The Philippines: A Nation that Does Not Trust Its Citizens


NBI clearance line

This is not a complaint. It is an observation, with some ideas.

I’m not a citizen and so I accept that I should be considered with wary mistrust. But should ordinary Filipino citizens be mistrusted?

One of the peculiar cross-cultural discoveries I’ve made since moving to the Philippines is coming to grips with how little Filipinos trust one another, and how little the government trusts its citizens.

The three pieces of evidence I’ll submit are herein labeled:

  • Exhibit A: NBI Clearances
  • Exhibit B: Notary Certifications
  • Exhibit C: Libel Law

Exhibit A: NBI Clearances

This is the exhaustive work the NBI does to certify the innocence of great masses applicants for this or that. NBI staff do this mountain of busywork instead of investigating those who might be guilty of a crime.

That is, they investigate probable innocence instead of probable guilt. Odd, when you think about it . . .

Now, to me, it is always tricky proving innocence if people think you are guilty. You need all kinds of supporting documents, like live birth and marriage certificates, which is dicey in its own right if you are poor and born of common-law parents who are no longer together.

  • Father’s Address: “Beat’s me, he skipped out when I was three months old.”

So the process tends to punish or exclude the poor, or the “illegitimate”. “Illegitimate” is an official standing in the Philippines and as near as I can determine from the family code, an illegitimate child is worth half of a real child. It’s downright bizarre. As if illegitimate children are accountable for what their parents did before they were born . . .

  • Family Code, Title VI, Chapter 3, Article 176: Illegitimate children shall use the surname and shall be under the parental authority of their mother, and shall be entitled to support in conformity with this Code. The legitime [legal share of estate] of each illegitimate child shall consist of one-half of the legitime of a legitimate child. . . .

But back to the point.

The presumption in the United States is the opposite for most applications. The applicant is simply asked to affirm with a signature that he is telling the truth, and employers or government agencies trust that he is honest.

Reference checks might be done in the case of new hires. Generally, though, if there is an investigation, it is AFTER the fact of, say, poor performance or suspected lying. Punishments are levied if it is discovered that the applicant submitted deceitful information.

Do you see the difference?

  • Philippines, prove you are innocent.
  • US, we trust your attestation.

Now you can argue, “but Joe, our history is different. People don’t have driver’s licenses and credit cards, and we don’t have good automated record-keeping or ways to verify the truth of applications like you do in the US.”

My response would be, “Okay, that was true 10 or 20 years ago. But today, live birth and other records are automated and all that is missing is the trust. And some automated systems for cross-checking basic information. Or the initiative to place a telephone call to spot-check a reference.”

I’d further argue that the Philippines would be a socially healthier place if people learned to trust one another. And if government agencies focused on bringing the guilty to justice rather than relentlessly putting the innocent against the wall of accusation.

At some point, agencies have to accept that the old excuses and reasons for doing things no longer apply. A well-functioning agency by now should have worked diligently to modernize its processing model, linked data bases, and taken the presumption of guilt – and a whole lot of senseless work – off the citizens.

It seems to me the burden of showing innocence should not be placed on the innocent. It is hard to feel and BE free if your government is relentlessly suspicious.

Exhibit B: Notary Certifications

I get embarrassed for my attorney every time I visit him to get his notary certification. For all the wrongs and damages generated in the Philippines, this is the highest and best use of an attorney’s time?

I wonder why government agencies trust the attorney more than they trust me. An attorney certifies is that I appeared in person, have an ID, and signed the document. Then I have to go to the government agency, appear in person, show my ID, and sign another document.

  • “Huh? I’m the same person both places, why does the attorney have to certify me? You can’t certify me?”

Again, it is a matter of trust. And authoritarianism, the powerful  seeming to thrive by asserting their power over the powerless.

Well, again I argue, if a process makes little sense, stop doing it. Stop imposing expenses and burdens on citizens and misusing what COULD be valuable attorney time.

Exhibit C: Libel Laws

The Philippine Penal Code gives the accuser the upper hand in libel cases in that the mere filing of a case imputes likely malice and guilt to the charged party.  And the punishment is severe – criminal, not civil.


The system reflects a TRUST in those with the means to file cases and a distrust of the accused. Most nations set public officials aside as requiring higher standards of proof. They do this to exercise an “abundance of caution” that citizen free speech is not restricted. But not in the Philippines. The laws of the land here are written to presume citizens carry malice in anything they write that makes a publicly elected official uncomfortable.

Human Rights standards say this is wrong. Philippine leaders know this, but are protected by the draconian laws. Like the bank secrecy laws, libel laws are built to coddle the powerful.

The Sotto’s of the crowd care not a whit about human rights ideals. People of that ilk can’t quite come to grips with the concept of how important speech is as one of the checks and balances that makes democracy work. They only want to cover their own seat cushions.

Think about what this means, on the bottom line. It means that they don’t trust THEMSELVES. They don’t trust that they can remain in office if they don’t have a hammer to wield (presumed malice) or a back room to hide in when they count their lucre (bank secrecy laws).

Well, that is human nature for politicians and crooks I suppose. If indeed that is two separate professions.

The shame is that they presume every Filipino citizen is equally deserving of mistrust and probably has malice at heart if criticizing a public official.

What Has to Happen to Become Healthier

Well, perhaps the nation would benefit from an attitude adjustment in the Congress and Executive branches. Perhaps the new attitude ought to be to grant that a Filipino is trustworthy until he or she demonstrates an inability to deserve that trust.

Then modify processes accordingly to simplify them and remove the presumptions of guilt and malice.

It is wholesome for a nation to believe in its citizens.

It is efficient as well.

Step 2: Automate data bases and give law enforcement agencies access to them (e.g., LTO and tax records). Open bank records up for law enforcement investigation, under court warrant.

