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May 05

Credentialing democracy: or, the institutionalization of “balato”

Snapshot 2008-12-07 13-55-12

Something bothers me about the opposition in some quarters, to the idea of champion pugilist Manny Pacquiao throwing his hat in the electoral ring. Which is a greater indictment of democracy -that Pacquiao has the nerve to consider himself fit for public office, or that some of his fellow citizens consider it unthinkable that a boxer who made it good, dares to aspire to a government job that will be decided by the outcome of a popular election?

The truth is, both may be approaching the same question but from opposite ends of the spectrum. If democracy is the rule of the majority, and the majority of the population happen to be of a certain economic standing or level of education or culture, then naturally their financial and cultural circumstances will affect those they consider worthy and desirable to represent them. The only limits on their ability to do so, are explicit requirements for office that would automatically, and drastically, limit the representative options available to the electorate.

But those explicit requirements have never been there; and, indeed, were never necessary back in the day when there was a greater similarity between leaders and followers because the laws limited those qualified to be electors. However, these limitations have been lifted over time; which makes the assumptions on which the slender, mandatory, qualifications for office now in our laws utterly obsolete.

That being the case, who is to say it is either undesirable or unworthy for Manny Pacquio to aspire to elected office? He is qualified by law on two counts: as an elector, the fundamental qualification that governs all additional qualifications for office (to be an office holder, you must be qualifed to be a voter), and qualified, too, as far as the explicit qualifications required of legislators, for example.

As for whether these qualifications are enough, or should be all that are required, there is the other counter-question: but in this and all similar cases, the public will decide. And doesn’t sovereignty reside in the people?

The objection to his running is fundamentally an objection to the people and the way they manifest their will. But then, isn’t this a challenge to the whole majority rule nature of democracy?

What is happening here is a fulfillment of the law of unintended consequences, which we should examine if we are to get a grip on the crisis of democratic representation we’ve been undergoing since Joseph Estrada’s election to the presidency in 1998.

There are other dynamics at work here, of course, and that includes alienation on the part of voters no longer impressed with, or downright hostile to, the credentials of those formerly deemed solely qualified for public office. “Where have all these bar topnotchers brought the country?” was the dismissive argument you heard going into 1998, from many quarters. That, and the inability of the topnotchers to unite to confront Estrada politically, too.

But the social resentment and alienation angle has been explored thoroughly elsewhere. What I want to examine is how we are dealing with the unintended consequences of democratization : how changes in the rules in one aspect of governance, affects other aspects.

First, let’s review the development of we, the people, as the electorate of the Philippines.

The following have been the qualifications required for voters.

Emilio Aguinaldo, in his capacity as “egregious dictator,” issued a decree for the organizing of municipal and provincial governments on June 18, 1898, and another on June 23 transforming the dictatorship into a Revolutionary Government detailing the means of selection of representatives to the Malolos Congress, including the means to ensure that roughly half of the representatives were appointed by with the other half, elected. The provisions of Aguinaldo’s June 18, 1898 decree describing the electorate is particularly interesting (as reproduced in The Laws of the First Philippine Republic):

Icalaua. Pag-naagao ang bayan sa cuco ng mga castila, ay ang mga mamamayang matangi, dahil sa liuanag ng caisipan, pagcatao at cabaitan maguing sa loob ng bayan maguing sa mga nayon ay magpipisan sa isang daquilang Kapulungan at dito pipiliin at ihahalal ang pagcaisahan ng marami ng maguing Puno sa bayan at maguing Pangulo, sa baua’t nayon, at dito’y sa ngalang nayo’y cabilang ang loob ng bayan.

Macahaharap sa Kapulungang ito at maihahalal naman ang sino mang magtaglay ng mga casangcapang nasasabi sa itaas, cun mapagquilalang may pag-ibig sa casarinlan ng Pilipinas at may dalauang pu at isang taong singcad.

(in contrast, the English translation is less illuminating: “After this has been accomplished all select citizens of every town shall convene in a big assembly and elect by majority vote the town mayor and the head of every barrio in every town…” It sidesteps completely the emphasis in Aguinaldo’s decree, the qualifications, both for electors and officials, of certain characteristics that, you could argue, immediately conditioned the public not only to to select leaders already prominent in their communities, but to limit those entitled to acting as electors).

In the 1899 Constitution, the Malolos Congress ordained that citizens would elect representatives who, in turn, would elect a President for the Republic. Legislation for this was called for, but since no further elections were ever held, the point is moot.

But it is important, to my mind, to note that qualifications to be an elector and an office-holder can be of two kinds: substantive ones, or the intangible kind. The decree of Aguinaldo focused on the intangible kind: “liwanang ng kaisipan, pagkatao, kabaitan,” whether “within the community or outside of it,” are qualifications by virtue of, well, virtues that are assumed to be commonly-recognized as existing and worthy by a community.

In contrast, there are qualifications that may, indeed uphold certain virtues (for example, the assumption that being a property-owner makes for a sober and responsible citizen) as manifested by material possessions or by dint of professional or educational credentials.

Even prior to, and including the Philippine Bill and up to to the Jones Law that superseded it, the requirements for electors was described as follows in A decade of American government in the Philippines, 1903-1913:

The conditions of suffrage remained as originally provided in the Municipal Act of 1901, l which had followed somewhat the provisions of the ” Maura Law ” proclaimed by the Spanish government in 1893. Voters were restricted to male persons twenty-three years of age, not subjects of any other power, with a residence of six months in their district, who, prior to August 13, 1898, had held local office, or who owned real property to the value of five hundred pesos, or who could speak, read, and write either the English or Spanish language.

