When Bridges Collapse

Bridge ruins through the Donskoy Chulek Riverand people mostly get wet like in Zamboanga today (link) – just rebuild them. Diplomatic bridges burning like those to Kuwait recently (link) are more serious. The EU-Philippines bridge still stands, even if there have been differences (link) – with most of the drama on the Philippine side. One should remember that the EU Parliament represents the people of Europe, and that there is a sizable segment of the population that does not want to fund governments that harm their people. And of course the EU has strings attached to its help – it wants to develop allies with similar values. Every major player in the world does. And so do major political groupings. Why does the Naumann Foundation, close to the German Free Democrats (Liberals, also color yellow over here) invite the Liberal Party with VP Robredo to Berlin? Why does Akbayan partner with European Socialists?

Bridges and Respect

Bridges are important in this world. Some may be at times heavily guarded and seldom crossed, like in Cold War days the Glienicke Bridge or Bridge of Spies between West Berlin and Potsdam. Bridges between people and groups are even more important. One major bridge is mutual respect. The Mogadishu rescue operation in which German commandos stormed a Lufthansa plane held by Palestinian terrorists only got to “roll” when the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff – who was onsite at the airport in Somalia – personally asked the Somalian President for permission by phone, and got it. Ever since borders have fallen in Europe, police may cross borders in hot pursuit of criminals – but must radio their colleagues in the next country to take over the chase. Italian police help out on one particular weekend of the Oktoberfest when many Italians come – to keep them in line as guests.

Now what would happen in the case (highly improbable) that Italian police saw it fit to interfere in a fight between, let’s say, drunken Italians and equally drunken Australians protecting their girls from Italian advances – a kind of fight which is indeed possible given the ways of both countries? Not just mediate and talk to the Italians, separating the crowds, but dealing with the Aussies also? Forget it. No more Italian police in Munich next year, I am sure. But that isn’t happening for now. Serbian police hitting Albanian soccer fans (link) is more likely – the Balkans are a lot more tribal. Now how about maids in Kuwait? Yes, one died. Many may want to leave, but already seemed to have been some cooperation in place between Kuwait authorities and the Philippine Embassy. If escapes were necessary, there are discreet ways to do that. But it seems Mocha wanted a presscon.

Bridges and Borders

Fools. Kuwaitis have dealt with a real occupation by Saddam Hussein. And Arabs have their pride. Cayetano’s strangely worded “apology” saying (link) “We are apologizing for certain incidents that the Kuwaiti view as a violation of their sovereignty” in combination with the arrogant demeanor of Cayetano sounds somewhat like saying “oh, we didn’t know you were that sensitive”. Coming from a country, the Philippines, that is known for hypersensitivity to foreign criticism – not only during this administration but even before, even making a big fuss about Spanish biscuits or American TV. But that same country is arrogant, even pushy when it comes to defending even Filipino criminals in other countries. Now things have gone beyond the usual wars of words. Filipinos have crossed a real red line and ACTED in a foreign country. And not just caused shame to Kuwait by filming it.

There is allegedly a story in the Middle East where two sons allow the neighbors to steal their goat. The father tells them to get it back. More bad things are done to the family, every day. The father keeps repeating to them to get back the goat. Meaning: restore respect, restore old boundaries. Europeans also have their boundaries – the deportation of European politician Giacomo Filibeck was specifically mentioned in a speech of a partymate in the EU Parliament (link).  The attack on him was seen as an attack on all. Strangely, Duterte has not reacted with his usual personal slurs. The warning of possible trade privileges being taken away (link) was part of the recent resolution. No need for drama at all. What else is there to deal with except Duterte and the Philippines? Well, there are millions of refugees, restive Russia, troubled Turkey, a now-difficult USA, and Syria and..

Bridges you burn

True, a Filipina was killed in Kuwait. Might have been that some wanted to leave their employers. But if you already agreed to work with Kuwaiti authorities, you stick to it. Lodge a protest if they don’t let certain maids go. And the EU? If you sign agreements that your dried mangoes, among other things, may be imported without customs duties into the EU and one of the conditions is that you adhere to human rights, then don’t complain. Nobody in the EU is telling Duterte what to do. Simply giving a fair notice – something Boracay never got – of consequences to the relationship.

There was a woman from Mindanao I knew who liked to say “that’s unfair!” in a mock-sissy tone. Fairness is for sissies some do think. Fair or not, “you have to die one death”, they say in Bavaria. Meaning you have to make some choices. Tokhang or sell your dried mangoes duty-free to the EU. Be decisive. “He who dies earlier is dead for much longer” is another Bavarian saying. Real strange. But maybe it means eternal life and rest in peace. And at some point decisions are forced upon you. It is fair if you know your choices well in advance. In contracts, laws, treaties. In daily life as well.

Mutual trust is the second aspect of bridges of understanding. Fairness and predictability breed it. Even if the Philippines miraculously were able to get rid of Duterte, many might not trust again. Even an intact bridge might not be one people cross if they are unsure of what is on the other side. Unpredictable and unfair shakedown artists – or reliable partners of all sorts? A bridge can have gates that are closed on one side. Kuwait has temporarily closed its gates. What is most likely next. Which bridges will still collapse? Which bridges will be burnt, built, restored? Or even abandoned?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 27 April 2018

Kneeling before Duterte

RamsesIIEgypt(his picture) was what two youths in Davao were forced to do by police recently (link). MAYBE they should be happy they were not shot in today’s Philippines. But MAYBE not. Is it normal to make young people revere a President like a God-King? Did the Philippines ever have its own Pharaoh? Datus in smaller communities, rajahs in bigger agglomerations like Manila or Cebu, but rajahs were basically paramount chiefs controlling an alliance of chieftains. There was certainly a hierarchy. It is documented that commoners had to prostrate themselves before datus. The most complex hierarchy probably was in Manila and the surrounding Tagalog regions. The Tagalog language itself has not only “po” (also documented by early colonial chroniclers) but other forms of courtesy in it, and is probably the most complex of all Philippine languages in its pure form.

