On Independence Day

As I start writing this article’s first draft it is already the day after Independence Day in the Philippines. It is also only hours after a horrific event in which a bigot armed with an easily-purchased semi-automatic rifle entered an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and embarked on a murderous rampage that left 50 people dead, including himself.

Naturally, social media blew up with sympathy and condolences for the victims. As someone who considers himself gay, I believe this was the natural end result of the kind of verbal and physical abuse suffered by people who refuse to fit into crabbed and outdated social norms.

But there was another side that reared its ugly head – insofar as ugly heads raise themselves like wildfire in the cesspool of internet comments. This was the side of those that argued that if people were armed, the shooting would have stopped early or never happened at all. It’s the easiest solution to the problem, they say.

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Now, I could go into any number of reasons why a country with an excessively-armed populace (legally or otherwise) would actually have more mass shootings, as opposed to those developed countries that address the root causes of gun-related violence above and beyond just “taking muh guns away.” The kind of systems that limit multiple firearms-related death incidents to once or twice every other year as opposed to, say, weekly.

But in light of waking up to this tragedy on Philippine Independence Day, I came to realize that this “easy way out” that afflicts America so negatively is probably one of the biggest burdens of their legacy on the Philippines.

As someone who spent his formative years in the Philippines, as well as someone who has read GRP since before the Second Aquino Administration, the most common retort I got for expressing concern was “You don’t know what we’ve been through.” It’s the same retort with slightly different wordage that I’ve read on innumerable Facebook comments when people from international bodies call him out for his notorious off-the-cuff remarks.

And quite frankly, it’s this kind of retort that signifies how much Filipino society has become almost slavishly dependent on this kind of exceptionalism.

The Philippines has a massive problem with clan-fed corruption and its violent offspring. I’m not going to argue this. But the incoming administration not only legitimately embodies the anger of the Filipino people – but has smartly campaigned to embody their mentality to find the easy way out and stay there. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has very proudly pointed to the bodies he’s left in the streets (1,700 by his own personal count) as the foundation upon which Davao’s newfound and so-called prosperity rests.

It's much easier for the Armchair Katipunan to leave a comment saying those people deserved it, than to go right up to these people's faces and tell them. Photo Source: Reuters via HRW

It’s much easier for the Armchair Katipunan to leave a comment saying those people deserved it, than to go right up to these people’s faces and tell them.
Photo Source: Reuters via HRW

His campaign maneuvers were a master-stroke of genius: because his so-called “vigilantes” are so “effective” at what they do against the demographic of people that really cannot fight back, the only people that can question it without having to fear for their very lives are people with the clout to protect themselves. And these people are also from the exact same institutions his campaign criticizes. If you find something wrong with what he’s done, you are part of the problem and more than likely a – deep breath now – sycophantic oligarchy-loving Flip Yellowtard.

Yet the international community is right to wonder why it’s mostly alleged (key word – alleged) small-time peddlers and pickpocketers getting gunned down on the streets, rather than the cartel kings and their subtenientes that can find ten more poor teenagers where they came from. They’re right to wonder why a journalist has to weigh when to sacrifice their integrity to extend their lifespan – and yes, that’s a question of when, not if.

And whether they like it or not, any word that comes out of the mouth of the officials that the Filipino people willingly chose to elect will be scrutinized as is required of any public figure on the world stage. These officials will stand in that spotlight for the next six years regardless of how dodgy they will be with people that “just don’t understand what we’ve been through!”

So as long as the alleged scumbags are swept out of sight and into the alleys by the milicias taking root in cities across the Philippines, those who trumpet their victimhood as law-abiding citizens can do as they please (see below). They’ll sleep easier at night with the simple assumption that the people who died deserved it for one reason or another, their grieving loved ones will just have to deal with it (meme sunglasses included), and most importantly, that they’ll never worry about getting their own hands dirty over it when some ex-NPA gunman gone legit and/or helpful neighborhood tanod can do that for them and find someone to pad the “crimes solved” stats with.

As long as the privileged who were somehow victimized by some small-time peddler halfway across the province think they’re safer, and their brand-new emergency response vehicles aren’t tainted with the foul corpse of some poor Rugby-sniffer that happened to piss off a man with a gun for one reason or another, all’s good in their little world.

The poor stroke-afflicted soul that can't use the blocked PWD ramp at this hospital was probably the provincial jueteng lord anyway. /s Source: Top Gear Philippines

The poor stroke-afflicted soul that can’t use the blocked PWD ramp at this hospital was probably the provincial jueteng lord anyway. /s
Source: Top Gear Philippines

Wading into the muck and find out why they’re being called out for allowing this takes Filipino society out of their closed-minded comfort zone, much like the American gun nuts and simple-minded action heroes they idolize. They believe that throwing more of what is easy at the problem – in their case, handing out guns to everyone down to barangay tanods – will solve their problems with government inaction. They’ll cover their ears and cling to their guns and their own take on the War on Drugs – much like many Americans and their duly-elected government still do – rather than perhaps wondering if it is in fact possible to have a system at least on the city level that can find a way to reduce crime without having to resort to summary executions.

