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Category Archives: The Helter-skelter World of Philippine Politics

Bureau of Customs or Bureau of Corruption?

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I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a long time already. So for the meantime, my seventeen-year-old niece Helenna Beatrice Órgano y Alas, an engineering student from the country’s oldest university, is taking over. Here’s her no-holds-barred piece against the Bureau of Customs’ controversial decision last month to strictly inspect our balicbayan‘s gift of love to their families

Bea Órgano y Alas.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

Most of us, if not all of us, are already aware of what’s happening with the issue on the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). If there’s one thing that OFWs have a grudge on, it’s probably about the BOC’s ‘dirty work. There are three main reasons which I think why the workers abroad got furious about: the BOC not just doing the usual X-ray and K-9 checking; OFWs are not given even a single notice that something’s happening with their boxes not until a ‘kapamilya’ reports it to them; and of course, the fact that some items — branded and original — were sold at a reasonable rate.

BOC, sometimes derisively called the ‘training center for corrupts,’ is a Philippine government agency under the Department of Finance. They are the ones who are in charge of this issue’s “matter” — the “balikbayan box”. Most of the loved ones of OFWs who are residing here in our country are trying to reach out to the government because of this indecent acts showed by BOC laborers. This indecent act I’m talking about is the examination of the items inside a balikbayan box. Anyone with a good morality and ‘delicadeza‘ would not open the box because it belongs to the family of the overseas worker and was bought with earnings of the worker.

Some OFW might still be clueless of what’s happening with their ‘love in a box’ here in our country until a relative or a family member claims the box. A close cousin of mine happens to work in Singapore and we all know that the cost of living there is just so much. She bought a branded bag there and was delivered here, but she was informed by her mother that upon claiming the bag, the BOC said that they will not give it to her unless she buys it with an already discounted price, at least for the BOC to know that the item was really addressed for the mother. And the tax was already paid there, but the BOC still inputs the tax with the price. Airport Customs Deputy Collector for Operations confirmed their act, saying that no matter where the item was bought, no matter who brought it here, if it is bought abroad and was delivered in the Philippines it will still be taxed. As for the OFW who bought the items and paid for the tax abroad, it is really exasperating.

For the record, it’s still not the sickest thing I could know about the BOC’s foul deeds, but this. If family members won’t claim it in the exact office of the BOC, it will not be given to them or even contacting the family so that they’ll know that the package is already waiting for them, if not to be delivered in their homes. It’s either the BOC laborers will own them or sell the items inside a box. It’s a very impure act, right? And not just that, but because they already have checked the item, be it branded and original or not, they will sell some of them with the actual price. People nowadays are very insensitive of the feelings of others. Maybe some our workers abroad are expecting that his family is already experiencing the joy brought about by the ‘love in a box’ they earned from hardwork and inspiration, but when in reality, the ‘Buwayas’ in the BOC are the ones who get to taste their own idea of bliss.

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Pinoy Big Brother: Presidential Edition (FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES’ 6th anniversary special)

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It was reported a few days ago that the budget for the refurbishment of the more than 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that will be used for next year’s presidential elections has been raised from ₱2.07 billion to an astonishing ₱3.13 billion. Wow. Imagine that. It’s just for refurbishment. But Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chief Christian Robert Lim even boasted that this move is the most cost effective option by the said constitutional commission for next year’s automated election system.

Will that humongous amount even be worth it? Of course it remains to be seen. However, we here at FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES do not concur with this cost effectiveness. Besides, those billions of pesos could have been used for more poverty alleviating projects. Other than that, it was reported recently that COMELEC is planning to hold voting in malls during next year’s elections for the sake of convenience. Nice.

The way we see it, the most cost effective and convenient option we see fit is to have all our presidentiables live inside “Bahay ni Kuya“.

Yes. we’re talking about ABS-CBN’s hugely popular Pinoy Big Brother (PBB).