Courtesy and Dignity

Not quite as complex as Javanese with its Kromo (polite), Ngoko (informal) and Madya (medium) styles of speech, but effectively similar to Chavacano (link) which although it is a Spanish-based creole has distinct formal and colloquial forms of speech. Now is Duterte speaking Ngoko to all? Someone told me that he indeed sounds more like a gangster boss speaking to subordinates than a street person talking to other street people. He lacks something traditional Filipinos, even some of the most simple peasants used to have – BEARING. Most traditional Asian people still have it. Indonesians for example have nearly the same polite body language as traditional Filipinos, I just recently observed. Duterte tells Middle Eastern nations to treat Filipinos with dignity (link) yet exudes little of it. In fact he gives OFWs the signal that it is OK to be sloppy, rude and plain stupid.

Contrast that with Vice-President Leni Robredo. Recently, she said that Lorraine Badoy is not worth talking about (link) – and that Mocha Uson is not a good example of a government employee (link). With the simple good breeding that is hers, and is far from being artificial or “plastic”. Contrast Duterte with Ombudsman Morales, who refuses to implement a patently illegal order by the President to suspend her own Deputy (link) and is now being threatened with sanctions by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo (link). Contrast that also with Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who has so far defied all attempts to make her appear before the dubious impeachment proceedings against her in Congress. Women who will not kneel before Duterte. Now when will Congress find time to impeach Morales? Too many fronts to fight on.

Bilibid or not

Meanwhile, it seems Chinese drug lords have taken over Bilibid (link). Prof. Vicente Rafael says: “Far from being a site of discipline and punish, of panoptic surveillance and reformation, the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa is a haven for privileged drug lords and other gangsters where they enjoy the protection of guards and other higher ups to run their rackets. It is like a country within a country, or better yet, a mirror reflection of the country itself, where wealthy boss-criminals live in comfy apartment-cells with expensive lounge chairs and special rooms for conjugal visits, keep lots of cash and guns, and govern the place while the lesser con men, petty crooks and the innocently framed know their place and follow orders.” Speaking of innocently framed, the case against De Lima looks flimsier each day. Shouldn’t Aguirre be blamed this time?

Crazy suggestions like having Chinese ships patrol Sulu and Celebes Seas are being slammed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano (link): “I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” he explained. Aside from the fact that even Machiavelli already recommended alliances among equals as smarter. With regards to Benham Rise, oceanographer Jay Batongbacal of UP in a long post (link) debunked the statement of Presidential spokesman Harry Roque that “Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise” – making clear that Filipinos had done plenty of expeditions by themselves for years.

Do not complain

Towards leftist UP students protesting, Duterte threatened to replace them with Lumads or children of soldiers (link). The reaction has been to stage bigger protests next time. The interesting thing is that Duterte had threatened to bomb Lumad schools (link) before for alleged leftist links. The kind of ideal Filipino that Duterte seems to want is a non-complaining, non-thinking person. Probably even beholden to him via utang na loob – a value which was valid in the older settings from which it originated as a cement for personal loyalties as well as cashless give and take, in times when communities were still small and intuitively manageable. An instrument for making people subservient in early colonialism, and increasingly unbearable as modern times approached, because the key factor in modern societies is merit, not indebtedness. Like at UP – ever since 1908.

The Philippines is in a major crisis these days. Struggling with plenty of legacies and hang-ups. But to reject practically all institutions including UP, the Constitution and democracy – for all their imperfections and contradictions to the already contradictory and confused Filipino culture – and then throw away even natural dignity and bearing, yes even respect for one’s fellow man in the culture itself – to finally have a gang-like rule backed by the Chinese both legally and illegally – is WHAT? National suicide, and I am not even talking about ill-conceived, rushed, fake Federalism. There is a lot more to keeping a country together than forcing the young to kneel before Duterte. Even the Japanese emperor always knelt before Amaterasu, the Sun-God (link). Even Kings knelt before Popes in medieval Europe. Higher principles always guided good rulers. Not just EGO.

Datus of old had people prostrating themselves before them. But they did not have guns and gold like Filipino politicians from the 20th century onward. Not even goons, as ancient warriors had to take real risks in battle – and only had bladed weapons just like peasants had their bolos. And even in Spanish times it was easy to go up the mountains. Today people have less escape and recourse. But Filipinos have also been known to be like carabaos – patient until “enough is too much”, like Popeye famously says before eating his spinach. And modern developments have created a society more complex than in 1521. Professional elites may have more chances of leaving the country, and what if more than the MRT will break down? Will Mocha and Tulfo fix things? Will Dante Jimenez and Persida Acosta cure diseases like modern-day witch doctors? Will Robin Padilla teach Tagalog?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 February 2018

 

Sandcastles in Boracay

Gdański Festiwal Rzeźby z Piasku 2009 mnisineed a permit which costs per day (link) – or else police kick them down. Amusing to read from the land of alleged over-regulation called Germany. I wonder if a municipal ordnance of that kind (link) would even be legal over here. The goal of preserving the “natural symmetry of the beach” would fall under Landschaftsschutz or landscape protection over here in Germany, but I doubt if any judge here would accept measures that temporarily change the appearance of a landscape as relevant. Somewhat like advertising on a car is legal here as long as it can be driven away anytime.

Keeping things orderly

Thus, Giesinger Bräu, one of the newcomers in the Munich brewery scene, often has a small car parked on a road leading from the Goetheplatz underground station to the Oktoberfest – during the time of the Oktoberfest were many people can see. I don’t think it is a coincidence, but as long as the car is not violating any parking rules, nobody can do anything. Now the problem of Boracay seems to be people asking for money to have pictures of those sandcastles taken. Well, that might be a matter for the Ordnungsamt over hereYes, Ordnung means order. The Office of Order.

