Archive for category Culture

Insulting People’s Intelligence

Ronald dela Rosa 073116 (cropped)seems to be a Filipino specialty. Remember Rolando Galman? He was also conveniently dead. Or Mayor Espinosa? “Fought back” when being arrested – inside his cell. Now the gunman at the Resorts World Manila is dead after.. what: getting shot, shooting himself, burning himself – in what order and which of the options are true? Somehow hard to believe he wanted to steal only chips. And how did he get into a casino with a “Baby Armalite”? In Manila where even malls are guarded by security?

The motto of this blog is “the first duty of a man is to think for himself” – something the Cuban Jose Marti said. He was Jose Rizal’s contemporary. Somehow I don’t remember Jose Rizal having written anything similar. Bonifacio much less – he seems to have been the traditional Filipino kuya or elder brother, took over the father role early. I don’t think traditional Filipino families promote much independent thought. What elders say is truth, questioning their opinion is like questioning their authority.

So you see a lot of people repeating the arguments of “Tatay Digong”, “Ate Mocha” – and occasionally even SolGen Calida. Often things brought forth are total nonsense. But from the family onwards through the authoritarian school system, Filipinos are not trained to really think for themselves. Asking WHY is the first step in learning. Unfortunately there are so many who see WHY as questioning not a specific conclusion, but the person being asked and his judgement. They know no “polite inquiry”.

The problem of police killings may indeed be less bad as assumed by the opposition. But the attitude of the administration – brushing away all inquiry, refusing to clarify what really happened – leaves the field to the critics and increases possible suspicion. In fact the pissed-off attitude of President Aquino when inquiries came about Mamasapano also made those who did not like him more suspicious. But putting oneself in the other person’s shoes is even more un-Filipino than inquiry. So forget it.

Not having to confront inquiry also makes those in leadership succumb to lazy thinking – a natural reflex we all have, but I have seen how persistent inquiry keeps you on your toes and prevents you from making the usual simplistic assumptions. Genuine inquiry leads to sharper thinking, especially if one has good sparring partners. This is why I hope that Filipinos continue asking questions – and media helps piece the puzzle of Resorts World Manila together. Hopefully before a stupid Senate hearing starts.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 2. June 2017


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Carpio Did Nothing

Carpio-jpg 070737according to Duterte (link). If one goes by “aksiyon” in street talk, maybe. He did not jetski. He did not swear. He did not even invite the Chinese to debate in Manila (link). Of course the winner of a public debate a la Duterte is defined by the crowd who “bilib” in the one who postures. By emotional affinity with the one talking – and the chance to taunt someone who represents something defined as the common enemy. Somewhat like the kind of taunts one has at the football field over here in Europe, the most tribal place we still have over here.


Of course someone with a warlord mindset says he will ignore the Supreme Court and the Constitution (link) on Martial Law.  And his Secretary of Justice will say that the Supreme Court is powerless against a Martial Law OKed by Congress (link). To hell with the laws one has sworn to obey that say otherwise. Almost the same attitude to laws as China which ignores the UNCLOS filing which was indeed pushed by Justice Carpio (link) – they seem to prefer Mao’s “power comes from the barrel of a gun”.

Power is a great aphrodisiac, which Kissinger allegedly once said to Mao, might be something Duterte and Bill Clinton could agree upon. What their daughters think of their fathers in this respect is as yet undocumented. Yet there is a difference of several shades of grey between putting a cigar somewhere, grabbing women by the pussy or joking about soldiers raping women in a war zone. Yeah, he is just joking I hear people say. He isn’t like some Yugoslavian warlords whose men really did such things.


So sure? Someone who invites non-army troops to join the fray against the Maute group (link) sounds crazy enough. Sounds more like a real warlord for whom every man with a gun is just a hired gun for the powerful, not legitimate troops to defend a Republic and its people. And his man in Congress, Speaker Alvarez, says Congress should listen to the President on Martial Law (link) – which runs completely counter to the separation of powers – executive, legislative, judiciary – the Philippines has in theory.

