Archive for category Challenges

Many Filipinos abuse their Servants

The native farmer and his faithful servant (from "The history and conquest of the Philippines and our other island possessions; embracing our war with the Filipinos in 1899")and a President who called them his bosses was abused, while a bossy, even abusive President is respected. President Aquino and his people were hands-on in the Zamboanga siege, during the Bohol earthquake and Yolanda. The only time Aquino was hands-off was Mamasapano, and that was when he was blamed a lot. He indeed will have to answer for using a suspended public official – Purisima of PNP – during that operation. That is where the law will run its course, and he will bow to it I think.

New and Old

President Duterte did not go to Marawi because of rain. He delegated work. I know from a lot of old-school Filipinos that it is somehow seen as lower to be hands-on. While Vice-President Robredo nearly always mingles with the crowd, Duterte and the likes of him usually sit on a stage in front of the crowd – even in Qatar with OFWs. Even Mar Roxas I found quite annoying wagging his hand at his secretary, ordering her to take notes in Tacloban while discussing with Mayor Romualdez. Very weird.

Because most managers in Germany take their own notes. Secretaries still exist of course, but to handle mail, incoming calls and other routine work. INCOMING calls. Outgoing calls are made personally – I wonder if the kind of Filipino boss that asked people to make calls for them still exists in the age of speed dial and mobile phones. Yes, there used to be the old kind of German boss that still ordered their secretaries to brew coffee for them. But these men had their heyday in the 1950s. Times change.

Romanian partners in a project I was involved in a decade ago were positively surprised that German bosses also work and don’t just order people around. Younger Romanian people who wanted to catch up with the West and cast off the still present legacies of Communist dictatorship and corruption in their country. There were also those born after 1989 who were nostalgic for the easy days of Communism were everyone had the same share of very little. They seem to have lost, at least for now.

What people want

People in Romania seem to want not only giving less of their hard-earned money to corrupt officials, they seem to want more personal independence. The Romanian diaspora is estimated at 8 million while the population of Romania is 20 million. Probably the direct influence of people who have gotten used to independence by living and working in more modern countries reaches into nearly every family by now. The old society with its system of local bosses seems to be shaking. It may change for good.

Filipinos seem to want the kind of change where they can just move up the ladder, personally or as families. The perceived enemy are “yellows”, seen to be in control of everything due to their Western-oriented education. Fil-Ams seem to be the ones who favor more personal independence, which is why a strong support based for Vice-President Robredo there is not surprising. But the always thin Western veneer, the paint coat on Filipinos, seems to be shedding to reveal what most really really want.

A highly hierarchic order where discipline means do what those above tell you. Never mind if they can’t wear a uniform properly or admit to having shirked ROTC (link). Those who are higher have the prerogative to be less disciplined or even lazy, it is not the prerogative of those below to question that. That would be highly disrespectful. Those above need not respect those below, in fact they may dare them to prove their innocence (link), as it is the prerogative of those above to determine who is guilty.

Filipino paradise?

Even what is true and not to be determined by those who are higher, like doctrine and dogma in the Catholic Church (link) – only that secular hierarchy replaces religion. There is a hashtag #PlsDontKillUs against EJKs which I find disturbing – it sounds too much like the “Lord have mercy on us” prayer in Church. Is Duterte now the Lord? Pleading assumes he has the right to kill in the first place. Domine, devora me was a joke by my Latin teacher in German senior high school – Lord, eat me. No, por favor.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 15. July 2017

 

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Smart and Strong

Bongbong Marcoshave a different meaning for some Filipinos. Sandra Cam might be seen as smart and Antonio Contreras as strong. Devious and thick-faced Bongbong Marcos as both. Ethics of people who I think don’t believe in fairness, civility or honesty – possibly because they have never seen much of it in their lives. “Those who have known hunger have a scar, and may behave as if they are hungry all their lives” is wisdom I have heard from someone who knows the school of hard knocks. Makes me think of how Imelda wore just hand-me-downs in her youth, being from the poor branch of a mestizo clan. One wonders to what extent the attitudes from a scar can be passed to children. I don’t see the Binay kids behaving as desperately, eternally hungry as their boodle-fighting father. “Take what you can, give nothing back” is what they say to each other in Pirates of the Carribean. Wonder how much of the attitudes of some Filipinos date back to times of galleon trade and forced labor in the barangays.

