In Whom Do You Trust?

mistrust01Do you have a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White? Almost every professional writer who writes in American English has a copy of this gem, calling it by the authors’ names, as in “grab the old Strunk and White, eh?“.  It is the bible of writing rules, laying waste to old stuffy handicaps by setting pragmatic rules for expression. I don’t know what happened to my copy. It’s a little book, hardly bigger than a pamphlet.

I don’t know if I am allowed to use, “Who do you trust?, or must pen “In whom do you trust?”, whom being the object of the preposition “in”. I’ll guess that the more formal expression is correct.

Prepositions are a big bugaboo in the Philippines.  I do know that. My wife simply can’t get the hang of them. And she also “opens” the light, a little nuance that drives me nuts.

I just use “sa” myself, when babbling in localese, because it seems to mean in, on, at, to, above, under, around, through, between, . . . a very handy little word. Efficient, even if the vocabulary has no word for “efficient”.

But this is not a grammar lesson. This is a lesson in trust.

Our method will be case studies.

There is so much going on with Muslim gang uprisings, plunder charges being levied against three senators and a lot of other people, the civil war in Syria festering and reshaping international relations, the NSA spy scandal festering in the U.S., China continuing her obstinate push of neighbor states out of the seas, murder murder everywhere, and a whole lot more. I’d rather not write about what others should say better, news reporters on the scene or experts in this area or that. It is their JOB to go get good information and pass it around.

Yet, when I read the news reports, I am wary. I am coming not to trust them. And when I read blogs I am coming not to trust them.

There seem to be surrealist edges to the news in the Philippines. The press does not trust those in authority. I don’t trust the press.

So maybe I am just becoming a real Filipino, eh? Skeptical even of those who are supposed to be in admirable professions, like journalism and lawyering and senator.

Let’s look at trust in the Philippines.

The Pork Case

It’s curious, is it not? If dozens of Congressmen actually participated in the theft of government funds for their own accounts, can this great hubub of activity really take place behind the scenes? Totally hidden? I can’t believe there weren’t congressmen who were offered a kick-back but but declined to participate. How did they deal with what they knew?

And there were for sure a lot of aides “in the know”. They populate the DOJ’s list of accused for the three senators and two representatives nailed for grabbing more than the plunder threshhold of P50 million. Yet no one blew a whistle. Strange, strange, strange. An amazing number of people with hands on involvement in the forthright stealing of huge gobs of public tax money. No inkling from anywhere? No whispers or gossip reaching honest and honorable people? Color me skeptical.


I won’t say the culture is corrupt, but I don’t exactly know what to term it.

The scandal finally erupted when a jilted former assistant recognized he was helping others get rich by committing a crime and getting dog biscuits for his loyalty, not to mention being impounded like a dog. So he grabbed the evidence and ran to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and spilled a whole shipload of beans. Benhur Luy. A name to remember.

Interesting that I trust him.

The Case of American Racism

A number of Filipinos are deriding America for the racist tweets that emerged after the selection of an American of Indian descent as Miss America. The gist of the tweets is that America picked an Arab terrorist for beauty queen. Well, America has her problems, poisonous partisan politics and a huge spy scandal among them, but neither stupidity nor racism are core issues. America remains the most diverse nation on the planet, and has led the way in putting laws in place to ban discrimination by race, gender, age, religion or handicap.

What IS happening is that extremists have the freedom to make obnoxious, ignorant remarks and have access to easy electronic media, and the press has the freedom to spread ignorance thickly across the headlines. After all, it sells advertising.

Unfortunately, a whole LOT of people take these extremist views as gospel if they appear in print. That unnerves me and is a part of the reason I have become very wary of the written word. I don’t trust many newsmen or opinion mongers.

I found myself getting into an angry snit as I read a Rappler dialog thread in which commenters were slamming the U.S. as if the racist tweets represented the whole of America. The condemnation was thick with disgust and distaste, not toward the tweeters, but toward America for having them.

You see, America also protects the freedoms of the crass and the stupid.

