The Philippines, a land of Mafia dons and dead journalists

murder of journalists by denciang

[Photo source, by denciang]

We read a lot about the shooting of journalists in the Philippines and the inability of the government to stop this assault on one of our most prized democratic values, freedom of the press. The killings are an affront to a nation that prides itself on being among the most expressively free in the world . . . except for those murders.

Perhaps we are looking at the problem wrong. We are looking at it as a crime problem when it is not. It is a structural problem, a management problem. It lands splat on the desks of complicit, inert legislators. To be ignored.

Track with me as I lay the groundwork on this.

A Definition of Sorts

What is your sense of a “Mafia don”? I don’t really have a deep academic background on this, or a rich delving of a history of the Sicilian families and their move into the United States. I’ve read a few books by Mario Puzo and others and witnessed Marlon Brando’s brilliant portrayal of a Mafia don in “The Godfather”.

But we only need the concept eh? Not the particulars. Here’s my sense of what a Mafia don is, a definition in the style of The Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, one that gets us on the same page :

  • Mafia don: The head of an extended family who also runs a business enterprise that uses intimidation, extortion, debts granted and called, power, favor, and murder to secure and enrich his extended family. The business enterprise typically controls a defined geographic area and occasionally contests with other similar family enterprises to expand that territory. In such circumstances, it is not unexpected for one don or another to awaken with the head of a dead horse in his bed, or for there to be a grand machine-gun shoot-out down at Guido’s. The businesses may be drugs, prostitution, illicit gambling, extortion or other vices that have a high risk and high return. Pope Francis just recently excommunicated the Mafia dons, believing that their business practices are not really of God’s preferred way [CNN article].

The key elements here are the unity of family and business, and the role that power and favor play in the enterprise. The sons and nephews and other relatives inherit increasingly demanding and well-paying parts of the enterprise if they perform their tasks well. Loyalty is of utmost importance.

Are you starting to get a faint echo in your brain, like deja vu, the sense that you KNOW of this style of operation?

The Philippine Mafia

Well, of course you see the parallel, for the family linkages and power and favor are what happens across this great nation, Philippines. Here we call them dynasties, and the dons are the governors and the mayors of the land, and occasionally he is the President. In concept, they are elected, but in reality, the positions stay “in the family” way too often.

Well, some might call legislators dons as well, but I think they are more like the consiglieres, the right hand men, often an attorney, the tough and hard-working aides who are the first line of protection for the dons. The dons of the local provinces and cities of the Philippines keep their people, their relatives, their friends, in the central power positions where they are able to tailor the laws of the Philippines to take good care of the dons. So if you wonder why the nation has a horrendous Bank Secrecy Law that protects the families, “now you know”. If you want to know why it has taken 15 years to get Freedom of Information onto the legislative table, “now you know”.

Loyalties and favors run deep in the Philippines. Power runs deep.

And families run powerful.

Now not all governors and mayors run illicit businesses, and those that do generally use their powers gently. Softly. But occasionally ruthlessly.

Not all families are bad, but some sure are.

The family Ampatuan is not a good family, if you catch my drift.

How the Family Business Works

The Philippine don controls a government enterprise that is inclined to use power and favor to tap into the flows of money that enter the territory. For example, if a bridge is going to be built or a power plant or a high rise, it needs permits. The unscrupulous don simply asks for his civic cut. If the builder is from a foreign country, he might be asked to pay for trips for members of the don’s family to “inspect” the builder’s operations.  Or he might be told that he must hire the don’s people on the project. Or he might be asked to put down a new road so the don can show the citizens his good deeds.

So a slice of the project, sometimes a slice up to P30 million as was rumored in a recent project to purchase train cars [Inquirer article], goes to the don’s operation. But even small projects entail local fees and favors.

Do taxpayers get hurt? Or is it the builder who gets hurt?

Let me assure you that the builder will make his ROI (return on investment), and if he has to trim the quality of his approved project to get there, he will. There is a reason the roof of the Naval, Biliran gym was built so cheaply that it sailed off during Typhoon Yolanda. Allegedly, allegedly, of course, built on the cheap to compensate for a don’s cut of the project. So the taxpayer definitely gets hurt. His money is diverted to “lowest and worst” purposes. And sometimes the project – which is needed – gets killed for non-compliance to local demands.

