Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Transactional Worm

The worm has turned.
The cultural pattern followed in the Philippines is generally transactional and reactive. It is not principled. It is not strategic. It is not broad minded or far-reaching. It is not sacrificing.

Let’s take a few recent transactional incidents and observe how the Philippines has behaved:
The Philippines joins the coalition of the willing in Iraq. Bullets start flying and the Philippines is the first nation to drop out. President Arroyo bends to the will of her emotional subjects. She is not willing to sacrifice her job for the long-term well-being of the Philippines.

Nicole has a drunken night with Private Smith; it is assumed he is guilty of rape and it is extrapolated that most Americans are sex mad perverts, coddled by an arrogant, imperialistic America. The Philippine media milk this story for three years, until Nicole recants and is spirited out of the Philippines to the US. Then everyone shuts up.

Because of the Nicole incident, the VFA is loudly decried (VFA is the Visiting Forces Agreement, which basically says things like US soldiers don’t have to get visas and, if they are charged with a crime, can be held by the US). “The humiliation, the humiliation!” exclaims Senator Santiago, in commenting about the how the agreement differs in imprisonment clauses. Mobs of Filipinos block Roxas Boulevard protesting in front of the American Embassy.

China rattles its naval swords over the Spratleys, a cluster of resource laden islands which several other nations also claim. Viet Nam, Japan and the Philippines cry out in protest of specific Chinese acts. The Philippines waves its joint defense agreement with the US loud and clear. Senator Santiago and the press and everyone else suddenly shuts up about the VFA.

So here is the grits of it. If China moves into the Spratleys in force, Filipinos believe I should send my sons and daughters to fight for them, to die for them, and I should spend my tax money defending a people who collectively stand as a fair-weather friend. You know, the kind of friend who is there only if something is in it for them.

Screw it.

I will write long and hard for the US to keep the hell out of the Philippine mess. I suggest the Philippines man up and start training a real army and navy. And buy a jet or two.

It is okay for the Philippines to rattle its own sabers, but not mine.

I’m sure there are those who will argue there is some strategic advantage to the US to keep an alliance with the Philippines. Please enlighten me as to what it is. It seems to me it is a sink hole of self engagement by Filipinos with no over-riding loyalty to a set of principles that establishes mutual interest as a two-way street, no willingness to put transactional incidents under an umbrella of mutual commitment and mutual sacrifice.

Getting tossed out of Clark and Subic said it clearly enough. Filipino flight from Iraq said it Lima Charlie, loud and clear. The hair pulling by senators and citizens over the VFA, that “humiliating” document that makes it simple for US troops to come into the Philippines to do their bloody work defending thankless Filipinos says it so loud and so clear that even Joe Am has listened.

Let Filipinos defend Philippine interests.



  1. Great article Joe! Filipinos keep exhibiting so much machissmo and bravado but forget that as a collective, we are completely and utterly defenseless and even incapable of making even the least bit credible threat of military action. I forget, where this national *kayabangan* comes from but it is there for all who THINK to behold with bemusement at best, annoyance at worst.

    By the way, you should consider placing at least one image within your article, so that when it is shared on Facebook, a thumbnail image is picked up and the link gets a better chance of being noticed among other competing stuff that appears in user's "newsfeeds".

  2. benigno, thanks for the suggestion. I shall take it up. I'm pleased that you appreciated the article.

  3. As a Filipino, the statements being said on this article kinda hurts but I'd rather be hurt by the bluntness of truth than to to be blissfully ignorant of the things happening around me. My country isn't truly independent if it still cowers and hides behind its "big brother" for military defense. I agree with you on the fact that the "Philippines should man up and start training a real army and navy."

  4. Joe,

    America is bound by a mutual defense treaty.

    But, as to your statement that we should build up our own military, Cocoy has brilliantly blogged that an arms race with China is inevitable. And so an arms race it shall be. There comes a time when Pinoys need to rise up and take our place among the super powers of the world. Frankly, I am tired of being pushed around. Watch out China!

  5. sal, Glad you agree with the principle of the Philippines looking out for itself. Take my words constructively, as that is how they are intended. Sometimes a whack upside the head gets more attention than pussyfooting.

    PP, America is bound by a mutual defense treaty rather like the Philippines was bound to Iraq, as far as self-interest takes it. And the Philippines has zero chance of being a super-power, unless it goes nuke and outrageous. But it has a shot at being a respected, responsible nation, capable of charting its own course.

  6. Interesting article Joe. I'm sharing this to my American bf, who is a former Marine.

    I am curious as to how our (my bf & I) opinions on these matters are going to coincide. ;-)

  7. lostforwords, I'd be interested in his reaction, too. Let me know . . .

    Thanks for stopping by . . .

  8. I have this ongoing in my country for quite some time now (since I decided to have my eyes opened to the world around me)and I appreciate how clearly you state it in your blog. We need a voice like this to be heard loud enough and be recognized.

  9. i have **realized...

  10. Anon, with you and me and others making our noise, and the internet reach expanding to touch mainstream media, perhaps other Pinoy loyalists will set aside their tolerance and become more proactive for a rational, progressive Philippines.

