A National Artist died today

UP CALjf3065 10not just anybody, but Napoleon Abueva. Should be known to any Filipino, though my expectations have sunk, especially recently. A great sculptor (link) who made the death masks of both Fernando Poe Jr. and Prof. Alfredo Lagmay (link). His sculpture of the Crucified and Risen Christ is at the center of the UP Church of the Holy Sacrifice (link), just above the marble altar, also from him. Enough of lecturing and to the question I ask now: how many Filipinos still care about their heritage?

I do understand the insecurity of some not taught well, verbally and intellectually, when it comes to novelists and poets. Besides, there have been enough pseudo-intellectuals in the Philippines who have reduced verbal prowess to mere grandstanding without content, to one-upmanship, which is one of the topics of my previous article. A highly abused culture often confuses genuine intellect that cares for the country (like Rizal) with assholes trying to sound smart but without meaning. Take your pick among some figures of today for the second type. But the visual is not as affected, especially not sculpture. Paintings can also have negative, elitist associations for certain people. And the message of a painting may seem to pushy. Botong Francisco might come across too nativist for some, Amorsolo may be criticized for painting a rural idyll – even if both are authentic masters.

But there is a continuity from native weavers to the likes of Pitoy Moreno – also recently deceased – and a true continuity from the carvers of anitos through the carvers of santos to Napoleon Abueva. Nobody in his right mind, even those who wish to cast away all that was from 1521 onwards, can deny the place of a certain type of artist in what the Philippines was, is and hopefully will be. There are indeed those, especially the callous middle-class types of the Marcos era or possibly also today, whose only priority is consumerism and money, who do not have any respect for that “arty-farty”. Sad, but not too surprising in a country that did not care a lot about its national monuments, that hardly rebuilt anything of the Manila destroyed during the war, much less preserve the little left.

Filipinos probably destroyed more of their own culture through neglect and commercialism than the Taliban purposely destroyed in Afghanistan. Of those families that have ancestral homes in the provinces, I doubt that they would sell them or allow them to be destroyed for anything. That there is little sense of a common cultural heritage is sad. Given that, it is not surprising that the Filipinos are in the majority so willing to sacrifice their own countrymen – whether through neglect of the poor which was the norm throughout the decades, or through the effects of the recent drug war. Not to mention polluting the ocean with plastics, or dirtying even the center of one’s capital (link). Here in Bavaria, not even the greediest or most vulgar will sell off or dirty cultural heritage. Pride!

Yet Bavarians also have the reputation of being “polite when they don’t hit you”, meaning they are used to robust speech, including informal camaraderie by politicians. But the language that Duterte uses with his own people is downright insulting. Telling mostly female OFWs that they should not use condoms and putting a candy into his mouth to show it doesn’t taste good (link) – is condescending, practically saying “I can FUCK any and all of you if I want”. Much as I have loathed the false pride and arrogance of many Filipino entitled, I have always loved the natural dignity of so many Filipinos from all walks of life. Abueva brought back memories of this kind of Filipino, so different from the self-depreciating kind one sees too often today. A people that brings forth such artists as Abueva should stop treating themselves like garbage – and following garbage.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 16 February 2018

 

Tags: ,

Duterte said he wants to die like Rizal

Mauser m98if found guilty by the ICC (link). Absurd, as Rizal hated Filipinos killing Filipinos! In El Filibusterismo (link), a section about Filipino soldiers in the Guardia Civil makes this very clear:

Yet, among the soldiers there was one who looked with disapproving eyes upon so much wanton cruelty, as he marched along silently with his brows knit in disgust. At length, seeing that the guard, not satisfied with the branch, was kicking the prisoners that fell, he could no longer restrain himself but cried out impatiently, “Here, Mautang, let them alone!”

Mautang turned toward him in surprise. “What’s it to you, Carolino?” he asked.

“To me, nothing, but it hurts me,” replied Carolino. “They’re men like ourselves.”

“It’s plain that you’re new to the business!” retorted Mautang with a compassionate smile. “How did you treat the prisoners in the war?”

“With more consideration, surely!” answered Carolino.

Mautang remained silent for a moment and then, apparently having discovered the reason, calmly rejoined, “Ah, it’s because they are enemies and fight us, while these—these are our own countrymen.”

Then drawing nearer to Carolino he whispered, “How stupid you are! They’re treated so in order that they may attempt to resist or to escape, and then—bang!”

Carolino made no reply.

Luma na iyan! (that’s just old)

Though the time is late 19th century, it could be about the PNP or AFP today. Doesn’t what Mautang says to his fellow Filipino Guardia Civil sound like “Nanlaban” (link)? Except time does crawl a bit in old novels, something we media junkies are no longer are used to – so I fast forward:

“Shoot, Carolino! What are you aiming at?” called the corporal.

At that instant a man appeared upon a rock, making signs with his rifle.

“Shoot him!” ordered the corporal with a foul oath.

Three guards obeyed the order, but the man continued standing there, calling out at the top of his voice something unintelligible.

Carolino paused, thinking that he recognized something familiar about that figure, which stood out plainly in the sunlight. But the corporal threatened to tie him up if he did not fire, so Carolino took aim and the report of his rifle was heard. The man on the rock spun around and disappeared with a cry that left Carolino horror-stricken.

Another bit of fast forward to the horrible end:

The soldiers turned to see Carolino frightfully pale, his mouth hanging open, with a look in which glimmered the last spark of reason, for Carolino, who was no other than Tano, Cabesang Tales’ son, and who had just returned from the Carolines, recognized in the dying man his grandfather, Tandang Selo. No longer able to speak, the old man’s dying eyes uttered a whole poem of grief—and then a corpse, he still continued to point to something behind the rock.

Ang corny naman! (how mushily sentimental)

The wannabe tough guy, what should I care response from a many a middle class Filipino from the Marcos era or today’s coming dictatorship could be, oh come on, it could hardly happen that any person accidentally shoots his grandfather, much less to me. I don’t know any addicts or NPAs! Instead of having the compassion and humanity to realize that it is just good fortune that keeps one safe in a country where repression is the norm. The following section of the Fili could also be from the times of Martial Law in the Philippines, especially in difficult places like Samar or Mindanao:

Matanglawin was the terror of Luzon. His band had appeared in one province where it was least expected as make a descent upon another that was preparing to resist it. It burned a sugar-mill in Batangas and destroyed the crops, on the following day it murdered the Justice of the Peace of Tiani, and on the next took possession of the town of Cavite, carrying off the arms from the town hall. The central provinces, from Tayabas to Pangasinan, suffered from his depredations, and his bloody name extended from Albay in the south to Kagayan in the north. The towns, disarmed through mistrust on the part of a weak government, fell easy prey into his hands—at his approach the fields were abandoned by the farmers, the herds were scattered, while a trail of blood and fire marked his passage. Matanglawin laughed at the severe measures ordered by the government against the tulisanes, since from them only the people in the outlying villages suffered, being captured and maltreated if they resisted the band, and if they made peace with it being flogged and deported by the government, provided they completed the journey and did not meet with a fatal accident on the way. Thanks to these terrible alternatives many of the country folk decided to enlist under his command.