Of course it does not run counter to the many a Filipinos idea of authority. There is NO equality there, in fact I once heard a Filipino say there has to be a hierarchy of ordering and following, otherwise chaos will ensue. No idea of everyone being under rules that are higher than everyone. No sense of abstraction whatsoever. In that world, someone who “only” files a case before the UN is a useless paper-pusher. Trump and Xi Jinping are respected with their respective gunboats. The UN and EU are not.


Respect by Duterte for someone like Nur Misuari (link) who laid siege to Zamboanga in 2013 basically to “get some respect” – in the same sense as gang leaders in bad neighborhoods – is part of the same logic that only power constantly demonstrated is real power. A logic that only respects those that are willing to go to extremes. Discontent with Filipino institutions, perceived as elitist and ineffective, has been around for a while. But Martial Law, or even worse, Jungle Law are not the answers.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 1st of June 2017


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Honeylet and Leni

Cielito Avanceña croprepresent the two major parts of Philippine society – not Mocha and Leni, who are both daughters of judges. One with a tragic twist early in her biography, the other later. Honeylet was a nurse in the United States for four years (link), and women’s names with suffixes as -let or -lyn will almost never be found among the children of the traditional Filipino middle class from which Mocha Uson and Leni both come from. And like many from simpler backgrounds who have come to money, there is a certain initial hunger for conspicious consumption (link) which is not surprising – I have observed this in Filipino migrants when they earn their first bigger money. Doesn’t have to mean that it will go into endless greed like that of Imelda, which I think could have been born more out of narcissistic injury (link), defined as:

“vulnerability in self-esteem which makes narcissistic people very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”

Although this description also fits many aspects of Duterte and Mocha. What do they have in common with Imelda? Imelda was the poor cousin of a rich family, often looked down upon. Duterte was the black sheep – of a rich and powerful family. Mocha is a bit of an outcast from her original background, with or without her dancing.

Filipinos and Pilipinos

The traditional middle class can personally relate to the Philippine Republic. Many of them, looking at Facebook, are either friends or friends of friends. Many of them have had parents or even grandparents or ancestors who worked for the government – or were public figures. So there is a maximum of 2-3 degrees of separation between them and nearly anyone important now or before. The identification with the legacy built by so many is personal. Not so with the many -lets or -lyns of the Philippines.

Often they will be (children of) migrants or OFWs who themselves were from simple peasant or working-class families, maybe with an enlisted soldier or a policeman in the mix, who now have a little more. If they have some degree of connection to the traditional middle class, it might be through having worked for one of those families – if these families remember them which not all do. I have seen on the Internet that Raissa Robles’ post about Honeylet’s shopping has generated some angry reactions – which do not really surprise me. It is like “why don’t you let our kind have a share of things also, you rich people”? In his book “Motherless Tongues”, Prof. Vicente Rafael mentions the simple people of the Philippines as  being “acknowledged only to be dismissed” (Page 95, The Cell Phone and the Crowd, Postscript) and mentions the EDSA 3 battlecry as being “Nandyan na kami! Maghanda na kayo!” (we are here, now be prepared). Pilipinos warning Filipinos, two major subcultures often clashing.

The outcast Filipinos

It is outcast Filipinos (with F) like Mocha who are angrier at Leni than anyone from the simple people (Pilipinos with P). Or has anyone heard Honeylet rage against Leni? The destructive, narcissistic rage of outcasts (not all outcasts have that, notably I did not see any of that in Erap for all his faults) tapping the desire for acknowledgement and respect from the simple people is dangerous. This is why it hates the real acknowledgement and respect that Leni and those like her give to the people, calls it “plastic”.

The outcast Filipinos will destroy the entire Philippines, burn the house down if only to take revenge against those that they feel have slighted them. A corrupt President Binay, who represents Pilipinos (with P) moving up, would have been less dangerous to the Philippines than Duterte is now. Now if Filipinos are in general able to acknowledge and respect Pilipinos like VP Leni sincerely does, a lot can be won, the forces of darkness can be dispelled. Yet I do not yet see this point in time reached yet.

