Ang babastos ng mga tagabundok!

Camión transportador de botellas y envases de plástico (Av. Patriotismo y Eje 4 Sur Benjamín Franklin, México, D.F.) 01biruin ninyo, tinapunan ng bote si Bong Revilla! Buti nasangga ng agimat ang paglipad ng plastic bottle. Hindi ba nila alam na basura iyan, ano tingin niyo kay Bong, trapo? Pero huli yata talaga sa balita ang mga nandoon, mahilig pa rin yata sa country music. Palibhasa napunta sa may Sagada si Scotty, si Fr. William Henry Scott, na puro gitara at country roads daw ang ikinanta. Tapos akala mo pa kung sino sila, palibhasa marami sa kanilang Anglican, akala nila puwede na nilang bastusin isang matapang na Tagalog!

Mga awit

Sa bagay, pasaway naman talaga ang mga iyan. Lumaban na ang mga iyan noong si Marcos, na alam nating WALA talagang ninakaw ni gabundok (link) o sa bundok nila, gusto silang bigyan ng Chico River dam! Mga walang utang na loob talaga! Kanta nila:

O Makus balileng nagpa-order
Maraming helicopter
Sasakay jungle fighter
Patungo sa encounter

Pero kapag meron namang lumalapit na hindi tagaroon, pinapalit bigla ang kanta:

Mahirap balileng maging pogi
Marami kang babai
Buti pa maging pangit..

Pogi o pangit, patay na si Fr. Balweg (link)! At isa pa, magagawa sa wakas ang Chico River dam, gawa ng kagandahang-loob ng mga Tsino sa Pilipinas (link). Pirmado na!

Keri iyan

Buti hindi sila naglakas-loob kay Imee, pagkat dugo ni Lam-Ang iyan, tumalo sa kanila. Kay mismong El Dorado sila galing, sa haring ginto ng ibinalita ng mga Kastila (link). Yayaman tayong lahat kapag binahaginan tayo ng pamilya Marcos sa kayamanan nila! Tsaka huwag kayong maniniwala sa mga dilawang naninira sa ating Prinsesang Imee. Prinsesa siya, kaya nagpunta siya ng Princeton. Dinaya lang siya ng mga dilawan (link)! Hindi siya tulad ni Kris Aquino na pinagtitripan na lang (link). May class siya. Keri iyan!

Dami na raw Pilipino takot ma-EJK – 8 out of 10 daw (link). O, di ba sabi ni Tatay Digong na meron nang 8 million drug adik sa Pilipinas (link). Di sila ang mga takot mamatay! Tangina ninyo, sino ang nagsabing iba ang 8 out of 10 sa 8 million out of 100 million? Ang dami ninyong alam talaga! Pareho lang iyan. Isa pa itong si Bernard Ong (link). Ayon kay Panelo, iyong 3 million na sinabi ni Duterte noon, Metro Manila lang iyon. Bakit pa pa-compute-compute si Ong, imbesa na MANIWALA siya kay Panelo?

Jess bilib

Ang papel ng Pilipinong tunay, maniwala sa nakakataas. Huwag puro satsat at tanong. Sabi nga ni Manny Pacquiao (link): ‘Too much democracy is bad for the Philippines’. Tandaan ninyo, ang daming natulungan niyan, di baleng laging absent sa Senado (link)! Bakit may attendance pa kasi diyan, ano ba tayo, mga batang tinuturuan pa sa school? Anong silbi ng edukasyon, papogi lang iyan, tapos mahirap balileng maging pogi talaga, tulad ni Manny, marami na siyang babae, eh paano kung nag-aral pa iyan, sosobra na!

So, JESS BILIB. Ano ba kayo, walang faith sa Lord natin! Itong mga tagabundok na Anglican pa raw, walang yatang faith kay Lord Digong. Kasi brainwashed siguro ng American priests. Mga Katoliko brainwashed ng mga putangingang Padre Damaso. Tandaan ninyo na hindi magaling iyong mga puro debate at angal na malas, kundi iyong mga relax lang at magaling sa sayaw, kanta at patawa (link) na tunay na masusuwerte! Huwag puro isip dahil mapapagod lang kayo. Huwag puro duda at simangot! Istap na!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 March 2019

A Broader Picture

Koppu's flooding and sediment over Manila Bay and Pampanga River 2015-10-21 0250Zis forming for some Filipinos, finally. Memes of how the “Manila Bay cleanup” was nothing more than a beachfront cleanup in Manila only, showing how big Manila Bay is compared to the front that was cleaned, are one example of how this is happening. Used to be that even UP academics excused their being unable to efficiently use maps of European cities by saying that maps were a European colonialists view of the earth. There are also memes showing how the President’s office has overspent since 2017.


Part I: Parochialism vs. Progress

National and Local

Larger geographical areas, millions in any kind of money, longer spans of time are often not something Filipinos grasp well. The heritage of smallness (link) that Nick Joaquin wrote about is very real. Manuel L. Quezon III also expressed it very well in this tweet:

Well, probably national is barely understood by many in a country where the word for village and country is bayan. I have seen social media statements stating that Manny Pacquiao is a good Senator because he helps a lot of poor people with his money.

It goes further: there are Filipino migrants abroad, just a generation removed from their peasant origins, who say that Leila de Lima is a drug lord because everybody in their clan that migrated all over the world is saying so. The village gossip mindset as “proof”. Easy to evaluate gossip in a small community where you see the people you are dealing with and have enough small clues to their character to sift the nonsense out. The mental jump to a more complex world is not yet fully accomplished among many.

When you know, you know

In a simpler society, truths were also clearer – at least those needed for one’s daily life. Once a Filipina told me “when you know, you know!” because I got lost in a city I had not visited for a while. A very parochial view which does not know how memory works when someone has been to dozens of countries and hundreds of towns in a lifetime. But even most of the Philippine media have an islander’s view of things, assuming that the context is known to all, and that you have to catch up by yourself. I twittered this:

The “when you know you know” mindset will of course favor those who are familiar with a very narrow domain and never go outside it. President Duterte is that kind of person. Philippine House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, who says that experience is superior to science when it comes to making decisions (link) is also that kind of parochial mind. Good science puts together multiple perspectives = experiences and observations. Besides, the Socratic attitude of “I know that I know nothing” leads to learning more.