Indeed, show in a very tangible, profound way that government officials are worth the PEOPLE’S trust. Show that government is willing to do the service work that heretofore has been shoved off onto innocent and good people.

Janis Joplin sang:

“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

That is an appropriate Philippine anthem, I suppose, given the wretched poverty in which so many live. But I’m inclined to sing:

“Freedom’s just another word for havin’ someone’s trust.”

Alas, I don’t know do from mi.

70 Responses to “The Philippines: A Nation that Does Not Trust Its Citizens”
  1. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Observe how Filipinas carry their bags. Not let it hang on the side. They sling it over the front and hug it for dear sake. The purses are carried with both hands. Men walk with their right hand on their right back pocket. Backpacks in front. It should be called frontpacks. They should invent frontpacks instead of backpacks.

    At churches, families take turns in receiving communion. One left behind to watch the bags while others receive communion. In family outings, someone has to be left behind to stand guard the house.

    In my younger days, my parents close their eyes in prayers or eyes to heaven. Now, they do not close their eyes. One eye to the priest and one eye on their shoulder bags. The collection basket has this computer-printed note: “Please, bring exact tithe. No change”. A parishioner dropped in Php20.00 and wanted Php10.00 back and took a handful instead.

    A Filipino in the mall is a potential thief or a terrorist. Burly Security Guards are posted with magic wand to see if I am not carrying a bomb or a gun. They check my receipts, well, they do that over at Fry’s, too.

    NBI clearance is like Live Scan in the U.S. they serve the same purpose if they are absconders, scammers or murderers. But in the Philippines local police are not linked to a central database. When I went for VISA renewal I had to go to Barangay Clearance that I am a goot citizen, Local Police for another clearance and NBI clearance. All long lines. Short staff with anger management issues. But my wife can skip the lines. She makes a phone call and miracles happen. I get my clearance the following day even without standing in line no money exchanged.

    When I applied for Marriage License, yes, in the Philippines one has to apply for a license to get Married, I have to submit my authenticated live birth records at the maternity where I was born because City Hall do not trust their records. I have to sit thru Marriage Training before I get the coveted Marriage License. We presented it to our parish that asked us a question, “AM I A CATHOLIC?” No, Catholic, no wedding. For us to have church wedding I have to be re-baptized to drive away evil spirits lurking in my wicked body. After that another seminar for a goot christian. Wheeeew!!!

    Now I am married. But U.S. Embassy still not want to renew my VISA until I submit for FBI clearance. They had me fingerprinted, picture taken. I am cleared. Cleared to fly to the U.S.

    I need to MoneyGram my bank deposits to the U.S. so I can get by. The U.S. cannot allow me to carry more than $10k in cash. I went to my bank and had them wire my bank deposits to PNB in the U.S. Since it is a sizeable amount they had me fill out anti-money laundering form.

    All filled out. Got our tickets, passport stamped bags packed and we fly and fly away in our beautiful baloon.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      In coming back to the Philippines, the check out clerk simply asked me if I packed my bag and aware what is inside if I do not have contraband which she showed me the caricature of it.

      I said, yes, I packed my bags and balikbayan boxes and aware what is inside. No, I am not bringing any contrabands.

      Simple question. Simple answer that can land me in jail. But not in the Philippines. Even CCTVs are still questioned as spliced and tweaked. Signatures are not reliable because they could be forgeries and fake.

      When I came back I want to be a Notary Public because I took Notarial class for 6-hours in Los Angeles Community College and I hear that Affidavit is a huge business considering PDAF scandal. They told me I cannot notarize because it takes 5 years of degree course and 4 years of law school before I can notarize.

      I’ll try bank tellering because I also took 3-month course of bank tellering. I hope it works this time.

    • Joe America says:

      Filipinos did invent frontpacks, or provided the impetus for their invention. They are called baby carriers.

      “Short staff with anger management issues” ahahahahaha, yes, it sometimes seems so . . .

      That’s true, that agencies seem not to trust their own information. We have to tell them what they already know, or SHOULD know. That’s why I have to keep packing in my receipts to Immigration when I do my annual report, dating back from the time I arrived. They don’t record that I paid them!!!! They just want the money. It adds up to P20 million each year.

    • Joe America says:

      In reflecting further on your remarks, I suppose one needs to get to the root of the mistrust. On one hand, poverty produces thieves, so people hang onto their backpacks. Connivers abound and some are even called Senator. But those misdeeds are conscious choices, like lying. NBI clearances can’t really identify a propensity to lie, or thieve. They could identify charged or convicted thieves if jail databases were available. My point is that the government SYSTEMS promote mistrust, due to GOVERNMENT inability to apply work process improvement and automation. The citizens are made to carry the burden, and are scowled at when they get tired of waiting in the authoritarian lines. Like, guilt is piled on top of exasperation if they frown in complaint. It is a pernicious kind of government sneering down the nose at citizens, as if they deserve to be treated like cattle.

      Not healthy, not uplifting, not confidence building.

      Maybe the article should be about the lack of respect, rather than trust.

    • edgar lores says:

      1. Wheee!

      2. Mariano, your antenna, your sense of the absurd is way beyond Kafka.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. What is the origin of mistrust?

    2. There are three competing views on the origins of man as to good and evil.

    2.1. The first view is that man is born with a blank slate, a tabula rasa. Man is neither good nor bad, but is simply potential. This view originated with Aristotle, and was advanced by the English philosopher John Locke. It may have culminated in Sartre’s dictum that “existence precedes essence.” Essence can be good or bad. This is Nurture.

    2.2. The second view is that man is born with a basic good nature. This is the view of Buddhism wherein each man rests in Buddha nature. We are born perfect but forget. As the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki says, “Each of you is perfect the way you are… and you can use a little improvement.” This is Nature.

