The #Philippines suffers from acute intellectual bankruptcy and a lack of common sense

[The following is a piece originally published in The Manila Bulletin on the 09th April 2000 and featured in Get Real Philippines on the same year. How many of the issues mentioned here remain the same unchanged ones today? Remember, this was written back in 2000.]

* * *

AN admired Filipino economist, based in New York, surveyed the economic situation here and dolefully intoned: ”What ails the country is that Philippine society is intellectually bankrupt.” Take, for instance, the national debates, she pointed out.

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The meaning of 'people power' has since been buried under an avalanche of misguided Filipino thinking.

The meaning of ‘people power’ has since been buried under an avalanche of misguided Filipino thinking.

“They are droll and unintelligent, focused on the trivial or the irrelevant.” When the issues are of some significance, it’s the wrong arguments that prevail, the wrong side wins. Logic and common sense take the backseat to political arguments and the views of the poorly-educated. There seems to be some bases for her disenchantment.

Consider the EDSA People Power TV debate during its last anniversary celebration: “Is the People Power revolution still meaningful?” The TV audience voted it was no longer meaningful! And the winning argument articulated by a former Marcos’ boy was: “Are you better off now after EDSA People Power?” as if the one magical event in the world’s struggle for freedom in which the Filipinos were the acclaimed heroes had something to do with the contour of the stomach, instead of the shaping of the soul.

No change needed

Listen to the vacuous debate on increase of fuel price and the jeepney strikes. Almost everyone wants to repeal the law of supply and demand and annul the OPEC. How untidy has been the bishops’ choice of causes to champion. They hardly know they are playing tail to the leftists’ kite. Mercifully, other uninformed crusaders had joined them in maintaining that the 13-year old Constitution is so perfect it needs no change whatsoever. They don’t know that the Constitution has never been meant to be everlasting. All Philippine Constitutions and most constitutions in the world had gone through some amendments within the first five years of its ratification. Times change. Lessons must be learned. The present Constitution was drafted in the shadow of martial law. Among others, it’s now clear, presidential election is most expensive, with no guarantees of great leaders. A parliamentary system immediately saves the country one costly election and with the parliament members electing the premier from among themselves, it prevents the less qualified from becoming head of state.

Massive queue of commuters hoping to get a ride on Manila's MRT

Massive queue of commuters hoping to get a ride on Manila’s MRT

Simple common sense tells us that if you charge MRT commuters fares they can’t afford (initially P40) they would continue to ride the buses and the traffic congestion on EDSA, sought to be solved by the MRT, remains unsolved. Smarter administrators would have charged only P10 and thus drive all the buses out of EDSA, free at last from traffic. Of course, you could later gradually hike the fare to reasonable level when the buses have gone and save the country hundreds of billions lost daily in the world’s worst traffic mess.

A weird culture

Intellectual bankruptcy includes inability of our bright boys to come up with the correct formula for solving our economic crisis for many, many years now. The bright boys of our neighbors had recaptured their tigerhood in no time at all. Here’s no center to our economic planning. For instance, our experts still have to recognize mass unemployment as the most afflicting and dehumanizing of our problems, translating into, among other things, the lack of purchasing power of the people and hence making it illogical for producers and investors to set up new factories or increase production when nobody is buying.

Nor have we researched on the latest thinking among UN planners: “The defect even in IMF development programs is the setting up of projects that enrich only a few and don’t focus on job-creation. The most effective way of fighting poverty is with jobs. Mass low-cost housing, a million a year, by Japanese firms using their surplus steel and materials, BOT, 30 years to pay, 3 years grace period addresses dramatically unemployment. Even squatters can afford P1,200 monthly amortization, 30 years term.

Disasters have become 'normal' in a society that puts little value on human life before-the-fact.

Disasters have become ‘normal’ in a society that puts little value on human life before-the-fact.

There’s a weird culture in our midst: our jocular regard for our national problems, great crimes, villainous scams and calamities. Note that Filipinos are notorious for making fun, creating a joke of their misfortunes. The cellulars are full of them now. In other countries inhabited by serious and sensitive people, they mount crusades, indignation rallies or nationwide relief campaigns to meet such crises. They would weep or stomp their feet, or explode in anger, or demand punishment for the criminals or misfits. Here we tend to laugh at scams, crimes and natural calamities, as if they are part of the usual TV noon comedy shows, the Pinoy’s daily diet.

