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On Civil Disobedience
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on April 17, 2008 147 Comments 16 min read
Manuel and Aurora Previous ICT and Democracy Next

My column for today was inspired by Mahar Mangahas’ column, The important right of civil disobedience, which had these interesting findings, based on the 2004 Survey on Citizenship of the International Social Survey Program, which makes possible a comparison of Filipino attitudes and behavior to that of other peoples, particularly in our part of the world. As Mangahas digests it,

In a recent talk on “Surveying the Social Volcano” for CEOs and other opinion leaders at the Inquirer, I presented cross-country data showing Filipinos with: (a) a high score in seeing widespread corruption in the public service; (b) a very low score in seeing elections as honest; (c) a very low score in having personally joined a public demonstration; and (d) a very high score in putting importance to the right of civil disobedience…

…The outstanding finding from this survey of democratic rights is that, whereas we Filipinos, compared to other peoples of the world, care slightly less about a minimum living standard, the rights of minorities, the right to equal treatment, the right to be heard, and the right to participate, at the same time we care much, much more than others do about the right of civil disobedience.

Only four countries have higher scores than the Philippines on the importance of civil disobedience, all from the Eastern bloc: Bulgaria (79), Poland (72), Slovakia (71) and Latvia (65). Russia’s score is 57. Germany’s high score of 52 may be due, said a German visitor, to the national memory of having acquiesced to immoral government policies in Nazi times.

Will the social volcano erupt? In my Inquirer seminar, I said that the eruptions of 1986 and 2001 proved that “the social volcano” can be awakened. During “Juetenggate,” President Erap was (slightly) popular, while then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was unpopular for having deserted him. Public opinion on Erap was still divided during the impeachment trial. EDSA People Power II was triggered by the unscripted refusal to open the “second envelope, which nine out of 10 Metro Manilans saw on live TV. The “Hello Garci” crisis is worse. For three years, President Arroyo has been very unpopular, while her VP has been (relatively) popular.

The ISSP citizenship-survey data suggest that a social explosion would be driven less by the Filipinos’ inclination towards rallies than by their insistence on the right of civil disobedience. The timing of such an explosion, like that of any volcano, is unpredictable.

Therefore, plan for the Black Swan moment! Wuzzat? Read Fear of a Black Swan: Risk guru Nassim Taleb talks about why Wall Street fails to anticipate disaster, which will spare you having to buy the book (but you should, anyway).

Relevant readings are Basic Concepts of Satyagraha: Gandhian Nonviolence and What is Satyagraha? both of which I quoted in my column.

Also, extracts from Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which Martin Luther King laid out non-violent resistance:

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: 1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. 2) Negotiation. 3) Self-purification and 4) Direct action.

Concerning the last, he wrote,

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We, therefore, concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

He then discusses, at -beautiful- length, the question of the law, the dilemma at the heart of civil disobedience:

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote despite the fact that the Negro constitutes a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically structured?

And he then says,

…There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.

I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly… and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks, before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman empire. To a degree academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.

As did Rizal. And he then says, of those praising the police for their non-violent handling of protesters,

It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been rather publicly “nonviolent”. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent, as Chief Pritchett was in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice. T. S. Eliot has said that there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.

Then what? The problem, it seems to me, is that we have yet to fully comprehend non-violent resistance, because civil disobedience for us consists in thumbing our noses at officials but not pursuing collective action. We will gladly puncture the pretenses of the powerful but in as risk-free a manner as possible; sustained confrontation, on the other hand, we leave to others to pursue.

Including, ironically, institutions.

I didn’t encounter it at the time, but Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin’s advice to the Supreme Court last year, which you can read in Just Do It, is interesting, taking the era of Martin Luther King into account:

IMAGINE a situation where killings and disappearances are taking place. The victims form a distinct and disliked, though by no means unpopular political grouping. In fact, they have the most populist agenda of any other. The victims are not prominent members of their persuasion. They are not even zealous militants or even militants at all. They are mere rank and file; social workers in short. The crimes show a pattern pointing to security agents as the perpetrators. More than a pattern, it is the conclusion of a presidential commission. The authorities are reluctant to investigate the murders and disappearances. More, the authorities are openly dismissive of the problem. Gratuitously, yet with a knowing air, they deny the crimes are taking place. Yet, contradictorily, they blame the crimes they deny are taking place at all on the victims themselves, adding that in a sense the victims have only themselves to blame for adhering to a cause detested by the military. “They are begging for it” is heard from their lips. And yet the Constitution that covers both victims and suspects protects freedom of belief without any distinction; the last distinction having been erased by the repeal of the antisubversion law.