To that point, I’m afraid I put these commenters in the same bucket as the racist tweeters. Ignorant. Flapping their yaps with irrational remarks that condemn. I don’t know what share of the Philippine population holds similarly warped views of America. But for sure I think most people who comment on blogs or articles come in with a very small little perspective that they enlarge by sounding confident, and by daring anyone to disagree under threat of being declared a moron.

As near as I can tell, our entire environment is mostly fiction. Including news reports. I don’t trust media, and for sure, not bloggers and their little corner of the world, and for sure, for sure, for sure, I don’t trust most commenters to have a big picture.

In contrast, the members of our keen little Society of Honor are exceptions. They don’t require name-calling to win an argument, and in fact are generally not trying to win anything. Rather, they are trying to figure it out. That’s why I keep writing. I trust my audience of readers.

But this is not mainstream.

The Case of the Rebel Uprising

Speaking of criticisms, there have been a number directed at the Aquino administration for its handling of the rebel uprising and hostage situation. Coordination among policing agencies has apparently been difficult and some media agencies have complained that the government is providing little information about the situation.

There is a certain tenor of arrogance to the criticisms that I don’t like. For example, I read one that placed full trust in what the rebels said (“the government fired first”), while indicating mistrust of the motives of the President and DILG Secretary Roxas. As if the President and Roxas are down there to manipulate the 2016 election and nothing else.


Isn’t that loyalty a little backward? Shouldn’t the first line of trust be WITH the President and Roxas? The GOOD guys? And shouldn’t we be wary of what anyone tells us when they hold to values that advocate the taking of innocents hostage and putting them directly in the line of fire?

Is our need to project our own authority so high that we become biased FOR the bad guys and AGAINST the good guys? A sensationalist headline or provocative story is so important that we twist allegiances inside out?

I believe the President and Roxas are on the scene to do the very best that they can do. Just like you and I would do if we were responsible for such a dangerous, complex, confused battle scene. We couldn’t turn it sweet on the wish and dream of armchair critics.


Mistrust is rampant in the Philippines. The reason is that people in power too frequently abuse that power, putting self-gain first and the well-being of the community below that. Well, we community members are gaining enlightenment rapidly. The rising COMMUNITY value is to sacrifice a little of oneself for the betterment of us all.

  • So why do I trust Benhur Luy and not Senator Enrile? One has power only by speaking the truth. The other has power largely by manipulating the truth.
  • Why do I trust my readers and not the press? Because my readers have no one to defeat or use or earn money from. The press must sell advertising and does that best by the tabloid tendency to pander to the popularity of conflict and dirt.
  • Why do I trust the President and not his critics? Because he has no where to go, except strike a legacy. Arroyo’s problem was that she thought she could become Plunderer in Chief for life. President Aquino knows it is just two more years . . . and he’s out.

I trust in the human tendency to do what is best for ourselves within a strong, protective community. Which is why the People, with the internet in their hands, will finally exert the will of the COMMUNITY over the will of the self-servers.

In THAT I trust.

And in THAT, I will participate.


27 Responses to “In Whom Do You Trust?”
  1. The Mouse says:

    Since I am not into beauty pageants, it’s only now that I heard of the Miss America issue.

    Oh well, Filipinos should look at themselves before deriding America…on how they derided the Bb. Pilipinas who apparently had bad English?! (Sorry, I forgot her name) /Just saying. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t. I’m sure if she spoke her native language, people will still be attacking her and saying she is an “embarrasment” in the “world stage” for not speaking English.

    Also, why on earth should Filipinos make a big deal about Miss America when there is so much racism in Bb. Pilipinas…and that Americans, in general, are not huge in beauty pageants. Winning Miss Universe or Miss World does not make America celebrate. Hehe

    P.S. I like the photo in your side column. As you see, “coconut water” is a trend here in the US. makes me wonder how much preservatives are placed in those water . As far as I know, once the coconut is open, everything in it must be eaten or drank soon since it’s gonna spoil fast. I miss the original buko. The US should think of importing REAL coconuts instead.Hehe

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahahaha, so your agitation finally got Philippine bananas into the U.S. Now you are starting with the coconuts!!! What’s next, those guavas that grow like weeds in my front yard?

