Rebel, Guest, or Guy with an Opinion

This is another self-absorbed blog by JoeAm as he tries to figure out what to do. Maybe you can help him.

I was forced into a bit of a predicament the other day when someone suggested maybe I should publish a collaborative list of Philippine politicians who deserve condemnation and ouster from government office. That is, take ideas from others and distill them into a hit list.
Normally I am just a guy with an opinion, a world citizen of no particular nationality, writing the ideas that come into my brain.
JoeAm’s Conscience
When I first started commenting on the defunct Filipino Voices blog site long ago, I would often be told to go back to America. Or I would be told to sit down and shut up. “You are just a guest here.”  I would argue that my whole life is the Philippines. I live here, pay my taxes, obey the laws, help my community and people within it, and pay all the prices in facing congestion, pollution, authoritarianism and relentless requests for money. Why can I not engage in the debate that forms the nation that my son will enter, as a Filipino citizen?
I look at the mess in Syria and the definitions of terms there. There are honorable rebels and there are dishonorable terrorists. The funny thing is, it is the same bunch of people. The distinction is found in who is viewing them, and their acts. Assad’s opponents consider themselves rebels. Assad’s government considers the rebels terrorists. And I suppose most of the rest of the world considers them “freedom fighters.”
Same with me, eh? From the Filipino perspective I am a patriot or a rebel depending on whether people agree or disagree with what I say. Cheered as a patriot. Condemned as a rebel.
Same guy. Same opinion.
Different observers.
So I ask myself, how would the U.S. Ambassador look at my engagement as a blogger in the Philippines? A blogger whose views have reached the desk of important people in the Philippines.
Would he prefer that I sit down and shut up? Don’t interfere in the sovereign business of the Philippines?  Or would he hold that the right to speak is universal and knows no nationality?
I suppose it depends on exactly what I’m doing. If I am stirring up revolt, helping to organize a band of NPA rebels in my area perhaps. Or leading protests to overthrow President Aquino. Or engaging in criminal acts, cybersex or scams for money. Then he might see what he could do to get me out of the Philippines. Possibly into jail.
 Acts are different than words.
And maybe words cross into acts. If JoeAm shouts in the loudest blogging voice he can, “Stand up, Philippines, demand Senator Sotto’s resignation!”, is that words, or is it an act?
Should I censor myself, or should I act on my passion for what I think is just? What would Dr. Rizal do, I wonder? He was a revered rebel to most educated Filipinos and a traitor to the Church and Spanish leaders.
It is funny. Under President Arroyo, I never quite felt politically secure in the Philippines. Never felt quite at ease at letting my mouth rip via this cheap Chinese keyboard that translates my mouth to print. I always sensed that if I typed the wrong words, I could easily be heading back to Los Angeles on the next plane out. So my voice was not so sharp.
That insecurity ended when President Aquino became President.
It is amazing how trust can influence one’s acts and feelings.
Now the President is in a bit of a pickle and I’m sorry to see him there. Almost every legislator and every legal expert on President Aquno’s staff, and the President himself, blew it. They did poor due diligence on the Cybercrime Law. And now the President has joined the tone-deaf advocates of intimidation and thuggery to make sure harsh voices are silenced.
Am I to feel insecure again? Did I misjudge President Aquino? Is he a thug, too?  Am I to pull back into my shell as I did under Arroyo, self-censoring my words to tone them down?
What role does JoeAm take? A prior blog that posed the question “Is President Aquino an Idiot?” was pretty outspoken. I called Senator Sotto an idiot based on the definition of the word used in the article, an educated man using his education poorly.
Should JoeAm join the call to oust certain legislators? Or make sure certain Senatorial candidates lose?
That is different than a positive recommendation, isn’t it?
If I recommend young Sonny Angara for President, that is good. People cheer when an American recognizes a Filipino star. But if I call for his defeat in the senate election because of his role in the Cybercrime legislation, that is different, right? I’m meddling where I ought not?
These are the questions before me today.
Here is what I was starting to write before I got a zap of conscience. I was thinking of myself as Filipino.
“I will be selective and here are the legislators I suggest be thrown out of office, going from top to bottom. The rationale is expressed.”
Ethics violations without remorse; totalitarian acts
Alan Cayetano
Ethics committee member; silent; setting bad core values
Ethics committee member; silent; setting bad core values
Ethics committee member; silent; setting bad core values
Behavior unbecoming a senator
Behavior unbecoming a senator
Enrile, Sr.
Behavior unbecoming a senator
Angara, Sr
Instrumental in crafting totalitarian cybercrime law
Then I stopped. I never even got to the rejections because of family dynasty.
Are these words or acts? I need to reflect on that.
Perhaps you will help me think this through.
As a guest, am I only supposed to say nice things?
I don’t feel like a guest.
Nor do I feel compelled to accept behavior that I think is not in the best interest of the Philippine State.
What would you do if you were in my shoes?
28 Responses to “Rebel, Guest, or Guy with an Opinion”
  1. andrew lim says:

    Keep firing away, Joe. Along with other blogs, it helps reach tipping points in public policy. If ideas or opinions are bad, people will just ignore it, anyway. But when it is good, then it can work wonders.

  2. Apollo says:

    Do what you do best . . . writing from the heart and filtered by sheer logic. You are more Filipino than most of whom I know, and I admire your love of the Philippines. Just keep going. You have done great so far. Why slow down? No need too. Cheers

  3. If I was confident the crappy or meaningless blogs would be ignored, that would work. I fear, however, that edgier work will piss off a power person. In a land were due process is subjugated to power, power could throw JoeAm out of the Philippines as an undesirable. No matter the body of work that goes into trying to be constructive. That's why the President's apparent turn toward thuggery is unnerving.All though, on reflection, I suspect my family would like living in the U.S. And I could write no holds barred from there.Still, there are those mysterious extrajudicial murders to think about. Unsolved."Disappearances."

  4. I appreciate the encouragement, Apollo. Cheers back.

  5. Edgar Lores says:

    1. If you want a legal base upon which to participate, look no further than the Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states:• “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”1.1 Emphasis on the last clause “regardless of frontiers”.2. People who say you have no right will quote Article 21 which I states in part:• “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”3. This argument can be countered by that fact that the Department of Tourism invites guests to the country. You raise the question of etiquette, and also of ethics, whether a guest can criticize his host.3.1 A guest is defined as “a visitor to whom hospitality is extended”. Another definition is “a customer of a hotel or restaurant”.3.2 The second definition gives you the freedom to comment. For example, as a patron of a restaurant you can comment on the quality of the food, the skills of the chef (PNoy) and the services of the waiters (Congressman). Whether the comment is praise or a criticism is immaterial.3.2 But you are more than a guest. You are a resident. A paying resident. You claim to pay taxes, and if you purchase goods and services you certainly pay VAT. That is more than religious institutions do.4. To some you are, and will be, an undesirable alien. Never mind them. To others you are, and will be, the opposite. Mind them.5. There are Filipino politicians who plunder the country and attempt to flee it at the first chance. There are Filipino bishops who represent the interests of the Vatican over those of the country. Are these Filipinos more loving of the country than a non-Filipino who contributes his money and intelligence for the country's welfare?6. Personally, as a citizen of the world, I have voiced my opinion on the USA and on Romney in the Huffington Post. I have written about China’s incursion into Tibet and the extreme atrocities of the governments of Libya and Syria in their violence against their own people. As citizens of the world, we have not only the right but the duty to condemn the wrongdoings of governments and institutions wherever they happen.7. As a foreigner you look at the country through eyes that objectively see without the conditioning of our culture. We should welcome the fresh perspectives that you offer.8. My personal stand on criticism has always been the truth or untruth of the criticism, never its source. 8.1 As I have said, if a criticism is not true, what does it matter?8.2. But if a criticism is true, we must take it as an opportunity to re-evaluate ourselves and change if need be.The important thing is the message not the messenger.