Part II: Who do we bilib more?

Dengvaxia is the Devil – and Children aren’t Angels

Unfortunately, never having to admit a wrong is seen as a sign of “strength” by many. Sanofi, which was simply being honest by giving out a warning based on new findings, may now be like some former “White Gods” islanders turn against in a corny B-movie. While Persida Acosta, who keeps insisting things that have no solid proof whatsoever, might be seen as correct by many whose main mindset is “when you know you know!”. Even Duterte is now appealing to Filipinos to vaccinate, as diseases are now spreading.

Duterte, who is definitely several rungs above Acosta on the totem pole. Who has been believed so often when he came out with “drug matrixes”. His daughter is probably seen as magical as well, so was her opinion that “children are not angels” so important (link)? Well, there is a certain truth to what she says, as street children in poorer countries can be harsher than those in more affluent countries. The struggle for survival shapes them. But does it justify putting them in cages like wild animals, which Filipino jails in fact are?

No silver bullets

A Filipino hybrid electric train is coming out soon (link), not due to the Wakandan power of Digong Duterte, but due to years of R&D by DOST that started in Aquino III’s term. One major adaptation to Philippine conditions was to line the windows with mesh wire, because stones are thrown at trains in the Philippines that pass along large slum areas. It takes a bit of common sense to adapt technologies and techniques from abroad to local conditions. For techniques, it is often more difficult to see where things don’t fit.

Silver bullets (link) don’t exist. Many Filipinos who might have lost their “bilib” in the way things are done in the West might now have moved their magical thinking unto the Chinese whose trains, CCTVs and telecommunications are seen as “miracle cures”. Somewhat like “stateside” was magical just a generation ago. But there are no miracles in this world. The MRT along EDSA ran smoothly in the beginning, but some neglected the maintenance of a complex system of rails, wagons, wheels, stations, and electricity.


Part III: Why so long and complicated?

Bilisan mo na!

There is very little patience with complex and long-term solutions in the Philippines. Ideally, it should be built by foreign Gods (formerly white and now Chinese) and work. When it comes to governance, same. It is harder to properly implement rehabilitation for juvenile delinquents and drug addicts than to simply jail them or kill them, that is clear. Just like it is easier to throw garbage out of the window of one’s SUV like some rich do in the Philippines. Quick solutions that ignore long-term repercussions are preferred.

Much of the weakness of today’s Philippine government are in its bureacracy, I think. The system was certainly excellent when set up in the 1930s with the help of the USA. Good enough to run on its own, with some modifications in the 1970s and the 1980s. Probably woefully inefficient compared to what is possible with modern IT and modern ways of working adapted to IT. But what happened to CJ Sereno who tried to modernize the justice system using information technology? Reactionary forces certainly hated her.

Bridging the gap – to solve problems

The modern system thinkers for now seem outnumbered by those who are “practical”. The Boracay cleanup seems to have been a mess, in detail. Marawi is still in ruins now. Manila Bay is a big toilet, only the seat is clean now. Few Filipinos probably care about the West Philippine Sea as no one has relatives living there, I guess. A broader picture is not that easy for those who are trying to survive. And even competent practitioners must find the right balance between “analysis paralysis” and thoughtless actionism.

Renato Constantino, in his “The Miseducation of the Filipino” (link), wrote that  “People don’t even think it is their duty to know, or that they are capable of understanding national problems. Because of the language barrier, therefore, they are content to leave everything to their leaders” (Page 11). Nowadays, many think they can apply village logic to national issues, and deride formerly admired foreign – or Western – expertise. The theoretical/practical gap as a result of the diagnosed miseducation is still very wide.


A problem-solving mindset includes putting together observations into a broad picture, then defining solutions, prototyping and piloting them, rolling them out, and correcting. There is understanding the stakeholders, then convincing them to go with the solution. Those who are good at the former in the Philippines are often not that good at the latter – and vice-versa, with VP Leni’s Angat Buhay program as a major example of both parts working hand in hand smoothly. More of that in the future please. And less nonsense.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 February 2019

Developing its People

0202jfMapangpang San Felipe Rizal Science City Munoz Ecijafvf 40NOT letting them rot and then punish them – should be the priority of any smart country. It is the way of South Korea, Japan and Singapore – but not of Brazil or the Philippines. The recent discussion about jailing 9 (or 12) year old children has shown a symptom.  Poverty without hardly a chance to move up – exceptions prove the rule – is the cause. The reasons for that are many – a public education system which was still excellent in the 1950s, but was allowed to rot, like many things after the American colonial period. An antiquated legal system with a Penal Code dating back to 1887, with jails and prisons that belong in movies like Pirates of the Carribean or the Count of Monte Cristo, not in modern times. Pre-modern beliefs on many matters including crime and justice.

Rousseau and Hobbes

are not Calvin and Hobbes. The first, Rousseau, basically believed that people are good by nature, while Hobbes believed that primitive men were nasty, brutish and short. Well, he actually said that their lives were nasty, brutish and short, not that they were Digong. Which of the two are right? Because one might think some extreme liberals believe more on the Rousseau side, while those who hate human rights advocates are more on the Hobbes side. Probably it isn’t that simple. People who grow up in positive places – they don’t even have to be ultra-modern, they just have to have needs met and be free of fear, will probably mostly be good, while those who grow up in negative places will most probably be nastier. Parents and their outlook on life certainly play a big role also.