The Pinoy Ako Blog (link) delivers the point in a way more common people understand: Dear Honeylet.. Kumusta naman po ang experience sa pagsakay sa private plane na ang pera ng taong bayan ang gumastos? At least nakatipid kayo sa pamasahe sa pagshopping nyo. Shopping money na lang ang nagamit niyo. There is Miyako Isabel (link) from Davao, whose education is UP Anthropology but whose thinking bridges “F and P”, proudly part Lumad in ancestry. More of those are needed.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 14 May 2017


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Learning from Mistakes

Lessons learned after dive training (9040575723)is not a Filipino strength. They are covered up if one’s own (camp) – and punished severely if someone else(‘s camp), at least in politics. Yet skills need time to develop, one has to accept that one botches up things the first (two, three) times and improves if one pays attention to avoiding the old error or doing something successively better. This has been my experience with all kinds of skills in life – yet there are Filipinos who say “you don’t have any talent” if you don’t get it the first time you try. Those who do have talent in things in the Philippines tend to stagnate because of lack of true competition, being big fishes in a small pond – while often refusing to be good teachers to those who have less talent. Some sports teachers in the Philippines just told me to watch how others played basketball instead of teaching the basics. Funny that I learned the basics quickly when a sports teacher in German senior high took the time to correct a few errors instead of letting me persist in them – like in swimming.

Swimming I indeed had learned well in the Philippines, mostly thanks to a Japanese guest teacher at UP Swimming pool. He did push us boys to our limits, often I feared drowning and swallowed I wonder how much water as he kept raising the bar for accomplishment by a few more laps. But in the end he knew how far he could go with us. My feeling was one of growing with each challenge mastered – the only small mistake my German sports teacher corrected was my somewhat hasty breathing technique. That is sports. It can be the same in any sort of domain – even in those domains that seem more theoretical. Science for example thrives on peer review, on errors being found and corrected to hopefully lead to a better result. Each major review of my draft for my master’s degree brought forth a major error – which I corrected to proceed. My career in the software industry showed me a lot of lessons learned – which is the term for mistakes made and analyzed to avoid repeating them (in the same way). 🙂

In a country where blame is given to the one caught holding the wrong end of the stick, the culture becomes avoidance of admitting errors from denial to downright lying. From President Aquino’s evasive stance on his role in Mamasapano down to Foreign Secretary Cayetano’s absurd sophistry on the definition of extrajudicial killings. There are no lessons learned through this. The lowest ranks probably learn the least, because they are in my observation the most exposed to blame games by the higher ups. Usually Filipino higher-ups will come from families with servants, will hardly have any exposure to the kind of work that shapes true grit and character – or the criticism that helps shape true character, that tells you what you are doing wrong, while telling you how to do it right – or at least do better. But those who rise up from below are often just as unforgiving or worse with those they leave behind – witness the recently observed behavior of many new Filipino middle class toward drug addicts and users.

The educational system is in many ways at fault – it is semi-feudal, sneering at practical pursuits while focusing mainly on the status one gets when one graduates, on the school and on the rank in the bar exam for example if one is a lawyer – as if the bar exam was the antiquated exam that the Chinese mandarins of old took – while failed mandarins as they were called sometimes became troublemakers and rebels, the most famous one being the one who started the Taiping rebellion in the 19th century. One person with a positive attitude in general, writing very balanced and good articles in the Inquirer and on Facebook – Gideon Lasco – turns out to have been in a high school (link) where we were assigned a piece of land to till – and you were graded according to the quality and quantity of your harvest. We learned how to use the plow and other farm tools.. Could it be that such experiences shape better attitudes than the school system segmented by “pedigree” which the Philippines now effectively has?