What Do Journalists Have to Do with Anything?

Journalists play a key role as the eyes and ears and mouth of the citizens. They watch the goings on and report them.

They are the first line of checks and balances that keep the nation on course.

Journalists in Manila covering the national scene are not revealing much, frankly. They are covering the activities of the national government. They are protected by being a step removed from the bad deeds that are coming down in the provinces. The national media are diverted, you might say. Preoccupied dealing with artists awards or China or boxing. They much prefer sensationalism to investigation. Sensationalism is an easy way to jack up readership. Investigation is hard – and dangerous – work. It costs money.

Local journalists, on the other hand, are covering the dons and the family enterprises directly. If they get too close, report too much, make waves, they get warned. And if they keep it up, they get shot.

One motorcycle. Two riders, two guns, P20,000 service fee.

The Dons are Unmanaged, and Unmanageable

The way it is drawn on paper, there is a line of authority from the national government, through the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Governments), to the governors and city mayors. There is a line of money from the treasury through a web of people and alphabetical organizations; it often hits the local province or city for permitting.

Does Secretary Roxas personally oversee governors and mayors in a hands on way?


Does he have a team that works directly with the governors and mayors, inside their operations, to verify that activities are hunky dorie?


It is left to the journalists, or the Department of Justice and Ombudsman to ferret out wrongdoings. Sometimes a courageous soul or an offended political opponent will file a complaint. But most locals are simply too intimidated to go against the Power that is.

The dons operate with impunity.

The Point, JoeAm, Get to the Point

If you want to stop the murder of journalists, don’t waste time looking for the two guys on a motorcycle.

End the unfettered autonomy of the governors and mayors. Excommunicate them from their dynastic support networks. Regularly audit their practices and finances and put a halt to their exercise of intimidation, power and favor. And under-the-table kickbacks.

Jailing a few senators does nothing to help.

How it gets done requires some thought, some debate, some work.

But it is absolutely futile to just look for the trigger men. Even if you catch them, it does nothing to stop the deadly enterprise of local authorities with too much power. The solution is to break the family businesses that dominate local affairs, with impunity. To break the dons and encourage – no, FORCE – them manage their local businesses lawfully and above-board.

  • A first step might be to get rid of the Bank Secrecy Laws that do nothing for the People and everything to protect the crooks.
  • A second step might be to pass an anti-dynasty law.
  • A third step might be to increase government salaries to professional levels.
  • A fourth step might be to have hands-on DILG auditing of provincial and city project implementation decisions, fees, and practices.

And I suppose there is a fifth step, and that is to ridicule legislators mercilessly for being nothing but empty shirted tools of the dons.

The deaths are not caused by two guys on a motorcycle. They are just the means. The deaths are CAUSED by legislative negligence. And negligence within DILG.

It is important to fix the problem, the illness. Not get diverted by the tragic side effects and pretend ignorance about what is really the problem. It is not at its core a criminal matter. It is a matter of local government chiefs being accountable to no one.

It is important to change the structure that today allows too many powerful people to operate with impunity.

Unchecked by local journalists.

Or anyone else at all.

44 Responses to “The Philippines, a land of Mafia dons and dead journalists”
  1. josephivo says:

    Like it. If you want some examples of these Dons, “An Anarchy of Families” edited by Alfred W. McCoy, Ateneo University Press 1994, gives good archetype examples. It is a problem from before independence.

    In the actions I missed the FOI that will make information for journalist easier to collect. A drive by the profession to drive out internal “corruption” is needed. An excommunication threat by Cardinal Tagle wouldn’t harm too.

    • Joe America says:

      Aha, you read my mind on the excommunication threat.

      The thing that strikes me is how there are no checks and balances, once journalists are removed. In the U.S., states have their own legislatures and prosecutors, and the counties and cities have an investigative-oriented local press, not to mention a common requirement that meetings be open to the public, or public hearings be held before any act that affects the public. Here, the dons just go about their business in a huge, dark backroom, sealed off from any oversight or checks and balances. It’s a little bizarre, frankly, to think about the private militias and mansions far above a governor’s pay level, and private (self-enriching) decisions made on projects that affect the public. Impunity rules.

  2. andrewlim8 says:

    I’d like to bring up here a discussion of families, Philippine style, and how it has impacted in terms of criminality and the justice system.

