Thursday, January 31, 2013

Church Goons Unleashed on Aquino

I thought about handing this blog to Maude so she could do a good job of ranting, but I decided instead on this more moderate presentation. You know, preferring to at least give the Church some love and kindness, rather than the brutal condemnation they deserve.

So anyway, the priests, these whimpering softies who want Carlos Celdran hoisted by his petard very un-Jesus like above the spires of the Manila Cathedral because he hurt their feelings, are out to undermine the constitutionally elected President of the Philippines.

Frankly, I've come to develop a bad taste in my typewriter when these Catholic politicians cloak themselves in the righteousness of the Lord and then go out to try to destroy good people's work. It bothers me immensely when those who represent the God of Goodness list only criticisms of a duly elected leader, and discount the accomplishments, all for their own doctrinal political gain.

Remember, the Catholic Church is an organization that uses the State's services - it's courtrooms and judges and streets and infrastructure - but pays nothing for them. No taxes. And it makes millions because of this.

I believe the Catholic Church should be more respectful of government's position of not being able to attack back when attacked by a religious organization.

But the Philippine Constitution is interpreted to give them full right of free speech. Okay.

Kindly allow those of us who disagree to shout back, that you do not represent the whole of the Philippines, you represent a shrinking majority of faithful. Shrinking exactly because of this political gamesmanship, lack of humility, and self-serving denigration of the good efforts of others.

You are not entitled to protection FROM free speech. You cannot be entitled to the presumption of reverence and respect when your own voice lacks reverence and respect. And you for sure are not entitled to claim the One and Only God is in your corner but not in the corner of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.

This is political scheming akin to that done in 1896 by Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda of Manila who got a Spanish Governor who would agree to the execution of Jose Rizal  to replace the governor who would not do that execution.

Today's schemers want to undermine a good president.  Go against him in 2013 and get a president in 2016 who will do their bidding.

This is the Rappler headline on the story:

After plenary, CBCP blasts Aquino gov't

Now remember, this is in contrast to President Aquino's low-key signing of the RH Bill, a step taken to specifically avoid putting any untoward embarrassment on the Church.

This is the CBCP example of walking with Jesus? To strike out in angry vengeance? To turn no cheek to the RH loss, but to come charging after those who disagree with Church doctrine like attack dogs, fangs dripping with infuriated humiliation that they LOST the RH legislative battle?

Goon: (noun) Person doing an organization's
thuggish dirty work. [Source: HDNWD]
And the dogs have names. Archbishop Jose Palma and Bishop Gabriel Reyes. And they have official titles: Goons.

And faces, that's them, over there, in a photo taken from Rappler.

Here's the caption Rappler attached to the Photo:

  • "CRITICIZING AQUINO. The CBCP, headed by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma (right), hits the Aquino administration after their bi-annual plenary. Beside Palma is Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, also a CBCP official, who blasts pro-RH politicians. File photo courtesy of CBCP"

So at this plenary session, the high priests got together and talked about RH and about all the things President Aquino has not done in three years. Like cure poverty or rain bread from heaven. Rather than acceding to the will of the Philippine people with any kind of grace, they agreed to attack. The stridency of the attack puts to shame the counsel of Cardinal Tagel when he spoke of the need for the Church to temper its righteousness and work on being humble.

The official Church statement  from the plenary session is worth reading. In particular, look for the section on "The Philippines as the Rising Star of Asia".

Hint, you won't find it. The statement instead reads like a laundry-list of complaints compiled by famed anti-blogger benigno. The complaining, whining tenor of the statement conflicts sharply with the reality of the moment, that the Philippines is on the rise. I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry at this elegant, eloquent priestly lament:

  • In the midst of the country’s natural and social upheavals, we see ourselves in the boat with the Apostles buffeted by stormy waves. We are tossed about by the waves created by the secularist spirit, which continues to reduce the role and place of religious faith in the public sphere. Our cherished moral and spiritual values are at grave risk. We are overcome with fear and anxiety, perhaps also wondering if the Lord has fallen asleep, or if the Lord does not care that we are drowning (cf. Mk. 4:38).

Good Lord. The rest of us feel we are in a jet hydroplane heading for honesty and economic growth, optimistic as never before.

Why is the Church not on the same boat?

The CBCP has also posted its own interpretive "news release" on the subject on the CBCP web site. Here is their headline:

CBCP chides Aquino for inability to address PH’s problems

Here are some excerpts from that article:

  • The CBCP particularly lamented MalacaƱang’s cold treatment of the Freedom of Information bill, which if enacted will allow the public to scrutinize any government transactions, projects and other documents. “Why are they afraid to entrust the citizens with the truth of their governance?” the CBCP said  . . .

  • The collegial body of the bishops then lamented the continuing human rights violations and unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings even almost three years of Aquino election into office. Other forms of crimes and kidnappings continue, they said, and the government “is not able or lacks the political will to prosecute the perpetrators and touch powerful people.”

  • “The huge gap between the rich and the poor remains. There is little inclusive growth,” the CBCP said.

  • The bishops also deplored the recent enactment of the Reproductive Health law, and the promotion of a “culture of death and promiscuity. . . . This is due to the slavishness of our political and business leaders to follow practices in Western countries that promote, in spite of examples that we clearly see in the West, divorce, resulting in more break-up of families and the dysfunctional growth of children, contraceptives, leading to more abortions, the use of condom, aggravating HIV-AIDS infection, and school sex education, bringing more promiscuity and teenage pregnancy,” they said.

  • CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma clarified they have nothing personal against President Benigno Aquino III for approving the RH law. Admitting that they also have shortcomings and do not want to appear self-righteous, he said, “As shepherds, we feel that it is also part of our duty to voice the sentiments of the people.” “It’s not because we want to condemn but we want that all of us will try to take a hard hit over this realities and hopefully be able to come out with solutions,” Palma said. “We don’t want to appear like fighting anybody. Our main intention is for the good of the people,” he said.

  • “If the government is doing good, we will always have collaboration. But if the government is doing something bad, we will criticize and we will oppose,” he said.

  • “We denounce the non-prosecution of alleged perpetrators of corruption and strongly call upon the government to pursue allegations and signs of corruption of power holders not only of the past but also of the present, even of friends and party mates,” they said.. . . Pabillo criticized Aquino for being “selective” in choosing which corrupt officials to prosecute, even claiming that there had been a double standard of justice under the current administration. “There are reports about corruption under the present administration but nothing happens to them,” he said. (CBCPNews)

What's wrong with that, you ask? There are some important ideas there, FOI and extrajudicial murders.

What is wrong is the failure of the Church to appreciate that the nation is stable, well-governed, and on the rise, and to feel thankful she can join to be a constructive part of the long-sought after rise of the Philippines to a leadership position in Asia. What boat are they on, do you figure, that they cannot find the candor, the honesty, the truth, the positive, the uplift about being an integral part of the Philippines rising?

The Church evidently liked the old, backward boat the Church has been on for 600 years, not the new one. The Church, like China and the anti-bloggers, can only deride and undermine. Lament, decry, deplore.

Is this the attitude of Jesus?

What, I studied the wrong bible, or what?

Never has the real reason for the Philippine's deep poverty, corruption and struggles been so crystal clear as in this strident attack on government by Church leaders.

This is the assignment the Goon Squad has taken on: knock the Philippines back to the rightful path, the backward path.

Set Jesus aside.

Push the nation back to the values that underpin corruption and overpopulation and lousy health care and poverty.

Back to the dark, coup-tinged era of vengeful politics and manipulation for self-interest.

In the name of their God. The God of  Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda. The God of Goons Palma and Reyes.

I have an idea for the Goon Squad, not that they'll listen. They are up to their eyeballs and earholes in political deceits and self-service. But I offer this:

Take some responsibility for the failed moral leadership, the corruption, the poverty. Go with humility for a change. Try mightily and with prayer to grasp where the heart of the problems really rest.  You are bright people. Reach for it, this true understanding. Cardinal Tagle almost got there until this pithy backward statement undermined him and threw his good words into the trash pit of wishful thinking.

The Church that hitches its political wagon to the destructive values of Gloria Arroyo over the honesty and earnest work of Noynoy Aquino makes the bed in which it is destined to rest.

But the Philippines need not rest in that same bed, need not be held back from progress and prosperity and the uplift that comes from treading an earnest, honorable path.

It's called divorce, actually.

It's called leaving the abusive Church and its goons behind - in the dust and echo and irrelevancy of empty cathedrals - where they can continue to weep and wail, lament, decry and deplore, but never quite get what happened, and why.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Accidental Occupation: Tubbataha Truths

Tubbataha Reef to be renamed "Knee Jerk Reef"

Well, the Philippine press is at it again, stoking fuel into the fires of the old circulation register by whipping up a pile of angst about the recent American occupation of a Philippine reef. This is aided and abetted by the Filipino commie leftist pinkos who are raising hell about the matter, too, the aim of which, of course, is drive a wedge between America and the Philippines the size of the Red Sea parting, through which the commie reds from China will march chanting Chairman Mao instead of Moses.

We are led to believe this National Heritage Park is a jewel, a gem, a rare treasure worshipped by the Philippine masses as if it were Yamashita's gold, or the Marcos billions, strewn across the Sulu Sea. Hell, it is a bunch of rarely visited, coral encrusted rocks only there because the Filipino dynamite fishermen find it too remote to blast it to smithereens like they have the coral close to the mainlands. Besides, there are "Park Rangers" there, riding their sea horses about like a band of stern-eyed vigilantes ready to lynch anyone who enters the park without permissions. Aforesaid permissions are typed in triplicate on an ancient Underwood typewriter,  slightly rusty but serviceable, lodged in the second floor generator room of the lighthouse on the South Atoll. And of course, permissions must be accompanied by the payment of required fees, gratuities accepted.

After the American incursion was repelled by a pile of Filipino rocks, the mainland cheered and hooted as if Pacquiao had knocked Marquez into the next universe rather than the other way 'round.  And cursed as if Sis had been accosted in a dark alley by a gang of fat, old American ex-servicemen hung over from surviving the Bataan Death March, or ghostly remnants from the brigades of racist American troops that ruthlessly defeated the Philippines 114 years ago.

Never mind that the Guardian crew are actually fresh-faced American youngsters, doing their duty, praying to their God, and willing to sacrifice their lives in defense of the Philippines.