    2.3. The third view is that man is born in sin and with sin. This, of course, is the view of Christianity wherein each man inherits Adam’s original sin of rebellion against God. Yes, we are all born sinners. And woe is me and you and all of us. This is also Nature.

    3. Mistrust arises from the third view that men are not essentially innocent. This is contrary to the legal doctrine that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In the Philippines, the religious “truth” tends to prevail over legal and secular “truth”.

    4. I tend to adopt the second view. Why?
    4.1. Exhibit A: The Law of Attraction.
    4.2. Exhibit B: The Law of Opposite Attraction
    4.3. Exhibit C: Myself.

    5. The Law of Attraction states that “like attracts like”.
    5.1. When a child, without any urging, kisses a parent, is that parent good or bad?
    5.2. When you marry The One, is it because he or she is good for you or bad for you?
    5.2. When you go to the movies, who do you root for – the hero or the villain? Batman or the Joker?

    6. The Law of Opposite Attraction states that “like repels, and opposites attract”.
    6.1. Between good and evil, what are you attracted to?

    6.2. If we were born in goodness, we would be attracted to good but we are not. Why are good girls attracted to bad boys? And why are good boys attracted to sluts?
    6.2.1. With girls and bad boys, there is the element of frisson. There is excitement in danger.
    6.2.2. With boys and sluts, apart from the reason of availability, there is the reason of – What? Where was I going with this argument?

    6.3. If we were born evil, we would be attracted to good but we are not.
    6.3.1. Honestly, when was the last time you did good?
    6.3.2. Are you still observing your New Year’s resolutions?
    6.3.3. Are you maintaining yourself? Exercises? Stopped smoking? Stopped drinking?

    7. Myself. ‘Nuff said.

    • Joe America says:

      Okay, first things first. What is with the seven asterisks on top and the five below? You’ve been at it for about a week now, I think.

      Second, now that the gossip is done with, I really appreciate the clarity of the three alternatives in point 2.

      A baby is totally helpless and innocent. Left to grow up with wolves, he will behave as a wolf. Left to grow up with nuns, he will be . . . well, no need to over-explain.

      So I go with blank slate. If there is goodness in the world, it is because man is a conceptual animal and has recognized there is a certain assurance, or security, to treating others well and being treated well in return. After enough generations of this, people start to trust one another.

      Well, the tribal Philippines has not reached that stage. The divided, crablike, envious Philippines, where many have learned that cheating is the best way to get ahead in a society where those who HAVE gotten ahead have done it by cheating. So mistrust abounds, both up and down the crab lines.

      To get past it, you have to know you have to get past it. And there are practical ways to do this. Starting with government processes.

      • edgar lores says:

        The seven stars (or asterisks) can mean:

        1. Formatting improvement. It improves reading by providing white space between posts. Does WordPress provide comment numbering? Would be a handy tool in cross-referencing.

        2. Secret sign. May indicate that I belong to a secret society, just like the freemason handshake.

        3. Heptagram.
        3.1. May indicate that I am an Aussie. The Aussie flag uses heptagrams to depict the Southern Cross.
        3.2. Is used in Christianity to symbolize the 7 days of creation and a symbol to ward off evil.
        3.3. Is used in witchcraft and modern paganism.

        Option 1 is the most likely. Or all of the above.

        • Joe America says:

          I thought about 1, but that does not require a pattern. I went quickly through some choices and quickly discarded IQ but not age. ahahahahahahahaha

          • edgar lores says:

            1. You’re right. Age has something to do with it. Despite all attempts to grow old gracefully, crankiness does creep up. 😉

            2. Humankind is malleable. Nurture will always overcome Nature. But Nature should triumph at the end of the day.

        • sonny says:

          Note on 3.1: Very interesting, Edgar. I had to run to see an Aussie flag. I saw the 7-pointed and the 5-pointed stars. (also divided 360 by 7 = 51.42, to construct a hepta-star). Neat.

          Note on 3.2: the Christian Bible uses numbers in 3 senses: quantity, symbolic, gematric. (i did run again, this time to my notes on Scripture). The symbolic meaning of 7 is perfection.

          • Joe America says:

            Yeah, but 5 is chaos. ahahahahaha

            • sonny says:

              Edgar, it seems you and I have similar thought processes. I do not intend to insult you by saying so. There are a couple of big differences that of quantity and kind. What is the similarity? I’ll use a metaphor to illustrate: If mental processes were a book, we will both be Indexes. Another big difference: if both of us were contestants in JEOPARDY, you wll win. I won’t. That’s the truth.

              Joe, the 3 exhibits you mention are spot on. This propensity to “load up” has traceable historical roots and can be dismantled if those concerned apply themselves to streamline the procedures to advantage.

              On the biblical number 5, it’s another way of saying “some.”

              • Joe America says:

                “Apply themselves . . .” I detect an absence of that peculiar kind of vision within government agencies that comes from the “need” to discover. I myself get excited if I can find a new way to get things done easier and faster. Like, it is a thrill. There are few too many people within government agencies who seem to be able to find those thrills. It is like the need to discover has to be imposed rather than be self-generated. Perhaps it is like a snowball, and once it gets rolling downhill, as it may be rolling now, it will pick up speed. Agencies will start to look for people who DO get thrilled building better mousetraps.

              • edgar lores says:

                Oh, you flatterer, you. 🙂

              • sonny says:

                Joe, I distinctly remember my first three years in the Twin Cities were like a boy in a toy store. I belonged to the last batch of young Filipinos who felt they didn’t have to leave the Philippines and ironically I realized our parents were the sole push-out influences. They felt that emigrating will do us a lot of good that would not have been realized in the Philippines. A lot of good it did us. For me the acquisition of new set of lenses to view life as it unfolded was priceless. I love being Filipino in ways I would not have been had I not gotten out of the country.