Then of course circumstances. Hunger might make the most decent people steal to eat. Places were life has been an unfair struggle for centuries can develop cynical attitudes to life, passed on to children until the culture as a whole is damaged. Groups of people whose original bonds are destroyed by crises can become outright nasty to each other. Unless there is something that brings them back together, this can mean self-destruct. Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote “A Short History of Mankind”, postulates that people are held together by common beliefs. Religions, organizations, money, government, nations are held together by beliefs. Even languages (and their cultures) imply certain beliefs. Therefore what is considered “correct” in common parlance affects what is believed.

May isip na

means already conscious, already able to “think”. Batang may isip na is a child from 7. What those who argue that a child of seven is already able to “know” things consciously ignore is that children have not yet developed a sense of responsibility for what they do. Possibly, many Filipino lawmakers never advanced from that stage, never developed any sense of responsibility at all, so they believe that a child of nine already is mature. Or did their childhood and adolescence consist mainly of bullying and hazings, recently reported a lot, and most possibly THE schooling in the ethics of impunity (link) which “protect the powerful, not the powerless”. Possibly “maturity” for some in the Philippines is accepting that life basically goes by the same rules as in “Lord of the Flies” (link).

For that maturity, it doesn’t take much time, maybe one can realize that at the age of 12. Forget all naive dreams of a better world. Though the places where they teach their children those naive and humanistic “dreams” are indeed the better places on earth. Possibly this just proves what Harari said about beliefs. And is the rest just Hobbes? Certainly, the main difference between rich politician kids caught with drugs and poor kids making the life of the middle class hard by stealing is the resources they have. Whether a rich person throws garbage out of the window or a brash SUV owner counterflows is just as callous and inconsiderate as the poor throwing trash into rivers. The poor at least have the struggle for survival as a reason, the rich no excuse at all.

Shaping things up

will not work with the kind of self-hatred that Filipinos very often manifest, which shows itself in the hatred of the poor – who are a sorry image of what most Filipinos used to be. Only that in 1970s UP Balara, there was still space for chickens, and I remember (as we lived in UP Area 1 on the hill just above) how even pigs were occasionally killed there. Urban poor in the Philippines just brought their old way of life to the city – until the city no longer provided them with the space for that, not even goats for sale near SM North. Filipinos around 1910 lived either in ancestral homes (a minority) or in bahay kubos. Progress is not a bad thing, but runaway progress put Filipinos with means in private subdivisions, their kids into private schools, and they shop not in city centers but malls.

That responsibility for public matters (res publica in Latin, the original root of “republic”) is hardly there is not surprising at all. Senyorito-like disdain for the poor combines with the consumerist attitude of seeking a quick fix into support for tokhang and jailing kids. Civic thinking (a good American trait) plus charity and compassion (good Catholic traits) are only present among a minority of Filipinos, one has the impression, or else Duterte would not be President, and Congress would not have simply tried to jail young people. Recent suggestions like that of Mar Roxas to finally institutionalize 4Ps – which make it more likely that children go to school – or that of Senator Drilon to build institutions to help children in trouble before thinking of changing the law are but a few rays of light.


Modernizing the penal code was something Senator De Lima tried to do in 2014 (link) when she still ran DOJ, but it seems that was too modern for the Philippines – it was hardly discussed. Going further like shorter sentences for youth, was that considered? Making the entire system of justice more efficient – to prevent the poor from rotting in jail for years without even trial – and overhauling the toilets called jails has not been done. Even Dr. Rizal called the Philippine justice system antiquated, compared to the British. 132 years after 1887 when the Penal Code was enacted, many Filipinos dream of being Singapore but think that being like Davao will make it so. Possibly, a number have fallen out of that delusion already. Whether enough have will be seen in the May elections.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27. January 2019

Philippine History Part V – Ngayon. 2018.

Flag-map-of-philippinesKudos to Rappler for it’s overview of 2018 (link) top stories – even if the most read and most mood vote stories are more of a picture of interest and mood of the readership, missing some important things that happened to the Philippines in a very hard year. Nonetheless, excellent in looking back and trying to filter the noise – and there is a lot of noise in the Philippine bayan, the word for nation and village. Looking back is important in being able to see things in proper perspective, reviewing good, bad and ugly things.

Harassment of “enemies”

Senator De Lima remained in jail inspite of numerous appeals, local and national. Christmas was the first time she got to meet her mother since she was arrested.

Rappler was harrassed from the beginning of the year:

  • In mid-January its registration was revoked (link) due to “PDRs”,
  • Pia Ranada was refused entry to Malacañang (link) in mid-February,
  • Omidyar donated the “PDRs” to Rappler managers (link) in late February,
  • in December, Maria Ressa of Rappler posted bail in a tax evasion case (link)
  • but was also named among the Persons of the Year by Time Magazine (link)

During New Year’s Eve in New York, Maria Ressa was among those to “drop the ball”. Both the PDRs (originally accepted) and the tax evasion case seem to be threadbare.

Chief Justice Sereno was ousted via “quo warranto” by her fellow justices on May 11. The judgement was seen as an “abomination of justice” in one dissenting opinion. Follow-up by Solicitor General Calida strongly indicated a direct hand of the President.

Senator Trillanes‘ amnesty was revoked by the President in early September. One court ordered his arrest on a bailable charge in late September, while in late October Judge Andres Soriano did NOT issue a warrant of arrest on a non-bailable charge. Weeks of being in the Senate to avoid premature arrest by the PNP, which had been observing him and harangued Judge Soriano about when he would issue the warrant, ended. In these weeks, an opposition prayer group led by Will Villanueva got started.

International matters

In late April, an “OFW rescue mission” in Kuwait involving Mocha Uson and RJ Nieto aka “Thinking Pinoy” (link) caused major diplomatic troubles. The beginning of the end for Mocha Uson and Secretary Cayetano, who resigned months later for other reasons.

Boracay was suddenly closed from April 26 and reopened in late October after “rehabilitation” which was controversial. It is not clear whether it helped the island. Foreign tour operators might remove the Philippines due to unpredictability.

A new complaint was filed before the ICC by the families of drug war victims (link) in August, and the ICC on December 5 said it would continue its examination (link), the withdrawal of the Philippines in March (by President Duterte alone) notwithstanding.