It’s very hard to be intellectual if you aren’t serious. And so far the clear evidence is that we are not a serious people. Worse, we don’t like to think.

US sailors’ case

Recently there was the incident of US Visiting Forces Agreement soldiers mauling a taxi driver. This time most of the columnists huffed and puffed against the Americans and the VFA. They demanded full application of Philippine laws including a sojourn in our dirty jails (which the American soldiers fear more than anything under the laws). To give up jurisdiction is to give up sovereignty, was their battlecry. A popular columnist TV-host titled his column: “No Settlement in Sailors’ Case!” barking his order like a master sergeant.

Never mind that the VFA exempts minor cases from Philippine jurisdiction. Lawyers know that everyday criminal cases are settled through the process of affidavit of desistance, among other ways. And precisely, when the parties submit to that kind of settlement, they submit to the jurisdiction of our court or the fiscal office that makes the final ruling on it. Little knowledge of law is quite dangerous. In fact, to forbid the US soldier to enter into the usual procedures of settlement is to offend due process. It’s one rule for the rest of the population and another for the VFA US soldiers.

The more Filipino activists wave clenched fists, the more Philippine sovereignty slips through their fingers.

The more Filipino activists wave clenched fists, the more Philippine sovereignty slips through their fingers.

The larger issue missed by the noisy denouncers is national interest. What’s good for our country. Those who would make foes of the Philippines and the US, our oldest democratic ally, are correct. There’s a link between the US military bases and the VFA. But we seem unable to learn the lesson of the past. Our macho decision, or the macho decision of 12 senators to boot out instantly the bases was the costliest decision ever made in the post war era here: 80,000 Filipino workers in the bases immediately lost their jobs; billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment and ordinance, anything not nailed down, were shipped back to the States, even if not needed by them. (The US could also respond boorishly and pettily when treated boorishly).


Also, there’s the $500 million yearly from US military bases budget specifically to buy locally-produced goods; billions in dollars of military weapons, including planes and ships, under the military assistance program; the millions of dollars’ worth of scholarships in top US universities for Filipino soldiers. Apart from these, the closure of US Consulate in Cebu City forcing thousands from Visayas and Mindanao to spend millions to come to Manila for their visas; stricter requirements for issuance of US visas. We also witnessed the massive economic dislocation in Central Luzon. There was no softening of the shock or a leeway for the 80,000 terminated workers to look for another means of livelihood. The term of the “magnificent” senators was for the US bases to move out immediately, rejecting the US plea for a three year phaseout. A sensible procedure.

The Philippines, despite its nationalist rhetoric, remains pathetically dependent on the United States.

The Philippines, despite its nationalist rhetoric, remains pathetically dependent on the United States.

Up to this day we lose money daily needlessly from the decision to oust the bases: Everyday we spend millions for years now to patrol China Sea near Spratlys. The US Fleet, partly based in Subic, used to do it for us for free. Now we are negotiating to get billions’ worth of naval ships and helicopters and planes to convince the Chinese we mean business in Spratlys. In the first place, the Chinese would never have thought of loitering to the Spratlys if the US military bases were still here.

Such goodwill

The judge in Cebu has more brains than all those pundits crying for the pound of flesh from the US. She dismissed the case after the US soldiers made an open court apology to the mulcting taxi-driver. She refused to place ideology above national interest. She would not join those who would want to be the last communists in the world. What is the most important item in the VFA exercises is re-establishing the goodwill between the Philippines and the superpower old friend. Many good things for the country could be gotten from such goodwill. As there were from the US military bases.

With the benefit of hindsight, the anti-bases crusaders would probably know the answer to these questions: How come the smarter countries in the world like Japan, Germany, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, etc. have never asked the US to remove their military bases from their countries and in fact had asked them to stay put? What do they get from the bases? How many billions of dollars did they save in their national defense budgets. How come none of these smarter people think they are diminished because of the presence of US bases or the VFA, and only the Filipinos feel reduced?

Oh, the Filipinos are a special people, would be the answer of their fellow-simpletons.

28 Replies to “The #Philippines suffers from acute intellectual bankruptcy and a lack of common sense”

  1. no common sense & intellectually bankrupt indeed. this is a nation that gets riled up when their idols ‘royal wedding’ is criticized, they rise up and litter FB w/ their inane defense and rationales but when DOTC hikes MRT/LRT fares without a legit justification not even a whimper of protest or indignation is heard
    tsk tsk tsk

  2. This is true, unfortunately the uneducated poor are the one’s in dire need to wake up especially in the provinces where families run them down like kings. We keep posting and expressing our voice online that we fail to realize the impact of teaching the poor what is right for the good of this country.

