Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: December 2018
Wednesday, 12 December 2018 11:39

DELICADEZA (Dureza's Bold Act)

IN our culture, one feature that puts citizens on equal footing whether they are of the upper class or part of the “mayukmok” is an appreciation of “pagmumukha”or ‘face.’ There is no exact English translation but roughly, this is mostly an Asian trait that puts top premium on comportment, particularly on one’s sense of worth.

In most Filipino families, “walanghiya” in Tagalog, or “way uwaw” in Bisaya, is an all-encompassing personal rebuke that speaks volumes — from criticizing a display of bad manners, a demonstration of a flawed character to an indictment of shoddy parental upbringing. The latter is usually accompanied by “walang pinag-aralan” or “wala tudlu-i sa mga ginikanan,” condemning in the process one’s progeny. We have permutations on this theme rooted in Spanish: palabra de honor and amor propio. All play around with the notion of “shame” — which could be the appropriate synonym in the English language.

Within government and public service and in the corporate domain, with positions of responsibility, a more sophisticated concept is often used; that of delicadeza. Handed down by the Spanish colonialists and married to our Asian concept of “mukha” or “face,” this is a strong Filipino value that permeates private behavior in the light of one’s public actuations and responsibilities. It is an ingrained mechanism that uses self-worth as a guide to one’s acts.

In our society, delicadeza is a highly regarded attribute, and one who applies this appropriately is deemed refined and praised for good upbringing. One does honor not only to oneself but to one’s family as well. And the opposite “walang delicadeza” connotes all the negatives attached to a person that deserves society’s contempt. One is therefore scorned by neighbors and community — and maybe even by family. But Filipino culture is much more forgiving.

Not in other cultures, like the Japanese, whose sense of self-worth is equivalent to honor. And honor above all holds the top tier in their set of values — even above life itself. Thus, in their history, any transgressions that impact negatively on one’s honor must restore it to oneself and one’s family by paying with one’s life. This is the ultimate act of restoration.

In this culture, seppuku is the preferred method. A ritual suicide in a centuries-old, tradition-laden ceremony of using a dagger to disembowel oneself. This was originally the samurai’s ultimate method to attenuate shame but only upon the express permission of his daimyo or feudal master.

In the modern context, the Japanese’s equivalent sense of delicadeza demands public humiliation and apology. Several years ago, the grandson of the president Akio Toyoda, the Toyota Corp. founder, offered a public apology on TV for some transgressions that impacted negatively the quality and reliability of their cars. For bad corporate performance, Japanese electronics company Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga cried publicly and offered an apology.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama apologized and resigned after just eight months in office for failure to honor critical election promises. In April of this year, Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. And in a scandalous bribery case in September 2018, Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, a powerful bureaucrat, resigned when several executives under him were accused of taking bribes. Mitsuzuka, although not implicated, assumed responsibility.

Public apology is embedded in Japanese corporate and government bureaucratic culture, and resignation in extreme cases is warranted. And Japanese society expects and accepts such acts as public contrition. Seppuku is no longer allowed as atonement in modern Japanese society, but there are still reports of old-time traditionalists paying the ultimate to restore their honor.

Which brings us to the Philippine context. In the Philippines, those who are themselves involved in transgressions cling to their positions like leeches with nary an apology. And the bigger anomaly is that they pass on the onus to the appointing power. “I serve at the pleasure of the President…” is often the shameless default statement. No accountability is taken and what’s worse is that blame is imputed to others, mostly to the lower ranks. And depending on the mood of the Deegong and his tolerance for pain over firing longtime close associates, the miscreant will have to suffer the bigoted DU30 policy on “whiff of corruption,” just waiting to be fired. These shameless acts by the bureaucrats fall under “walang delicadeza,” with all the negatives attached to the phrase; no sense of self-worth and no honor.

Thus, the resignation of Secretary Jesus “Jess” Dureza as head of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is a whiff of fresh air from the recent fetid atmosphere of overstaying bureaucrats in the Bureau of Customs, whose corrupt practices cry to high heavens. And this is a study in contrast to the questionable actuations of a high government official who entered into a security agency contract with his own department.

