Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fudging and Filipino Legislators

Let me try to characterize the Philippine social value called "Fudging". If we flip through the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, skipping past a particularly popular American obscenity because it is not relevant to his inquiry, we come across the definition we need:

  • Fudging: a propensity to work around the edges of the law for personal gain.

It derives from the Latin word fudgare, which is the infinitive expression of a verb meaning "to cheat benignly". Roman gladiators used it when they laced their loin cloths with hot chili pepper, at least preserving their family valuables from the maws of hungry lions.

"Hey Ben Hur, pass the Tabasco sauce, eh?"

Well, the inquiring mind of Joe America sees the Philippine Congress as being in a bit of a predicament because fudging has been, until now, an accepted Filipino social value. But that has changed.

Bam! Has it changed.

It changed because we had the page turning, dial flipping drama of Chief Justice Corona biting the proverbial impeachment dust at the hands of his Excellency, President Aquino, who pursued the case like a pit bull on a fluffy toy poodle.

The heavy mace of punitive embludgenment (note to self; add this fine descriptive word to the HDNWD) was called an "SALN", a particularly simple document that asks elected officials to add up what they own and what they owe and put it on paper. But the math was a little much for the Chief Justice, no matter the 26 years of education you are likely to find in his curriculum vitae. So the President and all his men, and a few women to boot, whacked the Chief Justice upside the head and tossed him under the historical bridge like a log heading downriver into the West Philippine Sea.

Well, in truth, it was not the math that nailed the Chief Justice. It was fudging.

He skirted around the edges of the law on his SALN, concocting some weird interpretation of bank secrecy laws meaning that his hidden and potentially ill-gotten wealth could be socked away in a thick iron vault under no eyes but his own. He did not have to enter dollars on his SALN. That is the way an incompetent Chief Justice fudges. He interprets laws to his personal benefit.

The Chief Justice also intermingled money from businesses and relatives and his own accounts in such a web of confusion that it would take 23 senators from now to eternity to figure out exactly whose is what. That is another way to fudge.

Alas, whereas fudging was perfectly fine in 2011, and everybody was doing it. It is processa non grata in 2012. That is, it is illegal.

And double alas, we have a bunch of representatives who impeached the fluffy puppy and a bunch of senators who convicted him who are also sitting on SALN's prepared under the 2011 Filipino Code of Conduct, where "to fudge" carried a certain macho bearing, as "man, we are screwing ordinary citizens  and pulling the wool over their blind and ignorant eyes; aren't we rich and grand!"

If the spotlight turns on the hooks and crooks in the legislative math-making, we'll likely find half the government out on its ass in the middle of the road. So the legislators have called a "time out". They are huddling and muddling and trying to figure out a way out of these troublesome woods. Once they discover how screwed up the SALN's of their colleagues are, they must decide what to do.

I have an idea.

Just declare amnesty. Stamp each SALN "accepted as filed" and move on. But next year's damn well better be precise to the decimal points and it had better include dollars and Russian rubles and even that well-tattered scrap of paper called the euro.

Recognize that social values have changed.

People who lived by the old values ought not be punished because the rules have suddenly changed.

"Well, then, Chief Justice Corona should be pardoned," you might argue. "He should be given his job back."

No, no. His warped SALN was relevant to his competence, and the impeachment an expediency for a greater good. His error strewn SALN proved his judicial injudiciousness. There was no intent to prove theft; there was intent to prove bad ethical character. A Chief Justice is paid to be a law-based and high-minded arbiter of disputes. He is not supposed to use his expertise to manipulate laws for personal gain.

A legislator is not an objective arbiter of the laws. He is a writer of laws, wherein the laws reflect the preponderance of the political ideology in place at the time. In other words, a legislator is PAID to be political. A Chief Justice is paid to be NON-POLITICAL.

So the legislative SALN's that may not add up don't prove anything with regard to a legislator's ability to write laws. Besides, who needs the hassle of trying to sort out all that paper muck when Filipinos are starving and many poor women are uneducated about birth control?