For the past decade, this reality show has had several iterations: Celebrity Edition, Teen Edition, Unlimited, etc. We thought of coming up with something different, something that is more noble, and certainly something that is not only cost effective but transparent and convenient to all voters. So why not COMELEC, ABS-CBN, and other related government agencies team up together to form Pinoy Big Brother: Presidential Edition? Instead of having these noble and dignified presidentiables launch costly and “security nightmare” campaigns, have them stay inside the PBB house during the campaign period, preferably for a period of two to three months. The whole country (and the rest of the world) will be able to see these “presidential housemates” together under one roof, seeing their true colors while performing weekly tasks related to the coveted presidential throne. We’ll see them interact with one another on a 24/7 basis through live streaming, witness them dance the nae nae upon waking up every morning, that sort of thing. The last man (or woman) standing, or that person who would survive succeeding evictions, will be declared as the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Viewers, of course, will be asked to vote via SMS, voice messaging, Facebook likes, or even tweets, for whoever they wanted to stay longer in the house. Presidential housemates can also vote for those they would like to evict on occasions to be decided by Kuya, whoever that pr!ck is (it’s probably Eugenio López III himself using a voice changing device for all we know).

So far, those who have already confirmed their candidacy, including those who are still playing coy f0r the position, are as follows:

Alan Peter Cayetano
Míriam Defensor-Santiago
Rodrigo Duterte
Chiz Escudero
Jinggoy Estrada
Pánfilo Lacson
Bongbong Marcos
Grace Poe
Mar Roxas

POSSIBLE SCENARIO (déjà vu alert!)

On day one, Bínay will be immediately evicted by both viewers and presidential housemates for obvious reasons — nobody likes him. Not even Kuya himself. It will be a record first in PBB for being the earliest eviction ever.

Before the second eviction takes place, Defensor-Santiago will certainly walk out (nothing new, really), but not without blurting out her disapproval:

“This electoral contest is a travesty of the highest order!” we could almost hear her complain. “It is a grave insult not only to my intellect but to the intellect of the general viewing public who deserves better! Thus, I would like to invoke my right to gracefully exit this discombobulating patchwork of pastel-colored cardboards that you call a house!”

All the housemates will also gang up on Duterte by evicting him after the latter played with a knife and pointed it directly at Bongbong due to some light argumentation about human rights abuses.

In one episode, Lacson will reveal to newfound BFF Poe what televiewers have been suspecting all these years:

LACSON (sobbing): “I’m gay. Sinasabi ko sa ‘yo ngayon, sinasabi sa ibang tao na hindi ako masamang tao.”
POE: “Grabe… nire-respect kita…”

Kuya will forcefully have to pull out Escudero from the list of presidential housemates because ABS-CBN’s hugely popular reality television singing competition will lose Bamboo due to a high-profile murder. It turned out that the evicted Mayor Duterte, inspired by his singing stint in a recent Gandang Gabi Vice episode, tried his luck in The Voice of the Philippines. But no one among the judges turned their chairs. Worse, he received an honest to goodness criticism from Bamboo. The rock artist was found dead the next day. But ABS-CBN wouldn’t want any of this scandalous murder get mainstream attention. Management simply thought of replacing the fallen rocker with a “kalokalike“.

Kuya then introduces a guest candidate: JV Ejército, much to Estrada’s chagrin. In the ensuing days, the half-brothers rivalry heated up to unbearable proportions. They ended up in a nasty brawl, but Estrada’s penguin-like frame was simply no match to his younger half-bro’s Wilson-Fisk-like frame. He ended up in a bloody pulp, resulting in Ejército’s immediate eviction. Estrada then garnered sympathy votes from sympathetic and teary eyed fans.

In the ensuing months, tasks here and there decided the fate of the remaining presidentiables. But the final eviction night will see only two candidates: Roxas and Estrada. But because of the sympathy garnered by Estrada from the butt whoopin’ he received from his half-bro, Planet Pinoy will opt for hin instead of “Mr. Palengke”.

And so we have a winner!

Unfortunately, President Jinggoy Estrada will remain on house arrest because of his ongoing pork barrel case. He will thus hold office at the PBB house until 2022.

So may the MTRCB have mercy upon the weary Pinoy televiewers by leaving Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) alone! Don’t they realize that this hugely popular reality TV program is the people’s nightly lotus? For all intents and purposes, PBB provides our weary Pinoy lotus-eaters a peaceful apathy that they deserve after a day’s toil which in turn produces the same income tax that feeds the very same government agency that harasses them.

Pinoy ako, pinoy tayo! (pwe!)

