Reconstitute the Philippines!

A. Present State

Bad Sanitation in Intramuros, Manila Philippines (3486250812)The Philippines is built on a colonial foundation – that of the principalia who got to rule the country. These were the datus that collaborated with the Spaniards to become the ruling class.

I must thank contributor Renato Mariano Pacifico of Joe America’s Society of Honor for this statement that set the ball rolling to a discussion with Society of Honor contributors giancarloangulo, Juana Pilipinas and Karl Garcia, as well as a final exchange with Joe America that led to me writing this article as the summary of collectively inspired thinking:

“Just look around us … From PDAF Babuyan Island to Muslim jolo …. half-naked children walking the streets dumpster diving for morsels of Jollibee.”

Now how can a state call itself modern and humane if that is the way it is constituted – the word “constitution” means exactly that as well! A Constitution not really applied is just paper. – now where are the principles of this constitution truly lived, with so many people living worse than dogs in the country:

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

Where is the Philippines a just and humane society? Where does it promote the common good? Where does it conserve and develop its patrimony? Of what use is a constitution, which should be the foundation of how a state really IS, if it is just on paper? Like many things in the Philippines.

A.1. Definition of Terms – these are possible definitions of the word constitution:

  1. the system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, corporation, or the like, is governed.
  2. the document embodying these principles.
  3. (initial capital letter) Constitution of the United States.
  4. the way in which a thing is composed or made up; makeup; composition: the chemical constitution of the cleanser.
  5. the physical character of the body as to strength, health, etc.: He has a strong constitution.
  6. Medicine/Medical, Psychology. the aggregate of a person’s physical and psychological characteristics.

Now let us see how these definitions are applicable to the present Philippines, by means of a story.

A.1.1. Pedro and Joe

There is the old series of jokes about Joe, the American, and Pedro, the Filipino. Joe tries to teach the Filipino to pronounce apple and Pedro says epol. Let us have them talk about the Constitution, which after all is a legacy of American thinking, lost in translation. Joe is a very patient Thomasite teacher:

History of the United States from the earliest discovery of America to the present time (1912) (14580116157)Joe: Good morning Pedro. Let us look at the dictionary to see what constitution means. No 2.: yes, the 1987 Constitution is a piece of paper, correct Pedro, very good…

Pedro: Good morning Sir. I was very diligent in fulfilling your assignment. Thank you very much.

Joe: No. 1.: IS governed. No Pedro. You do not apply your Constitution. It is the system according which your state IS SUPPOSED to be governed, but not HOW you govern it.

Pedro: Sorry po Joe, I will improve my lesson the next time.

Joe: No 3. Definitely not.

Pedro: That is your American Constitution. We have ours.

Joe: No 4. Is your state made up the way your Constitution describes it? I don’t think so.

Pedro is silent.

Joe: No 5. Is the body of your state as strong and healthy as that paper describes?

Pedro: Yes Sir, I will take you to The Fort and to Forbes Park, it is clean there.

Joe: No 6.: Are the physical and psychological characteristics of your state really like that?

Pedro: Very healthy in body and mind Sir, just like Senator Miriam Santiago.

Joe: Go home, Pedro. Good we did not make you a State of the Union.

Pedro goes home, making kamot-kamot – scratching his head and thinking: I don’t care even if I am not real State, I can always buy Real Estate in Makati!

A.2. True Philippine ConstitutionEmilio Aguinaldo (ca. 1898)

The true State of the Philippine nation’s foundations, which is what Constitution should be, are the following if one is realistic and looks at the dirty kitchen, not the clean one to show guests:

PREAMBLE: We, the entitled of the Philippines, have for centuries run an unjust and inhuman society. We have decided to drop all pretenses and hypocrisy, and by virtue of our own Entitlement, we hereby promulgate the True Constitution of the Philippines:

Article 1. Laws only apply to ordinary people and to our political enemies, not to us.

Article 2. Those who support us will be given food and drinks, and smiled upon.

