Archive for category Challenges

Facing the Music

William Holman Hunt - The Scapegoatis something Filipino leaders don’t do well. Think South Korean murdered (link) – or Mamasapano. In both cases, Filipino Presidents wound their way around their command responsibility. President Duterte has not made any public statement on the issue of the South Korean murdered at Camp Crame until  now. President Aquino was heavily criticized for not going to the arrival of the coffins at the airport after the Mamasapano massacre, a consequence of an anti-terrorist operation he personally had initiated – even if he did go to the wake later on.

A common denominator for both crises was Senator Grace Poe calling for the President to be accountable – one does see her Americanized attitude a little bit there, formed by her life experience. Since face and power go together in the Philippines, there is seldom true accountability – nobody dares question the one on top except political enemies. In fact, political allies go through almost Yoga-like contorsions to justify what “their man” is doing while political rivals are like piranhas that attack at the slightest sign of blood.

In a country where children quickly learn that to ask “why” can be seen as insulting in certain contexts, those who are raised in entitlement are not used to criticism as it seldom happens. In fact they are seldom confronted by the real consequences of mistakes and learning from them. Either mistakes are covered up by one’s group, or one has made a mistake that cannot be covered up anymore and it can happen that you are dropped by the group, to prevent collective loss of face. Could “Bato” be the scapegoat this time? With Mamasapano it looked like Napeñas.

Scapegoat (link) is a biblical concept in which a goat is designated to be cast into the desert with the sins of the community. The trouble with scapegoating is that nobody learns from mistakes which are systemic.  Both the falling apart of command and coordination at Mamasapano and criminal operations within the police like in the recent case of the South Korean seem to be systemic. Similar to drugs in Bilibid prison, which still seem to be an issue (link) inspite of the scapegoat Senator Leila de Lima having been symbolically burnt on the stake in Congress.

Corruption is systemic too in the Philippines, as is the drug problem, I think. Scapegoating Binay, Arroyo and Chief Justice Corona did not remove corruption. It is just as improbable that the Aztec-like human sacrifice of thousands of drug suspects has significantly changed anything in the Philippine drug trade – probably the major players are lying low as they could afford to do so.

Going beyond scapegoating, and towards finding systemic solutions as lessons learned will be a hard road ahead. How many more scapegoats and irresponsible leadership will it take to get there?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 22 January 2017

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Much wishful thinking

Black Nazarene processionpervades Philippine politics: from De Quiros’ well-known “Aragorn” for Aquino or Tiglao’s recent prediction of A.D. and B.D. – After and Before Duterte in Philippine history (link). Oh how much do Filipinos wish for miracles, much like the legendary Bernardo Carpio of colonial times, the king tied up in the mountains only waiting to awake! I am already happy that DOST Project NOAH has helped reduce casualties now, with typhoon Lawin – four years of work have shown their fruits. And would be happier to see a Philippines with less poverty, less crowded jails, and cleaner rivers.

A frustrated country, arrested in its development by the unexpected arrival of a much more organized civilization which subdued it. Hoped for help from another – Aguinaldo’s letters to the “Mighty and Humane North American Nation” (link) are unforgotten – and got not only subdued but remade in America’s Image. Now there is President Duterte hoping for China to help the Philippines…

There are no miracles, no free lunches in real life. Paradise – around half a million people lived in the archipelago during Lapu-Lapu’s time – is lost. It takes hard work to build a nation and a state.

Most of the institutions of the present Philippine state are those built in Quezon’s time. With a few later additions. Metro Manila and the Regions – created in Marcos’s time – made sense, including regionalizing the administration of Ministries which became Departments again. The Sandiganbayan also came from that time, and was augmented by Cory’s Ombudsman later on.