Making Filipinos plow the soil in school – probably a better idea to build character than going back to ROTC, which often degenerated into bullying during martial law. Doesn’t just have to be plowing the soil, it could be fishing – or even arnis. Or civic service, as long as it is led by the right people and not by thuggish barangay captains. You stumble, but you learn to get up. And those who have stumbled and gotten up again are more likely to help someone who stumbles – and not laugh like so very often.  Yes, there was YCAP or Youth Civic Action Program during Marcos times or maybe even before – but that often became a joke, just like Rural Service for professionals. Or Marcos taking off his shirt for photo-ops “working” on the ricefield, effectively predating Putin’s macho posing by decades. So in the end it all boils down to really doing it. Not laughing in the sidelines when serious people try to get things done. Not trying to feel higher and better by blaming addicts and users. Not grabbing credit from others.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 12 May 2017

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Smugness and Contempt

Ernesto Abella, Malacanang Press Conferenceshow in the faces of today’s Filipino leaders (link), in the actions of the police (link) and rich people on the street (link). This is the kind of Philippines I never liked, the one that often showed its face during Martial Law. Those with that attitude considered themselves STRONG back in the days, and all-knowing; as Edgar Lores mentioned in his posting about faces of some leaders: “The main attitude of know-it-alls is hostility. And their main facial expressions consist of smugness and sneering. This is the smugness of arrogance and the sneering of contempt. Panelo is the poster boy of these expressions. Andanar comes a close second. And the President does not come last in the ranking.” And as a Martial Law baby, I knew you better not cross a cop. Or a rich kid in a big car, might have a gun – be insecure and easily pissed off.

Joe America observed well what the country will become if this continues (link): “this government by impunity will continue to stack Filipinos by worth, from powerful to powerless, and the least of them will continue to be exterminated.” But at least Marcos defended Pag-Asa island – the airstrip there was built in his time. Duterte has conceded to China (link) and three Chinese ships shall visit Davao (link) today – which is the last day of the ASEAN summit in Manila. National dignity may be dying next.

That human dignity dies first is a given. The report about police keeping people in a dark passageway just 1 by 5 meters that I linked above mentions this: “When someone defecates, sometimes the officer outside would shout at us asking who had relieved himself.  ‘You’re like pigs! We can smell it outside, what more inside’”. As if conditions already widely reported in Philippine jails had not been bad enough already. So much for the “just and humane” society in the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution.

Preachers like Abella can continue to mouth words of that sort in public, or even say the Philippines is like Singapore nowadays. They are not fooling any smart people.

Lee Kuan Yew did call Filipinos soft and forgiving – for letting the Marcoses come back. He did not in any way suggest that the Filipinos bully people like they do now. What Singapore does represent is a classic Confucian order where the rules are higher than everybody else. Where a very strict rule of law exists with no exceptions. Banning firms from contracts if found to be giving bribes to public officials. Not a fourth-world place where people are kept for weeks in dark passages behind bookcases. Not a place where a rich person in an SUV goes out of his car to slap a poor tricycle driver, just like that – exemplary for the attitude of the entitled who feel they can punish whoever crosses them and their inflated, smug and contemptuous egos. Rules and institutions lead to sustainable progress. Rule by clout back to the jungle.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 29. April 2017





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Tratong alipin ba

The Lash., ca. 1863 (5574585348)ang talagang hinahanap ng Pilipino? Galing kay Sandra Cam (link), sa Kongresista (link), sa Senado (link), sa Presidente (link) o kaya kahit sa pampook na opisyal (link)? Sa huling nakalink, nakakatakot pa talaga ang konklusiyon ni Manolo Quezon: The most troubling about Arturo Lascañas is that he must surely be only one of many hitmen working for many local leaders with many more victims under their belts, applauded on the one hand by their constituents, and enjoying impunity because they are valuable allies for national leaders on the other. Meanwhile, anyone holding a contrary opinion is confronted with the possibility that expressing his mind could have lethal results. Sa madaling salita, kumontra ka sa isang meyor, baka patay ka. Sa bagay, baka malagay ka na rin sa drug list kung galit sa iyo ang barangay captain. Tama na siguro sa iilang mga may topak diyan na “nayayabangan” sila. Buti pang masigawan na lang ni Sandra Cam.

Pero kahit hindi ka matokhang, matroll o pakitaan ng pagkaastig ng mga iyan, puwede ka ring mabulok na lang kung saan-saan, tulad nitong iniistorya ni Joel Pablo Salud (link):  I and my wife once visited the resettlement houses built in Calauag, Laguna. Roughly 48,000 people were resettled there at the time from various parts of Metro Manila. Sure, they were given houses. But the promised living conditions, as well as opportunities for work, were denied them. These famillies, hard up as they were to put food on their tables, were forced to pay for their electricity bills (which came by way of generators), fetch supplies of water from miles away, and steal from neighbors if only to get by. Children as young as 12 took to prostituting their young bodies for cups of noodles and coffee. Husbands were also forced to make that trip back to Metro Manila for work, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves. Gangs began their felonious job of controlling the villages. The houses were dilapidated structures, without ceilings, walls barely holding up the roofs, looking good on the outside but crumbling in the inside and infested by termites.. Crime allegedly rose in that part of Laguna as incidents of poverty and violence spiked.

Para na talagang mga favela ng Brazil o township ng South Africa ang mga lugar na ganyan. Hawak ng mga gang, pero para na ring mga gang leader ang kilos ng iilang mga local officials (ano pa nga ba iyong kung may mga hawak kang killer?) at halos ganoon na rin ang asta ng iilang mga mas mataas pang opisyales. Sa kanila ka dapat matakot – hindi sa batas o regulasyon. Dahil kung malakas ang kapit mo, marami sigurong paraan. Kung mahina ka naman sa matataas, maaring kawawa ka. Ibang mundo ito kaysa iyong mundo na nakabase sa batas na sinusundan ng mga tao.

Kapag nakikita ko ang Pilipinas ngayon, naiisip ko itong artikulo tungkol sa Sicily (link): being a Sicilian myself I have observed and thought about how power is articulated into the history of Sicily. If you notice, Sicilians look up to people and institutions that represent the power. The power is something to be feared, but also could allow you favours, and [those in power might share] some of the wealth. In a nutshell, I would say there is this kind of medieval relationship with power. Kapit, palakasan, dilihensiya. Kultura ng padriño at mga “inaanak”. At biktima.

Malay ko nga ba, baka naman iyong iilang mga “disente” diyan sa Pilipinas, mas suwabe lang kaysa iyong mga magagaspang na lumalabas ngayon. Iyong mga iilang disente diyan, baka katulad ng mga Corleone na may postura, samantalang iyong mga nasa poder ngayon, mas katulad ng medyo baduy at magaspang na Don na si Tony Soprano. Sabi ng maraming mga pabor sa gobyerno ngayon, ipokrito raw ang mga disente. Kung tama sila, sino pa ba diyan ang matino, magpakatiwalaan – at hindi lang ginagamit ng mga iba’t-ibang grupo diyan? Hindi ko pa ito masabi.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, ika-10 ng Marso 2017



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Pagmamata at Inggit

Tagalog dress, early 1800ssa tingin ko ang madalas na dahilan para sa maraming problema ng Pilipinas. Wala namang lipunang pantay-pantay, kahit sa Scandinavia may mababa at mataas na tao kahit hindi agad ito nakikita. Pero mukhang sa Pilipinas tatapakan ka talaga kapag mas mababa ang tingin sa iyo, at pahahamakin ka ng mga naiingit kung mayabang ang tingin sa iyo – kahit tangos lang ng ilong ang dahilan. Maski sa abroad meron nito, kaya hindi gaanong naghahalo ang mga grupong “edukado” (UP, Ateneo, La Salle atbp.) at “migrante”. Makikita ito kahit sa pagkontra sa paglibing ni Marcos – maraming nag-dedemonstrate sa US, may iilan sa Australia at UK, bihira sa Alemanya, halos wala sa mga tipikong bansang OFW tulad ng Espanya, Italya, Saudi, Singapore o Hong Kong. Masyadong simple para sa akin ang lumang klasipikasyon bilang masa o elite dahil wala namang aalis sa Pilipinas na talagang mayaman o oligarko, maliban para mag-aral ng iilang taon.

Mas maganda para sa akin ang paliwanag (link) ni Manolo Quezon tungkol sa “postwar middle class” na American-style ang edukasyon, kung paano ito sumuporta kay Marcos noong una, nabigo tapos sumuporta sa pag-alis ni Marcos, nabigo na naman sa mga oligarko na tumuloy sa kanilang pagpapayaman mula 1986, tapos mas marami pa sa kanilang umalis ng bansa mula noong 1990s, huling yugto nitong grupo ang EDSA Dos, pero hindi na nila malaman kung ideyalista pa sila o gusto na ring makinabang ng husto sa kikitain.

Binanggit din ni Manolo Quezon ang bagong middle class na mas simple ang pinanggalingan: “Together with the academic and professional elite that migrated in the 70s went Filipinos of modest means who have only begun to establish themselves as a new, entirely different, middle class. Their influence in politics is only beginning to be felt, not in Metro Manila, but in the provinces.” Sa madaling salita, mga pamilyang migrante at OFW na umasenso – baka nadagdag na rin dito ang mga nakapagtrabaho na sa BPO. Iba ang istorya ng mga pamilyang ito.

Halos hindi yata naghahalo ang mga mundo ng mga grupong ito. Madalas na umiiral ang pagmamata at inggit – hanggang sa pulitika. “Bobo”, “Dilaw”, “Elitista” atbp. pang mga pagtawag sa kabila.

Napapaisip din ako sa isang komentaryong ipinost ng isang matanda na sa blog ni Joe America (link): “We were practical, conventional, materialistic and happy… and proud to be so. We compromised. When martial law was imposed in ’73 we were in our early twenties. We were gainly employed, dreaming of a promotion, a bigger salary and more. We thought martial law was a good thing because it ended the disruptive street demonstrations, jailed suspected communists, improved obedience to traffic rules and the peace and order situation because there was a curfew.”

Ngayon, ano ang pinagkaiba ng luma at ng bagong middle class? Baka iisa lang – iyong isa papunta pa lamang, iyong isa pabalik na. Ang bansang Pilipino – di na nadala o natuto man lang.  Dahil heto ang karugtong ng kuwento: “When things started to go bad, we didn’t pay much attention because our priority was sustaining our personal upward trajectory. An arrest here, a disappearance there, Imelda’s foreign junkets and extravaganzas, Marcos’ cronies cornering of the banana,sugar and rice production and trading we simply ignored. We admired and applauded the people who were able to sidle into the corridors of power, and tried to get ‘connected’ to them.  After awhile the abuses mounted, the economy faltered. We became afraid, restless.  Then Ninoy Aquino was assassinated.  We woke up, as though from a stupor or a bad dream,depends where or what we were at when it happened.” Ngayong panahong ito, ano ang mangyayari? Ewan ko.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 3. Disyembre 2016




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Condolences to Davao

Davao river mouthfor yesterday’s attacks. I know how it feels, as a resident of Munich which was also in the grip of a tragedy exactly six weeks before with 10 dead in a highly frequented public place, also on a Friday. The sense of vulnerability and the question – why, what for? What also struck me was the recent seriousness of “General Bato”. Well, I guess I don’t really like a top-level policeman being too much of a comedian anyway – it is way too serious a job for that. President Duterte even declared a “state of lawlessness” with this explanation (link): There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings, and there seems to be environment of lawlessness, lawless violence. Now didn’t the President allegedly tell people just after his inauguration “if you know a drug dealer or addict in your neighborhood, just kill him”? And didn’t the war against drugs itself possibly provide the vigilantes among those doing the extrajudicial killings with cover? Where will this all go?

Lee Kuan Yew?

Many supporters of Duterte see him as a potential Lee Kuan Yew, and a response to the UN regarding human rights even stressed that the Philippines is (link) “an Asian nation that places premium on common good” – protesting against “liberal Western values being imposed” on it. Let us look at the original Singaporean definitions by Michael Teo (link)

As a former British colony, Singapore started off with a Westminster-style parliamentary system. But we have adapted it to suit our unique position: a small, multi-racial, multi-religious city in the middle of a turbulent south-east Asia. We introduced multi-member Group Representation Constituencies to ensure multi-racial representation. We created non-elected Members of Parliament from independent groups and opposition parties to ensure diversity of views in Parliament. We instituted an elected presidency to safeguard key state appointments and the nation’s financial reserves.

As English laws evolved after Britain joined the European Union, Singapore has not always followed, because our circumstances are different. Thus, unlike the UK, we have not weakened our defamation laws, which are essential to keeping our public discourse responsible and honest…

China and Russia study Singapore as one possible model for their own development. Whether they can adapt it to their own circumstances will depend on their ability to run a clean, honest and meritocratic system, governing for the long-term good of the country with the support of their people. But ultimately these large countries, with their long histories and ancient cultures, will develop in their own ways.

Now this is an interesting – and more rational – basis to look at things. Because “Western” for many Filipinos means “American”. Thoughtless adaptation of American institutions has indeed NOT worked that well for the Philippines, which its own specific culture. A multilingual country like the Philippines might indeed function better with federalism. It works for Switzerland with its four languages and highly diverse cantons, especially those in mountain valleys that proudly maintain their distinct dialects. It works in Germany, which has strong and very old regional traditions.

There is the interesting point of “defamation laws”.  Germany has very strong anti-defamation laws, some dating back to old concepts of honor, others as a lesson learned from the times of Hitler. That new media people are not yet used to dealing with can be used for propaganda is shown by today’s social media, but also was shown by how Goebbels and Hitler used the radio for incitement. So German democracy has legal constraints on both free speech and freedom of association that fall under the concept of “defensive democracy”. Now is that already depriving human rights? No.

The Asian way?

Japan and Korea, even if they are Asian cultures, adapted aspects of both French and German legal systems in the 19th century. The Japanese parliamentary system is like the old German system. What is possible is that many aspects of Indonesian institutions are from the Dutch system. What Michael Teo does acknowledge is the importance of institutions and a meritocratic system.

Now as long as Filipinos rely on a virtual father figure like Duterte to establish order, and do not strengthen their institutions, he will be nothing close to Lee Kuan Yew and the Philippines will never be anything close to Singapore. Not even close to Indonesia, which although it is a harsh system did indeed give Mary Jane Veloso due process. In fact one of the most disgusting aspects of the Martial Law system may resurface – not even that much its strictness which one can adjust to – but its personalism. You pissed off someone with power, and that person could get back at you.

And meritocratic? The clannish system in the Philippines has often fostered mediocracy. Plus no Buddhist or Confucian traditions means the sense of social responsibility is not really that strong.

Vladimir Putin?

Now Duterte looks forward to meeting Putin, because they allegedly have similarities. Well, Putin grew up with his parents in one room of a three-room communal apartment in Leningrad (link). Duterte is the son of a governor. Most entitled Filipinos have a built in safety net against failure, which I think does not force them to struggle as much. Russian culture is a harsh, no-excuses culture. There may be many things one may not like about it, but their fierce drive for excellence is known and proven. Education was much more meritocratic in the Philippines before, when public schools were still good and every valedictorian and salutatorian of those schools got an automatic UP scholarship. But somewhere along the road, many Filipinos went for the path of least resistance and instant gratification like so often. Does anyone really believe that spectacular raids will solve a serious drug problem, or do they just want to see quick stuff that looks effective to then forget again? Why did Russia, whose security apparatus is for sure more efficient than that of the Philippines, seemingly not win its war on drugs (link)? Things are never that simple.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 3. September 2016

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Lügen wie gedruckt

Münchhausen-AWilleor “lying like printed” is an old German expression from the time after Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press in 1450 – it means totally twisting a story. A still oral culture, except for the few monks and merchants who knew how to read and write, distrusted the printed word. After all, it is easier to tell whether a person you know is lying to you or not. The expression seems to have become even more used in the subsequent conflicts between Protestants and Catholics after Luther’s Reformation. Somewhat like some trolls say “BIAS!” today.

