Sobre la Indolencia de Los Españoles

Hoorah to the Filipino medalists at the SEA Games.

Today’s Inquirer editorial ask why the the Palace gates were closed to the Sumilao farmers. As for the farmers themselves, Patricia Evangelista eloquently tackles their plight, while Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ says that the original government order reclassifying the land the farmers claim, from agricultural to industrial, was based on conditions that have been unfulfilled, and left unfulfilled by the new owner of the land, San Miguel Corporation:

What were the terms of the development which were approved for the 144 hectares? I repeat what I enumerated last Monday:

24 hectares would contain a Development Academy of Mindanao consisting of an Institute for Higher Education, Institute for Livelihood Science, Institute for Agri-Business Research, Museum, Library, Cultural Center and Mindanao Sports Development Complex.
67 hectares would contain a Bukidnon Agro-Industrial Park consisting of a processing plant for corn oil, corn starch and various corn products; cassava processing for starch, alcohol and food delicacies; processing plants for fruits and fruit products such as juices; processing plants for vegetables; cold storage and ice plant; cannery system; commercial stores; public market and abattoir.

33 hectares for Forest Development including open spaces and parks for recreation, horseback riding and mini animal zoo.

20 hectares for Support Facilities including a 360-room hotel, restaurants, dormitories and housing project.

Instead, says Bernas,

The landowner failed in its commitment to make the development. Instead, the landowner sold the land to San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI).

Under the rules, the successor in interest to the property is bound by the terms of the approved conversion. SMFI plans to put up a piggery with 162 buildings to house 4,400 female pigs and 44,000 piglets and also to put up a slaughterhouse. Compare this SMFI project with the originally approved conversion plan. The former was people’s welfare-oriented; now it is pig-oriented! Did the DAR secretary approve the change in orientation?

What is most painful for the farmers is that they had already won Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) which were registered in the Register of Deeds, only to be revoked to give way to the bogus promise of development.

On the other hand, San Miguel Corporation says it has investments in the land that dwarfs the actual value of the land. See this letter to the editor by Ramon Ang:

We convened a consultation with the farmers themselves, along with the residents and local officials of San Vicente, Sumilao. In fact, several of the farmers who have joined the protest march were in that consultation and assented to these plans. Mapalad leaders Paterno L. Tuminhay and Renato C. Penas were among the barangay kagawad who approved the barangay resolution endorsing the project.

Having secured their approval, we immediately set out to construct the facilities. To date, we have constructed 21 of 40 buildings that will make up the agro-industrial estate.

All told, our total investment in Sumilao will amount to an estimated P2.4 billion, far, far greater than any projected future value for the land itself. It’s an investment that will have near-term benefits for the farmers themselves.

Our plan will provide the residents of Sumilao a sustainable source of employment and income and we’re confident that all our initiatives will have an even greater catalyzing effect on the lives of people in this area.

If you go over the economics paper of Dr. Michael Alba, which I posted in Inquirer Current, he touches on issues raised by Bernas and which can only lead to more Sumilao-type controversies to come. He points out that the conversion of land from agricultural to industrial and other purposes is going on at such a fast clip, that no one can say, with precision, how much land remains classified as agricultural land. At best, he says, what we can have are guesstimates, because the old. more thorough system for making inventories of land, have been dropped.

My column for today is Sobre la Indolencia de Los Españoles, where a Spaniard’s observations on why his government was so fulsome in its praise of the President, leads me to reflecting that there’s not enough “complete staff work” going on in the Spanish side. And that the Spanish have the option of basing their relationship with Filipinos on hazy colonial nostalgia or on a far stronger, because relevant, commitment to the shared values of modernity, democracy, and secularism that have taken root in Spain today for the first time in its history.

I quoted him at length in my column, but a fuller extract is called for, considering how difficult it is to find his book. In his essay, “Inheritance from Spain” in the collection “We Filipinos,” this is what Leon Ma. Guerrero had to say (in the Manila Chronicle in 1953):

[F]or all the superficial disappearance of Spanish culture, the Filipino nation is still Spanish and mind and heart. The great wave of Americanization erased only the Spanish footprint on the surface of the sands, and left untouched a buried treasure… She made our soul after her own image; and the Spaniard can still understand, much more perhaps than the American, the nature of the Filipino, can discern the true character of the race beneath what Benavente called the words with which we lie and thoughts with which we fool ourselves.