President Duterte visited China in April (link) and Xi Jinping visited the Philippines in October (link). Defense Secretary Lorenzana floated the idea of reviewing the MDT (mutual defense treaty) with the USA in December. Hardly any benefits for the country, most projects finished this year were old PPP projects from the previous administration, while illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines became an issue to the year end (link). Chinese military buildups continued (link) in the South China sea, among other things.

Travel advisories for the Mindanao were issued by Australia and the UK (link) at the end of the year, not long after the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. An advisory on security issues was also issued by US and Guam officials for Manila’s NAIA airport.

National matters

While the President moved more towards his generals and against his former leftist allies (link), including wanting to “hamlet” the Lumads, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made a comeback in July as Speaker of the House (link) in dramatic scenes before the SONA. This resulted in a (very controversial) draft for a Federal Constitution that would abolish term limits and otherwise favor political dynasties. She was acquitted of charges of 2007 electoral sabotage while Mikey Arroyo was acquitted of tax evasion (link). Isidro Lapeña, former Customs Commissioner, was not charged with anything by PDEA in December (link) inspite of his possible involvement in a major shipment of shabu slipping through customs in August, after which he was transferred to TESDA.

Bong Go was involved in a procurement scandal for Navy warships in January (link). Seems that how Rappler covered the case was one reason for their harassment. Also, Bong Go was over-advertised on placards and events during the entire year. Wanda Tulfo had to leave as Tourism Secretary, but the alleged 60 million pesos that her brother was paid for commercials has not been returned. Similarly, Bong Revilla was acquitted of plunder but made to return the money, which he is refusing to do (link).

Meanwhile, killings continued, the most shocking cases being that of a priest killed (link) after mass in Cagayan on April 29, and the Mayor of Tanauan shot by a sniper during a flag ceremony (link) on July 2, with Duterte afterwards claiming he had drug links (link).  In mid-December, Duterte made threats towards bishops, especially Ambo David of Caloocan (link). Just before Christmas, pro-Duterte Albay Congressman Batocabe was shot dead (link), causing an outcry among previously silent administration politicians.

Satur Ocampo and ACT Teacher’s party list Rep. France Castro were arrested for “trafficking” after trying to help Lumad children in late November (link) and two NDFP peace consultants, Rey and Patricia Casambre, were arrested early December (link).

More than a year after the end of hostilities on 23 October 2017, Marawi stays broken, its residents only partly able to return due to bomb-clearing operations taking very long and reconstruction stalling. Samira Gutoc has emerged as a leader out of that crisis.

Politics and Economics

Both opposition and administration announced their senatorial slates for May 2019. Though Bongbong Marcos was unable to unseat VP Leni by his electoral protest, what will happen during the coming elections is unclear and the coming months decisive.

Dengue and measles cases rose due to fear of vaccines induced by the Dengvaxia scare. HIV cases also seem to be rising. Defunding Project NOAH probably also was a reason for landslides during typhoon Usman, as it seems hazard maps were not used.

Finally, Dalian trains have started to used on the MRT, and a several year long overhaul program has started. Unfortunately, traffic in Manila has not improved but seems worse. The closing of the Pantaleon-Estrella bridge to build a Chinese one will aggravate more.

Deficits probably rose due to a 3.8 trillion budget in 2018 versus a 3 trillion 2016 budget. The Philippines is running on a re-enacted 2018 budget as the 2019 budget was not passed, fortunately there is no government shutdown in this case like in the USA now.

Of the laws passed in 2018, the “Mental Health Act” and “Act strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law” are by Senator Hontiveros, while the Bangsamoro Organic Law is authored by Senator Bam Aquino. Info on the real work of politics is very scattered.

Scandals, Sex and the Church

What made big headlines in the Philippines and the world were sex and blasphemy:

  • Duterte saying God is stupid for allowing original sin (link) in June
  • Duterte kissing an OFW on the lips in South Korea (link) in July
  • Duterte saying many beautiful women in Davao increase rape (link) in August
  • Duterte saying beliefs in the Trinity and crucifixion are silly (link) late December
  • Duterte confessing or telling a story of molesting a maid (link) also in December

The early 2018 issue of Isabelle Duterte using Malacañan for a photoshoot (link) pales. A possible junket to Europe with PSG in tow around Christmas is nearly forgotten too.

The Ateneo bullying scandal of December (link) is almost forgotten now also, though it, together with the challenges to the Catholic Church and moral precepts – especially the last story of the maid – may have triggered some real soul-searching (link). About time!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, Three Kings Day 2019

P.S. Yes, there were the movies Liway and Goyo, and Miss Philippines Catriona Gray (half-Aussie, half-Bicolana whose mother is from Albay) became Miss Universe.

P.P.S. feel free to comment on whatever I may have missed, even on details.

You Raise Me Up

is one of the theme songs at Duterte-related gatherings. It was sung today in South Korea, though not by him, and was requested by the crowd in Hong Kong not too long ago. Could the theme of this song be one of the keys to why so many Filipinos seem to NEED Duterte somehow? Let us have a look at the words of the refrain:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

A Duterte supporter I know recently told me that the poor get more respect now in the Philippines due to Duterte. My answer was “I don’t know” – in that context more of an “I don’t quite believe that”. But how do people in the overseas “Filipino barangays” feel when their “King’s entourage” comes to “Meet and Greet” (link) like in Seoul? Maybe like teens when their favorite star comes? But they aren’t teens. But maybe they are like teens in one way. Lack of confidence. So they derive a bit of it by admiring a “lodi”, which is the recent Filipino slang word for idol.

