Monday, September 19, 2016

Our Human Development Quotient (HDQ)

"I don't care about human rights, believe me," Duterte said in early August. [The Death Toll From Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs Has Exceeded 2,400, Rishi Iyengar, Time, 5th Sept 2016]

“Duterte’s supporters celebrate these killings as necessary comeuppance, while his critics condemn the violence as precarious violations of due process and human rights. Yet the President’s seemingly outrageous actions are merely part of the Philippines’ deeply entrenched culture of impunity. What is frightening is that so few people realize that yet.

“A culture of impunity protects him in the way it does many Philippine politicians. [This Is Why Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Will Get Away With Murder, Miguel Syjuco, Time, 16th Aug 2016]

“Philippines To Arrest Three Powerful Senators Indicted In A Massive Corruption Scandal,” Mynardo Macaraig, Agence France Presse, 7th Jun 2014.

Did we say it was okay to put a hole in the head of the three senators and that of the alleged mastermind? What about the Marcoses?“Raissa Robles had a 2012 story on how BB ‘had a direct hand in trying to withdraw US$213M from a Swiss bank in 1986.’ Ill-gotten wealth.” [Leni’s slam-dunk, LMB and Plaza Miranda, Rene Saguisag, The Manila Times, 26th Aug 2016]

UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan pointed out that ‘fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security’ and that ‘empowering police forces to shoot to kill any individual whom they claim to be a suspect of drug crimes, with or without evidence, undermines justice.’” [Top UN exec assails Du30 anew on human rights, Kristine Angeli, 15th Sept 2016]

“President Duterte’s approval rating was recently a historic 91%, and he is seen by fans and foes alike as decisive and effective, promising sweeping reforms and bringing about the surrender of tens of thousands of drug users and self-confessed dealers before they can be killed.” [Syjuco, op. cit.]

What is our value-system like? Does it explain our being HDQ challenged? There is also the RQ or rationality quotient, except that to be RQ challenged is universal. “A person with a high IQ is about as likely to suffer from ‘dysrationalia’ (irrationality) as a person with a low IQ. Humans are fundamentally irrational . . . susceptible to decision-making biases.” [The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence, David Z. Hambrick and Alexander P. Burgoyne, Gray Matter, The New York Times, 16th Sept 2016]

Until we get over “Pinoy abilidad,” we can only sink deeper into the abyss. And yelling sovereignty won't be our saving grace!

Let’s get back to the Syjuco piece. “More alarmingly, in what seems an effort to systematically undermine the traditional democratic checks and balances to his authority, Duterte has threatened to shut down the legislature if it hinders his plans, invoked the specter of martial law when criticized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and insulted concerned foreign ambassadors. He has chipped at the influence of the Catholic Church by emphasizing its corruption. And he has warned that members of the media are not protected from assassination: ‘The Constitution can no longer help you,’ Duterte told reporters, ‘if you disrespect a person.’

“These maneuvers recall those of the infamous despot Ferdinand Marcos, a dictator much respected by Duterte. The similarities shouldgive us pause. While the new President’s predilection toward violence is being justified as necessary, there is little difference between taking the law into one’s own righteous hands and being wrongly above the law. This casts him clearly alongside his political peers, who have always evaded punishment, and who have yet to be targeted in Duterte’s campaign against criminality.

“Take, for example, former President Joseph Estrada, who was sentenced to life in prison for plundering allegedly more than $80 million. Political expediency saw him pardoned by his successor, Gloria Arroyo, and he is now mayor of Manila while his relatives are Senators and Congressmen. Even his mistress now rules as mayor of his traditional bailiwick.

“Similarly, former President Arroyo became linked to a long list of corruption scandals during her nine-year regime, yet she was re-elected to Congress while under house arrest on various charges of corruption. Duterte offered to pardon her a few weeks before the Supreme Court (composed of a majority of her appointees) acquitted her of the charge of plunder. Despite still facing a charge of graft, and thus barred from leaving the country, Arroyo has recently been named Deputy Speaker of Congress. Members of her former Cabinet now comprise the majority of Duterte’s inner circle.”

