Pinoy Big Problem: A History of Missing the Point

I offer my sincerest sympathies for the families of the men of the Philippine military who lost their lives in the recent troubles in Mindanao. While this is indeed a tragic turn of events, it is even more deplorable that there is really nothing new in this event compared to what has been going on in the south since the end of the 20th century. It’s sad that while humanity in general has advanced to a certain degree with things like wireless internet connections, nigh-miraculous medical technology and the LHC, the Philippines has yet to make any significant progress in advancing itself morally and intellectually. To this day, the Philippines continues to suffer from the same problems it had decades ago without any real sign of finally making a breakthrough and becoming a better country with better citizens.

During most crises in the Philippines, the wrong arguments trump arguments that address the key point.

During most crises in the Philippines, the wrong arguments trump arguments that address the key point.

This question has plagued me for quite some time now until I realized that Filipinos aren’t exactly all that sharp when it comes to their attention span. I can admit to having similar issues myself as I tend to be rather unfocused at times (I was never big on multi-tasking) but things are a little different (and a lot more complicated) when this kind of attitude applies to a whole country. The inability to focus on any one task or issue prevents one from making any progress and realizing ones own mistakes.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Just to give you a better perspective, it has been cited by some commenters here at GRP that in the days of the great Roman Empire, the people in power would host bloody games in their Colosseum to entertain the people when it was becoming apparent that politics wasn’t working anymore. The games aren’t the kind we’re used to on noon-time shows, I assure you. These were the games where people were torn limb from bloody limb, fed to rage-maddened animals or made to kill their friends and family just to please the crowd. While certainly not wholesome entertainment, this kind of show pleased the Roman people and distracted them from the real issues that their politicians struggled to bring under control.

As cited by many articles here on GRP, majority of Filipinos are often easily distracted by silly issues that are otherwise negligible or would at least seem just a trivial matter compared to other things that are at stake. Things from the marriage between two well-known celebrities with massive funding from God-only-knows-where, the destruction of the environment in Benguet because of a certain popular TV show to the stupid antics of an aging woman who wants to convince herself and her brainless audience that she’s still firecrackers are indeed worth noting, but they come in only second to the more important matters that need to be taken care of. I am not saying that the issues I mentioned do not matter; I am merely saying that it would be better to focus our attention on the more essential aspects of the troubles in the Philippines. You don’t stop to think of your shoelaces when you’re face to face with a rabid dog after all.

Apparently, the Philippine media (and especially a certain channel we are all familiar with but I won’t bother to mention; clue: 1+1=?) seems to have made it a personal duty to pull a blind over the eyes of the people and prevent them from ever realizing what’s happening to the country or misinforming them about details. Worse yet, many of the shows on local TV probably play a part in corrupting the minds of their viewers, especially the youth, by giving them wrong and often dangerous ideas disguised as “wholesome entertainment” as I have mentioned in a few previous articles.

The Pork Barrel Issue

Wait, we’re not talking about that kind of pork (the one the Muslims don’t like) or that kind of pork (which the previously mentioned aging actress enjoys so much) either. The pork barrel was intended, or at least said to be intended, to be a fail-safe fund of sorts for the Filipino people. It was meant to be money that could be used by Filipinos when times got tough such as the event of a devastating natural disaster or a grueling war.

I’m sure you know what happened next. Yolanda, or Typhoon Haiyan in international circles, came and went, leaving in its wake devastated Filipinos with devastated lives and lots and lots of lost loved ones. The pork barrel, which was supposed to help the victims of Yolanda rebuild their lives has been stolen and lost by the same people who were supposed to be looking after the said funds. And, if that wasn’t enough, international relief efforts meant to help the Yolanda victims were pocketed or reprocessed by political parties to advance personal gain at the cost of starving the already desperate victims of the storm and depriving them of much needed financial aid. So far, the only thing that’s been done for them is the building of flashy but shabby houses made of cheap material that is, at best, only meant to be temporary homes and probably wouldn’t stand up to a real storm once “storm season” returns to the Philippines.

Worse yet, it’s not likely that this issue will be solved soon. While things may seem okay now, you have to remember that it’s just the beginning of 2015. There’s still the up and coming rainy season (or storm season) of the Philippines to prepare for and I can only hope that Mother Nature will be more merciful to the people of the Philippines unlike the leaders who are supposed to be protecting them.

The Tension with China

Let’s face it, everybody’s having problems with the Chinese lately; be it the Japanese and their long standing feud with them since the Second Sino-Japanese War, the South Koreans who frown upon China’s support of their enemies the North Koreans to the Russians who still have a few terse things to say about what China calls its territory. Here in the Philippines, we’re having a bit of trouble with them regarding the taking of our islands to the East.

While people are trying hard as they can to remedy the issue, it’s quite clear that the current administration isn’t doing much to help. If anything, we’re getting the worst of both worlds by discouraging the US from supporting our military and refusing to make a sincere apology about the incident regarding a bus hostage-crisis. By kicking out the Americans again and again, we’re choosing to face the possibility of war without the support of our long-time ally who might be the only thing protecting us from being steamrolled by communist rebels and Islamic terrorists. By refusing to apologize about the tragic bus-hostage issue (or at least issuing a formal apology from the leader of our country), we are only antagonizing them further and acting like dicks because our conflict with them has little to do with the death of the victims of that tragedy (even if they are our enemy, I still think we need to show a little sympathy for their lost loved ones as well). In the end, we come off as arrogant pricks to the international community by pushing away our old friend and spitting in the face of an already angry enemy.