The Philippines sent its entire Navy and Cast Guard fleet into the treacherous shallow waters of the reef to supervise the US Navy's salvage work to extract the shipwrecked USS Guardian.

The American Captain in charge was heard to shout abeam, one ship to another, "Happy to have you here, guys, getting in the way. We couldn't have done it without you. Now kindly put down your guns!"

Evidently the Philippines was surprised when its Rangers tried to board the stricken Guardian that the Americans brandished weapons and said, "back, you fools". The Rangers got their briefs and egos in a bunch, forgetting that American soldiers are not Filipino fishermen, available for easy rolling and bribe-extraction. That role, and roll, would be consigned to the Philippine government and newspapers. And rather than extracting a few bucks, the Philippines would ratchet up the toll by charging the cost of the Filipino sailors, gas and oil, foods consumed, and boat rentals through to the US Navy. On top of fines for reef destruction, which of course shall be a multiple of 10 times normal because these are rich Americans.  This is the same logic as used for airport terminal fees, where international fees are 10 times domestic while operating costs are two times domestic.

The Philippines is expected to walk . . . er, swim away from this affair with a rumored $46.5 million kick in the budget from Uncle Sam. I started the rumor myself, having no facts to deal with, and figuring this incident is not worth the time to roll up a good mouthful of spit. Much less research or call someone on.

Never mind that Uncle Sam will subsequently rip up the Philippine defense agreement out of fear that the Philippines will charge its whole army, navy, coast guard, and air force expenses to its rich American ally, causing the nation to go bankrupt, with the Chinese sweeping into Washington to collect their debts. When the defense agreement is shredded, China can sweep into Manila and collect everything.

I found this report at the asiaqua dive web site:

  • Tubbataha reef is located 180 km east of Palawan, in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Tubbataha Reef is accessible only in cruise. It is a marine park created in 1988 and classified in the world heritage of the humanity by the UNESCO in 1993. Because of these very particular conditions it is visited only by 400 divers a year. 

My Goodness Gracious. So this reef is actually reserved for the upper class folk who can afford a cruise ship ticket, not for the ordinary Filipino. The ordinary Filipino gets bombed out corals and over-fished seas that look much like underwater deserts. I wonder where the outrage is about that.

Perhaps Filipinos don't really dig reefs all that much, unless Americans run into them.

You think?

That diving map up there is also interesting. It shows two other wrecks in the area, probably diving or photography attractions. The photo here, from National Geographic, shows one of the wrecks and contains this caption:
  • The rusted hulk of a shipwreck sits in shallow water off Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines. Covering more than 81,000 acres (32,000 hectares) in the heavily trafficked Sulu Sea, shallow Tubbataha has scuttled more than its share of vessels.[Photograph by Wolcott Henry, National Geographic]

Ahhhh. So now we get to the real truth of the matter. These reefs are boat wreckers. They are low and underwater and lie smack in the middle of what would otherwise be a fine sea lane. It is rumored that hundreds of boats have been sunk or damaged there, some little outriggers, two big rusted hulks like you see above, and the USS Guardian, possibly the biggest of the bunch.

So boats hitting the reefs is situation normal.

The emerging stink is just a fine way for Filipinos to rid themselves of envy angst at those "stupid, arrogant Americans" and expose them to ridicule in the tried and true Filipino method of argument. You bring down the opposition by emasculation, just as Enrile went below the belt with Cayetano shortly after Caytano delivered a few crotch kickers himself.

You know, this is all slapstick, this charade, this angst. The Rangers and uptight Filipino officials look like Larry, Moe and Curly to me, and the Guardian's captain, Bozo the Clown.

The reefs are valuable, yes. So are those that used to reside in the many bays and seas near the Philippine mainland.

Look, you want to know why Tubbataha is so valuable? It is the ONLY oceanic National Heritage site in the Philippines, in this lush, amazing paradise of 7,000 islands, the richest sea-based ecological climate in the world. Do you know what the Philippines preserves instead? CHURCHES. Buildings. Here is the list of Philippine National Preservation sites:

  • Historic Town of Vigan
  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
  • Rice Terraces of Cordilleras
  • San Augustan Church
  • Miag-ao Church
  • Paoay Church
  • Santa Maria Church
  • Tubbataha Reefs National Park
So no wonder anguished cries go up from preservationalists. Tubbataha is the last preserved  gem in the jewel case. Because the preservationalists have FAILED to make a case to the National Government that is louder than the cries of the PRIESTS for preservation of their bricks. The seas, like the forests, are reserved for plunder. Rather like the national treasure when you think about how many greedy public servants are dipping into it, for Christmas gifts or other important needs.

So give me a break. Get off the Philippine high horse about the boat already.

I have a feeling all those billions of little coral guys are laughing their pink and beige asses off over this ludicrous, lavish, comedic, tragic teledrama scene.  Bunch of big, lumpy tense humans arguing testily and fretting like Aunt Millie with rats in the pantry. After all, this is no big deal. The corals have to put up with all kinds of flotsam and jetsome ripping though on typhoons, along with the acids and chemicals, sludge and sewerage, spewing from the mainland and drifting around the globe.

At least a boat crashing through is quick death for the cute little buggers. Beats having your eyes and lungs eaten out in excrutiating slow motion.


