People’s Champions

Workers on suspended scaffold in Korolyovare appearing in the Senate race: Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, Samira Gutoc, Gary Alejano, Florin Hilbay, Bam Aquino. Will Villanueva has interviewed nearly all (link) while Samira Gutoc is introduced here (link). Bam Aquino’s Negosyo Centers and his initiatives for improving Internet connectivity are I think known. Each one is different, but each on is about serving the people. Three have a strong focus on improving rule of law: Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada and of course Florin Hilbay. Samira Gutoc has her record in serving the people of Marawi in difficult times. Gary Alejano has his focus on national security and territory as well as avoiding debt traps. Mar Roxas and Macalintal are surely each good in their own ways, but I leave them out as I lack some information.

Community or Command?

All the six I mentioned fit into the people’s champion image Leni Robredo revived. Possibly the first time since Ramon Magsaysay. Probably it was even Mar Roxas who tried to revive it, although the image that remains of him is unfortunately quite awkward. Except for Alejano, none fit into the warrior-like image many Filipinos consider “strong”. And warrior-like would even be OK, in many cases Filipino machismo is just thuggish. From fatal fraternity hazings to UP Regents threatening Ateneo players with injury (link). Or thuggish barangay captains who make the Bagong Lipunan song play inside me. The propaganda art of the Marcos era with strong-bodied datus and their broad swords. Yes, the old barangays raided (each other), traded (with one another) and feasted (link).

From Spanish times onwards, cabezas de barangay and gobernadorcillos (“mayors”) drawn from the co-opted native elite maintained control over their own countrymen in exchange for privileges. Sugar, tobacco and abaca plantations came into play later on. Agricultural and other trade lead to (Spanish- and Chinese-) mestizos getting rich also. The late Spanish period and American colonial times allowed the rich to get educated. Institutions like UP even gave the less affluent but talented access to good education. Seems the idea of bayanihan, effectively a mix of native self-help and American ideas of community service, had its heyday in the 1950s. The barangay, as a more toxic mix of datu culture and Spanish colonial mindset, returned in force when Marcos restored it.

Absolutist or Liberal?

The difference is so very clear when one sees VP Leni sitting WITH the people while Duterte or Imee usually sit on a podium, ABOVE the people. And of course there is a command tone inherent in Marcosian or Dutertian rhetoric. And when one hears how some older-generation Filipino lawyers argue, one wonders how much Spanish absolutism is still in their mindset. For instance the way “sovereignty” is used – more in the old sense of the ruling class having sovereign (or king-like) power than in the sense of asserting national sovereignty by defending borders. One must remember that the Philippines was born in the middle of the Spanish conflict between Absolutists and Liberals. Until the 1950s, you still had Filipino politicians who spoke Spanish fluently.

Whereas (to use a typical Filipino legal word, ha!) Spanish Liberalism was also elitist in nature (link), and the original “liberalism” of Filipino plantation owners seems closer to that than to the ideas of American Democrats. If one wants an analogy of Spanish Liberalism and Absolutism, one just needs to read Rizal’s Noli and Fili. The first is about a snooty elite Filipino who naively tries to apply foreign recipes without thinking about how they can be adapted to local conditions, and without getting local buy-in first. The second is about a Filipino elite master of intrigue and power games who wants to use violence and suppression to achieve his ends. As the adviser to the Governor-General, Simoun is Marcosian/Dutertian, as the one egging on Cabesang Tales, he is a “leftist”.

Arriving in Dapitan

One cannot discount that Rizal’s novels had an element of self-reflection in them. Goethe is said to have avoided killing himself over a young lady by writing Werther. Probably the self-reflection even revealed more about the Philippine character than Rizal intended to. The well-meaning but sometimes condescending tone of reformism from 2010-2016 – and the howling reaction of the “townspeople” – parallels the Noli. Today’s violence is El Filibusterismo – 120 years later. Rizal probably won over his worst instincts by letting them out as novels. By the time he was exiled to Dapitan, he served. The Liberal Party I think has learned from its defeat – and started Project Makinig (link). Probably also the influence of VP Leni, who has continuously been in social work (link).

Quiet, hard work and perseverance instead of showy projects and warlike “heroism”. Tackling the country’s issues one step at a time (Tañada wants to finally pass a Land Use Act, Diokno has great ideas for reforming the justice system – see Will Villanueva’s interviews for more details) instead of building expensive bridges to nowhere (link). Given a clear picture of what the issues are, their causes and the solutions to them, possibly the taongbayan, the citizenry, are ready to listen and return to katinuang-isip or clearheadedness. Even the most warrior type among those I mentioned, Gary Alejano, is not out to jetski anywhere. A man who has truly seen battle is not careless with lives. Yet as a real warrior he knows how to draw lines in the sand. So that people can live.