Alabama in the 1960s? No. US President Johnson sent in US marshals to protect the victims and enforce their rights. The hypothetical situation might well be the Philippines today under a government that, out of complicity with or fear of the perpetrators, will do nothing, leaving only a newly elected Congress, already too absorbed in its forthcoming perks to pay back the cost of its recent election, to take any serious notice let alone action. Leaving a Court anxious not to say alarmed but constrained by the passive role to which judicial tradition and the constitutional text confine it.

And he then delves into the problem that arises when the law is in the hands of those unwilling to enforce them:

If we supposedly live under a rule of law but the principal laws are not systematically left unenforced in key cases by those principally charged to enforce them, why have the Supreme Court at all? The Nazi courts are said to have had a near fine record in purely commercial cases, unmarred even by anti-Semitism since all the Jews had already been relocated. These Nazi precedents may still be standing and, if not openly cited, nonetheless consulted for their illumination on commercial and civil laws. Precedents from Japanese Imperial courts are deeply respected. Yet neither society, more vibrant and coherent even than the democratic ones that succeeded them, is yet deemed to have had a genuine rule of law or judicial system.

Strictly speaking, this is not a problem for the passive receptacles of cases, as the Court modestly describes the judicial function – when and if, that is, the executive brings them before the courts. But the problem is precisely an executive that sits on its hands and thereby stains them with these crimes. As a result, by the Court’s own initiative, the weakest and least dangerous branch of government must pit itself against the most powerful and lethal; the circumspect power of deliberation against the brazen power of the sword, with the petty power of the purse counting pennies on the side.

To be brutally honest, Congress can have no fruitful role to play in this dilemma, if it were expected simply to craft more new legislation to curb violations of constitutional rights. From where I sit, thickening the thicket of legislation may confer a passing comfort for the small shade that the shrubs may give, but it will not result in the smallest progress in addressing the utter disregard of such legal safeguards as the Constitution and past congresses have already put in place.

The solution, Locsin proposed, was judicial activism:

What seems to be doable is for the judiciary to be quicker and more aggressive in addressing human rights cases even under existing rules where legal standing and actual controversy exist. Give the executive no leeway to tell the families of the victims, “So sue us and see how far that gets you.” A recent Court of Appeals decision shows how far. Or rule quickly and with finality – as the Court just did after almost a year – on the validity of the arrest and detention of Leftist lawmakers; and use the occasion of its ruling to express in the strongest terms the Court’s uneasiness if not alarm over the human rights situation in the country. There is a limit to circumspection and the Court can, in practical terms, really, do no wrong.

In short, strike down offensive executive actions as fast as they are correctly protested – I emphasize the qualifier “correctly”‚ – and the executive will get the message and the citizenry, feeling reassured that effective recourse lies somewhere, will be further emboldened to do what is firstly their responsibility and not the Court’s: stand up for their rights. That will answer the criticism from the groups representing the victims that to protest is to step forward and hang around with a bulls-eye painted on one’s chest.

Besides, if the Court became aggressive, on whom would discredit fall if the Court’s orders are ignored – the Court which makes no pretense of power or the executive which willfully neglects to use its power as the Constitution mandates?…

…In this regard, I invite the Court’s attention to the literature on the judicial activism of the Israeli Supreme Court which has established constitutional norms where none existed – such as freedom of expression, press, association and public assembly, as well as equality regardless of Palestinian race and religion; going to the extent, according to a paper by Ariel Bendor, of enforcing good government. Even in cases of national security, the Israel Court has proscribed coercion and torture and the detention of a Muslim community in negotiating the release of Israeli hostages. “The policy of the [Israeli] Supreme Court in the sphere of [legal] standing and justiciability [is] based on giving preference to the rule of law;” i.e., the need to protect and preserve the rule of law itself “as opposed to the institutional interest of the court” to steer clear of political issues that invite retaliation from the political branches of government. “This is because without judicial imposition of the law,” says Bendor, “the law would not be upheld” at all.

