Arroyo mugshots – visual opiates for a politics-crazed society

In my book, I recounted the words of University of the Philippines sociology professor and occasional 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…

Judge and executioner of lore - Judge Dredd

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.

In addition…

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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 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 Malacañang…

MANILA, Philippines — 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.

“The mugshots that appeared in the front page of the Inquirer today are not the actual mugshots,” 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, “This is a different government now.”

“Public 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, that’s not a good enough reason,” 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 “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…

“So they think that they can just have their way, which is the basic principle of people who eventually become tyrants or dictators,” she said.

“That 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,” she said.

Santiago noted that Justice Sec. Leila de Lima is being used as a “bad poster girl of justice” because she refused to obey the SC rulings.

“But actually it was the instigation of this movement inside Malacañang 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,” she said.

This goes beyond the “legal peril” Santiago says Malacañang 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.

20 Replies to “Arroyo mugshots – visual opiates for a politics-crazed society”

  1. The Aquino administration has chosen to neglect the Separation of powers and checks and balances of the three branches of government. The executive branch can now overrule any supreme court orders, this is a slippery slope. In the future they may disregard Congress as well and the powers of all three will be concentrated in the Executive branch. As such, he should now be declared as a ruling dictator.

    P.S. can someone please explain to me how “midnight appointments” of supreme court justices are illegal? As far as I’m know Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president anyways.

  2. In resonse to question whether GMA would keep her seat and perks, belmonte said yes, adding-

    “He pointed out that former Zamboanga del
    Norte Representative Romeo Jalosjos was re-
    elected twice even if he was convicted in court
    for raping an 11- year old girl in 1996.” – inquirer

    I was not aware of this.
    If the electorate vote for people who rape children then legal ping pong is hardly the most important issue. Basic values need to be in place, or the country deserves to go to hell in a handcart.

    And it reminded me of the case last year of the girl that was raped inside malacanan by psg personnel – result – case quietly dropped and they are back on duty.

    Philippines loves peadophiles. Hence the number of sex tourists.
    Where is the pride in that

    Justice, decency and the philippines simply do not sit well in the same sentence.

    1. I knew a filipina housemaid in cyprus who was being raped by her employer – a police officer! – and his sons.
      When i asked why she did not leave she said it was better than being raped by her father.
      What was worse was how many others said they suffered the same.
      Nothing on tv – rape your daughter. Obviously incest and paedophilia is a national pastime in the philippines.
      No wonder there are 14 year olds in ktv bars and that everyone thinks this is ok.

    1. winalanghiya ka o akala mo lang na winalanghiya ka? baka isa ka rin sa mga sitsaron na puro hangin ang laman na pilit sumasawsaw sa umaalingasaw na sukang dilaw. kawawa ka naman…

    2. Meh. Do you want that to commit that barbaric act just as similar to what the Libyan people did to Gadhaffi?

      You ACTUALLY wanted to DESTROY this country. Since what you wanted is CHAOS.

      Kawawa ka naman. 😛

    3. Personally, sawa na ko sa mukha ni GMA. Parang sangkatutak na pictures nya na nakapaskil kung saan saan. May mga tv commercial pa nun.

      Gusto mo pa ilabas yung mugshots? Please lang.

  3. Sensationalism sells news, and the people who make their living , do it to earn more…Media can also end up like the JUKEBOX of politicians…they give money to the Journalsists involved…then, they will sing to the praises of the poltician…
    We even elected a President with Psaychiatric problems, because the Media is essily manipulated by: threats, by money , or by offer of good positions in the government…Ricky Carandang, the Captain of the YellowTards, is a good example…

  4. For some reason, I always associate filipino media with nannies and maids. I don’t want to be condescending to these people, but in my experience, they have always been cruel to me. Not only that, they’re the biggest liars, thieves and gossipers. Not to mention lazy in doing job. This is exclusively my experience during the formation of my childhood. It has since made me think that there are many things wrong in this country. I used to notice these nannies couched themselves every afternoon to watch these afternoon variety shows. That was enough social conditioning to make me hate philippine media. White skin- Why?? We don’t share those features that these ‘so-called’ stars have.

    It’s a distortion and delusion that has been set as the standard depiction of philippine ‘society’. No wonder a lot of people here are liars. Just can’t get straight to the truth. They talk behind your back…girls here I believe are a lot worse than the girls in Australia. I just couldn’t get to them. I felt that I had to meet a standard that isn’t my own to belong, but in OZ, no such thing. People take you as you are. Blunt, frank and plain honest. No mind games. No backstabbing behind your back unless you mess with them.