      Yes, after I cooled down, I fell back to my old standby that a critic’s comments oft say more about the critic than the subject. I think this edge of angst against America will diminish as the Philippines rises economically. People will see more the value of the economic partnership than the military one. I hope so.

      • The Mouse says:

        I wasnt excited about the philippine bananas in the us. Its the same tasteless variety imported from latin america, not the well loved lakatan. The philippine cavendish will likely more be expensive than the latin american cavendish…:( hardly any banana variety in the us. Sad.

        • Joe America says:

          Maybe we have to do the popular ones before the lakatan. Greed before exquisite taste. Once the pipeline is up and running, then the Philippines can show its amazing ag delectables. Yours for optimism . . . 🙂

  2. Greg Hill says:

    Here are my thoughts on trust in no particular order:

    If chismis was an Olympic sport then Filipinos would be unrivaled gold medalists.

    Chismis is more interesting than facts.

    Chismis has been taken to greater heights through Facebook.

    Facts are hard to come by. When they do exist chismis can overwhelm them and discredit them.

    There does not seem to be much interest in bringing science to bear on ridiculous claims like pseudo-scientific health remedies or performance enhancing agents such as balut. Nobody asks “Show me the science.” They ask instead “Tell me the latest chismis.” Chismis wins.

    Court cases are woefully slow to come before a judge and often languish for years or even decades without resolution after witnesses disappear or while the defendant languishes with some exotic complaint in a luxury hospital room. This creates huge quantities of oxygen to feed the chismis engines.

    Chismis nurtures unlikely conspiracy theories when more simple explanations fit the issues better.

    The media interleaves straight news reporting and chismis. It’s hard to tell one from the other. (You covered this a few posts ago.)

    Chismis and trust are not good bedfellows.

  3. cha says:

    Past behavior predicts future behavior. That’s one of the principles we applied in implementing a program for succession planning in one of my previous employments. We would look at a candidate’s track record, gather and document what we called ‘critical incidents’ or relevant actions/behaviors of the candidate observed by others, and do further background and reference checks as needed. An assessment of the candidate is thus basically made from his own past.

    I believe most of us apply the same principle instinctively in making judgments about the trustworthiness of other people.

    Take Enrile for example. His past as Marcos’ Martial Law administrator does not place him highly in the trustworthiness scale as it is. Neither does admitting a fake ambush and then years later retracting the admission. And then there are the series of coup attempts that destabilized the presidency of the Corazon Aquino. Let’s just say this one does not exactly come out smelling like a newly bathed baby.

    So we find it easier to trust Benhur Luy instead, who apart from actually sounding credible in his testimony at the senate hearing, is after all, really just confirming what we have been thinking all along about Enrile. That the old man cannot be trusted to put our country’s interest above his own.

    And then there’s President Aquino. Why have so many people placed his trust on this man and continue to do so? The President thus far has not given the people any reason to suspect that he is involved in any wrongdoing. Even when he was still running for President, the most that people could accuse him of is being incompetent at best and of having some sort of psychological problem or mental retardation at worst. As a President, his supposed faults have included being lazy (Noynoying), being indecisive (during the early years), being too protective of his friends (KKK) and some other such things but no one has as yet come up with a credible accusation of him abusing or profiting from his current position. 

    Jinggoy on the other hand has already been convicted of plunder along with his father, in the past. Revilla has been caught on tape admitting he would possibly cheat in an election. 

    So who do we trust? None but the person himself and how he has conducted his life thus far. 

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, that is true, isn’t it? Our fundamental character was shaped during youth and polished during adult-hood. It is like marble, not putty. Senator Enrile has perfected wily. Rather an ancient fox of strange patriotic bent.