                Edgar, I’m afraid my chance at doing JEOPARDY has passed. But no regrets, the way this wave of contestants do it is awesome and it is still so much fun watching them. And no flattery to you. you should try it. I know you’re a fit.

              • Joe America says:

                I’m thinking rather than mandate that people spend two years in the military or peace corp, the Philippines would be wise to offer top college graduates an expense-paid overseas foreign work/study program. Two years, then come back and work 5 years for the government in a well-paid position where you can recommend changes to processes to speed things up and improve customer service methods and attitude.

          • edgar lores says:

            1. The word “gematric” brings back memories. I used to love the novels of Chaim Potok, and it appears – I just googled it – that the art of gematria is found in “The Chosen”. I was also into numerology at one time, and certain number combinations have stood out for me and have had particular associations with certain events. Coincidence? Superstition? Synchronicity? I don’t know. My lucky numbers have not come up in lotto yet.

            2. I also used to convert my name to numbers using different methods. I just did one exercise and came up with 47. Four is death in Chinese numerology and 7, as you say, is perfection. And 4 and 7 make 11. Wiki tells me that 47 is the 15th prime number, and a safe prime It is also the sixth Lucas number, a highly cototient number, an Eisenstein prime, and a Carol number. I have absolutely no idea what those mean.

  3. randedge says:

    It’s not just laws, but in EVERYDAY situations!

    This is a rehashed version of a blog post I made elsewhere, as well as a message I sent you when I just discovered this blog of yours:

    I once spoke to some Canadian-born people who asked me – after they learned that I’ve been here in Canada for 15 years – whether I have dual citizenship (Filipino – Canadian)

    I said, “No, I see no advantage in that.”

    They made a face, which indicated to me that they thought this was weird, because they might have assumed I have stayed as a Filipino after all this time in Canada. So I had to clarify that, “I’ve only held Canadian citizenship since I got naturalized as a kid. Repatriating myself as a Filipino offers no advantage whatsoever, even when I travel there.” I may have also said that even if it were very easy, even if all I needed to do was raise my right hand and swear allegiance to the Republic once again, I have not done so because there is no utility whatsoever, at least not for my life right now, where I am living in Canada as a Canadian.

    I added, “IN fact, the Canadian Passport is an all access pass in the Philippines. It gets you through security checkpoints faster, gets you invited to prestigious shit, and it drops panties.” The point being: It’s actually harder for me to try and be Filipino in the Philippines because then the Filipino Locals would just treat me like another Filipino – which means being treated like shit. Or at least shittiER than the treatment I would get as a Canadian over there in the Philippines.

    • randedge says:

      “PROFILING” !!! That’s the word I wanted to use in that first post. Filipinos profile against other Filipinos. In security checkpoints like Airports, Ship Ports and Bus stations, the only ID I carry is my passport. Once I hand that, the security personelle all become nice, amicable, and less concerned of performing the same pat down or baggage search or whatever which they all do to Filipinos….

    • Joe America says:

      That’s interesting. So if I went for naturalization, I might get treated less graciously . . . you know, the way government offices treat Filipinos . . . Maybe it’s a good thing there are no material civil rights organizations in the Philippines. Most of them would have what is termed here “high blood”. Like high blood pressure. Chief cause: apoplexy.

      • randedge says:

        I actually honestly have no experience doing any business in the Philippines with the Canadian Passport. If anything, I think I’ve read from this here blog of yours, being “foreigner” is hard there as well, especially if your goal is to be a resident. You are given less rights. Kind of sucks since I feel you are more Pinoy now than me! and I’m the guy who was born there!

        But yes, in terms of travel, in terms of being a tourist ‘touring’ the countryside, I’d be in some sort of privilege denial if I refuse to admit that the foreign passport did not afford me a kind of special status.

        Best Anecdote: Busuanga airport, flying out of Coron. When I was there 2011, they did not have the fancy metal detectors and baggage X ray thingies (dunno what they’re called!). A guy ahead of me had his baggage searched – opened up and really scrutinized. Profiled, I guess? despite him being a “disenteng tao” or decent looking fellow.

        Me? The security Personelle (which in my Mind’s eye now, I put a PNP uniform on… though I’m not positive) was about to search my backpack in a similar fashion. When his partner asked tickets and ID, I of course gave my ticket and the only valid ID I had – Canadian passport. Boom! I was waved right through. I was about as Filipino “looking” as the guy before me – if anything, I was far stinkier and unshaven (can’t grow a full beard, but I can Jack Sparrow it – as ugly and grungy as Johnny Depp’s in Pirates, minus the braid).

        Maybe it was my lucky day, who knows. But it did happen a lot in my travels throughout the motherland.

        • Joe America says:

          It is even easier for one white of skin and bearing a smile, for security checks and mall entrances and some government agencies (LTO). But other government agencies don’t give favors. They are equal-opportunity snarlers.

  4. God gave us freedom to choose. Unfortunately, people who chose to be good sometimes become victims of people who chose to be evil. Experience is a very exacting teacher, could be your own, or experiences of a friend, acquaintance or as relayed in newspapers and other media, how one can be a victim of snatchers, robbers, akyat bahay gangs, carnappers, kidnappers and plunderers. The result, one could not trust even a distant relative staying in your own house, he/she may steal from you, or murder you while you are asleep. That’s the sad reality of life nowadays.

    For developed countries, where a driver’s license or a social security number can reveal details about an individual imbedded in electronic codes, verification of information offered seems so quick and easy. Still, those information can be manipulated or forged as long as you have the technological know how, if the FBI and spy stories I read in novels are to be believed. For ours where majority of citizens still live in rural or far flung areas, proving your identity still need various government agencies’ certifications.