Noynoy’s sense of gratitude and loyalty (or the apparent lack of it)

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Much has been said for and against incarcerated senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Ejército Estrada, and Ramón “Bong” Revilla, Jr. Despite alleged evidence against them regarding their double-dealing relationship with pork barrel queen Janet Nápoles, we have to face the sad fact that they are yet to be proven guilty. Same thing goes with the much-hated Bínay father-and-son tandem.

No, I am not trying to exonerate these people. For all we know, they could really be guilty of the accusations hurled against them. But like what I said, they’re still considered innocent until proven as crooks. And I’m inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt because if there’s one thing that we can really be sure of, it is this: they are all opponents of the Liberal Party of the Philippines, the political team of President Noynoy Aquino. It is the same party that had a hand, directly or indirectly, in tormenting its political rivals in the local government unit. The party’s name was palpable in the removal of Emilio Ramón Ejército as governor of La Laguna Province last year, in the disqualification of Calixto R. Catáquiz for his final bid as mayor of San Pedro Tunasán during the 2013 elections, and in the suspension of Cebú Governor Gwendolyn García during the final days of 2012. It was also the same party that tried to remove Manila Mayor Joseph Ejército Estrada not too long ago, but failed.

The funny thing here is that the mentioned LGU personalities were victimized by an obvious witch hunt not because of corruption in office but mainly because of their rivalry with their LP counterparts. But the part that hurts the most is that these political casualties, with the exception of the Ejércitos, Revilla, and García, all risked their lives, careers, and even reputation in EDSA back in 1986 when an emotional crowd was protesting against a dictator whose main rival at that time was none other than President Noynoy’s mother who was not even there (one instance: a young Calex Catáquiz was kicked out from his home by his own parents who were friends with Marcos upon learning that their son was supporting the People Power Revolution). Those politicians who gave their all-out support to the mother have instead gotten the shorter end of the stick from the son.

Has the president forgotten?

This bizarre sense of gratitude coming from President Noynoy comes into question now that his presidency is being beleaguered by reproach, nay, anger from the same voting public which catapulted him to power five years ago on account of his (covert) involvement in the Mamasapano tragedy. And this national anger is being fanned all the more by his seeming loyalty towards the selfish cause of a known terrorist group toying around with the word “revolution” despite this group’s manifest participation in the aforementioned tragedy. Where does his loyalty really belong, to the Filipino people who has supported him and his family throughout the decades, or to those troublesome pre-Filipino savages in the south?

Time and again, the president has beamingly declared that we are his bosses, and he our faithful servant. But looking back to how he has been walking on the tightrope that is contemporary history, it appears that the balance pole he is using has been carved out from the forests of Malaysia.

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Baybayin is not Filipino

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As per the research of scholar Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

At the 4th Baybayin Festival Rizal held at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City last November 22, Senator Loren Legarda announced that she filed Senate Bill No. 1899 which calls for the use of Baybayin in all official logos of government agencies, departments, and offices.

While her bill will impact only official government logos, the fact remains that the good senator is still campaigning for its eventual general usage. This became evident when, on the same event, she said:

Marahil ñgayón ay hindí na maunauaan ng caramihan ang cahalagahán ng Baybayin dahil sanáy na tayo sa sistema ng pagsusulát na ating nacagisnán. Ñgunit capág binalicáan nátin ang ating casaysayan, ang baybayin ang símbolo ng civilización ng mga sinaúnang Filipino, bago pa man táyo mapasailálim sa pamumuno ng mg̃a dayuhan. (Perhaps today, many no longer understand the importance of Baybayin because we are already accustomed to the current system of writing which we have been using. But when we look back at our history, Baybayin is the symbol of civilization of the first Filipinos, right before we were subjugated by  foreign rule.)

This statement only implies her full support for Baybayin.

More than one Baybayin

Baybayin, as many of us all know, is an ancient pre-Filipino script that was used by major ethnolinguistic groups in the country such as the Tagálogs, Cebuanos, Ilocanos, etc. It has always been taught to us that the Baybayin (mistakenly referred to as Alíbata years ago) was the original Filipino system of writing. This is, of course, a false notion. For one: before the Spaniards arrived, our country was not yet created. Hence, there were still no Filipinos during that time (the first Filipinos were actually criollos or insulares; the term “Filipino” itself was coined by one). Second, and more importantly, there are several variations of Baybayin.