As gleaned from Dureza’s resignation letter, the President terminated two OPAPP high officials for some alleged anomalies. At no point was Secretary Jess involved in any of the anomalies that caused the termination of his two top men.

Last week, Secretary Jess posted in his Facebook page his letter of resignation to DU30 with a lead statement in bold letters. I quote:


“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed…I truly am sad that OPAPP, as an institution which I head, had to suffer publicly due to the acts of a few.

“Nonetheless, I take full responsibility and apologize for all this.

“I am voluntarily tendering my resignation to pave the way for the needed reorganization that Your Excellency may wish to undertake at OPAPP. “

Secretary Jess need not perform seppuku, but he did a brave Filipino equivalent. He resigned to take responsibility. And this is delicadeza at its best. His acts and statement were reflections of how a better man and a better bureaucrat needs to behave. He will be judged wonderfully by our citizenry. It was therefore unnecessary for Jess to post an addendum:

“Although I have voluntarily relinquished my assigned task at OPAPP, I call on everyone to continue supporting our President. I will continue to do so in my private capacity. I believe in him and in his sincere intentions for our country. He cannot do this alone.”

This somewhat blunted the edge of a pointed laudable declaration.
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 05 December 2018 11:47

Baby boomers – the pre-departure area

I WILL depart temporarily from my regular fare of politics and analysis of issues behind the headlines. Today’s item touches on a topic concerned with the demographic subset to which I belong, the “baby boomers.” We came right after the “greatest generation” that fought a world war. The end of WW2, I surmise, stimulated the homecoming warriors to wage another war in matrimonial beds perhaps to collectively replenish the population lost in the war; or young couples freed from the stresses of almost a decade of world conflict surrendered to the long suppressed hormonal demands for sexual proclivities. This precipitated an unintended consequence — over-production of babies. Except that in poverty-stricken Philippines, we continued this pleasant task as an inexpensive leisure time diversion, exacerbated by the Catholic Church dictum to go and multiply. And that we certainly did, merrily driving population growth through the roof and supplying the insatiable world demand for OFWs. Thus, I came into this world as the eldest of 10 livebirths. And so were many from my Ateneo de Davao high school class of 1960, grade school 1956, and kindergarten 1950, whose parents were similarly oblivious to “birth control.”

But today, we are a dying breed. Magnificent breed indeed, “legends in our own minds,” nonetheless dying all the same. Class ’60 could be a microcosm of my generation. There were the original nine of us who matriculated in Grade 1 in June 1950 (5-7 years old): Alvin, Dinky, Gamay, Gus, Jimmy, Ting, Manding, Ferrer and me. We had our first death in Manding Valencia†, our valedictorian; first in class, first in death! In a plane crash. The irony of it all is that it could have been Sammy Lutz, who at the last moment exchanged flights with Manding (but this is part of the class ’60 compendium of narratives, myths and lore; the expanded version available when the ADD Class ’60 book is published — if ever).

It was similarly true for Boy Ferrer† our Grade 6 valedictorian who graciously gave us two weeks’ advance notice that he was passing on (due to cancer). This precedent is now prescribed by our designated class president-for-life, Dinky; allowing the living time to fit out new barongs.

In the 1980s, our professions scattered us to the four winds but our desire to revisit our roots prompted Pete Ancheta†, Alvin and Eken Angeles to initiate yearly reconnection during school alumni reunions. These became regular affairs when many dropped by Davao to visit old haunts, update one another, relive some memories and boast about our careers and amorous conquests. Joey Ramirez† holds the record when he succumbed to a fatal stroke amidst camaraderie and merry-making. May he rest in peace.

To date, 29 of us, a good third of the original batch of 80 have passed on. Statistically, at this rate, we should all be gone in another quarter of a century notwithstanding advances in medicine and drastic changes in lifestyle. There is a morbid silver lining to this. UN statistics on population longevity establishes the male life expectancy at birth in the Philippines at 64.72 years; which give us an average bonus of a decade over our expiry date.

This macabre Russian roulette of who goes ahead happily is not in an alphabetical order; else Ting Valdez, Aks Verde and Rey Vicente have the advantage. Our being in the ‘departure area’ as it were, and the thought of ‘who goes next’ is I think the single biggest impetus that binds class ’60 together at this late date and heightens the need for a buffer from the inevitable. No one wants to board ahead, not Romy Espaldon or Mac Cabonce, our two elders, or even Alex Nidea, who is bedridden.