The main point is to move on. Certainly, the Philippines loves a good blood bath. The sensationalist television stations would love to see hundreds of legislators with their eyeballs gouged out, lying in the middle of Roxas Boulevard or wherever they'd get dumped. And the tabloid press, masking as mainstream newspapers, would love to rumble out edition after edition of 196 point headlines screaming which legislators couldn't add things up right.

The legislators that FUDGED!

But, the glory of gore aside, it would be better to focus an intense spotlight on 2013 SALN's as the clear benchmark of present wealth. And then 2014 and subsequent years to examine change. 

The point is made.

The point is clear.

Fudging is now a swear word.

Move on. Get transparent, get honest, and get some bills passed.


  1. From: Island jim-e (aka: the cricket)

    1. Question: Who is responsiblre for the
    "Fudge" that has provided bad infastructure,
    bad heavy rail, bad light rail, bad streets, no clean/green public mass transportation, bad
    to inadequate public building codes, insufficent parking spaces, impossible side-
    walks, non-enforced pedestrian walk way only
    (stop for peds)areas, bad locations for the
    commercial marine docks and international airport at Luzon, no flood control dikes, holding basins, retention areas, insufficent
    disaster response equipment, poorly regulated
    taxi,shuttle,jeepney,cycle and other trans-
    portation, no emergency, carpool roadbed lanes....etc? If you have any idea of who
    is responsible for these oversights I am sure
    that we could start to weed them out of the
    "big picture"...we cannot afford to wait!

    2. As the list of crisis topics relevant to
    our rainbow islands seem to be getting larger
    each day that passes I would like to propose
    a partial solution to provide a "trickle down"
    improvement movement! This one construction
    program/project would light the fuse of our
    economic stagnation. The Goal would be to
    construct a Metro Manila-Luzon Bay Bridge from
    Batangas to Bataan! This public-private
    cooperative project would combine flood control, fresh water lakes extending into Manlia Bay, The rejuvination of the water-cannal
    system, the cleaning up of Lugana Lake, creation
    of a ten meter high combo break-water/sea-wall
    (the marine terminal needs to be eventually
    shifted to Batangas and the international
    airport to Subic Bay area). A multi-level
    bridge (cars and passenger vehicles on top)
    light rail, trucks,bus,emergency vehicles on
    bottom could be extended to North and South
    Luzon terminals and exits. A cross grid of
    master flood/rainwater control channel (the
    great ditch project) would guarantee the
    elimination of our community flooding issues.
    Lastly, a series of high-low monorails could
    be put in place (sooneer the better) to
    interconnect with light rail for metro-
    Manila high speed passenger movement. As
    other great cities have constructed these
    transportation facilitators there is no good
    reason or excuse for our government not to!
    As other Asian Rim great cities have solved their transportation crisis we need to do
    this NOW! The public and private industry
    benefits would be wonderful!


    1. Jim-e, it is my studied observation, though harsh, that the general dilapidation of infrastructure can be attributed to the Philippines failure to act as a community of people, each committed to caring for each other. Rather, it is a nation of self-dealing excuse mongering face-savers who take every opportunity to deny responsibility. So you would be hard-pressed to get anyone to stand up and say "I did it." Even presidents gloat about their achievements while nothing much changes.

      The nation is poor, without doubt, with what little wealth-building there is strewn across too many people. And leaders who SHOULD be accountable can't do the simple thing of asking citizens to birth less often, much less give them the methods to stop the destructive obsession with baby-making. So Manila is a giant poor-people's shack of a city, without the income to fix the holes in the roof or the gaps in the walls.

      Frankly, I don't see any reason it will change.