A different Philippines already had been taking shape. Modern jobs and opportunities had come, showing that you just have to perform at work to get somewhere. Whether it was in BPO outfits or in factories run by foreigners. The old Philippines of ass-kissing towards higher ups and pushing down those below was disappearing. Seems those left behind, or those who simply wanted a bigger piece of the cake more quickly, have won this time. They may yet kill the goose that lays their golden eggs. There was always a conflict between the old, rent-seeking Philippines and the modern, liberal Philippines – I think from the moment the first ports opened for free trade in the 19th century, European migrants came in with the first modern factories, and even America started to trade with the newly opened colony – long before colonial ambitions were even in its mind.

In the rent-seeking, old Philippines, you earn your place by loyalty to certain powers that be. Whether you are Mocha Uson or Thinking Pinoy. Others in turn will have the chance to earn a place at your table and benefit from your largesse. Or even ride in your helicopter, like the one Mocha Uson recently took from Manila to Clark. Nobody really questions that. You may even hear things like – why are you so envious? People get their luck in life! Those who share their “luck” like Binay did are seen as “good”. Only those who don’t are considered “bad”. But why are people so mad at hard-working professionals or successful businessmen, and not at corrupt politicians or crooks? Well, it seems to me that those who build their affluence by design are considered greedy! Makes sense if you think all businesses are rent-seeking and all good jobs are gotten by ass-kissing. And that even good education is just a designer label that you can buy because you have money. That what you learn there is just empty words.

Oh well, maybe they are right. Possibly we are just slaves over here in the West, condemned to learn things properly and then work long hours and not even have maids or houseboys at home. Maybe the Philippines will take off, with a hierarchy that is even more pyramidal than in the Gulf States, as soon as Bongbong Marcos is Vice President. Even if it is 99.99% likely that he isn’t, who cares about the truth in the Philippines today? Perhaps we are fools over here in the West, telling the truth even to those minions that don’t deserve to be told the truth. 30 days of vacation even for ordinary workers. Who do they think they are? Fast public transport. Who needs that? Mochau Uson can take the helicopter, those two rungs below her can wang-wang, I have heard it is back. Sure, there will be a lot of people that protest in case Vice President Robredo is removed, which I think is nearly certain. But will it have an effect? Possibly some provoked violence, then nationwide Martial Law and arrests.

And the quiet rest of Filipinos? To them, what Rizal said in El Filibusterismo via the character of the native priest Padre Florentino will most probably continue to be true: “as long as we see our countrymen 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; as long as we see them 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, why give them independence?”…”if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow”. To spare their families, they will acquiesce – or even collaborate so that their families are just one rung higher on Jacob’s ladder. This is a principle that rulers of Filipinos have exploited for so very long. Even a relatively simple-minded man without his father’s intelligence – yes I mean Bongbong Marcos – knows that. And this time, he might make sure things stay that way.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 July 2017

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A Malay Leader

Joko Widodo 2014 official portraitis in Hamburg these days – representing his country in the G-20. Joko Widodo if dressed like the crowd would not stand out in most parts of the Philippines, he smiles much like a Filipino yet manages to look dignified at the same time. He is even eyeing that Indonesia join the Financial Action Task Force or FATF (link) – something the Philippines is far from even imagining (link).

President Duterte on the other hand looked terrible in badly worn military clothing on his attempt to go to Marawi (link) – stopped due to bad weather. The wrong undershirt and loafer shoes with weird socks. Most Southeast Asian men manage to look better in slippers and traditional peasant clothing, yes there are pictures that show barely clothed native warriors with enormous dignity – like those of Eduardo Masferre (link).

Hare and Tortoise

Indonesia became independent 3 years later than the Philippines – in 1949 – and was seemingly way behind then. Yet I have heard stories that unlike the Philippines, they bought the houses and lots of their Embassies in Europe way back in the 1950s and 1960s. A minor detail, yet it shows more strategic thinking. Other evidences were how students abroad were taken care of, and how technology was not only bought, but skills transferred. Today, Indonesia builds its own naval boats.

In the 1960s, the Philippines was richer than South Korea and behind only Japan. The Deutsche Mark and the Peso had a 1:1 exchange rate. Of course photos of Manila then showed big American cars, and English-speaking Filipinos often considered themselves superior to their fellow Asians, even until the 1970s just laughing about them. Now Indonesia is helping the Philippines patrol common waters (link) and is clearly positioning itself as a regional leader (link) – even in opposition to China.