    1. @reyannred:

      The poor are busy surviving…they don’t care anything, but where to get the next meal…these politicians made people poor; so that they can easily control them…

      It is like the SERFS in feudal Russia…before the October Revolution…Serfs were tied to the land owned by rich landlords….like Aquino with his Hacienda Luisita…his tenants are the 21st century Serfs…

      1. Except there will be no October Revolution for us because Filipinos are not inclined to revolution. No. Here, it will be as if the Tsar never left, and never will.

        And because we hate the Left, we can never allow a Russian Revolution to happen within our shores. We must always keep the oligarchs in power—imagine the horror if the Communists won!!

  3. It’s a sad quagmire we’re all in. You nailed it there, sir. We’re still in the rut that we were in a decade–no wait, two decades or so ago.

  4. Absolutely! There is something terribly wrong happening in this society. The challenge to counteract the errors committed in the past are in the hands of every Filipinos. The willingness to lead and for some to follow the right and honest direction is missing and without it no starting line can be drawn.

  5. The article seems as if a time-warp was opened and the people that popped out saw no is true the Fail-ippines is still FORKED and will continue to be until the corrupt established order is somehow deconstructed.

    How tiring is it for GRP writers to realize that the country is unable to elevate itself in the slightest bit due to the corruption and stagnation produced by that corruption.
    Give yourselves a well deserved round of applause for being able to see it happening and not changing BUT not just giving up…after all these years.

  6. but it is still true that Filipino’s can be smart as anybody when educated in the right school’s. I know personally of some very intelligent Filipino’s that just need to get out of the country and get into a country where their talents can be put to good use.It is a waste of their time to remain in the country as their is no future,no matter the education, for them there.

  7. When did you find that Filipinos and their Political leaders have intelligence and common sense?

    Our political leaders suffer from moral bankruptcy and intellectual bankruptcy. They have no common sense.

    The people are given “heavy dosages of: “wowoowee programs”; “pandering for prize money programs”; telenovelas with no sense; song and dances; Kris Aquino/Boy Abundia’s senseless interviews, political Zarzuelas, etc..

    No TV programs for: educational information; world information; Science and Technology; arts,information from other countries; other important information, etc…

    They continue to make the people: dumb , dull, stupid, star struck ignoramuses, etc…

    The Department of Information is nothing more than , just a tool of Aquino; to promote his political agendas. Not serve to educate and inform the people.

    So, the people remains intellectually bankrupt and without common sense.

  8. The easy access for so many information(most are misleading) are nowadays just add fuel to their urge on our innate characteristic as Filipino. For example,even before Filipinos are celebrities fanatic. I remember those times were you’ll get to more about them through magazines and exclusive interviews in a certain time frame. But now one click away anytime anywhere. Its all because of the intervention of technology which change our way of living big time. But still there’s pros and cons in everything. As I said before technology change our way of living but not who we are as a Filipino. Our innate characteristic are still there.
    Americans, who hails them? Probably those people who taught they are their savior. Are we Filipinos known for being so hospitable and thats why they’re here. No matter how much trouble they cause us, it okay.We easily forgive and forget.
    I believe Filipinos are not born “bobo” (sorry for the word) Matalino ang Pilipino, kaya lang kung hindi tamad, natatanga lang. Sayang diba. Isang malaking sayang.

    1. Sa totoo lang marami talagang Filipino ang mahilig sa artista, tanda ko pa si Erap at nung eleksyon kung saan malapit na manalo si FPJ. Maeami pa a Artista na naluklok sa Gobyerno at nakuha pa rin ng mga Manilenyo na gawing Mayor si Erap. Karamihan sa mga Filipino panlabas na katangian lamang ang batayan masasabi mo nga na yung mga talumpati na sinasabi ng mga kandidato dito sa Pilipinas malayo sa katotohanan laging may salitang “ako” meron bang isang tao na kayang baguhin ang isang bansa na sa sarili lang niya. Mapalad tayu kung sa totoo lang dahil sapat ang tao sa atin di naman tayo kapos sa yaman ng kalikasan. Ang mga tao sa bansa natin bata at malakas ngunit sa Edukasyon at Disiplina ay stricktong Batas tayo nagkukulang samahan mo pa ng politikang mali na pati ang sariling pribadong buhay nila ay ipinahahayag pa satelebisyon tulad na lang ni Chiz mas interesado ang karamihan sa Filipino na malaman kung ano ka kaysa kung ano ang balak mo sa kinabukasan isa yang bagay na sa pagpili ng botante nagkakamali ang Filipino.