Under the Jones Law, the following provisions served as the criteria for participating in elections:

Sec. 15 …Every male person who is not a citizen or subject of any foreign power twenty-one years of age or over (except insane and feeble-minded persons and those convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction of an infamous offence since the thirteenth day of August, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, who shall have been a resident of the Philippines for one year and of the municipality in which he shall offer to vote or six months next preceding the day of voting, and who is comprise within one of the following classes:

(a) Those who under existing law are legal voters and have exercised the right of suffrage.

(b) Those who own real property to the value of 500 pesos or who annually pay 30 pesos or more of the established taxes.

(c) Those who are able to read and write either Spanish, English, or a native language.

In the 1935 Constitution, the founding fathers of our present system of government decided the requirements for voters would be as follows (Article V, Suffrage):

Section 1. Suffrage may be exercised by male citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are twenty-one years of age or over and are able to read and write, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for one year and in the municipality wherein they propose to vote for at least six months preceding the election. The National Assembly shall extend the right of suffrage to women, if in a plebiscite which shall be held for that purpose within two years after the adoption of this Constitution, not less than three hundred thousand women possessing the necessary qualifications shall vote affirmatively on the question.

(In 1937, women voted overwhelmingly to grant themselves the right of suffrage.)

These requirements were liberalized under the much-amended so-called 1973 Constitution (Article VI, Suffrage):

Section 1. Suffrage shall be exercised by citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are eighteen years of age or over and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place wherein they propose to vote for at least six months preceding the election. No literacy, property or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of, suffrage…

(Marcos had experimented with lowering the voting age, for his “plebiscites,” to 15; the elimination of literacy requirements grew out of the political ferment of the 1960s and 1970s to more thoroughly democratize elections, and followed at the heels of other changes such as the elimination of bloc voting in the early 1950s)

So at present, the 1987 Constitution (Article V Suffrage) says the electorate is composed of anyone who fulfills the following broad criteria:

Section 1. Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.

In general, the requirements for suffrage began as exceedingly strict; as the requirements have been relaxed, the requirements for legislators and the chief executive have hardly changed.

The Jones Law (which served as the Philippine Constitution from 916 to 1935) imposed the following conditions on representatives:

Sec. 13 …No person shall be an elective member of the Senate of the Philippines who is not a qualified elector and over thirty years of age, and who is not able to read and write either the Spanish or English language, and who has not been a resident of the Philippines for at least two consecutive years and an actual resident of the Senatorial District from which chosen for a period of at least one year immediately prior to his election.

Sec. 14. …No person shall be an elective member of the House of Representatives who is not a qualified elector and over twenty-five years of age, and who is not able to read and write either the Spanish or English language, and who has not been an actual resident of the district from which elected for at least one year immediately prior to his election…

The 1935 Constitution, in Article VI, Legislative Department:

Section 4. No person shall be a Senator unless he be a natural born citizen of the Philippines and, at the time of his election, is at least thirty-five years of age, a qualified elector, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately prior to his election.

Section 7. No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he be a natural born citizen of the Philippines, and, at the time of his election, is at least twenty-five years of age, a qualified elector, and a resident of the province in which he is chosen for not less than one year immediately prior to his election.

In Article VII, Executive Department:

Section 3. No person may be elected to the office of the President or Vice-President unless he is a natural born citizen of the Philippines, a qualified voter, forty years of age or over, and has been a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election.

The 1973 Charter, in Article VII, the President and Vice-President:

Section 3. No person may be elected President unless he is at least fifty years of age at the day of his election as President, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding his election. However, if no Member of the National Assembly is qualified or none of those qualified is a candidate for President, any Member thereof may be elected President.

In Article VIII, the National Assembly:

Section 4. No person shall be a Member of the National Assembly unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereon for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.

Which brings us to the present, 1987 Charter, in Art. VI, Legislative Department:

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least thirty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.

Section 6. No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, and, except the party-list representatives, a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.

In Art. VIII, Executive Department:

Section 2. No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.

These examples are instructive for the following reasons:

1. In general our laws, particularly our Constitutions, have gradually opened up and liberalized the qualifications for voting, so that now, the requirements are few; they have, on the other hand, while instituting minimal standards for being representatives, been more conservative in maintaining basic requirements for office.

2. However, the requirements for legislators and the presidency were formerly very few, in large part because they were crafted in eras when the electorate itself was limited; in other words the limits on qualifying as electors served as means of maintaining those strict qualifications when it came to the officials elected.

3. But as electoral requirements have been relaxed, the result is that the bar for representation has also been lowered. A high bar for qualification for public office was deemed irrelevant to mention in the past, because it was assumed that a limit on those qualified to be electors would naturally have an effect on those elected into office. That assumption has not held true since the 1950s, when matinee idol Rogelio dela Rosa was elected senator and then made a bid for the presidency in 1961.

There was a trend, for a time, towards dissipating the influence of the old clans, and even freeing the clans themselves of the stranglehold of their elders. See Families Remain Strong in Congress, but their Influence is Waning by the PCIJ in 2001. But that trend has been checked and is being reversed.

And it has, as its motive power, a backlash from the educated, the property-owning, the managerial, entrepreneurial, and professional classes whose established notions of qualifications and self-worth, are made irrelevant in a government setup that imposes minimal qualifications for voting or holding office. But their notions are traditional notions, deeply-held, even revered ones of duty and fitness; see how they were expressed in Aguinaldo’s decree; these objections to Pacquiao holding office are expressions of a traditional way of life and of seeing things -of traditional values of worth.

