Posts Tagged Politics

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

 

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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European Union assistance

Global European Unioncan have conditions – with audit, policy or business reasons. Much comes from public debate over here. Audit has to do with not wanting EU money to disappear without helping anyone except a few third-world politicians. I am pretty confident that modern audit practices in the EU keep things from happening like what some pro-Duterte trolls insinuated during the election: that EU money for Yolanda help went to Mar Roxas and the Liberal Party. If the Philippines were an important counterpart of the EU like Russia or Turkey, such allegations would have had serious diplomatic repercussions.

Policy reasons such as human rights are very important. There was a major change in thinking towards more progressive ideas in the late 1960s and early 1970s within the Western world. This was noticed even by President Marcos when the USA was under President Jimmy Carter. Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss got criticized in the German Parliament for giving his friend Marcos a pistol. “We shouldn’t help dictators” said many socially conscious groups in the West. There is a bit of a backlash now with Trump, but the EU will still hopefully remain different.

Business reasons nonetheless still co-exist with policy reasons. One might call the EU hypocritical, but in a pluralistic society, multiple interests shape policy. So some development aid does indeed promote products and services from the donor country. If it is given, no problem, but spare parts can become a cost factor. Imagine getting an inkjet printer free, the kind that needs expensive ink. Expect that aside from the socially conscious groups in EU countries, there are the business groups that will argue: “we shouldn’t be just giving them money, we should earn something out of it also”.

There are NO dictates against sovereignty in any of these deals, as nobody is forced to enter into them. The EU likes to work with different kinds of treaties – starting with its internal treaties which indeed force the member states to give up some sovereignty in order to be part of a stronger whole. The Euro and the Schengen agreement are important aspects of the EU which not all member countries have joined. There are non-EU countries which have some degree of association with the EU: Switzerland, Norway and Turkey for example. Finally, most EU countries are NATO members.

GSP+ privileges for fruits and other imports of the Philippines was a measure to help, the strings attached merely adherence to human rights – freely agreed upon by the Philippines in 2014. No one will care too much if these privileges are cut in January 2018, except the Philippines. Some fruit companies in warmer parts of the EU, including Caribbean provinces of France, might rejoice. Most of what the EU public has seen so far is headlines about Duterte threatening the European Union. Does he really expect anyone to be scared? Annoyed maybe. Possibly into choosing other options.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 21 October 2017

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Insulting People’s Intelligence

Ronald dela Rosa 073116 (cropped)seems to be a Filipino specialty. Remember Rolando Galman? He was also conveniently dead. Or Mayor Espinosa? “Fought back” when being arrested – inside his cell. Now the gunman at the Resorts World Manila is dead after.. what: getting shot, shooting himself, burning himself – in what order and which of the options are true? Somehow hard to believe he wanted to steal only chips. And how did he get into a casino with a “Baby Armalite”? In Manila where even malls are guarded by security?

The motto of this blog is “the first duty of a man is to think for himself” – something the Cuban Jose Marti said. He was Jose Rizal’s contemporary. Somehow I don’t remember Jose Rizal having written anything similar. Bonifacio much less – he seems to have been the traditional Filipino kuya or elder brother, took over the father role early. I don’t think traditional Filipino families promote much independent thought. What elders say is truth, questioning their opinion is like questioning their authority.

So you see a lot of people repeating the arguments of “Tatay Digong”, “Ate Mocha” – and occasionally even SolGen Calida. Often things brought forth are total nonsense. But from the family onwards through the authoritarian school system, Filipinos are not trained to really think for themselves. Asking WHY is the first step in learning. Unfortunately there are so many who see WHY as questioning not a specific conclusion, but the person being asked and his judgement. They know no “polite inquiry”.

The problem of police killings may indeed be less bad as assumed by the opposition. But the attitude of the administration – brushing away all inquiry, refusing to clarify what really happened – leaves the field to the critics and increases possible suspicion. In fact the pissed-off attitude of President Aquino when inquiries came about Mamasapano also made those who did not like him more suspicious. But putting oneself in the other person’s shoes is even more un-Filipino than inquiry. So forget it.

Not having to confront inquiry also makes those in leadership succumb to lazy thinking – a natural reflex we all have, but I have seen how persistent inquiry keeps you on your toes and prevents you from making the usual simplistic assumptions. Genuine inquiry leads to sharper thinking, especially if one has good sparring partners. This is why I hope that Filipinos continue asking questions – and media helps piece the puzzle of Resorts World Manila together. Hopefully before a stupid Senate hearing starts.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 2. June 2017

 

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Studying its villains

Ravanamay have brought Germany much further than the Philippines studying its heroes, buried or not. Are those unworthy of emulation – “huwag tularan” – more important in teaching national lessons? The Philippine cult of heroes always was suspect to me. During martial law, it was suspected that some supposed leftists were mere agents provocateurs to get idealistic youth to show their colors. Working part-time at the Philippine Embassy in Bonn in February 1986, I saw how the new government telexed straight from the Wack-Wack golf course – while people were still at EDSA.