    Filipinos need mass deconditioning from all these retarded values that had been practiced since what? More than a century ago already! And it just keeps getting worse. No other society I know since Easter Island, have degenerated this far. Well, most of Africa has always been in constant conflict- but they didn’t really start well in their indepedence anyway. But us? We had established a good economy almost half a century ago that had inspired Korea and Singapore to improve themselves for the better. Then gradually…what a frustrating history, indeed. And then you have these people who, in my eyes, almost act barely human, more immature (even the adults themselves), and have no sense of psychology. No depth in spirit nor in mind. At all. From the elite down to the poorest mob. Then add in a leader who’s practically impractical and disabled. I don’t know what’s really keeping him from attending to our socio-economic situation at present. I know he wants progress (the reason why he ran for presidency) , but gees! He’s just so unwise in his decision making that I hardly can think he’s serious in his job. Perhaps after landing the job, like my nannies did, he just decides to couch himself and watch as our nation crumbles further.

    1. Those nannies earn more than the poor employee. See imbamanila on fb.

      Kung sino pa ang madaming free time, tapos showbiz lang ang inaatupag.

    2. I’ve always maintained that the problems of Philippine society at the most fundamental levels are rooted in the upbringing of the typical Filipino child — how they are, at an early age, exposed to their parents’…

      (1) tolerance for petty thievery, banal incompetence, and substandard workmanship;

      (2) encouragement of finding and taking shortcuts and the rewards of succeeding at such quests; and,

      (3) insistence on deference to people on the bases of seniority and credentials.

      When one considers a society with a foundation held up by such conceptual pillars, it becomes less surprising that no amount of political solutions have ever proved to be effective at mitigating the effects of the profound cancer known as The Filipino Condition that has fatally taken hold of the collective psyche.

      1. Oh, don’t forget: “blood is thicker than water”.

        The values of a typical Filipino upbringing also includes:
        1. blood & camaraderie is thicker than justice..
        2. blood & camaraderie is thicker than being fair to all people..
        3. blood & camaraderie is thicker than doing what is right..
        4. blood & camaraderie is just thick..

      2. Hey mate, you might wanna read this journal from an MIT professor regarding economic development on colonized countries such as ours. Its quite technical as it is an econ paper but you can still decipher the general thought, here’s the link:

        Additionally, the article contains a further advancement from ideas by Montesquieu, which, if I remember correctly, you guys were discussing on the comments thread on an article in the AP site regarding good or bad social infrastructure (aka culture).

        Hope this helps.

  5. Interesting article. I won’t bite on the question, as I don’t know enough about Philippine law. I’d like to be there when De Lima argues her case.

    That passive-aggressive behavior is fascinating to observe. As I see it, Filipinos discern quickly who is in power and who is not, whether on the road or in the government office or based on title or who has what the other wants. For example, store clerks are often rude because they perceive they have what the customer wants, a backward reading in a competitive environment, but it is the way they read it. The person in power is rude (aggressive); the person not in power is subservient (passive). Someone at the ATM is in control of the world, and screw all the old ladies and mamas holding babies in line behind them. I upset everyone when I ask in my loud voice “how much longer you going to be there?” The subservient people waiting get embarrassed and the person at the ATM gets angry.

    Now how it came to be this way I have to grapple with. I can only guess right now. But that is a blog of a different day.

  6. The Aquinos thrive on people’s vindictiveness towards their enemies. This is why, in order for them to stay in power, they had to keep on fanning the flames of resentment towards a predecessor—They’ve realized that, given the pinoy mindset, what would normally be frowned upon as qualities unbecoming of a leader, would now be on the Aquinos the very qualities the tontows can use just to affront a well-qualified incumbent (like Marcos before and now Gloria.)—What better way to insult a hated leader than to pit him or her against a person with obvious mediocre qualities?

    To the yellow army, the strategy is simple—as long as they keep this hatred or resentment towards Gloria alive, AbNoy’s shortcomings would continue to become the very things these haters find particularly attractive about him.

    Hate drives people with certain types of vulnerabilities into fanatical over-zealousness. AbNoy has reached cult status. His followers are willing to embrace the irrational—break laws if they have to, in order to keep him perennially in power.

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