The Philippines: A historical perspective on its culture of corruption

The Redvegetarian

dog eat dog

I was wondering why the Philippines never really got out of its place as a third world country. Despite the bounty of natural resources and the natural talents of its people. Majority of the people are living in poverty while a few families literally own the economy. From the start of its independence, the country has been riddled with problems of corruption. From the highest government officials to the lowest officer of a youth council, corruption has its place. It seems it is deeply rooted in the Filipino culture. My article attempts to explain why corruption might be culturally embedded in the Filipino psyche.

The Philippines started out as a Spanish colony. When they arrived in the islands there was no central government.  Small kingdoms are scattered throughout the archipelago. There was no sense of unity of the people of the island belonging to one race or…

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The Philippines: A historical perspective on its culture of corruption

dog eat dog

I was wondering why the Philippines never really got out of its place as a third world country. Despite the bounty of natural resources and the natural talents of its people. Majority of the people are living in poverty while a few families literally own the economy. From the start of its independence, the country has been riddled with problems of corruption. From the highest government officials to the lowest officer of a youth council, corruption has its place. It seems it is deeply rooted in the Filipino culture. My article attempts to explain why corruption might be culturally embedded in the Filipino psyche.

The Philippines started out as a Spanish colony. When they arrived in the islands there was no central government.  Small kingdoms are scattered throughout the archipelago. There was no sense of unity of the people of the island belonging to one race or country. The Spanish made good to maintain that. During the early years of colonization they frequently used natives against each other. Regionalism based on dialect was promoted. They never bothered to teach Spanish to the natives despite the 300 years of Spanish colonization. This in a way prevented the natives to identify themselves as one people and one country since a common tongue has always been a vehicle for unity. On top of this, the Spanish created a caste system to classify natives and other races living in the islands. Ironically natives are called either indios or negritos while Spaniards born in the islands are called Filipinos or Insulares. We were never Filipinos in the first place.  The caste system further divided the people. Pure natives belong to the lowest class. The caste system provided an environment of exploitation and discrimination of Filipinos against Filipinos. Sadly this has been deeply embedded in the culture and was never really abolished after the Spaniards left. The long years of being slaves to foreign masters somehow created the Filipino who is always on the lookout for the chance to get ahead even to the expense of fellow Filipinos.  One good example is Aguinaldo.  After a quarrel with the founder of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, over election matters, he ordered the latter to be killed. What was the motive? Disposing off Bonifacio would hold him as the undisputed leader of the Katipunan.  This happened when we barely had independence. Imagine what happened when we ultimately achieve independence.  After WWII, there are a lot of wartime surplus property and war reparations that allegedly went to the pockets of a handful of government officials. A shallow investigation was made and no one was ever convicted.  This was just the start of a long list of corruption cases that involves government officials that until now has plagued the nation. So what really happened? Somewhere along our 400 years of history, the Filipino psyche was bred to a dog eat dog mentality. It’s either you take advantage of me or I take advantage of you. Somehow our sense of being subjugated never gotten out of our system. Through this, we make sure that we are somewhat better than other Filipinos in power, money, and influence – in whatever way possible. Political dynasties are born this way. To maintain power, money, and influence, families have almost all their members run for government positions.  In contrast to history, gobernadorcillos (political position in which native are allowed) are exempt from “Polo y servicios” or forced labor the Spanish imposed on the natives. Gobernadorcillos in turn make sure that one of their kin continue their position to perpetuate favors gained from the Spaniards.  The country has gone a long way but this culture of corruption has gone along with it. Unless we find a way to root it out of our system. This country will never be what we aspire it to be.

A sad story on the Philippine government’s blind faith on the Bangsamoro peace process

More or less 43 special action force policemen killed and their bodies brutally mutilated, this is the token of good will given to the Philippine government by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  This lawless rebel group seeking a separate Muslim state south of the Philippines engaged the policemen conducting a legitimate operation to arrest 2 international terrorists.  The bodies of the policemen were brutally mutilated and the video uploaded in YouTube.  The sad thing is there is an ongoing ceasefire between these rebels and the government.  A few big questions arises regarding the said incident. Why are the 2 terrorist inside the MILF camp? Why did they engage the policemen when their sole purpose is to arrest the 2 terrorist?  The answer is staring right at the governments face. If the MILF is really sincere with the peace talks they would not let this happen. This only shows that they don’t have complete control of their ranks. How can you delegate the governance of a number of provinces with thousands of people into the hands of a rebel group that doesn’t have control over their own ranks. How can you trust these rebels if they don’t respect the ceasefire agreement. Of course the MILF spokesperson defended that they are only acting in self-defense. We are not idiots (though some in the government are) not to see that the MILF are protecting these terrorists. From the start, I never believed in forging peace with these bandits.  Giving them freedom to mind their own business spells doom for the whole of southern Philippines.  Giving them autonomy would be giving them power, time, and resources to strengthen their ranks to eventually go on with their ultimate goal of making a separate muslim state at the cost of thousands of innocent civilians.  Some avid supporters of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will argue that this incident should not affect the ongoing talks with the rebels and this is a mere misencounter with the rebels. Well for me this says it all about their real intention and their sincerirty. This gives us a glimpse of a future where policemen just doing their jobs are brutally killed and terrorists given safe haven.  The lack of stern government response also shows the blind faith and misconstrued notion that giving them autonomy will lead to lasting peace.  They have been given autonomy before through the ARMM. What happened after that? More bloodshed perhaps? Peace talks with the MNLF (another separatist rebel group) led to the creation of the Autonomous Region For Muslim Mindanao(ARMM). But the birth of it led to the birth of the MILF.  With the impending passing of the BBL, it has now created the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). What does this tell us? Aside from that the government doesn’t learn, it tells us that this will be a never-ending cycle unless the root cause of the problem which is poverty and discrimination of the muslim minority is solved.  It is impossible to resolve the root cause in the near future but at least let us start with the ones that are possible – remove, eliminate, exterminate the armed groups ENTIRELY.  Erap Estrada once declared an all out war with these rebels and yes it claimed a lot of lives but at least it showed that the government is still in control.  The government’s call for sobriety amidst the tragedy is blatantly out-of-place bordering on cowardice. How can you turn a blind eye when it is obvious that the MILF are harboring these terrorists? Did it not clearly show that the BIFF and the MILF are one and the same.   Will it not give you doubts over what might happen if these people were given autonomy? Would thoughts of the Philippines becoming a terrorist(tourist) destination come to mind? How can you still continue with the peace process after this? Thinking about these makes me puke.  There are sacrifices that needs to be made for a lasting peace.  What these soldiers did – killing 6 of the rebels has taken us further to the road of peace than a decade of the government sitting down with them on a farce peace process.