Article 3. Those who do not know who we are shall be punished arbitrarily.

Article 4. Business opportunities are for us and our own group, not for ordinary people.

Article 5. Ordinary people and our political enemies are suspect, we are beyond doubt.

This constitution is binding upon all matters in the Philippines, and is above the written law we have pretended to follow for all these centuries.

This constitution is valid for all time and may not be amended.

B. Possible Solutions

B.1. Rütli Oath of Wilhelm Tell

Gessler und TellThe legendary Rütli oath of Wilhelm Tell was the foundation of the Swiss state in the Middle Ages – after freeing themselves from oppressive overlords embodied by Gessler:

We want to be a single People of brethren,

Never to part in danger nor distress.

We want to be free, as our fathers were,

And rather die than live in slavery.

We want to trust in the one highest God

And never be afraid of human power.

Jose Rizal translated Wilhelm Tell into Tagalog, but few Filipinos know of this. Rizal is not seen as a revolutionary. But maybe he knew that most revolutions fail. The three original cantons of Switzerland were like Kankanai, Bontoc and Ifugao people of the Cordillera making a tribal alliance against oppressors from the lowlands, and swearing to defend each other to the death – it is very respectable that this oath is the foundation of a seven century old federal state.

B.2. Six Arrows of Kemal AtatürkAtatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of modern Turkey, defined the Six Arrows upon which the modern Turkish state is based – modernizing a feudal, clannish and highly religious society with various ethnic groups into one strong nation and reliable NATO partner:

Republicanism – a democratic republic built on civic virtue

Populism – serving the people is paramount

Laicism – the state is free of all religion

Reformism – the state is to be constantly improved

Nationalism – the nation is to be fully independent

Statism – the state is the driver of progress

These tenets are taught in all Turkish schools until today. Unlike President Ferdinand Marcos, Atatürk had the self-discipline to live by these principles and not succumb to the temptations of power and hypocrisy – do as I say and not as I do. This did not prevent him from being a womanizer just like President Quezon was – and Jose Rizal.

B.3. Filipino role models

President Manuel Quezon - source: Wikimedia CommonsPresident Manuel Quezon was the closest the Philippines had to an Atatürk. There shall be a biography of him in this blog at some point. The foundations of the Filipino state were laid by him. His 1939 Code of Citizenship and Ethics tried to build a moral foundation, a common set of values for Filipinos, but its spirit was lost.

It was based on the Decalogue of Apolinario Mabini:

First. Thou shalt love God and thy honor above all things: God as the fountain of all truth, of all justice and of all activity; and thy honor, the only power which will oblige thee to be faithful, just and industrious.

Second. Thou shalt worship God in the form which thy conscience may deem most righteous and worthy: for in thy conscience, which condemns thy evil deeds and praises thy good ones, speaks thy God.

Third. Thou shalt cultivate the special gifts which God has granted thee, working and studying according to thy ability, never leaving the path of righteousness and justice, in order to attain thy own perfection, by means whereof thou shalt contribute to the progress of humanity; thus; thou shalt fulfill the mission to which God has appointed thee in this life and by so doing, thou shalt be honored, and being honored, thou shalt glorify thy God.

Apolinario mabini PGFourth. Thou shalt love thy country after God and thy honor and more than thyself: for she is the only Paradise which God has given thee in this life, the only patrimony of thy race, the only inheritance of thy ancestors and the only hope of thy posterity; because of her, thou hast life, love and interests, happiness, honor and God.

Fifth. Thou shalt strive for the happiness of thy country before thy own, making of her the kingdom of reason, of justice and of labor: for if she be happy, thou, together with thy family, shalt likewise be happy.

Sixth. Thou shalt strive for the independence of thy country: for only thou canst have any real interest in her advancement and exaltation, because her independence constitutes thy own liberty; her advancement, thy perfection; and her exaltation, thy own glory and immortality.