Mark Twain wrote that long German words sounded like parades with marching music included. The tune played can be a fine. Even the places on the sidewalk where pubs and restaurants are allowed to put chairs are delineated by fine white dots. Place the chairs outside the dots, color outside the dots so to speak, and the Ordnungsamt passes by and sees it – fine. You pay a fine. Get caught doing any kind of business you have no city hall permit for, even just selling cans of Coke to people in the park – fine. Pay one. Put up a stand in a flea market – pay the fee, they will collect it.

Levels of jurisdiction

These are not cops, although they can be accompanied by cops or call them if they think necessary.  Just municipal employees. They also check for the enforcement of the smoking ban in Bavaria. Imposed by a referendum since 2010 (link). Every German state has a slightly different rule here. The Federal Constitutional Court (like the Supreme Court) decided that the implementation of EU rules to protect the health of non-smokers is Ländersache – a state matter. Just like shop closing laws since 2006. In Bavaria shops must close by 8 p.m., in Berlin there I think are no limits.

The old Federal law from the 1950s, once meant to protect retail employees, was loosened gradually over 30 years. Used to be shops closed at 6:30 p.m. every day and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Only on Sundays and on public holidays, shops still must remain closed in all states – something which is harder to change as it is in the Federal Constitution, brought in by conservative Christians who did not want Sunday to be commercialized. Social Democrats did not say no to a day of rest either. Youth protection laws (age for buying drinks etc.) are Federal. Noise protection laws are state-level.

So what can cities still decide, except what part of the sidewalk may have chairs on it in summer? For one thing, they can decide which parts of the city are to be free of prostitution – legal over here. But in Munich, the Sperrbezirksverordnung defines a Sperrbezirk (restricted area) which is most of the city (Verordnung means ordnance) of Munich, save commercial areas where there are almost no residences, schools or similar. Berlin I think has no Sperrbezirk. In conservative Munich, families and kids are kept away from “the trade” – whose legality in Germany is very controversial.

Flow of money

But where do the different levels – municipal, state and federal – get their funds do to their jobs? Aside from taxing brothels of course, which would be paying Gewerbesteuer or trade tax just like any store, gasoline station or car repair shop. Gewerbesteuer is a fixed percentage of income tax or Einkommenssteuer times a Hebesatz or multiplier. Municipalities that want to attract business will have lower multipliers than those like Munich which have high multipliers. Municipalities even get to keep 15% of all income tax, 42.5% of which goes to federal and state levels respectively.

This is an incentive of course to try to attract not only strong businesses but also good earners. There are people in Munich who complain that “the Social Democrats like to attract low wage earners because those are their voters”, but the incentive to attract professionals is still higher than in the Philippines with its Lina Law for informal settlers and its population-based Internal Revenue Allotment for Local Government Units. Meanwhile here in Munich, there are more that now write that housing for working-class people is getting too expensive. Success has its problems as well.

How about stores with branches – the usual model nowadays as the old Mom-and-Pop stores (Tante Emma Laden in German) are becoming less and less? What I have understood is that the likes of SM in the Philippines pay their taxes only in the place where the headquarters is. Since there is nothing like the Gewerbesteuer over there, it probably does not matter. Here in Germany, chain stores with branches in many municipalities have to divide their income taxes to provide the basis for the business tax to be paid in each municipality. The law for that is a bit complex (link).


Delegation and Subsidiarity

Sand castle in Kaunas, Lithuania - panoramiois defined as dealing with matters at the closest level possible to the citizen. Thus, no German has to go the the Federal Foreign Ministry to get a passport, or the Federal Interior Ministry to get a national ID. Both are applied for at city hall, even if the actual printing of both in done in Berlin. Driver’s licenses and car plates are applied for at the Straßenverkehrsamt or “Street Traffic Office” which is also municipal level – not at any Federal or State Transport Ministry. The rules of course are usually made at Federal level. Most significant databases are managed federally or at EU level.

Of course municipalities take care of their own matters as well such as water, garbage and drainage – or kindergartens and cemeteries. This is aside from the tasks delegated to them by the federal level (Auftragsaufgaben is the composite word for that, Hi Mark Twain) . Schools are also partly a responsibility of municipalities, but also a state-level responsibility – yes education policies are coordinated federally but each state has its own policies, ensuring healthy competition. Health centers and hospitals are also a mandatory municipal function. But here the next level may help.

In Bavaria these are the government districts (Regierungsbezirke) which pool resources of the municipalities in them and also get help from the state level for specialized clinics such as drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment. Specialized schools and academies may also be put up by the districts. Subsidiarity can mean that certain other matters can be delegated to district level. The district of Upper Bavaria, for example, takes care of air traffic and mining in its geographical area. Further north, the Cologne district makes the speed limits for the Autobahns within its own area.

Top-down and Bottom-up

This is all reminiscent of a large corporation where you will have global policies that are uniform over all location, national policies that take local conditions (including legal requirements) into account, and a few local specialties which will not be many in a typically well-run multinational. Usually this works because people tend to adapt. And of course in a corporation people want to earn their money. In nations you need the buy-in of people more than in a corporation, because they can of course vote governments out of power, or resist governments they dislike in many ways.

Top-down measures are based on command and control while bottom-up relies on community. Bohmte, a small town in Lower Saxony state, has gotten rid of all traffic signs (link). Of course, the first rule of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (traffic law) still applies which roughly says (link) that all have to pay attention and give consideration. Plus the basic right of way rules. I guess this works on a small scale. The human mind and heart did evolve in small Stone Age communities. It might not work in Lower Saxony’s state capital Hannover, much less in Munich or in large Berlin.

Berlin still has “only” 3 and half million people. Metro Manila officially has 13 million people. The only megacity worldwide which seems somewhat orderly is Tokyo. Japanese style order of course. And sense of community in a very closed society. Metro Manila has many different income levels even if all are Filipino. Filipino style order never really worked. I remember how people im Metro Manila always muddled through on unwritten rules and it somehow worked. At a density of people where Central Europeans would not budge or even stampede. But I guess it can wear people down.


