In order to build a More Perfect Society

Cacique Ron Antiguoreplaces “ a just and humane society”  of the 1987 Constitution in a draft for a Federal Philippine Constitution (link). More perfect society sounds like Thomas More’s Utopia. There is an article from 2016 by Professor Tony La Vina already makes an uncanny comparison (link):

Superficially speaking, Duterte’s Philippines, at least in its treatment of human rights and the role of law, is not very far from Thomas More’s Utopia. In More’s world, lawyers are actually prohibited and citizens are assumed to know exactly what the law is, what right and wrong is, and are expected to comply with all the rules laid down by the state. In More’s Utopia, punishment is a certainty for those who transgress the law. In More’s imaginary world, the justice system is always fair and so human rights is not an issue. Its respect is assumed. Unfortunately, both the assumptions of an educated citizenry and an excellent justice system do not hold for our country..

How do we respond to Duterte’s Philippines? Unfortunately, the book Utopia does not give us good answers to this question. Sadly, utopian literature frequently justifies human rights violations in the name of achieving a better, more perfect society. Therein lies the danger and the tragedy that is unfolding in Duterte’s Philippines. It is not a perfect world; government makes mistakes, including terrible ones. ..

The rest of the constitutional draft remains similar to 1987, with too many words at the end of the preamble (link): “a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace” – which can mean anything, as we know since Orwell’s 1984, or Imelda Marcos’ interpretations of truth and beauty.

Or Grace Poe’s swearing allegiance to the United States. Among many Filipinos, including public officials, there is a lot of fake oath-taking. In Bavarian folk tradition, you had to at least keep your fingers crossed behind your back while swearing an oath you had to take, but did not mean to keep.

What nations want

The 1935 Constitution had three main goals that are clear: independence, to preserve patrimony, and general welfare (link) with a “regime of justice, liberty and democracy” to achieve them:

The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence, in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

I think the Americans of before knew what they wanted in the Preamble of their Constitution (link) – clearly unity, justice, tranquility, defence, welfare and liberty for themselves and their posterity. It defines clearly how Americans wanted to live then and in the future:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Swiss Federal Charter of 1291 went straight to the point with a one-sentence intro (link) – but one can distill similar ideas out of it – common good, peace, defence:

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

  1. In view of the troubled circumstances of this time, the people and communities of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden promise to assist each other by every means possible against one and all who may inflict on them violence or injustice within their valleys and without.
  2. Each community shall help the other with every counsel and favour and at its own expense in the event of any assault on persons or goods within and without the valleys and to this end have sworn a solemn oath to uphold this agreement in confirmation and renewal of a more ancient accord..

The 1987 Constitution and even the Federal draft both still say in their preambles: “promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure.. independence and democracy under the rule of law” – now do these things still matter for Filipinos today? Or their leaders?

The Philippines Today

Common good. Stickers for drug-free homes, drug tests for aspiring students. The citizen as a suspect, as a potential danger to a more perfect society? What perfection is aspired to, is it the paternalistic Heavenly Peace of Chinese thought that gives its name to Tiananmen Square?

Some of its islands, its fishing grounds – its patrimony. Seems they have been sold for trains and loans with not so low interests. Mining – is it properly regulated and taxed so the country as a whole benefits? And general welfare. Are Lumads, Moros, poor people still harassed for being in the way?

Federalism and putting barangays on a leash may in fact lead to a Philippines similar to the colony under the encomienda system of before (link) only with regional political families in a role similar to encomenderos and local families being like the principalia or datus subservient to them.

Killings of families like the Espinosas and Parojinogs, bad as they may or may not have been, even warnings by the police chief involved in both to others (link), do not bode well for those leaders who do not toe the line. Like for datus that refused to serve King Philipp II or his successors.