Vicente Rafael, in his book “Motherless Tongues”, describes the sense of happiness in some villages after some initial revolutionary victories in the late 1890s, and the sense of togetherness when people were on the street in EDSA II. Those who where on EDSA in 1986 know the exhilarating feeling as well. Others will know the anger at things going wrong – the anger of the Katipunan is documented way back to 1892, the anger of left against social injustice, the anger of the masses on EDSA III that Rafael also describes. Neither joy nor anger, nor a sense of unity (which is often short-lived) can build things. “Land of constant beginnings” is what novelist Ninotchka Rosca called the Philippines. Could a new batch of leaders help change that? Are the people ready for that? Hmm..

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 December 2018

Ignorance and Confidence

Ignorance is bliss - shortbread cookie with a smileseem highly intertwined among Filipinos, according to a recent social media survey (link). This is not really surprising. Who has not encountered the obstinate kind of ignorance that many Filipinos mistake for firmness? And who has not encountered the phenomenon that Filipino groups very often believe the person perceived as most “firm” in his or her beliefs? Or finally the phenomenon that what the own in-group believes in is seen as true by many Filipinos? “Everybody I know says that Leila de Lima is corrupt!” is something I have literally heard, with the corresponding firmness. More exactly, the study (link) has the Philippines among the Top 3 that are mostly wrong – and among the Top 3 that think themselves mostly right at the same time. Norway on the other hand is among the Top 3 that are mostly right – and among the Top 3 that think themselves mostly wrong!

Hard knocks

That a country like the Philippines is admiring of a President who says he will “personally defend” himself before the International Criminal Court (link) is a given. Or wanted to have a public debate with UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard (link) – which probably would have ended up similarly to the way an interview with Pia Ranada Robles went (link). Seen as a victory for him by those who are confident in their ignorance and see blustering confidence as a proof of superior knowledge. There are unfortunate comparisons between Bonifacio and Rizal that are part of this attitude – Rizal is seen by some as insecure for often questioning himself in his search for knowledge – which is even attributed to his having grown up with sisters, while Bonifacio is seen as strong and decisive – which is attributed to his having been the oldest brother, who took charge when his parents died.

I have personally seen similar attitudes to those attributed to Filipinos among people of peasant or working class origin – from different nationalities. In their spheres of life, what matters in order to succeed is to intuitively and quickly grasp the situation you are in and to act and decide similarly. There often is not that much time to think about the different aspects of possible wrong or right. Bonifacio, whose parents both died at 14 years of age, had no time to finish his schooling (link). That he was deeply insulted by Daniel Tirona questioning his lack of formal education during the Tejeros Convention (link) was understandable given his struggles. But it is also documented that Bonifacio read voraciously and that the Katipunan had a library for members. President Duterte was on the other hand too lazy to use the possibilities for education that his rich family provided.

Formal education

Sometimes, the formal education that is provided to the very rich does not necessarily help them understand life better. This is especially true for those who live a too sheltered or privileged life. This was not Rizal’s life though, even if he studied in Europe there were also difficult times there – and also difficult times for his family in Calamba, Laguna, which form a searing arc through his novels. There is a terrible prejudice in the Philippines that sees all educated people as elitists or as social climbers. This is fatal as it puts anyone who tries to improve himself in a bad light. Former Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay (link) comes from Tondo – same part of Manila as Bonifacio. To study law was a struggle for him, unlike for Duterte. Hilbay is the exact contrast to Duterte, shows how Filipino good-heartedness plus human rights education make for promising legal philosophy.

Life experience and proper education can make people and society as a whole better. If education has been misused by charlatans or by privileged classes as a status symbol – Rizal has a few asides at the Dominicans of UST in his novel Noli Me Tangere (link), showing that he disliked their conservatism and preferred the more progressive Jesuits – then resentment against it can exist. Additionally, a language very different from what is spoken at home can be a social barrier also. Recent reforms like MTB-MLE “Mother Tongue – Based Multilingual Education” in K-12 (link) –   may improve things for good: “Research stresses the fact that children with a solid foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy abilities in the school language.”. There is often a gap in the thinking of many Filipinos, as if theory and practice inhabit separate worlds entirely.

Real learning

The language gap is only one factor I think. Rote is another, and even worse reactionary attitudes. Hopefully the kind of teacher with an attitude and stance similar to that of Persida Acosta is not as common anymore today – the kind that sees asking why as an offense, not a search for knowledge. Or the high-hatted type of teacher that ridicules students who make mistakes to prove “superiority” and thereby possibly creates anti-intellectual rebels. Or the kind that treat practice with disdain, seeing theory as the only field for the truly learned. Fortunately modern Filipino scientists like Dr. Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH are the exact opposite of this. But the old reactionaries that looked down upon practitioners did help create the cesspool of resentment that dismisses the likes of Project NOAH as “useless”. Only societies that link theory and practice seamlessly win (link)!