Pulling others down

No issues with upliftment, as people need a sense of dignity that comes from self-worth. If “you raise me up” was all there was to President Duterte, he might be for the Filipinos what Martin Luther King once was to Afro-Americans. But there is also a side more like Malcolm X with his controversial anti-white statements. My tweet (link) says this:
The President has freed Filipinos from the colonial shackles of “good manners and right conduct”.
Freedom from hypocrisy and servility, called “decency” by yellows, is the achievement of our times.
Finally, no more forced bowing and smiling when hacienderos pass by. /sarcasm (bold for clarity)
There were the times when sakadas had to give forced grins to hacienderos and these smiled “benevolently” back. Deep inside, many Filipinos doing simple jobs abroad may still have a memory of of much more feudal days past. Someone who skillfully uses those complexes towards old overlords and colonial masters manipulates those feelings.

Lowering all standards

There is rage for sure. Muhammad Ali (a follower of Malcolm X) used his swearing as a form of defiance and pride. “We wish you a Merry Kano, we wish you Amerikano, we wish you Amerikano and a Happy Negro” is a Filipino joke about a Christmas carol, with a bit of sly insight in it. Uncle Toms were always “Happy”. Ali was defiantly rude.

But Ali had style in his rudeness, his cussing was poetry. Duterte’s cursing is not. Especially not the perverse stuff. The “jokes” about the dead Australian missionary and kissing IMF President Lagarde (link) might appeal to certain Pinoys who feel white women are out of their league, or even “white men and mestizos are taking all our women”.

Lowering standards for public servants while portraying those who take the effort to educate themselves as somehow being “un-Filipino” (Leni Robredo’s daughters, for example, and she is NO landlord) encourages dumbing down the entire nation. Even Marcos (Sr.) said “intellectual elitism is the only valid elitism” in a speech I heard myself once.

On others shoulders

Now I don’t fully agree with Marcos Sr. there. There are highfalutin intellectual elitists who put down normal people. Or specialists who talk down to laymen when they should be providing the service of somewhat simplifying things. American science books awakened my STEM interest because they explain well. German science books were harder.

That was decades ago and German books explain better – or have I become smarter? But they made me feel stupid. Now how stupid and incapable are Filipinos going to feel if everything in their own country is done by the Chinese? And dependency to a new elite is taught? Will it be “I am strong when I am on your shoulders” – but only then?

Really being more

BMW Isetta, Bj. 1955 (2015-08-26 2997 b Ausschnitt)Instead of “raised up to more than I can be”, why not BE more – like this here (link)? The BMW Isetta was one of the most successful products of BMW in the 1950s and 1960s. The small car whose picture I have posted in this article. Affordable for the general public then, still very thrifty. Big gas guzzlers were for American GIs.

There is a bit of a cult following for big gas guzzling US oldtimers over here in Munich, probably nourished by those times. But imagine if everybody had done whatever was necessary to buy US cars back then. Little would have been rebuilt, and most probably BMW would not have had enough incoming money to finance research and become what it is today.

Patience and solidarity

Germans still drove “baduy” (uncool) little cars in a time when Manila already had the newest American cars, really? Unfortunately, the new Filipino middle class of the 1960s voted for Marcos and martial law because many other Filipinos were swelling the slums and cramping their (life)style. Marcos promised discipline with “selda ng lasing”.

Cells for drunks is what that means. Does this sound familiar to the even more brutal war against drugs these days? Like the newcomers to the middle class in the 1960s, the new Filipino middle class today cares mainly about itself. Somehow the new German middle class in the 1930s was similarly selfish, despising those seen as “asozial” (link).

Postwar West Germany tried to leave as few as possible behind. That this no longer was done as consistently since unity is one reason for resurgent populism. Yet the lessons of the successful rebuilding still apply – better to help others keep pace and life is better. Meanwhile, postwar Manila saw its first slums and gated communities (link).

Now the Philippines has a highly antisocial TRAIN law which puts burdens on the poor via indirect taxes which raise prices – a truism. Here it is those who wanted tax cuts at all costs, even if at expense of the poor, who are antisocial and lack solidarity.  Even the 4Ps (link) which could help many out of poverty are now being considered for removal.

Will the poor in the Philippines get even poorer and risk getting shot as drug suspects, or just stay poor and hope to be “raised up” by the existence of their Lodi Duterte? Many urban poor during Martial Law idolized Imelda Marcos. Will Filipinos now acquiesce to new masters, even idolize them, while these smugly take their seat? I really wonder.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3 June 2018

 

 

A concerted effort against him

Passion of Christ-Bearing of the Crossis what Duterte calls the ICC preliminary investigation (link). Isn’t that a bit like a counterflowing driver in Manila who sees everybody driving the wrong way around? Funny though that in Manila, those who insist on their right of way against such jerks can be seen as obstructive. So it might well be that Duterte might get sympathy for effectively showing contempt of court, painting himself as a victim of oppressive foreign forces – even if he is seen as a coward by many already. That might just be my “yellow” (Westernized, educated) bubble though, just like those who sympathize with Chief Justice Sereno. Who knows what the typical man on the street or the OFW in Saudi Arabia thinks of CJ Sereno, does he see her as an arrogant bitch who refuses to leave even if “many people” (link) don’t like her as a boss anymore? Or didn’t people ask Maggie Dela Riva once “how it feels to be responsible for the death of four men”? (link) Her answer was: “I’m not responsible for the death of four men. They did it to themselves. They had the power of choice. They chose to be evil. They had to meet the consequences of their action.” They had raped her, a famous actress, back in 1967.

Facing the Consequences

Dela Riva’s idea of people having to face the consequences of their actions seems downright quaint if one looks at the sad state of the Philippines today. The President himself, quintessential Filipino everyman, shirks the consequences of his actions. Leaves the ICC, tries to impeach a Chief Justice who admonished him due to drug lists that included judges, puts a Senator who tried to investigate extrajudicial killings in jail based on testimonies of alleged drug lords who now have been released by his own Secretary of Justice, gives the mastermind of the pork barrel scheme Witness Protection and will most probably use her testimony against political rivals – while many of those originally accused are free. Or isn’t there a Vice-Presidential Candidate over 60 who still acts like a petulant, spoiled dictator’s teenage son who refuses to acknowledge obvious defeat in the last elections? He may well be still able to rig things, much like Admiral General Aladeen of Wadiya in “The Dictator” (link) who has servile minions rig a sprint for him while shooting down those who get too near. Counterflowing drivers, wang-wang politicians, children of dynastic politicians – similar attitudes.

