Last of 3 parts

SEN. Panfilo Lacson recently disclosed that close to 3,000 Chinese linked to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are now in the country for an “immersion mission.” They came in through the Philippine offshore gaming operators program. He compared this to the Japanese Imperial Army’s fifth column that infiltrated the country many years before World War 2. Mingling with the Japanese abaca traders and agricultural workers, particularly in Davao, many intermarried with the locals. This strategy proved to be appropriate. When war erupted, the Japanese forces had an easy time taking over. These days could be a semblance of yesteryears.

China’s usurpation of our islands has transformed the West Philippine Sea into an exclusive Chinese lake. We are being drawn inexorably into China’s embrace — a potential Chinese province — in all but in name. Our pivot away from America and near-abrogation of our defense treaties leave us singularly vulnerable. And the Deegong’s preference for Xi Jinping could not be more articulated in his delusional declaration of “the Philippines, China and Russia against the world.” If Lacson’s assertions prove to be correct, things could fall in place to China’s benefit. And unlike the Japanese infiltration, we may already have in place a fifth column – the taipans!

Fifth column
This is by no means an indictment or denigration of the patriotism of the taipans and the Tsinoy community. But taken in context in the light of the Deegong’s biases, particularly his preferential treatment for blacklisted Chinese companies partnering with the taipans (“The Chinese taipans,” TMT, September 16), and their unmitigated acquiescence, this is a logical conjecture. From the very start of DU30’s regime, the Pinoy oligarchy — a phrase used simply to distinguish it from the Tsinoy oligarchy — was his bete noire, not the latter.

The Deegong never did confront the taipans the same way he did the Pinoy oligarchy. He was curiously taciturn, except for the intermittent threats to Lucio Tan to pay up on PAL’s debts. The taipan’s forking over P6 billion for his tax liabilities erased the tax cases against him going back to the Marcos regime amounting to many billions more. And the President declared another off-the-cuff doctrine in absolving Tan — “I will allow compromises even those with evasion of taxes cases.” The implication is toxic. Evade taxes for as long as you can; bribe the bureaucracy and compromise fora lesser amount.

Myths, falsehoods, factoids
This brings us to the tales propagated by both Tsinoys and Pinoys, particularly on the way business is conducted. Many of these are racially motivated, no doubt, spanning centuries since the Chinese came to these shores.

It is almost impossible in this day and age to differentiate between the original Pinoys and Chinese. With generations of intermarriages, one seldom finds authentic Pinoys and Chinese. But the disparities linger ingrained in historical distrust, linguistic disconnection, and ethos. But in fact, many of the Pinoys have Chinese blood running through their veins; similarly many Tsinoys have some Pinoy blood. But the contemporary use of the appellation Pinoy and Tsinoy persists reflecting the prejudices of both which must be confronted, the better to understand each other and lessen conflicts.

Current evaluation of this relationship must rely on both anecdotal acuities and empirical data. From the Forbes list of the wealthiest Filipinos, more than 60 percentof the wealth are in the hands of the Tsinoys. This could be extrapolated for the economy. But in terms of population density, this could easily translate dangerously to a growing gap between the rich and poor — the proverbial seething economic and social cauldron.

The anecdotal perception reinforcing this contention is that one seldom sees poor and homeless Tsinoys in the country – not even in Binondo. A controversial notion too is the proverbial lazy Pinoy depicted in the apocryphal tale of Juan Tamad as contrasted with the hardworking and penny-pinching Chinese “magbobote” and “magtataho.”And the polemical: Pinoys are ingrained with crab mentality, Tsinoys are not.

Assimilation vs integration
Another subjective observation is the refusal of a segment of the Tsinoys to assimilate over the centuries. Assimilation presupposes adopting cultural values and practices of the dominant ethnic group, eventually becoming part of that society. By contrast, many tended to take a different path, that of integration; not adopting but instead preserving the original culture, language and traditional practices erroneously perceived as superior traits.

The Tsinoys’ insistence on marrying off their sons and daughters with clansmen and fellow Tsinoys has persisted for a millennium. A common belief is that this is the Tsinoys’ way of preserving wealth within the clanship passing on the privileges of the rich to exclusive progeny. This drive for integration in lieu of assimilation suggests boundaries between races which from the very beginning perhaps reflect the need to pass on Confucian virtues of filial piety and ancestor worship to one’s own. Thus, the subtle divide that persists up to the present.

Tsinoys and governance
The Tsinoys are perceived to be outside or above the purview of governance. Business is their métier and must be pursued relentlessly. Government is almost anathema to the conduct of business. Taxes are an inconvenience and short of evasion, must be avoided. It was the Tsinoy businessmen who introduced the “two sets of books” system; one fraudulently as a basis for paying taxes, if they must, and the other reflecting real transactions. Tsinoys lose face if they go insolvent; better to burn down their businesses and collect insurance. No doubt, the Tsinoy successes in running businesses elicit jealousy among the competitors on both sides of the racial divide. All these sentiments are either myths or veracities driven by whatever collective inner demons both races possess to begin with.