Improved relief goods packaging systems at DSWD – introduced in 2015 – helped in the response to Typhoon Lawin just recently. A nation is the work of many generations and administrations. It is also a product of all its history – good and bad, intended and unintended. Just like the Filipino mix of racial and cultural influences is unique and would not exist if not for the years that came before. The country has been without foreign bases since 1991 – 25 years. New dependencies such as huge loans from China – just to leap forward quickly? For all eagerness – should one not be a bit careful?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 24 October 2016




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Pro- and Anti-

Pro-Impeachment anti-war protester 2007 suffixed with Marcos, Aquino, Duterte, America, China. They bug me. They also bug some Filipinos who say: we should all be pro-Filipino and pro-Philippines instead. That is better, but what does that exactly mean? Who is included and excluded, and what is the Philippines in the first place? I think every Filipino and every hyphenated Filipino will have another answer. Every island and every language group will have another answer. Rich, poor, middle class, OFWs and migrants will answer differently. STOP!

That is why there is democracy with a constitution. So that people can find a common solution for the greatest majority without tyrannizing minorities. That it is never ideal for everybody is given. Dictatorships and monarchies are usually great for those on the side of the dictator, or the nobles who are with the monarch. So for whose good should democracy look out for? Let me see:

  • I think it should be pro-poor and anti-poverty. Make sure children do not starve as this is bad for their IQ, and later opportunities. Make sure they get proper education, and jobs afterwards.
  • I think it should be pro-enterpreneur and anti-profiteer. Enterpreneurs create opportunities, profiteers exploit both land and people. Tax profiteers (miners etc.) heavily to fund anti-poverty.
  • I think it should be pro-rights and anti-crime. This is for the middle class. Not a contradiction. People want to be safe from criminals. People want to be safe from possible abuses of power.

This is the pro- and anti- that makes sense to me. How do a country, a federal state or region, a municipality or a barangay implement this? By distributing responsibilities and forging rules.

Prof. Tony La Viña wrote on Facebook that the Philippine President has powers like a Spanish or American colonial governor. Cut down in the 1987 Constitution, that I know. But he has both the power of budget and the power of the guns – Army and Police. The budget power has also been a source of trouble, like during the 2013 pork barrel scandal – but it seems that pork is returning.

My German perspective

Certain taxes in Germany go to the federal level, some to the state – and finally to municipal level. Business taxes or Gewerbesteuer are purely municipal and reward cities that attract business. Business taxes are a certain percentage based on corporate/income tax and the so-called Hebesatz – a coefficient every city can determine by itself. Thus businesses in Munich City pay higher taxes as a premium for being there, while those in Munich County pay less as an incentive for example. Queing in Berlin to get money for municipal projects – is NOT the norm for the USUAL projects.

State level takes care of education. To guarantee a certain interoperability, ministries of education coordinate. But there are states with K-12, states with K-13, and states with both. Some parents asked for K-12 to be removed when it was instituted in some states – because they thought it would CHEAPEN their children’s standard of education. But states BUILD and FUND schools.

Police is state-level. Just at the right level to have enough scale but not become a potential monster. FEDERAL Police “only” protects borders, coasts, airports, train stations and federal offices.

and the Philippines

I see on the FB page of PMATA Inc. which supervises BUB projects in Albay that projects where funds were approved in 2014 are only being started now – like simple barangay halls! Say what?

Now I know there is the internal revenue allotment for local government units (IRA for LGUs). And there is (or was?) Robredo’s LGPMS to tie LGUs to performance metrics. Still too centralistic. Why not make sure some of the money earned IN a city stays there – including the SM City which earns money there. The rest is for regional and national things. And for helping poorer areas.

The more local units get a certain fiscal autonomy – of course with necessary things coming from higher up – the more citizens can actually use Freedom of Information in a truly sensible manner. They are there and can see the projects being built – or not being built – with their own money. Now it seems more like “which President will help our region more”. Marcos helped his own Ilocos. Surely Duterte will help his Mindanao. Filipinos think of their slice of cake – not only congressmen. Habits born of long oppression and poverty. Why not bake more cakes? But how to get there?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 10. September 2016

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Usapan na matino

RB Treuchtlingen-Gemündenang kailangan ng Pilipinas ngayon, hindi na iyong drama na nakakasawa na at nakakalito pati. Malaking bansa ang Pilipinas, kaya imposibleng malaman ng Presidente o ng kahit sino ang talagang nangyayari sa buong bansa. Merong mga narereport na pulis na gumagamit sa gyera laban sa droga para mangkotong (link) – kaya kailangang alamin kung saan nagkaroon ng mga abuso ng kapangyarihan – ng iilang pulis, ng iilang barangay captain (link) o kung sino pa man. Papel ito ng taongbayan, sa tulong ng mga pahayagan at nang social media, pati na rin pamahalaan at hukuman.