The strategic aspect

Indonesia had enormous crises, including a spate of killings in 1965 that by far dwarf anything the Philippines has ever seen, even now. And the Suhartos are also in the notorious Top 10 most corrupt worldwide list – together with Marcos and Estrada. So what has made Indonesia succeed, and the Philippines seem to keep having phases of growth that turn out to be wasted momentum in the end – the 1960s, the mid-1990s, and most probably the recent boom as well? Maybe also the 1890s. And the 1930s.

My previous article dealt with how many Filipinos like to show off materially, spend on consumerism. Napoles’ daughter partying with Justin Timberlake comes to mind. Or the need to send one’s kids to Oxford at all costs. Another article (link) dealt with Filipino impatience in wanting to buy the latest technology always – without slowly building the capabilities to handle it. The MRT-3 fiasco is one result. Indonesia for all its mistakes managed to have people like B.J. Habibie (link) in leadership positions. There are also those who say that inspite of all corruption, the Suhartos at least spent most of their money in Indonesia, unlike the Marcoses who bought jewelry or condos in New York. Economically speaking this makes sense, as local spending fuels local jobs. And of course it is smarter to develop own industries like Habibie managed to do. Somewhere I read that German public transport is heavily subsidized. But where does Germany most probably buy its train parts? Not abroad like the MRT-3 does.

The cultural aspect

The Malay language (link) existed as a lingua franca throughout the region, making it easy to establish Bahasa Indonesia as a national language, without the conflicts that the Philippines had with Visayans rejecting Tagalog as the national language. English is fine, but it is probably easier if your school language is related to your language at home. I know Germans who had to learn High German in Grade 1, having spoken a dialect at home. But at least the structures are similar, making it easier to “migrate”.

As for state: the old empires of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya were on future Malaysian and Indonesian soil, respectively. So there was already an idea of how a real state works – unlike the Philippine state which was established colonially and still is a bit of a foreign body for many Filipinos. Often it seems that the Philippine state is seen as spoils of victory to be exploited, like in colonial times – not as something of long-term value to be maintained properly. Plus Filipinos act as if their leaders are personally known to them, using first names. And as if a state could be run like a barangay, where the datu whimsically changes the rules based on favoritism or mere caprice, where the favors of the state automatically accrue only to those who support the winning datu. The principles of utang na loob recently seen in President Duterte’s giving positions, or who was taken along on government trips, as if the presidential plane was merely a balanghai, a ship of the datu. Or Duterte’s personal view towards both AFP and PNP.

Back to dignity: the native elite of the Philippines was coopted first by the Spanish, then by the Americans – and even by the Japanese for a while. They usually managed to act like snakes shedding their skins for new languages and styles – to the extent that they are seen as foreign by many Filipinos. Colonial criticism of Filipino natives was also used by native elites to keep their countrymen in place. It is no small wonder that the behavior of Duterte and his group often resemble a caricature of the Indio as described by the most racist among Spanish friars. And that their attitude is the exact reverse of colonial racism which put foreign whites above native whites, mestizos below whites and natives at the lowest rank – with the strange exception that it places the Chinese where the whites used to be, and seems to a favor a number of Chinese mestizos. The damaged self-esteem caused by colonialism is at the root of many dysfunctional behaviors, including what is happening just now. Those perceived to be “oppressive” are hated on: the UN, the USA, the EU, educated people, old middle classes, the Church. Those perceived to be “lower” are put under pressure: Filipino Muslims (link) and slum dwellers for example. Weirdly, affirmation is looked for among those one claims to hate: “NASA and the Best President in the Solar System”, anyone? The language/learning issue and the barangay mentality are easier to fix than self-esteem. Maybe wearing clothes properly is a start? They don’t have to be new.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 8 July 2017

 

 

 

 

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The Absentee President

Habitual Absentee - NARA - 534650may have done Filipinos a favor – by showing that his office is not the solution to, nor the source of all problems. The war in Marawi is hopefully winding to a close thanks to a professional army, and the MRT still is running badly while Metro Manila traffic is horrible. Meanwhile, there is mostly solidarity and respect for the soldiers that fight it out in Mindanao – a far cry from decades ago. There are those who help the victims and refugees of war, and those who are colder to them. And there is mostly joy that the USA and Australia are helping with their reconnaissance capabilities.