It is good that voices like those of Dr. Gideon Lasco are also there now, who has among other things written about Dengvaxia (link) and the necessity to explain things properly to the public, even such difficult principles like “correlation does not imply causation” and dealing with large numbers. Because the issue of the Philippines remains one of insufficient public education, even if the literacy rate is nominally high and there are a lot of college graduates, one sometimes wonders what they really have understood and what they just memorized on time for examinations – unfortunately. What use will it be to oust Duterte now if in a few years the likes of Pacquiao or Sotto take over? Maybe even the likes of Persida Acosta and Mocha Uson? How to get the confidently ignorant on the trail of curiosity and learning? Stop laughing at them for a start. After that – don’t quite know.

Reasoning entails doubt – reasonable doubt. Confident ignorance creates people who believe that certain people are guilty without sufficient evidence. Confident ignorance makes things very much black and white, like in the discussions about the Dengvaxia matter centered mainly on blame, not on finding systemic reasons for certain failures. What shocked me more than the 14 children who allegedly died of vaccination but in fact didn’t was how many children still die of simple diseases in the Philippines, showing that the public health system might need a lot of improvements, still. Systematically improving public health in Europe took centuries of both practical policies and scientific findings. Fanatical screamers who accused Jews and witches and whatnot did not help. But if the Philippines wishes to repeat centuries of experience, that is its stubbornly sovereign right.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8. February 2018



Dengvaxia until 2015

Dengue fever symptomslooks clearer to me now, after my first article (link), the Senate hearing (link) and more research. After the 2012 SONA where President Aquino mentioned initial successes in dengue prevention, there were newspaper articles which mentioned a rise in dengue (link), doubting its success. What I wonder is if the increased spread of dengue is related to climate change and to rapid urbanization in the Philippines – with the slums that result, the stagnant pools of water you often have there and of course a population density that makes it easier for the mosquito to travel from person to person.

Phase 3 Tests

The development of Dengvaxia goes way back, but the two most important Phase 3 tests started in June 2011 – one in Asia and one in Latin America (link). CYD 14 (Asia) had over 10 thousand volunteers while CYD 15 (Latin America) had almost 21 thousand volunteers. The active phase of CYD 14 ended in December 2013, that of CYD 15 in April 2014, with Sanofi reporting the success of Phase 3 some months later (link). Phase 3 is needed to apply for approval. The Philippines played a key role in all three test phases (link): 3,500 children were from the Philippines, setting up clinical trial sites in Alabang, Muntinlupa City (Phase 1); Barangay Del Remedios in San Pablo City (Phase 2); and Barangay Guadalupe in Cebu City along with Barangay Del Remedios (Phase 3) with Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding, head of the Department of Microbiology of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)  – an agency of the Department of Health – playing a key role (link), including writing key scientific papers (link) and even experiencing how her own child got dengue (link). Seems the most important seroprevalence data came from San Pablo (link).

Since national data on seroprevalence (how many % of the population had virus exposure) did not exist, it was extrapolated to some areas where dengue is endemic (link). Some might consider this a doubtful methodology, but then again such authorities as Balik-Scientist Dr. Edcel Salvana have mentioned approximately 87% as the seroprevalence (see my previous article) and I see no reason to doubt that they are right, give or take a certain margin. He also writes (link) about why he sees the vaccine as good – if used properly. What is also important, however, is that the Phase 3 studies (link) included an active phase of follow-up for one year after the last dose of vaccine in the series (25 months from dose 1) and include a hospital-based follow-up period of four additional years. The follow-up phase for the Asian phase 3 study seems to have ended in November 2017.

A related research paper (with Dr. Capeding as a co-author) says that in the ongoing longer-term follow-up (from year 3 to year 6) to assess safety, we are monitoring the incidence of hospitalization for dengue as a surrogate end point for disease severity in order to evaluate a potential predisposition in vaccinated persons to increased severity of disease. I do wonder if there is a relation between the planned end of the follow-up phase and the warning by Sanofi not to vaccinate seronegatives (people without any virus exposure) anymore due to risk of severe dengue.

Getting Things Ready

In July 2014, then-Health Secretary Enrique Ona (link) sounded quite confident about the new vaccine (link) and the hope then was that it would be out by July 2015. The success of the Latin American study was announced by Sanofi on Sept. 3, 2014 (link). President Aquino met with Sanofi representatives on Nov. 9, 2014 (link) which was pretty soon after these events, then a year later in Paris on Dec. 1, 2015 when he was there for the Climate Change Conference – a meeting that was openly mentioned in the Philippine press (link), not done stealthily as some are insinuating.