Kahit saan nangyayari na may nababaril ang pulis – kahit dito sa Alemanya noong July 18. May binatang Syrian na nagwala sa tren na may dalang weapons (link). Hindi gaanong matagal ang debate rito tungkol sa nangyari, dahil iyong mga tanong ng iilang mga “berde” (partido ito na nasa kaliwa) sinagot agad ng isang eksperto ng police union. Sinabi nito na kung inatake ka na may axe, madaling sabihin na barilin mo sa binti para hindi na makaabante, pero sa aktuwal mahirap tumama kapag kailangan mong mag-react. Tapos ang isang normal na usapan. Hindi parang sa Pinas na walang nararating ang usapan.

At iba pa ang sitwasyon sa Würzburg dahil hindi ito pag-aresto na napaghahandaan. Ang nakikita ko sa balita kapag may inaaresto rito na posibleng may armas, lamang talaga ang mga pulis. Marami sila at madalas naka-armor pa. Mahirap kasi kung masanay ang lahat sa puro barilan na parang sa Wild West. Baka naman sa kagustuhang magkaroon ng mabilis na resulta, kulang sa backup ang mga umaaresto ngayon sa Pilipinas. Sila din ang kawawa dahil nakakatakot din para sa kanila. Hindi natin alam kung ilan ang nagpanic at bumaril, lalo na iyong mga batang pulis.

Nakita ko rito sa mga bansang mas asensado kung paano sila maglutas ng problema. Unang-una, alam nila na walang aksyon na perpekto. Pangalawa, lahat ng mali inaalam, walang tinatago. Pangatlo, iyong kaalaman tungkol sa mga pagkakamali, ginagawang aral para hindi paulit-ulit na mangyari. Dahil anong silbi ng pagpaparusa at pagpapahiya lamang, kung mangyayari ulit?

Lahat ng bansa, negosyo o tao na successful, nagkamali na, pero natuto rito. Sana iyong mga lessons learned ang atupagin sa susunod, para hindi na naman paulit-ulit ang history ng Pilipinas.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 August 2016

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In Operation Archimedes

Book of Lemmas Prop 2“law enforcement authorities from 34 countries, coordinated and supported by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague… targeted organised crime groups and their infrastructures across the European Union (EU) in a series of actions in hundreds of locations, with the cooperation of Eurojust, Frontex and Interpol.” (link)  – strangely enough, I hardly noticed anything in the mainstream press in late September 2014, when 1027 were arrested, 599 kg of cocaine, 200 kg of heroin and 1.3 tonnes of cannabis were seized, among other things.

Now maybe, for all I know, Oplan Tokhang is really working in the Philippines with all its shock and awe. But I somehow doubt it, even if I admit that living in Europe for a long time has cured me a bit of the showbiz, action-movie mentality that still seems to dominate the Philippines. But I can imagine that Operation Archimedes will have had typical components of a modern police operation against organized crime – including monitoring communications of high-level suspects and follow the money. Not concentrating on low level users, dealers and local kingpins.

The Philippines of course has an issue with its bank secrecy laws – it could for all we know be a paradise for all kinds of illicit money (link). And if one looks at what happened during the Bangladesh Central Bank heist (link), who knows where the major drug lords supplying the country now have their money? All they might have to do is lay low for now and wait for better days. Does anyone really believe that a major drug lord will have shabu in his home? What is being done about controlling the flow of chemicals (and medicines) that could be used to make that drug?

There are probably two aspects of the drug problem in the Philippines – the local and the broader aspect. The local aspect is that of drug users and especially addicts committing crimes to finance their habit, or because of the mental state induced by drugs. The broader aspect is that of illegal money corrupting society as a whole – which could be handled with better money laundering laws.

