In my book, I recounted the words of University of the Philippines sociology professor and occasional Inquirer.net columnist Michael Tan who was cited in Diana Mendoza’s article “Between Sensationalism and Censure” published on the Philippine Journalism Review (April 2002). The article was a commentary on the bizarreness of Filipinos’ regard for sexuality as it is observed by Tan in Philippine Cinema…
Commenting if the Philippines could be at the forefront of education on sex and sexuality Tan said no, because “media have very sensational coverage but they still have this patina of moralism which is strange.” He said this brims over to the film industry that churns out movies carrying the “crime and punishment” theme — for instance, movies with pots of adultery that run steamy sex scenes but which towards the end, mandate that the adulterer, who is always the female, gets shot or imprisoned.
“With these endings, movies become a morality play after two hours of titillation,” he said.
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Tan said Filipino movies also carry the “crime and redemption” theme, in which a sex worker eventually realizes there is a better life outside prostitution, but only after the audience [have] been treated to several sexual episodes.
In effect, Philippine cinema seems to have become adept at intersplicing mind candy into morality tales in order to navigate the convoluted ethical landscape of the Filipino psyche — a psyche that consistently muddles a perverse craving for the titillatingly sensational while aspiring to keeping a veneer of sober false modesty facing the public eye.
This inherent perversity in the Filipino psyche extends beyond sexuality in the way we lap up megabytes of video footage reminiscent of the infamous Faces of Death films of the 1970’s. Scenes of blood and gore are routinely served up in living colour like a macabre buffet over Filipino broadcast news thanks to the army of eager roving “reporters” who will not let anything stand in the way of an opportunity to shove their mikes and cameras into the scene of a violent crime, the aftermath of a car crash, or the latest mall suicide leap.
Lately it is a frantic scramble for a scoop on the latest must-have image in the market for Filipino political visual opiates — the mug shots of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was recently arrested on the charge of “electoral sabotage”. Like Philippine cinema, political journalism (and its employers) is weaving the all-too-familiar “power-to-the-people” morality plot that appeals to the renowned victim mentality of the Filipino and spicing this up with the prospect of seeing an image of Arroyo taken by a police camera to appeal to the Filipino’s legendary appetite for a perverse pictorial perspective on their own personal wretchedness.
In the usual tradition of the school of to-be-confirmed-reporting that Filipino journalists have turned into an industry standard, the Inquirer.net published Arroyo’s “mugshots” after these, using the very words used in that report, came to “surface in cyberspace”. These were later discredited as fake by MalacaÃ±ang…
MANILA, Philippines â€” The purported mugshots of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer Monday are fake, Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo said Tuesday.
â€œThe mugshots that appeared in the front page of the Inquirer today are not the actual mugshots,â€ he said.
The official called the Inquirer Tuesday morning to issue the clarification, reiterating the government line that it was up to the courts to release the authentic mugshots.
Robredo said, â€œThis is a different government now.â€
â€œPublic documents are released for a certain purpose. But (if the Arroyo mugshots are to be released) for what good? If it is only to satisfy public demand, thatâ€™s not a good enough reason,â€ he said.
To be fair to Robredo, governments may change but the underlying culture of Philippine society has proven to be a lot slower to catch up. Despite all sorts and all styles taking up residence in the Philippines’ halls of power, the dynamics around the way Filipinos respond to attempts to govern them have remained the same.
As such, if we lament the way the government, its politicians, and those who spin stories around both — the Philippine Media — behave, we may as well be doing so in front of a mirror. This is because what we see in government, our leaders, and the Media is a mere reflection of the character of the people who both consume their “services” and look to these for guidance.
Fundamentally, whether it is from the lens of 1972, 1986, 2001, 2004, or 2010 that we regard the “issues” of the day, Filipino political culture can described by just a handful of character traits:
(1) A passive-aggressive approach that embraces destructive inaction.
We allow problems to fester beyond all hope of rectification and then apply;
(2) A lack of inclination to work within the system; owing to a habitual awakening to desperate situations that consistently arises from;
(3) A collective lack of foresight.
More than five years is a long time to wait for charges to be filed on a person that so many “experts” insist is “obviously guilty”. And then at the eleventh-hour the very situation of desperation that itself was an outcome of the above three character traits of Da Pinoy is made out to be a sensible justification to flout the Law as Justice Secretary Leila De Lima did when she baldly defied an order from the Supreme Court to lift a travel ban on Arroyo.
Desperation and its partner-in-crime wretchedness are key ingredients for a latching on to magical cures to what could have been preventable ailments; just like the way Inquirer.net “columnist” Conrado “Noynoy-is-Aragorn” de Quiros once again steps up to the role of whipping up a frenzy in a people desperate for evidence of the miraculous.
Look underneath the fairy tales and get a grip on what is real.
From a strictly rules-based sense (a way of thinking that apparently is alien to the Third World mind of the Filipino), there is no loser in this circus other than Justice Secretary Leila De Lima herself whose role as the fall guy in this whole quaint episode in Philippine politics is becoming more evident — a mere victim in what Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago calls the overweening ignorance of the law exhibited the powers that be today…
â€œSo they think that they can just have their way, which is the basic principle of people who eventually become tyrants or dictators,â€ she said.
â€œThat is the problem: overweening ignorance. You are so proud that you can do anything although you are not fully aware of what the law says can lead to disastrous effects,â€ she said.
Santiago noted that Justice Sec. Leila de Lima is being used as a â€œbad poster girl of justiceâ€ because she refused to obey the SC rulings.
â€œBut actually it was the instigation of this movement inside MalacaÃ±ang that forced her hand. She is just a subordinate. She has to follow orders. It is [those] people in the shadows who should come out. Then we could hail them to the Supreme Court for contempt,â€ she said.
This goes beyond the “legal peril” Santiago says MalacaÃ±ang had placed itself in after setting the dangerous precedent of defying the Supreme Court. In the bigger scheme of things, what lies ahead for a Republic whose top leaders are consistent epic failures at setting a good example for the people they presume to lead?
And, as such, in the bigger scheme of things; which among the three is the bigger crime and the easier to prosecute evidence-wise?
(a) De Lima’s defiance of a Supreme Court order?
(b) Current Chief Justice Renato Corona’s being a “midnight appointee”?
(c) Arroyo’s being complicit in “electoral sabotage” in 2007?
Perhaps just this once, set aside personal biases — including the distractions offered by the coveted mugshots being waved before you by an eyeballs-starved Media — and regard the above question with a modern mind. You will most likely be surprised by what common sense dictates you should select.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.