June 2018
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Power versus Rules

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



12 comments to Power versus Rules

  • karlgarcia

    This must be permanent and include all those professional drivers’s license holders.

    TESDA begins training bus drivers’ trainers

    18 Jan 2011

    MANILA, Philippines — The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) kicked off on Monday its six-day training program for prospective driver trainers or assessors who will train other public utility bus (PUB) drivers to ensure road safety for bus passengers.

    According to TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva, at least 30 PUB drivers joined the pilot training program which will be conducted until Saturday, Jan. 22 at the TESDA Women’s Center (TWC) in Taguig City.

    “The participants were among the country’s most qualified bus and truck drivers who were selected and nominated by the bus operators to assist us in identifying bus drivers eligible for the certification,” Villanueva explained.

    The participants were mainly from the National Capital Region and Region IV. Before they can participate in the pilot training, the drivers should be holders of professional driver’s license and certified TQ1 for Driving NC II or have a minimum one year experience in driving bus and straight trucks.

    Villanueva said the initial batch of prospective trainers trained and assessed by TESDA will become trainers and assessors of PUB drivers.

    “They will be the ones who will train and assess the other drivers,” he added.

    The TESDA chief said the training program for prospective trainers/ assessors will be done in two stages.

    “Stage One will focus on Safe, Economical and Environment-Friendly Driving (SEED) and Stage Two will be on the Assessment Moderation and Conduct of NC III Assessment,” he added.

    Villanueva said the program is being implemented in partnership with the Philippine Automotive Federation, Inc. (PAFI), South Luzon Bus Operators Association (SOLUBOA), and other associations of bus operators in the two regions.

    He said the training is also in preparation for the implementation of a new directive from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) through the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which will require all PUB drivers to be Driving NC IIIcertified by 2013.

    “We have also come up with a separate training regulation for drivers of articulated vehicles or big trucks carrying heavy equipment, on top of the existing regulation for bus and straight truck drivers under Driving NC III,” he said.

    Currently, Villanueva disclosed that there is no training center offering the program for Driving NC III because of the difficulty in providing equipment for the driving of articulated vehicle.

    “To speed up the process and facilitate the training and assessment of drivers, TESDA has decided to have a separate Training Regulation for Driving NC III for articulated vehicles,” he added.


    In two articles last year, I pointed out that traffic is one of the manifestations of our culture of palusot. This is because very few people really feel the burden of penalty in violating the law because traffic cases are treated the same as the other cases in our already overloaded courts. They take years to resolve! Coupled with uneducated drivers who obtain a driver’s license without passing through the correct process especially the driver’s education, the result is chaos in our streets where these ignorant drivers insist they are right even though they are very wrong.

    They actually thought they were right because of ignorance of the basic rules. They are ignorant of the basic rules because they did not pass through the correct process of obtaining a drivers license and simply BRIBED their way through the LTO!

  • sonny

    “Law often just to justify and cement power? …”

    “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.”

    Under these two lie the key to our civilization.
    The first must be worked on, i.e. its opposite: power must cement law from the people if any authoritarian configuration is adopted by a duly elected president. And practice makes perfect, the end result are institutions that soon become the rules on the ground and then it’s like breathing air, effortless.

    In the second, the disjoint must be resisted and repudiated. Rather a continuity between principles learned and practice performed. That’s the virility that leads to virtue of a people!

    • “continuity between principles learned and practice performed” integrating these defines integrity = “doing what is right even when nobody is watching”.

      “institutions that soon become the rules on the ground and then it’s like breathing air, effortless.” much like the way order is lived over here in Germany – or in USA.

      “power must cement law from the people” – this reminds me of what I wrote about Adenauer in my previous article, and of our discussions on his Benedictine background.

      “authoritarian configuration” – Adenauer was the paternalistic version of authoritarian, but it could be that cultures that have lost their orientation need that. After Adenauer came Brandt with his “dare more democracy”, but certain values had been internalized, so it could be risked without too much damage. This is the point of my balancing a society article – parties are fine, but people have to be able go back to work and be able to work properly the next morning or on Monday… 🙂

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico

    “Sabi ni Mayor eto ang gagawin, sabi ng amo ganito”

    Heard this gazillion times. The bossmen are not explaining to Filipinos why they are doing what they are doing and for what purpose. When Filipinos are asked, why they are doing it this way not the other way, Filipinos respond:

    “Sabi ni Mayor eto ang gagawin, sabi ng amo ganito”

  • karlgarcia

    Happy Birthday Irineo!🍾🎈🍰🎁

  • Three things I think have caused stop-gap remedies like death squads or the recent actions by the Mayor-elect of Cebu (money for capture or killing) or Mayor of Tanauan (shame walks):

    1) slow dispensation of justice. Courts need to be speeded up. Simplification of laws like the new Criminal Code of 2014 would help. Duterte should push this EVEN if it is from his favorite enemy Leila de Lima. I wonder if he understands what a reform this law is.

    2) It also would make sense to have several official languages used in court so local people have greater acceptance of the law. Tagalog is a pilot project somewhere.

    3) bad penal system. Luxury for big shot criminals and animal cages for the small fry if what I have gathered so far is true. Both aspects do NOT make for a truly just system. What is needed is a modern but strict prison system – and community work for smaller offenses like Karl has already mentioned elsewhere.

    Band-aid solutions will only cause more problems in the long run. Not looking at the messed-up system as it is – and fixing it – will also not solve anything.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      Witnesses and affidavits is in total dysfunction of American-style Justice. Evidence is expensive. Evidence is science. Witnesses are cheap so are affidavits.

      Those that take advantage of judicial dysfunction are the wealthy, famous, well-connected and powerful. They always get away because American-style justice requires EVIDENCE not just EVIDENCE, FORENSIC EVIDENCE. If you put FORENSIC in evidence, Filipinos scratch their head, “WHAT IS FORENSIC? It must be science, right?” As we all know Filipinos are slow in science.

      The poor cannot afford evidence. They languish in jail like life-sentence long before they are disproven guilty because the witnesses have died. So, their guilt depends on the longevity of witnesses.

      Filipinos still have a lot to learn. To this day, they are still scratching their head over Mamasapano SAF44 …. Ampatuan massacre … Binay overpricing … and just recently Money-Laundering.

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