As a result of this reign of terror, trade among the towns, already languishing, died out completely. The rich dared not travel, and the poor feared to be arrested by the Civil Guard, which, being under obligation to pursue the tulisanes, often seized the first person encountered and subjected him to unspeakable tortures. In its impotence, the government put on a show of energy toward the persons whom it suspected, in order that by force of cruelty the people should not realize its weakness—the fear that prompted such measures.

President Duterte has offered Lumads 20 thousand pesos each per killed NPAs (link) – a bounty that is the same as the alleged bounty for police who kill drug suspects. Lumads whose schools he had threatened to bomb just a year ago (link) for allegedly teaching against the government.

Bounties like that can create innocent victims. In the extreme, they can create the likes of former Cabesang Tales, the barangay captain turned into the bandit Matanglawin by debt and abuse. That his son is forced to go to the Carolines as a soldier before that happens is part of the whole tragedy.

Those Westernized heroes did nothing!

Many Filipinos derided the likes of Rizal and the Propaganda, seeing the likes of Matanglawin and Bonifacio, as well as other fighters before and after them, as the real saviors of the Philippines. Just Westernized konyos, jerks who went on junket to Europe on their parent’s money and did nothing. Wrote stupid, long-winded, sentimentally mushy novels nobody today understands anyway and without any damned relevance to the life of real Filipinos. “Social relevance” was a word one leftist teacher liked to use very often. What I fear is that prejudice and bad reading got the better of them.

Of course the Noli and the Fili are translated horribly badly in their Tagalog versions. I helped myself through high school with the English translations. Well, I am by definition a konyo, aren’t I? But a proper translation – and annotations to make certain historical references better understood, would alienate less students – and teachers! Because I wonder how much our own teachers got the references to certain aspects of European history, or the 19th century Philippines teaching Rizal. This made Rizal – just like Heneral Luna BEFORE the movie made him so real – seem foreign.

Sure, there are now those like Ambeth Ocampo who have written Rizal without the Overcoat (link) which is I guess the right thing to do in the Philippines. I also wear an overcoat at this time of year in Munich, where the temperatures have been consistently around zero. Rizal, although he wrote in Spanish, had a strong instinctive feel for the suffering of his own people, a lot of empathy. For sure, there were those like Bonifacio who come closer to the original native warrior ideal idolized by both leftist and rightists in the Philippines. But it is so wrong to see him as merely self-aggrandizing!

Just shut up!

Because this is the main accusation leveled at many intellectuals and writers in the Philippines – don’t talk too much, either join the rest of us in the fields, factories and the fight, or just shut up! Talk is useless, only action counts. Even if it is knee-jerk action which is not thought out at all.

Thinking of a certain complexity is seen as mere grandstanding. The dearth of real thinking in the Philippines makes it impossible for many to see the difference between pilosopo (sophist) and philosopher (real thinker). Or between valid and fake arguments, making political debate HARD. Except for a few talents like Pinoy Ako Blog who manage to bridge the chasm between logic and common sense in the Philippines. Yes, logic is often seen as a tool for showing intellectual superiority, not as a useful tool to make more of our observations and experience. Why, why?

Padre Millon not only used the depreciative tu with the students, like a good friar, but he also addressed them in the slang of the markets, a practise that he had acquired from the professor of canonical law: whether that reverend gentleman wished to humble the students or the sacred decrees of the councils is a question not yet settled, in spite of the great attention that has been given to it.

This question, instead of offending the class, amused them, and many laughed—it was a daily occurrence. But the sleeper did not laugh; he arose with a bound, rubbed his eyes, and, as though a steam-engine were turning the phonograph, began to recite.

“The name of mirror is applied to all polished surfaces intended to produce by the reflection of light the images of the objects placed before said surfaces. From the substances that form these surfaces, they are divided into metallic mirrors and glass mirrors—”

“Stop, stop, stop!” interrupted the professor. “Heavens, what a rattle! We are at the point where the mirrors are divided into metallic and glass, eh? Now if I should present to you a block of wood, a piece of kamagong for instance, well polished and varnished, or a slab of black marble well burnished, or a square of jet, which would reflect the images of objects placed before them, how would you classify those mirrors?”

Whether he did not know what to answer or did not understand the question, the student tried to get out of the difficulty by demonstrating that he knew the lesson, so he rushed on like a torrent.

“The first are composed of brass or an alloy of different metals and the second of a sheet of glass, with its two sides well polished, one of which has an amalgam of tin adhering to it.”

“Tut, tut, tut! That’s not it! I say to you ‘Dominus vobiscum,’ and you answer me with ‘Requiescat in pace!’ ”..

It continues, and ends with the usually over-obedient Penitente standing up:

“Enough, Padre, enough! Your Reverence can put all the marks against me that you wish, but you haven’t the right to insult me. Your Reverence may stay with the class, I can’t stand any more.” Without further farewell, he stalked away.

Proud and sensitive

The professor could have prompted his student to think for himself, possibly by lessening his fear of the academe, but he proceeds to humiliate the student from Batangas named Placido Penitente to the extent that he stammers. I have looked up the two types of mirrors (self-reflecting, called metal mirrors in some old books, or those with glass and something behind to make the glass reflect) and it takes a little bit of thinking to get behind the classification. Absence of fear helps in thinking, but Filipinos are often “proud and sensitive” – a description by a female American colonial educator! There was a situation in Latin class, Grade 11 or 12 in Germany, where the teacher was similarly sarcastic, I was still totally sensitive just a few years away from the Philippines, and I went silent. But he was by no means the asshole that Rizal describes in his novel – a Dominican at the UST!

The American lady (no source I quote from memory) wrote that excessive Filipino ambition came from a culture “proud and arrogant” (American) encountering a “proud and sensitive” (Filipino) culture. Well, Spanish culture is arrogant as well. And Joe America mentions face and power as currency, even in the area of knowledge (link): in blog debates between commenters, you seldom see flexibility or concession. It signifies weakness. Disagreements are two bricks whacking at one another. Solution is not the goal. Preservation of face, and power, are the goals… Filipinos deny the value of “trial and error” as scientific method in daily life. They instead waste energy defending, covering, ducking, running, attacking, undermining, dodging and digging at others. Somehow, the Spanish friar is internalized, many still are the same kind of jerks arguing.

The depth with which Rizal describes the humiliation of the UST student is an indication that he may have experienced it himself or seen others treated the same way. The education system of the Philippines may be more modern now, but in parts still has been and is – reactionary and unfair. Otherwise, the anti-intellectualism of (San Bedan) Duterte and (UST graduate) Mocha Uson would not strike a chord among so many people. The Spanish friars of today may have, to some, been Manilans who mocked the Visayan accents of their students, or the bad English of a poor student. This entire labelling of Rizal and his fellow propagandists as elitists who refused to get their hands dirty is nonsense. Rizal wanted to use his intellect as a tool to better his country, and wanted his people to learn in order to advance. Other Asian countries took his cue. Rizal is known by many.

But Filipinos today seem to WANT to be dumb. Or who wants Filipinos to think they are stupid? Too stupid to research Benham Rise, for example (link)? Or too stupid to discipline themselves (link), and therefore needing dictatorship? Freedom begins inside. Freedom begins in the heart and in the mind. This is probably a message Rizal only partly was able to convey, as he died young and his novels are still read wrongly. Who fears a free people? Those who shot Rizal back in 1896.