Even in middle-class families it can be bad enough. One woman who dared take her philandering husband to court for bigamy in the late 1960s was vilified by her husband’s folks – he got pity. Spanish colonial accounts of Filipinos in court mentioned that each side tried to show up in as large as possible numbers to make it look as if their own side was right. For me, one of the biggest culture shocks when coming to Germany was reading that courts really give smaller sentences when a culprit shows a sense of regret. Filipino courts might see it as drama and give a greater sentence. Friends might tell the culprit what kind of fool are you to admit, stupid enough if you get caught! There is no true presumption of innocence in the culture. And indeed – corruption, extortion and dishonesty prevail. Mila Aguilar said in a Facebook post that the Juan Pusong (link) or trickster attitude is quite common among Filipinos and that Duterte is a prime example of that Visayan folk hero. And there is a certain disbelief among many that the Daang Matuwid government of former President Aquino could ever have been that honest. Some examples of possible bias are mentioned.

Them or Us

There are pressures to be biased. There was even once a Filipino overseas association where the clique of its President tried to pressure him to rig a raffle so they could win the main prize. There can be enormous petulance and even a sense of being treated unfairly if one is not favored. The massive incompetence of most Duterte appointees is an extreme manifestation of this attitude. At least most appointees of the previous President were competent, even if there always will be some favoritism in this world, even in the corporate world with its harsher, more competitive winds.

And though there may have been some rigging the game in the previous administration, the present administration is downright antisocial in its ways, just barely even minding the legality of matters. The pre-Marcos elites were monopolistic and exploitative for sure, but a certain sense of decency and at least keeping appearances kept things polite. Even the Marcos era tried to maintain a certain veneer of legality and propriety. Nowadays one has a sense of piranhas in the water, biting away. And a constituency that mostly does not seem to mind if poor people die – for their peace of mind.

Do Others Matter?

Possibly not much different from their President in showing (link“gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness”. One only needs to look at the dirt in most Philippine urban waters – notable exceptions like Iloilo City prove the rule. Or also a “grandiose sense of self-entitlement” – or what do barangay councilors have who build their houses on allotted green spaces as I recently read? Or wang-wang convoys, or counterflowing drivers. My way or the highway. Sing My Way the wrong way and you might even get killed. When is the point reached where society barely exists and most people act in an antisocial way? Rule of law becomes a farce the moment everybody cheats, from top to bottom. Where the call for violent solutions is sheer desperation. That all did not happen overnight. A society where people become ruthless, ready to “violate the rights and feelings of others” (also in Duterte’s psychological report) may already have started to develop in times when people laughed at a child made to dance ridiculously at Wowowee. It may have been there when people took smiling pictures of themselves in front of the bus where Hongkong tourists were killed.

The roots of it may even go as far back to people reelecting known rapists like Mayor Sanchez and Governor Jalosjos. There is not necessarily ruthlessness there, but indifference that tolerates evil. Or that accepts evil as good if it is for one’s own convenience, like for example “clearing the streets”.

Such a system eats itself up at some point. Rules become merely tools for winning instead of being there to guide the fundamental consideration for others that should be at the heart of any society. Yes, others. Even those – whose heads one hunted before. Culture and civilization are about that.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17 March 2018

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

Dengvaxia until 2015

Dengue fever symptomslooks clearer to me now, after my first article (link), the Senate hearing (link) and more research. After the 2012 SONA where President Aquino mentioned initial successes in dengue prevention, there were newspaper articles which mentioned a rise in dengue (link), doubting its success. What I wonder is if the increased spread of dengue is related to climate change and to rapid urbanization in the Philippines – with the slums that result, the stagnant pools of water you often have there and of course a population density that makes it easier for the mosquito to travel from person to person.

Phase 3 Tests

The development of Dengvaxia goes way back, but the two most important Phase 3 tests started in June 2011 – one in Asia and one in Latin America (link). CYD 14 (Asia) had over 10 thousand volunteers while CYD 15 (Latin America) had almost 21 thousand volunteers. The active phase of CYD 14 ended in December 2013, that of CYD 15 in April 2014, with Sanofi reporting the success of Phase 3 some months later (link). Phase 3 is needed to apply for approval. The Philippines played a key role in all three test phases (link): 3,500 children were from the Philippines, setting up clinical trial sites in Alabang, Muntinlupa City (Phase 1); Barangay Del Remedios in San Pablo City (Phase 2); and Barangay Guadalupe in Cebu City along with Barangay Del Remedios (Phase 3) with Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding, head of the Department of Microbiology of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)  – an agency of the Department of Health – playing a key role (link), including writing key scientific papers (link) and even experiencing how her own child got dengue (link). Seems the most important seroprevalence data came from San Pablo (link).

Since national data on seroprevalence (how many % of the population had virus exposure) did not exist, it was extrapolated to some areas where dengue is endemic (link). Some might consider this a doubtful methodology, but then again such authorities as Balik-Scientist Dr. Edcel Salvana have mentioned approximately 87% as the seroprevalence (see my previous article) and I see no reason to doubt that they are right, give or take a certain margin. He also writes (link) about why he sees the vaccine as good – if used properly. What is also important, however, is that the Phase 3 studies (link) included an active phase of follow-up for one year after the last dose of vaccine in the series (25 months from dose 1) and include a hospital-based follow-up period of four additional years. The follow-up phase for the Asian phase 3 study seems to have ended in November 2017.