There also was a dinner in Paris in May 2015 (link) involving ex-Secretary Garin and Sanofi, and before that Sanofi submitted papers for Philippine FDA requirements in January 2015 (link). Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines (link) approved the vaccine in December 2015. The end of December brought a number of events which were seen as rushed, which President Aquino in the hearing explained as being in order to get things done in his term, saying the new administrations often lose time in the beginning, and also explained why budget maneuvers were needed (link).

Now for Questions

Assuming the best (which I do now after having seen how Aquino acted at the hearing) there are still a number of questions. There were still some years of observation being conducted, who knew about this and who was (not) informed including possible risk factors, if already known then? As for monitoring, Dr. Melgar who was with the DOH when the program started has this to say (link): I know that the Family Health Office and the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH have been doing due diligence in monitoring all adverse effects from the beginning. Sounds properly done.

Dr. Salvana would be the right person to ask on seroprevalence, and on why certain extrapolations were considered OK. I am satisfied with that for now, what I computed in my previous article still stands – those who WILL get sicker should be few. And I believe Aquino didn’t know the science.

What one knows

depends on eyes, ears and brain – and on their human and man-made extensions, meaning the people who inform and educate you. We all know about the information overload modern social media brings with the world practically spilling into our brains, including all sights and sounds. What more is a President constantly subjected to a barrage of information? So he needs his people. To filter what is important and what is not, to give him what he needs to be able to make decisions. What if they mislead him? He has to counter-check if possible. Mayors in cities have it much easier.

It is I think possible to get an intuitive feel for a city. Mayor Duterte may have known Davao in and out, therefore being instinctively able to tell bullshit from truth. At national level it isn’t that easy. Spurious drug lists have shown the limits of an intuitive, seat of the pants approach to governing. At national level and even more in specialized areas, one may need to have additional sources. Seems that the Presidential Management Office would have specialists (link), even if I am not sure if they are used as extensively and as focused as the staff of Germany’s Federal Chancellery (link) which has the job to (translated from German) obtain and keep ready the information the Chancellor needs for his/her work. Its divisions mirror related ministries and directly contact them for detailed information: Division 1 for interior and justice, Division 2 for foreign, defence and development affairs, Division 3 for social, health, labor, infrastructure and social matters, Division 4 for financial and economic matters, Division 5 for Europe and Division 6 for intelligence matters. With a nerve center like that, no need to rely only on Ministers – who are also politicians after all.

How one leads

Could it be that Aquino relied too much on his Cabinet members alone? A second opinion is good not only when one goes to doctors privately! It may be even more crucial in matters of state. The fact that ex-Secretary Garin now seems to have connections to the other side is a bit interesting. Somewhat like how PNPs Napenas was a candidate for an opposing party in the 2016 elections. Trust, but verify is usually better. And even a highly efficient apparatus can be sidelined at times, as was shown recently by the controversy in Germany regarding the herbicide glyphosate (link).

Another possibility is what I sense – that Aquino tends to push through with things he wants to do, at some point no longer reconsidering. That is a very Filipino trait which his successor also has, as in the Philippines, too much reconsidering can make one lose respect. The other side dislikes it, yes. But there is to me not much evidence of significant counter-indications known at that time, at least in a form understandable to laymen or managers. Specialists speak in details, managers think in terms of consequences, that gap must always be bridged whether in IT – my field – or elsewhere.

My personal opinion

There are terms like “lighthouse customer” for those who adopt a certain product first. Sometimes vendors (in any industry including mine) manage to make lighthouse customers pay normal prices. Other customers negotiate a deal which fairly considers their role in being one of the first to buy. Possibly the Philippines bought too many vaccines to soon at a slightly too high price. Asking for a refund is a maximum demand Sanofi will probably not accede to. But maybe a rebate as not all things were really made clear, since around 800 thousand kids will have to be monitored and a few, hopefully very few, may have to be hospitalized, is an idea. Sanofi does not want the PR damage from a long public conflict – nor does the Philippines want to look like a backwater where they accuse foreign firms of witchcraft. There are many ways forward. But let us look at 2016-2017 next.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 15 December 2017

European Union assistance

Global European Unioncan have conditions – with audit, policy or business reasons. Much comes from public debate over here. Audit has to do with not wanting EU money to disappear without helping anyone except a few third-world politicians. I am pretty confident that modern audit practices in the EU keep things from happening like what some pro-Duterte trolls insinuated during the election: that EU money for Yolanda help went to Mar Roxas and the Liberal Party. If the Philippines were an important counterpart of the EU like Russia or Turkey, such allegations would have had serious diplomatic repercussions.

Policy reasons such as human rights are very important. There was a major change in thinking towards more progressive ideas in the late 1960s and early 1970s within the Western world. This was noticed even by President Marcos when the USA was under President Jimmy Carter. Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss got criticized in the German Parliament for giving his friend Marcos a pistol. “We shouldn’t help dictators” said many socially conscious groups in the West. There is a bit of a backlash now with Trump, but the EU will still hopefully remain different.