On February 2, 2013, Rappler reported that the US would make substantial contributions to rehabilitation of the reefs. The Philippine press went strangely quiet at that point.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Philippines: A Return to Eden

The real tree of knowledge?
I was described as a demagogue recently for defending, not the minesweeper that crashed into a cherished reef, but the notion that it is best to await for information before declaring people guilty of lawbreaking or arrogance. Well, I suppose my running to the defense of America is a function of my cultural past, just as Filipinos running so easily to the term "arrogance" is a reflection of the Filipino cultural past.

National Level

The trick in bringing two very different cultures together, for mutual interest, is one part introspection and one part constructive acts.

The US could do more to build a good alliance with the Philippines by looking at the mirror and saying, "yeah, wow, we were pretty insensitive to Philippine interests as we pursued what we thought was right." And the action follow-up might be to clean up Subic and Clark, and have President Obama visit the Philippines.

And the Philippines can do this by looking in the mirror and saying, "yeah, wow, that is pretty cool that American servicemen would die on our behalf, and we ought not blame them for past American misdeeds." And the action follow-up might be to grant an award to the American Secretary of Defense to express appreciation for the training and partnership that exists between the two nations at the military level, and have President Aquino visit the States to make a few speeches extolling the high value Filipinos place in American friendship.

If both sides can take those acts forthrightly and without reservation, there is hope for a constructive alliance. Anything short of that assures and enduring, bickering animosity. It's rather the distinction between a good marriage and a bad one, is it not? The level of commitment and ability to forgive?

Personal Level

I have gone through a passage during the past year. A passage is a phase of life that is very distinct, like child-hood or teen-age years or marriage or military fighting or serious illness or dealing with the death of someone dear.

The passage, I think, is one that is very rare for an outsider, judging from the views I read from Americans or Europeans.

Our natural inclination upon arrival in the Philippines, as we are driven by our cultural bindings, is to see all the shortcomings of the Philippines, and Filipinos, in the light of OUR BETTER WAY OF DOING THINGS.

What we fail to recognize is the error of that highlighted statement. That the judgment is wrong for being a judgment. Western standards do not apply. The Philippines is a different place, a different history, a different now. Philippine acts should be judged only through the looking glass of Philippine culture and history. Judgments of right or wrong by Western standards are irrelevant, other than what Filipinos choose to take from them. 

Source of photos:
Here is the parallel thinking that led me to this conclusion.

In publishing blogs on this site, and in accepting open comments, I have on occasion written about the idea that dissenting views are welcome. But I have only recently come to realize it is not just the welcoming of dissent that is important. It is doubly important to RESPECT the dissent and the dissenter. It is important to understand that each contributor comes to the blog with a very unique history. That's hard to grasp. But extraordinarily important.

And, frankly, respect is almost impossible to get to if a contributor is smack-down blunt or descends to name calling. But it is possible to arrive at respect for almost all views if the dissent is expressed in terms of issue rather than personality. If we can remind ourselves to accept the legitimacy of a different life's history, and a different life's view.

In finding respect for dissent and the dissenter, the mind opens wide. It is absolutely the best condition for learning.

That is true for cultural crossovers as well.

And, indeed, we outsiders generally go about with our minds sealed shut by our cultural biases. By our cultural misconceptions.

By the artifices, the fictions we make up in our mind.


My personal passage this past year has been the discovery that the Philippines is extraordinarily rich. Rich with history, with passion, with heart, with hang-ups, with achievements, with dysfunction, with smiles, with anger, with good intent, with vengeance, with swagger, with tears, with labor, with sacrifice, with capability, with insensitivity, with heart. With soul.

This is not a drive through the suburbs of America, oh, no. Nor should it be. A bamboo hut built by hand from scraps, where people live real time, is more authentic than a carbon copy house built to fit someone else's idea of stylish and where people live mainly to gain the approval of others.

This is not a drive across the plains or through the mountain ranges of America. Nor should it be. It is a bone-jolting drive over potholes somehow related to the Grand Canyon, or a hike through snake infested jungles with more bugs per square meter than anywhere on the planet.

Ahhh, but then I step into my backyard at night and see a swarm of those bugs, fireflies, about 300 strong hovering about one tree, and realize the bugs here are precious. And the snakes are precious, even the cobra that killed my German Sheppard dog. For this place is one-of-a-kind, Spanish-American-Native Asia, so ecologically rich that no one can possible categorize all the species of creature inhabiting the place. Where there really is no Filipino "race" because it is so plastered with cross fertilization that everyone is here.

The Philippines may lead the world in that regard. Everyman is here, and everywoman. If Adam and Eve populated the planet, and it divided into disparate tribes that fought and bled and grew apart, then these peoples all merged, and grew back together again in the Philippines. The Philippines is, in its own distinct way, a return to Eden.

So this past year, I stopped couching every comparison in terms of "what I can do for the Philippines" and started looking around at "what the Philippines is doing for me". I owe this new perspective mainly to manuelbuencamino at Pro-Pinoy and Edgar Lores, here at the Society. "MB" would not let me get away with my cultural biases and Edgar taught me the depth of the Filipino mind and the richness of the Filipino soul, which may be anywhere on the planet but forever seeks its own kind of peace, not in Australia, but back home. Other contributors also chipped relentlessly away at my misconceptions.