  4. In whom Do I trust?

    The Gov’t– NO. For every honest official, there are 9 crooks. Platforms, press releases are all rhetoric and hot air. Administrative, policy-making and justice system are inefficient, bureaucratic and slow. Just like most 3rd-world (I know that term is obsolete) gov’ts all over the world

    The media — NO. These media people think they are celebrities and public officials themselves. They stick their noses into everything; give policy prescriptions instead of reporting facts; act as negotiators in hostage crises;and most annoying, endorses products. Entitled bastards and bastardesses (if there’s such a word)

    All religious denominations in the country– NO. They are zealots who think they know the absolute truth, and see the secular society as evil. Do they understand the provisions of the Philippine constitution on separation of church and state? There are four types of them: the power broker church; the money-maker church; the feel-good, hypocritical, REFORMED church; and the hardline, warmonger church. Clue: 3 are within the Christian realm and 1 involves men raping another men and forcing women to be their wives.

    The online bloggers and commentators (majority)– NO. Even if there are a few reasonable bloggers like this one, most are reeking of intellectual arrogance, ignorance, narcissism, me-first attitude, attention-deficit and unsubstantiated claims. Social media opinions are amateurish and gossipy. Some scholars say they reflect the attitudes of civil society; I say it reflects the opinions of egos empowered and bloated by anonymity. Moreover, social media gave the Filipinos a new platform for gossips just like what a comment above said.

    So who do I trust? Just like what Tony Montana said:”Who do I trust? Me.”

    • Joe America says:

      Zingers, David, well earned by the people zinged. I think the next renewable energy resource to be tapped in the Philippines, after wind and thermal, is hot air from the officious people who blow smoke, spin lies into logic, and talk out of both sides of their mouth. You’ve done a nice checklist of them all.

      I’m developing a mathematical formula to judge whether or not America is a “malignant state”, and now I’m thinking about developing something similar for individual trust. For example, you take the amount of power multiplied by the extent of deviousness and you can concoct a “crook index”. President Aquino has a lot of power and is not very devious, so he falls to the lower end. Senator Enrile has a lot of power and a lot of deviousness so he is high on the scale. JoeAm is generally honest and has a small amount of power, so you can trust him. 🙂

      • How about someone who has high deviousness and low political power? Will you still trust that person?

        I can see a scatter plot for that crook index and the quadrant in which most politicians are located.

        And most Filipinos say that Math and Stats are unimportant. Sigh…….

        • Joe America says:

          Ahh, yes. There would be clusters for sure. Ha, with attorneys and used car salesmen gathering in the same quadrant.

          Math and stats are like the lifeblood of truth. Indeed, my malignancy calculations will not show blacks and whites, but shades of gray. Rather like some crooks are honorable and others not.

  5. manuel buencamino says:

    Joe, to put in context those who make generalizations about America based on racist tweets substitute the word “racist” for “corrupt” in the sentence, “I won’t say the culture is corrupt, but I don’t exactly know what to term it.” In other words, many are prone to make generalizations based on the behavior of a few.

    As to the rebel uprising I fully agree with you. Whose side are those critics on? The president just issued a briefer on the crisis, unfortunately it is in a language you don’t speak. It’s time you learned. You will see that your understanding of your adopted country will be so much better and deeper once you speak the language. Besides learning it is much easier than teaching your wife correct use of prepositions. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahaha, yes, possibly that’s true. I got a good start on Visayan and then got lazy, and I really need to do Tagalog. Maybe I’ll learn alongside my son because he has to do Tagalog at school.

      Yes, many are prone to make generalizations based on the behavior of the few. True.

  6. Joseph-Ivo says:

    People construct mental models to explain reality. Information confirming these models is easily accepted, contradicting information is mistrusted. Two problems arise, first what is the better model, secondly what if objective facts contradict the trusted information.

    For me the better model meets several criteria:
    – It should explain the current data/information.
    – It should have predictive powers.
    – It should not allow for “miracles”, exceptional, unexplainable events.
    – It should be “elegant”, all the previous equal I prefer the simpler one, the easier to understand.

