Article-37is the present Filipino conflict that I observe. Two recent examples are what the Mayor-elect of Cebu City and the Mayor of Tanauan, Batangas are doing. Let us have a look: A town mayor who is a self-confessed fan of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte ordered seven suspected drug pushers to take “a walk of shame” in Tanauan, Batangas Wednesday. Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili made the suspects walk around the town market while bearing a sign saying, “Ako’y drug pusher, ‘wag tularan.” by incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor-elect of Cebu City is offering police and residents a reward for killing or wounding criminals. “The reward is P5,000 for wounding a criminal and P50,000 for a dead criminal,” Tomas Osmeña said yesterday as he handed over money to Police Officer 3 Julius Sadaya Regis, who while off-duty and on his motorcycle chanced upon a robbery in a passenger jeepney last Tuesday.

Datu Justice

In the days of old, datus decided based on some customary law what was to be done in case of wrongdoing. This is historically documented. Such a form of justice works as long as the community is small, the customs known to everybody and it is easy to change the datu in case power was abused – something which is also known to have happened in the past. The old form of people power was easy in the barangays of old, the asymmetry of power not as large in the days of simple agricultural communities and with hardly any powerful weapons except Old Manila’s Malay cannons.

Formal Justice

More complex systems need more formal justice based on clear rules that are agreed upon and understood by most people. There has to be a way to prevent disorder, but to prevent abuse of power by those upholding order. The oldest Swiss Constitution, the Federal Charter of 1291, shows some simple rules agreed upon by three communities, three mountain tribes that decided to go their own way independent of nobility – to later become a real state.

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

  1. In view of the troubled circumstances of this time, the people and communities of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden promise to assist each other by every means possible against one and all who may inflict on them violence or injustice within their valleys and without.
  2. Each community shall help the other with every counsel and favour and at its own expense in the event of any assault on persons or goods within and without the valleys and to this end have sworn a solemn oath to uphold this agreement in confirmation and renewal of a more ancient accord.
  3. Every man shall continue to serve his overlord to the best of his abilities.
  4. The office of judge may not be obtained for any price and may only be exercised by those who are natives or resident with us.
  5. Any dispute amongst the Confederates shall be settled by the most prudent amongst us, whose decision shall be defended by all.
  6. Those who commit murder shall themselves be put to death. A murderer who flees may never return. Those who protect him shall themselves be banished from the valley until they are recalled by the Confederates.
  7. Those who maliciously injure others by fire shall lose their rights as fellow countrymen, and anyone who protects and defends such an evil-doer shall be held liable for the damage done.
  8. Any man who robs a Confederate or injures him in any way shall be held liable to the extent of his property in the valleys.
  9. The property of debtors or sureties may only be seized with the permission of a judge
  10. Every man shall obey his judge and must if need be indicate the judge in the valley before whom he must appear.
  11. Any man who rebels against a verdict and thereby injures a Confederate shall be compelled by all other Confederates to make good the damage done.
  12. War or discord amongst the Confederates shall be settled by an arbiter and if any party fails to accept the decision or fails to make good the damage, the Confederates are bound to defend the other party.
  13. These rules for the common good shall endure forever.

Done with the seals of the three aforementioned communities and valleys at the beginning of August 1291.

One can imagine the chaos of those days, the “troubled circumstances of the times”, and the things that happened which forced the leaders and the people of those communities to define their common rules, their first constitution. Just reverse especially the points 3-12 and imagine what might have been happening. They decided to have a set of fixed rules not dependent on persons.

Quo Vadis?

The Philippines seems to be in a bit of a cultural disjoint. On one hand very modern rules and regulations, up to and including the 1987 Constitution. On the ground, datu-style practices.

Seems that many Filipino commoners understand the latter better. What an immediately visible person of authority decides is the law, while abstract laws are so often ignored on the ground.

There is a certain tone of voice I know well from traditional Filipino bossmen saying “these are my rules in my territory”. Sabi ni Mayor eto ang gagawin, sabi ng amo ganito is what the typical Filipino will often say to justify something he or she is doing. Finally it is the decision of the Filipino people how they are to organize themselves. Pockets of formal law especially in cities while naked power is so often the reality, especially in areas where rebels of various colors hold sway? Law often just to justify and cement power? I wonder if this will all work well in the long run.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22 May 2016