  11. I'm an emigrant from Hungary living in New York. I'm a USA citizen.

    A friend of mine a Filipina nurse who used to own a profitable business of recruiting nurses in the Philippines and bringing them to the USA had no choice but give up her business completely. She is in the restaurant business now operating two Filipino restaurants in New York.
    “It all changed after 9/11” she told me. It has become very difficult for OFW to work in the USA.
    The way I see is that the country is getting along just fine without missing them. Americans would be fine without the Philippines as our "friends". They would not miss them. Americans will not travel 21hrs to a 3rd world country that has such a bad reputation. If they want to live cheap outside the states than Central American countries like Costa Rica and Panama would be a better choice. Those countries offers programs to retirees with benefits to Americans just like the Philippine government does. They are also safe and inexpensive and only a few hrs flight away. More countries are becoming friendly and hospitable to Americans in South America as well. Brazil is becoming one example.
    I also hope that the USA is not going to give Filipinos special treatment anytime soon. They don't deserve it. The Hungarian government consistently makes sure that it will earn Americas respect even though they may not agree with all of it's foreign policy. America needs to be proud also and not put up with this type of abuse anymore from countries like the Philippines. As Foreign born from a former communist country I'm more sensitive than most Americans about how Americans are viewed and treated. I'm a Kano but not stupid.

  12. Attila, excellent perspective. It is interesting that many Filipinos feel they are abused by the US. But you make a superb point that their "take/criticize" attitude does not warrant consideration by the US. I agree, the US can develop better partners in South and Central America. Chile is an excellent example, too, as well as Brazil.

  13. Abused? Not here. I'm a resident manager in a luxury condominium in Manhattan. I have nurses, nursing aides and babysitters from the Philippines working in my building. They are making very good money. I never seen a Filipino working in low paying job anywhere here in New York. Opposite to the Mexicans or other south Americans. What do you mean they are abused by the US?

  14. Attila, a simple misunderstanding. I was thinking historical or "macro", not as it pertains to individuals in the US. Many Filipinos in the Philippines believes the US has, since the Philippine American War, used and abused the Philippines and Filipinos, and even today is after oil in the Spratleys or is using Filipinos to fight its war on terror in Mindanao. They believe the US pursues its own interest and not that of the Philippines. Filipinos in the US are constructive participants in a modern, fair system, and benefit from the US values of tolerance and fairness toward all.

  15. The list of reasons you wrote down are new to me.
    I knew about Estrada's privilege speech for the abrogation of the U.S. Bases Agreement on April 19, 1988. Since his views made him the president I consider his views to be the general sentiment of the Filipino people.
    “We have become so dependent on the Americans that we have not learned to be self-sufficient. Our country has been seen as a nation of beggars, a nation of prostitutes, a nation of cheaters, a nation of domestic helpers. And if we do not assert ourselves today, we will also be known as a nation of cowards. This I cannot accept and this, we must not accept. “
    I watched his speech a few month ago on YouTube and I almost fell of my chair: What an underhanded sneaky way of thinking! He can't be that stupid. Is he wicked? Why is it normal for so many to think like him?
    If he and many others innocently think that way than they must have some kind of “allergic reaction” every time they try to take responsibility for themselves. Some psychologist should study their thinking mechanisms and diagnose them. It would be interesting to know if it is more typical among Filipino man compare to Filipinas. In my experience Filipinas are free of this kind of thinking here in New York. I don't know many Filipino man here in New York to compare though. I hired one a few years ago but I had to fire him. He was a misfit. He just could not work with my coworkers. I did not understand why hypersensitive that time but the more I learned about the culture the more I understand now why. He was fresh from the Philippines he did not know how to adjust. Filipinas don't have that problem.
    You are right about the Filipinos living in the USA, they are productive and first class workers.
    You are right about Chile also, thanks.

  16. This article and the comments here raise good points. Apparently, most Filipino people are easily swayed by politicians. It's like most people just believe what politicians say without analyzing it. Imagine, for most part, a lot of politicians have blamed the US for their own faults. When the US wasn't giving statement as regards to the Spratly's conflict, they have been shouting "abolish the MDT, we always get the end of the stick"(I think it is the other way around -- I wonder what has the Philippines to offer militarily and strategically?) but when the US Ambassador gave his statements, they are now shouting "The US is meddling with our affairs and is making things worse. Now, where do they really stand? I guess all these statements are to conceal and redirect the public's anger to the US rather than the Phil government who especially after the close down of the bases, failed to really do something about the nation's defense. While shouting their anti-US rhetorics, deep inside, I bet these fools are wanting that the US will bail them out. Of course, those pesky "party list groups" are part of the agenda to blame the US for all the government and society's failure. Isn't it easier to blame a country than to take responsibility?

    Just in case the pseudonationalistic communists stumblers here, I would like to inform them that I am Filipino

  17. Anon, yes, it is the absence of fundamental principles that allows the stance to be so fluid (and in the eyes of many Americans) unreliable. For example, if President Aquino would simply say "we prize our close relationship with the US, and will not let small disagreements shape this relationship", everything would fall into place. We would not see such "transactional" emotionalism.


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