    • Joe America says:

      I know civil rights people would object, but I would favor a national ID card. It could be an add-on to the social security data base. In the Philippines it would stand in or attest for all ancillary documents, live birth, marriage certificate, school ID, civic clearances, and the like. The ID number would be the cross-link to all government databases. Each person would get cleared once, then end all this ridiculous paperwork and mistrust foolishness. It might be updated every 5 or 10 years, like passports.

      • This has been proposed since the time of ex-Pres. Ramos… but yes, civil rights people did object, the left leaning groups shouted on top of their lungs.. That would be a great leap to bureaucratic simplification, if only the contrary citizens and the national government would see eye to eye, the first to listen, the latter to disseminate the advantages of such proposal and to be decisive in the implementation.

        • Joe America says:

          Brother. I suppose the left and civil rights people believe that knowing who to trust is a bad idea. It is a civil right not to be identified. I guess I should read up on the opposition’s rationale to try to comprehend it. All I know is that if we don’t change, we remain the same, and all the members of the left can continue to line up in NBI lines and do nonsensical paperwork over and over again.

          • edgar lores says:

            1. It’s a good idea on paper, but the potential for abuse would be too great.
            1.1. The government is mistrustful already, so it would probably be like putting more gunpowder in their ammunition.

            2. The latest incarnation of national id cards would probably be biochip implants.
            2.1. This is already being done for pets here in Australia to identify lost pets.

            3. With the advances in genetic research, biochips can be loaded with a whole lot of data apart from the usual identification parameters.
            3.1. There are medical advantages to these biochips in humans because they can be used to monitor certain medical conditions.
            3.2. There would be, as one can imagine, great advantages and convenience in security and any transactions – government or commercial – that require id processing.
            3.3. But combine this with the advances in technology, computer resources and data storage, and you can imagine how the government and business would take advantage of this.
            3.4. Insurance companies and supermarkets would know not only your medical status but would be able to pinpoint you prefer Kitkat over Snickers. Profiling would become specific targeting.
            3.5. If the biochip contained info like racial origin, the next Hitler will have a field day.
            3.6. If the biochip not only allows government and business to track everything you do but also allows them to track where you are, then we become like rats in a cage.
            3.7. It may be argued that the biochip may not radiate enough power to be detected, but there can be a grid of sensor stations. It is said that Apple can track iPhone owners.

            4. I think that in the face of possible dystopian fantasies, we would agree that being anonymous and lazing on the beach would be a blissful scenario.
            4.1. Salud!

            • Let’s do discuss the national ID cards first and let’s not even think about biochip implants… (shiver).. I can’t forget the Christian movie which tackled the seven years tribulation in the Apocalypse.

              • edgar lores says:

                Mary Grace,

                Your are right to shiver. To me the idea of a national card is just an extension of the NBI clearance in the sense of “tagging” a person. The NBI clearance is paper and analogue while the national card is plastic and digital. The gap between a national card and a biochip is much, much smaller than the gap between an NBI clearance and a national card. They are all the same thing; It’s just a different order of magnitude.

                Before cards just had a magnetic strip at the back. Now they are embedded with microchips. Before one still had to scan the card and sign some paper when one used a credit card; yesterday, one just had to insert the card and enter a PIN; today one just has to tap the card against the reader; tomorrow you may not even have to bring it out of your pocket or purse.

                No doubt a national card would offer many conveniences for us and for governments. However the potential for abuse is scary. Once you are tagged, you become a package that can be monitored – and controlled. I’m not only talking about the things you buy or the places you visit. What if Comelec decides to use the national id to check that you are not a flying voter and have voted only once? What if that agency can link your id to how you voted? And what if your barangay chief got hold of the info that you did not vote for his honor?

                Sure, there will be safeguards that some data will not be recorded and some data will not be linked and some data will not be accessible to all. But how can we be sure?

            • Joe America says:

              2.1 kinda puts the kabosh on the idea. ahahahaha! Bliss on the beach it is . . .

            • Joseph-Ivo says:

              Why trying to get information via an old fashion ID, even with chip, (old fashion because conceived by lawmakers) if all information is already available via your ATM and credit card, your google searches and Facebook accounts and in case of emergency via a call to a friend in NSA?

              Also the integration between national ID, petty cash credit card, Social Security card and SIM card, thus i-phone, is approaching fast. First trials running in my country.

              The content word privacy will be very different for the coming generation.

              • edgar lores says:


                As usual, you are ahead of everyone. A national id would be very much like the Social Security card or a driver’s licence except that it may be issued at birth. It will be a unique identifier, a pointer, a URL, that will enable all data to be collected and collated about a single person. A name or other markers – like bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and SIM cards – will not do because some of these are not unique and some are private (still). It is said that the mobile phone will become our wallet, but that interconnection of personal identity, SIM card and bank card is still not global. You can integrate and make a composite of all your present IDs to form a unique identifier as you mention. However, a national ID will do that with greater convenience. Each of us would be reduced to a single number like a Nazi tattoo.

              • Joseph-Ivo says:

                Yap ,correct. But it is happening right now, so many unique features linked to your identity exist already, fingerprint via smartphone, photo via Facebook, all your preferences via Google, shopping pattern via credit card, your movements via your cellphone… People with some internet knowledge might know you better than you know yourself. So what? And a tattoo is sexy diba, virtual or real.

              • edgar lores says:


                That sexy comment provoked a genuine belly laugh. Thanks.

  5. sonny says:

    Joe, this question is perpetually new. We are a people who are perpetually new and perpetually old. Our cultural (totality of experience) boundaries, the outflow and inflow, are not discreet, gated and not gated, we are draconian and modern, and so on and so forth. In this country, the American phrase, “on the fly…” is fully operative in frequency and dimension. I like to think also of the other phrase, “all systems are go… wait, wait, wait a second!!!” Right now my head is American, my heart, Filipino. Definitely, we should all keep talking about this.