    While nobody disputes the importance of family as an institution and its value to society, I am bothered by these observations amongst Filipino families:

    a. How often have you seen a family patriarch here surrender his family member to the police if they are involved in crimes? Much of the time, they will defend them, even if the evidence is overwhelming. Is family more important than the right thing?

    b. Is the fourth commandment of ” love thy father and mother” superior to “thou shalt not steal”?
    Do we see offsrping who most likely know of their parents’ corruption (e.g. Arroyos, Marcoses, etc) go forward and spill the beans?

    c. Do large families serve as self -justification for corruption? How hard is it to fund the expenses of large families if not through crime?

    “Amoral familism” which was observed in family oriented societies result in “crime families” which develop their own moral code, their code of silence, their lives dedicated to crime and corruption.

    Individual oriented societies do not have much of a problem in this regard.

    • Joe America says:

      That’s true, isn’t it? The ranking of sins. Adultery is pretty low down the list, too, I think. Theft seems not to be a sin in the Philippines. It is a vehicle whereby one supports one’s family. Even murder is not that big a sin for some, it seems. I think I’ll do a blog on that, once I have the presidential candidates ranked. 🙂 There is a morality hereabouts that is totally in conflict with the Catholic teachings, and yet they live side by side, sin and piety. Amoral familism it is.

  3. Gerardo Vergara says:

    So I was not surprised to hear from a former high school classmate who retired as chief of police in his hometown how much he took everyday from the local jueteng operation. He unabashedly told us classmates in between shots of brandy that his share was 6,000PhP a day and that was in the year 2003. And he knew that the town councilors got 7,000PhP. So it’s not hard to imagine how much was the share of the mayor that will make him order even murder to protect that easy source of income.
    So it should not surprise us even more that the governor could be earning maybe half a million monthly that will make him recoup his campaign expenses in less than a year. And it’s not surprising at all why police provincial commanders would look the other way when a courageous jounalist is/was waylaid by motorcycle riding gunmen because the stakes are too high for him and his men and there could be no other lucrative way of maintaining several women than this easy source of income.
    I only talked here about the local level. Would it surprise us even more when it comes to higher positions, like the example set by the Capo de Tutti Capi of all dons/capos, Joseph Estrada, who was able to worm his way back into prominence despite his conviction for jueteng money and other illegal means?
    No courageous crusading soul would ever think of bringing down this culture of impunity because everyone is thinking always of the sure returns on investment once they are elected.
    Self-interest always reigns supreme in this benighted land!

    • Joe America says:

      I finished reading and let out a huge sigh of depressed acceptance. You slammed a huge exclamation point onto my blog.

      And yet the President, a good man, talks as if the murder of journalists were a crime, and that they (the police) need to do more to hunt the killers down. Sorry, Mr. President, you rule over a big pit of crocodiles and you are trying to find a little piranha or two. And that ridiculous legislature, investigating this, preening and prancing, throwing thousands of pet bills into the hopper, and ducking their heads, turning the other way, if someone is really frank about what is going on. Cowards.

      If there is a hunt going on, it should be in the legislature to pass bills that open the local government positions to oversight and investigation. It is obscene that in a land of everyday corruption, police cannot examine bank records to identify how money is moving about. Well, those police who are not on the take, I suppose . . .

  4. josephivo says:

    @JoeAm, What you describe as meetings open to the public describes is becoming a farce. Today all types of lobbyists suffocate the voters, these lobbyists have much more influence on the decision of what comes on the agenda and in how things are detailed (the devil is in the details) after the public hearings. Some journalists in the US picked this up, but they didn’t get traction.

    In the Philippines lobbyist aren’t needed, the dons do everything for the right price. They just dictate their consiglieres to set the agenda or detail the law the way they want. If they fail they still can buy a judge to interpret the law the way they want. And what is for sure is that the voter has zero power. The majority, class D and E voters, can easily be influenced or bought, the middle class has to stay small, the more independent, vocal voters, the OFW’s, are to be sent overseas. These mafioso dons have a heavy hand in the decision of who gets access to the power engines and steering bridge of the nation.

    Today the sky is very grey again, it seems. Tomorrow, in the sunshine, we will concentrate on the opportunities and the progress.

    • Joe America says:

      Right, and there is a typhoon brewing off to the east.