As can be seen from the chart above, there are more than one version of Baybayin. The Baybayin of the Visayans is not the one used by the Bicolanos, the Baybayin of the Ilocanos could neither be read by the Pampangueños, and so on and so forth. Even Tagálog has five versions! So how can Senator Loren Legarda incorporate the usage of this ancient script when it varies according to linguistic region? Will she do an eeny, meeny, miny, moe? Or will she arbitrarily use Tagalog since it is the basis of the national language? But again, WHICH Tagalog Baybayin? And if she chooses a different script other than Tagalog, that will make the other ethnolinguistic groups feel left out as well.

At this early stage, we can already feel the ineffectiveness of Baybayin. It will only espouse more division than unity other than confusion to an already uneducated Filipino studentry.

From Baybayin to Abecedario

We do, however, understand the nationalist stance of Senator Legarda. It is the same sentiment shared by many other nationalists, particularly those from UP Dilimán. But it is a kind of nationalism that is twisted and not rooted to historical reason and analysis. Had the good senator and those supporting her bill looked beyond their textbook knowledge as basis for this ancient script’s usage, they would have realized its inefficacy (eventually realizing their misplaced nationalism). Baybayin was actually scrapped not because the Spanish friars thought of it as the “workings of demons”, as we are wont to hear from hispanophobic historians, but for the simple fact that it was not an effective medium in disseminating novel thoughts and ideas to a people who were about to be taught the rudiments of contemporary literacy — book culture.

We can point out to Tomás Pinpín, our country’s first typographer and printer, as the culprit behind the disuse of the Baybayin. But he did it for practical reasons. When Pinpín was commissioned by the Dominicas to print the first Christian booklets for each native language, different typographical sets of Baybayin had to be manufactured. It was a very tedious process considering the fact that during his time (late 16th to early 17th century), wooden letter chips which were used to form each word that had to be printed were then handmade. It dawned upon Pinpín that it would take a lot of time, possibly years, to complete so many sets of Baybayin even before he could begin printing a book.

The archaic xylographic method of printing was a tedious process. Just imagine your first book being published in this manner using just one writing system. What more if it will be published in other systems of writing? You would have lost more hair by then compared to this guy in the picture.

But being of Chinese origin, Pinpín was aware that mainland China also had many languages. The difference, however, is that the Chinese always had one common system of writing, something which our country didn’t have at that time. And so this gave our first typographer and printer a marvelous idea: why not standardize the system of writing of all indigenous groups in Filipinas? Instead of using the various kinds of Baybayin, Pinpín (with the blessings of the Dominicans) decided to adopt for all the native languages the writing system that the Spaniards have been using — the Roman alphabet.

Not only did this move save Pinpín tons of time and labor in printing the first set of books meant for religious missions. It also gave the several groups in the archipelago, from Aparrí all the way to Joló, a sense of unity, of oneness, and of identity. And that is also the reason why up to now, we are still using the same system of writing.

Hardened nationalists who despise the present use of the Roman alphabet and yearn for the return of the Baybayin should take note that Pinpín’s decision to discard the latter not only gave him and future printers the ease of work. Inadvertently, it also paved the way for the introduction of two new vowel sounds: the “E” and the “O” (before the Spaniards arrived, the natives only had three vowel sounds: “A”, “I”, and “U”). It also assisted the natives into learning not only the Spanish language but also other European languages using the same alphabet. In the long run, the Filipinos developed their own alphabet, different but somewhat similar. It was called the Abecedario Filipino.

Bring back the Abecedario Filipino

If Senator Legarda’s intention of bringing back the Baybayin from obscurity is to instill nationalist pride among Filipinos, then she’s barking up the wrong tree. If one were to analyze it, Baybayin will only foster regionalism rather than nationalism. This alarming observation is already evident in local Pampangueño historian Michael Raymon Pañgilinan‘s patronization of the Culitan, the Capampañgan term for their version of Baybayin. Pañgilinan and his followers’ preoccupation for the Culitan did not instill in them love of country but love of region. As a result, Pañgilinan himself disdains of being called a Filipino and is obsessed with talks of a fairy tale “Kingdom of Luzón“.

What Senator Legarda and other leaders in government tasked to handle cultural and heritage issues is to bring back instead not the Baybayin but the 32-letter Abecedario Filipino, the true Filipino orthography which developed from Pinpín’s ingenious move to use the Roman alphabet instead of the awkward Baybayin.