With my need to lecture set aside and my mind opened by newfound respect, I was amazed at what I found. I found a President who is just like Robredo, only I fear that it will be only upon his passing that Filipinos will recognize it. I found professionals working hard to build this nation independently, without need of excuse or handout from America or self-condemnation, such as that you read at Get Real

And as America has her dysfunctional congressmen, the extremists of either direction elected by special interests, so the Philippines has her Enrile and Sotto and dynastic barons, elected by special interests. But the great leveler, the great revealer, has arrived in the Philippines. It has cut mass media, that star- gazed batch of journalists of weak professional principle, owned by land barons, out of the picture.  Social media have modernized the Philippines and helped President Aquino remove corrupt politicians from the cigar-smoked back rooms and get them into the light of responsible oversight.

Enrile is naked now. It is not a pretty sight. It is almost sad. And Corona is gone. And Arroyo is cooling her heels in a clink of some better class than most.

It is somewhat strange, given the power of social media to call out injustice, that President Aquino would back an internet libel provision that would surely suppress whistle-blowing expression.

As I drive the rough and twisty roads of the Philippines, the roads that are always too narrow and too cluttered with stray dogs and clattering vehicles held together by a fine coat of determined rust, I find myself at extraordinary peace. I could watch those green mountains all day, and sometimes I do. I could smile across those blue or gray seas all day, and sometimes I do. I can hike the city streets, always aware of eaves and signs prepared to whack my head as well as holes prepared to break my leg, always aware that people are watching with some amusement and curiosity as a tall white dude ambles along, and I think to myself that this is really a very, very good place to be.

It is genuine in the Philippines.

One can grow rich, of character, in the Philippines.

Monday, January 28, 2013

America and the Philippines: Not Ready for War


This discussion is predicated on a worst-case scenario, not a prediction. It considers that China is aggressively pursuing expansion into resource rich areas. The Philippines is a resource rich area and militarily weak. Filipinos have a love/hate relationship with America, the security backstop if the Philippines is attacked.

Wars start when nation A provokes a response from nation B, then declares that it must attack nation B for self defense.  The Philippines is Nation B.  The current tense situation in the West Philippine Sea is dangerous, and planning ought to consider a worst case scenario.

I believe the Philippine actions to this point have been firm, mature and well-considered. Law over gun is the best way to resolve a dispute. The problem is that all nations must read "right and wrong" the same way to subscribe to a law, and China reads by a different set of values. I cannot imagine China backing off from occupancy of Scarborough Shoal, for her entire nine-dash strategy collapses. Therefore, I carry a certain amount of pessimism that armed conflict can be avoided.

An Overview

I am troubled, as an American citizen, with the attitudes I see in the Philippines regarding Americans and America. America is partly responsible for the development of the attitudes, without doubt. Both parties have to engage to change them.

Let me break this down.

  1. It seems to me the Philippine and American governments have a very constructive relationship going on. Mutually beneficial, aligned, open channels of conversation.

  1. The extreme leftists in the Philippines have a pro-communist, anti-American agenda, and that is fine. I'm not talking about them. They are indeed extremists, and, although occasionally loud and abrasive, are largely marginalized by their stridency and lack of reason.

  1. I am troubled by the popular assignment of the term "arrogant" to all American acts that people disagree with. It has what I would call racist underpinnings, stereotypes that Filipinos carry around with them so that, when the US or individual Americans do something disagreeable, it fulfills and reinforces the bias.  Good, well-intended people get painted by an unkind brush. The brush paints America unkindly.

  1. The US has a standing defense agreement with the Philippines and, although the government finds value in this relationship, a large segment of the Filipino people are put off or angered by it. It carries the smack of an enduring colonialist presence and meddling. This gets amplified every time Senator Santiago goes on another rant against the Visiting Forces Agreement ("VFA").

  1. The US has fought three wars recently in countries where large segments of the broad population did not want American troops occupying their land: Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This is very different than the European experience in World War II, where America's presence, and sacrifice of lives, were appreciated by most people.

  1. Filipinos have a legitimate right to be wary of American involvement within their country, and even resentful. The U.S. waged brutal war in the Philippine American War, ran a powerful, explosives heavy campaign in Manila at the end of World War II, reneged on promises to give Philippine soldiers the same benefits as Filipinos after that war ("The Rescission Act"), and have not resolved the matter of toxic pollution at Subic and Clark. Then we have incidents like the Nicole "rape" and a minesweeper on a reef that tends to aggravate bad feelings.

If you look at the American side of things, you find the following aspects:

  1. The US did not care all that much about getting thrown out of the Philippines in 1991. She had other priorities and essentially let the Philippines float free.  The US gives minimum aid to the Philippines.

  1. Most Americans know little about the Philippines, and might not even be able to identify the country on a map. It may vaguely be in the back of their minds that it is similar to some South American countries, poor and corrupt and not at all modern. They might know of the storm deaths from regular reports. They know nothing about the Philippine American War, nothing about WWII engagement here, and nothing about Nicole or other incidents.

  1. Some in the US military leadership undoubtedy have a bad impression of Philippine willingness to fight based on the nation's withdrawal from Iraq when the shooting began. The Philippines was the first nation to bail out of the "Coalition of the Willing" that was ostensibly put together to fight the global war on terror. The US military may have the Philippines in the same bucket as South Vietnamese, Iraqi, or Afghanistan troops: "not to be relied upon in battle".