Business reasons nonetheless still co-exist with policy reasons. One might call the EU hypocritical, but in a pluralistic society, multiple interests shape policy. So some development aid does indeed promote products and services from the donor country. If it is given, no problem, but spare parts can become a cost factor. Imagine getting an inkjet printer free, the kind that needs expensive ink. Expect that aside from the socially conscious groups in EU countries, there are the business groups that will argue: “we shouldn’t be just giving them money, we should earn something out of it also”.

There are NO dictates against sovereignty in any of these deals, as nobody is forced to enter into them. The EU likes to work with different kinds of treaties – starting with its internal treaties which indeed force the member states to give up some sovereignty in order to be part of a stronger whole. The Euro and the Schengen agreement are important aspects of the EU which not all member countries have joined. There are non-EU countries which have some degree of association with the EU: Switzerland, Norway and Turkey for example. Finally, most EU countries are NATO members.

GSP+ privileges for fruits and other imports of the Philippines was a measure to help, the strings attached merely adherence to human rights – freely agreed upon by the Philippines in 2014. No one will care too much if these privileges are cut in January 2018, except the Philippines. Some fruit companies in warmer parts of the EU, including Caribbean provinces of France, might rejoice. Most of what the EU public has seen so far is headlines about Duterte threatening the European Union. Does he really expect anyone to be scared? Annoyed maybe. Possibly into choosing other options.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 21 October 2017

Free Tertiary Education

Gearbox (Autocar Handbook, 13th ed, 1935) HUis a milestone for the Philippines – something I did not expect. Kudos to Senator Bam Aquino. Thanks to the others who had the sense not to torpedo it. Inspite of Aquino. The Philippine educational system may soon be able to produce the right kind of people for every level, thanks to having K-12 as well. You don’t only need the high-level theoreticians and academics. They are needed, but you need the other levels to distill the theory into useful practice – engineers, managers – and skilled workers.

Different skill levels are needed

K-12 was luckily not grounded by President Duterte, neither was K-12+ which is the special pilot project in cooperation with Germany. Yes, it produces skilled workers for German firms in the Philippines. Leftists, please protest. Call them exploiters. Do you prefer to have people in sweatshop jobs, begging for houses like Kadamay? Even the Russians knew how to build an industrial landscape within just a generation. The Chinese needed two, but Filipino leftists are for the most part I think too stupid for that.

Bavaria where I live has Fachhochschulen or Polytechnic Universities in unlikely places like Deggendorf, Rosenheim or Regensburg. I know some excellent IT people from these polytechnics, people of relatively humble peasant origins. Bavaria was a mainly agricultural state back in 1945. One level “below” engineers you have technicians. On the job training, the German dual system called Lehre – or the K-12 TVET or K-12+ which are similar – makes for highly skilled workers. Industries need these people.

Examples of tropical countries that excel

Or what would BMW in Munich be without all the levels of people in it? Or MBB in Hamburg, which had Indonesia’s Dr. Habibie in a leading position (link)? Finally, it was Habibie who was among those who got companies like Indonesian Aerospace (link) off the ground. Off course they geared up essential skills by building planes in license for MBB and the Spanish CASA which also once started off subcontracting for German firms – and is now part of Airbus Military, building the A-400M (link).

Of course the capability to build airplanes is a test of how an economy is able to get people to work together productively – something Filipinos still need to learn – FAST. Even Brazil has its own airplane manufacturer – Embraer – and I can attest to their planes being good. Or add to Indonesia and Brazil the space program of India to show that mastery of own complex industries is not something people in tropical zones cannot do. It is not just Europeans, North Americans and North Asians who can excel.

Working with the right partners

Will China ever help the Philippines jump-start anything industrially the way the German MBB and Spanish Casa, both Airbus now, did for Indonesia Aerospace? First of all, the country has to have the will to get started, nobody will spoon feed you. Filipino old-school leftists, stop complaining about exploitation, that is an old story. Second, the senior partner has to respect you. Germany respected Dr. Habibie, a former MBB VP. And Chinese often look down on brown Southeast Asians, that is well known.

Japan has been a good partner to the Philippines after the war. I even believe that neighbors like Indonesia and Vietnam would work together well with Filipinos. All that Filipinos have to do is shed their notorious prima donna mentality at all levels – with one another and especially towards fellow Asians. I do not really wonder why Rizal placed the Biblical quote “vanity, all is vanity” on the cover of El Fili. Modesty, and decades of quiet work bring results. Not jumping for Beijing loans and flattery.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5. August 2017

Ignorance is Blessed

Leni Robredo's family July 2016 (cropped)seems to be what those bashing Aika Robredo believe. Do they think it is better to be Sandro Marcos, studying abroad because of his father’s money? We all know the attacks at Mar Roxas for allegedly not being a Wharton graduate, when all he did not do were graduate studies, which you do after you become a graduate. Before that you do undergraduate studies and get a Bachelor. Obviously Roxas is no longer a bachelor. He is married to Korina. But Aika Robredo is a Harvard scholar. That is in itself a mark of excellence. Knowledge is a significant national resource. The USA imported exiles from Europe to build the atom bomb, and Wernher von Braun’s team for the space program. That Russia still is where it is now in international terms is due to the enormous respect they have always had for the learned in their culture. Yet the Philippines today shames the smart, following the US/Trump trend.