Having 32 letters (five letters more than its Spanish counterpart), the Abecedario Filipino is clearly one of the longest alphabets in the world. Most of its consonants are read with the Batangueño inflection “eh”:

A (ah), B (be), C (se), CH (che), D (de), E (eh), F (efe), G (he), H (ache), I (ih), J (hota), K (ka), L (ele), LL (elye), M (eme), N (ene), NG (nang), Ñ (enye), ÑG (ñga), O (oh), P (pe), Q (ku), R (ere), RR (erre), S (ese), T (te), U (uh), V (ube), W (doble u), X (ekis), Y (ih griega), Z (seta)

As mentioned earlier, the introduction of the Roman alphabet by Pinpín which paved the way for the development of the Abecedario Filipino augmented the phonemes of the local languages with the addition of new vowel (“A”, “I”, and “U”) and consonant (“F”, “Ñ”) sounds. The Abecedario Filipino is also the same alphabet utilized by Francisco Balagtás when he wrote his now classic Florante at Laura. It was the same alphabet used by our forefathers, and that included Rizal and his contemporaries, in writing literature and in corresponding among themselves. Whether a Filipino back then spoke a different native language, his usage of the Abecedario Filipino is one proof that he has assimilated himself into the Filipino cosmos,

The Abecedario Filipino is thus the orthography that must be put back to full usage because of its unifying characteristics. Other than that, the Abecedario Filipino will prove once and for all that Tagalog, Cebuano, Capampañgan, Bicolano, etc. are not inferior to English.

This obsession for a mythical glorious past should stop because it is retrogressive and very un-Filipino. But if Senator Legarda still insists of having her worthless bill passed into law, then she might as well push for all Filipinos to go back to writing on banana leaves and tree barks.

The Baybayin NEVER united our archipelago. It never did. And it never will. On the other hand, the Abecedario Filipino has already proven its effectiveness in strengthening our collective identity as Filipinos.

The story behind the assassination of Fernando Manuel Bustamante

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Earlier today, in Palacio de Malacañán‘s official Facebook page, the below post was published:

#todayinhistory — On August 9, 1717, Fernando Bustamante y Rueda assumed his post as the Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines. He stirred trouble with the religious orders and also with the archbishop, which lead to his assassination by mob.

I just find it irritatingly odd that instead of commemorating the reforms and projects of the Bustamante administration since today is the anniversary of his installation as Gobernador-General de las Islas Filipinas, Malacañán’s Facebook handlers found time to instead harp on the governor-general’s assassination. Shouldn’t they have, instead, posted the above info on the anniversary of his death which falls every 11th of October (1719)? Because it’s more timely that way. And is the assassination the only thing our historians remember about Bustamante? Furthermore, how much do we even know about his character?

The said Facebook post has garnered several shares already, not to mention eliciting another round of those now classic “frailocracy at its finest” and “Padre Dámaso” comments. Open-minded people will then start to wonder if the said post was meant to make people not really to remember but to  “keep on hating”. And when you ask these anti-Catholic bashers (deplorably, many of them are Catholics themselves) what’s the real score behind the assassination, they will not be able to provide a decent answer.

So what’s the real story behind this infamous scene in our history? Let us now hear it from historian extraordinaire, Nick Joaquín:

What’s often cited against the 18th century are grisly happenings like the killing of Governor Fernando Manuel Bustamante — happenings that seem to indicate a priest-ridden society still groping about in the Dark Ages.

Bustamante was a reform governor (1717-1719) with good intentions but a violent temper. He used the militia to terrorize the public. He filled the jails to overflowing but his prisoners were not all government crooks he had caught; some were people who merely disagreed with him. When he jailed the archbishop of Manila, it provoked a demo.

Angry mobs marched to the palace waving banners and crucifixes and yelling: ‘Church, religion, and king!’ They were met on the palace stairway by Bustamante, who wielded a gun in one hand, a sword in the other. ‘Death to the tyrant!’ shouted his visitors, rushing up the stairs. The governor plunged his sword into the first body to approach him and then could not pull out the sword fast enough to drive back those who were surrounding him. He was cut down with dagger and spear. A son of his who came to his rescue was likewise stabbed to death.