  1. US/Philippine military exercises occur regularly, and I suspect are generally handled professionally, from both sides. Pipelines of communication should be clear if the two nations join in fighting, and the ability to work side-by-side should be strong. For example, a Philippine ground unit should be able to direct an American air strike or helicopter support.

  1. The waging of war against terrorists in Mindanao has been carried out effectively. American advisers and Filipino soldiers have had good success at suppressing terrorist acts in the Philippines.

  1. The US has a standing defense agreement with the Philippines. If the Philippines is attacked, the US will engage militarily to defend the Philippines.

The Problem Here

So what do we have then. I have only anecdotal evidence to go on. These are my personal impressions.

  • We have significant popular resentment in the Philippines toward America and mild resentment among American military leadership toward the Philippines. The trust level is weak. The respect level is weak.

  • Filipinos respect American military capability and power. They don't respect American demeanor of being the boss. They don't respect anything that smacks of a "colonialist" attitude.

  • Americans don't trust that Filipinos would fight well or aggressively.

That is not a good foundation for this alliance.

As an American citizen, as I said in a prior blog, I see no reason for American troops to fight in the Philippines, especially knowing how much resentment exists. I suspect a lot of Americans feel the same way. They might say:  "What do I care if the Philippines is overrun by China? It is irrelevant to me either way."

And Filipinos want dearly to stand apart from their colonizer, to get to the point where they don't really care about America because they are actively engaged in doing things of, by and for Fiipinos. You know, independently.

The U.S. government sees strategic need to restrain China from what appears to be an ambitious global territorial expansion. The Philippines wishes to preserve her independence and sovereignty. That is where interests of the Philippines and America join.

Yet, the two peoples, Filipino and American, do not like being forced together.

It seems to me impossible to convince Filipinos that it is in their interest to let go of the past and appreciate the sacrifice American soldiers are willing to make to defend the Philippines. To get rid of this irritating notion that the US is only out for her own interests (as if that were wrong). To actually "respect" what America is willing to do, and what her citizens are willing to sacrifice. I've tried the argument over and over again, and getting an expression of appreciation from many Filipinos is almost impossible. It is overwhelmed by resentments.

Even people I enjoy and respect, intelligent people -- bloggers angela at StuartSantiago, manuelbuencamino at Pro-Pinoy, or Riassa Robles, for example -- start any discussion about America with a low-grade resentment of things American, history American, or American "arrogance".

Resentment and respect.

I comprehend the resentment. US self interest is heavy-handed and insensitive.

But it becomes a very real, practical, tangible factor in deciding whether or not a war is winable. China understands this and you can expect her to do all that is possible to drive a wedge between the Philippines and U.S. To make sure Filipinos dislike America (the leftist rant) and Americans are not enthralled about a fight with China in the Philippines.

I think President Aquino, by not speaking up to tout the importance of the US alliance as background to the minesweeper accident, missed an opportunity to quell resentments. The accident could have been used to posture partnership, but instead has been allowed to contribute to the fester of bad will.

I also think President Obama could do more to solidify the alliance by visiting the Philippines. I'd heartilyrecommend it, in fact, although Brother Barak is more likely to invite me to play pick-up basketball than ask me to opine on his international priorities.

Filipinos crave recognition. Give them recognition.

I'm not sure there is any higher priority in Asia right now.

But as it is now, with no national effort from either country to build good will, I think to myself, if fighting breaks out, give the Philippines boats and guns and drones. But fighting troops? No way. War is nasty, it is hell, it is deadly, it is unpredictable. Mistakes are made. People die.

Who's in the foxhole with me? A guy who holds a grudge toward my grandfather and father, thinks "arrogance" with each remark I make, and resents my country?

What it Takes to Win a War

It takes 100% commitment to win a war.

This commitment can only be achieved if the Philippines is able to convert Filipino resentment to respect for America. Respect for America is needed to get the people of America to support sending troops to the Philippines to fight.

And America needs to recognize that operating solely for American interests is a sure way to build resentment. Clean-up Subic and Clark. Be candid about the USS Guardian. Give the Philippines a little love.

But here's my main point:

If Filipinos want Americans to fight and die for defense of the Philippines, the people of the Philippines have to make sure Americans understand that Filipinos are worth dying for.

Failure to subordinate resentment to respect would, in battle, lead to backbiting and animosity under the wild, unpredictable heat of fire, and a wholly negative fighting experience.


Been there, done that.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Word Wars: Drone Blogging

I'd like to thank Angry Maude for taking up the cudgel the other day. [Cudgel:  (noun) a short, thick stick used as a weapon.] I told her to just relax, we've been writing too much about the elections and the campaigns haven't really started yet. But she explained, which is a euphemism for shouting in my ear, that it is wise to get ideas out early so other can run with them. [Euphemism: (noun) the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.]

So I'd like to continue this trend of parsing ideas regarding the election. [Parsing: (verb ) to analyze (something, as a speech or behavior) to discover its implications or uncover a deeper meaning.]

If you pull back and look broadly at the contested Cybercrime Law, you see two forces in action. One, an attempt by people with power to avail themselves of a tool to intimidate or even silence critics. Two, an attempt by people with words to avail themselves of the right to use them freely insofar as they do not threaten or instigate physical or monetary harm.