Which explains why the Supreme Court being under fire, at present, is pregnant with meaning.

Blog entries I quoted in my column were: The Marocharim Experiment and Brown SEO. See Secondthoughts also.

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  1. benign0 :
    do you have any clue how to make them as “superior” as you capable of leading a confrontational sustained civil disobedience? – Pedestrian

    As a matter of fact, I do!

    Go ahead and delude yourself Bening…….. the question is still HOW? And the question is on sustained civil disobedience not your solutioneering delusion. Granted that we jump to your solution which is really not the topic of discussion in this entry, how will you make it work? By taunting and being a brat?

  2. “do you have any clue how to make them as “superior” as you capable of leading a confrontational sustained civil disobedience? – Pedestrian”

    “As a matter of fact, I do!”

    Ah the secret of success – Industrial Capitalism –

    Next question for our ‘uber’ economist and other experts..

    How does our ‘uber’ economist pump prime a carabao based agricultural economy? Do we put it on steroids?

    The DILG will order provinces not to stop the domestic exportation of their surplus food within the domestic market. Can our DILG chief go to the U.N and request them to order Vietnam, China and India not to impede the export of their surplus foodstuffs?

    How do you move a native Indio society from a semi-fedual; semi-colonial social format. Freedom for most of pinoys is simply food on the table. The abstracts of civil and political rights are meaningless. However tell them to eat camote and see what happens…..

    Why does’nt the government follow the advice of some financial experts and simply follow the price dictated by a frenzied “free market”

    When our ‘uber economist was intent on running for President in 2004 she ordered NAPOCOR not to pass on the losses to the customers in higher prices. She allowed them to do it only after her Garci tainted election.

    Now she will have the carte blanch of importing rice from the grey market -the opaque market between the spot market and the government controlled contract price of the Asian exporting countries. The greyness will insure the best deal for all concerned. The Pinoy taxpayer won’t know the difference anyway as he is paying for it.

    Great system.

  3. How soon people forget—- Gandhi and King were not fighting an abstract battle – One was fighting a physical colonizer and the other was fighting a different form/character of slavery..

    Gandhi used the British salt monopoly to break the back of the British hold on the economy as salt is a vital preservative for food. Why should salt from Indian waters be controlled by a foreigner? Everyone must have access to it and you can make it yourself. It crossed class lines.

    King’s admonition to the American government that the blank check that every individual has black, white, jew and gentile to that principle of self evident truths of equality. He was killed in Memphis after leading the garbagemen in the city in a struggle for equal and just wages. His slogan for them was simple – I am a human being. The right to a decent wage to afford to live like one and not a slave.

    The oppression is physically felt.

    Here in the Pinas the fraud of political autonomy without economic autonomy was sold on the pinoys who did not quite understand the meaing of freedom. They wanted a freedom while tied to Uncle Sam’s apron strings.

    Unlce Sam’s terms have been stringent and strict. Do what we tell you to do and not what we do.

    Yan ang daming naging Kanutos. Without individual economic autonomy one does not have political freedom. So if the almost absolute majority have no economic autonomy then there is really no political freedom in this country. Every political institution is not governed by a common good but personal or familial interest.

    The Philippines is still steeped in a colonial mindset that separates the top from the Indios. This country needs a warrior with a Rizalist bent to straddle the parallel universe that is Las Islas Filipinas.

    The U.S. is still struggling to come to terms with it problem with racism. The Philippines is still struggling to come to terms with its problems dividing the colonialists from the Indios. Also a subtle form of racism. Between the psuedo Spaniards and the Kanutos we are screwed.

  4. Go ahead and delude yourself Bening…….. the question is still HOW? And the question is on sustained civil disobedience not your solutioneering delusion. Granted that we jump to your solution which is really not the topic of discussion in this entry, how will you make it work? By taunting and being a brat? – Pedestrian

    Me? A brat? I get the feeling that you don’t like me, dude. 😀

    Typical indeed. You ask me what my solution is, I show it, and then I get called a brat.

    And besides, I am in fact on topic in this thread (compared to you, Mr. “Pedestrian” who has resorted to attacking the messenger instead).

    My original assertion is this:

    Civil disobedience nga ba? Sabay pila for NFA rice.

    Trouble with Pinoy is our bark is worse than our bite.

    Para ngang aso kung baga.