Playing cowboys and Indians – plus playground politics, will not solve these issues long-term. But is doing more harm, with lives lost and reputations damaged. Time to think of better solutions?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. August 2016


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Establishing the Truth

Mercy and Truth are Met Together, Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed Each Other, object 1 (Butlin 463)is the goal of German courts (link), to THEN pass their judgement. Filipino courts often seem to be an annoying forum for sophistry and game-playing that favors the well-connected. President Duterte, a fomer prosecutor whose frustration with what is considered “due process” in the Philippines I partly understand, has produced a list of names of mayors, judges and more who he SAYS are involved in drugs – even admitting that he does not know if it is true or not. German prosecutors offices cannot be TROed, unlike the Ombudsman in the Junjun Binay case, BUT they have to find both proof of guilt and exonerating circumstances before going to court (link). Courts have to deal with cases as swiftly as possible, which is the right way to do things.

As a child I always thought that prosecutor and persecutor sound so similar. It comes with the job I guess. There is a movie where Alain Delon plays a fugitive hiding out in a countryside house. The French prosecutor has the full force of the police come down on him. He even says, against the protestations of someone, that “all men are criminals”. Just like a good policeman may be a man with the instincts of a Jago – see previous article – a top prosecutor may indeed be a man with the instincts of Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada. Checks on power save both from their worst sides while making use of their good sides. The greatest strength of a person always contains his greatest weakness, which is why one man alone never is the solution.

Senator and former Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima has criticized Duterte’s naming and shaming, saying that due process should be applied, cases should be filed in court. For all the good work Senator de Lima has done, she may have been a bit in a state of denial as to the real state of things in her own shop – the old mismatch between theory and practice in the Philippines. This mismatch does make it easy for those who paint mainly the bad sides, as Duterte does, to tap the anger of those who feel ignored. She did have the opportunity to fix a lot of things, but it seems she did not fix justice and the penal systems enough. I know the Philippines well enough to know that lower- and mid-level people often tell higher levels what they want to hear, fix up things when they come to inspect and then go on the old way after that.

Clogged and nearly medieval prisons are an old issue in the Philippines. A justice system that takes way too long to render justice is another issue. While the really poor languish in crowded jails like Quezon City jail – recent reports mention a man who has been in there since 2001 – it seems that some drug lords had privileges, while politicians have better cells than the average prisoner. The prisoner who has had hearings just once a year since 2001, mentioned everywhere internationally, has already done the duration of what is called a life sentence here in Germany.

Recent comments on the Facebook page of this blog (link) with respect to some of the mayors mentioned show that there is no modern attitude to finding the truth yet among many Filipinos. “Everybody knows that he is a drug lord” or “here are pictures of him with a known drug lord” are not proof, except in societies where alleged whores were stoned and witches burned on stake. Cellphone tracing and real-time tracking of movements of money are some modern methods to track big-time criminals. Real police work. Real prosecution and real justice come after that.

But I guess President Duterte and PNP Chief de la Rosa know things top-flight people from the FBI, the German police, prosecution and justice system and everywhere else don’t. Guess that the Filipino public just knows things, just like everybody in a small barangay “knows” who is doing what. Like some witnesses in Munich saw two more shooters on July 22 when there was only one.

It turned out later it was two plainclothesmen. What if the cops here had knocked down every door of every Oriental-looking person? But they just locked down the city and looked for the truth.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 7 August 2016



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Out of Whack

01246jfTondo Abad Santos Santa Cruz Manila Roads Landmarksfvf 13is what the Philippines obviously is now – especially in the big cities and strongest in Metro Manila. How long the drug problem has been festering is unclear, but its root cause, urban poverty, has been festering and growing for a longer time, like something growing on fruits and vegetables inside a neglected refrigerator or cupboard. Seems that the strong segregation of Philippine society via gated communities and slums has contributed to things not being seen quickly enough, except by those classes that use public transport and are easily subject to street crime. Now I am no longer surprised about so many cars on EDSA – public transport is obviously a risk many people want to avoid. Forbes Park was the first gated community in the Philippines, built in the late 1940s for the rich. Slums allegedly also started just after the Second World War, in the ruins of Manila. Around 1910, most Filipinos lived in bahay kubos, except for a few affluent people who lived in homes similar to Rizal’s home in Calamba. I have read that during that time, even most educated Filipinos ate with their hands. Traditional kamayan has its very own forms of etiquette.