    • Joe America says:

      I find that it has taken me almost four years to reconcile my American mind to the Filipino ways, and my discovery is now going beyond specific acts that can be observed, and fitting them into the “currents” or flows that comprise the way Filipinos interact. Togetherness and a blindness toward individuality. Dee’s wonderful crab characterization of the way hierarchies form across the land, people relentlessly stacking themselves along a vertical chain of importance. Lack of trust, another aspect of the power chain, vertical. And the whole thing threatening to shift toward something that I think is better. An economy that supplies more individual opportunity, with better information . . . and people goaded into making right decisions. And so we push . . .

      • sonny says:

        Beautfully put, Joe.

        One of the most satisfying rewards of becoming an émigré is to be able to look at my native culture with more than one lens of understanding, e.g. American cerebrally and Filipino at heart.

        One running theme in this understanding is about language and culture: Filipinos are high context in either case. In language, Filipinos have to use a more global register of both words and ideas in order to communicate. In contrast, for example, English is very low context language, viz the number of words English has at its disposal to cover subjects and transactions of communication. Hence the phenomenon of Taglish.

        One can devise metaphors in order to understand the apparent lack of trust we are discussing. For example, Much of governance has been broken down into transactions pertaining to a likewise digitized legal, social, political and technological network of contexts. Philippine society though partially exposed and influenced to the global community is tirelessly trying to keep up by being a bilingual and multi-cultural society. This is a broad view I keep of the Philippines in relation to the rest of the world. This is why many times I feel like a tourist in my own country.

        • Joe America says:

          Nice observations yourself. One of the “currents” or flows that could be reversed with the proper appeal from the top is to develop an appreciation for the diversity that makes the Philippines so rich. Make it a point of pride rather than the basis for disagreeing with the “other groups” in the diverse package. Like, get atheists to respect Catholics and vice versa, or provinces to respect Manila and vice versa. You are a historian, so you know the ever-present grand schism between Manila and the outlying parts.

          • sonny says:

            “… the top to develop an appreciation for the diversity that makes the PH so rich…”
            “… get atheists to respect Catholics and vice versa… provinces to respect Manila…”
            “… the grand schism between Manila and the outlying parts…”

            3 to the heart of the matter, Joe! Suffice to say we are not so different from the rest of the world in the things that must be done. The devil is always in the details. I am keeping track of the things being said here. They all have their individual forums and there are many wheels that need not be re-invented, and most certainly some new ones to be fashioned. Commons histories must be understood and current gridlocks must be untangled, some provincial and many, national. Filipinos and friends of Filipinos must act.

            • Joe America says:

              “Suffice it to say we are not so different from the rest of the world . . .”

              That’s true, and I think why so many of us are passionate about the Philippines is that the nation SEEMS on the move to being BETTER than the rest of the world. We see the beauty here and unrealized potential and . . . paradise is just a step away . . . or maybe 20 steps. But not so far that it is unreachable . . .

  6. Joseph-Ivo says:

    Rent seeking thrives on cheating and this is nation of rent seekers. No hard work, but the right support, not hard work, but “smart” work. For hard work we have the masses and the OFW’s. Cheating is the rule and mistrust is complementary to cheating. Live is simple.

    The more you can complicate a process, the more opportunities to be corrupt. To cheat in simple transparent processes is not possible. Optimizing processes in DAR was embraced by the straight employees but mistrusted and blocked by the powerful ones. The extra copies with additional cluttering information create extra opportunities. A “language” only we, the “experts” understand serves to hide wrong doings.

    Even in SM you have to smell meat before buying, because there too they will try to sell overdue meat not talking about the huge amount of water injected and sold as meat. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to cheat.

    The first requirement for a quality certificate is “to make sure that you can deliver what you promise”. A large contractor’s a reaction on this requirement was that this was impossible for him, the market is so competitive and the best way to make a profit is to build in impossible clauses so you could negotiate alterations ones it contract was awarded. Smaller contractors just plain cheat.

    As Edgar I believe that man are born with a basic good nature, but there are a few exceptions and therefor we need legislation. Look on the road, if one starts a third lane many will follow and after a while in some areas it becomes common practice. Same with all other types of cheating, a small group of immoral people gets copied by some opportunist, some bad behavior becomes the rule. (Not the elite Spaniards came here, only the “failures” in their home country. Same for many Chinese, not the honest ones became successful, but the shoe smugglers did.)

    The bad news is that restoring trust is not easy. It can only start by stopping the cheating. Simplifying processes, simplifying legislation, better auditing of the reinforces, new “wang-wang” initiatives by the President…?

    • Joe America says:

      The Philippines would be well-served with an obsessive drive for simplicity. I’m thinking of a three page Constitution that people actually commit to. And an equally obsessive drive to speedily punish those who misbehave. The current mush and mess of conflicting laws and overlapping authorities is an element protecting those in power, because no one can sort it out, so the force for change will not come on good wishes.

      • Dee says:

        I do not know about how technologically advanced is the government in PI. I am assuming that each agency that deal with demographic data (Census, Statistics, NBI, PNP, DOE, DOH, DSW, etc) has its database. If the IT infrastructure is there, all it needs is interoperability for the agency to be networked so needed information could be queried from various locations. This will cut on agency specialization which results in data monopoly and inefficiency.

        • Joe America says:

          Automation is much improved over five years ago, but there is much yet to be done. Much much . . . I think too many agencies have been run by people who are simply not clued in on automation.

  7. Dee says:

    Color me skeptical but is it really about trust or is it about power and money? All three of your exhibits on the surface demonstrate distrust but I see the scenarios differently.

    NBI clearances are money makers for the government. The government is poor and it needs every cent it could squeeze from those who need its services. The bureaucrats need to be paid and their existence need justification. The government and its representatives wield power because their services are needed. Simple economics. Supply and demand plus monopoly. The government demands that you need an NBI clearance for employment, it supplies the entity to make that possible and there is no alternative public or private institution that could furnish you with the clearance. Only the NBI.