Education versus Snobbery

Part of the hatred against the educated comes from how education was misused by many in the Philippines – as a mark of status, not as a tool for life. And of course quality education is hard to attain for those who are poor or where no English is spoken at home. MTB-MLE in K-12 (link) tries to fix that by teaching children in their mother tongues in the first years of school, which is “meant to address the high functional illiteracy of Filipinos where language plays a significant factor. Since the child’s own language enables her/ him to express him/herself easily, then, there is no fear of making mistakes. It encourages active participation by children in the learning process because they understand what is being discussed and what is being asked of them. They can immediately use their mother tongue to construct and explain their world, articulate their thoughts and add new concepts to what they already know.” To put it simply, they know better WHAT they are talking about – thereby truly learning.

Theory and Practice

The significant gap between theory and practice, concrete and abstract in the Philippines is due to bad quality education. Some theorists might truly believe that the Philippine Constitution is really applied in practice – even though the realities of impunity and armed groups negate that. Or long jail times for the poor, bail for the rich. There are the split-level Christians who pray to God in Church, just after having been to their mistress the night before. Hopefully they at least confessed Sunday morning. There are the total pragmatists – to whom the President belongs – who believe in quick-fix solutions that have no permanence. Theory is thought of as unnecessary, only (short-term) results count. I actually hoped that he would at least see that the justice system needs fixing, and use his position and his power in Congress to get that done. Or to fix the laws which are old and cumbersome. But he does not see beyond his experience as Mayor, where he had no other choice (in his thinking) except quick fixes.

Engineering for Results

The engineers are rare. Those who bridge the gap between the theory of scientists and the daily work of technicians. Engineers do not seem to be highly respected even. Somehow the class-based thinking in the Philippines dictates that you are to be either a scientist (higher, clean) or a technician (lower, dirty). And please don’t tell me nobody needs applied science for results. Drive a BMW X3 or X4, and appreciate that it does not fly apart at 200 km/h to know intuitively that it DOES matter. Or rely on software with the length and breadth of SAP on which major corporations worldwide run, and you know what an investment in a properly designed system means. I could start lecturing about how duplicate checks for incoming invoices – with corresponding payment blocks to prevent accidental payment – reduce risks in SAP FI (finance). One wonders if there was something similar to prevent or at least mitigate the risk of duplicate transactions in the bank software of BPI (link), mentioned very recently.

How about the project engineers? Secretary Abaya of DOT, inspite of an intelligence that let him enter Philippine Science High School, may have lacked certain skills. Those who manage even parts of large technology (or building) projects really well have my respect. You have to coordinate multiple experts and non-experts, even workers, make them summarize their stuff, understand it, summarize for others, prioritize, push people, reward good performance and more. Then stuff like the overnight move of the Munich airport in 1992 (link) becomes possible. Just one-third of that in the Philippines might end in a bonfire of Filipino vanities, both educated and less educated – and a Senate hearing. With the engineers blaming the drivers, the drivers hating the arrogant engineers and managers, and politicians trying to grandstand. Somewhat like after Mamasapano. Skilled workers, engineers, top scientists – is is any wonder so many never return? Will that get worse in today’s de facto bobocracy?

I wonder about how much – or how little – exchange of data, information and knowledge takes place between police, public prosecutors, judges and legislators with regards to the drug problem – in order to really solve it. I have read of police complaining about public prosecutors throwing out their evidence after long investigations. Why not cooperate in advance to avoid that? Doesn’t necessarily have to be like in Germany, where public prosecutors offices are in charge of investigations and the police work for them after a certain stage. I have read that Duterte’s blanket protection to cops is because they are removed from the service, without pay, as long as they are under investigation for anything. Is it not enough just to suspend them? Intelligence does not have to mean lack of common sense, or vice versa. In the Philippines, it seems to.  Running a really modern state (that is more than a facade) requires applied knowledge, at every level and skill. Will the Philippines get that on time to get its act together?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 29 June 2017



60 poor families

Oliver Pelton - Benjamin Franklin - Poor Richard's Almanac Illustratedwill be involved in building their own houses in a resettlement site supported by the German government in Dasmariñas, Cavite (link) – and the Gawad Kalinga village will have a kindergarten and a public school, plus access to affordable healthcare facilities. The principle of German charity which involves activating self-help instead of encouraging mendicancy, subservience and helplessness – and of course the principle of developing healthy and educated communities. What a far cry from Kadamay!