Those minimal qualifications for holding office were never intended because fundamentally related to previously-existing limits on those qualified to belong to the electorate. But as legislators and constitution-makers responded to public opinion demanding an opening up of the electorate, they seem to have overlooked the manner in which the first cut, so to speak, ensured by limiting the electorate, disappeared when that electorate was expanded.

Or maybe not! After all, at no time has it been mandated that a legislator must be a lawyer, for example, even if legislators make laws. Where being a lawmaker is required is where it matters -in the courts, including the Supreme Court, which can declare laws unconstitutional- but not in the legislature.

So again: if what the public in a particular part of the country, be it Sarangani or Quezon City, want is for a retired boxer to represent them, and if their wish conforms with the Constitution, then who can object? If objections to Pacquiao are rooted in traditional notions of fitness and worth, that public office and those who hold it are venerable, then there are other deeply-rooted notions at work in those championing Pacquiao’s running for office -and Pacquiao’s seeking it- of empathy, primarily, for example.

One argument is, Pacquiao can do more good elsewhere. One comment I often encounter is, “if he wants to do good, let him establish a foundation.”

Which is simply institutionalizing “balato,” isn’t it? And yet if you ask Pacquiao himself, the same reasons would apply to his wanting to serve in the House: “to help others,” to do good, to spread the wealth, etc. Another form of institutionalized “balato.” The only difference being some people think the only wealth Pacquiao should be spreading is his own, while Pacquiao -who has earned enough to know the limits and effectivity of spreading his own winnings around- seems to think the best way to do this is to be in office. And here, he has a point too: for that public purse, which the House (in theory, though not practice) controls, is derived from the people.

44 comments

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  1. siyetehan

    much like his sport, pacquiao, if he is really intent on running for public office, should train first. and train hard, just like what he does in boxing.

    learn the foundamentals first. if it requires him to study political science, then let him be.

    but he shouldn’t dare entering into the ring of politics without being prepared.

    otherwise, he’ll fall like hatton.

  2. Carl

    We bastardized the system already. We even elected a know-nothing housewife and a know-nothing actor as Presidents. Not to mention several dimwits to the senate, congress and to local executive positions.

    Too many precedents to change things. And with the way the world is entranced with celebrities, I have doubts whether most people can be educated to vote on qualifications. There may be occasional blips, but in most cases, celebrity trumps capability.

  3. UP n grad

    So true, these words:
    What is happening here is a fulfillment of the law of unintended consequences, which we should examine if we are to get a grip on the crisis of democratic representation we’ve been undergoing since Joseph Estrada’s election to the presidency in 1998.

    There are other dynamics at work here, of course, and that includes alienation on the part of voters no longer impressed with, or downright hostile to, the credentials of those formerly deemed solely qualified for public office. “Where have all these bar topnotchers brought the country?” was the dismissive argument you heard going into 1998, from many quarters.

  4. mlq3

    Carl, but it seems to me we’re better off understanding why we’ve “bastardized” the process: it’s the right for an electorate to engage in experimentation. some will call it a shift towards irresponsibility and demagoguery, others, towards a more fully representative government; and surely, the logic going into a decision ought to be separated from what may turn out to be bitter experience arising from that decision. so the entry of actors into politics was already foreseen before rogelio de la rosa made it to the senate, and what he began took what, forty years before it finally turned into a full-blown national across-the-line phenomenon? but then, there, too, was a backlash against actors after that, and an incentive for lawyers to learn to talk to people more like actors than college debaters.

  5. Mabini

    Pacquiao can run for public office and there is nothing illegal nor unconstitutional about it, on the other hand, anyone can discourage him from running and there is nothing illegal about that. At the end of the day, it’s Pacquiao’s decision that matters and of course, the decision of the majority to choose him. After all, that is what democracy is all about and that includes one’s right to voice out his opinion whether Pacquiao should or should not run.

  6. Carl

    Manolo, I fully agree that it’s the right of the electorate to engage in experimentation. That is why I contend that Manny Paquio is probably a more worthy public servant than either Cory Aquino or Erap.

    Pacquiao rose from the masses. He is one of them, and is a more genuine representative of their aspirations. Aquino and Erap were creations of the middle and upper classes. They never shared the same experiences nor the same aspirations as the masses. Pacquiao is more of the real deal than what the Filipino people ever had.

  7. Jeg

    The right of suffrage is not an inalienable right. It’s a right given by the State, and not by “Nature and Nature’s God” as the American declaration of independence states. If youll notice, in our Constitution, it’s not included in the Bill of Rights.

  8. Bert

    parasite:

    We’ve tried all types: the bar topnotcher, the undergraduate, the plain housewife, the world economist, etc., why not a boxer?

    But I will not vote for Manny, I have my own manok, heheh.

    One thing is sure though. With that millions of dough prize money, the leeches, the linta, the parasites, will be around Manny until 2010, one hand in his pocket the other on his shoulder, and with sweet promises of a sure win, egging him on to run. Until he lost the election.

  9. mlq3

    Jeg, yes, but once granted, very difficult to take away or re-restrict. Possible, but politically improbable.

  10. manuelbuencamino

    I think the way out of this dilemma lies not in amending the law but in the election campaign process. As it is now, any candidate with a good advertising campaign and the right media contacts can win.

    There must be a way where voters have a chance to place candidates under a microscope, where they can examine the candidate behind the hype and the hoopla. I have great faith in the intelligence and discernment of voters. I know they will make the right choice given the chance to see who the candidates really are.