A dark depressing cloud descended upon us lately, triggered by the recent demise of Art Gumban. Art was literally bigger than many of us, but he possessed a demeanor perhaps influenced by devoted wife Mila. A taciturn man with an arresting smile permanently plastered on his face emitting mixed unreadable signals on whether he is angry, bored or happy. Yoly Salazar, his confidante, swears that this gentle giant of a man was sweet inside and out. He did not last a year with his pancreatic cancer.

Ben de Guzman and Boy Gomez proffered a theory which could have an element of truth; that only the good die young; “…ang masasamang damo, ay matagal mamatay,” giving a sigh of a relief to Philip Kimpo, Ochie Teoxon and Ben Garrido. On the other hand, this certainly presents a portent and a disadvantage to the likes of Pribhu Balchand, Gus Dacudao and Ruben Hilario who are the most religious in the group. Along with our designated pastor, Romy Butiu, they certainly have reserve seats if called upon early into the bosom of His Kingdom.

We will someday die but will fight tooth and nail to postpone it. Thus, we all are feverishly clinging to the familiar and a camaraderie simply to recapture memories amidst an early stage of dementia and Alzheimer — which, I’m afraid, is a much more lethal form of death. Thus, we have recruited our wives to join us in these sorties to cover up for us, reminding us to refrain from repeating old jokes. But just the same, we laugh heartily as we don’t remember the new ones from the old.

At this point in our lives, we indulge ourselves by organizing simple gatherings and out-of-town sorties. At the core is our Wednesday merienda that sometimes stretches out toward evening with Philip leading the call for beer. Danny Tiongko recently celebrated a birthday dinner with Manila-based classmates which could be a precedent for a weekly gathering in the capital region. And our hacendero, Jimmy San Agustin, has invited us all for a taste of Roxas; and Boy Tan for an engagement with the indigenous tribes of Bukidnon — whose appearance and forest smell he has emulated and absorbed.

We don’t need excuses to do lunch to celebrate a birthday, or when our rich classmate Mar OngAnte with gorgeous wife Aleli sponsor dinner — which is not that expensive as septuagenarians are in a habit of calculating calories and comparing cholesterol and blood-glucose counts while our doctor Art Perez dispenses free advice and Vic Mabunay extols the health benefits of natural coconut oil. Our appetites are decidedly reduced by talk of maladies. And the customary greetings of “how are you” are interpreted literally as a challenge for bragging rights on the latest ailments, from diabetes, to high blood pressure to erectile dysfunction. At least our conversation has not yet deteriorated into what brand of adult diaper gives the best comfort and does not leak!

And so, this narrative of the weekly gathering of old men will continue with such fervid attentiveness with the knowledge that this will not last long. The last passengers will be called soon, as one needs to surrender one’s boarding pass — “…another one bites the dust.” In the meantime, see you Wednesday afternoon.

Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 04 December 2018 14:15

The corruption at the heart of Dutertismo

On June 29 last year, in remarks made at the anniversary of a charity, President Duterte gave a new meaning to that biblical phrase, about charity covering a multitude of sins. He said, or rather he joked, that he had stolen from public funds before, but he had used up all of it. Many in the audience laughed.

What did he say, exactly? “I hate corruption. Hindi ako nagmamakalinis [sic]. Marami rin akong nanakaw pero naubos na. So wala na. T*ng*na, hindi ako uma… pero corruption is really out during my term.” Even as a joke, the parts in Filipino are damning. “I hate corruption. I am not pretending to be clean [Or, I am not being holier-than-thou]. I also stole a lot but it’s all used up. So it’s gone. Son of a bitch, I don’t… but corruption is really out during my term.”

Why would the chief executive, the person charged with executing the laws of the land, joke about violating the laws on corruption himself? Because he sees himself as a transgressive leader, and delights in outraging sensibilities. Because he understands this kind of tough talk is part of the appeal of Dutertismo, and he will be seen as authentic. And because he is telling the truth.