The mob then stored Fort Santiago and released the imprisoned archbishop. The prelate would assume the governorship, as interim head of state. He decreed a pension of a thousand pesos for the family of Bustamante but the widow rejected it.

Me, Juanito, and Krystal at the foot of the massive EL ASESINATO DEL GOBERNADOR BUSTAMANTE Y SU HIJO, an oil on canvas completed in 1853 by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo y Padilla, at the National Museum (photo taken on 10/30/2012 by my wife).

Out-of-school Nick had poured over first source materials and had made researches in various libraries and archives. He had spent so much of his time in such places more than any schooled historian that I know of. And since Spanish was his language, it was easy for him to decipher the “encrypted stories” about our country’s oft-misunderstood past. That is why the PhDs and the MAs of the world fear and respect him. And that is why I trust him more about the Bustamante story more than anyone else’s version of it, most of which are twisted anyway.

To continue, the cause of Bustamante’s assassination was not exactly done out of religious sentiments. In a time when there were still no senators nor congressmen, when the political climate was still different, it was actually the Church who served as the “opposition” against a form of governmental setup that had all the potentials of turning into a dictatorship. Although violent and bloody, the demo against Bustamante was our country’s first dealings with democracy.

The happening is ugly but what caused it can be equated with the system of checks and balances, a beautiful feature of democracy. Because of the distance of Manila from Madrid, the Spanish kings were persuaded to grant their Philippine royal governors almost absolute powers. In effect, the executive was also the legislative and the judiciary. He headed army and navy. And he was answerable only to the king.

Against this potentate, the only checks and balances were provided by the Church, principally the friars, who served as the opposition. The opposition was sometimes “holy”, as in the friars’ campaign against the abuses of the encomenderos, and sometimes “unholy”, as in this killing of Bustamante — though we should remember that, before the fatal demo, the governor had called out and sicked his vigilantes in public.

So much slur has been thrown at those hated Spanish friars. Bashers don’t even think that if such events did not happen, who would have stopped potentially abusive government leaders? To wit: it was the opposition (friars) who acted against the majority (encomenderos) on the continued implementation of the corrupted encomienda system. And how come I don’t see anyone praising the friars for this? Why the double standard?

Anyway, good ‘ol Nick concluded Bustamante’s assassination story with this…

…the point here is not interference between Church and State, but the natural feud between government and opposition. It’s like the clash between King Henry II of England and Archbishop Becket, with the difference that in the Philippine case it was the King Henry who got slain.

Just a piece of advice: read widely and think critically to avoid bashing benightedly.

Of statesmen and politicians

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We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy. I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.
—Mike North—

Several scandals and controversies in national politics have withered away public trust and confidence on our so-called public servants. From the Rolex 12 controversy of the 1970s up to the recent Pork Barrel Scam, the image of the present-day Filipino politician has been mired down. And so stuck in the rut is this image that it has become easy not to distinguish anymore the difference between a political imbroglio and the latest celebrity sex scandal. Social media stewards are always on the lookout not only for the latest confession from some pregnant starlet but also for an interesting below-the-belt altercation between two senators.

It has come to a point that we no longer differentiate an erring celebrity from a grandstanding politician. Both have become entertainers, and they do succeed in entertaining us. It’s that bad. Yet we don’t find this repulsive anymore because such news puts a smirk on our faces. It’s that worse.

Public servants, most especially our supposedly esteemed senators, are now regarded as smartly dressed comedians grandstanding behind podiums. Gone are the days when the august halls of the Senate were just that — august, venerable. filled with grandeur and eloquence. They deliver speeches (most of which were in Spanish) in a manner as if they were the treasured epic poetry of a generation. From the peanut gallery of the Senate, debates (most of which, again, were in Spanish) were highly anticipated by an audience who were eager to listen not only to the sense of the arguments but also to the artistic eloquence of the debaters. Each and every senator displayed the highest respect for each other and for their individual selves. Although some of them do not agree on each other regarding various national issues, they do not in any way regarded each other as enemies even if their respective political parties were warring against each other.

Simply put, they were not just politicians. Even “public servant” is too hackneyed a term to apply to them. These gentlemen of the old school were statesmen. And of the highest order.