The Troubles of the South 

This is probably an older issue than the ones mentioned above although I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, as far as I’ve heard, rebels have been making waves since the Marcos regime or even before that. After the success of the People Power Revolution, Cory Aquino made (or at least tried to, anyway) peace with the rebel factions of Mindanao and even appointed one of their leaders to be a representative of the minorities of the Philippines southernmost island. But in the end, we all know how all that turned out with the kidnapping and wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians by Muslim rebels and their constant demands of having an independent state of their own.

There has been talk of continued negotiations and peace as of late (there is the vague rumor that our current president is doing this to earn himself a Nobel Prize and boost the chance of him winning the next election) despite the tragic deaths of Philippine military personnel of the recent “misencounter” down south. But I will tell you now that even all the good intentions in the world will amount to nothing if the opposite party won’t even consider what you’re trying to tell them. As these rebels have proven time and time again, they don’t seem to be interested in any kind of deal that doesn’t benefit them and only them. To make a proper deal, both parties must be willing to hold up their side of the bargain but it seems to be clear from the get-go (as proven from incidents in recent history) that these rebel factions aren’t willing to make any kind of compromise even if it’s for the greater good.

That these rebels aren’t condemned as the criminals that they are just flies way over my head. Still, the government continues to “negotiate” with these scoundrels and treats them as if they are a victimized organization pursuing a legitimate business in Mindanao.

Please people, it’s been decades. Don’t let the media circus fool and distract you anymore. If we want change, it has to start from within in ourselves and, in order to change, we have to start caring.

I still believe that as a country and as a people, we’re meant for greater things.

God Bless the Philippines…


9 Replies to “Pinoy Big Problem: A History of Missing the Point”

  1. Your contention is: if people were not so apathetic and instead started caring we could solve the stubborn problems that plague the country. If by “caring”; you mean “political action,” I couldn’t agree with you more.

    However, most of the problems facing this country defy easy solutions. Why? This is because they are symptoms of a greater underlying condition. That condition is a feudal economy that is geared towards enriching the oligarchy; at the expense of the working poor.

    The stubborn pockets of poverty in the provinces fuel the rebellion in the South and elsewhere. In many instances, the local war lord is the only employer for many young men. You know the old adage: “No justice; no peace.”

    Unless people empower themselves through the creation of trade unions that overturn unjust worker exploitation; little progress is possible. There is little even a “caring” individual can do by themselves.

    1. Indeed. The solutions will NOT be easy. But if we’re all willing to do our part, we should at least get somewhere.

      However, if we really want progress, what we must learn is the value of “sacrifice”. It’s why South Korea is so advanced in so little time compared to us. They were willing to sacrifice simple comforts for the greater good.

  2. A good way to stimulate the economy is to get money into the hands of as many people as possible; who will then, in turn, spend it on goods and services.

    When wealth gets concentrated in the upper echelons; most of that money is spent on the international stock markets and off shore holdings that are tax havens. This is bad for the economy in the long run.

    The wealthy do not create jobs. Customers create jobs. When the poor people have little job security and tiny salaries they do not purchase much. This causes the economy to stagnate.

    Raising the minimum wage and providing job security is good for the economy and increases the tax base, which will allow local governments to improve infrastructure which, in turn creates more jobs.

    If anyone should sacrifice, it is the wealthiest Filipinos; not the working poor. Unfortunately, many middle class citizens live in terror of slipping back into poverty. This makes them identify with the wealthy in a sort of economic “Stockholm syndrome.” Instead of reaching out to their poorer brothers and sisters; they seek to distance themselves, lest by contagion, they fall back into the pit.

    That is my take why many educated Filipinos are politically conservative. That, and the influence of The Church; which has always had a cosy relationship with the rich. Hence the anti-populist rhetoric that one finds on GRP.

    Asking people who live paycheck to paycheck, to sacrifice is problematic.

    1. What a very interesting analysis in the Philippine economic dynamics among the lower, middle and upper class. I actually tend to agree with your point about the upper class needing to do more of the “sacrificing”. You’re absolutely right about distribution of wealth and the lack of job security in the country (add to that the lack of protection to the working class). I do think that – more than “sacrificing” – the working class should force the hand of our government to do more leveling of the playing field with the upper class. For one, adjust the tax bracket!!

  3. The Nobel Peace prize is definitely not happening considering the current tension towards Muslims in general and it doesn’t help that the president has failed to address the issue of the massacred police officers in Mindanao.

    This country is going down the toilet further and further…

  4. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

  5. I do agree with the writer for the media distracting the attention of our people on the most serious issues concerning our country.
    What I don’t agree is that the US being our ally and to sacrifice our county’s sovereignty! Didn’t the Americans backed stabbed us during the Philippine Revolution against Spain and occupied us until the Japanese invaded the Philippines because at that time we were under the American occupation!? Muslim and communist Rebels will never succeed as proven all this time! What we have are frozen conflicts that our corrupt government refuses to deal with the proper means! I might get flack about this but if then President Erap was able to finish his term then we would never had to send those 50 SAF men to apprehend a “Malaysian-American” terrorist trained by the CIA at the first place!
    To be a good country and its citizen we must know our true identity and stand by our own!
    The prospect of Mayor Duterte running for president gives me hope for he already offered the Real and Only Solution! A federalized government that will decentralized corrupt politics in Manila!!!

    1. I might get flack about this but if then President Erap was able to finish his term then we would never had to send those 50 SAF men to apprehend a “Malaysian-American” terrorist trained by the CIA at the first place!
      Got the point there. Actually, I suspect most people are now looking at PNoy and thinking the inevitable. I hope he is because, if he failed to even match what Erap has done against the MILF, it’s going to be the biggest mistake he will ever do as president.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.