Work always had worth in Germany. There were indeed areas like Prussia which had serfs until 1794 – a legacy of the conquest of the East. Other major parts of the country had a lot of independent farmers, tilling their own soil. And craftsmen in cities whose work had a high level of quality. Indeed one of the critiques Karl Marx had regarding capital and industrialization was Entfremdung or alienation of the worker from the product of his work, unlike the craftsman who could be proud of his own product.

Countries where serfdom and oppression caused the rich to keep getting richer and the poor to stay poor often have a different work ethic. In Romania there is a saying, said somewhat jokingly, that those who work hard are either stupid or have never used their heads. Imelda Marcos allegedly once said “some are smarter than others”. There are places in Romania where gypsy clan heads have large houses while everybody else is poor – yet they are worshipped. Sounds like some Filipino politicians.

Sometimes one looks at the Philippines and wonders whether those who work hard are indeed suckers and others are smarter. The drug lords, the gambling lords, the politicians that protect one or the other or even are into criminal ventures that can also include human trafficking, cybersex dens and prostitution. The oligopolies that can charge premium rates yet pay “endo”. Corrupt officials and different forms of extortion: kotong/hulidap cops, NPA “revolutionary tax” and Abu Sayyaf kidnappings.

Corruption and crime are both Filipino middle-class concerns. Politics so far may have addressed symptoms first, not root causes. The root cause of both may be exactly the mentality that those who work hard are suckers and those who get rich quickly and easily are somehow “smart”. How can one change that kind of attitude? Probably only by showing most people that there is another way. That work and honesty pays off. The other side is making sure crime and corruption does not pay, of course.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Labor Day 2017, München


Hanggang Pier Lang

Sopot molo 2004ang mararating sa pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko – sabay paninira sa iba. Dahil walang magbabago sa ganyan. Walang tren o riles o elektrisidad ng MRT na maaayos. Walang mahihirap na mabibigyan ng hanapbuhay at pag-asa sa buhay. At hindi rin aasenso ang isang administrasyon na umaasa sa proyektong nasimulan ng iba. Buti pa si Presidente Marcos – kahit na marami akong ayaw sa kanya – na marunong mamili ng mga magagaling na technocrat para iplano at isatupad ang kanyang mga proyekto.

Kulang sa pansin ang dating ng mga nagpadami ng boto sa Time Magazine online poll para mauna si Presidente Duterte. Siguro kung padamihan ng tao, matatalo ng Tsina o kaya India ang Pilipinas kung gugustuhin – pero bakit nila ito kakailanganin? Kahit Indonesia mas maraming tao, pero wala din silang panahon sa papogi na ganyan.

Ang Tsina, kayang-kaya ang Pilipinas. Ang India, may sariling space program, hindi kaya ng Tsinang hamunin sa sariling teritoryo. Indonesia matatag din na bansa.

Ang Pilipinas naman ano? Iilang nakabarko na Abu Sayyaf hirap na. Magaling pumatay ng mga pusher at adik sa kalye na payat na payat na. Opo lang ng opo sa Tsina. Minura ang Presidente ng Amerika, ngayon naman tuwang-tuwa na baka bumisita ang bagong Presidente sa susunod. EU de puta, ang EU minumura ng minumura daw. Pero hindi naman pinapansin ng EU. Baka ako lang ang manghinayang kapag nagmahal ang dried mangoes galing Pilipinas, kung sakaling tataas ang import duties.

Ano ang Pilipinas na nakikita ng mundo ngayon? NAKAKAHIYA. Parang mga siga sa kanto na nasobrahan ng Ginebra at pasigaw-sigaw. Baka nakashabu na rin sila kaya akala nila sila na ang hari ng mundo. Matitinong tao nakatago sa loob ng bahay. Baka bumaba lang ang krimen dahil maaga ang uwi ng mga tao ngayon. Takot matokhang.

Anong maipapakita ng Pilipino sa mundo ngayon? Wala. Alila pa rin ng mundo. OFW at BPO, pera sa labas. Sa panloloko sa sarili, walang mararating. Sana magising na.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 21 ng Abril 2017


Intact Neighborhoods

Kampong Phlouk 01are the foundation of successful cities, regions, countries. How are barangays in the Philippines doing? The President says that 40% of barangay captains are involved in drugs (link). Wait, weren’t the barangays also the ones who compiled the drug lists? Used to compel people to surrender and possibly even used to determine who to kill?

And now they plan to appoint barangay OICs (link). Back to the old game the Spanish started when they appointed the principalia to head Philippine barangays – and to control them on behalf of the new rulers. Same game that Marcos played. Not a way to foster true neighborhood solidarity. More of a way to foster paranoia and betrayal.

