Kneeling before Duterte

RamsesIIEgypt(his picture) was what two youths in Davao were forced to do by police recently (link). MAYBE they should be happy they were not shot in today’s Philippines. But MAYBE not. Is it normal to make young people revere a President like a God-King? Did the Philippines ever have its own Pharaoh? Datus in smaller communities, rajahs in bigger agglomerations like Manila or Cebu, but rajahs were basically paramount chiefs controlling an alliance of chieftains. There was certainly a hierarchy. It is documented that commoners had to prostrate themselves before datus. The most complex hierarchy probably was in Manila and the surrounding Tagalog regions. The Tagalog language itself has not only “po” (also documented by early colonial chroniclers) but other forms of courtesy in it, and is probably the most complex of all Philippine languages in its pure form.

Courtesy and Dignity

Not quite as complex as Javanese with its Kromo (polite), Ngoko (informal) and Madya (medium) styles of speech, but effectively similar to Chavacano (link) which although it is a Spanish-based creole has distinct formal and colloquial forms of speech. Now is Duterte speaking Ngoko to all? Someone told me that he indeed sounds more like a gangster boss speaking to subordinates than a street person talking to other street people. He lacks something traditional Filipinos, even some of the most simple peasants used to have – BEARING. Most traditional Asian people still have it. Indonesians for example have nearly the same polite body language as traditional Filipinos, I just recently observed. Duterte tells Middle Eastern nations to treat Filipinos with dignity (link) yet exudes little of it. In fact he gives OFWs the signal that it is OK to be sloppy, rude and plain stupid.

Contrast that with Vice-President Leni Robredo. Recently, she said that Lorraine Badoy is not worth talking about (link) – and that Mocha Uson is not a good example of a government employee (link). With the simple good breeding that is hers, and is far from being artificial or “plastic”. Contrast Duterte with Ombudsman Morales, who refuses to implement a patently illegal order by the President to suspend her own Deputy (link) and is now being threatened with sanctions by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (link). Contrast that also with Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who has so far defied all attempts to make her appear before the dubious impeachment proceedings against her in Congress. Women who will not kneel before Duterte. Now when will Congress find time to impeach Morales? Too many fronts to fight on.

Bilibid or not

Meanwhile, it seems Chinese drug lords have taken over Bilibid (link). Prof. Vicente Rafael says: “Far from being a site of discipline and punish, of panoptic surveillance and reformation, the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa is a haven for privileged drug lords and other gangsters where they enjoy the protection of guards and other higher ups to run their rackets. It is like a country within a country, or better yet, a mirror reflection of the country itself, where wealthy boss-criminals live in comfy apartment-cells with expensive lounge chairs and special rooms for conjugal visits, keep lots of cash and guns, and govern the place while the lesser con men, petty crooks and the innocently framed know their place and follow orders.” Speaking of innocently framed, the case against De Lima looks flimsier each day. Shouldn’t Aguirre be blamed this time?

Crazy suggestions like having Chinese ships patrol Sulu and Celebes Seas are being slammed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano (link): “I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” he explained. Aside from the fact that even Machiavelli already recommended alliances among equals as smarter. With regards to Benham Rise, oceanographer Jay Batongbacal of UP in a long post (link) debunked the statement of Presidential spokesman Harry Roque that “Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise” – making clear that Filipinos had done plenty of expeditions by themselves for years.

Do not complain

Towards leftist UP students protesting, Duterte threatened to replace them with Lumads or children of soldiers (link). The reaction has been to stage bigger protests next time. The interesting thing is that Duterte had threatened to bomb Lumad schools (link) before for alleged leftist links. The kind of ideal Filipino that Duterte seems to want is a non-complaining, non-thinking person. Probably even beholden to him via utang na loob – a value which was valid in the older settings from which it originated as a cement for personal loyalties as well as cashless give and take, in times when communities were still small and intuitively manageable. An instrument for making people subservient in early colonialism, and increasingly unbearable as modern times approached, because the key factor in modern societies is merit, not indebtedness. Like at UP – ever since 1908.

The Philippines is in a major crisis these days. Struggling with plenty of legacies and hang-ups. But to reject practically all institutions including UP, the Constitution and democracy – for all their imperfections and contradictions to the already contradictory and confused Filipino culture – and then throw away even natural dignity and bearing, yes even respect for one’s fellow man in the culture itself – to finally have a gang-like rule backed by the Chinese both legally and illegally – is WHAT? National suicide, and I am not even talking about ill-conceived, rushed, fake Federalism. There is a lot more to keeping a country together than forcing the young to kneel before Duterte. Even the Japanese emperor always knelt before Amaterasu, the Sun-God (link). Even Kings knelt before Popes in medieval Europe. Higher principles always guided good rulers. Not just EGO.