Attempts to ignore the will of the people are now showing themselves towards Vice-President Leni Robredo. Would the powers-that-be let her lead a Bikol state in case the people there want her to? Real Federalism is about self-determined communities working together for mutual assistance (original Swiss Confederation) or towards a “more perfect union”  (USA) – not society or possibly even “New Society”. And especially not fiefdoms assigned to the entitled by.. whom? Who are they? Do they really embody the will of the people? Do Filipinos indeed prefer to be led? We shall see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 August 2017




4 thoughts on “In order to build a More Perfect Society


    For the Philippines to get a real shot at having an antidynasty law, Congress should ban “fat” political dynasties but allow “thin” political clans, the dean of Ateneo School of Government said on Thursday.

    Fat political dynasties have more than two family members occupying government offices, according to Dean Ronald Mendoza.

    On the other hand, thin political dynasties are content with having members succeed each other in office, he said.

    ..Mendoza spoke at the hearing called by Sen. Francis Pangilinan on the proposed antipolitical dynasty law. Pangilinan chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws.

    The 1987 Constitution bans political dynasties but Congress, which is dominated by political dynasts, has failed to pass an enabling law defining a political dynasty..


    Filipino Americans are the minority group with the largest number of Tump supporters.

    A seafaring race repeatedly conquered by colonizers and invaders, Filipinos are the first to assimilate and cast off their own identity in order to ape their new masters.

    Time and time again, Filipinos will adopt the most conservative of values to fit in, eschewing fellow migrants if it means more acceptance for themselves.

    Time and time again, Filipinos will betray their own kind if it means gaining favor from a more powerful conqueror.

    Filipino dynasties were rewarded with haciendas for oppressing their own kind by the outnumbered Spanish colonizers who needed to outsource their subjugation.

    “Makapili” collaborators during the Second World War betrayed their fellow Filipinos to the Japanese in exchange for a privileged life.

    The Duterte regime sold out the hard-won legal claims to the West Philippine Sea to imperialist China in exchange for lucrative supplies of amphetamine (shabu) and chance to eliminate the competition in the drug trade.

    And now Filipino-American Trump supporters have enabled neo-nazis, klansmen, and other white christian terror groups when, in fact, Filipino-Americans will never be white enough for these supremacists.

    Heroes, martyrs, and exiles rarely prosper and raise their own children well. Often, it is collaborators and compromisers who get to live another day to pass on their survival strategies to the next generation.


    WE’RE IN ANOTHER WAR…of the Warlords
    By Mila D. Aguilar

    If there’s anything to avoid in this world, it’s to be on the wrong side of history.
    That’s exactly the side a now-largely regretful 16 million chose to be in 2016.

    Many have since fallen silent about their woeful choice. But it’s one thing to regret a choice, and another thing to know why it was wrong. Let’s pinpoint the wrong in it now.
    The truth is, this is the third time that wrong choice has happened in Philippine history.

    The first time, it was Marcos. Marcos first rose to power as a congressman from Ilocos, at that time a little-known corner of the country. His road to fame and fortune was treasure-hunting.
    The second time, it was Erap, whose first seat of power was the tiny town of San Juan before it became a city. His road to fame and fortune? We need not mention it, because many already know.
    2016 was the third time, when 16 million, a mere 15 percent of the total population and 38.99 percent of the electorate, voted someone from Davao City, one of the heretofore less-visited cities of the south. His road to fame and fortune? Guess again.

    What distinguishes these three less-than-distinguished gentlemen from all the rest of our presidents is that they were, before being elected nationally, 1) local; and 2) not old hacenderos. Therefore, they had to use other means to gain their fame and fortune.
    Of the three, of course, Marcos was the most distinguished. Though he came from Ilocos Norte, he was educated in the University of the Philippines High School and College of Law and became Senate President before his rise to the presidency.

    But the similarity between the three is greater than their differences. And this is that, due to their local non-hacendero roots, all three had to accumulate wealth in a non-traditional way; that is, NOT JUST through outright corruption, but beyond the bounds of corruption into the darkness of the netherworld. And of these, Marcos’ treasure-hunting was perhaps the most respectable and least despicable — and therefore mentionable.