  9. Written back in 2000, the idea espoused by the title obviously has lost it’s significance.

    To call a country suffering from acute intellectual bankruptcy and lack of common sense, one would expect that such country would cease to exist and just be like what it was called, intellectually bankrupt and lacking of common sense. Words that depict destruction and ruin such as disintegrate, secession, civil war, social upheaval would easily come to mind after reading the said 2000 article.

    Fourteen years is too long to find out if a prognostic of what is to happen will materialize or not. The country should have been a complete mess even earlier than that had the issue of intellectual bankruptcy and lack of common sense has some truth to it. Maybe after two or three years, we could have seen the country’s disintegration and destruction as what the article seems to imply. But it did not. Sorry.

    The title of the article was very categorical and at the same time repulsive. Only those who have twisted agenda will entertain such a terrible wayward theory or findings or whatever they call it.

    To see the country withstood through the years all difficulties of greater proportion, whether natural or man-made disasters or calamities, and see it survive and exist is just a manifestation that the allegation thrown at it is just that, wayward exaggerated allegation. To see its people, the main target of the affront, remaining steadfast and persevere amid all those challenges and endure hardships and hard times but continue to be hopeful of the future speaks well of what these people are really made of.

    Bottom line, it is hard to argue against the concrete opposite of some negative theory not well thought of. 🙂

      1. i guess what he’s trying to say is that on the bright side, the country hasnt turned into rwanda or syria. It’s his affirmation he is content with the current situation of the country, na “pwede na yan, makakaraos din”. That same mentality keeps us stuck where we are, which is The Sick Man of Asia (who never wants to get cured)

        1. Yep, implying that’s it’s all right for the harmful things to happen to us. Like trying to catch a grenade when seeing it thrown at you.

  10. It’s his affirmation he is content with the current situation of the country, na “pwede na yan, makakaraos din”. That same mentality keeps us stuck where we are, which is The Sick Man of Asia (who never wants to get cured) – T
    You guess it wrong. That was your twisted understanding of what I said.

    Specifically, in what premise did I say or even imply the ‘Pwede na yan, makakaraos din’?

    Based on the prognosis, we’re supposed to deteriorate or obliterate by now. But the prognosis was wrong. That’s the point.

  11. Whatever else this article is, the title is certainly stupendous clickbait. I’ll read the article once I get beyond the clickbait title — a head full of Thomas Mann doesn’t do me a lot of good —

  12. A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

  13. “…billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment and ordinance, anything not nailed down, were shipped back to the States, even if not needed by them.”

    That’s a perfect example of the intellectual bankruptcy of Filipino thinking. In civilized nations it’s understood that the U.S. owns those items and therefor has the right to take them home.

    But one of the most harmful false beliefs of the intellectually challenged Filipino is the criminal socialist belief that it’s ok to take another’s property simply by claiming that the Filipino needs it more than its rightful owner does. They’re always justifying robbery and estafa against foreigners this way, then saying “It’s ok, anyway the foreigners can afford it!”

    Now, the author of this article proves his own intellectual bankruptcy by complaining that the U.S. took its own property when their bases were rudely thrown out of the Philippines. He complaints stupidly, as though a Filipino’s perceived ‘need’ is superior to someone else’s rightful ownership of their own property!

    When will Filipinos stop ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ so to speak, instead of thinking first? They always think only of themselves, never considering other people’s rights.

  14. Most of the commenters here agrees on the article and I do too, now that we point out what and where the failure is, to lighten the mood what do you do not to contribute to all these? For example since I followed GRP, I decided not to contribute to the rut. I am a rider, I now use designated U turns, follow traffic rules more seriously, ban local channel to my children and promote educational shows in National Geographic and Discovery channel. You fellow GRP’ers what do you do?

  15. One thing Filipino culture has in common with
    the United States is their idiotic pop culture.
    Pop culture in the US finishes a close second.

  16. hahaha…how true this article is especially the VFA…Myriam was loud saying to cancel it and that brainless big mouth never once thought what is the benefit of the VFA well Myriam it means jobs, jobs, jobs…thank god she was not running for president that idiot would ruin the economy, have record unemployment and an armed forces that would revert back to bow & arrows and dugout canoes.

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