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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

17 comments to Fear and Intimidation


    ..I had never thought much of babies until recently when I became an uncle. Baby Tori, my sister’s daughter, was four months old when I first saw her, and she was truly precious, a joy to behold. When you hold a baby for the first time, you are filled with wonder at seeing a human being’s frail beginnings—and with an awesome responsibility for someone so innocent and powerless..

    ..Crying babies can be a metaphor for the voiceless and the powerless of the world, who, like infants, can only cry for mercy and justice. Human rights, after all, are not for those who have the ability to exact freedom and comfort with their own means. Our due is responsibility, not remonstration, and life can go on without anyone intervening on our behalf..

  • sonny

    PiE, this whole exchange of ideas was so rich and powerful, in my opinion. No matter it was directed only at possible Pinoy potentates; so eloquently put especially by you and edgar. Like WOW & POW!

  • – Vicente Rafael, on why the Western system of punishment mostly does not work in the Philippine situation.. with more questions than answers…

    I’ve been reading Foucault’s lectures from 1972-73 gathered under the title of “The Punitive Society”, and it’s made me think of the differences between the situation he describes emerging in the Western world from the late 18th and 19th c. and the Philippines today. These differences are neither good nor bad, but useful for thinking about the specificity of power relations in places with radically different histories.

    In the Philippines, there seems to be no panoptic logic and no over-arching technologies of surveillance. Rather, what exists are highly local modes of surveillance, usually on the levels of the barangay and the extended family, and usually in the form of chismis. Similarly, there is no merging of the penitentiary– designed to make prisoners penitent, reflect on their crime and rehabilitate their lives– with the prison–the space of incarceration and punishment. The two remain apart, and prison is simply a place that exists outside of “normal” society where inmates are either squeezed for “piansa” or bail, or abandoned to their own devices.

    The pre-conditions for a disciplinary society do not exist for the majority of Philippine society, especially among the poor. Hence, all attempts to create “pliant and docile” bodies subject to continuous observations and systematic interventions (e.g. schooling, ‘moral recovery programs’, Catholic confession, traffic enforcement, taxation, public health, etc.) tend to flounder among the majority of the poor and succeed only among the middle or aspirational middle classes.

    For related reasons, attempts at instituting bio-power where the State seeks to modulate and account for every aspect of life, tends to be blunted by an elusive–one might even say nomadic–population that resists being fixed and counted. Rather than bio-power, there is necro-power in the form Tokhang where the State delivers death as it asserts its sovereignty on the corpses of its victims designed to terrorize the population into submission.

    So it’s not surprising that many cops are also criminals, just as criminals do much of the policing in the prisons, where a kind of cronyism thrives between gang leaders and prisons guards. This is why there are rarely prison riots in the Philippines: gangs govern the place, subsuming prison guards and other officials into practices of cronyism and patron-client relationship where huge sums of money are generated and circulated, mostly through the drug trade. (The closest analogue of this kind of culture of corruption in prison might be the Bureau of Customs).

    Rather than discipline and punishment with a view of reforming the criminal subject, what exists are practices of exclusion which dissolve subjectivity altogether. So-called criminals and other “dangerous” elements are treated as so much garbage to be disposed of. Rather then incorporate them, Tokhang expels the “dregs” of society via EJK’s (or the death penalty once it is re-instituted), much like lepers and mad people were expelled from society prior to the 18thc. in Europe and in the 19thc in the Philippines (think of Sisa the mad woman in the Noli).

    Expulsion rather than reform: in the Philippines, criminal suspects are not converted (and subjectified) into disciplined subjects and into an army of reserved labor (as they were in the West and in American-run colonial Philippines till the Commonwealth) who can then be absorbed into the market-place. No industrial enterprises for prison labor exists in the country as far as I know. Otherwise, there would be extensive rehabilitation facilities. But no such facilities really function, except as extensions of gang-governed prisons.

    In short, the Philippines is the place where Foucault is good to think with and against. Going against the grain of the European history he’s tracing, the Philippines relocates, deflects and upends European techniques of power and generates distinct power relations of its own (inflected no doubt by the pastoral power of the Catholic Church). You could take Foucaul’ts ideas but they would have to be drastically revised when thinking about the Philippines. How? I don’t know yet.