The Spaniards are now gone. So is it the “putangina” EU – or ICC? Or same skin, same people?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 February 2018

 

Tags: ,

Ignorance and Confidence

Ignorance is bliss - shortbread cookie with a smileseem highly intertwined among Filipinos, according to a recent social media survey (link). This is not really surprising. Who has not encountered the obstinate kind of ignorance that many Filipinos mistake for firmness? And who has not encountered the phenomenon that Filipino groups very often believe the person perceived as most “firm” in his or her beliefs? Or finally the phenomenon that what the own in-group believes in is seen as true by many Filipinos? “Everybody I know says that Leila de Lima is corrupt!” is something I have literally heard, with the corresponding firmness. More exactly, the study (link) has the Philippines among the Top 3 that are mostly wrong – and among the Top 3 that think themselves mostly right at the same time. Norway on the other hand is among the Top 3 that are mostly right – and among the Top 3 that think themselves mostly wrong!

Hard knocks

That a country like the Philippines is admiring of a President who says he will “personally defend” himself before the International Criminal Court (link) is a given. Or wanted to have a public debate with UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard (link) – which probably would have ended up similarly to the way an interview with Pia Ranada Robles went (link). Seen as a victory for him by those who are confident in their ignorance and see blustering confidence as a proof of superior knowledge. There are unfortunate comparisons between Bonifacio and Rizal that are part of this attitude – Rizal is seen by some as insecure for often questioning himself in his search for knowledge – which is even attributed to his having grown up with sisters, while Bonifacio is seen as strong and decisive – which is attributed to his having been the oldest brother, who took charge when his parents died.

I have personally seen similar attitudes to those attributed to Filipinos among people of peasant or working class origin – from different nationalities. In their spheres of life, what matters in order to succeed is to intuitively and quickly grasp the situation you are in and to act and decide similarly. There often is not that much time to think about the different aspects of possible wrong or right. Bonifacio, whose parents both died at 14 years of age, had no time to finish his schooling (link). That he was deeply insulted by Daniel Tirona questioning his lack of formal education during the Tejeros Convention (link) was understandable given his struggles. But it is also documented that Bonifacio read voraciously and that the Katipunan had a library for members. President Duterte was on the other hand too lazy to use the possibilities for education that his rich family provided.

Formal education

Sometimes, the formal education that is provided to the very rich does not necessarily help them understand life better. This is especially true for those who live a too sheltered or privileged life. This was not Rizal’s life though, even if he studied in Europe there were also difficult times there – and also difficult times for his family in Calamba, Laguna, which form a searing arc through his novels. There is a terrible prejudice in the Philippines that sees all educated people as elitists or as social climbers. This is fatal as it puts anyone who tries to improve himself in a bad light. Former Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay (link) comes from Tondo – same part of Manila as Bonifacio. To study law was a struggle for him, unlike for Duterte. Hilbay is the exact contrast to Duterte, shows how Filipino good-heartedness plus human rights education make for promising legal philosophy.

Life experience and proper education can make people and society as a whole better. If education has been misused by charlatans or by privileged classes as a status symbol – Rizal has a few asides at the Dominicans of UST in his novel Noli Me Tangere (link), showing that he disliked their conservatism and preferred the more progressive Jesuits – then resentment against it can exist. Additionally, a language very different from what is spoken at home can be a social barrier also. Recent reforms like MTB-MLE “Mother Tongue – Based Multilingual Education” in K-12 (link) –   may improve things for good: “Research stresses the fact that children with a solid foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy abilities in the school language.”. There is often a gap in the thinking of many Filipinos, as if theory and practice inhabit separate worlds entirely.

Real learning

The language gap is only one factor I think. Rote is another, and even worse reactionary attitudes. Hopefully the kind of teacher with an attitude and stance similar to that of Persida Acosta is not as common anymore today – the kind that sees asking why as an offense, not a search for knowledge. Or the high-hatted type of teacher that ridicules students who make mistakes to prove “superiority” and thereby possibly creates anti-intellectual rebels. Or the kind that treat practice with disdain, seeing theory as the only field for the truly learned. Fortunately modern Filipino scientists like Dr. Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH are the exact opposite of this. But the old reactionaries that looked down upon practitioners did help create the cesspool of resentment that dismisses the likes of Project NOAH as “useless”. Only societies that link theory and practice seamlessly win (link)!

It is good that voices like those of Dr. Gideon Lasco are also there now, who has among other things written about Dengvaxia (link) and the necessity to explain things properly to the public, even such difficult principles like “correlation does not imply causation” and dealing with large numbers. Because the issue of the Philippines remains one of insufficient public education, even if the literacy rate is nominally high and there are a lot of college graduates, one sometimes wonders what they really have understood and what they just memorized on time for examinations – unfortunately. What use will it be to oust Duterte now if in a few years the likes of Pacquiao or Sotto take over? Maybe even the likes of Persida Acosta and Mocha Uson? How to get the confidently ignorant on the trail of curiosity and learning? Stop laughing at them for a start. After that – don’t quite know.

Reasoning entails doubt – reasonable doubt. Confident ignorance creates people who believe that certain people are guilty without sufficient evidence. Confident ignorance makes things very much black and white, like in the discussions about the Dengvaxia matter centered mainly on blame, not on finding systemic reasons for certain failures. What shocked me more than the 14 children who allegedly died of vaccination but in fact didn’t was how many children still die of simple diseases in the Philippines, showing that the public health system might need a lot of improvements, still. Systematically improving public health in Europe took centuries of both practical policies and scientific findings. Fanatical screamers who accused Jews and witches and whatnot did not help. But if the Philippines wishes to repeat centuries of experience, that is its stubbornly sovereign right.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8. February 2018

 

 

Tags: ,

Dunong at Kaalaman ng Sambayanang Pilipino

The Healing of the Blind; The Healing of the Possessed - Google Art Projecttanging ibinigay ng Poon sa mga tulad ni Persida Acosta, Franco Calida at Dante Jimenez. Isang babaeng maganda at maputi, dalawang lalakeng dark and handsome. Kalimutan na ninyo ang mga kalokohan na itinuturo sa inyo ng mga katulad nila Florin Hilbay, Dr. Salvaña o Tony La Viña. Maling kaalaman ng mga Westerner ang isinusunod nila, iyong nakasama sa Pilipino ng 500 years. Bago dumating ang mga dayuhan, halos lahat ng Pilipino tumatanda tulad ni Enrile, at walang mga kriminal o adik. So bakit pa kailangan ng Western medicine, ng rule of law o lohikang paikot-ikot? Iyong simpleng kaalaman ng ordinaryong Pilipino, tama na dapat. Pero huwag isipin ng mga dilaw na kaya nilang gumamit nito. Para lang ito sa mga hindi pa nahawa sa tunay na lohika o ebidensiya. Mga palusot na itinuro ng tanginang mga prayle sa UST at Ateneo, at komunistang propesor sa UP!