Powers that be

The President still has enormous powers – the power to appoint thousands of positions, the power of the purse which was used for pork barrel, the control over the state monopoly of force via the PNP and AFP  – powers patterned after Spanish and American colonial governors, I have read. Quezon fired the governor of Albay once. Quirino appointed the governor of Davao, Vicente Duterte. The power to declare martial law was curtailed in 1986. The Local Government Code in the time of Aquino gave LGUs (local government units) substantial autonomy and subsidies.

Other things move on without the President. Whether it is Senator Gatchalian’s trip to Germany to learn more about energy policy (link) which was incorrectly called a junket and according to him was paid by the German counterparts. Whether it is the more doubtful trip of several Senators to France to allegedly look at the French political system which is a mix of Presidential and Parliamentary. Marcos had something similar but degraded the powers of his Prime Minister, making him a better helper to take care of details. Maybe this time – if ever – it should be different.

Powers to be?

Maybe something like the Swiss Federal Council instead of the Senate? With a rotating head of government while the President is a ceremonial Head of State only? But maybe, maybe without Federalism for now? Tito had a joint governing body to take care of Yugoslavia after his death. What happened due to semi-tribal and macho politics of provocation is now very painful history. Maybe improve regional representation, knowing that, or how many centuries it took for the Swiss to learn to manage their own quarrels? My examples of culturally diverse countries are intentional.

Maybe a Senate by regions – to give names and faces people can relate to, to weaken the personality cult of Presidency? Maybe a Congress by proportional seating based only on political parties? With campaign refunds based on seats won like in Germany to weaken major donor influence? Issues that are systemic in nature can never be solved by changing the President. Cultural weaknesses like impunity and corruption – or the lack of a technology mindset that causes trains to break down – take generations to fix even with perseverance. Maybe changing things now makes no sense yet.

What will be?

Absentee kings (the Hanover dynasty) made the British parliament stronger, yet the Philippine House is showing its very weakness now. The majority of House members is lost in traditional politics, politics in its old sense of power alone, not politics in terms of shaping the polity’s destiny. What will happen depends a lot on the people themselves – whether they will keep thinking in the concepts of patronage i.e. subservience in return for advantages, which will fully return old ways. Or whether a sense of shared destiny and responsibility finally arises, not just ‘blame then rescue’.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 24 June 2017

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Nobody Personally Knows

Preparati la bara! Terence Hillhow many addicts the Philippines has. Did President Duterte recently say “My Name is Nobody”? No, he just said “you do not contradict your own government” (link) and fired the head of the Dangerous Drugs Board for saying 1.8 million instead of Duterte’s 4 million.

Nobody knows the basis for Duterte’s 4 million. The number of so-called drug surrenderees in the over 42 thousand barangays is “only” a million (link), so will more come out of the woodworks? Could it be that they have to be driven out of there by the shots of pistols?

Numbers and Beliefs

The 1.8 million are based on a survey of DDB from 2015 with 5000 respondents (link) “of whom 4,694 (94%) said they never used drugs, while 306 (6%) used drugs at least once in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 113 (2.3%) were “current users” or used drugs..” 

The article continues: “Applying these rates to the 77.22 million people aged 10-69 in 2015, one can conclude that there are about 4.63 million people who used drugs at least once in their lifetime (6% of 77.22 million) and 1.8 million current users (2.3% of 77.22 million).”

Now if you go by Duterte’s negative view of people – there are enough Filipinos who think the same way – I can imagine the reasoning: “once an addict, always an addict”, so 4 million it is, BASTA SINABI KO! There are enough reports of evidence being planted, of people getting on the barangay lists and made to surrender inspite of not being drug users. Of course there is the typical Filipino mentality that refuses to believe in innocent until proven guilty. Guess the Church idea of original sin really stuck.

The Blameless Ones

are of course always the higher ups in the Philippines, and those who strive to bask in the glory of being the supporters of the current powers that be. Sinfulness is projected to the other side, and the danger of the other side is exaggerated while the own side can do no wrong. I wonder how many secret Muslims and Jews Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada estimated back in the days. Even converts were suspected of not being real Christians in his time. Somewhat like former drug users.