    There’s no need to limit candidates or voters, that is undemocratic. There is a need for complete transparency on the part of anyone running for public office. That’s what we should working at.

  11. Jeg

    True, MLQ3. The genie is out of the bottle. How to limit the number of electors to a number manageable by Comelec and private bantay-boto groups, while at the same time not disenfranchising the people’s will is the holy grail.

  12. S o P

    Well, the military respects and admires Pacman, so a Pacman presidency will mellow down military adventures, which have been a problem since the Cory presidency.

    Cory – hated by military because she’s a woman (a housewife at that) and women belong in the kitchen. Thus the military coups.
    Ramos – from a military background, so no coups.
    Erap – Movie action hero. Kept military busy and happy with full assault on Muslims, so no coups.
    GMA – ambitious woman who should be in the kitchen but wants to do “manly” stuff instead (like be president). Kept the military mellow (for the most part) with bribes.

  13. S o P

    “siyetehan on Tue, 5th May 2009 5:53 pm

    much like his sport, pacquiao, if he is really intent on running for public office, should train first. and train hard, just like what he does in boxing.

    learn the foundamentals first. if it requires him to study political science, then let him be.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. If only reading books were as easy pounding the punching bags. Reading books will make you fall asleep.

    I’ve heard of rags to riches types who studied despite poverty, reading books under the candlelight, insisting on going to school despite an empty stomach, because it’s their nature to absorb intellectual stuff.

    Pacman doesn’t strike me as the intellectual type. If you didn’t like reading books as a child, you ain’t never gonna like reading them as an adult.

  14. rego

    Carl,

    I also feel the way on Pacquiao. I believe that would be a better public servant than than Erap and Cory and even Noli because of his personal background. Also achievemement wise I believe is much much better that any of the celebrities who was already elected.

    But still I have so much reservation on Pacquiao. I dont know but I have a feeling he dont have much experience. Then I also wanted to see his sincerity to the position. Baka naman he is also into experimentations. Electorate and the candidate both doing experiment makee me sooo verryyy worried. I dont think its a good combination.

  15. d0d0ng

    Enough had been said about qualifications and intelligence. It is so horrible to see all qualified and intelligent Filipinos who at the end use the national treasury as their own personal account (from Marcos to Arroyo).

    Philippines needs a person of character that will not bankcrupt its resources for personal use but for the common good – the Filipinos. Pacquiao may not have economic doctorate of Arroyo and the brilliance of Marcos, but he has the heart of those who live in poverty as he started and grown from it. On sincerity and determination scale, he is superior to any politician including the current President.

    So let the people decide. Saranggani is a good start.

  16. Mark

    Sorry for crossposting (I posted this in the inquirer blogspot but the discussions seem livelier here).

    Thank you for this very informative post. However, I believe you’re barking up the wrong tree. Let me quote some people first:

    “A Democracy is the vilest form of Government there is.” -Thomas Paine, USA founding father, author of The Rights of Man
    “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
    -James Madison, USA founding father, father of US constitution.
    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” -Thomas Jefferson, author of US declaration of independence
    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
    -Benjamin Franklin, US founding father
    When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
    -ibid

    I hope the quotes above clarify that we do not have a US style democracy.

    The problem is we still refuse to acknowledge and act on the limits democracy has in promoting freedom. Socrates was killed by a democracy, Adolf Hitler was democratically elected by 89% of the Germans, genocides occur because a majority want to kill a minority they don’t like. Democracy is only a means to the end of freedom. The US founding fathers knew that not even the majority could be trusted to honor the rights and freedoms of others. That is why they designed their constitution to limit the government’s (ie the majority’s) ability to exploit the individual. There was far greater emphasis on protecting individuals rather than groups of people. That every individual (rather than group) had the same rights.

    What have we done?

    We pit one group or class with another. We have special laws for the poor just because they are poor. Never mind if we can’t discriminate between the deserving or not. We have special laws/subsidies for one business/organization over another. We punish the productive to subsidize irresponsible behavior. We punish risk-taking entrepreneurship to subsidize mediocrity. No wonder we’re in such a mess. (note to socialists, the real world doesn’t care about your intentions. You back the wrong policies REAL lives get hurt/destroyed).

    Under such a system, the person that wins isn’t the best but the one that can extract the largest amount from the productive for the biggest group. Never mind if that group wastes it.

    Do we promote democracy at the expense of freedom? That is my question.

    Democracy expands freedom by expanding self-determination through the election of leaders. However, when democracy starts to destroy the ability of an economy to produce enough goods (eg food) for its people, it hinders freedom and makes people more vulnerable to exploitation and less self-determined. As we “vulgar” economists are so painfully aware of.

    I’m all for freedom even if it means destroying democracy (although I only wish to limit it). Nor am I fascist. Fascists are people who want to take your freedom and force on you all sorts of duties and responsibilities in the belief people cannot be trusted to make the “right” choices freely. They want you to take responsibility for the free choices they make (e.g. we’re still paying for Marcos’s debts right?).

    I believe freedom is necessary for responsible behavior. Like a man forced to kill a another in self-defense, you cannot expect people to take responsibility for choices they did not make.

    If you were in China in the 1980s, the people were very irresponsible. Why? Because, during Mao’s time, they always took orders from a bureaucrat. Defiance meant getting shot or disappearing. Nobody took responsibility for their actions and somebody else was always expected to deal with the consequences. The state even decided what course and career you’d have.