Kakaiba ang tunay na kaalaman na Pilipino, na meron sa atin mula pa sa panahon ng mga Lumad. Iyong mga ipapasok siyempre ni Duterte sa UP, kung hindi pa niya ipinabomba ang mga eskuwela nila na nagtuturo ng mali at Westernized na pagtuturong komunista. Ang tunay na kaalaman na Pilipino, alam kung sino ang namatay dahil sa bakuna. Walang paarte-arte pa nitong PGH na bias. Alam din ng mahiwagang kaalaman nating katutubo kung sino ang kriminal at hindi, kaya hindi nagdadalawang-isip pa bago mamaril sa salot ng lipunan. Tanginang mga CHR na humahadlang! Ang tunay na Pilipino na hindi pa nahawa sa masamang impluwensiya ng decency na iyan at tunay pang matapang – tulad nila Mocha Uson at Lorraine Badoy, alam kung sinong tunay na tao at hindi! Tunay na tao, mga katulad ni Robin Padilla. Hindi iyong mga sobrang edukado at padise-disente!

Malapit nang lumaya ang Pilipinas. Lumaya sa mga kabobohan ng mga dilaw. Lumaya sa sobrang pagsunod sa mga batas na nakasulat lang naman sa Ingles para magandang tignan, at parang mga sagot ng mga Miss Universe kung pakinggan – anong silbi ng mga ganoon sa tunay na Pilipino? Ang tanging papel ng Bagong Pinuno ng Sambayanang Pilipino na si Rodrigo Roa Duterte ang alamin kung ano ang mali at tama para sa ating lahat. Walang mga batas-batas pang dapat humadlang. Kung gusto niyang ipatanggal ang isang opisyal, banal niyang karapatan ito, huwag magreklamo! Malapit na ring lumaya ang Pilipinas sa human rights – human rights na iyan. Mga pumipigil sa pag-unlad ng bansa, dapat lang ikulong o ubusin. Mga nagrereklamong estudyante, tanggalin sa pag-aaral para palitan ng mga tunay na magalang at masunurin na kabataang Tunay na Pilipino!

Tinanggal na ni Presidente ang Project NOAH dahil hindi naman talaga kailangan ng Pilipino ito. Bakit meron bang flood prediction at kung anu-anong computerized na paraan noon sa may 1521? Kung oras mo, oras mo – matira ang matibay! Kaya matatag ang Pilipinong panahon ni Lapu-Lapu! Pero mga gagong UP na komonesta, itinuloy ang NOAH. Mga Dr. ng DOH, tinoloy ang Dimbaksya! Iyan tignan ninyo, dahil sa Dimbaksya ang daming namatay. Huwag maniwala sa mga PGH-PGH! Si Persida Acosta ang ipinasok ni Presidente sa puwesto, kaya siya ang mas magaling at matalino. Siguro marami ring namatay dahil sa Project NOAH, kaya lang hindi pa nakita ang ebidensya dahil mga gagong dilaw na iyan, magaling magwala nito! Di bale, may araw rin ang mga ugok na iyan. At si Aquino, makukulong talaga iyan. Karapat-dapat lang. Dilaw ang sakit ng sambayanang Pilipino!

E iyong mga bagon ng MRT na dalawang taon daw hindi ginamit tapos biglang umaandar ngayon? Huwag kayong maniwala sa mga sinasabi ng mga dilaw. Ang tunay na Pilipino na pinalaki ng tama, hindi nagtatanong-tanong o nagdududa sa mga sinasabi ng mga kagalang-galang na nasa puwesto! Malapit na ang pederalismo. Maghahari sa bawat lugar ang mga karapat-dapat maghari sa mga tao. Tulad noong 1521 na may mga pinuno ang bawat bayan at alam ng bawat isa ang lugar niya rito. Hindi tulad ngayon na akala ng lahat na may karapatan silang mag-isip at lalo pang magsalita ng kumokontra sa mga may kapangyarihan. Itinakda ni Lord na may mga mayaman at mahirap, na may malalakas at mahina. Tunay na disiplina kapag ang makapangyarihan ang laging masusunod. Sige, matulog na ulit kayo sa pansitan, tama na ang reklamo. Malapit na ang maginhawang buhay!

Irineo B. R. Salazar sa Munich, ika-3 ng Pebrero, 2018
BABALA: satire ang kasulatang ito, pagkat ako’y pasaway

 

Tags: ,

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

 

Tags: ,

The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

Philip II's Law on the PrincipaliaA Bavarian once told me. Was he right? China claims sovereignty over Panatag (link). Duterte seems to trust China (link) just like Aguinaldo trusted the USA in 1898 (link), proclaiming independence “under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America”. One wonders how the datus behaved who were made into principalia by decree of King Philipp II (picture). Did they behave like today’s Congress supermajority? There was a sizable group that resisted in 1574 in Manila (link): “all punished with some put to death and others exiled”.

Remontados and Rebels

There were rebels like Bohol’s Francisco Dagohoy (link) – a cabeza de barangay (basically a chieftain coopted into the Spanish system) who initiated an 85-year revolt from 1744 to 1828, with the mountains as protection. Heading for the hills was probably a common way of avoiding the colonial state,  with the topography of the country as an ally (link), one probable example being the Cimarrones of Bikol who: “inhabited the slopes of Mount Isarog and forested hills of Siruma and Camaroan. These groups were cultivators and hunters but were most renowned for the raids they conducted on those in the lowlands. As their names suggests, they were probably fugitives from Spanish control, and as such emerged as a distinct group only in colonial times.” Cimarron means wild cattle in Spanish and was also used for escaped black slaves in the Caribbean, called Maroons (link) in English.

The 19th century brought ideas of nationalism into the Philippines, groups like Filipino priests and Filipino intellectuals (link) brought about the First and Second Propaganda movements. The short-lived Liga Filipina may have been the spark that started the Katipunan, which combined ideas of Rizal which were European in origin with native ideas, including cultic amulets or anting-anting. Revolutionary brotherhood inspired by Western examples plus the kind of brotherhood one sees during the Black Nazarene was the fuel of the 1896 revolution, even if it started only in 8 provinces, only one of which (Pampanga) was not Tagalog-speaking. Aguinaldo, a former cabeza de barangay, quickly made the revolution his own, had Bonifacio killed, and pacted with the Spanish in 1897. The Biak-na-Bato pact even included payments to him in exchange for his voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo came back on an American vessel, later fought with the Americans, probably had his best general killed (link) before finally being captured. The Philippine Republic was completed later on under American tutelage (link) – but that was not its major flaw. Blaming others is easy.

Cuba vs. Collaboration

It was, I believe, the Filipinos themselves. After all, Cuba had its own Republic from 1902 (link) even if was occupied for three years before that and again from 1906-1908. And it aside from its own war of independence from 1895-1898 (link), it fought from 1868-1878 and 1879-1880. Same colonial powers before and after 1898. And possibly the Philippine revolution was also simply a bit opportunistic as Spain was already weakened – and the Spanish-American war made that worse. Manolo Quezon’s “Malakas at Mahina” (link) shows how Filipino politics plays out based on who is “strong” or “weak”. Going back to the beginnings of Spanish rule, it helps to remember that Manila was allied to Brunei, even through family ties. Was the Castilian war of 1578 (link) wherein Spain defeated Brunei decisively the more motivating factor for Filipino datus to fall in line. Malakas!