A carefully orchestrated facade

One might say that the Pope’s visit to the Philippines was very successful. However, I find it incomplete and somewhat very scripted.  Pope Francis said he came for the poor and for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. However, what greeted him in the SM Arena were multitudes of bourgeois and the prominent oligarch families. Many of them carrying their expensive tablets and smart phones recording the event almost from the start to finish. I expected a very genuine and simple activity where the Pope gets to speak with poor and forsaken families. Nowhere was the poor, the neglected, the forgotten, the victims.  What happened was a litany of all sorts.  One family who supposedly is poor were enumerating their Parish activities. How they fought an attempt to build a commercial building in front of their Parish. I think that those stories are somewhat irrelevant. Let the priests or the bishops report about Parish activities.  I feel that the activity lacks the very substance that the Pope is looking for which is for him to be with the poor, to talk to the poor and ask about their grievances.  What transpired was a facade to hide the true situation of majority of families in the Philippines.  It will not take a lot of effort to bring the Pope to the slum area in Malibay, Pasay.  There he would be able to talk to the poor and personally see their situation and the striking inequity in this country – the background of appalling shanties made of scrap wood and metal that seems vanish under the shadow of a huge shopping mall.  I later learned that although there are no entrance fees to be able to attend the event, tickets are required to be able to enter the venue of the event.  These tickets are given by the bishops of each diocese.  I have nothing against the religious leaders but I feel that they should have given a chance for the poor Catholics to air their grievances to the Pope.  Instead of giving tickets to their wealthy parishioners, why not take a dozen poor families from Malibay and another from Tondo. The religious poor might have been robbed of a rare chance to renew their faith and to supercharge their hope batteries which they truly need in this country where hope is the only bright light that keeps them going.

Signs that we are not a hopeless case…

This past few days the Philippines has been very busy with the activities of the visiting Pope Francis. With 83% of Filipinos Catholics, it is no wonder that this event has attracted a lot of people and media attention.  I myself wanted to check out the Pope. Pope-mania if I may call it. Aside from the show of faith of thousands of people attending the Pope’s activities, what amazes me is how the people in one of the rare instances showed discipline and unity.  There was no reported incidents of people being harmed because of stampedes or the like, There were no reported cases of violence.  Considering the volume of people in those venues not to mention the thousands of people lining the streets just to get a glimpse of what Catholics believe as the Vicar of Christ, I may say it has been a very disciplined people that welcomed the Pope. It is just sad that a great majority will be back in their old naturally undisciplined and uncaring selves the moment the Pope mania has died.  Seeing this show of unity and discipline somehow makes me think that we are not a hopeless case anyway. All we have to do is find a way for Filipinos to sustain this unity and discipline and for once not think about ourselves first.  If we can be disciplined and united for a man, which in this case the Pope, why can’t we do it for our nation and fellow Filipinos?

I am now writing a blog and I like it.

It feels weird that after a lot of imagining and day dreaming of writing a blog. I finally am writing one.  I liked writing even before, although I did not really excel in it. My creative writing grade was not very high. My teacher prefers adhering to the writing style she thought us.  She always finds my articles and compositions “different” from my “well performing” classmates. Well, I guess conforming is not really my strongest skill.  Now going back to the present.  I think blogging has opened up a lot of doors for aspiring and struggling writers, as well as a venue for wannabe writers like me.  It has become a very lucrative business to be in.  Recent blockbuster movies came from novels and books. The writers of these novels and books might have earned millions.  A number people are now well-known because of their blogs. There are also a lot jobs for ghost writing, article writing and the like. Writing in periodicals, newspapers, and magazines can be very rewarding and fulfilling.  The Internet gave writing a different dimension.  Written ideas are now not only confined to paper but is now available for all to read online.  A single WordPress blog could reach millions around the world.  Writing can be a career and a livelihood.  I just hope that the avenues for writing continues to flourish.  For my part, continuously improving my style and learning to dynamically adapt to readers could make my chances better for this new venture.