    Matangkad lang kapag naka-upo.

    – 😀

  5. One can only imagine when there is little or no NFA rice on stock anymore.

    Hmmm that would make a good study on the tolerance and capacity for forgiveness of the Filipino.

  6. to Maginoo: Maybe civil disobedience in the style of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King only works against Americans and the Brits… and the Israelis. Being fearful of overreaction by Filipino police and/or army personnel (and an unsupportive or a cowered population) may still be appropriate for the current times. – UPn Student

    At large enough numbers, it also worked in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. It also worked in Iran which paved the way for the return of Khomeini from exile. In South Korea, the sacrifice of the demonstrators in Kwangju resulted in the jailing of the Dicator Choon Doo Hwan.

    We should also note that both Gandhi and King ended up getting shot.

  7. For reference, here’s a useful [partial] chronicle of People Power actions in history – successful, unsuccessful including those that turned violent:


  8. …the chart depicting the theory underlying your definition of the problem as you define it (aka the ‘Context of [your] Solution’) does not have a solid empirical basis and was pulled out of your ass. –

    That’s because, dude, that chart was intended to illustrate a concept.

    I also cited an example of your style of thinking which goes something like this:

    We can assert that a ball bearing is a sphere, but then some cretin could argue that when examined using an electron microscope, a ball bearing’s surface is made irregular by its atomic or molecular composition, therefore its radius varies along its surface and thus isn’t really a true sphere.

    Those who take a broad view see the smooth sphere. Those who take a small view see the jagged surface.

    It depends on the breadth (or SMALLNESS) of one’s perspective, dude.

    – 😀

  9. “Pareho lang sila ni Erap na tiwali. Dapat sa kanilang dalawa ay magsama sa kulungan, di ba?”

    Ano? ilagay natin si gloria sa kulungan? gusto ba ninyong umiyak na naman si esperon?

  10. “It depends on the breadth (or SMALLNESS) of one’s perspective, dude.”

    That’s why the clever man see the trunk of the elephant through a microscope and say, “Oh, that was quite a tree!”

  11. upn student, fortunately, unlike mexico, pinoy ofw remittances are coming from places all over the world other than the u.s. our euro-earning foreign workers, for one, must be remitting more than they used to. mexican migrants’ main, if not exclusive, destination is the u.s.

    The report should have included another reason for the fall of the remittances from these immigrants.

    The states are now strict with illegal immigrants particularly those who cross the borders that there was on e school in Arizona which lost 80 per cent of their Hispanic studentry because the families have to move.

    Employers are being fined with a hefty sum if they hire illegals.

    Raids are done not only in the workplace but also residential communities.

    Apartments are abandoned. Hispanic stores that cater to these people are also losing business.

    These people have difficulty finding jobs.

    So what money can they send to their families?

  12. With the rice crisis and spiralling food prices, people are concerned with survival. The only form of civil disobedience under these conditions is a revolution.

    Have you checked what civil disobedience mean?

    For someone who’s named Maginoo, isn’t it ironic that you are advocating for revolution?

    As if revolution is just a walk in the park. DUH!

  13. “People rigorous in erudition should easily recognize nuance and subtlety.” – Maginoo

  14. That’s because, dude, that chart was intended to illustrate a concept. – Benign0

    To be more precise, the chart was intended to illustrate a concept that was pulled out of your ass.

  15. cvj, if benignO could pull a sensible chart like that “out of (his) ass”, think what he could pull out of his brain?

  16. bert, papano magiging pareho si erap at si gma? di ba CONVICTED plunderer si erap. si gma, puro akusasyon lang ng mga gustong pumalit sa kanya para sila naman ang magpasasa,
    at ang kanilang mga mahinang-ulong alipures.

    sa tingin ko, hindi naman puedeng ikulong ang hindi napatunayang nagkasala. ano ka, komunista o anarkista?

  17. “everybody knows that lawyers are trained to pay off the judges not to defend a case.” maginoo.

    that exemplifies the kind of moronic thinking that usually emanates from a vacuous filipino mind that most foreigners love to make fun of. first, it presupposes that it requires “training” to bribe; second that all lawyers and judges are bribe-givers and bribe-takers, respectively; third, that the role of all lawyers is to “defend a case” only; and fourth, that EVERYBODY, idiots and wise men alike, KNOWS all of the above as true. piteous!