      Lobbyists in the US infest the national agenda, and perhaps some state agendas. But there are legislatures there. Governance in the U.S. at the cities, counties, and states are much more open and therefore less prone to corruption. Investigators can get wire tap authorizations, review credit card and phone and bank records, and hunt down the crooks. Here, it is hands off. DILG KEEP OUT. Investigators KEEP OUT. Citizens KEEP OUT. Journalists, for sure, KEEP OUT or GET DEAD.

      • Joe America says:

        I’d add that corruption is not a case of individual crimes. It flourishes in a very rich fertilizer, and everyone here pretends there is no stench.

        • Gerardo Vergara says:

          Corruption, anywhere it happens, is a family affair, or else, Jeane Naploes would not so brazenly post her pictures on the Internet that showed how she enjoyed the wealth generated from her mother’s entrepreneurial skills without ever wondering, or even asking her mother how the hell did she acquire such mind-boggling treasure that they did not even imagine in their wildest dreams when they still so poor.
          Her mind and that of her siblings, were corrupted by such acquisitions that also happened to the children of the honorable politicians who are there in those august chambers of the legislature to bring misery to the people whose minds were also corrupted by mere hundreds of pesos but who will vote for them again and again.
          This is such a vicious circle nobody is spared from its lingering effects. And linger it shall go on…

          • Gerardo Vergara says:

            Maybe I was wring when I agreed to your usage of the term ‘family affair.’ It is a national affair of earthshaking magnitude but the perpetrators still remain calm and unperturbed. As we say in Tagalog, patapangan ng hiya, or apog.

          • Joe America says:

            Indeed. So much preening. I think of the two senators at Crame, inviting their family in to party into the night, ignoring posted visitation hours, ignoring the number limitation of 30, and the PNP officials just watch. Just watch. The senators are too privileged to eat the jail food. And outside, in the boondocks, their benefactors, the dons, are laying the groundwork for more vote purchasing, and talking to the peoples’ hearts or fears or superstitions. Not minds.

            Who knows what has happened to the minds of the poor, not to be able to connect some simple dots.

            It is so outrageous that people of supposed esteem treat their fellow citizens, the not-privileged, as if they were dirt. And they blow smoke at the educated crowd and the educated crowd sees it as wisdom.

  5. ivyemaye says:

    The embedded culture of the contract killer, hired killer across the board here in the Philippines. The murder of journalists is just part of this. In 2011 some 500 Punjabi Indians were killed.
    Who ever you are, if there is a problem with some one over money, find a contract killer, the going rate was 10000 pesos the last time I heard.
    It is high time this was recognized. I will add a lot later. But we both need to be careful, there are many people out there with a vested interest in this.
    President Aquino’s the Fox journalist question was the biggest load of male cow manure I have heard for a long time.
    You have made this far too complicated Joe…. I have a bucket load of anecdotal evidence for this.

    From a senator to a sari sari store owner with a debt, find some one who knows some one who can “deal” with the problem.
    Its endemic here Joe, and it is either over complicated or ignored….part of the corruption yes…which is recognized….. this is not…it is the culture of the hired gun.

    It needs exposing..but with care…I dont want my head being blown away by some motor bike guy with a pistol on Edsa, their fovourite method….focus on the essentials, Aquino cant or wont!

    • Joe America says:

      I once had a problem with a guy here. He tried extorting some money. A good friend, a simple fisherman, asked if I wanted the situation taken care of. The price, as you say, was P10,000. I said no, but there you go. A common and natural thing to do.

      • ivyemaye says:

        I would focus on this…….It is such a common thing here that every body simply takes it for granted. Yes the dynasties,the families, they have all used this, but no one seems to want to focus on this. I have blogged endless on the Guardian newspaper and sent a long email off to the people that keep an eye on all these journalist murders and of course no interest.
        The contract killer….
        Off the top of my head the murder stats for the Philippines are 5 per 100, 000…the US is around 4, the rest of the Asia Pacific is in the region of 1 or 2. Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica are all in the 20’s plus. I can not find a break down on the use of guns, but that would give some idea how many of these murders are contracts.
        Solar network did a very good programme on all of this a few weeks ago. A leading journalist stated if I remember that no master mind to date had been arrested for ordering a contract killing, a Police officer on the programme said his officers worked 24 hour shifts, yes 24 hours!!!!
        The killer, the hand, on the gun is sometimes arrested and the reasons given are usually “domestic” for the murders.
        There are organized gangs making quite a good living out of all of this…
        No body seems to give a shit to be blunt and like Aquino go off on some wild goose chase. As I said his answer to the Fox news reporters question on the murder of journalist was really incredible, I am English as you know, and I thought we Brits were the masters of hypocrisy, apparently not!
        This is evil and should be high lighted.
        If any one does pick up on what I am stating here, I will very quickly fade back into the under growth.
        Every country has embedded problems, for us English it is binge drinking, here it is the contract hired killer……who ever where ever…..