The next bogeyman is terrorism, but Philippine Graphic editor-in-chief Joel Pablo Salud very rightly warns:  (link): “terror organizations rely [on convincing] you that the government cannot be trusted”. So do crime organizations for that matter, recruiting in ghettos and among persecuted minorities. There used to be secret dialects in Europe, known as thieves’ cant (link) spoken by groups of people outside the walls of cities, deprived of the opportunities and the respect of being true citizens.

Acting With Sense

is to stop all the mad crusades going on and concentrate on dealing with things efficiently and rationally. Set priorities. Get the big fish first, and I don’t mean De Lima. Watch the small fish to get to the big fish. This can mean tapping phones and monitoring bank transfers – how about getting rid of excessive bank secrecy (link)? And last but not least build TRUST in the government and in the system. A hard sell. Everybody has to have personal knowledge of being respected. And having opportunities.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 27. May 2017

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Consensus and Enforcement

Marcos Declares Martial Lawkeep public order – in that order. Without fundamental agreement on the basics, no amount of force will work. Martial law and drug wars are EMERGENCY measures. Hobbes did have a pessimistic view of human nature, that without a strong central authority (linkeach person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world, leading to a “war of all against all”. Sounds like the notorious culture of impunity in the Philippines, or the road rage and counterflow in Filipino traffic.

Enforce what order?

Trouble is that Hobbes makes the assumption that you can form a state that imposes order from a disorderly people – something that many banana republics have shown to be impossible. Miyako Izabel, an anthropologist from Mindanao, rightly asks (link): May mga sundalo o pulis na magbabantay sa walang taong kalsada sa tahimik na gabi. Magrorosaryo ba ang mga ‘yan? Mag-iisip po sila ng raket. Meaning that the power of Martial Law may lead corrupt elements in authority to start rackets.

The Philippine consensus is in theory the 1987 Constitution, but many do not really know what it means – probably not even the President. Ideally the Constitution of a nation should embody the General Will as defined by Rousseau (link) as the common interest embodied in legal tradition. The Swiss have that in their legal tradition dating back to the first Federal Charter of 1291 (link) which starts with: for the common good and proper establishment of peace, the following rules are agreed..

The Philippine legal tradition is of laws imposed from above by colonial powers and then by the educated elites who failed to reach most of the people – or did talk to the people but these simply nodded without understanding or asking questions, a legacy of colonialism AND the Philippine class system. In practice human rights meant little to poor people who could often be put in jail for years on end without a trial, or now are often shot as suspects – or to indigenous people in logging or mining areas.

Insiders and Outsiders

It is with insiders that a certain consensus starts. The US Declaration of Independence at first did not mean blacks and women. Nor did the Swiss at first give equal rights to certain areas conquered by the Canton of Bern, leading to rebellions especially among French-speaking Swiss (link). And Mindanao was only turned over to Filipino administration in 1920 (link) leading to this: Moros complained of inexperienced Filipino officials who abused their powers; harsh suppressive measures of the Philippine Constabulary; mysterious deaths of Moro leaders who opposed Philippine independence.. and the continued immigration of Christian Filipinos into Moroland. (page 26) But there also were those like  Teofisto Guingona.. first Filipino to head the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes in 1930, introduced.. “New Deal Policy” for Mindanao aimed at preventing unrest and promoting the integration of Muslims into Filipino society. (page 27) This is inviting outsiders to become insiders.

A President from Mindanao should have been able to handle things better. Martial Law in Mindanao labels his own area as the Wild South once more. He was born elsewhere and moved to Mindanao in 1949, when his father moved there (link) and is part of the complex history of the island. Yet such a person should know that the atrocities of Marcos’ Martial Law in Mindanao made many Muslims feel more like outsiders and is at the root of many of today’s problems. My impression has also been that each successive Philippine administration had its own favorites among the Muslim ethnic groups, playing a mixture of postcolonial politics and Malay alliances. This does not seem to have changed with Duterte – while his predecessor seemed to favor the MILF, his friendship with Nur Misuari is very openly known. The recent cut of EU money may for all we know have been aimed at the DEPAdev project (link) among others, which is about empowering political parties and civic society in Bangsamoro.