    If a fact contradicts the model, one has several options:
    – Explain it as a miracle, but that fails one of my criteria.
    – Adjust the model to include it as “exception”.
    – Construct a new model.

    Applied to the Benhur / Enrile case:

    In my model Enrile is at the top of a vast pyramid of powers. He has endless information from all positions hold over the years, he can collect vast utang due to all favours he rendered in the past, he had access to endless funds in the positions he held and thus could buy support whenever needed, and he has the charisma that easily can bind followers like Honassan.

    Benhur got caught in a corner and saw only one way out, to exploit the explosive information he possessed and now, with the help of his lawyer, he sees his chance to become a national hero as the ultimate whistle blower on corruption.

    Enrile needed money to stay on top of his pyramid and to perpetuate his name by launching his son, whatever lies it took. It is obvious that lies will be killing for Benhur as a whistle blower hero and he misses the endless inside information and connections of an Enrile to construct and disseminate intricate lies to confuse the issue.

    I will need objective facts to change my model as I do not believe in miracles nor want to adjust my model with Enrile as the exception of the martial law wolf turned into an Aquino anti-corruption lam.

    • Joe America says:

      Interesting. Enrile’s plan failed to get his son elected because his power does not extend to the internet, but to a collection of close associates. There are new dynamics at play and the future masters will have to learn how to manipulate the new media. So far President Aquino is proving the master manipulator there, but I think it is accidental.

      Does your model permit accidents? 🙂

      Your model also paints Luy as somewhat of a manipulator himself, and I’d agree with that. I don’t think he was an angel all along. But he felt he was not getting his due and was being treated like a gopher.

  7. andrew lim says:


    Contrary to what the nation and the rest of the world have been led to believe, former Senator Kit Tatad and Vice President Binay spent several hours in “closed door conversations” with Nur Misuari, the leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) before starting the siege of Zamboanga city.

    The incredible detail was completely left out of Tatad and Binay’s itinerary records, which had sought to present that Tatad was busy recovering from the Pope’s latest admonition for the Church to stop obsessing about contraception and gay issues, and that Binay, on the other hand, was trying to contain damage to his presidential bid since his major UNA partners have been implicated in the PDAF scam.

    The revelation is certain to be denied, for obvious reasons, but it comes from higly authoritative sources whose loyalty to Marcos and Arroyo is exceeded only by their loyalty to creative writing and who shared the story with extreme glee and pathos. They just could not bear what to them is “a great joke that must be shared”, a deliberate and cold-blooded attempt to leave out and deceive the people on Tatad and Binay’s real role and interest in the Zamboanga siege.

    To them, it affects the whole fabric of morality of our past and present politicians, and ultimately Tatad’s relevance and Binay’s moral fitness to remain in office.

    “This is worse than “ Annebisyosa -The Concert“ they said. “ They’ve taken all of us for a ride, with no compunction or remorse. They are all morally bankrupt; they have no respect for the truth.”

    Annebisyosa- The Concert is the attempt of Anne Curtis to start a whole new genre of music – that of hitting only one or two percent of the notes in a song correctly, and still convincing others to pay for the concert!

    Why did Binay announce the ceasefire in behalf on Nur Misuari? Is Misuari the commander in chief of Binay?

    Why did Tatad insist on ordering pork binagoongan when he knew Misuari was a Muslim?

    Who financed the Zamboanga caper? Were they trying to divert national attention from the PDAF scam and the damage to UNA and Binay’s presidential bid?

    When Binay asked Misuari what his order was for lunch, why did he jump when Misuari answered “Gigi” ? “Gigi as in galunggong!” Misuari explained.

    he he he

    Spread this around. It is my attempt to satirize the inventive and malicious mind of Kit Tatad, who sees no contradiction between his extremist Catholicism and his extreme right wing corrupt politics. 🙂

  8. Joe, Let’s put your mathematical trust formula to a test.

    It’s a statement from Gigi Reyes which tries to explain her flight, cry media bias and lament the so-called betrayal.