    Thanks to Deng Xiapeng’s free market reforms, people could freely make their own choices provided they bear all the consequences. That freedom and to be forced to take responsibility for your choices is what transformed the Chinese from irresponsible bums into globally competitive entrepreneurs.

    The problem with socialists is that they unintentionally (but are no less guilty of) expanding freedom but neglect how to make people take responsibility for their freedom. Until every reasonable person sees the whole thing as unsustainable nonsense and opts for a fascist to restore law and order.

    PS If you want to know who killed Philippine democracy it was the irresponsible socialists who poisoned the well of free markets. No credible politician can give support for free markets to end poverty without destroying his political career. Only the fascists can support free markets now because they have no scruples in applying it selectively when it benefits their business to buy votes.

  17. ramrod

    Philippines needs a person of character that will not bankcrupt its resources for personal use but for the common good – the Filipinos. Pacquiao may not have economic doctorate of Arroyo and the brilliance of Marcos, but he has the heart of those who live in poverty as he started and grown from it. On sincerity and determination scale, he is superior to any politician including the current President.

    So let the people decide. Saranggani is a good start.
    —————————————————————

    I couldn’t agree more…let the people decide, and respect the decision…

  18. cocoy

    Which is simply institutionalizing “balato,” isn’t it? And yet if you ask Pacquiao himself, the same reasons would apply to his wanting to serve in the House: “to help others,” to do good, to spread the wealth, etc. Another form of institutionalized “balato.” The only difference being some people think the only wealth Pacquiao should be spreading is his own, while Pacquiao -who has earned enough to know the limits and effectivity of spreading his own winnings around- seems to think the best way to do this is to be in office. And here, he has a point too: for that public purse, which the House (in theory, though not practice) controls, is derived from the people.

    We’re assuming his reason for running is to do good and not his own interest.

  19. mlq3

    cocoy, i actually think most politicians still believe they seek office and are in office to help people. but also, there is the tendency to believe that what is good for one’s self is good for the country, too.

  20. ramrod

    Anyone who’s ever been in competition will understand the discipline, motivation, pain, and determination of preparing for it, of living a life apparently abnormally different from the ordinary…then there’s the moment of truth, when you face the opponent head to head with nothing but raw courage and confidence that can only be achieved by a pure heart (no baggage, no other obscure intentions, just pure focus) – its a degree of clarity, of honesty, purity – no words can aptly describe…and the judgment is brutal…

  21. BrianB

    Intellectuals have been limiting the options of the Filipino people. Change will not go down to a vote. A good president will remain powerless against a well-rooted oligarchy and would like get assassinated. Our economy is easily sabotaged, f the power players think it benefits them to keep us hungry.

  22. ramrod

    A good president will remain powerless against a well-rooted oligarchy and would like get assassinated. Our economy is easily sabotaged, f the power players think it benefits them to keep us hungry.
    ———————————————————–

    That is why I’m hoping for a change of heart – to include these Oligarchs, they’re also human…

  23. Mark

    “If men were angels, there would be no need for government.”
    -James Madison, Frederich Bastiat

    Why are we still clinging to the idea that all we need is a saint to run the gov’t? That is impossible! People are rent-seeking creatures. People will always for vote what is in their self-interest AND NO SOCIETY HAS CHANGED THAT ASPECT OF HUMAN NATURE.

    Free societies became successful because they structured their incentives such that self-interest was directed by Adam Smith’s invisible hand not because the people suddenly become more virtuous! If you don’t believe me, then why did East and West Germany produce such different outcomes? North and South Korea (democracy came to South Korea AFTER industrialization)? Hong Kong vs Maoist China (Hong Kong was NOT a democracy under the British)?

    How do we do this? Simply reduce negative externalities in every transaction. A simplification is do whatever you want so long as you don’t involuntarily harm another.

    People will always vote for their self-interest and should the day come they will vote based on altruism/ethics/whatever, why would we need a government? If every voter would already act on what is the “common good” without coercion (ie be angels), why would we need policemen/judges/bureaucrats to coerce them not harm one another?

    I REPEAT: If men were angels, there would be no need for government!

  24. Mark

    Addendum:

    Sorry let me point out that East vs West Germany, North vs South Korea, Hong Kong vs. Maoist China had a counterpart with the SAME people, SAME history, SAME culture. I dare say THEY HAD THE SAME VIRTUES AND VICES, They just DIFFERENT ECONOMIC SYSTEMS.

  25. Jeg

    If men were angels, there would be no need for government!

    Men are not angels, so government is run by, well, un-angelic beings. The Republic should be run in such a way as to limit the power of those demon–, I mean, those people that have power over us.

  26. GabbyD

    @mlq3

    do you think a foundation is institutionalized balato?

    why?

  27. mlq3

    gabby, it’s the same general principle, isn’t it? giving a cut of one’s good fortune to others. except a foundation has an attached bureaucracy and attempts at a more objective process to scrutinize the recipients of balato.

  28. GabbyD

    @mlq3 on Wed, 6th May 2009 12:39 pm

    ” it’s the same general principle, isn’t it? giving a cut of one’s good fortune to others”

    but that is the ONLY thing they’ve got in common — that is, redistribution.

    foundations are generally more than a means to transfer money from the rich to the poor. its a way to transfer skills, knowhow, infrastructure, etc…

    if you want to call a foundation — balato– then you might as well call government balato as well…

    govt is nothing but using taxation to provide goods and services, typically from the rich to the poor. do we call that balato?

    this is a strange term to use. its certainly NOT an accurate picture of how governments should work (but it may accurately describe what happens in practice, which we should agree is bad).

    it definitely doesn’t accurately describe the work foundations do either.

    unless you think ANY KIND of redistribution is balato. in which case, i’m surprised.