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, the contract killer is embedded in the Philippine way of resolving conflict. But I think the difficulty is broader than that, and that a great many powerful people make their own laws. I was struck by how LITTLE the Aquino straight path has affected this governance by impunity.

          • ivyemaye says:

            But this looses the focus on this issue… the contract killer culture continues cross the board and no one questions it. I want to concentrate on the specifics. This is an evil, pernicious activity that is by far the worst feature of life here.
            Sadly it is accepted and not confronted…..Yes there are wider issues, but the death of so many Punjabi Indians here is not down to the big politicians but people not wanting to pay back their loans…this is just one example…I will go on banging about this…..even though every body else has cotton wool in their ears.

            • Joe America says:

              Yes, contract killing should be stopped, as a crime. What I wanted to do was to describe the bed of fertilizer in which it flourishes. To have lasting change, the impunity has to be done away with. The hiring has to stop.

  6. manuel buencamino says:

    Dynasties are end products of what I would call political capitalism, that the fittest end up dominating or monopolizing the political marketplace. In the Mafia, he who has made the most bones becomes the Don.

    Every country in the world tries its best to keep this political capitalism regulated so that every one enjoys an equal opportunity to run for public office. Here for example, we have election laws that regulate campaign spending; civil service laws that limit the capricious firings and hirings by elected officials; anti-nepotism laws; anti self-dealing laws; bidding laws; term limit laws; the COA; etc. etc. We have also included a dynasty ban and a right to information clause in our constitution. (Those constitutional provisions await enactment into law.) All those measures, and similar ones in other countries, are meant not only as preventive steps but also as remedies. Sadly they fall short as we have seen here and elsewhere.

    As to your solutions,

    I am against an anti-dynasty law first because it does not empower the voter and it limits his right to choose and his range of choices; second, because it would single out and ban through legislation an entire set of people who will end up having the right to vote but without the accompanying right of being voted upon. An anti-dynasty law does not strengthen democracy, it legitimizes nannyism – the idea that voters are not equipped or ready to choose wisely and so some self-appointed know it alls have to do what is best for them.

    I am for an FOI because transparency, specially in the utilization of public moneys, gives the public a kind of direct oversight.

    I am for eliminating Bank Secrecy Laws for public officials but I would go slow about eliminating it for the private sector, one because of privacy concerns – we don’t want the world to know how much we have or don’t have; and more importantly, there is the question of the government using information about bank accounts against its enemies.

    Increasing government salaries could help minimize graft but it won’t eliminate greed. Need and greed rhyme but they are not the same thing.

    I don’t know exactly what you mean by direct DILG auditing and if the DILG is empowered to do any financial audits.

    Ridicule I like. I would do it even if only to prick pomposity.

    As to the murders of media people. I don’t agree with the standards that are set by international and local media and human rights NGOs. We are a democratic country, we have no official centrally directed policy against freedom of speech. Our media freedom and safety cannot be measured against that of totalitarian or semi-totalitarian regimes. Entirely different animals.

    Media killings here are localized, they are personal. They must be investigated as murders or homicides and their killers and masterminds brought to justice. There are also cases here where those media killings stem from extortion by crooked media people. There are also broadcast media people here who go beyond the pale in their exercise of free speech, they hurl personal insults and to some people an attack on their honor is reason enough to kill. So when we look at media killings let’s not paint them all in one color. Media killings happen locally and are the products of individual animosities. They are crimes against individuals by individuals hence they are a local police matter.

    There is no such thing as political killings here in the sense that it is official state policy, announced or unannounced. Martial law is not with us anymore.

    What about the killing of leftists? Again there is no government hit-list. When such killings occur it is the work of individual soldiers or police who may or may not be acting on the orders of their superiors.