    • Joe America says:

      Power times deviousness. On a scale of 10 for each, 10 high. Reyes: 6 X 7 = 42. Enrile: 7 X 9 = 63. Aquino 9 x 3 = 27.

      Reyes gets (got) her power from carrying the Enrile name. I’m not sure as to deviousness, but I’d think in her position she’d have had to be very politically manipulative, and the fact that she headed out-of-country says she is not interested in dealing within the system she helped create. She doesn’t trust it.

  9. Jo says:

    Oh man, I’ve read about the tweets regarding the Miss America thing. While I think most of the tweeters are morons, I never for a second thought this is America–I have an ambivalent view of the country but one of the things I admire about it is that America protects ALL forms of speech, even if it’s racist or stupid or downright evil. Freedom of speech is not selective, and the moment you shut someone up for uttering racist words, you impinge on his right. Even if he is a class-A imbecile who deserved to be exiled.

    Benhur Luy, I’m not quite sold to. His testimony was candid, almost spontaneous, and I know he is being honest, but his saying that he’s a victim as well does not fly with me. Far as I’ve heard he was kidnapped by Napoles because he tried to do what she’s doing and she’s not happy about it. I’m not sure. But I don’t believe for one second that he has no idea that what he did under her was legal.

    You’ve heard of the saying “Ang masamang damo, matagal mamatay? (The bad grass takes long to die)” That’s Enrile. He’s seriously ancient, and seriously proving that local adage true. He was given chances to redeem himself time and again and he keeps wasting it. We joke here that he must be so bad heaven doesn’t want him and hell disowns him, which means he’s an immortal for all intents and purpose. 😀

    Like CDQ in his column in Inquirer today (, I’m glad PNoy is in Zamboanga. Initially I didn’t want him there–why does he have to be somewhere where Nur’s people can take him out, why micro-managing the operations?–but with the Pork Scandal burning bright and strong, it’s best he’s there so none of the congressmen or senators can storm the gates of Malacanang and plead safety from him.

    And in my opinion, anyone who believes in Nur and his gang of thugs is either ignorant or blind.

    About the news… I agree with you, Joe. Even my favorite newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer has started to fall from grace in my eyes. Their reports feel off now, and feel more like columns sometimes with opinions subtly sprinkled within. I go to their site mostly for the columns now. Rappler I hardly ever visit, and I only follow their twitter account so I can gleefully retweet their errors like the juvenile I am. 😀

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahahahaha! You believe in the writing technique of “exit with a punch line”. Cracked me up ROFLMAO. I, too, occasionally find glee in digging at other people’s sores.

      I also agree with you on Benhur Luy, that he is no angel. He is just a little rat rather than a big one, and he put on his white fur coat first. Some others are likely to change, too, when they get done snarling at one another. And if the law authorities tell them “tell all and we’ll give you 25 years instead of 35”. I need to do a blog about the way rats behave when cornered. It is not pretty.

      Maybe that’s what we can do with these media, what you do. Make it a game. Rather than playing tanks and cannons or angry birds we can prowl the online news sites looking for opinions and typos. Keep a scorecard. hmmmmmmmmm . . . . 🙂

      • Jo says:

        Hmmmm… You ARE right about Benhur, and people in general. Just because he started out bad doesn’t mean he can’t change for the good, even if it’s may be for his own benefit. The description about rats is spot on. Which reminds me of a comic I’ve read recently, maybe you’d like to see it some time:

        Rats can be give insights in human nature too, and I’d read that blog post too, whenever you decide to write it. 🙂

        Haha, I like that! That’s another idea. 😀 I still hope for the day when our media levels up but in the meantime, I’ll keep that scorecard going, hehehe…

        • Joe America says:

          Powerful “comic”, indeed. I rather think we can free ourselves from the cages that others try to put us in by exploring and being open to new ideas. Thanks for the rat-lesson.

      • Jo says:

        And thanks the “exit” comment–I try to do that when I could. 😀

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