Like the American embarrassment he is often compared to, Mr. Duterte likes to talk. Unlike Donald Trump, however, he hardly traffics in projection. Instead, he often indulges in confession.

On Aug. 21, 2016, he admitted — unprompted, unprovoked — that he used to plant evidence when he was a city prosecutor in Davao City. “I’ve learned a lot during my prosecution days. We planted evidence.” (This is the live, beating heart of a disbarment case against him—and because you don’t need to be a lawyer to be President, such a case should fall outside the scope of the largely unchallenged tradition of presidential immunity. It’s worth testing.)

On Sep. 27, 2018, he confessed that his only sin was the extrajudicial killings. “Ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Did I prosecute somebody na pinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang ’yung extrajudicial killings,” he said. Perhaps the more idiomatic translation of “kasalanan” is not sin, but guilt, as in “What am I guilty of?” But we can use the more literal translation, too: “What’s my sin? Did I steal even P1? Did I prosecute somebody whom I sent to jail? My only sin are those extrajudicial killings.”

We can multiply the examples of President Duterte’s many admissions against self-interest. To be sure, he and his many spokespersons like to use the he-was-joking defense. But consider just these three:

The President was not joking when he defended Solicitor General Jose Calida’s continued participation in government biddings for the chief government lawyer’s security agency. “Why should I fire him? Anything in government as long as there is bidding, there is no problem, that’s OK if he won the bidding.”

But the Constitution expressly prohibits Cabinet officials from being “financially interested in any contract with” the government or any of its agencies, and the antigraft law forbids public officers from receiving any benefit from “the Government or any other part, wherein the public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law.”

The President was not joking when, as a presidential candidate, he admitted being given at least three real estate properties and at least two SUVs by his good friend and constituent, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy. “Every time si Pastor magbili, dalawa ’yan. Ang isa sa akin diyan, sigurado (Every time Pastor buys something, he buys two at a time. One of them is for me, for sure),” he said.

The antigraft law prohibits “Directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift… for himself or for another, from any person for whom the public officer, in any manner or capacity, has secured or obtained, or will secure or obtain, any Government permit or license.”

And the President was not joking when he repeatedly praised his common-law wife Honeylet’s business acumen. By all accounts, she truly works hard at her businesses. But consider Mr. Duterte’s Honeylet narrative, which he has told often. This version is I think the latest, from Oct. 20. After describing her as his “true love,” the President narrated her rags-to-riches story yet again. “When she came home, she had saved up for capital, she franchised another one and then ventured into the meat business. The meat being sold here is hers. Besides, who would try to compete against the wife of the mayor or President? Ah, now she’s really rich.”

The key passage in the original Bisaya is even more emphatic. “Kinsa man pu’y makig-kompitensya’g asawa ka og mayor o Presidente?”

As we say in French: Mismo.

In telling this story again and again, the President admits to corruption. Simply put, corruption is the misuse of public office for private gain. By Mr. Duterte’s own account, hardworking Honeylet became the biggest supplier of meats in Davao City because, well, who wants to compete against the mayor’s wife?

If this is a joke, it’s on all of us.

Published in News
Tuesday, 04 December 2018 14:02

Erap, Sara Duterte join forces for 2019 polls

MANILA, Philippines — Mayors Joseph Estrada of Manila and Sara Duterte of Davao City officially joined forces yesterday for the 2019 elections.

Estrada and Duterte signed the official alliance of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago and the former president’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) at the San Andres Sports Complex.

Describing Duterte as “beautiful, hard-working and brave,” Estrada said Manila is proud to have a “friend and ally” in her.

The former president said their “historic alliance” is proof of their common goal for unity.

“Since the PMP was organized more than 27 years ago, we have entered into any alliances with other parties. Some have been harmonious, others not so much,” he said.

Estrada said that in politics, it is normal for a person’s actions to be guided by personal interest.

“The interest of the people is secondary. But this alliance between us begins on a very positive note,” he said.

Estrada said neither Hugpong nor PMP use the word party, “which means we both value unity rather than partisanship, service over self-interest.”

He expressed hope that the alliance between Hugpong and the PMP would make Manila “as progressive and peaceful” as Davao.
Published in News