  • wangad

    we know that being sweetie-sweetie and nicey nicey will not work. we need gulpe de gulat. why is it that when pinoys go to a country with good law enforcement, pinoys bow and obey. why is it that in pinas, despite there are so many well-intentioned laws, it is not the experience. it all boils down to good law enforcement. law makers law breakers, law enforces law neglecters…ningas cogon…does this ring a bell.
    i agree with the police, mamatay ka muna bago ako. gen bato is right to say take care of yourself first in all operations because your family needs you and the country needs you to enforce the law. a dead hero is just a dead person who could no longer do a heroic act. a dead adik/user/pusher or a dead criminal could no longer continue his/her criminal mind. ang hinahabol ay ayaw pahuli (and flight is an indication of guilt). if we treat the police with respect, i believe they will also respect us. if they say stop and ask questions, one need to stop but if one flees it can mean so many things. any police in the world will react to how they are trained.
    in our present pinoy police force, it is obvious that they need more training, more equipment and more support from the public and from decision/policy makers. we need also a good justice system. it is good that a petty misunderstandings are being handled at the barangay level perhaps this concept can be expanded with respect to drug addiction but not on trade and protection.
    i say the du30 administration is doing it right although things could be better. rather than criticizing the method let us find ways to improve the method, a method that will better work and efficient. why is there more lo profile people (lpp) getting killed than hi profile people (hpp)…this is because the HPP are knowledgeable of systems and processes ) while the LPP are not so or have very little knowledge and resources. pdu30 war on drugs is also a good indication on his war on corruption where the big fish suspects have plenty of ammunition to deflect their accusation. Since pdu30 is immuned, i fully support his shame game strategy…ibunyak nya ang mga kawatang pulitico at ang mga nasa govierno. trial by publicity and trial by the justice system.

    • Sure, too nice will not work. I live in the law-and-order state of Bavaria. But police do not terrorize people they really do their job to protect and serve.

      The Philippines might have too many rogue cops – the Senate hearing showed something about Antipolo I think – so giving them effective license to kill is dangerous.

      Due process in the Philippines is a mockery, “Establishing the Truth” (other article) is about how it should be – considering that no person is perfect in knowledge.

      Not even Duterte as the President, his naming and shaming can destroy the reputation of people who are innocent – who is to say he cannot make mistakes at all?

      As for improving the approach, “Usapan na matino” (other article) is about this – if there is a Senate hearing, use it to adjust and improve as you go along.

      Cases like the father and son killed in jail, or the 20 year old killed in Pasay city even while surrendering (video was viral) should not be happening all the time.

  • chempo

    Part of me says go ahead, more killings if you will. They are shooting themselves in the foot. How long will it take before many of the 16m idiots find out some of their family members are the victims. Not too long, considering Filipinos have large extended families. As it is, a new quote is showing up fairly consistently — “This is not the change we want” — as affected families grappled with their family tragedies.

    In 2014 the UN floated the idea of kicking the Philippines out of the world organisation on account of its persistent inability or unwillingness to stop political corruption. If the killings intensifies further, the president may be leading the Philippines on an exodus out of the UN.

  • josephivo

    …. and the leverage of fear and intimidation. If you want our shop out of business, just hide a sachet with a few shabu pills, then go toe the barangay to tell where “we hide” drugs and our shop is history. (we are outsiders, the scheme does not work if you are closely related to one of the barangay officials.)

    So what to do, invest there is still plenty of opportunity or quit while it is still possible?

  • MannAquino Goodroad

    I am a martial law survivor. But am cognizant of the fact that I was lucky I didnt go through what the families of the real victims went through..I can understand that the protest is all but of a symbolism to oppression, but more concerned about the present ambivalence to mounting cultivation of fear into the people’s psyche….

    • Part of intimidation is to “make examples” of some people and the others are glad they don’t have to go through it. One good thing about the present protests is that the real victims have started to speak up more like Direk Joel Lamangan who managed to survive after being tortured. The movement against Martial Law on one hand had Ninoy Aquino as a martyr, finally mobilizing the middle class that had been mostly quiet before, but fixated a bit too much only on him while forgetting the rest…

      I grew up under Martial Law – bonafide “Martial Law baby”, one of my first memories was lots of comics on TV, then Marcos pointing his finger at us from there and declaring Martial Law. Recent events like BF Homes consenting to having police visit everybody “just to check” show that intimidation is still working today.

  • cha

    But isn’t the act of protesting, in part, the people’s way of saying – we will not be intimidated?

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