    What about Gen. Palparan? But Palparan is not the AFP. Many in the AFP did not approve of his methods, many will not do what he did. The fact that he was given recognition by Gloria Arroyo is a problem that is personal to them.

    Finally there is the sad and unfortunate reality of assymetrical warfare where one side is bound by laws and the other is not. In assymetrical conflicts, the rules of civilized behavior are the first to go out the window, we have witnessed inhuman acts by both sides in the conflicts with the NPA, ASG and others and we have seen this in the war on terrorists.

    • Joe America says:

      Fascinating reading, and I for sure respect your more experienced view on this. Let me just bounce a few responses out:

      1) All the remedies are bandaids, I think, and not medicines. The medicine has to be more exposure from oversight agencies to the goings on in the provinces and cities. I actually don’t understand the DILG oversight role myself, but I would guess it is pretty weak. The little tiff recently between the Mayor of Tacloban and Roxas illustrates that the mayors and governors do their own thing. That Duterte says what he says and does what he does is another example.

      2) Dynasties, yes, I have argued that point myself. It is not right to limit one person’s rights based on what another person does, even if that person is the husband or father.

      3) I agree the killings are personal, not political. The governors and mayors are essentially the dons, and there are a lot of gunslingers both within and outside their organizations who may act for their own reasons. I think some of the small municipality and even barangay elections are nasty, nasty, nasty affairs. Little aspiring dons, I would call them.

      4) Increasing government salaries would go hand in hand with better investigation powers and FOI, a way to nudge things toward a fair and above-board way to garner some income. I like incentive programs myself, like CEO’s get. Big bucks for big performance.

      5) Military killing of leftists is akin to organized crime, too. The family just wears uniforms.

      6) The thugs here have power and are not afraid to use it. Interesting, election murders dropped significantly the last national election, I think based on the idea and hope that we don’t have to get so murderous about disagreements, if we respect the “straight path”. My proposal is to keep pushing and pushing for information and oversight, and to provide some tools that make the pushing work. There is no simple solution because the problem is so pervasive.

      But at least compared to ISIS, the Philippine dons and the various henchmen and angry people are cute, fluffy little kittens. So one has to strive to find the half full part of the glass, but maybe it is there.

      We live in an increasingly unkind world, I fear.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        1) The hands of DILG are tied by the local autonomy law. Local governments have clearly defined powers and duties that the national government has to respect. During the MNLF Zamoboanga crisis, we were lucky that the Zamboanga mayor immediately surrendered her control over public safety over to the national government. If she had insisted on running the show, Roxas and company would have had to watch from the sidelines. That was what happened in Tacloban. The mayor needed the national government to step in but he refused to open the door,

        2) There is actually an incentive program for BIR and Customs personnel. They get bonuses for reaching targets and they get penalized for failing to reach them. That has not made a dent in the bureau of customs. Apparently bonuses are small potatoes compared to under the table money. There is less corruption now in the BIR but not because of bonuses. It’s because Kim Henares is tough, she has taken away a lot of discretion on the part of BIR agents. For example, tax assessments and comprises entered into by BIR agents and taxpayers are no longer final unless they are approved by Kim. In other words, if you bribe an agent to give you a lower tax assessment you can never be sure that will be the end of it. Before Kim, agents had the power to close the books. There seems to be some improvement in the BOC with the new guy. But it is struggle for him. BOC personnel find ways to resist and undermine every thing he does.

        3) Military killings of leftists are like organized crime. I agree. But calling them “military killings” turns everyone in uniform into members of a criminal murder syndicate. That is why I don’t like using the term “military killings”. It plays into leftist propaganda language. Those killings were committed by specific individuals who disgraced their uniform. The vast majority of soldiers in the AFP are honorable and dedicated soldiers

        • Joe America says:

          1) So there is indeed impunity. No everyday watchdog except the press or whistleblowers or opponents who have been harmed.

          2) Changing the head and reshuffling people seems to have had a substantial change. Smuggling is now being revealed. I hope a lot of people are sweating, and will change their ways. Yes, theft is more remunerative than incentives UNLESS the risks become too great. Hopefully, the risks are ratcheting up.

          3) Good point. I agree and shall forthwith refrain from mis-characterizing things.

          • manuel buencamino says:


            1 (a.) I was referring to Tacloban and Zamboanga as products of the Local Government Code of 1991. There are good and bad points to decentralization.