Republic of Trapos

is what the Philippines has been since Aguinaldo. There was the Kartilya of the Katipunan (link), Mabini’s Dekalogo (link), followed by Quezon’s Code of Citizenship and Ethics (link) – but the habits of power of the political elite, formed out of a mix of (post-)colonialism and Malay social structure, proved stronger than nice words. Bonifacio was executed by Aguinaldo’s troops. Heneral Luna was murdered outright. Quezon built not only the 1935 Constitution but most of the institutions that persist until today. Yet right after World War 2, warlords began to control many provinces of the Philippines. Then came Martial Law which turned Constabulary, Police and Armed Forces into de facto private goons for a Supreme Warlord and his clan. Then came democracy, but in many parts it unravelled into de facto culture of impunity. There is the 1987 Constitution, so often ignored in practice and often a bit like the piano in many Filipino households that is never played – or the so-called clean kitchen for display only.

Duterte has called himself owner of Malacañan and of the Philippines on various occasions. He makes no more pretense of cooking anywhere else but in the dirty kitchen. Is this a wake-up call for those who pretended the Philippines was a modern nation – while armed groups thrived in so many places and only Leila de Lima investigated some killings in Davao back then? How will the General Will of the Philippines be defined and lived? Will it be with more inclusion and follow-through than in 1987?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, May 25, 2017

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Defend What Republic?

Forum romanum 6k (5760x2097)one is tempted to ask in the recent discussions on Solicitor-General Calida’s call to “Defend the Republic” and the responses to it (link) – not only because the Republic does not coincide with the President or his supporters. Any republic, but especially the Philippines, will in fact I think consist of three Republics and their respective intersections:

  • The Political Republic – the groups in power and how they interact.
  • The Street Republic – the people on the street and their day-to-day issues.
  • The Idealistic Republic – those who want to make the country a better place.

Populists are at the intersection of the Political and the Street Republic. Socially conscious people cross between the Idealistic Republic and the Street Republic regularly – Vice-President Leni Robredo has done this for many years. And there are those who keep the Political Republic from harming the Idealistic Republic – an ever-present danger given the nature of power.

The latter group can include – depending on one’s point of view – Supreme Court Judges in the United States, military officers in Turkey, the deceased King Bhumibol of Thailand, French public intellectuals, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom and more. There is no really strong institution of that sort in the Philippines, not even the Catholic Church. Just some occasional persons.

There are of course those who make sure that inspite of all idealism, the needs of the man on the street are met. In Germany I think of the efficient police and justice system to deter crime, as well as the encompassing system of social security to prevent massive poverty and the resulting crime and unrest. Memories of the Weimar Republic have faded, but have fortunately not died.

In addition to that, the man on the street has to KNOW that his needs are taken care of. Or others will offer to take care of those needs, and misinform him that these needs are taken care of. Hopefully the public education system of most European states has remained able to maintain a level of mass education that will keep the populists out of power – the coming times will show it.

The Philippines today paints a picture of the strong usually just ruthless, the good often timid and not rooted enough, and the man on the street barely able to make ends meet, much less understand what is really going on. Political, Street and Idealistic Republics seem too far from a central point to form a sufficiently large intersection. A real res publica, meaning “public matter” in Latin.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 17. March 2017

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Them or Us

Arch enemy patronaatseems to be the central idea of many pro-Duterte people. Senator De Lima is in jail, Trillanes is “next” and trolls are trying to make Vice-President Robredo’s late husband look corrupt or worse. Strange that there was never any indication whatsover of anything while he was alive, or during his widow’s campaigns for Congress and Vice-Presidency, given the viciousness of Filipino politics.  Even those who were critical of many of Aquino’s policies praise Jesse Robredo (link) – and Tony La Viña is known as having been critical of the Arroyo and Corona cases and Mamasapano/Purisima.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona has this to say about Filipino hyperpartisanship (link): And there’s the major cause of this country’s problems. We rail against injustice. We condemn short-cuts. We fulminate against abuse of power. And then we turn around and do the same things all over again. It’s very tribal – and that’s an insult to tribes. It reduces our democracy to a battle among playground bullies. Kill all those who won’t come to our side. We insist on slapstick and simplistic solutions. It’s a never ending settling of IOUs and payback against others.