Seventh. Thou shalt not recognize in thy country the authority of any person who has not been elected by thee and thy countrymen; for authority emanates from God, and as God speaks in the conscience of every man, the person designated and proclaimed by the conscience of a whole people is the only one who can use true authority.

Leni RobredoEighth. Thou shalt strive for a Republic and never for a monarchy in thy country: for the latter exalts one or several families and founds a dynasty; the former makes a people noble and worthy through reason, great through liberty, and prosperous and brilliant through labor.

Ninth. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: for God has imposed upon him, as well as upon thee, the obligation to help thee and not to do unto thee what he would not have thee do unto him; but if thy neighbor, failing in this sacred duty, attempt against thy life, thy liberty and thy interests, then thou shalt destroy and annihilate him for the supreme law of self-preservation prevails.

Tenth. Thou shalt consider thy countryman more than thy neighbor; thou shalt see him thy friend, thy brother or at least thy comrade, with whom thou art bound by one fate, by the same joys and sorrows and by common aspirations and interests.

Therefore, as long as national frontiers subsist, raised and maintained by the selfishness of race and of family, with thy countryman alone shalt thou unite in a perfect solidarity of purpose and interest, in order to have force, not only to resist the common enemy but also to attain all the aims of human life.

Leni Robredo, from what I have seen so far from her works in Camarines Sur, already lives by principles that really involve the Filipino people, to empower and free them by sustainable, hard work. The Facebook page of the Atty. Leni Gerona-Robredo for Vice President Movement states:

Go to the people. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say “We have done this ourselves”.

C. Rebuilding foundations

The foundations of the national house need to be rebuilt. The foundation of centuries of oppression is completely rotten. But a revolution will not work – from the center or from the bottom. The residents of the national house must have a shelter when storms come. This is why evolution is the way, and only can work if there is a consensus on how to…

C.1. Reconstitute the Philippines

A liberation constitution could look like this, replacing the “True Constitution” described above, and thereby giving the impulse to reconstitute and rebuild the country:

PREAMBLE. We, the people of the Islands called the Philippines, of all racial and cultural mixtures, of all religions, income groups and educational attainments, strive to make our lives better after centuries of oppressing each other. This is the Constitution by which we shall live every aspect of our lives from this point onward, and make sure each and every one of us, from now on to be called Free Filipinos, lives by from this day:

Article 1: We shall be honorable, humble and kind in all our dealings towards other human beings.

Article 2: We shall adhere to the laws we have pretended to live by from now on, and adjust these laws in order to make our society as free, humane and just as possible. We shall make sure that these laws are followed by each and every one of us as legal equals.

Article 3: We shall work to make our country, the Free Philippines, free of hunger, fear and unrest. We shall strive to give opportunities to all willing to work for them.

Article 4: We shall make sure that we think about what we are doing, and promote thinking instead of unreflected belief. Religion and conviction is each person’s private matter.

Article 5: We shall build a state that reflects the principles of this Constitution. In the meantime, we shall support the state that we already have, and rebuild it step by step.

This Constitution may be extended by the will of 2/3 majority of the Free Filipino people. The first five articles are valid for all time and shall never be amended.

May the aspirations embodied in this Constitution give us the strength to fullfill it.

C.2. Commitment, Continuity, Consistency

This is but a humble proposal, my submission to the Filipino people. It is they who must find their common oath. Because it is they who must commit to it. Nag-iisang panata. Pinangangatawanan.

Continuity and consistency is needed to fullfill its aspirations, in patient perseverance. Like the Swiss for 700+ years. Like Mustafa Kemal. Like Manuel Quezon. Like Mabini. Like Leni Robredo.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 22. October 2015

P.S. this article also challenged my mind, I give credit to it as well: – yes the Philippines lacks the capability to look forward, visions if ever are only unconsciously implemented but never truly defined. Because the basic tenets of what the country IS and where it wants to go to are not even properly defined as a true commitment people buy into. Because the stuff we have was imposed on us, colonially.