A related research paper (with Dr. Capeding as a co-author) says that in the ongoing longer-term follow-up (from year 3 to year 6) to assess safety, we are monitoring the incidence of hospitalization for dengue as a surrogate end point for disease severity in order to evaluate a potential predisposition in vaccinated persons to increased severity of disease. I do wonder if there is a relation between the planned end of the follow-up phase and the warning by Sanofi not to vaccinate seronegatives (people without any virus exposure) anymore due to risk of severe dengue.

Getting Things Ready

In July 2014, then-Health Secretary Enrique Ona (link) sounded quite confident about the new vaccine (link) and the hope then was that it would be out by July 2015. The success of the Latin American study was announced by Sanofi on Sept. 3, 2014 (link). President Aquino met with Sanofi representatives on Nov. 9, 2014 (link) which was pretty soon after these events, then a year later in Paris on Dec. 1, 2015 when he was there for the Climate Change Conference – a meeting that was openly mentioned in the Philippine press (link), not done stealthily as some are insinuating.

There also was a dinner in Paris in May 2015 (link) involving ex-Secretary Garin and Sanofi, and before that Sanofi submitted papers for Philippine FDA requirements in January 2015 (link). Mexico, Brazil and the Philippines (link) approved the vaccine in December 2015. The end of December brought a number of events which were seen as rushed, which President Aquino in the hearing explained as being in order to get things done in his term, saying the new administrations often lose time in the beginning, and also explained why budget maneuvers were needed (link).


Now for Questions

Assuming the best (which I do now after having seen how Aquino acted at the hearing) there are still a number of questions. There were still some years of observation being conducted, who knew about this and who was (not) informed including possible risk factors, if already known then? As for monitoring, Dr. Melgar who was with the DOH when the program started has this to say (link): I know that the Family Health Office and the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH have been doing due diligence in monitoring all adverse effects from the beginning. Sounds properly done.

Dr. Salvana would be the right person to ask on seroprevalence, and on why certain extrapolations were considered OK. I am satisfied with that for now, what I computed in my previous article still stands – those who WILL get sicker should be few. And I believe Aquino didn’t know the science.

What one knows

depends on eyes, ears and brain – and on their human and man-made extensions, meaning the people who inform and educate you. We all know about the information overload modern social media brings with the world practically spilling into our brains, including all sights and sounds. What more is a President constantly subjected to a barrage of information? So he needs his people. To filter what is important and what is not, to give him what he needs to be able to make decisions. What if they mislead him? He has to counter-check if possible. Mayors in cities have it much easier.

It is I think possible to get an intuitive feel for a city. Mayor Duterte may have known Davao in and out, therefore being instinctively able to tell bullshit from truth. At national level it isn’t that easy. Spurious drug lists have shown the limits of an intuitive, seat of the pants approach to governing. At national level and even more in specialized areas, one may need to have additional sources. Seems that the Presidential Management Office would have specialists (link), even if I am not sure if they are used as extensively and as focused as the staff of Germany’s Federal Chancellery (link) which has the job to (translated from German) obtain and keep ready the information the Chancellor needs for his/her work. Its divisions mirror related ministries and directly contact them for detailed information: Division 1 for interior and justice, Division 2 for foreign, defence and development affairs, Division 3 for social, health, labor, infrastructure and social matters, Division 4 for financial and economic matters, Division 5 for Europe and Division 6 for intelligence matters. With a nerve center like that, no need to rely only on Ministers – who are also politicians after all.

How one leads

Could it be that Aquino relied too much on his Cabinet members alone? A second opinion is good not only when one goes to doctors privately! It may be even more crucial in matters of state. The fact that ex-Secretary Garin now seems to have connections to the other side is a bit interesting. Somewhat like how PNPs Napenas was a candidate for an opposing party in the 2016 elections. Trust, but verify is usually better. And even a highly efficient apparatus can be sidelined at times, as was shown recently by the controversy in Germany regarding the herbicide glyphosate (link).

Another possibility is what I sense – that Aquino tends to push through with things he wants to do, at some point no longer reconsidering. That is a very Filipino trait which his successor also has, as in the Philippines, too much reconsidering can make one lose respect. The other side dislikes it, yes. But there is to me not much evidence of significant counter-indications known at that time, at least in a form understandable to laymen or managers. Specialists speak in details, managers think in terms of consequences, that gap must always be bridged whether in IT – my field – or elsewhere.


My personal opinion

There are terms like “lighthouse customer” for those who adopt a certain product first. Sometimes vendors (in any industry including mine) manage to make lighthouse customers pay normal prices. Other customers negotiate a deal which fairly considers their role in being one of the first to buy. Possibly the Philippines bought too many vaccines to soon at a slightly too high price. Asking for a refund is a maximum demand Sanofi will probably not accede to. But maybe a rebate as not all things were really made clear, since around 800 thousand kids will have to be monitored and a few, hopefully very few, may have to be hospitalized, is an idea. Sanofi does not want the PR damage from a long public conflict – nor does the Philippines want to look like a backwater where they accuse foreign firms of witchcraft. There are many ways forward. But let us look at 2016-2017 next.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 15 December 2017

Italian-American Vanessa Hessler

Vanessa Hessler @ Wind Music Awardsor “Alice” was fired by Telefonica Germany in late 2011 for publicly supporting the Gadaffis, calling them “normal people”. One of the sons of the dictator (link) had been her ex-boyfriend. Certainly normal compared to the likes of Uday Hussein of Iraq. Most people are normal if you don’t care about what they did – I am sure the Marcos family is friendly in person. Vanessa Hessler, blond, looong-legged, blue-eyed, was simply “Alice” to me then as the face of the new brand Alice DSL – later to become O2 DSL after Telefonica / O2 bought the original Hansenet.

Showbiz and politics

Miss Philippines Rachel Peters told Filipinos to “trust Duterte” (link) and to “give Mocha Uson a chance” months ago. Now I will admit that I found the reaction of the German public, which pushed Telefonica to fire “Alice”, exaggerated in 2011. And that she was close to a powerful man like the son of Gadaffi wasn’t anything special to me. My values still were a bit different then. Guess the person I was six years ago would not have cared about Rachel Peters being the girlfriend of Governor Villafuerte of Camarines Sur – the political family Leni Robredo (link) once challenged.