The 1920s brought the first major wave of Christian migration to Mindanao. The aftermath of World War 2, with the attendant Huk rebellion in Central Luzon, brought further migration also as a solution to help defuse the conflict. The backlash came with the conflict with Muslim Filipinos that began in the late 1960s and never really stopped until now. While slums in Manila began nearly like copies of the barrios people came from, they seem more like Brazilian favelas or South African townships in size and subculture now. When the middle class started to move into gated communities of their own, some of which form part of the urban sprawl around Metro Manila, I don’t really know, but I suspect it was starting with the 1970s – parts of the puzzle I do know. Finally, the lifestyles and situations of different types of Filipinos diverge very strongly today, as opposed to a hundred years ago where the gap was not yet as huge.

There are studies that people always feel poor relative to others. Those who are considered poor in Europe have a standard of living most Filipino poor would envy. But the rich in the Philippines have a lifestyle at a par with progressive Western and Eastern (Tokyo, Singapore, etc.) counterparts, and the skyscrapers of Manila stand around slums that look very decrepit. Desperation among some and lack of opportunity for others may lead to drug users and pushers – while in societies with more legitimate diversions and opportunities, it may be more the weak and those too lazy or short-term in orientation who take part in that illegal sector of the economy. Drug use among the rich will probably be more among the young neglected by too materialistic or greedy parents. Anecdotes of drug use exist in middle class families that are broken apart by parts of the family being abroad to work as OFWs. A further strain on a formerly traditional, harmonious culture.

So there is urbanization and class segregation in major urban areas, migration to Mindanao where a previously non-existent Christian Filipino society was created since the 1920s, and of course the OFW phenomenon which started in 1975 and has kept growing since then. Add to that the BPO phenomenon, good work but also at first a stressful exposure to the service side of modernity.

The Philippines had a lot of change to handle – even if no country ever stays the same. In Lapu-Lapu’s time, with just over half a million people, things were simple but resources were aplenty for all. The Philippines of 1916, when the Senate was founded, had around 1/10 of the population of today’s Philippines and was still relatively simple and traditional. Movements in the country, up and down, plus in and out, changed so much since then. That orientation is missing is not surprising. An accelerating world makes it even harder. What is happening today are symptoms.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 31 July 2016

Trust and Predictability

I've waited, honey, waited long for you (NYPL Hades-608612-1256347)are two important factors in all human interactions. Both seem to be wanting in the Philippines. People are so often unpredictable – my head spins at times when I look at Philippine politics. Trust is also a rare commodity – the enormous distrust shown between different sides in politics shows it. I am trying to understand why it is this way.

Filipinos used to live in small communities called barangays – that is before they became Filipinos at all. In some trading hubs like Cebu (Sugbu) and Manila (Maynila) barangays formed a larger whole under a raja who was the ruled over many datus. These were not really states but more of shifting alliances of barangays under datus, much like Filipino political families and political parties to this very day.

What is trust?

Trust means that you expect a person to behave in a certain way. How much trust is given in what areas depends on how well you know the person. And on how predictable one knows or expects the person to be. Do I trust a baker in Munich to give me clean bread? Yes. Because I know that the health authorities watch out. And because papers would report scandals.

If somebody tells me a certain baker is selling bad stuff, I would probably trust a neighbor I have seen often more. It might also depend on the impression I have of the person’s reliability. This is the most primitive form of trust – the one human beings have had since we have had villages. You knew people, you lived in the same area, had a similar life. You could go by your instinct alone.

Go further than the neighborhood or village, and you have to rely on institutions. Newspapers that tell the truth – even if all media have their point of view and specific principles. Municipal administrations that work properly. Police that keep an eye on those who do not follow the rules. A majority that does follow the rules. Common ground in how most things are done.

What went wrong?

In the Philippines, institutions the Spanish built were extractive. At the same time they hardly protected the natives, for example from Moro pirates. This has all been written about so often that I will not go into the details. Of course the rajas and datus of pre-Hispanic times were chieftains and certainly not democratic. But they were dependent on the support of their people to rule them. They did not have firearms or the support of a power like Spain to just lord it over the people. But those co-opted by Spain as the principalia had backing. This must have made them brazen.