Filipinos have to define the basics first, then fix things from there. Where I disagree with you, benign0, is that we who live abroad have the right to tell the folks back home, the stakeholders, how to do it. We can only help them, mocking them but not giving them any solutions but basking in superiority is not the right way to go I think. If they are hopeless why rant about them?

P.P.S. another thing I see as important is to educate all Filipinos on the important aspects of the 1987 Constitution to increase acceptance. On that basis, reform things later.


Philippine Internet speed

Introduction, Present Issues

The Philippines ranks 16th worldwide in terms of number of Internet users, with nearly 40 million out of a population of nearly 100 million. Many Filipinos use social media heavily. However, the Internet in the Philippines is in bad shape, being very expensive and slow. The are 9 main providers, PLDT and Globe Telecom being the largest. Complaints about the service quality and internet speed are numerous when it comes to the PLDT and Globe which are the only choice for many not in Metro Manila or nearby.

A recent article in Joe America inspired me to research more on the possible causes of this situation and look for solutions. I would like to thank the members of Joe America’s Society of Honor for assisting me with numerous hints and taking part in a practical check of the Philippine Internet from various locations using the tracert command.

Internet Exchanges, Peering

AMS-IX core cage eunOne major issue is that PLDT and Globe are not directly connected via an Internet Exchange Point in the Philippines. The following links explain more:


To put it in a simplified way, Philippine Internet traffic that has to go between PLDT and Globe or the other way around goes abroad first, resulting in inefficiencies for the 20% of traffic that is local. The correct way usually followed by internet service providers worldwide is to have a peering agreement which governs how different providers bill each other for the traffic they exchange. There are three possibilities (Source: Wikipedia) :

  • Transit (or pay) – The network operator pays money (or settlement) to another network for Internet access (or transit).
  • Peer (or swap) – Two networks exchange traffic between their users freely, and for mutual benefit.
  • Customer (or sell) – A network pays another network money to be provided with Internet access.

Contributors at Joe America were able to show how Internet traffic is routed to and from the Philippines. The results can be summarized as follows:

  • Reaching PLDT is only easy from within PLDT. From outside the Philippines and from other providers, it goes a complex way and seems slow.
  • Reaching DOST from abroad is easier because they are connected via Hurricane Electric, a global backbone provider and have their own promising research network.
  • Traces from PLDT to DOST did not confirm that there is peering between the two, inspite of PLDT recently connecting to PHOpenIX which is run by DOST ASTI.

Internet map 1024In addition to this, all Philippine Internet Exchanges are located in Metro Manila. Meaning that nearly all Philippine Internet traffic from the provinces must probably pass through a bottleneck, even if the recent opening of an IX in Cebu will most certainly make routing more efficient, at least some traffic within the Visayas and Mindanao would not have to go to Manila first and back, freeing up much needed network capacity. Globe Telecom has been calling for peering with PLDT, but it seems the two giants are not able to reach an agreement.

Submarine cables

Nearly all international submarine cables leave the Philippines from near Manila or at least from Luzon, notable exceptions being Davao and Parang in Mindanao, with another major internation cable passing by Davao under construction. The intra-Philippine submarine cable network looks pretty good, although there is no data available about capacities.

However, the available information suggests once again a bottleneck for international traffic – which comprises 80% of Philippine internet usage – in the area around Manila. Not on EDSA this time, but probably on the way to a submarine cable in Batangas or La Union?

No excuses please

Even if one considers that the number of users and the use of the Internet has probably increased a lot in the past few years in the Philippines and providers probably are doing what they can to catch up with it, they are according to some Internet commenters overpromising and overselling – which is dangerous. And finally, even the profit motive does not excuse them – after all, American robber barons in the 19th century made money but delivered by producing steel, building railways from coast to coast and more.

In Russia wide transcontinental expanses were connected by Rostelecom and as of 2007 all schools are online. In Romania the Internet is faster than in the United States, partly due to small enterpreneurs who built local neighborhood networks and connected them with one another and later with Romtelecom. These are ex-Communist countries that once were far behind.