            (b.) “So there is indeed impunity.”

            impunity |ɪmˈpjuːnɪti|
            noun [ mass noun ]
            exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action: the impunity enjoyed by military officers implicated in civilian killings | protestors burned flags on the streets with impunity.

            No I would not say there is impunity. The Reyes brothers of Palawan, Gen Palparan are fugiitives…. their flight shows there is no policy of exemption from punishment or freedom from injurious consequences of an action.

            It is more accurate to describe the killings as brazen. The killings are brazen because in the past they could do them with impunity, specially under martial law. But not anymore. Now those killers will have to hide if they want to evade the consequences of their actions.

            Impunity is another one of those words that the left uses to spin individual incidents into common practice. It becomes a catch-all, a blanket that will cover individual actions to make them appear as following State or administration policy.

            Impunity was true during martial law. It characterized government policy towards any serious opposition.

            Things are not as they were but the left continues to use the term “impunity” because it’s a short skip and jump from there to characterizing the killings of different people – “press or whistleblowers or opponents” (or leftists) – as somehow state-sponsored, state-sanctioned political murders. Brazen or its synonyms describes those murders, not “impunity”. Beware of how the left muddles thinking by playing with words.

            • Joe America says:

              That is encouraging to hear, that impunity is on the way out. I remain troubled by the autonomous powers exhibited in provinces and cities that are used for private gain. Murder has visibility now, but how about intimidation and back room deals with developers? Tax breaks for the favored? Or simple failure to work for the public welfare by getting homes off the riverbanks? I think there are a lot of activities going on that escape ANY checks and balances. It does direct public money to lowest and worst purposes.

              • manuel buencamino says:


                You have to differentiate between legal and illegal activities. If you want legal activities that are not for the common good stopped, you have to ask your wife to campaign and vote for the right candidates. 🙂 If you want to put a stop to illegal activities, same action from your wife, but you can also participate by dropping a dime on the people involved. Or maybe texting anonymously is more appropriate for the times. Things never work themselves out automatically. You have to push them along.

              • Joe America says:

                Yes, that is a pertinent point. When and how to stop yapping and start doing . . .

  7. macspeed says:

    i should have copied on note pad, hayyy I lost what I have written and thought of it….

    well it goes like this: Philippine was colonized by the corrupt Spanish rule led by Friars or priest who left attitudes such as corruptions, rape, killings and other mafia like attitude. The Filipinos then were mostly Muslim and not Christians (so it was not true Philippine was discovered by Magellan). Those Muslim were Christianized and grew up with the ATTITUDES inhireted from the Spanish mafia.

    Since that time of the very first Government when Spanish rule were gone, Americans and then Japanese, political leaders learned a lot on how to be independent and got freedom but but with the bad intentions to enrich themselves….in order to do that, they have to manipulate, built political gangster and dynasties…only for stealing money…this is how MAFIA operates…

    Mafia is solid but it can be killed by another Mafia he he he a good Mafia perhaps, its like the ten commandments, an eye for an eye…PNOY leadership is as well a Mafia but the good one. He has to built internal forces to counter corruptions by the other Bad Mafias….

    Perhaps a new term is required for PNOY contra Mafia will never allow it, they have to establish themselves so they can rob again. With the pin ball rolling, PNOY will surely hit the crooks and apply new rules to stop all this fake politicians dressed in white but snakes inside…or wolves….

    • Joe America says:

      Terrifying description, white on the outside and snakes inside. My own personal limitation is not being able to grasp what it is like to be so out of touch with the real-life feelings of others, to be so lacking in compassion as to steal hundreds of millions that could have done good work for those who are hurting. And not just one person did the stealing. Two, three, fifty. And across the land, hundreds, maybe thousands. The friars did a good job of removing compassion from the souls of the powerful.

      The “self-awareness” kick in the US began in earnest, I suppose, in the 1970’s. Psycho-therapy became popular, and many, many books on self-improvement, many dealing with one’s principles of life and emotional well-being. Meditation. “Peace brother.”

      I’m waiting for it to arrive in the Philippines. Must have gone by slow boat.

      • sonny says:

        “The friars did a good job of removing compassion from the souls of the powerful.”

        You will have to show this is true, Joe. Who are these friars? Who are these powerful? How exactly did they do this?