    To fully understand the phenomenon of these three undesirables, we have to know the Philippines better.

    Unlike countries like China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, England and France, the Philippines never became an empire. Feudal fiefdoms did not war with each other to the extent that one eventually arose to dominate all others and establish a unified rule. When the Spaniards reached what they eventually called Filipinas, our ancestors were an agglomeration of tribes straddling separate islands, valleys and mountains that did not necessarily all communicate with each other, because most were sufficient unto themselves.

    It was the Spaniards who imposed their feudal rule over us, gathering the families of our tribal leaders in their pueblos, the better to stop them from leading their people to rebellion.

    The tribal leaders that the Spaniards gathered in the town centers became Filipino hacenderos after many generations of mixing their blood with the Spaniards to become mestizos.
    These hacenderos were the ones who took over power after 1946.

    But since we are an inherently democratic people and the Americans taught us their electoral brand of democracy as well, the old type of hacenderos could not hold sway for long.

    Rent capitalism crept into the Philippine economy with a few indications of product-based capitalism, demanding stricter accounting and auditing of profits and the subsequent premium on mathematical honesty. A new type of hacendero arose who knew how to use his land as capital to make his money grow.

    But old habits die hard. These hacenderos, while learning the ways of capital, took a long time to acclimate to true product-based capitalism. Chinese second- and third-generation immigrants who have no taste as yet for direct political power outdid them in this.

    We are now at the stage of the warlord upstarts, in fact we have been since Marcos’ time. There is a seething impatience with hacendero habits of iffy honesty and decency — iffy honesty being best expressed in the 2010 slogan “Moderate Your Greed.” The impatience is fueled by OFWs who have earned enough to exercise their chops in Philippine politics. They want “change,” even if the exact nature of this change escapes them.

    Local warlords who have earned _their_ chops not only through corruption but through jueteng and drugs have taken over. They have taken advantage of the yearning for fast and reckless, as against planned, modulated, entrepreneurship-based change, positing their own program of kill-kill-kill, drugs-drugs-drugs, and “build-build-build,” in the process wrecking Philippine society.

    The truth beneath the warlord avowals of being against corruption is that they are more than corrupt; they are into all the illegal trades they claim to be going after, from smuggling to jueteng to drugs, with a generous accompaniment of plunder, adultery and concubinage. While the new type of landlords have gone beyond tenancy to more lucrative real estate and are already dabbling in elementary entrepreneurship, and are poised to leave bureaucrat capitalism as well, they, the new entrants in the national scene, are at their most greedy.

    The most possible end of this Philippine Game of Thrones is dismemberment of the Republic via Federalism. The dynastic warlords are all for it, imperialist powers like China and the U.S. see in it great opportunities for further ravaging our resources, the masses are largely unaware of its consequences, the middle classes are helpless against it.

    Only the new type of landlords would for now militate against it, and the dynastic warlords are doing their worst to muzzle them. We might see a redux of Marcos’ confiscatory moves against them. If and when that happens, will anyone scream?

    Maybe not. For who, in this day and age, would like to take the side of hacenderos, no matter how reformed? And we don’t have to. But we have to acknowledge that if we want the nation to survive at all, we have to fight dynastic warlordism and the gross corruption and illegal trades they bring with them. If such will entail alliance with the new type of landlords and rising capitalists who do not want to make a mess of their lives or ours, then maybe we should rethink our strategies.

    Maybe it’s time to admit that we are by no means a capitalist country growing into socialism, but a semi-feudal one finally bursting to become a fully feudal one (and that is why the dynastic warlords, our own version of robber barons) in the midst of blooming enterprises that can grow into full-scale capitalism if left unhampered, if indeed encouraged.

    Seeing this, which side should we choose, and what should we do? ###

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