I belong to the latter group. Proudly. I believe we fairly represent the spirit of Thomas Jefferson and Sam Adams (ahahahaha, the guy who makes beer) when their writings make clear that the human condition is treated best when it is open to ideas and not shut off from them.

A commenter at Raissa's Top Blog described a lot of bloggers as "helicopter bloggers", hovering from afar and shooting off opinions. I wrote back that I considered myself to be a "drone blogger", hovering from afar and shooting off word missiles at deserving targets.

We are heading into the election cycle, which means our environment, defined by what we see on television or read in the papers and internet, is about to become filled with deceitful crap aimed at convincing us to vote for one person or another. It's all nonsense. These words will come at us from every which way, all with the purpose of invading our thoughts and convincing us to take up acts that favor somebody we don't really know.

Word Wars.

Well, frankly, I love it.

Is a foreigner here allowed to opine? Or is it an affront to the sovereignty of Filipinos? Does it smack of colonial intent?

Or is an idea an idea no matter who utters it?

The problem here is that JoeAm says it more directly and with more literary flair than most Filipino blogger offerings. So it seems louder, eh? Snippier. Ruder perhaps.

It takes a Filipino of considerable breadth of understanding, and security of emotions, to deal with some of the stuff you read here. Especially when it is off-base, or wrong. But style is what it is, eh? I don't know any other way. So tough luck ye stalwart Filipinos of rigid bearing and sensitive mien . . .

I prefer the term irreverent to obnoxious. But, hey, people are free not to read. I have asterisked the hell out of the site explaining that there is only one goal here, a healthier, wealthier, wiser Philippines. If the writing is not your style, at least let me have mine, because I can make up a story better than most, and zap snide insults quicker than a hungry cobra on a fat rat.

  • So when the Chinese push their arrogance east, I'll jam it back west.

  • When the political priests flap their robes and their mouths like any common in-the-dirt conniving politician, I'll will make sure they get plastered with a fine sheen of gooey red Filipino word-mud. There is no "reverence" in politics.

  • When the antis go on into their fourth year of denial about the health and condition of the Philippines and its President, I will sit back and laugh. And toss out poison word-darts at those aspects of their physique that is largest, and I'm not talking brain or heart.

  • When the chronically corrupt insist on dipping their clammy claws into the public purse, I shall make sure they grab a handful of word-wasps.

And I herein add a fifth party to the above list of institutions that work concertedly against the best interest of the Philippines.

  •  It is the old guys, the unbending masters of rigid perspective who have had their day in the sun but insist on promoting family member to carry on . . . wives, daughters, and sons . . . against the letter and spirit of the Constitution . . . because the greed in their hearts exceeds the compassion they have for a nation of substantially poor but honorable citizens.

And I welcome others to join the Society of Words.

What weapons do we have to engage in word wars?

We have keyboards and modems and brains with no agenda but the well-being of the Philippines. We have the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary and a  small group of extraordinarily bright and well-centered people, each a personality in his or her own right. We have independence and we have passion.

We have ears and the willingness to listen to opposing views, striving always for respect for dissent and respect for the dissenter.

We have strategy and tactics and the ability to wing it.

More than anything, we have our words, God's gift to us for the pursuit of health and happiness.

It's election season.

Lock and load.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Of Emotion and Self Interest: Two Incidents

1,000 sq meters of reef destroyed
One of the things I've learned is that Filipinos are emotional people and they have long memories. In terms of a prior blog, they store up a lot of "dissonance" from prior disagreeable moments and, given new cause, let anger rip.

This can be seen in the emotional reaction to the U.S. minesweeper that damaged a valuable coral reef, and it can be seen in growing resentment and racial slurs tossed the way of China for her encroachments into Philippine territory. Now these are generally different people engaged in the emotional outbursts, so there is no unified national clamor in either case.

The national government's position is interestingly more hostile toward the American ship's accidental incursion than it is toward China's purposeful one. The US has been aggressively condemned by agencies of the Philippine government, and fined prior to any investigation as to how the problem occurred.  Legislators have loudly condemned American actions as if it were an intentional incursion. Rumor becomes fact outside of any informational context (what warnings were given and the American response to them; like, provide the tapes or transcripts). Citizen anger hauls out the Philippine American War, World War II, colonialism and the arrogance of America and Americans in general.  "Arrogance" flies around in racially derogatory terms, the same easy and unfair way "indolent" gets attached to Filipinos. The rallying cry is: "apology is not enough".  Truly, some people appear to want blood.

Meanwhile China continues to occupy Scarborough Shoal (Pantag) and her fishermen reap harvests from Philippine waters.

The DFA's approach to China is one that I would call mature but firm kid gloves. As reported in Top Bloger Raissa Robles' latest article, the DFA has explained why it filed for arbitration with the United Nations, and states that this is a constructive act to resolve a disagreement among friends. China has not been fined for poaching or damages done to coral by Chinese fishermen, nor for occupying Philippine islands without permission. China is a signatory to the UN agreement, but conditional upon her rejection of the provision on arbitration, so this arbitration filing is probably futile.

Much of the anger toward the American Navy has to do with the grounded ship's captain using armed men to repel the approach of park rangers seeking to board the ship.