Out of sight, out of mind, and anybody who thinks otherwise can buzz right off. It’s truly an American exceptionalist way of thinking, and instead of finding a way to break their dependence on easiness Filipino society has instead resolved to up their dosage of this mentality, for better or worse.

If there is a seed of hope left in the Pandora’s Box that opened the moment that Rajah Humabon sent Magellan over to Mactan to carry out what was basically a hired hit, it’s that people have started to realize that change must start within themselves, not just in the people they elect. They will need to break out of that guaranteed route to insanity: believing that doing the same thing, only more intensely, will give better results.

That kind of change is what will make Independence Day a holiday worth celebrating.

8 Replies to “On Independence Day”

  1. Good article, Frank. More please.

    God said: thou shalt not kill. He didn’t tag on any exceptions to that. In the case of the Philippines, I’d argue that the reason for holding onto this Law as unassailable is quite simple: a large fraction of the population are assholes. A modest fraction of them are irredeemable psychopaths. If you wanted to fix that with bullets, you’d literally be looking at Killing Fields-scale executions.

    And yet it must be fixed. Although Filipinos are keen on finger-pointing, they do it because you can point in any random direction and find someone who is determined to do as much harm as possible to their neighbours, to their environment, or to their country. Not because they have to to survive, but because they enjoy it; because they’ve never known nothing else; and because their family and the Church have taught them nothing else. What are you going to do with these people?

    Even in the rock-bottom state this country is in, there are still humane solutions available. But I don’t think Duterte is much interested in them.

    1. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some platform issues I like. Alongside his War on Crime schtick, his platform sounds like he’s Bernie Sanders if he were the Chairman of the National Rifle Association.

      I suppose I’m not criticizing the person as much as the way he ran his campaign and his most vocal supporters, who continue to perpetuate the cycle that b0 et al. have pointed out in classic articles.

      It’s much easier to spot a LP fanatic, because Yellow is a more conspicuous color than, say, olive drab and black. So Olive Is The New Yellow? We’ll see.

      1. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of him. I have a few casual acquaintances in government and police, and it looks like things are already on the move. I mean, proper well-planned initiatives to get things fixed, without any illegal nonsense. That looks very encouraging.

        However, I expect him to hit a huge brick wall of resistance if he attempts to upset all those people busy shoveling national funds into their pockets. I also think he’s going to have a huge problem with various cultural issues, such as Pinoy Pride, huge sense of entitlement (especially among the self-appointed “poor”), and over-indulgence in the Seven Deadly Sins. We’ll see.

  2. Addendums: It has recently come to light that the killer also frequently attended that club and was possibly gay himself.

    Could it have been a ruse to “blend in” with his targets? Was he actually gay, but had to suppress/repress his urges with conservative “masculine” tendencies to the point where it created a volatile, explosive and fatal mix with his inner turmoils?

    Deducing his psychology is not a simple answer, but as it relates to our tendencies, I hope to write more about what “masculinity” means in the context of GRP and the issues discussed.

    Also, the section

    when people from international bodies call him out for his notorious off-the-cuff remarks.

    should be corrected to read

    when people from international bodies call out the President-Elect for his notorious off-the-cuff remarks.>

    My bad.

  3. Let us give Pres. Elect Duterte, the chance , to show what he can do to solve the many problems in the Philippines. They are: lack of discipline; not enforcing the law; widespread illegal drug use; drug lords; drug lords/politicians; chekwa monopolies on the economy; too many crimes and criminals; corruption; etc…

    I believe in owning a gun , to defend myself and my love ones. If a criminal comes to kill me; I don’t have to preach to him: “Thou shalt not kill”…

    Instead of demonizing, Pres. Elect Duterte. Let us wait and see, how he performs and what he can do…everything else is debatable …I’m tired of these Filipino politicians, who promise the moon and the stars…after the election; they turn out to be corrupt, and do nothing to solve problems and improve the country…I am a Filipino taxpayer, I earned my money in a hard way. I want the taxes, I paid, worth the services I receive.

    The Orlando, Florida tragedy is more of a radicalized Islamist work. It is a homegrown radical Islam terrorist; shooting innocent people. It is a huge problem now in the U.S.

  4. Self defense is the inherent right of an individual to repel any unwarranted attack. Governments are not individuals and should not have the power to restrict or invalidate a person’s ability to defend him/herself.

  5. The Fliptards’ definition of Independence is being freed from one form of oppression only to be enslaved by another. Fliptards are so accustomed to being oppressed that they feel like an abandoned child without it.

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