Filipinos demand respect. Trouble is, they don’t know how to earn it. This dynamic is clearly evident in the relationship between China and the Philippines. The Philippines has all the paperwork to substantiate its entitlement to respect. It has, for one thing, a ruling from an international tribunal to wave at China when engaged in discussions over territorial claims and navigation rights in these contested zones. It also has immigration laws to bring to bear when regarding the matter of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals residing and working in the Philippines.
And yet, China does not respect any of these.
For that matter, is it only the Chinese that don’t respect Filipinos? Perhaps this is an opportune time for Filipinos to look into a mirror for answers. Take Filipino drivers. They are obliged to respect not only traffic rules but also one another. The principles underlying this obligation are simple. Firstly, traffic rules are there to be obeyed and, second, all drivers share public roads and, therefore, are called to respect one another’s share of it.
In practice, however, Filipino drivers are anything but law-abiding nor respectful of one another. They flout traffic rules as a matter of routine and even as a matter of personal pride. They cut one another off on the road and endanger people’s lives by speeding, driving vehicles that are not road-worthy, drink-driving, and jostling even with pedestrians.
Step back even further and one will regard an astounding landscape of ingrained disrespect in Philippine society. Filipinos litter, talk loudly, piss on public streets, jump queues, chew with their mouths open, sing and play loud music at the wee hours of the night, leave manholes uncovered, allow mangy pet dogs loose on streets, and cook foul-smelling food in crowded apartment buildings. All of these are habits perpetuated with no regard for community standards and the wellbeing of others.
In short, Filipinos don’t respect Filipinos!
The important question is therefore a confronting one. In a society where respect is in such short supply, how then can Filipinos demand respect from Chinese people? They cannot. Because sustainable respect can only come when it is earned. Filipinos should therefore pause and take a hard look at themselves and ask if they deserve respect.
For that matter, even if demanding respect may sometimes deliver results, Filipinos do not possess the means to do even that. Demanding respect requires power. In global politics, power comes in the form of money and guns. The recent incident involving a Chinese vessel allegedly ramming and sinking a boat and then leaving its Filipino crew to die demands retribution out of respect for the victims. The trouble is, the Philippines lacks the means to hunt down the offenders and give them a good slapping to teach them some important lessons about the respect its people now demand.
We may quibble over what is wrong or right all we want. Ultimately, however, when it comes to walking that talk and effecting both consequence and reward for wrong-doers and good-doers respectively, one needs to have the tangible capability to deliver what is coming to the other. Whatever issues Filipinos may have with China — and vice versa — is between the Philippines and China. Developing a healthy mutual respect between the two parties is something only both can work on. For that, a healthy ounce of self respect is essential.
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