Or how quickly the Filipino ruling class, with notable exceptions, fell in line to collaborate with Japan when they occupied the Philippines. And then fell back in line before McArthur in 1945. Even Diego Silang (link) – whose wife Gabriela is better known for taking over when he got killed – was allied with the British in his quest for Ilocano independence in the 1760s. There is a Filipino saying about the bird on the back of the carabao – are most Filipinos just that after all? The few dramatic outbursts of nationalism just that – drama – and often just bullying easy targets (link) like Robin Padilla with the Korean recently. Would Padilla dare say that to a  Chinese ambassador? The Filipino UN delegates who once annoyed a Soviet into taking out his shoes probably felt strong as UN founding members and close allies of the USA. Just like I personally experienced how Filipino diplomats acted rude to Germans – when Germany was still divided and they hobnobbed with American diplomats, for example at the US Embassy club in Bonn. Birds on a really big carabao. Not much difference to Duterte being rude to the EU (seen as mahina, documented comments by Andanar on Brexit show that attitude) but subservient to both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Bietnamese bersus Balimbings

Contrast that to Vietnam, which fought the French, then the United States, then the Chinese. Inspite of enormous sacrifices they never gave up. Pretty rude people, not friendly Filipinos. Somehow though I would trust the word of a Vietnamese more, I am very sorry to say by now. Filipinos often are subservient when they think they can get an advantage or think they are weak (mahina) then turn around to be rude, act as if you exploited them when they think they are strong (malakas) – probably with a new ally or backer or someone they have ingratiated themselves with.

Gago, anong year iyan (Asshole, what year was that?) was Senator Gatchalian’s answer to netizens who criticized him for being highly critical of former President Aquino now and praising him to high heavens in 2012 (link). Balimbing, the fruit that easily changes sides, was one analogy used. My first memory of hearing balimbing was in 1986. Well, yes, I guess it is gago to assume that a typical Filipino politician will NOT praise the one who is malakas at a given time. Fool me twice. Even among Filipinos overseas I have seen the kapit mentality of hanging on to people for favors – and dropping them like hot potatoes once these people lost access to resources they could dispense. Possibly I am too Germanic by now, preferring people who deal straight, not caring about favors. Not lick the boots of the current patron and bark at its enemies – or all who are not that powerful.

Aso o Astig

To be a really tough guy, stop being a lapdog. Stand on your own two feet like a human being. Indonesian death penalty is not something I like – but it has due process and therefore much more character than secretly killing people via most probably staged “nanlaban” (fighting back at police) or masked vigilante groups which are most probably off-duty cops (link). Shouting down a lady reporter (link) like Pia Ranada Robles is seen as macho by some (or many?) Duterte supporters.

That is about as macho as the slum bullies who go home to beat up their wives and rape their stepdaughters in Filipino classic movies like Insiang (link) – one good and observant movie. People who laugh at necrophiliac rape jokes like the famous one Duterte made are clearly dysfunctional. Only few admire those who stand up to power like Trillanes. Would Filipinos cheer Tell or Gessler? Yes, Landvogt (bailiff) Gessler as opposed to heroic Wilhelm Tell of Swiss revolutionary legend. Sure, Filipinos have their heroes and are proud of them. But how much solidarity do their heroes get while alive? My impression, more and more, is that Filipinos prefer their heroes DEAD.

Pride Chicken is not Preedom

Because living heroes remind them of their mostly deficient characters? Put heroes in cement and put them in Rizal Park instead of sinking them in Manila Bay, but still letting the next scoundrels rule the country as always, while the majority, as Rizal already noted in the Fili “feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed.. wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty”. Collaboration with a new empire in 1571. Revolution against a fading empire in 1896, as one of the LAST remaining colonies. Quick collaboration with the USA, then Japan, then USA again. What Filipino pride? Pride chicken. Fuck the EU, Mr. Duterte? Bend over for China.

Patriotically deny the French access to research in Benham Rise (link) while letting China (link)? Rizal also said in the Fili: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”. But, oh well, he was a Westernized elitist. Not counted. But then again, both fraternities and state often seem to breed subservience, not character (link). The powerful have all the rights (link) and are usually spoiled because they are rarely challenged. True, the frontier elites of Mindanao have faced more challenges  which made it easy for them, in my opinion, to take over Manila (link). But what would Duterte have become without his goons? Datus of old had to prove their mettle in the old warrior tradition, last manifested in Northern Luzon mountain tribe headhunting. Centuries of comfort and hereditary rank, first established in Spanish times and indirectly continued by political dynasties of later on, weakened their class.

Character and Charisma

Strangely, those who criticize the faults of former President Benigno Aquino – which do exist and are because of his growing up in that kind of elite – do not see the even worse spoiled brat faults of both Bongbong Marcos and President Duterte. In fact, Aquino has shown balls on occasion, like showing up at the Dengvaxia hearing – even if there were occasions like after Mamasapano where he did not. Yet many Filipinos take the barking of Bongbong and the bluster of Digong for bravery. Or the stupidity of Robin Padilla for patriotism. For sure, President Duterte has his charisma. It is the charisma of a trickster and a joker. The German word for that is Schlitzohr, a “sly fox” or a “shark” depending on the context. Many Filipinos still believe Duterte is a trickster with the best interests of his people in mind, just wait. Yet to me it seems character and perspective is missing. His “hidden qualities” seem more like wishful thinking of those who do not wish to see what might be the painful truth – that character is mostly missing in the Philippines for lack of being cultivated. Further self-delusion might lead the country to a point of no return. If it has not yet been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 January 2018

 

 

Tags: ,

What real effect

Rappler Logowill #StandWithRappler and #BloggersForFreedom (link) have for the Philippines? We shall see. The Black Friday Protests today were well-attended by journalists, students and others (link) but will that even reach the general Filipino public? Will they care at all. Or will it be more like (link): Ayaw nilang makarinig ng ibang balita. Palakpak ang masarap sa tenga nila. Makuntento na sa mga balita sa patayan, naholdap, nagahasa, nasunugan at tingay ng baha, buhay ng artista at drama sa telenobela. Pagkatapos, makinig sa update nina Mocha, Andanar at Roque… This is about the so-called masa, the majority that Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo sees as “not educated” enough to vote on Charter Change (link) and who Speaker Alvarez claims to truly represent (link) – but who threatens provinces that do not cooperate with “no-funds” (link).

But even most of the “educated” Filipinos might care more about their material comfort and security than their freedom. In a country of rote learning, most lessons probably never were more than skin-deep – Christianity, rule of law, democracy. Maybe what stuck was more like this (link): “Many of the things you heard about Davao were about extrajudicial killings, but look at Davao. I invested a lot. Lives? Yes. You have to kill to make your city peaceful,” Duterte said. Rest in Peace. Recently, 2 hit men who killed 2 jail guards in Muntinlupa – turned out to be policemen (link).

Charter Change may be the point of no return for Philippine democracy, as local politicians may want to secure their rule by keeping populations misinformed and intimidated. This might after all be what Filipinos really want, who knows? A smiling population ruled by a dirtily smiling Alvarez.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 19 January 2018

Tags: ,

Madilim ang Paligid

Snowstorm in Tyrol - 02sa labas ng tren pauwi. May nakita akong mga lumilipad sa labas. Inisip ko: “sino ba kayo”? Sabi nila “kami ang mga magsasabi sa iyo kung ano ang mangyayari sa Pilipinas ngayon”. “Ano naman?” sagot ko sa kanila. “Babalik ang Pilipinas sa nararapat niyang anyo at sa tunay niyang kapalaran.” sabi nila. “eh mabuti naman siguro kung ganoon” sagot ko. “Hindi para sa mga katulad ninyo” sabi nila “pagka’t kayo ang sumira sa likas na anyo ng bansa”. Sabi ko naman “at sino naman kami, mga dilaw na naman? At ano kayo, mga DDS siguro. Ang papangit ninyo!”.