  29. mlq3

    gabby, my point is perception and practice, certainly not how things ought to work.

  30. GabbyD

    @mlq3 on Wed, 6th May 2009 1:08 pm

    thanks. since your nose is closer to the ground than mine…

    may i ask: what is an example of a foundation that people perceive and that in fact practices, plain old distribution of money? (i understand if you don’t want to bad mouth some foundations… but if you can call one out, i’d appreciate the candor).

    thanks. i always thought foundations do good work. work that needs to be done. i always thought that is what people generally thought of foundations in general…

    i was exposed to the tuloy foundation for street kids in alabang. from what i saw, they did good, necessary work.

  31. mlq3

    gabby, if you’ll note in my previous comments, i pointed that foundations institutionalize the distribution of largesse, and try to find more objective ways to give money. there are many reasons for this but primarily the laudable one of perpetuating the generosity of the donor: someone with wealth who wants to engage in charitable acts, can do so better if freed of the need to determine each and every instance of grant-giving, or to orient that giving to larger goals (e.g. not duplicating charitable giving in localities with many other donors, which would deprive other areas that might need it).

    there might even be foundations organized simply for the purpose of efficiently managing the receipts and paperwork necessary to extract the greatest concessions from the state, in terms of tax writeoffs or rebates, but hopefully these are few and far between; and others organized simply as a means of money laundering, rarer still, hopefully.

    but the point is not whether foundations do good work or not, because most do and surely we can’t frown on any instance of charity or civic spiritedness. i’m simply suggesting that there are surely foundations that have at their core, a balato spirit -which in itself is a deeply entrenched attitude towards wealth and the largesse expected of the wealthy or fortunate by our society. the trend to professionalize foundations, to adopt good practices from foreign foundations to ensure transparency, sustainability, and even-handedness is a step away from the old balato mentality and one you see more and more. that’s all i’m saying, and it will go a long way in fostering a more effective use of wealth devoted to public-spirited purposes.

  32. GabbyD

    @mlq3 on Wed, 6th May 2009 1:28 pm

    ah thanks! now its clear what you mean by “institutionalizing balato.”

    i thought that it meant making balato (distribution of largese) more entrenched (institutionalize). balato is a bad thing, and encourages dependence (among other bad things)…

    but you what you is is that foundations are ” step away from the old balato mentality” (in a good direction), coz it ensures “transparency,… etc”…

    so institutionalizing balato is a GOOD thing. so forming a foundation, for example by pacquiao, would be a good thing IF he wants to help.

    OK. thanks! i understand now.

  33. Mark

    @mlq3

    “it’s the same general principle, isn’t it? giving a cut of one’s good fortune to others.”

    Sir,
    It is one thing for 90% of a people to tax themselves to help the bottom 10%. It is another for the middle 80% to tax the top 10% to help the bottom 10%… while getting a cut along the way.
    -Paraphrased from Milton Friedman

    In addition, you seem to be taking for granted that free market exchanges cannot take place without making both parties in a transaction better off. Free markets being defined as being free to buy/sell/give whatever to whomever one wants without coercion or fraud at a mutually agreed price.

    Which is more effective for providing for the needs of people: self-interest of consumers/producers checked by the free market OR self-interest of bureaucrats checked by uh… hmmm… “democracy” (for lack of a better word)?

  34. mlq3

    no, no wait, gabby. it would be more accurate to say, balato exists, it is something our society believes in, and which is practiced. at its most basic level it’s about sharing one’s good fortune with others -more so, because people expect you to, and that it diminishes your standing in the community if you don’t. and obviously, balato is shared with the less fortunate by the more fortunate, it equalizes fortune, a kind of karmic distribution, let’s say. in that wealth is good karma, poverty, bad karma, and reducing poverty improves someone else’s karma -and enhances the giver’s.

    but what modern-minded foundations try to do is go beyond this and look at, say, nation-building, community-building, or sustainable means to enable people to permanently stop being poor, instead of alleviating the symptoms of poverty.

  35. Mark

    Sorry for my last post please disregard the last 2 paragraphs. I apologize. When I read:
    “but the point is not whether foundations do good work or not, because most do”

    I thought “most do” was “must do”

  36. GabbyD

    @mlq3 on Wed, 6th May 2009 1:52 pm

    OK. i’ll concede that balato MAY be a good thing. 🙂 it depends…

    thanks for the nice chat!

  37. ramrod

    People will always vote for their self-interest and should the day come they will vote based on altruism/ethics/whatever, why would we need a government? If every voter would already act on what is the “common good” without coercion (ie be angels), why would we need policemen/judges/bureaucrats to coerce them not harm one another?

    I REPEAT: If men were angels, there would be no need for government!
    ———————————————————–

    If Manny wants to run for public office, let him. Let him spend some of his millions in the Philippines, most especially in Saranggani. Let him contribute to the local stimulus package, rather than deposit it in some offshore bank account.
    Come to think of it, corrupt government officials are doing their part, money coming from corruption is easily spent (hindi sila nanghihinayang), on AirForce1, Pharaoh, Pegasus, Arena, Aquarium, etc…it still circulates…
    No angel would run for public office, there are so many variables to consider and some may not be “angelic” deeds but must be done if you want to win, and when you do win, more of the same if you want things to get done well, quickly, and successfully.