        • Joe America says:

          I was bouncing off the comment by macspeed, and referring to plunderers who make a show of their faith, then continue plundering and taking money intended for those in grave need. I suppose one could read of Rizal to develop more perspective on this, too.

        • sonny says:

          My bad, Joe. I cherry-picked on your conversation with macspeed. To be more pertinent, I think we, who are of these times, are faced with the questions who are our bad guys and how should we deal with them, now that we are agreed on the operant system of evil. yes?

    • Janice says:

      You might want to check history again. While there were Muslim Filipinos prior to European colonization, most were NOT. Most were animist — typical “Austronesian beliefs”…

      Which is why Filipinos tend to have “folk Christianity” as practice. Believing in the Aswang/Duende/Manananggal/Tikbalang/Kapre/Diwata while believing in the Christian God too.

  8. Gerardo Vergara says:

    One case that must not be forgotten is the disappearance without a trace of that casino employee, Edgar Bentain. His family and many people are sure that a don who ordered his exile to Mars or under the ocean because of a simple picture that a broadsheet published a few days before he went AWOL from his job and never came back.
    That was a clear handiwork of a bad Mafia in our midst..

  9. Gerardo Vergara says:

    Man had not changed since time immemorial as can be gleaned from the words of Plato: ‘There are 3 classes of men: lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor and lovers of gain.’ It’s a sobering fact that we have in our midst the last 2 who are all for honor and gain even if they know they don’t deserve any and they won’t be elected if not for the dumbness of the majority of voters.

    • Joe America says:

      I wonder how it would be possible to reach those “dumb” voters so that they realize that their voting choices are what limits their opportunities. It’s a cold intellectual sell going against the warm person-to-person manner in which vote buying and intimidation occurs. How to make the point, a vote means something. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon.

  10. Janice says:

    What I find interesting here is that tribes known for their “headhunting” have less of this kind of violence. Growing up in the mountains in Northern Luzon, it was more common to hear less of journalists being killed in the mountains for their political views than in many lowland areas. In fact, in Benguet and many Cordillera provinces, even highest top officials don’t go to town with a private army. You can easily see them where common people go. I think because Cordilleran culture tend to be more “communal”. Whenever there are disagreements, the “proper” way see is to go to the “elders” of the community and have them listen to both sides of the argument. (

    There really has to have a MASSIVE change in culture among the lowland people to really quell this violence.

    On the other hand, Journalists in the Philippines need to really practice REAL journalism. The big networks are very shameful in this. There are many instances where they release information that has not even been verified! They even make headlines of a lot of hear says.

    Maybe, the highlanders have a different view of “killing”. In the past, killing/beheading was to defend the tribe — in which men were given a warrior tattoo for their bravery. “Killing” has to have meaning to the community.

    What fascinates me though is not all “dynasties” are bad. The Ortegas are all over La Union province but the province itself is relatively peaceful and prosperous. I think there was a news back stating that the province has the highest life expectancy in the country. Been there several times and it’s actually pleasant and laid back and people there tend to be honest.

    Sometimes, I think dynasties happen because the local populace are happy with someone leading their communities but in other places, it’s more of like the political families have been “bribing” the populace…voting for the same clans with hardly any progress in the community.

    • Joe America says:

      One of the most interesting reads I’ve had here, to draw clearly that it is not just language that distinguishes local communities, but customs and values. I particularly like the term “lowland people”, as it properly reflects the arrogance that occasionally emanates from Manila. 🙂

      Media here do indeed play loose with information. I just wrote some sharp words to that point in today’s blog.

      Your point that all dynasties re not bad is important, too. It depends on if they are leading or cheating.

  11. Janice says:

    While thinking what I have learned in PH history, I think many Filipinos still have a hard time “adjusting” from the Spanish-style appointed Cabeza de Barangay and Gobernadorcillo to a really democratically elected leader. It didn’t help that the US “Insular government” did tend to favor the upper class back then. So, post 1946, the Philippines seems to have a difficult time transitioning. For a very long time, the favored families have ruled the opposed to the more communal and “tribalistic” highlanders.

    Just my theory.

  12. nessie says:

    I like the mafia world i want to join mafia

  13. 5th step
    Address the contract killing culture and stamp it out.

Leave a Reply to manuel buencamino Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: