Ignorance is Blessed

Leni Robredo's family July 2016 (cropped)seems to be what those bashing Aika Robredo believe. Do they think it is better to be Sandro Marcos, studying abroad because of his father’s money? We all know the attacks at Mar Roxas for allegedly not being a Wharton graduate, when all he did not do were graduate studies, which you do after you become a graduate. Before that you do undergraduate studies and get a Bachelor. Obviously Roxas is no longer a bachelor. He is married to Korina. But Aika Robredo is a Harvard scholar. That is in itself a mark of excellence. Knowledge is a significant national resource. The USA imported exiles from Europe to build the atom bomb, and Wernher von Braun’s team for the space program. That Russia still is where it is now in international terms is due to the enormous respect they have always had for the learned in their culture. Yet the Philippines today shames the smart, following the US/Trump trend.

Education versus Snobbery

Part of the hatred against the educated comes from how education was misused by many in the Philippines – as a mark of status, not as a tool for life. And of course quality education is hard to attain for those who are poor or where no English is spoken at home. MTB-MLE in K-12 (link) tries to fix that by teaching children in their mother tongues in the first years of school, which is “meant to address the high functional illiteracy of Filipinos where language plays a significant factor. Since the child’s own language enables her/ him to express him/herself easily, then, there is no fear of making mistakes. It encourages active participation by children in the learning process because they understand what is being discussed and what is being asked of them. They can immediately use their mother tongue to construct and explain their world, articulate their thoughts and add new concepts to what they already know.” To put it simply, they know better WHAT they are talking about – thereby truly learning.

Theory and Practice

The significant gap between theory and practice, concrete and abstract in the Philippines is due to bad quality education. Some theorists might truly believe that the Philippine Constitution is really applied in practice – even though the realities of impunity and armed groups negate that. Or long jail times for the poor, bail for the rich. There are the split-level Christians who pray to God in Church, just after having been to their mistress the night before. Hopefully they at least confessed Sunday morning. There are the total pragmatists – to whom the President belongs – who believe in quick-fix solutions that have no permanence. Theory is thought of as unnecessary, only (short-term) results count. I actually hoped that he would at least see that the justice system needs fixing, and use his position and his power in Congress to get that done. Or to fix the laws which are old and cumbersome. But he does not see beyond his experience as Mayor, where he had no other choice (in his thinking) except quick fixes.

Engineering for Results

The engineers are rare. Those who bridge the gap between the theory of scientists and the daily work of technicians. Engineers do not seem to be highly respected even. Somehow the class-based thinking in the Philippines dictates that you are to be either a scientist (higher, clean) or a technician (lower, dirty). And please don’t tell me nobody needs applied science for results. Drive a BMW X3 or X4, and appreciate that it does not fly apart at 200 km/h to know intuitively that it DOES matter. Or rely on software with the length and breadth of SAP on which major corporations worldwide run, and you know what an investment in a properly designed system means. I could start lecturing about how duplicate checks for incoming invoices – with corresponding payment blocks to prevent accidental payment – reduce risks in SAP FI (finance). One wonders if there was something similar to prevent or at least mitigate the risk of duplicate transactions in the bank software of BPI (link), mentioned very recently.

How about the project engineers? Secretary Abaya of DOT, inspite of an intelligence that let him enter Philippine Science High School, may have lacked certain skills. Those who manage even parts of large technology (or building) projects really well have my respect. You have to coordinate multiple experts and non-experts, even workers, make them summarize their stuff, understand it, summarize for others, prioritize, push people, reward good performance and more. Then stuff like the overnight move of the Munich airport in 1992 (link) becomes possible. Just one-third of that in the Philippines might end in a bonfire of Filipino vanities, both educated and less educated – and a Senate hearing. With the engineers blaming the drivers, the drivers hating the arrogant engineers and managers, and politicians trying to grandstand. Somewhat like after Mamasapano. Skilled workers, engineers, top scientists – is is any wonder so many never return? Will that get worse in today’s de facto bobocracy?

I wonder about how much – or how little – exchange of data, information and knowledge takes place between police, public prosecutors, judges and legislators with regards to the drug problem – in order to really solve it. I have read of police complaining about public prosecutors throwing out their evidence after long investigations. Why not cooperate in advance to avoid that? Doesn’t necessarily have to be like in Germany, where public prosecutors offices are in charge of investigations and the police work for them after a certain stage. I have read that Duterte’s blanket protection to cops is because they are removed from the service, without pay, as long as they are under investigation for anything. Is it not enough just to suspend them? Intelligence does not have to mean lack of common sense, or vice versa. In the Philippines, it seems to.  Running a really modern state (that is more than a facade) requires applied knowledge, at every level and skill. Will the Philippines get that on time to get its act together?

Irineo B. R. Salazar

München, 29 June 2017



60 poor families

Oliver Pelton - Benjamin Franklin - Poor Richard's Almanac Illustratedwill be involved in building their own houses in a resettlement site supported by the German government in Dasmariñas, Cavite (link) – and the Gawad Kalinga village will have a kindergarten and a public school, plus access to affordable healthcare facilities. The principle of German charity which involves activating self-help instead of encouraging mendicancy, subservience and helplessness – and of course the principle of developing healthy and educated communities. What a far cry from Kadamay!

Work always had worth in Germany. There were indeed areas like Prussia which had serfs until 1794 – a legacy of the conquest of the East. Other major parts of the country had a lot of independent farmers, tilling their own soil. And craftsmen in cities whose work had a high level of quality. Indeed one of the critiques Karl Marx had regarding capital and industrialization was Entfremdung or alienation of the worker from the product of his work, unlike the craftsman who could be proud of his own product.

Countries where serfdom and oppression caused the rich to keep getting richer and the poor to stay poor often have a different work ethic. In Romania there is a saying, said somewhat jokingly, that those who work hard are either stupid or have never used their heads. Imelda Marcos allegedly once said “some are smarter than others”. There are places in Romania where gypsy clan heads have large houses while everybody else is poor – yet they are worshipped. Sounds like some Filipino politicians.

Sometimes one looks at the Philippines and wonders whether those who work hard are indeed suckers and others are smarter. The drug lords, the gambling lords, the politicians that protect one or the other or even are into criminal ventures that can also include human trafficking, cybersex dens and prostitution. The oligopolies that can charge premium rates yet pay “endo”. Corrupt officials and different forms of extortion: kotong/hulidap cops, NPA “revolutionary tax” and Abu Sayyaf kidnappings.

Corruption and crime are both Filipino middle-class concerns. Politics so far may have addressed symptoms first, not root causes. The root cause of both may be exactly the mentality that those who work hard are suckers and those who get rich quickly and easily are somehow “smart”. How can one change that kind of attitude? Probably only by showing most people that there is another way. That work and honesty pays off. The other side is making sure crime and corruption does not pay, of course.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Labor Day 2017, München