Biglang may malaking boses sa likod nila na nagsalita “babalik na ang Pilipinas sa pamumuno ng natural niyang naghaharing-uri. Wala nang pakialam ang mga sistema at pag-iisip na banyaga”.  Tumuloy ang boses “likas na lakas at galing ang ibinigay sa mga pinunong-bayan na katutubo noong araw, ngunit tinanggal ito ng pag-aaping banyaga, sa puwersa at sa pag-iisip, o kaya ibinakla ito ng moralidad ng demokrasya at ng simbahan.” Tumahimik ng sandali. Dinig ko ang malakas na hangin sa labas ng tren.

“Likas ang pakiramdam ng pinuno sa tama at mali, sa dapat patayin at buhayin, sa dapat bigyan ng posisyon at hindi”. Tuloy pa rin “kayong mga nag-aral ng mga kaartehan sa sistemang maka-kanluran, hindi ninyo alam ang likas na galing ng Pilipino na wala sa may degree na kung saan-saan. Sa isip ng isip, walang nangyayari. Gawa lang ang mahalaga.” Parang ang layo ng mga ilaw sa labas ng tren. “Kahit ano pang sabihin ng mga paimportanteng pilosopo, tama rin ang hatol ng mga pinuno ngayon sa kung sino ang itotokhang, kung sino ang ipapashut-up – dahil pampagulo lang”.

“Malapit nang makamtan ng bayan ang pagkakaisang tunay, wala nang pipigil o rereklamo pa”. Sabi ng malalim na boses “babalik ang gintong panahon, at makakamtan ng lahat ng tunay na Pilipino ang kaginhawaan”. Inantok na ako. “Ano naman ang kinalaman ko diyan?”. Sagot ng malalim na boses: “kinakailangan lang ng isang isasakripisyo sa bulkang Mayon, para matanggal ang mga masamang impluwensiya ng limang dantaon”. Tumingin ako palabas “anong tingin ninyo sa akin, isang Magellan?” 

“Hindi, isang hilaw” sagot ng mararaming boses. “buwisit kang pakialamero!”. “Hindi niyo ba napapansin kung nasaan kayo?” sabi ko sa mga buwisit. “napakalamig dito. Iyang parang asukal sa wedding cake” sabi ko “niyebe iyan, o baka naman snow lang ang naiintindihan ninyo?” Biglang nangisay ang mga mukha sa bintana. Nagising ako sa malalim na boses ng konduktor na nagsasabi sa wikang Aleman na “huling stop na, Munich main station, bumaba po lahat”. Iyong maleta ko na parang may diperensiya kanina, OK na noong hinila ko. Bumaba na ako sa tren.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, ika-18 ng Enero, 2018

Tags: ,

Sandcastles in Boracay

Gdański Festiwal Rzeźby z Piasku 2009 mnisineed a permit which costs per day (link) – or else police kick them down. Amusing to read from the land of alleged over-regulation called Germany. I wonder if a municipal ordnance of that kind (link) would even be legal over here. The goal of preserving the “natural symmetry of the beach” would fall under Landschaftsschutz or landscape protection over here in Germany, but I doubt if any judge here would accept measures that temporarily change the appearance of a landscape as relevant. Somewhat like advertising on a car is legal here as long as it can be driven away anytime.

Keeping things orderly

Thus, Giesinger Bräu, one of the newcomers in the Munich brewery scene, often has a small car parked on a road leading from the Goetheplatz underground station to the Oktoberfest – during the time of the Oktoberfest were many people can see. I don’t think it is a coincidence, but as long as the car is not violating any parking rules, nobody can do anything. Now the problem of Boracay seems to be people asking for money to have pictures of those sandcastles taken. Well, that might be a matter for the Ordnungsamt over hereYes, Ordnung means order. The Office of Order.

Mark Twain wrote that long German words sounded like parades with marching music included. The tune played can be a fine. Even the places on the sidewalk where pubs and restaurants are allowed to put chairs are delineated by fine white dots. Place the chairs outside the dots, color outside the dots so to speak, and the Ordnungsamt passes by and sees it – fine. You pay a fine. Get caught doing any kind of business you have no city hall permit for, even just selling cans of Coke to people in the park – fine. Pay one. Put up a stand in a flea market – pay the fee, they will collect it.

Levels of jurisdiction

These are not cops, although they can be accompanied by cops or call them if they think necessary.  Just municipal employees. They also check for the enforcement of the smoking ban in Bavaria. Imposed by a referendum since 2010 (link). Every German state has a slightly different rule here. The Federal Constitutional Court (like the Supreme Court) decided that the implementation of EU rules to protect the health of non-smokers is Ländersache – a state matter. Just like shop closing laws since 2006. In Bavaria shops must close by 8 p.m., in Berlin there I think are no limits.

The old Federal law from the 1950s, once meant to protect retail employees, was loosened gradually over 30 years. Used to be shops closed at 6:30 p.m. every day and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Only on Sundays and on public holidays, shops still must remain closed in all states – something which is harder to change as it is in the Federal Constitution, brought in by conservative Christians who did not want Sunday to be commercialized. Social Democrats did not say no to a day of rest either. Youth protection laws (age for buying drinks etc.) are Federal. Noise protection laws are state-level.

So what can cities still decide, except what part of the sidewalk may have chairs on it in summer? For one thing, they can decide which parts of the city are to be free of prostitution – legal over here. But in Munich, the Sperrbezirksverordnung defines a Sperrbezirk (restricted area) which is most of the city (Verordnung means ordnance) of Munich, save commercial areas where there are almost no residences, schools or similar. Berlin I think has no Sperrbezirk. In conservative Munich, families and kids are kept away from “the trade” – whose legality in Germany is very controversial.

Flow of money

But where do the different levels – municipal, state and federal – get their funds do to their jobs? Aside from taxing brothels of course, which would be paying Gewerbesteuer or trade tax just like any store, gasoline station or car repair shop. Gewerbesteuer is a fixed percentage of income tax or Einkommenssteuer times a Hebesatz or multiplier. Municipalities that want to attract business will have lower multipliers than those like Munich which have high multipliers. Municipalities even get to keep 15% of all income tax, 42.5% of which goes to federal and state levels respectively.

This is an incentive of course to try to attract not only strong businesses but also good earners. There are people in Munich who complain that “the Social Democrats like to attract low wage earners because those are their voters”, but the incentive to attract professionals is still higher than in the Philippines with its Lina Law for informal settlers and its population-based Internal Revenue Allotment for Local Government Units. Meanwhile here in Munich, there are more that now write that housing for working-class people is getting too expensive. Success has its problems as well.

How about stores with branches – the usual model nowadays as the old Mom-and-Pop stores (Tante Emma Laden in German) are becoming less and less? What I have understood is that the likes of SM in the Philippines pay their taxes only in the place where the headquarters is. Since there is nothing like the Gewerbesteuer over there, it probably does not matter. Here in Germany, chain stores with branches in many municipalities have to divide their income taxes to provide the basis for the business tax to be paid in each municipality. The law for that is a bit complex (link).