  18. “bert, papano magiging pareho si erap at si gma? di ba CONVICTED plunderer si erap. si gma, puro akusasyon lang ng mga gustong pumalit sa kanya para sila naman ang magpasasa,
    at ang kanilang mga mahinang-ulong alipures.

    sa tingin ko, hindi naman puedeng ikulong ang hindi napatunayang nagkasala. ano ka, komunista o anarkista?”-Bencard

    hehehe, ito ang kinatatakutan kong mga akusasyon, nangyari na nga. Bencard, patawarin mo naman ako, pero, basahin mo muna ang joke ni hawaiianguy sa thread na ito, 2:11am, para naman maunawaan mo ang aking kalagayan.

    kasi, wala akong matandaan na sinabing ganyan.

    insecure ka ba, o’ defensive? sayang naman, nagagalingan pa naman ako sa’yo.

  19. Its not my fault if idiots cannot fathom idioms. Nor is it my sin if some people take everything literal.

  20. sorry bert. ikaw kasi, hindi mo nilagyan ng attribution ang quote mo. wala kasi akong masiadong ganang magbasa o mag-react sa mga ellentordesillias-type inanities. para sa akin, wala akong mapapalang binipisio. pero sa tingin ko, hindi nagbibiro yong sumulat no’n.

  21. idioms are not the same as idiots. idioms are not necessarily idiotic. one must be held to what he says unequivocally, not to secret meanings he claims when shown the folly of his statement. we are not writing poetry here.

  22. Its not my fault if idiots cannot fathom idioms. Nor is it my sin if some people take everything literal.

    idiots do not categorize revolution under civil disobdience.
    even idiomatically speaking. it is still idiotically speaking. duh

  23. “ano ka, komunista o anarkista?”-Bencard

    nanginginig na tumbong ko, Bencard, palagay ko namumuro na akong ma-Jonas Burgos.

    kaya lang, kapag nangyari ang joke ni hawaiianguy, baka hindi lang si esperon ang iiyak.

  24. @ Bencard, Benign0, and Ca T

    Better for you guys to empower yourselves in your adopted countries. Let us who remained behind solve the problems here.

  25. CROSS-BORDER CULTURE | News | The dark underside of Oprah’s Big Give
    The dark underside of Oprah’s Big Give

    Generous? No doubt. But the mogul’s approach only underscores a shameful story on social infrastructure
    Apr 19, 2008 04:30 AM Linda Diebel

    National Affairs Writer

    Oprah Winfrey is a force of nature, no argument there. Her Angel Network is pure inspiration and she’s built empires upon empires.

    This year’s presidential election tests whether her influence extends to the White House through the election of her chosen candidate, the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama.

    But from north of the 49th, the only message one should be sending to Winfrey (other than congratulations) is simple: “Please, please, don’t bring Oprah’s Big Give to Canada.

    We love her but we’re different up here, and there’s no need for a Canadian version of her latest project, a televised homage to charity-enabled social policy.

    Probably there aren’t plans to spin off a Canadian version after the season finale of the ABC show (also shown on CTV) airs tomorrow night. But one can’t be too vigilant.

    Oprah’s Big Give began with 10 contestants, one eliminated each week for failing to pull in enough money for charity and the biggest winner receiving a surprise $1 million purse. Its philosophy is simple, and American: Philanthropy and the private sector, it suggests, can best provide services and solve problems, with the added bonus – and this is important – that they cause no loss of personal liberty.

    It’s the opposite of the Canadian perspective.

    In a recent Big Give episode, for example, contestants tackled problems at two elementary schools in Houston where conditions were Third World. At one school, Team Forgotten Christmas gave gifts to “disadvantaged” kids, while at the other, Team Field of Dreams replaced outdated computers, bought basic supplies for the children and built a playground to replace cold concrete.

    Visibly moved, contestants bowed their heads as they listened to teachers and (tracked in close-up) wiped furtive tears. The show is studded with celebrities (hey, how `bout pilot John Travolta?) and, that week, teams raised money with tennis great Andre Agassi, skateboarder Tony Hawk and generous commercial sponsors who got generous plugs. The show’s primary sponsor, Target stores, showered children with toys as if it were Christmas. Yeah Target.

    George H.W. Bush dropped in, living as he does in the area and having raised his family, including his son, the president, in the great state of Texas.