How intact are neighborhoods in the Philippines anyway? There are horrible stories about some slum areas (link) where people: “..steal from neighbors if only to get by. Children as young as 12.. prostituting their young bodies.. Gangs.. controlling the villages”. Conditions that are a testimony to society’s neglect.

And how good are the people in the “good neighborhoods”? How many barely care about the poverty so close by? How many are OK with the killings? How many have actually thought of donating to help drug war victims? How much middle-class prayerfulness just covers up for soulless consumerism and cozy egoism?

Damaged communities in a damaged culture is the condition I think – drugs, road rage etc. only symptoms. The country might need to rehab or might end up killing itself. Nationwide bossism looks like an ineffective “instant solution”. Self-help, starting locally, seems better. The other alternatives are: cynicism, resignation or migration.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, 24th of March 2017,  München


Education and Organization

Taurus Configurationare the keys to success, their lack causes failure, as Miyako Izabel points out (link): The EDSA Revolution has failed, primarily, because the people who have been pushing for the democratic principles promised by that revolution have not focused on professionalizing the government and intellectualizing its citizens, the requirements for the Philippines to become a knowledge society.. India is what it is today because of the Nehrus. Jawaharlal Nehru dreamed of a highly educated people and a government of experts and professionals. Indira Gandhi opened up science, engineering, and management institutes. Rajiv Gandhi introduced mass information and communication technology.  Well, one could point out that India always had a tradition of respecting knowledge and that the founders of the modern Indian state also built on that. Filipino BPO people sometimes sneer at the Indian accent, but are Filipinos launching satellites like India (link)?

The German state of Bavaria where I live also built its postwar progress on heavy investment in schools and universities, turning a formerly agricultural state into a powerhouse. There was also a foundation for that in the glorious period of the 19th century, where the newly founded Kingdom of Bavaria attracted a lot of scientists and other experts, many of whom are buried in Munich’s Old Southern Cemetery (link). The late 18th and early 19th century was also a period of institution building which accompanied modernization, creating the foundations for a strong civil service.

India of course built on the British civil service tradition, something Singapore also did. With emphasis on SERVICE, unlike the Philippine LTO. Little service there (link).

Now what does the Philippines have to offer? Public schools in the 1950s were still excellent. From what I gather, there were 7 years of elementary school and 5 years of high school before – in fact the first batches of Philippine Science High School which was founded in 1964 HAD five years of high school. K-12 is therefore not really new, but it may yet fail. There are excellent universities and private schools, but they cover too few people. Polytechnic and vocational education is still weak – due to feudal attitudes look down on “dirty work”?

So there you go – an elite that is often in higher spheres, theorizing about rule of law for example, while in the barangays of the poor that rule of law is practically non-existent. You either buy your way out of a bad situation, or go to a crowded jail for years without a chance of getting a hearing. Wonderful theorizing about democracy, while in the barangay it could well be that you are simply dead if you dare question something a local boss says – and I really wonder if this was any different before President Duterte.

While Miyako Izabel in her post quoted above mentions political dynasties practicing political patronage, extortion, and bribery, the strongest analysis I have ever seen is from Mila Aguilar (link); [the main bulwark of Dutertites] are the lower middle classes we have now, who went to public schools, got a low level college education in some diploma mill, and went abroad to earn their keep, sending enough money to their families to build houses, buy service vehicles from tricycles to jeeps, to the present Uber cars, as well as computers and cellphones to lighten their lives.

Many of them still languish in urban poor areas or extremely low-cost subdivisions, and cannot send their children or siblings to private schools, where they might become better informed. Used to be public schools were good, and the valedictorians and salutatorians of EVERY public school got an automatic UP scholarship. That was at least until the 1950s. A lot of the well-educated Filipinos from that period went to the USA starting in the 1960s – probably those who could not be absorbed by the always very small ruling class of the Philippines.

But what destroyed this road to opportunities? Was it in the Marcos period, when a new middle class also rose? Was it a case, conscious or unconscious, of of FYIGM (fuck you I got mine) which is defined as follows (link): in a race, whoever gets to be first across the bridge, destroys the bridge before the competitors can cross it. Now if one looks at the typical Duterte follower as described by Mila Aguilar, aren’t they applying FYIGM to those just one rung below them? Could it all be about being too comfortable and therefore afraid of potential competitors (link)?

The path of least resistance seems so very Filipino. Unfortunately those who do not keep abreast become laggards. It is like that with nations – and with people. There are educated Filipinos who stagnate afterwards, like an operating system that never goes online for an update, they just repeat what they learned once. Rich Filipinos are usually rent-seekers, trying to prevent competition.

But the world will not wait. The Philippines was richer than South Korea in the 1950s. Will it be behind Myanmar at some point? What a waste. Will it all finally be a story of might have beens?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 25 February 2017