Add to that the creoles and mestizos. The creoles had government positions. The mestizos made it big in business in the economic boom of the 19th century. These two groups were the ones to mainly join America. The principalia led by Aguinaldo refused at first but had no choice, eventually. They became “democrats”, but it became a democracy of city and provincial big families.

The life of the ordinary Filipino in his barangay remained mostly unchanged. The interactions were trusting on a small scale of those one knew. One kept ones head down towards the entitled.

Adjusting to change

The Philippines has become ever more urbanized in the past decades. What I suspect is that the cultural mechanisms that were helpful in keeping small groups and communities together no longer work in the larger, urbanized framework. Could it be that people are desperately looking for what is no longer there? Especially with President Duterte? An imagined traditional father?

People are by nature creatures of habit. Now Filipinos are known to adjust very well to all sorts of places. But is it not more of something they have gotten used to over centuries of HAVING TO? The barangay Filipino adjusted to his rulers. The OFW Filipino adjusted to his “new masters” abroad. The safe place were they could be themselves was within small groups – family and more.

I suspect that the speed of change has overwhelmed many. The small groups of before are no longer predictable like before. Especially among migrants and OFWs there are many stories of families breaking down. I suspect that in slums it is worse. No wonder there seem to be so many drug addicts there. And those affected by crime are scared – as the election results are showing.

In just around five generations (link) the country has increased its population tenfold and went from Spain via America into the various stages of being an independent nation. Parents I guess were able to teach their respective children something, but understood the world of their children less and less as change accelerated. Is it surprising that today’s youth seem to be lacking orientation?

And trust? Seems very rare in today’s Philippines. Predictability forms trust. When what is promised is delivered. When they know where the journey is going. The institutions never really were that close to the barangay Filipino. They followed the habits of power formed over abusive centuries. Those feeling powerless are either hoping that a Leni Robredo will represent them, or that a Rodrigo Duterte will fight it out for them – some have voted for both. In the long run, all institutions – academic and administrative – must fetch the barangay Filipino from where he is right now.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 15 June 2016


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Uncluttering a System

Some clutter on a keyboardshould be the main priority of whatever reforms are implemented – Federalism or not. It just takes a short look at House Bills of the Philippine Congress (link) to see they are wasting a lot of time:


ENOUGH, ENOUGH!! Aside from the fact that they use large letters on that page, just like Internet trolls, these matters rightfully should be decided more locally:

  • matters like healthcare and education facilities as well as economic incentives belong somewhere at the regional, provincial or municipal level I think
  • a certain percentage of the taxes resulting from regions, provinces, municipalities/cities should I think go to them, for them to be more flexible
  • there are provincial and municipal councils to decide on how funds are spent – democratic checks – might regional councils also be an idea?
  • if one does not trust the councils at whatever level, then the local level would be a place to start with Freedom of Information
  • Plebiscites at these levels might be an idea as well – including the power to impeach governors and mayors if needed

Federalism might overwhelm the Philippine system and not solve its problems – maybe focused decentralization is needed more. Some ideas:

  • The implementation of education, justice, healthcare, economic incentives and more are State matters in Germany. The Federation can concentrate on its more important responsibilities.
  • it does not necessarily have to be federal – why can there not be regional councils? After some years of experience, one could still decide on whether to make them states. Not rush in.
  • Tax brackets, nurses pay and other things have to be decided on by Congress as well. Why not index them in the future, based on buying power? NEDA could revise the index every year.

One should not forget that the Philippines spans a distance similar to the one from Oslo to Rome, going from North to South – and Congress decides even on the naming of streets!