Agglomeration and Distribution

Ultimate Sand CastleCertainly smaller cities can be more livable. But why does Munich, which had only 1.2 million people around 20 years ago and now has around 1.4 million, not try to prevent further growth? An article about the New York Subway provides a clue (link): Cities create density, and density creates growth. Economists call the phenomenon agglomeration. Not only does geographical proximity reduce costs, but it also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and spurs innovation. But neither did the USA or Germany just have one central place where everything happened, like in Manila.

Distributed growth is also important. In fact Germany has rules for how richer states should help poorer ones. Bavaria was a donor state for the first time in 1989 after being a recipient for long. Leaving behind major areas of any country, just like leaving behind major groups of people there, is always a recipe for disaster. And different agglomerations competing is healthy. Thus you have Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne as cities with a million people at least. Frankfurt might have a million population during the day when people come in to work, most of them via suburban train.

Finally you have the connections between major centers. Munich to Cologne, Munich to Berlin are just over four hours ride in a high-speed train nowadays. Net travel time just a bit higher than flying. Exchange of goods, ideas and people energizes all places. But this was built over centuries. Many German cities in the Middle Ages were free imperial cities (link) under the Emperor and not any local prince. Examples are Frankfurt and Hamburg. Others like Berlin, Munich, Hanover or Stuttgart were capitals of kingdoms. Others under major rulers like Cologne with its Archbishop.

Keeping energy flowing

Free imperial cities had more self-government and thus developed a more confident citizenry, used to earning their own money and managing their own affairs – Hamburg being a prime example. The port of course and centuries of trading with others honed a pragmatic form of cosmopolitanism. Others developed modern elites in the 19th century due to the ambitions of their ruling classes. Bavaria (link) and Prussia excelled in the war for talent during those days. Frankfurt and Cologne both benefited from their role in the middle of major trading routes and along major rivers.

Frankfurt’s momentum of course was helped along by its becoming the de facto hub of West Germany after the war. That and its being a major place for American military presence until the early 1990s made it attractive for international firms and made it more cosmopolitan than before. Cologne had the luck to be close to Bonn which was the provisional capital of West Germany – this included the airport the two cities share (link). Many factors made Munich move up after the war – my impression is that city and state worked together well, even under different political parties.

Getting priorities right

In fact it was the two major political parties that just brought out a plan for the future of Munich’s public transport system to connect underground and suburban lines better, connect growing areas and make capacity for the future. Making the pie bigger for everybody instead of quarreling over who gets a larger slice. This is what makes me more confident about here and less hopeful about the Philippines, where the pie was growing – but those who have the most were too “hungry” to wait. And now plan federal sand castles – without a true master plan, and without alternative solutions.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 January 2018

25 people died

Crystal Meth Rockdue to crystal meth last year in the Free State of Bavaria where I live. The police here didn’t shoot them, although they once helped the Philippine National Police (link) professionalize. A program that is suspended now – good as I don’t like my taxes helping Tokhang. Some Filipino hardliners might say, yeah yeah, Germans and especially Bavarians were really good before, but were forced to become bleeding hearts by the Allied Powers who defeated them once. Well, let us have a look at things and then compare. First of all at the main source of the drugs.

Sources and Effects

Vietnamese markets in the Czech Republic seem to be the main source of meth in Europe (link) as a high police official says in a feature by münchen.tv, a local internet TV station here in Munich. The buzz one hears is that Vietnamese gangs (link) are behind meth production in the Czech Republic. Bavaria and Saxony are most strongly and increasingly affected (link) for a number of years now. Cross-border police cooperation helps. Czechs have 200 more investigators now, Bavarians say. Czechs say Poland should improve controls on certain medicines used as precursor chemicals.

The 25 died because of the dangerous drug methamphetamine. Some of the things a Filipino former user described (link) and more are summarized in recent articles in the Bavarian press (link): aggressiveness, nausea, hallucinations, sleeplessness, risky sexual behavior short-term; organ damage, heart attack, stroke, teeth falling out, paranoia and impotence in the long-term; also with the possibility of severe damage to unborn children during pregnancy. In the extreme, it can lead to delusions and psychosis (link) leading to aggression and violence – as bouts, or even longer.

Bavaria fights back

Bavaria has now practically declared meth to be a state enemy. So should the Bavarian police shoot me, or the Indonesian tobacco vendor next door, to scare off potential Vietnamese drug gangsters? First of all, newspaper reports clearly mention that there are even groups of drug users who take short trips to the Czech border to get meth in Vietnamese markets. For that (link) there is a lot of undercover work going on in the border area, with Bavarian and Czech police forces cooperating. Health centers offer help to users. Seems police and health centers work together closely also.

I can imagine that a person who falls into the trap of addiction is more likely to help the state if he or she trusts them not to punish him or her – and can assume they are not in the pay of drug lords themselves. Of course nobody will say how often tips from health centers help police find dealers, and how dealers either singing or their mobile phones revealing the routes they drive and the people they call, meaning their suppliers. A recent movie on Bavarian TV, and recent movie spot sponsored by the Ministries of the Interior and Health of Bavaria, additionally raise awareness.

Conservative versus reactionary

What a contrast with the still prevalent attitude among some Filipino authorities, that raising awareness will make people even more curious and teach them how to do it – for example “draags”. My late teen years in Germany, when heroine was the dangerous drug, showed me otherwise. Novels and movies like Christiane F., based on the life story of a former junkie and teen prostitute in Berlin, warned young people of the dangers. A combination of health and police work dried out the scene. I worked at McDonald’s Bonn near the train station in the mid-1980s, saw the junkies.

Heroine is not much of an issue anymore in Germany, it seems. And yes, there was also the policy of giving methadone to junkies as a bridge to kicking the habit. There were even stations where junkies could get clean needles – to prevent AIDS from spreading more. Bavaria as far as I know never gave out needles like more liberal states did. Bavaria is conservative. What Bavaria is NOT is reactionary. The present Filipino drug war approach of half-truths, misinformation and fear-mongering is reactionary – and hardly effective, I think. Let time tell which approach succeeds.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 18 November 2017

 

In order to build a More Perfect Society

Cacique Ron Antiguoreplaces “..build a just and humane society”  of the 1987 Constitution in a draft for a Federal Philippine Constitution (link). More perfect society sounds like Thomas More’s Utopia. There is an article from 2016 by Professor Tony La Vina already makes an uncanny comparison (link):

Superficially speaking, Duterte’s Philippines, at least in its treatment of human rights and the role of law, is not very far from Thomas More’s Utopia. In More’s world, lawyers are actually prohibited and citizens are assumed to know exactly what the law is, what right and wrong is, and are expected to comply with all the rules laid down by the state. In More’s Utopia, punishment is a certainty for those who transgress the law. In More’s imaginary world, the justice system is always fair and so human rights is not an issue. Its respect is assumed. Unfortunately, both the assumptions of an educated citizenry and an excellent justice system do not hold for our country..

How do we respond to Duterte’s Philippines? Unfortunately, the book Utopia does not give us good answers to this question. Sadly, utopian literature frequently justifies human rights violations in the name of achieving a better, more perfect society. Therein lies the danger and the tragedy that is unfolding in Duterte’s Philippines. It is not a perfect world; government makes mistakes, including terrible ones. ..

The rest of the constitutional draft remains similar to 1987, with too many words at the end of the preamble (link): “a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace” – which can mean anything, as we know since Orwell’s 1984, or Imelda Marcos’ interpretations of truth and beauty.

Or Grace Poe’s swearing allegiance to the United States. Among many Filipinos, including public officials, there is a lot of fake oath-taking. In Bavarian folk tradition, you had to at least keep your fingers crossed behind your back while swearing an oath you had to take, but did not mean to keep.

What nations want

The 1935 Constitution had three main goals that are clear: independence, to preserve patrimony, and general welfare (link) with a “regime of justice, liberty and democracy” to achieve them:

The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence, in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a regime of justice, liberty, and democracy, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

I think the Americans of before knew what they wanted in the Preamble of their Constitution (link) – clearly unity, justice, tranquility, defence, welfare and liberty for themselves and their posterity. It defines clearly how Americans wanted to live then and in the future:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Swiss Federal Charter of 1291 went straight to the point with a one-sentence intro (link) – but one can distill similar ideas out of it – common good, peace, defence:

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

  1. In view of the troubled circumstances of this time, the people and communities of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden promise to assist each other by every means possible against one and all who may inflict on them violence or injustice within their valleys and without.
  2. Each community shall help the other with every counsel and favour and at its own expense in the event of any assault on persons or goods within and without the valleys and to this end have sworn a solemn oath to uphold this agreement in confirmation and renewal of a more ancient accord..

The 1987 Constitution and even the Federal draft both still say in their preambles: “promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure.. independence and democracy under the rule of law” – now do these things still matter for Filipinos today? Or their leaders?

The Philippines Today

Common good. Stickers for drug-free homes, drug tests for aspiring students. The citizen as a suspect, as a potential danger to a more perfect society? What perfection is aspired to, is it the paternalistic Heavenly Peace of Chinese thought that gives its name to Tiananmen Square?

Some of its islands, its fishing grounds – its patrimony. Seems they have been sold for trains and loans with not so low interests. Mining – is it properly regulated and taxed so the country as a whole benefits? And general welfare. Are Lumads, Moros, poor people still harassed for being in the way?

Federalism and putting barangays on a leash may in fact lead to a Philippines similar to the colony under the encomienda system of before (link) only with regional political families in a role similar to encomenderos and local families being like the principalia or datus subservient to them.

Killings of families like the Espinosas and Parojinogs, bad as they may or may not have been, even warnings by the police chief involved in both to others (link), do not bode well for those leaders who do not toe the line. Like for datus that refused to serve King Philipp II or his successors.

Attempts to ignore the will of the people are now showing themselves towards Vice-President Leni Robredo. Would the powers-that-be let her lead a Bikol state in case the people there want her to? Real Federalism is about self-determined communities working together for mutual assistance (original Swiss Confederation) or towards a “more perfect union”  (USA) – not society or possibly even “New Society”. And especially not fiefdoms assigned to the entitled by.. whom? Who are they? Do they really embody the will of the people? Do Filipinos indeed prefer to be led? We shall see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 11 August 2017

 

 

 

A Malay Leader

Joko Widodo 2014 official portraitis in Hamburg these days – representing his country in the G-20. Joko Widodo if dressed like the crowd would not stand out in most parts of the Philippines, he smiles much like a Filipino yet manages to look dignified at the same time. He is even eyeing that Indonesia join the Financial Action Task Force or FATF (link) – something the Philippines is far from even imagining (link).

President Duterte on the other hand looked terrible in badly worn military clothing on his attempt to go to Marawi (link) – stopped due to bad weather. The wrong undershirt and loafer shoes with weird socks. Most Southeast Asian men manage to look better in slippers and traditional peasant clothing, yes there are pictures that show barely clothed native warriors with enormous dignity – like those of Eduardo Masferre (link).

Hare and Tortoise

Indonesia became independent 3 years later than the Philippines – in 1949 – and was seemingly way behind then. Yet I have heard stories that unlike the Philippines, they bought the houses and lots of their Embassies in Europe way back in the 1950s and 1960s. A minor detail, yet it shows more strategic thinking. Other evidences were how students abroad were taken care of, and how technology was not only bought, but skills transferred. Today, Indonesia builds its own naval boats.

In the 1960s, the Philippines was richer than South Korea and behind only Japan. The Deutsche Mark and the Peso had a 1:1 exchange rate. Of course photos of Manila then showed big American cars, and English-speaking Filipinos often considered themselves superior to their fellow Asians, even until the 1970s just laughing about them. Now Indonesia is helping the Philippines patrol common waters (link) and is clearly positioning itself as a regional leader (link) – even in opposition to China.

The strategic aspect

Indonesia had enormous crises, including a spate of killings in 1965 that by far dwarf anything the Philippines has ever seen, even now. And the Suhartos are also in the notorious Top 10 most corrupt worldwide list – together with Marcos and Estrada. So what has made Indonesia succeed, and the Philippines seem to keep having phases of growth that turn out to be wasted momentum in the end – the 1960s, the mid-1990s, and most probably the recent boom as well? Maybe also the 1890s. And the 1930s.

My previous article dealt with how many Filipinos like to show off materially, spend on consumerism. Napoles’ daughter partying with Justin Timberlake comes to mind. Or the need to send one’s kids to Oxford at all costs. Another article (link) dealt with Filipino impatience in wanting to buy the latest technology always – without slowly building the capabilities to handle it. The MRT-3 fiasco is one result. Indonesia for all its mistakes managed to have people like B.J. Habibie (link) in leadership positions. There are also those who say that inspite of all corruption, the Suhartos at least spent most of their money in Indonesia, unlike the Marcoses who bought jewelry or condos in New York. Economically speaking this makes sense, as local spending fuels local jobs. And of course it is smarter to develop own industries like Habibie managed to do. Somewhere I read that German public transport is heavily subsidized. But where does Germany most probably buy its train parts? Not abroad like the MRT-3 does.

The cultural aspect

The Malay language (link) existed as a lingua franca throughout the region, making it easy to establish Bahasa Indonesia as a national language, without the conflicts that the Philippines had with Visayans rejecting Tagalog as the national language. English is fine, but it is probably easier if your school language is related to your language at home. I know Germans who had to learn High German in Grade 1, having spoken a dialect at home. But at least the structures are similar, making it easier to “migrate”.

As for state: the old empires of Majapahit and Sri-Vijaya were on future Malaysian and Indonesian soil, respectively. So there was already an idea of how a real state works – unlike the Philippine state which was established colonially and still is a bit of a foreign body for many Filipinos. Often it seems that the Philippine state is seen as spoils of victory to be exploited, like in colonial times – not as something of long-term value to be maintained properly. Plus Filipinos act as if their leaders are personally known to them, using first names. And as if a state could be run like a barangay, where the datu whimsically changes the rules based on favoritism or mere caprice, where the favors of the state automatically accrue only to those who support the winning datu. The principles of utang na loob recently seen in President Duterte’s giving positions, or who was taken along on government trips, as if the presidential plane was merely a balanghai, a ship of the datu. Or Duterte’s personal view towards both AFP and PNP.

Back to dignity: the native elite of the Philippines was coopted first by the Spanish, then by the Americans – and even by the Japanese for a while. They usually managed to act like snakes shedding their skins for new languages and styles – to the extent that they are seen as foreign by many Filipinos. Colonial criticism of Filipino natives was also used by native elites to keep their countrymen in place. It is no small wonder that the behavior of Duterte and his group often resemble a caricature of the Indio as described by the most racist among Spanish friars. And that their attitude is the exact reverse of colonial racism which put foreign whites above native whites, mestizos below whites and natives at the lowest rank – with the strange exception that it places the Chinese where the whites used to be, and seems to a favor a number of Chinese mestizos. The damaged self-esteem caused by colonialism is at the root of many dysfunctional behaviors, including what is happening just now. Those perceived to be “oppressive” are hated on: the UN, the USA, the EU, educated people, old middle classes, the Church. Those perceived to be “lower” are put under pressure: Filipino Muslims (link) and slum dwellers for example. Weirdly, affirmation is looked for among those one claims to hate: “NASA and the Best President in the Solar System”, anyone? The language/learning issue and the barangay mentality are easier to fix than self-esteem. Maybe wearing clothes properly is a start? They don’t have to be new.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 8 July 2017

 

 

 

 

Punitin ko iyan

Pantaleon Alvarezsabi ni Alvarez. Hindi panty ng kabit ang tinutukoy. Creative imagination ko lang iyon. Hatol ng Korte Suprema lang. Papel lang ito para sa isang astig na taga-Mindanao. Astig na babaero pa man din. Hindi baklang dilaw. Kailan ba sumunod sa batas-batas lang ang taga-Mindanao? Sa tao sila sumusunod. Sa mga Misuari, Maute, Duterte. Ang batas dilaw. Ang batas bakla. Para lang iyon sa mga nagpasakop sa Kastila at Merkano. Ang tunay na batas ng Pilipino, sumunod sa nakakataas. Mataas si Alvarez.

Maski raw sa NAIA3 kasama ito sa gulong nangyari. Basta ang alam ko, hindi nabayaran ng buo ang bagong airport. Pero bakit naman magbabayad ng utang sa Aleman? Mayaman naman ang Aleman, mahirap lang ang mga Pilipino di ba? Makaganti naman sa mga dayuhan na puti. Lalo na iyong mga hindi na astig ang dating tulad noon. Bakla na sila ngayon, noon todo-todo silang pumatay ng Pilipino sa Samar, sa Bud Gak. Ang Intsik at Ruso – brutal pa rin ngayon. Diyan bilib ang tribo ni Duterte.

Kami at Kayo

Tsaka ano ang silbi ng Konstitusyon na pagbabasehan ng Korte Suprema. Gawa-gawang dilawan iyan. Anong taon? 1987. Panahon pa ni Koring dilaw iyan. Kasisimula pa lang ng Alsa Masa. Bago pa lang si Mayor noon. Tagal na niyan. Bakit pa susundan kung ayaw na ng mga tunay na Pilipino. Sino ang mga ito? Siyempre tribo ni Duterte.

Ang tribong dilaw, unti-unting sisindakin at pagbibintangan. Hindi nakalusot iyong kay Aguirre kailan lang. Pero di bali, paiimbestigahin pa rin kahit walang basehan. Hindi naman mahalaga ang totoo at hindi para sa tunay na astig. Basta “pinaninindigan”, kahit mali, nagiging tama. May naaalala akong isang taga-Pagadian, gustong palabasin na hindi raw tunay na Swiss knife iyong isa kong Victorinox na orihinal. “Pek iyon, pek!”. Siguro paulit-ulit na sinungaling, totoo na. Bilib na talaga ako.