Many are in agreement that a statesman is usually a politician, a diplomat, or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level. But there is a vast difference between a politician and a statesman. Various people, from movie stars to boxers to obscure money launderers, can be elected into public office, turning into bona fide government officials in the process. But not all politicians can be statesmen. While being a politician can be learned through experience, people management, and even cunning*, being a statesman is something that is more of a responsibility. Of course, being an elected official entails having responsibilities to his constituents, but as often is the case nowadays, a politician is tied to the goals and objectives of his party while a statesman is tied to the state, whether half the state dislikes him or not.

But what does it take to be a statesman? Brilliance and clarity of mind, a cultured environment, lofty ideals for the state. And most importantly: CHARACTER. And while both politician and statesman can claim to have a genuine concern for the people, only the latter can rouse his people into action against social apathy by injecting into them the same fiery passion, the same patriotism, that he has in his noble heart. Statesmen are not just sagacious thinkers but also masters of the oratory. It can be argued that being a masterful public speaker is an imperative element of a statesman because projecting elegance is also a political necessity. And it really was during the days when our country was not bereft of “philosopher kings”.

Yes, our history is replete with statesmen. Names of legendary luminaries such as Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tañada, Cipriano Primicias, Manuel Briones, Eulogio A. Rodríguez, Sr., Mariano Jesús Cuenco, Lorenzo Sumúlong (an uncle of former President Cory Aquino), Enrique Magalona (a fierce defender of the Spanish language; grandfather of FrancisM), Rogelio de la Rosa, Quintín Paredes, José P. Laurel, Gil Púyat, Francisco Rodrigo, and a host of others still continue to echo grandiose trumpets celebrating the grandeur and glory of Filipinas from a not so distant past. And even when they iniquitably stumble down from time to time, as is the wont of all human beings, the prestige that was built by their statesmanship easily displaces any discomposure, like a torrential rain washing a soiled window pane. And no matter what political principles and beliefs they brandish, whether it was popular or not, the public never dared deride them. They were like ancient priests that commanded both fear and respect (but with the latter, of course, superseding the former). Indeed, theirs was an epoch filled with conviction, with respect, with honor.

Great statesmen of a bygone era. Senators Cipriano Primicias vs Quintín Paredes debating in Spanish (circa 1951). Photo taken from the book “Senator Cipriano Primicias: Great Statesman, Most Outstanding Parliamentarian”.

We can liken statesmanship to a “Super Soldier Serum“. But instead of soldiers, it will produce the compleat politician. Politicians are elected. They are made, not born. But statesmen are not just born nor made but bred. A rare species they are nowadays because we no longer breed such people. But statesmanship is part and parcel of the Filipino politician’s identity. Have we completely forgotten how our forefathers at a very young age were trained into statesmanship? Filipino nationalist and statesman Salvador Araneta offers us a glimpse of how young Filipino children were prepared to be silver-tongued orators:

During one of my birthdays as a very young child, my parents organized a banquet where we were treated as grown-ups. A formal dining table for sixteen was set up for my cousin José Tuason and his cousins Tony Prieto and Ben Legarda, for our neighbors and friends, the Paternos, the Valdeses and Roceses, for my eldest brother José and me. After the banquet, a few of us gave prepared speeches, with one acting as the toastmaster. As honoree and celebrant, I stood up to make the final speech on that occasion.

Today, a children’s party for the Filipino child is entrusted to fastfood party hosts and clowns.

And what kind of government leaders do we have now? Instead of passing and upholding laws, they bicker at each other, they walk out if they cannot take the heat anymore, some dance while others prefer to sing. Some even curse on national television. Worse, even neophyte government officials already have the gall to issue death threats! Todays privilege speeches were meant to either accuse colleagues or defend one’s self from them. And in worse case scenarios, such speeches are filled with unparliamentary language.

Alas, the clownish comportment of today’s politician has killed statesmanship and parliamentarianism. And not only that, it has left a rift among themselves. In the aftermath of the aborted impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada, Francisco “Kit” Tátad (an unappreciated statesman if I may add) ruefully observed in his book “A Nation On Fire”:

Meantime, the tradition of civility that had previously characterized all relationships in the Senate now disappeared. At the lounge where majority and minority used to sit together, even after the sharpest clashes on the floor, senators now sat in two opposing camps, separated by an invisible wall that may not be breached by camaraderie or fellowship. On the eighty- first anniversary of the Senate, only 12 of the 24 members joined Mrs. Arroyo and a few former senators at the Senate President’s dinner. And the few who were there ate dinner together without breaking the ice between and the few who were there ate dinner together without breaking the ice between and among seatmates.