  6. Edgar, thanks for the perspective, which is frankly quite uplifting. I think I shall commit DHR Article 19 to memory.

  7. baycas says:

    "Get Real", Joe.You are browner inside than the coconuts out there in the blogosphere.Write on…

  8. Cha says:

    The bad news is that yes, there's the possibility that you'll piss off someone crazy enough and/or powerful enough to cause you a world of rouble. The good news, on the other hand is that you're probably in no more danger than let's say Raissa Robles, Malou Mangahas, Ellen Tordesillas etc. who can do enough damage for any gangsta type politiko to want to silence them. If all you are thinking of doing is draw up a list of legislators that the country is better off without, I'd daresay there's plenty of likeminded people who have already made or are likely to arrive at a similar if not completely identical list, so you'd probably have to join the cue of candidates for someone's hit list.As for the issue of that cultural divide, I reckon most of your readers have already become color blind where you are concerned. You're no longer really an American (or a guest for that matter) but a kindred spirit who wants the same things they want for their country on the one hand or as Ed up there points out, a fellow citizen of the world, on the other.Those who are out there to pursue a different agenda, like maybe bring down this government and possibly advance their own or some political group or a specific politician's interests, they're the ones who will point you out as some interloping and pesky American who needs to go back where he came from, if you happen to stand in their way. But why bother with these types anyway? And why even care what they think? I don't think many people do anyway.So Mr. Citizen Joe, I too will lean towards encouraging you on; in the words inspired by a certain Greek goddess… Just Do It!

  9. Edgar Lores says:

    As to the US Ambassador, he will use you as a pretext for supporting the Philippines in the event of a Chinese invasion.

  10. Nike, ahahaha. I wonder if there is a point a blogger can get to when he (or she) is "too big to fail". Like Raissa, Ellen and Noemi probably are. One would mess with them at considerable peril, where "one" in my mind is some senator filing a frivolous libel suit. That is probably the safe spot I should aim for, eh?I appreciate your view that I have a color-blind and nationality blind readership. Certainly, I feel very deeply attached to the Philippines.

  11. So I am a coconut in reverse. White on the outside, brown on the inside. Very amusing characterization.I linked to the file and will look it over. Thanks for the suggestion.

  12. Oh, wonderful, the U.S. will go to war with China because I decided to write blogs.

  13. baycas, yes, I will do a blog on this session, but it will take a day or two to compile my thoughts. Very clearly, Senator Sotto put the libel provision into the Cybercrime Bill, but other activities are also of note and I will offer up some observations. Thanks for referring me to the document.

  14. baycas says:

    You're welcome. While you're at it, get a laugh from what a Pro Tempore utters repeatedly in Session.Incidentally, the female Cayetano didn't make amendments. She just stressed the definition of "child pornography" as they had agreed upon prior to the consolidated Individual Amendments.

  15. Yes, I found the snickering bizarre. I'll report on that. And Pia Cayetano's activity.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Joe what differs you from me? Color? Birth of origin? Military background? Education? So what. We are free to think and express our ideas anywhere, anyway. Politically, so far we had expressed supporting and junking particular candidates and also vashed Aquino in couple of statements.Does it mean I have the right because I am brown and you dont because you are caucasian? Obvious answer is we both have rights. Keep going as long as it is not defamatory fallacious. Ignore people calling you names or insulting you. It comes with the territory. You chose to write a blog, expect some nasty comments. You can't win them all. Being in the kitchen, temp is hotter than under the shade.I told you before, we got your back!He he he Johnny Lin

  17. Anonymous says:

    I would read any blogsite that has a picture of Marlon Brando on it. Never mind if Brando is playing a Chinaman.DocB

  18. I appreciate the cover, and will do as you suggest. Keep opining, directly at times. That said, I think I need to be clear of the difference between words and acts, for my American government's sake. And I need to be sensitive to the fact that justice in the Philippines, like its politics, is based on individual powers.

  19. Yep, Brando. Classic actor. Complex dude. See right column shortly for another "Chinese" actor.

  20. Coco says:

    Ambot… Me too I’m in a similar situation, lived most of my live in foreign countries and now 8 years in the Philippines. One of my the difficulties here is that in a conflict I don’t recognize the escalation policy, it must be very subtle. In the US it is easy, you raise your voice, then use some rude words, come in the personal sphere, have physical contact, try to hurt the other person and at the end you know you have to be careful, because as the last option they will shoot. Here people keep smiling, escalate internally I think, and then suddenly they shoot. Also misunderstanding are easier as most communicate in a foreign language and have different sensitivities. On top of that also here some have a very short fuse… So I don’t really know how careful one has to be as a settled foreigner.

  21. Attila says:

    You are doing a much better job at criticizing than anyone I can think of including myself. I was raised in communist Hungary and I look at things at a more radical way than most. I just don't have your calm. I can't be as balanced and fair as you are. My wife is a Filipina and she "educates" me about the "culture" about the Philippines and the more I learned the more I'm becoming radical. I sometimes get in to nasty arguments with Filipinos here. Sometimes they even curse at me. I'm just amazed how they don't take responsibility for anything and just wallow in their past blaming the USA and Spain. Many of them are communist sympathizers and that makes me even more upset. You are the right man to clear things up for them and give them a view that they can also respect. I wish you had a wider audience.

  22. Anonymous says:

    We can extricate from the deepest caves of Palawan, if needed. Your tormenters better pray harder than Osama. Then we will make a movie starring Don Johnson, the Chinaman. The title, Biliran Vice instead of Miami vice. He he he Johnny Lin

  23. "Escalation policy . . ." I like that. Also, I think you are right. Things are going on internally among a lot of people that are incomprehensible and fueled by a lot of anger. Perhaps it comes with a life of need. The "macho" attitude has the guys on edge looking for ways to prove something, and too often it is with a gun. This accelerates when they are with others, the need to show off or prove something. I just walk around smiling. It's my deescalation policy.

  24. I went through an "amazed" period of about one year, and an "angry" period of about two years. Now I'm in my complacent period because I recognize my Filipino neighbors did not grow up in my rich California suburb, did not get much of an education, have never gotten much from their government, and struggle to get along while others grab all they can get. So they have personal issues I can't imagine and what right do I have to say they should somehow be like me? I'da gone nuts if I did not give up my expectations that somehow it should be different.

  25. I cringe when fake American citizen-card-carrying Filipino marched at Washington D.C. screaming "America came to be because of immigrants!". They are sending a message that Filipinos are part of the building blocks of America because Filipinos are immigrants despite they have no life-altering contributions to America whose highest pinnacle of success is being a nurse and the highest position a Filipino has ever garnered is a cook at the White House. That Mexicans should respect Filipinos and be afraid of them because Manny Pacquiao is a Filipino.Yes, Joe, you have every right not to say nice things. In screwed Philippine culture, a foreigner only has to say nice things. They are always looked at as visitor and they should always act like one.Jimmy Sieczka's short clip about Cebu learned a lesson the very hard way. He apologized eventually. Poor chap. He thought Cebu was America that thought like Americans that accepts criticism on film.Jimmy was, is and will still be the coolest cinemtagraphy professor of California branch of International Academy of Film and Television AND THE ONLY ONE IN THE PHILIPPINES LOCATED IN INSANELY GRID-LOCKED RESORT ISLAND OF MACTAN IN CEBU.If Filipino nurses in America sued a Central Valley hospital in California for language discrimination which they won, If Filipino "accountants" sued their division chief for calling Filipinos "idiots" and won, not because they were able to prove that Filipinos are not "idiots" it is because of the use of word "idiot", therefore, Joe can say anything he wants to change the Filipinos.

  26. with the latest fiasco on cybercrime law, these senators and congressmen should not dare change the Philippine charter and reconstitute the reconstituted constitution. This is the task for the big boys in Pyongyang.

  27. Right, the Sieczka affair . . . I am sorry he apologized. He makes it harder for me to be blunt. Also, I am sorry Martin Nevera apologized for singing the national anthem as a soul song rather than a march at a Pacquiao fight in Las Vegas; he only stokes the thuggishness of the thugs by bowing to their ridiculous notion of what patriotism means. Military, okay. Soul, not. Because they have none. . .

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