Delegation and Subsidiarity

Sand castle in Kaunas, Lithuania - panoramiois defined as dealing with matters at the closest level possible to the citizen. Thus, no German has to go the the Federal Foreign Ministry to get a passport, or the Federal Interior Ministry to get a national ID. Both are applied for at city hall, even if the actual printing of both in done in Berlin. Driver’s licenses and car plates are applied for at the Straßenverkehrsamt or “Street Traffic Office” which is also municipal level – not at any Federal or State Transport Ministry. The rules of course are usually made at Federal level. Most significant databases are managed federally or at EU level.

Of course municipalities take care of their own matters as well such as water, garbage and drainage – or kindergartens and cemeteries. This is aside from the tasks delegated to them by the federal level (Auftragsaufgaben is the composite word for that, Hi Mark Twain) . Schools are also partly a responsibility of municipalities, but also a state-level responsibility – yes education policies are coordinated federally but each state has its own policies, ensuring healthy competition. Health centers and hospitals are also a mandatory municipal function. But here the next level may help.

In Bavaria these are the government districts (Regierungsbezirke) which pool resources of the municipalities in them and also get help from the state level for specialized clinics such as drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment. Specialized schools and academies may also be put up by the districts. Subsidiarity can mean that certain other matters can be delegated to district level. The district of Upper Bavaria, for example, takes care of air traffic and mining in its geographical area. Further north, the Cologne district makes the speed limits for the Autobahns within its own area.

Top-down and Bottom-up

This is all reminiscent of a large corporation where you will have global policies that are uniform over all location, national policies that take local conditions (including legal requirements) into account, and a few local specialties which will not be many in a typically well-run multinational. Usually this works because people tend to adapt. And of course in a corporation people want to earn their money. In nations you need the buy-in of people more than in a corporation, because they can of course vote governments out of power, or resist governments they dislike in many ways.

Top-down measures are based on command and control while bottom-up relies on community. Bohmte, a small town in Lower Saxony state, has gotten rid of all traffic signs (link). Of course, the first rule of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (traffic law) still applies which roughly says (link) that all have to pay attention and give consideration. Plus the basic right of way rules. I guess this works on a small scale. The human mind and heart did evolve in small Stone Age communities. It might not work in Lower Saxony’s state capital Hannover, much less in Munich or in large Berlin.

Berlin still has “only” 3 and half million people. Metro Manila officially has 13 million people. The only megacity worldwide which seems somewhat orderly is Tokyo. Japanese style order of course. And sense of community in a very closed society. Metro Manila has many different income levels even if all are Filipino. Filipino style order never really worked. I remember how people im Metro Manila always muddled through on unwritten rules and it somehow worked. At a density of people where Central Europeans would not budge or even stampede. But I guess it can wear people down.


Agglomeration and Distribution

Ultimate Sand CastleCertainly smaller cities can be more livable. But why does Munich, which had only 1.2 million people around 20 years ago and now has around 1.4 million, not try to prevent further growth? An article about the New York Subway provides a clue (link): Cities create density, and density creates growth. Economists call the phenomenon agglomeration. Not only does geographical proximity reduce costs, but it also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and spurs innovation. But neither did the USA or Germany just have one central place where everything happened, like in Manila.

Distributed growth is also important. In fact Germany has rules for how richer states should help poorer ones. Bavaria was a donor state for the first time in 1989 after being a recipient for long. Leaving behind major areas of any country, just like leaving behind major groups of people there, is always a recipe for disaster. And different agglomerations competing is healthy. Thus you have Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne as cities with a million people at least. Frankfurt might have a million population during the day when people come in to work, most of them via suburban train.

Finally you have the connections between major centers. Munich to Cologne, Munich to Berlin are just over four hours ride in a high-speed train nowadays. Net travel time just a bit higher than flying. Exchange of goods, ideas and people energizes all places. But this was built over centuries. Many German cities in the Middle Ages were free imperial cities (link) under the Emperor and not any local prince. Examples are Frankfurt and Hamburg. Others like Berlin, Munich, Hanover or Stuttgart were capitals of kingdoms. Others under major rulers like Cologne with its Archbishop.

Keeping energy flowing

Free imperial cities had more self-government and thus developed a more confident citizenry, used to earning their own money and managing their own affairs – Hamburg being a prime example. The port of course and centuries of trading with others honed a pragmatic form of cosmopolitanism. Others developed modern elites in the 19th century due to the ambitions of their ruling classes. Bavaria (link) and Prussia excelled in the war for talent during those days. Frankfurt and Cologne both benefited from their role in the middle of major trading routes and along major rivers.

Frankfurt’s momentum of course was helped along by its becoming the de facto hub of West Germany after the war. That and its being a major place for American military presence until the early 1990s made it attractive for international firms and made it more cosmopolitan than before. Cologne had the luck to be close to Bonn which was the provisional capital of West Germany – this included the airport the two cities share (link). Many factors made Munich move up after the war – my impression is that city and state worked together well, even under different political parties.

Getting priorities right

In fact it was the two major political parties that just brought out a plan for the future of Munich’s public transport system to connect underground and suburban lines better, connect growing areas and make capacity for the future. Making the pie bigger for everybody instead of quarreling over who gets a larger slice. This is what makes me more confident about here and less hopeful about the Philippines, where the pie was growing – but those who have the most were too “hungry” to wait. And now plan federal sand castles – without a true master plan, and without alternative solutions.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 January 2018

Tags: ,

Philippine History Part V – Ngayon. Duterte’s First Quarter

Duterte at the Torotot Festival 20151/4 of 6 years term, has now passed. Much has happened in many areas – for better or worse. Nothing has stayed the same in the Philippines, and I doubt it will go back to how it was before. Whether this is good, bad or just plain ugly will be something history will decide. Let us look.

People, Places and many questions.

Around a thousand people a month have died in the War on Drugs. How many are by police, how many by police acting as vigilantes, how many are gangs using the situation? Nobody really knows. One of the first things the President came out with was “drug lists” of doubtful origin, naming politicians, judges and others. The killings of suspected addicts and pushers soon came under investigation at the Senate in 2016 , with Senator Leila de Lima at first chairing the hearing and then removed and replaced by Senator Gordon. The hearing was then inconclusively stopped.

Marawi is a complete wreck including a major refugee situation. On May 23, 2017, a conflict broke out with the Maute group in Marawi – while practically all major decision-makers (and many unimportant hangers-on) of the Duterte administration were on a trip to Moscow.  The entire delegation flew back quickly to handle the situation. As the Marawi conflict continued, new Air Force planes the President had previously referred to as useless were used to bombard enemy positions. The hostilities ended in late October 2017. Martial law was declared in Mindanao until the year-end when hostilities in Marawi broke out, and was extended for a further year recently.

The MRT3 continues to fail (link). Project NOAH was defunded and then taken over by UP. Ignoring its information may have played a part in 200 deaths from typhoons in late 2017 (link). The value of the peso has gone down and the government has a high budget, although there are no new construction projects started yet, while PPP projects from Aquino’s time are being finished. Inspite of a looming possibility of the EU cutting GSP+ privileges in early 2018 and some refusal of aid from the EU and US due to human rights questions, the economy still seems to be quite robust.