The Spanish civil law permits the institution of what is called a universal heir, who must assume not only the credits but also the liabilities of his predecessor in interest. We were the universal heirs of Spain in the Philippines, forced heirs to both the virtues and the vices of the sovereign testatrix.

Thus, while Spain gave us the Catholic religion, setting us apart forever from the rest of Asia with the chrism of salvation, she also bequeathed to us an anticlerical tradition, the unhealed wound of the political conflict with the friars…

Spain, finally, laid down the basis of our democracy with the Christian teaching of the dignity of man, and our equality under God. But she shares with us the habits of hypocrisy, subservience, and civic irresponsibility that are engendered by absolute power.

The Duke of Maura, analyzing the political landscape of Spain in his Grandeza y Decadencia de Espana, points out that Spain’s greatest weakness, which we seem to have inherited, is the atrophy of the civic spirit, the lack of civic responsibility, the habit of submission to absolute and irresponsible power. As a result, the word politics has come to mean, for some the most pleasant and least demanding of professions; for others the most thrilling and expensive of sports; and for very few the art of knowing, evaluating and serving the national interest.

Political power in turn, he says, is interpreted in terms of satisfying vanity and ambition, of indulging covetousness, of being prodigal with the money of others, of expediting vengeance, of amassing a fortune, of rising in society, in short, of glutting every ignoble appetite…

It is not strange, says the Duke, that where the cacique is absolute, and the citizen servile, favoritism and parasitism should reign instead of justice and the right. nor is it strange that in this upside-down selection of our rulers, the worst should always be preferred to the good, with the horrible result that a government of incompetents is placed at the head of a flock of slaves.

Which is Spain, he asks -and we might ask the same question of ourselves- misgoverned or ungovernable? Who is to blame for the national misfortunes: the ruler without a sense of right, or the ruled without a sense of duty? Patience and resignation, he declares, are the virtues of the martyr, and the vices of the citizen. So also did Rizal proclaim that there are no tyrants where there are no slaves…

Our nation learned many things from Spain: a primitive instinct of piety that sustains us in misfortune; a sense of personal dignity, of amor propio that drives us to do things which are sometimes comic and sometimes tragic; an avid and restless amorousness which contrives to combine the idolatry of woman with a selfish and boastful carnality; an understanding of death, death as the final sanction of life, the ultimate test to be met with the reckless elegance of the torero standing on tiptoe above the horns of the bull.

Indeed, we shall not find Spain’s legacy to the Filipinos in masonry or literature or in the ceremonial compliments of chiefs of state and their ambassadors. We must look for it in the heart, the secret heart, of the nation: in the servant’s sense of honor, in the dancehall girl going on her knees in the crowded aisle to kiss the feet of the Nazarene and pray for better trade, in the venal politician dreaming of a seat in the Senate as Sancho Panza dreamed of the governorship of Barataria, and in the honest public servant who like Don Quixote, sees a princess in every maid.

See also Manila Bay Watch on this score. In his blog, Mon Casiple looks at talk that one reason the President had a large entourage during her Spanish visit, was that she used the time to plot strategy. Three options could have been debated during that time, he says:

There were speculations that plans had been hatched for a possible charter change initiative next year or, at the least, for a decisive oust-Speaker de Venecia strategy. An interesting speculative counterpoint was for the mapping out of a GMA political retreat.

Casiple has been harping on his view that the President’s problem is that her wiggle room is narrowing; he says she now has only a few months, at most, to fully explore, and pursue, some of her options, particularly if the include staying on in office past the expiration of her current term. He believes that one option that’s firmly closed off, is a Constitutional Convention, so this leaves a people’s initiative redux or a constituent assembly, but both options spectacularly failed in the past. The clincher, Casiple thinks, is emergency rule, but the armed forces remains a big question mark in this regard.

So Casiple concludes,

The options for the president is narrowing. Compromise with the broad political opposition is almost gone and her maintaining the option for term extension is riling all presidentiables–whether from the opposition or from her own coalition.

