Lawless and low

Rodrigo Duterte and Ronald dela Rosa
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ALMOST always inaccurate are generalizations about any group, whether a race, a social class, an ethnic community, a profession — or, for that matter, a government agency and its personnel. There’s always someone who’s an exception to a rule widely presumed to be true. Stereotyping can also be dangerous, and often is.

Not all Chinese folk are billionaires, but common belief otherwise continues to expose them to a higher level of peril to theft and kidnapping than other Filipinos. European Jews didn’t control business and the economy, but propaganda otherwise made such a tragic difference to millions of lives during the murderous rule of Adolf Hitler. And not everyone from Davao is a die-hard Duterte fan who deserves a jeer for campaigning for him last year, or uploading ungrammatical posts daily on Facebook.

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Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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The Pollyanna Principle

Statue of Pollyanna
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THE ADVENT of every new year inevitably brings with it not only the cheery predictions of hacks who claim to have the power to foretell what will happen in the next 12 months by telling the world which celebrity will be sleeping with whom or how the economy will perform. It’s also one more opportunity for the survey firms to regale the citizenry with what the average man-on-the-street thinks is in store for him in this earthly paradise. Not to be outdone, one’s favorite commentator is also likely to weigh in with his or her forecasts on what will happen in the political scene in the coming 52 weeks.

Almost to a man (and woman), whether feng shui hack, man-on-the-street, or media pundit, these creatures will tell you every new year that they expect — they don’t hope, they expect — things to be better, whether in terms of better employment opportunities, the lower price of eggs, or the bright prospects for an end to corruption, the coming of peace, and the achievement of social change.

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Reckless endangerment

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EIGHT out of ten Filipinos, a December 17 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey has found, fear that they or someone they know could be a victim of extrajudicial killings or EJKs.

As Senator Grace Poe has observed, the fear is understandable in view of the epidemic of killings in the course of the Duterte anti-illegal drug campaign. The police killing spree has claimed not only the lives of drug pushers and users; it has also victimized both those individuals who have nothing to do with the drug trade as well as drug addicts driven to the habit by poverty and desperation.

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Regime of unreason

President Rodrigo Duterte
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THEN CANDIDATE Rodrigo Duterte described himself as a “socialist” and a “leftist” during the May 2016 campaign. He hasn’t made the same claim since, and, despite his appointment of two presumed leftists to the Cabinet, there isn’t a shadow of socialist thought or principle in either his statements or his emerging policies.

What the entire country has been getting since Duterte assumed the presidency, in addition to the usual profanities, is a mulish obsession with drugs, drugs, drugs. It’s as if the trade in illegal drugs and drug abuse were the country’s only problem, and the one single thing that defines existence in these 7,000 islands of 100 million people.

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Ramos in the time of Duterte

Fidel Ramos and Rodrigo Duterte
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FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos has been credited with — or blamed for — convincing Rodrigo Duterte to run for the Presidency and supporting his candidacy. Duterte has so acknowledged Ramos’ role in making the former city mayor president — the first politician in history to hold that post without any previous experience in a national office. (Duterte has been mayor of Davao for two decades and in between terms represented Davao ‘s first district as a member of the House of Representatives.)

In apparent recognition of his responsibility in inflicting the Duterte administration on the country, Ramos has made it his business to call it to task for what he sees as its many failings. But it’s not so much what he has so far been critical of but what he has so far failed to call attention to that provokes questions on what Ramos’ agenda could be.

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That Hitler remark

President Duterte's Hitler remark upon arrival from official visit to Vietnam
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WITH HIS — so far — 91 percent approval rating, President Rodrigo Duterte has the political capital and unprecedented opportunity to raise the knowledge and awareness of large numbers of Filipinos on those issues that for 70 years and through 11 administrations since the restoration of Philippine independence in 1946 have bedeviled this country. They include such fundamental questions as the roots of Philippine poverty and underdevelopment, and the causes of the rebellions and uprisings that have haunted and still trouble these islands.

Duterte’s golden opportunity to present a coherent analysis of these related issues was during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, during which the former candidate and elected president, whose campaign mantra was “Change is Coming,” could have attempted an answer to why the majority of Filipinos have remained poor despite economic growth, and how the armed social and political movements that have persisted in this country for over a hundred years are the result rather than the cause of underdevelopment. That analysis could then have proceeded to explain just how the new administration intends to address poverty as the core issue behind the support that carried Duterte to the presidency.

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