But it is in politics and governance that their creative practices lay them vulnerable to government leeches. On the other hand, corruption was endemic in the ancient Middle Kingdom dynastic bureaucracy and the proficiency to convert systemic governmental rot to their advantage has been culturally honed to perfection. They invariably take the long view, while most governments have much shorter horizons. A case in point is that the taipans seldom run for any elective posts, preferring instead to finance candidates — betting on both sides, invariably playing the odds. In the end, they win. Thus, enforcing the almost universal belief that the Chinese are the most profligate gamblers on earth.

Be that as it may, the country today is faced with ambiguities impelled by the Deegong’s singular attraction towards China like the proverbial moth to the flame. But DU30’s recent address to the United Nations General Assembly maybe a game changer. It is not only welcome but gives the Filipino hope that he is beginning to find his footing. He has at last affirmed the 2016 arbitral award he once discarded. “The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it.” Coming now to the twilight of his regime, he can reconstruct his legacy. And he could still be a great president.

And so, the questions arise: Are our taipans in the same page? Are their primordial interests aligned with that of their country – the Philippines? Or with the “motherland”?

The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.
“Then I fall to my knees, shake a rattle at the skies and I’m afraid that I’ll be taken, abandoned, forsaken in her cold coffee eyes.” – A quote from the song, “She moves on” by Paul Simon, singer/songwriter

THE recent tremors affecting the central provinces of Mindanao caused by a series of seismic waves radiating to the northern and southern parts of the island, were like nature shaking a rattle, emitting sharp sounds and unnerving motions from the underground, both frightening and bewildering as to the intensity and confusion they generated.

The successive earthquakes and aftershocks were rattling the nerves not only of residents close to the epicenter but also those living along the active fault planes who were not used to strong earth movements. Some reported dizziness, anxiety, depression and other post-traumatic stress symptoms after experiencing continuous shaking and periodic vibrations.

As this article was written, less frequent but perceptible tremors were felt on the affected areas although everyone is reportedly bracing for aftershocks which many hope and pray, would not turn out to be the dreaded “big one,” as some irresponsible persons are falsely posting on social media. Shake a rattle drum to this latter blokes.

According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), since the 1900s, Mindanao has been rocked by at least 35 earthquakes, three of which, felt at “Intensity 7” or worse, were deemed destructive: the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake which caused a tsunami reaching up to nine meters that killed about 8,000 people including the unaccounted ones; the 1999 series of earthquakes in Agusan del Sur damaging roads, and poorly constructed schools and infrastructure; and the Sultan Kudarat earthquake in 2002, killing eight people with 41 others injured and affecting over seven thousand families in the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato (Rappler 2019). Shake a rattle of prayers for all who perished in these tragedies.

The series of earthquakes in October of this year, just weeks apart, with magnitudes of over 6 hitting many provinces, again, in Cotabato and southern parts of Davao accounted for the death toll of 22, damaging homes, school buildings and many infrastructure, shaking and sending chills to many residents who have to deal with continuing albeit smaller tremors which can be felt as far up the city of Cagayan de Oro and down the southern province of Sarangani.

Some local officials reported residents having developed “earthquake phobia” keeping watch on their clock hanging inside their tents in evacuation sites, losing sleep with anxiety awaiting when the next tremor would be coming. With frayed nerves, some would panic over even slight ground shakings.

But this is not about the temblor as much as the response of people and the country’s leaders and responsible officials. Except for the government of China which donated P22 million in aid and support for relief efforts in Mindanao, hurray for China, other foreign countries just expressed condolences and messages of sympathy to families of victims. No pledges, no assistance. Perhaps, they can’t trust our government agencies to do the job for them anymore. To them, a shake of the baby rattle.

To the initial bunch of donors who immediately come with their financial assistance such as Yorme Isko Moreno of Manila with his P5 million personal money, Mayor Vico Sotto with relief goods and P14 million coming from the people of Pasig City, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina with 100 modular tents, movie star Angel Locsin who moved about sans fanfare for her charity work offering food and other assistance to victims in Davao and North Cotabato, to Mayor Inday Duterte for relief distribution, Cebu provincial government for disaster relief campaign and to the many nameless others who came with their relief aids, shake a rattle of joy and thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.

To our government officials and politicians goes our appeal to set aside politics, distribute the relief items according to the wishes of their donors and not allow goods to rot because of political colors as was shown in the previous administration’s handling of donated goods. To them, shake a rattle of enlightenment and peace.

In whatever disaster or crisis that befalls the country, trust Filipinos’ resiliency and coping mechanisms such as resorting to prayers and humor to come to their succor.

Social media become a natural venue for memes, practical jokes and bantering such as the ones which came after Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy reportedly claimed that he caused to stop the earthquakes so they can no longer create damage. To everyone, shake a rattle of laughter and fun while we help provide for the needs of our less fortunate brethren in Cotabato and Davao provinces.