    Like Mariano said, in the US, you can go to a community college, take a course in Notarial Services, pass a test and in a matters of weeks, you can be a certified Notary. In PI, you have to have a Juris Doctorate to notarize a document. The lawyers in the government made sure that their profession is taken care of by giving it an income producing avenue in form of notarial services. Again. Supply. Demand. Monopoly. No alternatives.

    Libel laws. Another legislative handiwork that will be a boon to the legal profession. A libel case need the services of the courts and lawyers. Power and control. Supply. Demand. Monopoly.

    Gotta go. I am crabby today.

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahahaha, join Edgar in the crabby department. You two seem to channel each other. Well, if the problem is different, and it is not really trust, but the government’s relentless passion to raise nit-picking fees, I’d suggest the tax foundation be reworked to assess landowners more and common people NOTHING. Certainly the nit-picking fees applies to processes in Immigration and Customs and Foreign Affairs, where my wife was required to attend some insane seminar in Manila to learn what it is like go travel to other countries (spouses of aliens are required to attend). Uh . . . she’s an adult and can read . . . and Disneyland is not a big threat . . .

      Like, I mean, exam fees at the schools? Human rights guidelines say education is supposed to be free. As in free.

      Authoritarian bureaucrats.

      Now I’m crabby, too. . .

      • sonny says:

        I’d like to be crabby too. Joe, i’m a wannabe historian and also a retired programmer/analyst. Add technical solutions and human resource solutions and the wisdom to know the difference to our shopping list. If you are in the market for real estate, look into the record keeping of Nasugbu, Batangas, Land & Tax systems. They seem to have their act together. One can do the same to help the NBI Services systems. The good news is there is no short supply of technical analysts in the IT community pool.

        • edgar lores says:

          Have we become the society of honorable crabs?

          • Joe America says:

            No, sonny at least points to optimism at his close, re Nasugbu. I grabbed that and will hold onto it dearly.

            • sonny says:

              Joe, Edgar, I learned early on the power of good computer systems. I worked for the second largest Trust bank in the US. As an accounting system, all the personal and corporate portfolios that are held in trust must be perfectly closed at the end of each business day. Imagine this supersystem as a tool for good or bad depending on how each husbanded wealth was ill-gotten or not and how disbursements are used as they are translated into pure financial energy, i.e. money. Nasugbu is but one in 40,000-some municipalities in PH. I get an adrenaline drool just imagining that all municipalities are served by well-designed financial systems. I am not even thinking of heuristic computer systems.

              • Joe America says:

                Adrenaline drool, ahahaha, that is pretty excited, for sure. But it’s true, isn’t it? I sometimes just want to scream, “it’s the discipline, damn it, the discipline!”

                But then I remember I’m talking to my wife and merely mumble a suggestion.

              • sonny says:

                Sorry, my old brain misfired again. I meant to say Nasugbu is but one in 1,300-some municipalities in PH. My bad.

              • edgar lores says:


                1. As we know, a computer system is only as good as to how accurate the inputs are, how accurate the internal processing is, how well-defined and accurate the outputs are, how the entire system approximates the external world it is supposed to represent, and how good the internal/external control and feedback mechanisms are that monitor and check the accuracy of the approximation.

                2. A local cadastral system would be dependent on the accuracy of land survey, the classification and zoning of land, the property values and rates, and the regular maintenance and update of land ownership. Based on these and an owners’ database, land taxes would be a cinch to calculate, and an accounting system would easily keep track of billing, tax payments and arrears.
                2.1. As you note, a nationwide cadastral system in not in place.
                2.2. If one LGU was able to develop a viable cadastral computer system – and barring such issues as funding, scalability, software ownership and portability, and hardware platforms and configurations – I do not understand why the national government cannot clone the system and implement it in all municipalities. As you say, we have the technical know-how and talent.
                2.2. During his impeachment trial, Corona’s real estate properties could not be established with any degree of accuracy and his holdings were grossly over reported.

                3. But a computer system is not enough. If we look at COA computerized auditing procedures, the system may have verified the flow of receipts and disbursements with 100% accuracy in-house. But the PDAF scamming would not have flourished if random manual audit controls were in place. The simple random verification of the real identities and signatures of a handful of pork grantors and grantees would have uncovered the scheme from the word go. I do not know why this was not done.

                4. Do not ask me about FOI as my crabby adrenaline will flow, not out of excitement, but from frustration. Public expectations are high but, beyond simple SALN requests, getting meaningful info out of it will be as difficult and as painful as root canal without anaesthesia. My drool will flow in copious amounts when we can obtain data from the government as easily as a Google query.

            • sonny says:

              Aye, there’s the proverbial rub. Apart from the integrity/validity of the input itself as determined in a well-certified turnkey system, the questions of who interacts with the system and what level of security these interactors/users carry, viz, add, delete, change, read-only access. The design of cadastre systems is already, I suspect, a well-travelled activity. One needs simply first to define the requirements and match these to standards that are available and search existing systems that meet these requirements and standards. Of course, the impellers of this land management system (manual and automated) are presumed to have the authority and integrity to do so.

      • The landowners will be super crabby too, take a look at the case of Quezon City… The landowners and businessmen were assessed additional garbage fees; they ran to the court for a TRO saying they are assessed to subsidize the garbage being dumped by the squatters all over the city, this squatters don’t pay a single city tax .

    • edgar lores says:


      Your perspective is true and valid… it is the view from the government’s side.

      But governments should exist for the people, and not the other way around.

      • Dee says:

        That was my point, Edgar. I get crabby when on the surface, the government has a democratic facade but its agencies and their representatives are so autocratic.