When underdevelopment persists there is poverty and when poverty persists there is lawlessness – given our parochialism . . . insularity . . . hierarchy . . . paternalism . . . patronage . . . oligarchy . . . culture of impunity – and it goes full circle to underdevelopment.

“Reality check,” Ariel Nepomuceno, Business Mirror, 14th Sept 2016. “The ultimate dilemma of our present government is the fact that we are confronted with many problems that cannot be resolved in six years. Strong political will nor sincerity would not be enough to alter the consequences of gross mismanagement committed by some of our leaders and the fundamental weaknesses in the structure of our politics.

“We constantly hope that mere road discipline and strict enforcement of traffic rules would untangle the monstrous mess in almost all our streets. What we need are long-term engineering solutions that would provide us with world-class elevated roads, dependable mass- transit system, such as conventional or subway trains.

“The economy has shown an encouraging annual growth of 5 percent to 7 percent in terms of GDP. However, we still have to contend with the plight of at least 25 million to 27 million Filipinos who are struggling daily for survival.

“Our agricultural workers or farmers, about 10 million to 12 million according to the latest data, are themselves victims of extreme poverty. Their livelihood is trapped in the perpetual cycle of poor harvest, high cost of fertilizers, bondage to loan sharks and virtually manipulated low market prices.”

And the solution? The war on drugs? “EDITORIAL - Democracy for development,” The Philippine Star, 16th Sept 2016. “The Philippines has taken pride in its democratic tradition. Democracy, however, needs nurturing and strengthening, and works best when its institutions are solid. In this area there is much work to be done in the Philippines. Sustainable development is achieved best in a democratic setting, with an active civil society and a free press that is not threatened with various forms of harassment and murder. The nation must see to it that its democratic institutions are working.”

That’s what we all assume? Yet wittingly or not, we constantly undermine (a) democracy and (b) development. See above re the whys of our underdevelopment.

“The fish stinks from the head,” [is an] ancient Greek saying. ‘Something is stinking in the state of Denmark’ came to Shakespeare's mind when writing ‘Hamlet.’ He chose, however, to have the character Marcellus say, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’; it was not the way the political situation smelled, but the way it was decaying and becoming corrupt as the result of a secret crime, that was the point being made by that line in ‘Hamlet.’ [Rot at the Top, The New York Times Magazine, 11th Sept 1988]

Is something rotten in the state of the Philippines? “. . . Duterte has also vowed to pardon any police and military involved in the extrajudicial killings, while also pledging to pardon himself. He has ensconced his daughter and son as mayor and vice mayor of the city that he ruled for two decades, while also refusing to fully answer allegations about hidden wealth.” [Syjuco, op. cit.]

We may not like the American experiment, or similar ones in the West, but until there is a better one we better think long and hard what we’re up to. Not many Pinoys live and work with ex-socialists (born and raised under communist rule) like this writer. For example, gulags existed right up to the Gorbachev era. And there are today former Soviet satellites still ruled by despots. And why the EU, if not the rest of the world, applauded – and ruled against the government – when the Bulgarians peacefully took down its corrupt government via months of daily protests marching along major thoroughfares in the capital.

We better be careful what we wish for. Last Sunday a visiting Filipino Jesuit celebrated mass with a group of Pinoys in suburban New York and he explained the parable of the prodigal son. This writer's translation: every extrajudicial killing runs counter to the moral of the story. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

That’s from the US Declaration of Independence which isn’t new to us. Yet do we still relish the dark ages – that rank has its privileges reflected in our culture of impunity – and assume it comes with paternalism? And so our knee jerk is “we aren’t meant for Western-style democracy”? Not surprisingly, (a) we don’t care about human rights; (b) it’s nighttime for Juan de la Cruz – except that his night is longer than the neighbors’ which explains the dark ages we’re living in for decades? 

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

“As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

“Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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