Binibining Pilipinas-International Mariel de Leon went against Mocha Uson in May (link): “She insults those who are against her. I’m not for her, I’m not for the other side (whatever that may be).. it breaks my heart to know someone like her got a position in the gov’t. There are so many [other] unbiased, educated, and respected (and respectful) people who deserve her place.” and got flak for it. Inday Sara Duterte, Mayor of Davao and Presidential daughter, even admitted to (link) a “Schadenfreude moment” when Mariel de Leon did not become Miss International. Wonderful.

Politics for people

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Sereno is under attack (link) by the Philippine Congress. What she already has done in terms of reforming the justice system (link) is recommendable, as the issues clogging the justice system and keeping it far from the masses have lead to an attitude of distrust. Probably her efforts were not fast enough to dispel Duterte and his extrajudicial shortcuts – most especially the approval for such within the population – but one must give her credit for work done. It takes time to rehabilitate run-down systems and organisations. Did she have enough support?

Most of all, she understands something many may NOT have understood yet (link): protection of human rights can only be fully accepted by our people if we have a truly functional justice sector. A justice sector does not function if the investigative and prosecutorial services are not doing their jobs. When people complain about criminality, it means they are clamoring for genuinely effective investigation, case build up and prosecution. Impunity is engendered because no one is being caught for crimes that our hapless citizens are suffering from. And when murders and rapes are being committed in such frequency and gore, you must expect people to be angry. They will not understand if you try to protect the right to life of a drug suspect, when the community is of the belief that drug addicts are the perpetrators of these crimes.

Hope more on the liberal and law-and-order sides of Philippine politics realize this way is correct. Even Rizal realized this in his time, criticizing the Spanish colonial justice system and praising the British colonial one. The one Singapore still has, to name a city idolized by so many Dutertians.

Politics for show

For the opposite of result-driven politics, Grace Poe comes to mind first. The Dutertian side will name Leila de Lima as a drama queen. She did have her CHR work, and as SOJ a hand in the German-sponsored draft of a better Penal Code (link). Even then I wonder why Duterte was seemingly no longer being investigated in the time of President Noynoy Aquino. Could his support for him have been the reason (link), the threat of possible investigations guaranteeing his “loyalty”? There is the term moro-moro for staged political confrontations, based on a folk drama (link).

I watched a moro-moro in Ilokano once at the UP Theater as a child. Lots of bluster by the Christian and the Muslim king, to the respective other king and to his followers. Then loud, smashing music like Blue Rondo a la Turk or Balkan folk music, both kings and their followers rise, move back and forth on the stage, crossing swords but never fully bumping into each other, with one group running away backwards at the end. It was funny, with both kings jumping exaggeratedly and pushing their bellies forward. Abroad in 1986, I asked myself if EDSA was just moro-moro.

Marcoses were allowed to return. The pursuit of their ill-gotten wealth was very slow I think, skeptics like me then tend to ask if it was just for show. Imelda acquitted in the Philippines. Nowadays, I wonder why Roxas and others only show their teeth now, when they are charged (link) – having tolerated a bit too much, too long in my point of view. Where I am skeptical, many directly affected are cynical (link) as little seems to move forward. More of the likes of Sereno – and  VP Leni and Risa Hontiveros – are needed I think. Also, less drama and beauty queens in politics.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 26 November 2017

Wadapak is happening

Martin Andanarone might ask, hearing recent news about Panelo. Not much in the EU, if one is to believe Andanar. Oversexed and underpacked EU officials have not yet asked me when Andanar will conduct a goodwill tour of Europe, with USec Lorraine Badoy and Asec Margaux Uson in tow, as baggage. Might become the most joyous moment in the life of “whites” since Magellan’s men landed in Leyte. Maybe even more joyous than when they arrived in Cebu! Or is more to be learned from the Filipino nation? Learn to procreate again, dear Europeans, and don’t care that much about every single human life?

Most European populations have remained practically static while the Philippine population has increased around fivefold since the 1950s. Filipinos are definitely overpacked now, like sardines. Whether they are overfucked is another question, considering how HIV is rising (link) it could just be carelessness, and the drug war may even worsen it (link). Mayhem and disease like in Africa? Sodom and Gomorrha, while those who live morally upright like Senator Sotto will survive it all? Unfortunately, Senator Pacquiao will have no more excuses if he comes home to his wife infected.

There used to be a repressive aspect to Filipino elite culture, even if the days when one had to pretend to disapprove of premarital sex are practically gone – certain things are untenable in the modern days of the Internet. Well, even during the days of Marcos sexual content served its purpose in keeping the masses distracted. No matter what USec Lorraine Badoy may say about the European Union, a teen/minor like Pepsi Paloma (link) never could play a bold role here legally. The sultry Isabelle Adjani was 28 when she played a vengeful temptress in One Deadly Summer.

That was 1983, the year I turned 18, and today I am surprised I didn’t notice Adjani’s “age” at all. Germany. Nude pictures, bolder than those of Mocha Uson today, in every tabloid. Coin-operated vending machines for condoms in men’s bathrooms. Strong education campaigns when AIDS first came into the scene. I start working in McDonald’s to earn money for my driver’s license. A year later, in 1984, some young people are amused when the Green member of parliament Joseph “Joschka” Fischer calls Bundestag Vice-President Richard Stücklen an asshole – on national TV.

Fischer was known as the first to come into the German parliament in sports shoes in a time when everybody else came in suits. The Green party had its roots in the “1968ers”, hippie-era rebels against the rests of Nazism, stuffy conservatism and the Vietnam war (plus the USA). Fourteen years later, Fischer became Foreign Minister in a coalition with Chancellor Schröder. He was well-liked in Washington, against all odds. Rebels have to grow up, at the latest, the moment they assume power and responsibility. True rebels do, as they have a mission. Mere trapos don’t.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 28 October 2017