      A nation as precarious as this OUGHT to be concentrating on making good decisions, bam bam bam, one after the other. Understanding the value equations, the risk equations, the sources of income, the payback. Lining up its infrastructure ducks and popping them off in regimented, disciplined order. Electricity, drainage, water, sewerage, moving people, zoning and housing standards (get houses off the river banks), and industrial development. Instead, people wing it on loud speech and a prayer. Reacting, not planning. Lousy management (uncles and wives and nephews rather than competent people). Emotional appeals, excuse making, whining, blaming, wasted investments, sloppy tax disciplines, and precious little sacrifice for the good of the community.

      How do you build the bridge and 40,000 new classrooms? You can't. You have to make big decisions. As King, I'd rejig the education model and build the bridge, myself. Indeed, I'd seriously consider taking education private and selling public school facilities. They are disasters, contributing to a continuation of low self esteem, gameplaying and obedience to illogical authority that characterize the way things here work.

      Or don't . . .

      Way to get me worked up . . . .

    2. From: The cricket

      How about a dose of "Disney"--Snow White and
      the seven D's! Besides the potential usual
      dailly-weeklyl-monthly series of crisis that
      is apparently being ignored for one reason or
      another we face numerous disasters (dis-ass-

      Our Metro Manila Cities collective
      governments have made it apparent that they
      consider life emergency vehicle
      lanes, no central ambulance service, no training
      of emergency medical techs...etc! The physicans
      association have turned a blind !

      Besides the several topics identified as
      disasters that need to be addressed immediately
      a 9.0 earthquake, pandemic, and potential tsunami
      disaster to motivate and gear up for "change now"
      the island government has ignored the most
      obvious threat of a expected (guaranteed) two-
      foot plus ocean water level increase coming to
      a coastal city near you!

      If the government is soooo apathetic as to ignore the salt water approaching nose level,the media blowing "smoke" to control and put the general population asleep, the church for mis-management and the lack of stewardship (let them eat stones and
      walk on water!), the mis-educators and a
      disfunctional congress....what to do?

      If the government is not willing to start building
      a ten meter coastal sea wall around the major
      coastal/waterway cities then I suppose they will
      figure out a way to relocate these cities...
      before a storm surge and tsunami wash them away!

      I hope someone or something awakens the "gov"
      before they float away or sink!

      Note: Is it good to keep the people ignorant
      of their pending doom? Feed them some "manila
      sunshine" (one part carbon dioxide, one part
      carbon monoxide, one part polluted water, and
      a dash of methane gas!)...!

      chirp! chirp!

    3. You failed to mention bird flu, which scientists have discovered requires only 5 mutations to get become human flu.

      Why is it that Westerners look forward and anticipate, whilst Filipinos look backward and react? I have taken up the argument that the Filipino brain is installed in reverse . . . but my wife takes unkindly to that perspective . . .

  2. Joe,

    You and the Cricket said it all.

    For a minute I was thinking why in the hell Joe is talking about an ice cream. You got me fooled haha...

    Fudge it is and it is a perfect description how Filipinos do mostly of things especially the politicians. They got fudging perfected and get away with it.

    Trying to set a bail for GMA is fudging. What do you think?

    1. Me, I'd allow the bail on humanitarian grounds, and even allow her to go to Hong Kong for medical treatment. If she fled, it would prove a point, finally, as to her character, and we could just erase her as history. Meanwhile, prosecute her husband until the karabao come home to roost. ahahahaha

      Now that you remind me, I used to get these truly delicious hot fudge sundaes at the Rocky Cola Cafe in Whittier, California. Now I am lactose intolerant. Thanks for bringing that up . . .

  3. Joe,

    As long as leaders take advantage of their position, nothing will happen. Tuwid na Daan is but another useless slogan to join other useless slogans in Philippine history.

    Amnesty? Line them up and shoot them dead, repeat cycle.

    1. Hey, Joe.

      I just got back from a provincial drive. It's pretty disgusting how the secretary of the TESDA overused the billboards to promote his face and name all over.

      Disappointed, really.

    2. Those kinds of signs make me want to upchuck. Crass. Low class.


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