Progress, possible solutions

More competition could be helpful. Telstra is planning to move in partnering with San Miguel, which could help against the de-facto duopoly that PLDT and Globe presently are. Converge ICT which is mainly located in and around Metro Manila has received positive reviews, meaning that there already is competition in the Metro Manila area and surroundings.Hi Speed Internet Neon Sign Minneapolis 4573842992

More Internet Exchanges would ease intra-Philippine traffic and open up capacities badly needed for international traffic. An IX in Davao could help in conjunction with the submarine cables already leaving from there and being built to have another conduit for international Internet traffic, easing the bottleneck in Manila that I consider very probable given the indications.

Additional undersea cables not only from Luzon towards international destinations should in my opinion also be built – to increase capacity towards the provinces that are growing quickly economically and will probably be contributing to growing internet traffic.

Expand government network. DOST has a network connected to most of UP, DOST, MMDA, PSHS Diliman, Pagasa, DFA and Ateneo de Manila University, among others. This could be the basis of a government network that connects to schools and to government offices nationwide. Via peering agreements, the network capacity thus built could be billed to others, helping pay for the investment.

Separate network and retail parts. This is done in New Zealand for example. The network could be run by the state or by a state-regulated company while the providers compete in connecting to end consumers. In such a scenario, even Romanian-style neighborhood networks could be possible local players to take care of the last mile. Before doing this, forcing big players to peer, even to provide capacity at fixed rates to other players should be tried so that there is a real intra-Philippine internet backbone for all.

Fast Internet access is a competitive advantage and can help improve governance as well as internal communication and learning, especially for a country that is separated into so many islands. Short-term profits of some should not stand in the way of long-term progress for the majority of people.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, 1. October 2015, Munich

P.S. Thank you JoeAm for the reblog!




Metro Manila traffic

Current situationASMjf3188 10

Recent news has brought the traffic problem in Metro Manila to the forefront once again. Horrendous traffic jams cause enormous losses to the economy and make the life of those who want to get to and from work or shopping or visits very hard. The bad condition of the MRT along EDSA after just 16 years has made headlines.

But let us look at the situation more closely. Metro Manila has an official population of nearly 12 million living in an area of over 600 square kilometers. Unofficially, there are probably much more people due to large numbers of informal settlers. Mexico City has almost 9 million people living in an area of almost 1500 square kilometers. Even Tokyo which is known to be densely populated has only 9 million people living in an area roughly the same size as Metro Manila. Berlin with 900 square kilometers is home to just around three and a half million people.

In fact, several cities in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) as it is also called are among the most densely populated cities in the world. The MRT which was originally designed for a capacity of 450 thousand passengers per day carried 600 thousand passengers daily as of 2012-2013. The population of Metro Manila officially doubled from almost 6 million in 1980 to almost 12 million in these days, meaning that inspite of measures taken to modernize infrastructure, the city is operating far beyond its capacity.

HistoryGuadalupeMRTjf1122 04

Metro Manila was created in 1975 by decree of President Marcos. The Metro Manila Commission was formed to administer the area. Studies commissioned in 1973 and 1977 saw the need to develop and extend the existing network of radial and circumferential roads, and to build a rail transit network in order to be more efficient. In the following years, EDSA or Highway 54 was widened, underpasses were built and construction was started on the first LRT line from Baclaran to Monumento. Projects continued, although the Metro Manila Commission was later replaced by weaker successors, the Metro Manila Authority and then the present Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Unfortunately individual cities got back more power again, which made things harder to coordinate.

EDSA or C-4 got flyovers or underpasses on all major crossings. C-5 was constructed further outside. The LRT 2 line from Manila to Marikina was built as well as the MRT from Baclaran to EDSA North. Philippine National Railway stations in Manila were revived and are used again today.