In a situation where the transition to a lameduck presidency has already begun, there is growing pressure for her to resign in order to normalize the political situation–in time for the 2010 presidential elections. Resignation, in this case, is the price she may have to pay to ensure her survival in the post-2010 period. If she choose to stick it out, the only option left for her is to throw caution to the wind and go all out for term extension. Otherwise, she may be helplessly caught in a maelstrom of conspiracies as all the other political forces fight for the high ground towards succession.

(update: any doubt constitutional amendments are back in play? See Charter change revived in House; deliberations set)

It’s significant that late last month, a new voice added to the existing calls for resignation. See Scriptorium, which reproduces Ang Kapatiran’s statement. But the last word will go to the irrepressible Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.:

Locsin, a member of the majority coalition, said Arroyo is a lot clever than her political rivals as she has survived every single attempt to oust her.

“She is a good economist and sly politician, 10 times smarter than all her enemies combined which isn’t saying much because they are retarded,” he said.

In light of the above, there’s this piece by Vicente Romano III, a co-convenor of the Black & White Movement:

A People on Standby

As soon as the Manila Pen siege was over, there was a flurry of pronouncements from just about every political group as well as personalities from both sides of the political divide. Invariably, the statements depicted Trillanes and Lim as misguided, military adventurists, rebels, criminals, or arrogant fools for repeating the same mistakes in Oakwood and in 2006. At best, some would say they sympathized with Trillanes’ and Lim’s cause, but did not agree with their methods.

But why did they have to wait until the standoff was over before they spoke their minds? Simple. They weren’t really sure about how the incident would turn out and they didn’t want to be caught with their feet in their mouths just in case Trillanes et al prevailed.

This is the same reason why no politician of significant stature came out during the siege. Most of them were probably somewhere in Makati, on standby, monitoring how things would develop. And if it looked like regime change was imminent, they were ready to make a grand appearance, abandoning all current loyalties, reminiscent of EDSA 2.

Even more worrisome, at least to the administration, was the non-appearance of military top brass during the critical, early hours of the standoff. The most natural thing for the administration to do in order to show that it was still in control of the chain of command was to arrange for some star-studded generals to declare their unequivocal loyalty. Esperon was in Mindanao. But where were the service commanders? They, too, were on standby, caught by surprise, unsure if Lim and Trillanes had the numbers. They did not declare loyalty for either side, not wanting to be caught on the wrong side when the dust settled.

There was one text message I received from an unknown number that I found rather amusing, “Panawagan ni Trillanes na mag-aklas, dinedma! Sawa na sa gulo ang ating bayan, tama na! Magkaisa na lang sa pagsulong ng bayan.”

I think that declaration was way off the mark. How do you explain the spontaneous show of support from office workers cheering and waving, motorists honking their horns in support as Trillanes and company were marching towards Manila Pen? How do you explain the surveys showing the people outraged at the impunity and brazenness of corruption by this regime?

I get these opinions all the time — text messages, email, or even chance encounters in public places from people I don’t know, “You’re doing the right thing. Don’t give up. Keep the faith!” At times, I’m tempted to ask them, “What about you? What do you plan to do about it?” I don’t bother, because I have an inkling of what they will say, “I’m sorry, but I’m busy… busy trying to earn a living, or trying to make ends meet.”

Was Trillanes misguided? Maybe. But not in the usual sense.

I think he read the people’s mood correctly. They are outraged. They want regime change. But they’re not willing to take an active role in effecting change. They just want to be saved from this wretched regime!

I believe Trillanes was misguided, maybe even betrayed, by people who committed to give their support but did not deliver.

CHED Chairman Romulo Neri, could have been an interested party. It was rumored that he was supposed to join the group at Manila Pen to finally reveal what most people already know anyway — that after he told GMA about the bribe offer by Abalos, she asked him to ignore it and gave specific instructions for him to work on getting the ZTE project approved by the NEDA Board in time for her China trip, which was only 2 days away.

In past interviews, Neri has refused to reveal what he knows, fearing that his revelations might trigger an EDSA-like uprising. He reportedly finds the idea of regime change with the same old, recycled politicians taking over, revolting (pun intended). However, rumors abound that privately, he has intimated to being open to a post-GMA scenario that would include his reform agenda.