In that article, she described how now Secretary of Justice Aguirre covered his ears when Senator Miriam Santiago berated him. And in a recent comment on Facebook, she reminds some people (link): Remember how you made Vitaliano Aguirre into a “hero”? The Corona impeachment trial showed the fault lines of our so-called political democracy …  And yet another article shows the dangers of hyperpartisanship (link): Thoughtlessness makes group membership more important than ideas.. If the source is my group, it is wise and good. If the source is the enemy, then it is evil. 

Santiago of course had the behavior of a strict principal – but also very firm principles. This could have been one reason why she was considered “crazy” in the Philippine setting. Many Filipinos are like kids – they behave when the principal is around, and revert to their real selves when she isn’t. Then all that counts is one’s barkada. Or by extension, one’s KKK, ka-whatever the context is. So it becomes like fraternity rumbles – one brod complains, the others come out to defend regardless of the cause. And possibly, there is someone delivered to UP Infirmary at night, with ice pick wounds.

Of course President Duterte does not like the testimonies of people like Lascañas and Matobato – but they should be faced and dealt with, especially by one who has boasted about killing in the past. There are no more strict American principals around to admonish anyone! If you want a code of killing as the new Constitution that reflects “true Filipino values”, just have the balls to do it! Will it be like the (fake) code of Kalantiaw (link) which says when to feed to crocodiles or to ants, or punishes those who go against chiefs? I would not be surprised at that, just a little bit sad for everyone.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 5 March 2017

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Dust thou art

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust - A supernova remnant about 20,000 light years from Earth. (4844234574)and to dust thou shalt return. No need for people to hasten death (link). And those who feel like “killing and killing”, judicially or extrajudicially, do not see that it is not a solution to the problems of society that cause terrible crimes.

But Filipinos usually love quick “solutions”. There are the kind that rage when their cars don’t work and say they will leave them at the roadside and burn them. Or those who say “papatayin kita” in rage to people they know. Not that they would necessarily do what they say. But doesn’t it show lack of patience and perseverance? (link)

Does one contribute to the life of a nation by punishing its children from 9 years old onwards (link) – instead of helping them grow into responsible adults? Does killing people in poor areas make them better communities? At least with plants in a garden, leaves that die can turn into compost fertilizer for the plants that remain alive.

People who turn to dust become fertilizer for their respective communities by what they have done while alive, in contributing whatever they have to offer. Even those who have made mistakes can help others avoid them – drug rehab and alcohol programs prove this. Only politics dedicated to life makes this better path possible for all.

Even if all returns to dust, a society does not need to become a desert. It can be a flourishing garden that grows.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

Germany, Ash Wednesday 2017

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A comfortable life

Comfortable anywhere (372543421)is what President Duterte promised in his first SONA (link). I would not want a comfortable life. I like the way my life is now – with its efforts and its rewards, but not comfortable. Someone who is comfortable is in my book depending too much on others, either as patrons or as servants. Getting comfortable means getting complacent. In the same article, Duterte says: “My administration is working to ensure that basic human services are available to all; food and health needs; water and sanitation; shelter; public safety; education; and economic opportunities”. Sure.

Just a few sentences after, the real emphasis becomes clear: “In his speech, Duterte cited Davao City during his term as mayor, wherein he became well-known for bringing peace and order to his hometown.”. This sounds like putting the cart before the horse. Give people a chance to make a decent living thru work and you have a lot less unrest. How is the situation when it comes to water and sanitation in Metro Manila and other big cities, especially the poor areas where there are many addicts? I might take at least a shot of gin myself – not drugs – if I had to endure living there.

How about education and economic opportunities? It could start with small scale industries, there are programs like K-12 Plus (link) which happens to be German-sponsored and combines both education and economic opportunities by training poor people on the job. I doubt that the kids learning metalworking in the San Pedro Relocation Center National High School take drugs. They have a chance in life and most people are not so foolish to waste real chances. As for shelter – if Leni allegedly did not do enough, what is her successor now doing in terms of social housing.

The right mix in social housing – with community centres especially for the youth to prevent disorientation, mixing different income groups to prevent the hopelessness of ghettos, putting people near factories or place where there is work – has proven crucial to defusing social tensions in modern countries. Where is the comprehensive program for this – or even just the first baby steps?

Food needs. Microfinance (link) and rural banks are crucial, not just ranting against moneylenders. Storage and distribution as well. Prosperity is not just comfort. What is being done for prosperity?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 18. February 2017

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