

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

 

Gleichschaltung

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Serenoput Germany under totalitarian control until 1937 (link) – is Dutertismo doing something similar? Hitler had Social Democrats banned first, and then all other parties disappeared. The Philippine Congress is run by a supermajority which is pro-Duterte. The Senate has a pro-Duterte majority, even if its opposition minority is more powerful and sometimes sways the less decided colleagues (link) like with the recent resolution against the killing of minors. The Philippine National Police seems to be firmly pro-Duterte, while the Army is for the most part I think perfunctorily obedient.

Rivals and Press

Hitler practically eliminated the left wing of his party in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 (link). One must remember that National Socialism had both left-wing (socialist) and right-wing (nationalist) aspects. The Philippine Left is now outside of Duterte’s Cabinet and seems to now have turned full force against him. The Ombudsman and the Commision on Human Rights are still occupied by appointees of the previous administration – Carpio and Beltran. Even Chief Justice Sereno is seen as an annoyance – and is presently fighting against her impeachment by Congress.

The press seems to have become quieter in its criticism (link), even neglecting to put fact checks on patently absurd statements like the recent varied statements on Trillanes’ alleged offshore accounts – from “it was a trap” to “he closed them online” to “this is now the real list”. Are Filipinos gullible (link)? Germans also were at some point, and some are still or again as the recent election shows. The equivalent of the yellow conspiracy many Dutertians think is real was “Jewish Wall Street” and “Jewish Bolshevism”. Yes, both Wall Street and Communism were the fault of Jews for some Nazis.

Foreigners and Filipinos

Germany left the League of Nations at some point during Gleichschaltung. The Philippines has not yet left the UN, even if 39 countries have now expressed serious concern over its drug war (link). The relationship with the West may already have a serious dent though, including long-term repercussions for trade. I know a German who once headed a BPO outfit in Manila who put in a word for Filipinos as being highly Westernized and therefore more compatible to work with Westerners than other Asian peoples. Filipinos may yet know what they had when it is finally gone.

Back to discussions among Filipinos. Pinoy Ako Blog (link) has been under attack in social media. Probably because the tone of the blog’s articles is as understandable to the Filipino man on the street as Mocha Uson is. Let’s say PAB is street with coffee to go, while Mocha is gutter with curses. But it seems that Dutertians now fear losing the man on the street, and even worse the defining power over “who is a true Filipino”. Because a Filipino is not just an inutile hangdog thrilled by free food and gyrating Viva Hotbabes, cursing like Duterte. That would be mental Gleichschaltung.

Dealing with Today

And besides, all the propaganda, that undefined smelly stew of resentments and inferiority complexes, slogans and half-truths doesn’t solve any problems. Hitler’s brown stew did not do it for Germany. Duterte’s weird version of adobo I am happy I cannot smell – does it have durian in it – will not bring the Philippines forward in any way whatsoever. Let us just imagine that Trillanes, Hontiveros, De Lima, Aquino, Roxas, Gascon, Sereno, Bautista etc. are all exiled and out of their positions. No excuses left for Duterte and his group. Will they lead Filipinos into a golden future?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

30 September 2017, München