I do not know whether Neri has explicitly communicated these ideas to the Magdalo, but let us suppose that he did. These revelations and ideas by an official of this administration probably emboldened them to plot the Manila Pen siege. Now, the Magdalo had a just cause around which to rally the people.

Days after the standoff, there were news reports that there was possibly some unit commanders who were poised to leave their barracks to join Trillanes and Lim. They were perhaps waiting for Neri’s defection as their signal to move. Instead, they saw Argee Guevarra and JV Bautista beside Trillanes at the Pen. To the military, these are the poster boys of communism. Seeing them would have planted seeds of doubt in their rightist hearts. “Are we risking everything, just to turn it over to commies?” they probably asked. The man in the wig was the clincher, turning the whole exercise into a farce.

And so, they all decided to stand by. But they waited too long. Esperon would later report, “the other group was “pre-empted”, whatever that means. The rest of the story you already know.

Trillanes apologists will claim, “the end justifies the means” regarding his latest caper. I do not buy that. But I do believe that this administration has shut off every legitimate venue for redress.

What do you do when the major mode of making a President accountable — impeachment, is bastardized by a rubber-stamp Congress? Where do you go when an unimpeachable witness like Fr. Ed Panlilio testifies that bribery of the highest order may have occurred at the Palace involving scandalous amounts given to political allies? Certainly not to a Department of Justice headed by a GMA stooge.

When you have an administration that selectively applies the rule of law and methodically perverts it for self-preservation, you will, for the same reason always have people who will resort to extra-constitutional means to seek justice.

Personally, I think what Trillanes did at Manila Pen is not much different from what Ramos did at EDSA 1 or Angie Reyes did at EDSA 2. If EDSA 1 and 2 failed, Ramos and Reyes would have been labeled no differently from Trillanes and Lim — misguided, misadventurists, rebels, or even fools.

What a difference success makes! Even heels (remember Chavit Singson in EDSA 2?) can become heroes. Failure does the exact opposite: would-be heroes are called fools.

Digressing a bit, I heard that Manila Pen is planning to sue for damages the rebel group. Nevertheless, the hotel is willing to give a 20% discount considering the participation of senior citizens like Guingona, Dodong Nemenzo, and Bishop Labayen. It would be truly comical, were it not tragic and pathetic, to see octogenarians leading the fight against moral bankruptcy in government.

Where are the youth in all of this?

Most of them are on standby, waiting for their work visas from various embassies. This is proof of the depth of hopelessness when the aspirations of our youth are reduced to wanting to leave the country at the earliest opportunity.

Well… I think I will just join the rest of our people on standby and wait for this regime to crumble from its own weight of greed and corruption. Already, there are cracks in the alliance in Congress, they’re all fighting over the spoils. With Puno now ascendant at the Palace, the other officials will necessarily be diminished, if not completely defrocked. That spells trouble.

Greed and addiction to power will propel them to overstay beyond 2010. Already, charter change is back at the top of the agenda in Congress. I think the administration is already crafting a martial law template that will be declared at the flimsiest excuse. The unconstitutional 5-hour curfew was merely a trial balloon.

And then it will happen. It will reach a breaking point that will lead to a popular uprising. Such has been the cycle we go through in our modern history.

A new order will be established. History will be rewritten, and it will give a kinder account of the Manila Pen siege. It is merely a pre-cursor of things to come. Trillanes and company are not fools after all.

For now, all we can do is pray that God hasten the cycle of change. God bless our country.

This is Enteng Romano on standby.

Overseas, Taking on Thailand’s myths makes for fascinating reading:

Andrew Walker, an anthropologist with The Australian National University, writes that “there is little the rural electorate can do to shake off this persistent [negative] image.” He argues, however, that rural Thais vote for leaders according to a set of localized values. Vote-buying, which certainly takes place, should be put into the “broader context of the array of material assistance that is expected of political representatives and other well-resourced people seeking to demonstrate their social standing,” he writes.

Far from being a uniform group of mindless drones, rural voters engage with various competing local figures in a range of political contests, and choose the leaders that most reflect their values. Among other things, Walker writes, these values include choosing leaders that are considered local; that bring home financial gains to local communities; and prove competent at running an administration.