For every young idealistic Isagani or Basilio, there have often been enough jaded, cynical Simouns using them for their own agenda. This has cut through all ideological fronts in the Philippines. Culture of entitlement in fact makes this nothing special for many – it is very much unlike kings of old who led their men in battle, or captains who had the ethic of leaving their own ship last. Good people often get sacrificed in the Philippines – Andres Bonifacio and Heneral Luna, anyone? Or sidelined when no longer needed – think of Mabini, who unfortunately couldn’t walk his talk.

Many in the generation that experienced February 1986 are disillusioned by how the groups that then came into power, and afterwards, continued to mismanage the country. Were the “yellows” too far from the common people, was the left too ideological and power-mad, the right too corrupt and Macchiavellian? I don’t know. But principled leaders were few and usually too weak, I think. Germany also created a new constitution in 1949. It had less lofty-sounding ideals than the Philippine 1987 Constitution. But Germany’s leaders saw to it that its goals became reality on the ground.

Mistakes are there to be learned from. Airline pilots have said that the safe flying of today is due to lots of crashes that happened in the past – and how many lessons were learned by analyzing them. What is good about the present crisis in the Philippines with regards to the burial of Marcos is that the history of Martial Law is being reviewed – what happened, maybe not enough what led to it. The analysis of how post-1986 governments continued Marcos-era mistakes like wholesale labor export and allowing Metro Manila to grow uncontrolled – to learn, not to blame – hardly happened.

And it takes sustained effort to build a country. How often have Filipinos run after mere hope? Or mistaken leader’s vanity for “willpower”? The Filipino youth of today, the Millenials, seem to be more concerned about the future of the country than many had hoped. Now I hope they are less naïve than generations before them. I hope they do not let themselves be used by any group or person. It will be after all their future they are deciding on in times to come. How they will live when they are around 45-55, around 30 years from now. All I can do is wish them strength and perception.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. November 2016

 

 

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A telling statement

President Rodrigo Duterte 080816was made by President Duterte recently: “if I reach six years, you’re all dead” with reference to his perceived enemies (link). Sounds like a zero-sum player, and one of the most extreme kind it could be. He mentions that he is not new to “these kinds of intrigue in office, starting with his more than two decades as Davao City mayor”. This attitude could indeed be typical for the no-holds barred South, where the Ampatuan massacre killed an entire “enemy” entourage pre-election years ago. The phrase “Don’t scare me, you people from Manila” also falls within that interview and is telling.

Warlords dominated provincial politics after the United States left in 1946. The book “An Anarchy of Families” by Prof. Alfred McCoy mentions a few. Aguinaldo also was a bit of a warlord, although he denied any involvement in the killing of Heneral Luna by his own praetorians, the Kawit Brigade, it is historically documented that Aguinaldo’s mother looked out of the window and said “nagalaw pa ba iyan” in Cabanatuan – “is he still moving” – after the Kawit Brigade overkilled the heroic General. Marcos’ dictatorship, now well-documented, could be called centralized warlordism.

Some civic society developed after 1986, but it remained on shaky ground. Impunity continued to reign, the further away from the control of the state the more. Rebel groups that turned to extortion and kidnapping controlled pockets of the country. Stories of local government officials having alleged criminals summarily executed abound in the last 30 years. All of this – the product of a tribal culture overlayed with a formally legal and democratic state. Other countries developed states and cultures out of tribal and warlord configurations over hundreds of years of history. The Philippines didn’t.

Formally and rationally – he IS a lawyer after all – President Duterte knows the mechanisms of the Philippine State. From the gut, instinctively, the warlord mentality seems to comes out way too often. Where his heart is, I do not dare speculate on. Only a minority of Filipinos, I think, truly appreciates what a modern state is all about. And how, if it never was part of the reality of so many? If it was, it was just about government offices and courts, speaking a language most did not get, often acting haughty and inflexible – Duterte simplified some things there, part of his mass appeal.

The elites of the country are mostly in shock, as they lived in a world of their own for too long, denying the festering troubles of a society grown ever more apart (link). The anger at the old system was evident during the pork barrel scandal, then during Mamasapano – even if it was misdirected against a President who was trying to fix a difficult system within its parameters. Now there is a President who apparently de facto rejects the defined formal parameters. Will the country manage to redefine its system, improve it long-term, or fall into total chaos? I wonder. Time will tell.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 16. October 2016

 

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