    But not one contestant turned to another and asked how such bleak Dickensian conditions could exist in American schools in the first place. Seemed like the obvious question.

    <em.Or, during another episode featuring a little girl whose family lived with constant stress over the cost of treatment, they raised money for medical care and family expenses. In the U.S., you get sick, you can lose your home. Again, contestants were blinkered.

    In this country, Canadians still cling – under duress and escalating pressure – to the notion we can be a progressive society through our collective tax dollars. It’s an idea being eroded as effectively as the Arctic ice cap and yet, together, we try to offer quality education and medical care, maintain the country’s infrastructure and service the citizenry.

    Although Canadian taxes, particularly corporate taxes, have fallen under both Liberal and Conservative governments, statistics still mark the differences. In 2006, OECD calculations pegged taxes as a portion of GDP at 33.6 per cent, in Canada and in the U.S. Indices show you get what you pay for. Poverty rates are higher per capita in America, as is infant mortality, while the incomes of the elderly are lower and life expectancy is shorter, etc., etc.

    Very interesting article written by a one who has seen both sides of the cultures and has written extensively on the subject.

  26. taxes in the U.S. that was ommitted in the quote is 25.9 per cent of the GDP..sorry for the ommission…

  27. bening,

    as pointed out by cvj your solutioneering crap was indeed pulled off your ass….. nah, liking or disliking you is not relevant here…. i did not ask you for your “solution” my point being is you are a coward who would rather taunt and belittle people because it is the safest route and hoping to get noticed “lovingly” by La Gloria and her apologist…… indeed a brat i should say, a coward one at that who would pounce on the exploited people rather than those responsible for the muck they sank the people in.

  28. @ Bencard, Benign0, and Ca T

    Better for you guys to empower yourselves in your adopted countries. Let us who remained behind solve the problems here.

    And your solution is …revolution. duh.

  29. it appears that the appalling video was already uploaded in february 2008.

    this multiplydotcom site was noted in my blog search of the topic:

    apparently the blog was unnoticed for some time. the whole blog was taken down by the owner but as it is the case when data is uploaded in the public domain (the world wide web), these data may linger on:

    looking into the cached profile of the site, the blogger is a nurse from cebu…

    divulge identities? the blogger already released hers. it may be possible that she didn’t take the video but she got hold of it way too early when the brouhaha erupted.

    uploading content information (e.g., literary works, photos, movies, etc.) to the ineternet could be dangerous…and definitely, blogging too could break (or make) someone…

  30. When looking for solutions, get your hands dirty, go to where the actual problem is. Be with the poor, the exploited, the victims and the forgotten who are only remembered during election time. Be there and live with them. Eat what they eat, drink what they drink, sleep where the sleep, and work their work. After a week I’m certain some here who haughtily dismiss the alleged stupidities of the “ignorant poor” would realize it is not all that easy-dandy after all.

    If you really truly want to help, including those who stay abroad and goes for a vacation here in the Philippines, immerse yourself with the people in the slums preferably those who live along the garbage strewn disease filled esteros, be with them at least for several weeks and experience the limitations that they suffer. After this, THEN offer a solution.

    I advise these especially to people who never had to experience falling in line for some kilograms of NFA rice, never have to use a candle each and every night to light their home, have to fetch water from a communal faucet, have to budget P 50 for a family’s daily meal and to people insulated from the actual events outside the comforts of their own home.

    After this experience, you would then also realize why there is an incredible disgust for people doing and covering up corruption amounting to Billions; and why there is an even greater disgust of people apologizing for the brazenly corrupt and manipulate the law; and moreso for those who engineer corrupting Philippine governance and society, from the PNP, the AFP, Congress, the Executive and recently key individuals in the very Supreme Court itself.

  31. Better for you guys to empower yourselves in your adopted countries. Let us who remained behind solve the problems here. – Maginoo

    Careful careful, dude.

    You never know…

    One day the Philippines may be dependent on food donations from the First World. 😀

    And by the way, how much of the Philippine economy is dependent on remittances nga ba…?

    – 😀

  32. as pointed out by cvj your solutioneering crap was indeed pulled off your ass….. nah, liking or disliking you is not relevant here…. i did not ask you for your “solution” my point being is you are a coward who would rather taunt and belittle people because it is the safest route and hoping to get noticed “lovingly” by La Gloria and her apologist…… indeed a brat i should say, a coward one at that who would pounce on the exploited people rather than those responsible for the muck they sank the people in. – Pedestrian

    Tsk tsk. Now it’s a speculation on my partisan aspirations.