  38. Madonna

    The institutionalisation of balato in the form of foundations and an outward show of the do-good ethic is the way most of the elite and those of the few in the lower classes who achieved something have addressed the deep problems of our society that has not yet genuinely democratized. On the one hand, it keeps real famine or hunger from stalking the Philippines that will lead to a revolution as it keeps an outward display of socialism (OFW-ism is also a safety valve) — and yet, the goody-goody ethic or balato-ism is one of the causes that makes the likes of Benigno rant and rave on his “substance” advocacy for Philippine society and for people like me who have continued to see the upper classes and the rich as having abandoned their responsibility in spearheading deep systemic changes in the country.

    Manny Pacquiao is a dangerous currency as far as giving false hopes on the masses that one can be rich, famous and powerful because one excels as an individual. Pacquiao is a fluke or in a common parlance, sinuwerte lang sya. I don’t believe that just because he came from the masses he should be be given a very liberal leeway on his political aspirations (his constituents in 2007 had spoken and he was clearly rejected; so what changed between then and now, only two years later: he has becomes even more famous, richer, more influential — but what? will voters change their mind because of these?). This obsession with “world-class” and competitiveness is based on individualistic values that are not properly anchored on societal aspirations. Pacquiao is one in 90 million. Certainly, as a personal inspiration, there is no harm in there. But what about the role of the greater society in making more Manny Pacquiaos, not necessarily the boxer kind?

    In Mar Roxas’ campaign the kids in the padyak either wants to be an artista or an OFW (a seaman). It’s telling how our dreams been confined to this. Our children’s choices have been limited to the glitter of showbusiness or the inevitable pakikisapalaran sa ibang bansa para umasenso. Paquiao’s achievements have more or less reflected the fulfillment dreams of this kids: a dream realized outside the country and that has been forged in a business that is probably less athletic as it is fame-driven.

  39. Mark

    @ramrod
    “Let him contribute to the local stimulus package, rather than deposit it in some offshore bank account.
    Come to think of it, corrupt government officials are doing their part, money coming from corruption is easily spent (hindi sila nanghihinayang), on AirForce1, Pharaoh, Pegasus, Arena, Aquarium, etc…it still circulates…”

    Sir,

    That is an economic fallacy. In the 1950s-60s, that idea (Keynesianism or “vulgar” Keynesianism if you wish) had some respectability. But the stagflation of 1970s put that idea to rest. I will try to explain why, though I prefer you still ask an economic professor.

    The value of money is not intrinsic (money is not valuable in itself). It is just paper with ink in it. If you were to give the BSP only, and only just, the same paper and ink used to create a P1000 bill they will not pay you P1000 back. The paper and ink isn’t worth P1000. In fact it costs just as much to produce a P20 bill as a P1000 bill.

    The value of money lies in the WILLINGNESS and ABILITY of people to trade goods and services for it. Money is only valuable if other people acknowledge its value. That is, money is only valuable if other people are willing and able to give you what you want (clothes, food, shelter) in exchange for your money.

    What happens if corrupt politicians can just take your money? Money that you earned by giving someone else a good or service they value.
    For the sake of simplification bear with me:
    -Suppose you earn P1000 for your business.
    -Suppose further you only value that P1000 so you can buy a pair of jeans otherwise you wouldn’t continue with your business.

    If a politician can just force P500 from you without giving you anything in return, two things can happen:
    1.) You raise the prices of your business by P500 so you can still earn P1000. The result is inflation.
    2.) If you can’t raise the price you close your business because you only bother with the stress of having a business if you can earn at least P1000. The result is job losses AND inflation.

    Why inflation in #2? Because your business used to produce goods and services for the economy. Closing it down means those goods and services are taken out BUT the amount of money in the economy is still the same. So you have the same quantity of money BUT LESS GOODS AND SERVICES TO TRADE IT FOR. The economy is less ABLE to provide goods and services for its money. And hence people with the money bid up the price for the scarcer goods and services.

  40. Mark

    @ramrod

    “If Manny wants to run for public office, let him. Let him spend some of his millions in the Philippines, most especially in Saranggani.”

    Sir,
    I have NO problems with Manny running. I have problems with Manny possible using his position to coerce money from me in order to spend on unproductive and wasteful things, just like every politician. Let him run that is his right but it is also my right to spend money I EARNED by satisfying someone else’ needs/wants as I see fit. A system that allows politicians to get money without giving anything back is the real problem. It destroys the value of money and the moral fabric of our country (since success depends on influence and power rather than producing something of value).

    Why can’t we have a system like the USA? They had a lot of imbecilic presidents (eg George W Bush Jr.), but that didn’t stop them from becoming a prosperous society. They don’t need great leaders, they instead rely on individual Americans to succeed. Why do Filipinos have such a hero worship complex?

  41. ramrod

    Mark,
    What I meant was instead of saving these corruption money in some other country, let them spend it here, where real people with real problems can benefit from it. Like the waiters, GROs, cigarette vendors, balut vendors, etc.
    I just want them to spend, spend, and spend…the faster they get the money from us, the faster this should be spent…
    There will always be corrupt people in government, we can never be rid of them…and like the US, we also have businessmen that run successful businesses inspite of government, but we can’t deny that some businessmen are doing so much better working with the present and past governments.

  42. ramrod

    There is no panacea to all this, this is the Philippines, we have to accept some hard facts. Politicians can and will take our money and use it for unproductive purposes, its a sad reality. Most people wonder why Filipinos do well in other countries, managers excel and are even poster boys for any corporate code of ethics, but when you put them here in the Philippines they change overnight…
    But then again we have to go on, and on, we can’t stop just because we’re not happy with the way things are, we’ll have to take it one month at a time, try to look at the bright side of things as much as possible and decide to be happy inspite of everything else.