Here in Europe people often hate “Brussels” – the Commission – for deciding on many things in member countries. But these are mostly standards – not where to open schools and hospitals. Corporations may decide to centralize certain things for efficiency – but a country burdening its legislature with that level of detail is of course inefficient – time to unclutter the system?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 26 May 2016


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Power versus Rules

Article-37is the present Filipino conflict that I observe. Two recent examples are what the Mayor-elect of Cebu City and the Mayor of Tanauan, Batangas are doing. Let us have a look: A town mayor who is a self-confessed fan of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte ordered seven suspected drug pushers to take “a walk of shame” in Tanauan, Batangas Wednesday. Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili made the suspects walk around the town market while bearing a sign saying, “Ako’y drug pusher, ‘wag tularan.” by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor-elect of Cebu City is offering police and residents a reward for killing or wounding criminals. “The reward is P5,000 for wounding a criminal and P50,000 for a dead criminal,” Tomas Osmeña said yesterday as he handed over money to Police Officer 3 Julius Sadaya Regis, who while off-duty and on his motorcycle chanced upon a robbery in a passenger jeepney last Tuesday.

Datu Justice

In the days of old, datus decided based on some customary law what was to be done in case of wrongdoing. This is historically documented. Such a form of justice works as long as the community is small, the customs known to everybody and it is easy to change the datu in case power was abused – something which is also known to have happened in the past. The old form of people power was easy in the barangays of old, the asymmetry of power not as large in the days of simple agricultural communities and with hardly any powerful weapons except Old Manila’s Malay cannons.

Formal Justice

More complex systems need more formal justice based on clear rules that are agreed upon and understood by most people. There has to be a way to prevent disorder, but to prevent abuse of power by those upholding order. The oldest Swiss Constitution, the Federal Charter of 1291, shows some simple rules agreed upon by three communities, three mountain tribes that decided to go their own way independent of nobility – to later become a real state.

For the common good and proper establishment of peace, the following rules are agreed :

  1. In view of the troubled circumstances of this time, the people and communities of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden promise to assist each other by every means possible against one and all who may inflict on them violence or injustice within their valleys and without.
  2. Each community shall help the other with every counsel and favour and at its own expense in the event of any assault on persons or goods within and without the valleys and to this end have sworn a solemn oath to uphold this agreement in confirmation and renewal of a more ancient accord.
  3. Every man shall continue to serve his overlord to the best of his abilities.
  4. The office of judge may not be obtained for any price and may only be exercised by those who are natives or resident with us.
  5. Any dispute amongst the Confederates shall be settled by the most prudent amongst us, whose decision shall be defended by all.
  6. Those who commit murder shall themselves be put to death. A murderer who flees may never return. Those who protect him shall themselves be banished from the valley until they are recalled by the Confederates.
  7. Those who maliciously injure others by fire shall lose their rights as fellow countrymen, and anyone who protects and defends such an evil-doer shall be held liable for the damage done.
  8. Any man who robs a Confederate or injures him in any way shall be held liable to the extent of his property in the valleys.
  9. The property of debtors or sureties may only be seized with the permission of a judge
  10. Every man shall obey his judge and must if need be indicate the judge in the valley before whom he must appear.
  11. Any man who rebels against a verdict and thereby injures a Confederate shall be compelled by all other Confederates to make good the damage done.
  12. War or discord amongst the Confederates shall be settled by an arbiter and if any party fails to accept the decision or fails to make good the damage, the Confederates are bound to defend the other party.
  13. These rules for the common good shall endure forever.

Done with the seals of the three aforementioned communities and valleys at the beginning of August 1291.

One can imagine the chaos of those days, the “troubled circumstances of the times”, and the things that happened which forced the leaders and the people of those communities to define their common rules, their first constitution. Just reverse especially the points 3-12 and imagine what might have been happening. They decided to have a set of fixed rules not dependent on persons.

Quo Vadis?

The Philippines seems to be in a bit of a cultural disjoint. On one hand very modern rules and regulations, up to and including the 1987 Constitution. On the ground, datu-style practices.

Seems that many Filipino commoners understand the latter better. What an immediately visible person of authority decides is the law, while abstract laws are so often ignored on the ground.

There is a certain tone of voice I know well from traditional Filipino bossmen saying “these are my rules in my territory”. Sabi ni Mayor eto ang gagawin, sabi ng amo ganito is what the typical Filipino will often say to justify something he or she is doing. Finally it is the decision of the Filipino people how they are to organize themselves. Pockets of formal law especially in cities while naked power is so often the reality, especially in areas where rebels of various colors hold sway? Law often just to justify and cement power? I wonder if this will all work well in the long run.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22 May 2016



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