    Real classy indeed.

    And, yes, maybe I get my rocks off at the expense of the “exploited people”. Kawawa nga naman talaga sila (snicker).

    But who isn’t anyway?

    Tell that to all your friends who pay their maids a pittance to be on call 24/7 and given a wooden bunk or some floor space in a mosquito-infested storeroom for lodging.

    – 😀

  33. kabayan, are you practicing what you preach? if so, have you come up with a solution? whatever that is, i bet it’s not making any dent. we still have the same “brazenly corrupt” politicians like erap, et al. lording it over philippine politics and hugging the headlines for doling out small bags of rice to the people in the slums you were talking about.

    we may be outside the country but we are not out of touch. we are filipinos too, and no one can take our birthright away from us. i’m not sure where you’re coming from or where you are at the moment, but as for us here, we see the picture better from a distance and call it as we see it. it seems you have a problem detecting the elephant in your own house.

    poverty is everywhere. we have that here too. remember the saying: God must really love the poor that he made so many of them. there’s no silver bullet to eradicate this human condition. in the final analysis, it’s all up to the individual to lift himself by his own bootstrap. there’s no point blaming everybody else.

  34. Kabayan: You are making it unnecessary hard for those overseas who want to be of help to poor Filipinos when you ask them to first “… experience falling in line for some kilograms of NFA rice…. use a candle each and every night to light their home… fetch water from a communal faucet”.

    UnivPhilippines-Diliman — even Ateneo de Naga and Ateneo de Manila — provide a simpler venue for those who want to help. Contribute to scholarship funds. Being on a guilt trip is not necessary. And these institutions will not only provide the accounting paperwork, they will even say “thank you”.

  35. Yes I practice what I preach Bencard.

    Reminds me of someone who replied to God “Am I my brothers keeper?”. You don’t have a birthright if you turn a blind eye to fellow Filipinos in need.

    So you see better from afar than those in the actual situation eh? I’m sure hordes of armchair generals would agree with you. A lot of their dead soldiers and their families wouldn’t agree though.

    You think that the poor do not try to lift themselves from their own bootstraps? They do but it is not enough.

    Perhaps those part of and covering up the Fertilizer Fund scam (among others) would also agree with you, after all they also lifted themselves by their own bootstraps, only at the expense of those who really need these things.

    For the most part God did not make the poor. It is society and its twisted mores that is largely responsible for mismanagement thus the large number of poor.

    In the final analysis, it is up to those who can help to help; and to watch those who are given positions of responsibility and remove those who cannot be trusted.

    Again to those insulated of the plight of the poor and enjoy the comforts of their home, before anything, experience their situation and decide from there.

  36. Not a question of guilt trip UPn Student, Social Immersion is simply a tool for better understanding of social conditions and how it could be properly improved. I am certain some of those abroad have vacations in the Philippines. It could be an opportunity for them to learn the gravity of the situation and how it takes so little to improve the lives of many.

    The scholarship fund you mentioned is also an excellent venue for improving the lot of our kababayans. Social Immersion would only serve to increase the commitment of those who already are giving scholarships and other public charities. It is not separate, and in fact it enhances the good works some of the more generous kababayans are doing.

    There are a lot of reputable NGOs out there who does this, and they would feel a great fulfillment once they see a once rundown community become vibrant and happy again.

  37. kabayan, by what you say, i suppose you help EVERY filipino in need. and what kind of help is that? a bag of rice every now and then with some instant noodles on a good day? how many “poor” pinoys’ lives have you transformed out of poverty? as to your skewered analogy, we are not “generals” and our “poor” countrymen are not our soldiers. we also have nothing to do with their misfortunes, nor are we directly responsible for them. we do care but we are no miracle workers who can take them out of their miseries. if good intentions can do it, then there will be no more poverty left in the world.

    the poor comprises the bulk of society, at least, in the philippines. realistically, they wield the dominant share of political power, e.g., the election of erap. the key is for them to learn to use that power – wisely!