The decline of civility among senators is matched only by their increasing lack of regard for the Senate as an institution. Seniority rule, which is honored in every parliament, has been jettisoned without a hearing, and neophytes, who have yet to learn the ropes, have been given senior posts. Against all rules of parliamentary decorum, senators now smoke freely during committee hearings, and consume their victuals inside the hall during plenary sessions. Those with floor duties also tend to their handheld phones more than they listen to the deliberations and often lose track of what is happening on the floor.

Arguably, the last such statesman that we had was former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel. During the relaunching of his biography last year, journalist Teddyboy Locsín, Jr. aptly said that when his uncle Doy passed away, “that old world of honor passed away with him”.

You may regard me as a hopeless romantic, because despite my frustrations on modern Filipino society, I still believe that we can bring back that old world.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

*What I meant here is the skill to wield political reality to one’s advantage. Once this skill has been utilized effectively, then political power will fall into one’s hands easily. The only question now is if the person who gains political power is worthy of such power. Such are the risks of electing a government official.

To those MORONS who wanted to kill me: molotov cocktails are supposed to be hurled!

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A few minutes before nine in the morning, our nextdoor neighbor told me that two improvised bombs were found near the entrance to our apartment. The first one was already lit up when the “barangay tanod” arrived. Good thing it was drizzling, so the bottles got drenched. The bombs were then taken by our barangay tanods to their office.

Upon hearing this, the death threats that my family received from Eugenio Ynión, Jr. and his brother Rommel came to mind in an instant. Could it have been their men who had those bombs planted? I’m not the type who immediately draws up a careless conclusion, so I had to make sure. I immediately went to our barrio hall to investigate.

It turned out that those improvised bombs were molotov cocktails. They were actually found in front of our neighbor’s front gate, right beside our apartment entrance where I usually drop off from a trike ride.

Popularly known in our country as molotov bombs, these are homemade incendiary weapons consisting of a glass bottle filled with flammable liquid, usually gasoline or alcohol (either methanol or ethanol). The mouth of the bottle is tightly sealed with a cork or other type of airtight bung (rubber, glass, or plastic). A cloth rag is then fixed securely around the mouth. The bottle is used by first soaking the rag in a flammable liquid immediately prior to using it. Upon lighting the rag, the bottle can then be hurled towards the target. The bottle then shatters on impact, throwing away shards of glass and spilling the flammable liquid over the target which is then ignited by the burning rag. The result: street pandemonium.

These were the molotov bombs that were recovered near the entrance to our apartment. And no, they’re not cherry flavored.

 

The molotov cocktail was named after Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov (1890-1986), not really to honor him but to spite his name. Today, the molotov is a “favorite” weapon during violent mass protests and gang wars.

But our neighborhood is not known for gang wars. No mass protests ever occur here. Our community is an untidy neighborhood, unkempt, and noisy because of hulking vehicles sharing a very small barrio road. Truly, a terrible place for a writer. Nevertheless, our place is a peaceful community where everybody knows everyone. Nobody here has a serious dispute with anyone within or without our community. And to top it all, this molotov incident is a first, at least in our barrio.

After filing a report to our barangay hall, I was escorted by the police and some tanod folks who recovered the deadly bottles to our local police station to personally present them to Superintendent Fernando Ortega who was already waiting for us. On our way to the station, we passed by our place again to investigate further. Reaching our place, I then asked some neighbors who were there if they had any dispute with other people. They confirmed to me that virtually nobody in our vicinity had a dispute with anyone. Nobody… except me. 🙂

I really couldn’t think of anyone else who is capable of doing me and my family harm. The Ynión Brothers, especially “Kapitan” Eugenio, are the only enemies I know. And if my suspicions are correct that it was really them, did they intentionally leave those bottles just to intimidate us? Or they hired pure buffoons who failed to get the job done?

So to the morons who want me killed, a piece of advice: the next time you use a molotov cocktail, hurl it towards me and don’t just leave it exposed to the elements. It’s not a weapon to intimidate — it’s a weapon. Idiotas.

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