Patay kung Patay

Iyong mga pumatay kay Mayor Espinosa, homicide na lang. Hindi naman daw murder dahil kailangan premeditated iyon. Tama naman, e nag-meditate ba sila Marcos (iyong pulis) bago nila patayin iyong isang Mayor na hindi importante? Common sense lang, common sense. Tsaka napatestigo nila iyong anak ni Espinosa kontra kay De Lima, hindi ba napakabuti nito para sa bayan? Kalaban si De Lima. Pagkat lahat ng kalaban ng pinunongbayan, kalaban ng bayan. Sino siya para kalabanin si Meyor.

Hindi iyong Meyor na Espinosang patay na. Meyor Duterte siyempre. Sino si Inday na may magarang machine gun? Hindi, iyong matandang sira-ulo! Si Misuari? Hindiiii! Iyong ina-idol ni Robin Padilla! Ahhh… iyong Sultan ng Sulu na nagpalusob sa Sabah! Hiiindiiii! Tagal na niyan. May mga bibitayin na raw sa Malaysia.

Sino iyong mga iyan mga Maute? Hindi, mga alagad ng Sultan! Kawawa namaaaan. Ulol. Mga Maute dapat bitayin din natin. Oo nga naman. Unahin si Bam Aquino!

Tsimis sa Barangay

Bakit si Bam Aquino? E di ba kasasabi lang ni Aguirre na kasabwat siya! Pati na rin sila Trillanes. Malamang si Hontiveros at De Lima kasama din. Basta sabi ng mga tao.

Tsaka talagang ganyan. Noong araw daw sa Tsina, merong Gang of Four. Pati kriminal na nagsisisi, binabanggit ang pangalan nila bilang masamang impluwensiya. Siyempre uso na ngayon ang lahat ng pamamalakad na galing Tsina. Sila na ang kinakapitan natin. Di ba Red Guards noon, kapag sila nagbintang, walang tumututol?

Mas epektibo nga. At mas tugma sa tunay nating kultura. Kapag natsismis ka ng Pilipino, patay ka dapat. Ang bintang ng mga taongbayan iyon ang dapat MASONOD! Batas-batas, human-human rights, konsti-konstipasyon inutil ang mga iyan, kaartehan lang. Punitin na natin. Tanga! Konstitusyon hindi konstipasyon. Basta ayaw ko na rin ng konstipasyon, pahingi nga ng saging na SABA para matunawan ako. Tapos basta alam ko na kung kanino ako sosonod, mga batas na iyan nakakasakit lang ng OLO!

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, ika-9 ng Hunyo, 2017 sa kalendaryong Kristyano
(unang taon ni Digong, sa bagong kalendaryong Pilipino)

 

 

 

Consensus and Enforcement

Marcos Declares Martial Lawkeep public order – in that order. Without fundamental agreement on the basics, no amount of force will work. Martial law and drug wars are EMERGENCY measures. Hobbes did have a pessimistic view of human nature, that without a strong central authority (linkeach person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world, leading to a “war of all against all”. Sounds like the notorious culture of impunity in the Philippines, or the road rage and counterflow in Filipino traffic.

Enforce what order?

Trouble is that Hobbes makes the assumption that you can form a state that imposes order from a disorderly people – something that many banana republics have shown to be impossible. Miyako Izabel, an anthropologist from Mindanao, rightly asks (link): May mga sundalo o pulis na magbabantay sa walang taong kalsada sa tahimik na gabi. Magrorosaryo ba ang mga ‘yan? Mag-iisip po sila ng raket. Meaning that the power of Martial Law may lead corrupt elements in authority to start rackets.

The Philippine consensus is in theory the 1987 Constitution, but many do not really know what it means – probably not even the President. Ideally the Constitution of a nation should embody the General Will as defined by Rousseau (link) as the common interest embodied in legal tradition. The Swiss have that in their legal tradition dating back to the first Federal Charter of 1291 (link) which starts with: for the common good and proper establishment of peace, the following rules are agreed..

The Philippine legal tradition is of laws imposed from above by colonial powers and then by the educated elites who failed to reach most of the people – or did talk to the people but these simply nodded without understanding or asking questions, a legacy of colonialism AND the Philippine class system. In practice human rights meant little to poor people who could often be put in jail for years on end without a trial, or now are often shot as suspects – or to indigenous people in logging or mining areas.

Insiders and Outsiders

It is with insiders that a certain consensus starts. The US Declaration of Independence at first did not mean blacks and women. Nor did the Swiss at first give equal rights to certain areas conquered by the Canton of Bern, leading to rebellions especially among French-speaking Swiss (link). And Mindanao was only turned over to Filipino administration in 1920 (link) leading to this: Moros complained of inexperienced Filipino officials who abused their powers; harsh suppressive measures of the Philippine Constabulary; mysterious deaths of Moro leaders who opposed Philippine independence.. and the continued immigration of Christian Filipinos into Moroland. (page 26) But there also were those like  Teofisto Guingona.. first Filipino to head the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes in 1930, introduced.. “New Deal Policy” for Mindanao aimed at preventing unrest and promoting the integration of Muslims into Filipino society. (page 27) This is inviting outsiders to become insiders.

A President from Mindanao should have been able to handle things better. Martial Law in Mindanao labels his own area as the Wild South once more. He was born elsewhere and moved to Mindanao in 1949, when his father moved there (link) and is part of the complex history of the island. Yet such a person should know that the atrocities of Marcos’ Martial Law in Mindanao made many Muslims feel more like outsiders and is at the root of many of today’s problems. My impression has also been that each successive Philippine administration had its own favorites among the Muslim ethnic groups, playing a mixture of postcolonial politics and Malay alliances. This does not seem to have changed with Duterte – while his predecessor seemed to favor the MILF, his friendship with Nur Misuari is very openly known. The recent cut of EU money may for all we know have been aimed at the DEPAdev project (link) among others, which is about empowering political parties and civic society in Bangsamoro.