  38. Bencard,

    You only help who you can. It is not a question of how many people I helped Bencard, what is important is the attitude to be developed in such activity and the learning you get from it and the learning the poor get from you. Then you synergize to reach a certain goal.

    If each and every Filipino develops this habit then poverty will be greatly reduced.

    The analogy is not skewered. Change “generals” with government officials and change the “soldiers” into the general populace. Current administration has set up a mechanism wherein they are not accountable for their actions, the people then get buried in additional misery. Cover ups of corrupt activities run into the billions. Allocation for the development of communities in need are filched, among a few the P 5 billion peso allocation for the development of Jatropha for fuel, the hundreds of millions in countryside development, the more spectacular of this is the Fertilizer scam. The attempt to lease out one to 2 million hectares of Philippine agricultural land to a Chinese firm under vague terms. By covering up and being an apologist for these people one can already be directly responsible for the miserable plight of these people.

    It is not a question of miracle workers, it is a question of removing those the dead weight corrupt abusive and greedy people in positions of power. It is not a question of good intentions, it is a question of good deeds.

    The poor compromise the bulk of society and false social mores and the “kanya-kanya” attitude or worse the “kanya-kanyang kurakot” attitude is responsible for the growing bulk of this poor. Now the poor grew and happen to like Estrada for whatever reason it is? Whose fault is it? Do you think if the system is such that the majority of people will be in the middle class, do you think Estrada would garner the same support?

    The corrupt elitists in society wants to have it all, illegally procured power, wealth and fame but when the tide turns and the majority of the population whom they mismanaged turns against them, they complain and start paying off or colluding with key generals, and more recently installing unconscionable people in the Supreme Court.

    If Estrada did a crime, no problem, he should be in jail. If Gloria and Mike did a crime, they too should be in jail. If people in Congress and in the Supreme court covers up crimes, then what they do is a crime, so therefore they too should be in jail. By the way, why is Estrada not in jail? Because Gloria released him thats why. Why is Gloria not under investigation? Because the Congressmen covers up for them. Why is the nation in this sh*t right now? Its because of all of the above.

  39. Ask a moron who wouldn’t lift a finger to help the poor but would use all fingers to type in a computer criticizing the situation of the needy while not being even there to see and analyze their plight … I do not need to extrapolate.

  40. Benigno,

    In your article you claimed that “We have a cultural character not compatible with the Western model for development — a non-migrant culture that is indigenous to a tropical habitat rich in natural resources and arable land. Ergo:”

    And you proceeded to enumerate 4 points:

    1) “weak predisposition to control the environment (we are in Homo Sapiens’ natural habitat and can survive naked without artificial aid).”

    -Given that we try to irrigate our farm lands (though somewhere in this blog; there is supposed to be an idea that our irrigation facilities are left to decay or something);

    -there is an issue of use of fertilizer(though embroiled presently in a supposed scam);

    -we have been known to carve out hill or mountainsides to produce rice terraces;

    such tends to belie your claim that we have a weak predisposition to control environment. Or are you referring this weakness to the government?

    2) “no culture of saving and accumulating surpluses for the winter (our climate stays the same all year round).”

    -Given that we used to export rice and are still able to provide more than half of our needs; it seems we do have such a culture whether there be winter or there be not.

    -Admittedly that our country is not large enough or dispersed enough to straddle more than one climate zone (which you seem to have admitted to be “tropical” in nature); how many countries the size of ours from around the world have a climate that don’t stay the same all year round?

    3) “no value placed on large-scale interdependencies and co-existence (tribal units are enough to sustain hunter-gatherer or subsistence economies).”

    -The fact that we trade with other countries doesn’t seem to support this assertion.

    -The large value that was placed in being able to import rice from other countries seems to be failing us now.

    4) “beholdenness to personalities rather than institutions (tribal units are simple enough to run on the pesonal whims of its leaders).”

    -Can you be more specific on who you are alluding to here?

  41. Baycas,

    The hospital concerned has denounced it.

    The government has denounced it.

    Medical organizations have denounced it.

    The lawyer of the patient has stated that they will indeed bring the matters to court.

    In relation to your comment “remember the “Desperate Housewives” thing?
    look and think now…”

    There was an incident involving a certain Dr. Allan Zarkin. He doesn’t seem to be a graduate of a Philippine Med school nor practiced medicine here. But I think it would be unfair to label American physicians as “Dr. Zorro” too.