Datus of old had people prostrating themselves before them. But they did not have guns and gold like Filipino politicians from the 20th century onward. Not even goons, as ancient warriors had to take real risks in battle – and only had bladed weapons just like peasants had their bolos. And even in Spanish times it was easy to go up the mountains. Today people have less escape and recourse. But Filipinos have also been known to be like carabaos – patient until “enough is too much”, like Popeye famously says before eating his spinach. And modern developments have created a society more complex than in 1521. Professional elites may have more chances of leaving the country, and what if more than the MRT will break down? Will Mocha and Tulfo fix things? Will Dante Jimenez and Persida Acosta cure diseases like modern-day witch doctors? Will Robin Padilla teach Tagalog?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 February 2018


5 thoughts on “Kneeling before Duterte


    ..Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday told students to be vigilant as signs of dictatorship “are happening again.”

    “What we need are our collective daily acts of kindness, respect for people’s rights and servant leadership. These realizations are critical today when there are signs that some of the things we talked about are happening again,” Robredo said in a speech delivered before senior high school students of the University of Santo Tomas.

    Robredo gave the students a crash course in the martial law era under President Ferdinand Marcos, a time she described as oppressive and full of lies.

    The vice president then drew parallels between that time and now.

    “The media is under attack. Those who speak dissent are bullied or trolled in real life or social media. The people are arrested, tortured and killed because they are on the drug list,” Robredo said..


      Karla (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) was sleeping on the second floor of her makeshift home when a man wearing a motorcycle helmet stormed into her living room. Her partner was sleeping beside his son Ben (not his real name) when he was shot by the assailant. Fifteen-year-old Ben, pretending to be asleep with his eyes half-open, saw his father bleed to death as the attacker in the white jacket fled.

      “He [the killer] didn’t say anything,” recounted Ben. “He just suddenly fired his gun and we couldn’t do anything.”

      Ben’s father, who was killed in July 2017, used to be a drug user, but his family claims he became clean shortly after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in late June 2016.

      Their family is just one among thousands who violently lost their loved ones to the drug war in the Philippines that has claimed 3,969 “drug personalities” from July 1, 2016, to December 27, 2017, according to government sources. Non-governmental organizations and human rights advocates have a different estimate: According to Human Rights Watch, more than 12,000 Filipinos, mostly from low-income communities, have perished in drug-related police operations and murders by unidentified assailants.

      The drug war has claimed thousands of lives, but its casualties aren’t only the dead. For surviving families, especially those who witnessed the brutal murders of their relatives, the aftermath takes an intense emotional toll. And because there are multiple barriers to accessing mental health resources in the country, many find themselves alone in the aftermath..


      This l Dread.

      Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales is to retire in July 2018, after serving her 7 year term. Duterte will appoint her replacement, and in the horizon looms SolGen Jose Calida who has a 99% chance of being the Ombudsman from August 2018 until August 2025.

      Why is this dreadful? His record should speak for itself:

      1. He is the brains behind the transfer of the powers of the PCGG to his office, and he being a confessed Marcos loyalist. What will happen to the pending $4 Billion worth of sequestration cases against the Marcoses?

      2. As SolGen he defended the EJKs in the Supreme Court, even blatantly lying that he cannot furnish the Supreme Court with the Case Files of the 2,800 “Nanlaban” cases because they were of National Security classification.

      3. He led the review at the Supreme Court of the cases of Janet Napoles, where as a course – the cases were Dismissed.

      4. He defended Duterte in the matter of his alleged “P2.4 Billion in numerous bank accounts”, even citing a defunct and repealed Section in the 1973 Constitution.

      5. And many more transgressions that he justifies to be under the law when it isn’t.

      After the President who must be the ultimate defender of the Law and it’s prime enforcer – we look to the Ombudsman as the arbiter of wrongdoing in Government.

      We have gone desensitized with the shameless shenanigans of people in Government because we are bombarded with their shamelessness everyday, and when we can no longer trust the President to uphold the Law – we must turn to the Ombudsman – but if it is Calida – we can only expect the worst transgressions of the Law that he will overlook in order to pander to his Boss and his favored friends, like:

      A. Dismissal of the Janet Napoles scam cases.

      B. The opening up of the Duterte bank accounts or even the investigation of ill gotten wealth even if overwhelming evidence supports an investigation.

      C. The dismissal of graft cases of friendly personalities filed at the Ombudsman like that of Gen Garcia or the Plunder cases of Enrile, Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.

      D. The more frightening will be the manufacture of graft cases against the critics of the President as a leverage, because he hasn’t the moral suasion not to use it.

      E. Using the Office of the Ombudsman as a State Organ for political vendetta and persecution.

      Kaya mga Kaibigan, we must not wait for Duterte and Calida make a complete mockery of our Laws and of our Country ! We have four months!

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