Even the President of the United States must seek permission to come aboard an American naval ship. The ship is the province of the captain, a nation unto itself. 

Flagged for the Philippines in 1997; now occupied by China
The captain of the grounded minesweeper takes direction only from only one person, his commanding officer. Indeed, the Captain would not be negligent in passing through the park if he were ordered to do so, or in ignoring park ranger radio calls, if ordered to do so. Everyone is assuming the captain is an arrogant, ignorant fool. Maybe he is a disciplined sailor.

If he is an arrogant, ignorant fool, he will be out of the navy might-fine-quick.

That the rangers did not go through well-established military channels suggests that US/Philippine military training coordinators have more work to do.

Filipino hears about reef
Filipinos seem to focus all the angers and resentment of centuries of American acts upon this poor boat of honorable American sailors. It's wierd, this anguish. The reef belongs to a nation that has got to be last in the world at managing its ecology well. Wild clearcut logging abounds, dynamite fishing, over-fishing, plastics thrown to the wind and seas. And we have the national howl about  1,000 square meters of reef as a gazillion hectares of land and sea are ravaged by Filipinos daily. How do you spell hypocrisy?

The American priorities are: (1) lives, (2) ship, (3) coral.  The Philippine priority appears to be: (1) coral, (2) ship, (3) lives, as long as they are American. The popular demands are to get the ship out now, rough seas or not, risk to life or not.

That the ship was in the Philippines ostensibly in service to the Philippines appears to carry no weight. It is somewhat surprising that the Aquino Administration has let emotions run on rather than apply the same sense of mature diplomatic consideration that is granted China.

The leftist radicals in Congress of course want the VFA torn up immediately. I wonder if they are fronting for the Chinese, either explicitly or implicitly, and we have a lingering Huk remembrance going on. There are a lot of Chinese in the elite register of Philippine business and governance. There are no Americans that I am aware of, although a lot of the legislators have schooled in the U.S.

Culture-wise, the Philippines seems to blend better with Chinese values than American. There is a similar emotionality built on matters of personal esteem, similar reliance on superstitions, similar values as to bending the rules (piracy and giving/accepting of bribes).

Well, I speculate on these matters because I find them interesting. What will happen?

  • Will China accede to UN arbitration, and agree by the findings. No, of course not. They have rejected UN arbitration in principle. They know their claim is shoddy. Expect rationalizations to emerge as to why China need not abide by UN rulemaking.

  • Will China leave Scarborough Shoals? Nope. Not without getting something material in exchange, and the Philippines has nothing to offer. The Philippines COULD, however, enact economic punishments of China (see below).

  • Will China invade Pag-asa Island, stuck in the middle of the Spratleys, several hundred nautical miles from Palawan and outside the Philippine 200 mile economic territory? If you listen to Chinese military men, yes. China considers the Philippines to be a "running dog" of the U.S., along with Viet Nam and Japan.  It is only necessary to "kill" one of the dogs and the others will fall into line. It would be a superior test of what the United States might do.

  • Would economic ties of China and the Philippines divide at that point? Yes, for sure. China would have determined that the resources available in the whole of the West Philippine Sea are more valuable than trade with the Philippines, or Chinese business interests in the Philippines. They ARE far more valuable, I suspect, when you need to feed a ravenous economic beast.

  • Will the U.S. engage in direct fighting with China? Hmmm. I don't know.

  • Will mine-sweepers be needed? Ahahahaha.

  • Will China follow its claim to the West Philippine Sea by seeking to destabilize the Philippines, politically? Then by seeking a hard alliance between the two nations?  It is a logical step is it not, to feed the beast? If you read Chinses newspapers, they are clearly trying to drive a wedge between the US and Philippines over the reef incident. 

  • Would Americans support an American war to defend the Philippines? I doubt it. What does the US get from its relationship with the Philippines? Expense and grief.

  • Would JoeAm support going to war in or for the Philippines? Not when I think that my daughters in the U.S. are military age. Not when I know so many Filipinos are not prepared to accept the United States as a friend. Been there, done that. Viet Nam. Iraq. Afghanistan.

From time to time, I think that it would have been different if the Philippines had become three American states. Now I'm starting to think there is a better fit with China.

The best fit, of course, would be independent. Respected by both China and the U.S. That is what is odd these days. The "Philippines" roundly beats up on the nation that respects her independence, and tippy toes around the one that does not.

I hope fighting does not occur. China is the key to that. If it did . . .
  • From American self-interest, I don't see why thousands more Americans should die here. Someone will have to explain to me why.
  • From Philippine self-interest, I hope you play your cards carefully.
Of course my view is just that of one American citizen, not all Americans, and not the State, America.

The Philippines DOES have some economic cards to play. Shutting down Chinese mines, for instance. Or other measured steps tied directly to Chinese occupancy of Scarborough. If they remove the ships,  mining can continue. 

China would respond in kind, and very noisily and insultingly. But I suspect that, end game, China would lose more than the Philippines. It would be proportionately more punishing to the Philippines because its economy is so thin. But it is a tangible action that can be taken in response to China's occupancy of Philippine territory.

The Philippines is not a helpless victim. Being independent means you make decisions, and live with the results, good or bad. And you don't look for scapegoats, or backbite on allies, every time there is a wrinkle in the execution.

Just sayin'.