  43. Mark

    Hello ramrod,

    Though I disagree with you, I’m appreciative your optimism and passion (something I lacked when I was a bigger hothead a few years ago). So here is my reply.

    “What I meant was instead of saving these corruption money in some other country, let them spend it here”

    The latter is definitely a lesser evil but an evil nonetheless. And one I think that is avoidable.

    “I just want them to spend, spend, and spend…the faster they get the money from us, the faster this should be spent”

    But why is a parasite’s, este, politician’s spending habits better than the private individual1’s? When you take money from people, they lose the incentive to work and be productive. They will invest and consume less. Why work when someone else will enjoy the fruits of your labor?

    If you spend money you earned on, say, food you and the seller are better off; because if not you wouldn’t have bought the food and the seller wouldn’t have sold it. This provides the incentives to work harder (to get more food or money or whatever) and society progresses. A politician OTOH, makes himself and his constituents better off by taking money from someone else. And making that someone else worse off. Pretty soon that someone will lose the incentive for productive activity and if he’s smart will play the game, become part of that corrupt politician’s constituents, or just immigrate.

    As for the constituents, what will they do? Considering all they had to do was vote for the politician, they probably won’t value the money as much. And because they got the money by voting rather than producing something that would pass the cold merciless test of the market, chances are they are less capable of investing that money into job-creating businesses.

    “There will always be corrupt people in government, we can never be rid of them”

    Agreed, but it is no excuse to try to minimize corruption nor is there a reason that we can’t minimize it.

    “we also have businessmen that run successful businesses inspite of government”

    Agreed but again if we can do better why not?

    Also, I do not know if this is a general case but there is a lot of cynical businessmen our current system has produced. Power and influence (as opposed to productivity) has become a great determinant of success in this country. Many new businessmen have given bribes to politicians to leave them alone and/or to get rid of some competition. If the poor who voted for these politicians start demanding all sorts of other things, how do they feel? “Didn’t you vote for these politicians who took money I earned? Money they used to buy your votes? If P1000 was all it took for you to vote for them, how dare you demand more from me?” That is the feeling I get sometimes.

    No I don’t believe we can continue this way. Too much democracy destroys accountability and is rotting our morality.

    “There is no panacea to all this, this is the Philippines, we have to accept some hard facts.”

    Agreed, I have no illusions about the free market. It will not bring heaven on earth BUT I know that it is FUNDAMENTAL and ESSENTIAL to any free and prosperous society; even if it is INSUFFICIENT. I know of no society that achieved great success and freedom without the rule of law and secure property rights (practical aspects of the free market).

    “Politicians can and will take our money and use it for unproductive purposes, its a sad reality.”

    Other countries have minimized it or at least minimized its impact on productivity and I see no reason why we can’t.

    “Most people wonder why Filipinos do well in other countries, managers excel and are even poster boys for any corporate code of ethics, but when you put them here in the Philippines they change overnight…”

    Simple, it is incentives. In other countries, you work hard and show that you’re dependable you get rewarded. Break the rules you’re punished. Here, if you don’t grease a bureaucrat’s palms with money he can hold your life/business hostage, no matter how right you are. Honestly our laws are terrible. At best they were made by ivory tower intellects. Even if a bureaucrat eventually has to do the right thing by law, the time it takes (weeks, months, years!) is a death toll on any business.

    If you want to have your way just make lots of trouble. Most people would rather just settle rather than deal with a corrupt government that is more interested in getting a cut than getting at the truth and a lot of people have little to lose. Hence troublemakers are rewarded.

  44. Mark

    @Madonna
    Ma’am,
    Thinking out loud:
    “upper classes and the rich as having abandoned their responsibility in spearheading deep systemic changes in the country.”

    Is it a responsibility? Should it be a responsibility? Should there be a law that hold the rich liable if they do not do this responsibility? I mean no offense but which to explore the idea further.
    I can concede that societies I consider free had rules that were established by an elite group undemocratically I might add (eg USA, Germany, Chile). And that ones established by the masses weren’t so free or nice (French Revolution, USSR, Maoist China).
    But to consider it a responsibility in every sense of the word, doesn’t that mean the rich can be held liable? In which case, who determines when they’ve done enough or not? My father has helped a lot of people in his life. But it is very true that you give em an arm and they’ll take a leg. Maybe we can’t blame them. But they make sustainable development harder to achieve.
    In addition, what of the problem of socialism/democracy in breeding the cynical businessmen I described:
    “Many new businessmen have given bribes to politicians to leave them alone… If the poor who voted for these politicians start demanding all sorts of other things (from them), how (should) they feel? “Didn’t you vote for these politicians who took money I earned (through free market exchanges)? Money they used to buy your votes? If P1000 was all it took for you to vote for them, how dare you demand more from me?””

    “This obsession with “world-class” and competitiveness is based on individualistic values that are not properly anchored on societal aspirations.”

    May I ask what is the definition of societal aspirations and what is its relationship to individualistic values? Isn’t the former merely the aggregate of the latter? Where does the former come from? What or who determines the former, and how?

    “In Mar Roxas’ campaign the kids in the padyak either wants to be an artista or an OFW (a seaman). It’s telling how our dreams been confined to this. Our children’s choices have been limited to the glitter of showbusiness or the inevitable pakikisapalaran sa ibang bansa para umasenso.”

    I sympathize and it makes me all the more angry at the irresponsible socialists/communists.

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