  8. David Murphy says:

    Joe, I agree that the assumption in the US is that the indi\vidual is honest and that the underlying premise in the Philiippines is that the individual will cheat or steal if given an opportunity. The price of this mistrust is high in terms of expense and of time wasted. My favorite example is the process of renewing the registration of your automobile. In the US the procedure was that I would receive a notice in the mail that the renewal was due. I would sign the renewal form, write a check and put it in the return envelope, stamp it and leave the envelope in the mail box, where the postman would pick it up when he next delivered mail. In a week or two I would receive the new registration card and the stickers to attach to the car. There was no concern about the security of the mails. Here the process is to first take the car for an emissions test (which is a separate process in the US} where the photo of the technician performing the test and including the license plate of the vehicle, is attached to the print-out of the results! As a part of the process the engine serial number is stenciled onto the form. Then the papers are taken from the emissions testing facility to the Land Transportation Office where we stand in line to submit them. After a long wait we are called to pick up a charge slip which we carry to a cashier’s window and stand in line waiting to pay, then wait while the payment is processed until we are called to stand in line again to pick up the new registration papers. (But no stickers, since they have not been received by the LTO!) In the US the process takes about 15 minutes, including a 5-minute stroll to the mailbox. In the Philippines it requires the better part of a day. Like most people I try to save some time by paying someone to submit the papers at the LTO and consider it money well spent.

    My view is that the mistrust that prevails here is justified, just as the trust that prevails in the US is justified. Although there are instances of credit cards, checks and other valuables being intercepted in the mails in the US, the incidence is very low. In the Philippines no one trusts the mail and essentially everyone has a horror story about something disappearing while in the custody of the Philippine Postal Service. The extraordinary precaution of including the the photo of the technician on the emissions test form was an attempt to reduce the incidence of faulty vehicles being passed as a result of bribes being paid. Similarly the stenciling of the engine serial number is necessary to detect engines from stolen cars. In short, the cumbersome procedures have evolved to meet a need. I don’t like to be negative but I have come to believe that the ethical standards of many Asians, including Filipinos, allow for cheating and stealing and the inconvenience of having to prove that you are telling the truth is the price that all must pay for that. Perhaps it’s simply the inevitable reflection of my own advanced age but I fear that the US is heading in the same direction.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, very nice overview of things, David. I wondered when someone was going to raise the point that to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy. I know that is the problem with Filipinos getting visas to travel in the US. So many in the past refused to return so now honest people are penalized by having visas declined for very superficial reasons.

      Your case with motor vehicle departments illustrates the solution. Systems. Processes. The NBI has taken a wee baby step in that direction, but needs to take giant steps to handle hundreds of thousands of applicants quickly. For me, I think they should build a huge data base of every violation known to exist on anyone for any reason, and be able to spot a deficiency in about 10 seconds.

      I agree LTO procedures are crazy. I have to register my car every year and some poor guy comes out in the hot sun to put carbon paper and scotch tape into a wee little slot under the hood beneath the dash to record the body number to see if it matches with last year’s tape. If he has fat fingers, it is challenging. I stand under a tree and smile. Or perhaps it is a grimace . . . only I know for sure . . .

    • sonny says:

      Mr David, allow me a few thoughts on service, profit, mandate, & malfeasance. I presume we have common experience regarding services such as the post office and driver’s and motor vehicles’ management offices. For drivers’ and vehicles’ management there is an authorizing mandate to run a government office to do this public necessity. Cost overhead is obvious to do this. And this total cost is broken into personnel and materials cost. Under normal conditions there must be a modicum of salary scales so that personnel will value their jobs and motivation to perform them as best they can; moreover there are checks and feedback mechanisms that are designed to ensure a normal operation of this management system. There comes the possibility of malfeasance when an expectation of personal gain and profit above the regular compensations “presents” itself. Part of the system of checks is the punishment for fraud and malfeasance that is strong enough to discourage such activities. The scenario is similar for a Postal System whose mandate is to encourage and facilitate the business of local and national commerce through a mail delivery system. The citizenry is the recipient of this public good and from them should come detection and reportage of malfeasance to and correction by proper guardians of either management system. This is the basic loop of public service and also private service for that matter. If not everybody understands and buys into this loop then things will not work.

      The difference between the US and Philippine experiences is the execution of this basic loop. Like all human systems these are organic. They are also learning systems. The details of how these grow into efficiency and beneficence are familiar to us.

  9. Jake says:

    I think the mistrust is more or less coming from the Philippines’ inefficient system.

    Birth certificate: NSO or the one from the city hall. I can tell you that the one from the local city halls/health center can be inaccurate. Your best bet will really be NSO since it’s centralized. The problem is, too large a volume for the number of people

    Lack of national ID: The US has the SSN which almost act like it. Enter the SSN and you get to see all the person’s record. In the Philippines, it is almost bizarre to do cross checking, hence, the NBI and Police Clearance. Even the US Embassy in Manila will demand NSO birht certificate, Police Clearance, and NBI Clearance. From my forum readings, the US Embassy even wants clearances if you lived/worked abroad from the country where one previously worked/lived.

    In the US, there is a credit rating system where people could report/view credit histories, if she/he is a consistent payer. The Philippines has not developed an equivalent.

    I think to the obvious eye, the Philippines seem to be mistrustful. But then again, so is the US. It’s just a lot more discreet. NSA, scandal anyone? At least the Philippines is still inefficient for doing some NSA like spying on its citizens. LOL. I think the VERY efficient system in the US hides the general mistrust. Meanwhile, the Philippines inefficient system just make it too obvious.

    • Joe America says:

      I remember that when I first started blogging, I wrote to the point of no credit rating system. It is the data-processing vehicle that makes credit work as a part of a humming economy. It reduces fraud and gives lenders som assurances they simply don’t have in the Philippines today. It is an excellent example of how technology is overlooked by so many businessmen and government agencies. Like . . . no comprehension of the value.

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