Inspite of progress, some things were underestimated or forgotten. The MRT and LRT systems lacked and still lack good interfaces to other means of transport. Especially the MRT has very high stairs or escalators, making it very impractical to get into some stations. Often the sidewalks near the stations are not sufficiently wide, or the bus stops if they are used do not have bays so busses stopping for passengers block traffic – not to mention busses that hold up several lanes at a time on EDSA. PNR stations are often not very attractive or inviting to commuters. During peak times, there can be lines that cause it to take very long until one is able to board the MRT or LRT.

Possible solutions168-9001 Hamamatsu 20010804

Ideally, a commuter should be able to take his car or another form of transport and board rapid transit efficiently, then maybe take another mode of transport from his final stop to work. Since this is obviously not possible for many, a lot of people going to work take the car – most probably also for safety reasons in an Asian megacity with large differences in income and opportunities. Increased affluence has led to more cars on the streets, while maintenance issues on the MRT and its crowdedness have decreased its attractivity. Problems with discipline and traffic enforcement add to the already difficult business of managing traffic in Metro Manila.

In addition to this, people are already leaving Metro Manila, or settling in places outside like Cavite but commuting to work in Metro Manila which takes hours, given the fact that there is no really viable rapid transit to the outskirts. There is a master plan by JICA to create urban centers outside Manila, but it will take long to implement.

Fixing the MRT is one of the most urgent measures and as of this article being written is already being addressed. Tightening traffic enforcement is also already being done, so the urgent things are already work in progress. There are already apps like WAZE and by MMDA to assist motorists, but these do not solve the fundamental issues.

München MarienplatzThe next steps could be to remove obstacles on major roads that cause traffic to pile up. Maximum traffic flow is always determined by the worst chokepoint. Next thing is to improve interfaces between rapid transit lines among themselves and towards other public transport systems to make it easier for commuters, widen sidewalks or build elevated walkways for their convenience – something that has already been done in Makati for example. For potential commuters coming from outside, parking garages could be built close to major stations like North Avenue MRT so that they can just leave their cars there and continue without adding traffic to this major street.

For commuters outside Metro Manila, it is high time to build new rail lines, ideally with high capacity – double decker train wagons like some regional trains for example in Japan, possibly with stations along Manila Bay – Mall of Asia and Quirino Grandstand for example, since it is easier to build a high-capacity line along the front of Roxas Boulevard or nearby because there is (still) more space. To facilitate rapid boarding, ideas such as the Spanish solution of having platforms on both sides and one-way traffic for loading and unloading should be considered.

Instead of going for grand projects, quick results should be the goal, do what is necessary first, then what is possible.

Future developments

DOST AGT monorailThere are projects like the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike which will start soon and will make it easier to travel to areas south of Manila. Yet it may be necessary to move as much as possible out of the city. Moving government offices and their employees has already been suggested by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. New industrial centers could provide work for resettled informal settlers as well and prevent them from coming back to Metro Manila. And not only decrease traffic there, but make the city more livable again.

DOST Hybrid electric road trainTo prevent the areas vacated from being filled up again, proper urban planning should be applied to turn them into parks for example. Additional taxes on businesses located in Manila would be a negative incentive to leave and could finance restructuring – and subsidize development of new regional centers, near Manila and on other islands.

The Department of Science and Technology has developed two interesting technologies: the automated guideway transit or AGT which a pilot route is planned for U.P. Diliman to replace jeepneys – especially the higher-capacity version for 120 passengers now running on a test route in Bicutan is of interest long-term – and the road train bus. DOST emphasized developing local capabilities in manufacturing, which also means that procurement and maintenance would not cause spending or even debts in dollars. Who knows maybe one day they will build trains, but public transport that feeds rapid transit is just as important – there you have the AGT and road trains, possible in conjunction with Bus Rapid Transit – to replace vans, tricycles and jeepneys.


I would like to thank Joe America and his contributor chempo for writing an article which inspired me, as well as this blog by a Filipino traffic and urban planning expert. Please feel free to let me know your observations, ideas and criticisms!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 23. September 2015