Moreover, rural voters often think on a level that is different from the love-hate, all-or-nothing relationship Bangkok had with Thaksin, according to Somchai Phatharathananunth from Mahasarakham University in northeastern Thailand. He cites the reluctance of farmers to join anti-Thaksin movements led by NGOs even though they had worked together for years.

“From the NGO perspective, farmers refused to join the anti-Thaksin protest because they were unable to look beyond the short-term material benefits of the populist policies,” Somchai wrote, adding that the aid workers then tried to supply the farmers with “correct information” so they could understand “the long-term damage of Thaksin’s policies.”

“Such a view implied that there could only be one political line taken towards Thaksin, and to be politically correct farmers had to adopt that line,” Somchai writes. “Such a thing was not going to happen because it ran counter to many farmers’ way of thinking. Farmers do not adopt totalistic views towards things or persons; they deal with them in a pragmatic way. They judged Thaksin on an issue-by-issue basis. As a result, whether Thaksin was good or bad depended on the issue at hand.”

And indeed, though opposing Thaksin on certain issues, many rural voters still saw him deliver them real benefits, much more so than any Thai government had done in the past. Thaksin quickly turned his campaign promises into reality, cementing and expanding the political support he formed when he convinced regional “old-school” northeastern politicians to join his Thai Rak Thai party.

“While the policies were severely criticized as a new form of vote-buying by many NGO leaders and academics in Bangkok, farmers viewed the policies as the distribution of resources to the countryside that helped farmers to address their needs,” Somchai writes. “They insisted that the rural poor were as entitled to access the government budget as were the urban rich.”

Intel, Lies, and Videotape on the American blogosphere debating the CIA destroying evidence of high-profile interrogations.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

156 thoughts on “Sobre la Indolencia de Los Españoles

  1. who said anything about “spent shells” other than you, benigno. didn’t i say “those who are mentally and physically able”? whether you like it or not, it’s their birth right to return to their roots and bring with them the fruits of their years of toil, (cash, skills and, hopefully, education in good citizenship). what’s wrong with all that?

    who said anything about being the next “messiah” but you, benigno. nobody has to rely on them. they will do what they know and think is right. no promises, no undue expectations. why wouldn’t we let them do that? you, and i mean you and your ilk, don’t have to “appreciate” them. if they wanted to do or give something beneficial to their mother country, they can do so with or without your approval and satisfaction.

    mbw, you find all these funny? you will be an “old fart” too if you are not already, and i hope you will still be a productive “shell” even if you have no intention of doing something good for the land of your birth.

  2. Everybody will be an old fart someday. I just hope when my time comes, i won’t be saddled with all the expectations of an impotent youth the way Pinoy society TODAY pathetically pin their hopes on a bunch of retirees who just simply want to relax and wile away their twilight years in peace.

  3. and btw, benigno, another glaring example of the vacuousness of pinoy is this penchant for assuming that every “good” deed is done for one reason and one reason alone – applause a/k/a appreciation, if not cash reward. thus, the ubiquitous “award ceremony” lionizing every joe blow who manages to publicize his “generosity” for all the world to see, regardless of the source of his give-aways. hero? messiah? my foot!

  4. Everybody will be an old fart someday. I just hope when my time comes, i won’t be saddled with all the expectations of an impotent youth the way Pinoy society TODAY pathetically pin their hopes on a bunch of retirees who just simply want to relax and wile away their twilight years in peace.

    just pray you won’t become another welfare statistic in australia, benigs, whittling your life in caregiving houses, which, if you’re lucky enough, you could get some tlc attention from pinoy caregivers; and if not, all the best!

  5. Benigno

    Hinay hinay lang…if a retiree wants to help his mother country, it’s his right to do so. If you don’t want to help, then it’s your call. Nobody is saying that you rely totally on these people and assume they’re going to be the salvation of the country but every little thing counts.

  6. “what’s wrong per se with promoting spanish?”

    It’s not a language we need for practicality in our region. We need English, Japanese, Mandarin and Korean. We need to unify our country with our own national language, Pilipino. Practicality is being smarter than being nostalgic.

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