Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Serenoare dangerous – in the Philippines and elsewhere. Sara Duterte about EDSA veterans (link), Supreme Court Justices about CJ Sereno, probably many about President Aquino’s handling Dengvaxia – which may have proven successful given recent indications (link). Damn, time for Martial Law and censorship! Increase the number of dengue cases, as yellow must be made bad! And they deserve hatred that is deep and personal, just like Harry Roque wishing Leila de Lima a life in jail (link) – yes, they messed up some things, but what did they do to deserve all of that?

Pakikisama and Schadenfreude

One accusation hurdled against Chief Justice Sereno is lacking pakikisama towards her colleagues in the Supreme Court – again a propaganda strategy that is very Filipino. Pakikisama often means subduing oneself to fit into a group. You don’t like the movie everybody in the barkada has seen? Bad enough if you weren’t there to see it with them. Worse if you say you think it is a stupid movie. An individual opinion against the assumed majority opinion – wow, does he think he is BETTER? Put a UP graduate into the midst of some working-class OFWs without escape. What could happen?

They might probably wait for the first slip-up of the UP graduate, and then display Schadenfreude. Sara Duterte brought the word Schadenfreude into the Philippine vocabulary (link) with regards to Mariel de Leon not topping Miss International – because she criticized the present administration. The sentiment against “yellow”, the previous administration and all related to it, is however more like the Serbian saying Da komsiji crkne krava – “If only the neighbour’s cow would die” (link) – related to the Serbian concept of inat: spitefulness, vindictiveness, hardheadedness + much more.

Spitefulness and Feindbilder

There is a similar spitefulness visible and audible among those who hate Aquino, Sereno, De Lima. Aquino? Sure he messed up certain things. But is the present government doing so much better? Sure it was easy to make him – and Mar Roxas – bogeymen due to their plantation owner origins. Feindbild is the German word for a cluster of prejudices and fears pertaining to a given group. There is also the Feindbild of the English-speaking elite, easy to trigger among common Filipinos. Why otherwise would Mocha focus on Leni Robredo’s US visits and her daughter in Harvard?

There is I think deep envy about what is perceived to be a privileged life, as opposed to one’s own.  Why otherwise make a big deal about Leni’s dresses, like some have done – yet admire the dresses of Isabelle Duterte at a lavish debut? Of course, Leni Robredo has already been identified as part of the other tribe, those who have “had it all” (not true for Leni who lived in the dormitory when she studied at UP) while “we” never had anything and now have the right to luxury and the good life. Even if no one can claim that Leni is lighter in color than most, or Sereno’s nose way too sharp!

Country and town

are both called bayan in Filipino. In a town especially a small one, there is a certain conformity. There is indeed a certain sameness, anywhere in the world. You are ruling a quite homogeneous group of people. The Philippines is a country – forced upon a collection of small communities. Countries need specialized people to be governed properly. The probably first specialized people in the Philippines were the town scribes the Spanish friars trained. More sophisticated governance and business brought about the present “elite” universities that are in international rankings (link).

That the provinces and the poor were left behind is an effect of this development until today. But the present government is playing a dangerous game in mobilizing envy of those left behind against those who had better chances. Mayors can still run their cities by sheer instinct, like Duterte did. For larger entities like countries you need truly competent people – unless you want to return to olden days with plenty of epidemics, pogroms and witch hunts. Isn’t the Philippines getting there? Measles spreading due to fear of vaccines. Pogrom mentality against drug users. And witch hunts.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 March 2018