Republic of Trapos

is what the Philippines has been since Aguinaldo. There was the Kartilya of the Katipunan (link), Mabini’s Dekalogo (link), followed by Quezon’s Code of Citizenship and Ethics (link) – but the habits of power of the political elite, formed out of a mix of (post-)colonialism and Malay social structure, proved stronger than nice words. Bonifacio was executed by Aguinaldo’s troops. Heneral Luna was murdered outright. Quezon built not only the 1935 Constitution but most of the institutions that persist until today. Yet right after World War 2, warlords began to control many provinces of the Philippines. Then came Martial Law which turned Constabulary, Police and Armed Forces into de facto private goons for a Supreme Warlord and his clan. Then came democracy, but in many parts it unravelled into de facto culture of impunity. There is the 1987 Constitution, so often ignored in practice and often a bit like the piano in many Filipino households that is never played – or the so-called clean kitchen for display only.

Duterte has called himself owner of Malacañan and of the Philippines on various occasions. He makes no more pretense of cooking anywhere else but in the dirty kitchen. Is this a wake-up call for those who pretended the Philippines was a modern nation – while armed groups thrived in so many places and only Leila de Lima investigated some killings in Davao back then? How will the General Will of the Philippines be defined and lived? Will it be with more inclusion and follow-through than in 1987?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, May 25, 2017

Defend What Republic?

Forum romanum 6k (5760x2097)one is tempted to ask in the recent discussions on Solicitor-General Calida’s call to “Defend the Republic” and the responses to it (link) – not only because the Republic does not coincide with the President or his supporters. Any republic, but especially the Philippines, will in fact I think consist of three Republics and their respective intersections:

  • The Political Republic – the groups in power and how they interact.
  • The Street Republic – the people on the street and their day-to-day issues.
  • The Idealistic Republic – those who want to make the country a better place.

Populists are at the intersection of the Political and the Street Republic. Socially conscious people cross between the Idealistic Republic and the Street Republic regularly – Vice-President Leni Robredo has done this for many years. And there are those who keep the Political Republic from harming the Idealistic Republic – an ever-present danger given the nature of power.

The latter group can include – depending on one’s point of view – Supreme Court Judges in the United States, military officers in Turkey, the deceased King Bhumibol of Thailand, French public intellectuals, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom and more. There is no really strong institution of that sort in the Philippines, not even the Catholic Church. Just some occasional persons.

There are of course those who make sure that inspite of all idealism, the needs of the man on the street are met. In Germany I think of the efficient police and justice system to deter crime, as well as the encompassing system of social security to prevent massive poverty and the resulting crime and unrest. Memories of the Weimar Republic have faded, but have fortunately not died.

In addition to that, the man on the street has to KNOW that his needs are taken care of. Or others will offer to take care of those needs, and misinform him that these needs are taken care of. Hopefully the public education system of most European states has remained able to maintain a level of mass education that will keep the populists out of power – the coming times will show it.

The Philippines today paints a picture of the strong usually just ruthless, the good often timid and not rooted enough, and the man on the street barely able to make ends meet, much less understand what is really going on. Political, Street and Idealistic Republics seem too far from a central point to form a sufficiently large intersection. A real res publica, meaning “public matter” in Latin.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 17. March 2017

Them or Us

Arch enemy patronaatseems to be the central idea of many pro-Duterte people. Senator De Lima is in jail, Trillanes is “next” and trolls are trying to make Vice-President Robredo’s late husband look corrupt or worse. Strange that there was never any indication whatsover of anything while he was alive, or during his widow’s campaigns for Congress and Vice-Presidency, given the viciousness of Filipino politics.  Even those who were critical of many of Aquino’s policies praise Jesse Robredo (link) – and Tony La Viña is known as having been critical of the Arroyo and Corona cases and Mamasapano/Purisima.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona has this to say about Filipino hyperpartisanship (link): And there’s the major cause of this country’s problems. We rail against injustice. We condemn short-cuts. We fulminate against abuse of power. And then we turn around and do the same things all over again. It’s very tribal – and that’s an insult to tribes. It reduces our democracy to a battle among playground bullies. Kill all those who won’t come to our side. We insist on slapstick and simplistic solutions. It’s a never ending settling of IOUs and payback against others.

In that article, she described how now Secretary of Justice Aguirre covered his ears when Senator Miriam Santiago berated him. And in a recent comment on Facebook, she reminds some people (link): Remember how you made Vitaliano Aguirre into a “hero”? The Corona impeachment trial showed the fault lines of our so-called political democracy …  And yet another article shows the dangers of hyperpartisanship (link): Thoughtlessness makes group membership more important than ideas.. If the source is my group, it is wise and good. If the source is the enemy, then it is evil. 

Santiago of course had the behavior of a strict principal – but also very firm principles. This could have been one reason why she was considered “crazy” in the Philippine setting. Many Filipinos are like kids – they behave when the principal is around, and revert to their real selves when she isn’t. Then all that counts is one’s barkada. Or by extension, one’s KKK, ka-whatever the context is. So it becomes like fraternity rumbles – one brod complains, the others come out to defend regardless of the cause. And possibly, there is someone delivered to UP Infirmary at night, with ice pick wounds.

Of course President Duterte does not like the testimonies of people like Lascañas and Matobato – but they should be faced and dealt with, especially by one who has boasted about killing in the past. There are no more strict American principals around to admonish anyone! If you want a code of killing as the new Constitution that reflects “true Filipino values”, just have the balls to do it! Will it be like the (fake) code of Kalantiaw (link) which says when to feed to crocodiles or to ants, or punishes those who go against chiefs? I would not be surprised at that, just a little bit sad for everyone.

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 5 March 2017