Social media today can be compared to the invention of printing in 1450. Wide groups of people who hardly used to read get access to information they can hardly distinguish from nonsense. Daniel Levitin has written a book called A Field Guide to Lies – Critical Thinking in the Information Age (link). Well, seems many Filipinos are not really strong on critical thinking (link) as the culture is more oral and much is believed only when there is a viral video of something. While they often can also be more like the Germans of before, who believed in fairy tales and witches.

Now Joe America’s old article on thinking critically vs. critical thinking has gotten me thinking. The question WHY can be considered offensive in the Philippines for more traditional Filipinos. Meaning as an affront to authority. Old-school teachers and persons of authority expect those who are below them not to ask why but to accept truth as they say it. Somewhat like the Church did not particularly like Galileo questioning established doctrine. So criticism is often not constructive in the Philippines (thinking critically) – or if constructive (critical thinking) is seen as an offense by the more traditional authorities.

Now some could say the Philippines is Asian and Western culture does not apply. But the West also once went through a period where what men in robes or with crowns said was truth and law. Rebels like Luther originally just wanted to point to mistakes in the system. Because the reaction to simple questions was piqued, Protestantism arose. But it was Protestants who conducted the Salem witch hunts in what later became the United States –  not Catholics. Here in Europe, which has had so many wars, many are very wary of those who believe they know the entire truth.

It is a big achievement to know the relevant truth. I don’t really care about Warren. Who? If you don’t know, then don’t bother. I do hope that President Duterte’s Matrix claiming Senator Leila de Lima had somehow gotten money from drugs is not true. I have the feeling it isn’t, because the timing with the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings and previous statements about “having to destroy her” (link) make me doubtful. Now what if she had stopped the hearing? Would he have done nothing? Is he lying like printed, is she lying like printed, or is everyone lying a little bit?

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


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Fear and Intimidation

Koksan gun barrelwere part of the atmosphere of Martial Law in the Philippines, confused with “discipline”. But it was always there in the Philippines – from many scenes shown in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo like the random picking up of students like the orphan Basilio, provincial warlords and communist rebels in the postwar Philippines, impunity in many places after Martial Law, and yes killings even before the over 1000 killings reported since July 1st, more on the local level and never as many. So demonstrating against the Marcos burial (link) is noble, but maybe more symbolic than useful.

The goal of fear and intimidation is domination on one side and submission on the other. In the recent case of a motorist killed by police officers (link): “MMDA constables Bayani Batac III and Jeslie Manlangit said Dela Riarte was rude in confronting the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) policemen who accosted him following a traffic accident.” – many Filipino commenters on social media saw it the same way. Well from the video one could see he had attitude, but is that a reason to kill him? To make sure nobody else dares look at them the wrong way? A German book about the Philippines in the 1980s had this in its warnings for visitors: “authority that does not feel taken seriously can be vindictive, do not act in a way that may be misinterpreted”.  President Duterte said recently of an unnamed lady government official who he thinks is critical of him (link): “I will have to destroy her in public”. Could it be he feels his authority is not being taken seriously?

It seems intimidation also plays a part in making some drug users (and even just alleged users) surrender (link): “We were invited based on a list prepared the barangay. They said that, if we don’t come and yield soon, we might find ourselves in the kills count.” The lists seem to also have contained friends of suspects as well as occasional and former drug users. There are of course Filipinos of a certain bent who say too much freedom does not work with Filipinos, and that they don’t tell the truth anyway. The question is finally one of chicken and egg, the answers are not easy.

Eastern Europe also had a hard time after Communism. People used to intimidation may not know how to handle freedom properly – including the consideration for others needed for order.

To convince a large mass of people to uphold order, one has to also make it work for them, socially and economically. Fear of being shot dead even as an innocent is hardly motivating. Intimidation as a recipe to gain “respect” can breed bullies, rebels – and the apathetic type of Filipino many have noted. The goal should be a society of people that are confident AND considerate – not a society of intimidators and intimidated. Human rights alliances like the recently founded I DEFEND (link) are a step towards this, even more than the protests against the Marcos burial.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 13 August 2016

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