In October 2016, Korean businessman Jee-Ick Joo (link) was kidnapped by police and killed by strangling in Camp Crame, then cremated and flushed down the toilet. On Nov. 5, 2016, Mayor Roland Espinosa (link) of Albuera, Leyte, was killed in jail under suspicious circumstances. On early Sunday, July 30, 2017, the Parojinog family of Ozamiz was killed in a controversial anti-drug raid (link) under Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido – who had also been in Albuera, Leyte before. In late August, Espenido was given the order of Lapu-Lapu by President Duterte (link).

On August 16, 2017, Kian delos Santos was shot (link) in a police operation partly caught on CCTV and by witnesses, belying claims of fighting back. Two similar incidents (link) took place soon after, with 19-year old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman killed by police. Opposition politicians visited the wake of Kian. Late August Kian’s parents met President Duterte, even posing for the fist sign with him (link). For the second time after the Jee-Ick Joo case, the war on drugs was paused – and continued from Oct. 11 by the PDEA, with officially less casualties (link).

Allies, Rivals and everyone else!

Vice-President Robredo was offered a cabinet post as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in early July 2016, just days after she and the President had separate inaugurations. On November 18, 2016, ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in a surprise ceremony. Demonstrations ensued. On Dec. 4, 2016, Vice-President Robredo was told no longer to attend cabinet meetings and resigned her cabinet post the day after. During a trip to China, President Duterte had introduced Bongbong Marcos as the future VP.

Suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, son of murdered Mayor Espinosa, was one of the criminals to testify against Senator Leila De Lima in a Congressional hearing in Nov. 2016, where she was accused of being involved in the drug trade taking place in Bilibid prison. Her former driver, who had had an affair with her, also testified. On February 24, Leila de Lima was arrested and brought to Camp Crame where she is until today. Long before that, ex-President Arroyo had been released from jail in July 2016 – and held many speeches during the ASEAN Summit in Nov. 2017.

Controversial social media supporters Mocha Uson and Lorraine Marie Badoy were appointed to MTCRB in January 2017 and as ASec to DSWD in February 2017 respectively. Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was dismissed in April 2017 with insinuations of corruption. Both Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez were not confirmed in May 2017. In that month, Mocha Uson became PCOO ASec while Alan Cayetano became Foreign Secretary.  On August 16, Judy Taguiwalo was not confirmed as Social Welfare Secretary – the last leftist in a major post.

COMELEC Chairman Andy Bautista was publicly attacked by his estranged wife in August (link), including allegations of corruption. While Bautista eventually resigned under threat of impeachment proceedings – most probably to save his family from private scandal, Chief Justice Sereno has been undergoing impeachment practically for the last quarter of 2017 under very dubious charges. A connection to the still continuing electoral protest by Bongbong Marcos is possible as COMELEC and Supreme Court constitute the Presidential Electoral Tribunal or PET.

In Sept. 2017, a Senate hearing on an intercepted 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment started (link). Senator Trillanes alleged a major role of Paolo Duterte and asked him to show a tattoo on his back, saying it could like him to Chinese triads (link). The investigation has left the Senate and slowed. Dengvaxia became an issue in Dec. 2017 (link), its previous history documented in this blog (link). Attempts to pin culpability on ex-President Aquino have failed so far (link) as the matter proceeds.

The person behind the opposition Pinoy Ako Blog or PAB was revealed by pro-administration bloggers in October 2017. Jover Laurio (her real name) was interviewed by BBC soon after that. This led to an ugly scene between pro-administration blogger Sass Rogando Sasot (invited to the official dinner) and a BBC reporter during the ASEAN summit in Manila in November 2017. Many of the bloggers associated with Duterte have been seen in photos with the Marcoses very recently. My impression is that many people are now tired of the too aggressive pro-admin social media.

Nation, Institutions and what next?

A controversial tax reform called TRAIN has been passed which may indeed increase the disposable income for certain groups, but make things more expensive on the whole. An investigation on a 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment from China cast a shadow on Paolo Duterte. The Hague ruling on the West Philippine sea was ignored and China continued building there (link) while it is highly possible that the third telecom operator in the Philippines will be China Telecom. Rebuilding Marawi shall probably not be subject to bidding – the question of who will benefit looms large.

In March, Congressman Gary Alejano of Magdalo filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte before the Congress (link). It was junked on May 15 for alleged lack of substance. Senator Trillanes and Congressman Alejano therefore filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court (link) against President Duterte and a number of others. International critics of human rights violations in the Philippines were often insulted by President Duterte and others. “Special mention” was given to the EU Parliament, Agnes Callamard of the UN, and Barack Obama.

Furthermore, there have been measures targeting certain businesses that seem close to blackmail. Philweb (link), Mighty Tobacco (link), Inquirer and Mile Long property (link) all come to mind. They are sold as measures against oligarchy while the President is close to other oligarchic groups. Talks with the Left have practically collapsed, while the tax measures of TRAIN seem anti-poor, just like the planned jeepney modernization. Uber was also subjected to pressure for a certain time. The peso has gone down against the dollar while economic indexes give very mixed signals as of now.

A supermajority supports Duterte in Congress. Congress threatened to shorten funding for the Commission on Human Rights, and really cut funds for opposition lawmakers (link) for 2018. While barangay elections have been constantly postponed, the postponement of 2019 mid-term elections and indefinite political terms now loom in connection with planned Charter Change for Federalism. There is a high probability that the Senate may impeach Chief Justice Sereno even if there is no reason to – because most Senators seem to be on the Duterte bandwagon at this point.

VP Leni Robredo has quietly worked on her privately sponsored Angat Buhay program to help the poor attain livelihoods. Independence Day on June 12, 2017 was handled by Vice President Robredo alone as President Duterte had “gone missing” and never explained where he went. The Marcos burial and the killing of Kian led to major demonstrations in Manila but also elsewhere. The left became more determined in its opposition to Duterte after Judy Taguiwalo was no longer part of the cabinet. Numerous persons and groups on social media now form a broad opposition.

International media have reported a lot about both the Marawi war and extrajudicial killings. Inspite of his pro-China and pro-Russia orientation, Duterte accepted that the military was helped by the USA and Australia in Marawi, especially when it came to reconaissance. During the ASEAN summit in Manila, Trump and Duterte seemed to get along well. The war of words begun between Duterte and Agnes Callamard of the UN was continued by Duterte’s new speaker Harry Roque.

The big picture

is a totally changed country. Much less democratic. Probably a lot more quarrelsome at all levels. Recent incidents (Mandaluyong van shooting, armed robberies) show a possible spiral of violence. Wang wang or privileged overtaking for politicians is back by all accounts. Many more funerals.

And either fear or callousness or indifference. MRT failures, typhoon deaths, refugees from Marawi apparently badly supplied with food, Lumads allegedly being kept from getting enough food, many dead in Marawi – where are those now who complained about MRT, Mamasapano and Yolanda?

Love it, change it or leave it

Recent Facebook postings indicate that passport renewal appointments are full nationwide for about 3 months in advance. Are many people trying to leave, is the government trying to create a bottleneck for that, or has DFA turned more inefficient recently? Who knows where the truth lies.

Will things eventually turn out right inspite of possible rises in consumer prices, falling peso, overspending by government, loans from China with high interest, even possible investor jitters?

Will people love the new order? Will they throw it up? Will many leave? Don’t know. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 January 2018

 

Tags: ,