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