Eureka! I have found it! Why the Philippines is this way!

article-2-philippine-constitution-1-638It is right there in plain sight, for all of us to see. For the smartest minds of the Philippines to read and gloss over without even thinking about what it means.

Consider all that we’ve talked about here over the years. What are the main drags on Philippine success?

  • The culture of impunity that routes the best opportunities to the entitled, the powerful.
  • The unbearable poverty that generates millions of people who are little more than wards of the state.
  • The lack of career tracks for self-development and self-esteem, driving many abroad to find their way.
  • The relentless red tape and procedural hassles in government agencies where paper is still the medium of choice and overbearing instruction is the way rather than customer service.
  • The attitude far and wide that it is okay to break the rules as long as one is not caught.
  • The diversion of thinking into particulars and away from overarching importance. Small-ball thinking that looks at the past and the present and the details, but seldom figures out the future. Incompetence.
  • The impossible divisions into power blocks that are unable to unify as a nation. The dynasties, the languages, the islands, the tribes, the clans, the religions, the income classes, the leftists, the capitalists, the whites, the browns, the history, the political parties built on people but not principle . . . it is a nation that does not find joy in its rich fabric, but reasons to complain and argue. To be selfish and not respectful of or compassionate to those who are different.
  • Education that teaches obedience rather than self reliance, and “what to do” rather than “how to” or, God forbid, “why to”. A DepEd that is ITSELF so unable to frame solutions that it just does the same thing this year as last, only more of it. DepEd holds the future of the nation in its hands . . . and that future is . . . uninspired.

If we dig deeper, we find there is an underlying theme, an underlying motivation, in all of these “causes” that makes them, not actually causes, but EFFECTS. They are middlemen in the great dynamic of the reasons the Philippines struggles with itself so relentlessly.

Here’s where I discovered the key.

I read the preamble to the Constitution:

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

Do you see it? Do you see the problem? The common weakness in Philippine ways and means?

If not, read it again.

Here’s a hint. Look for ways the Philippines places responsibility for the nation’s well being elsewhere. Where the NATION denies it is responsible for the deeds done, for the methods, for the outcomes. Where the nation . . .

“implores the aid” . . .

and aspires to

“secure the blessings” . . .

Well, it is a bit odd for a secular state’s founding document to make such overtly religious appeals. I personally have no trouble with faith. But I do have trouble with the failure of the nation to take responsibility for itself, to claim it willingly. I have trouble with a nation that is unable to rally its people to make the sacrifices needed to take care of one another.

The failure . . . of the nation, its leaders, and its peoples . . . to accept responsibility is the single most important reason the Philippines is the way it is.

No where in the preamble is there a strong sense that:

If we give of ourselves to the well-being of the nation, the nation is great.

“Common good” is couched in terms that suggest we are all owed something by God and by government.

“Patrimony” means heritage or birthright. As if success were a gift, rather than earned.

That got me to thinking about what else might be missing from the Constitution, from the framing of the nation’s vision and ideals. I made this great discovery, this “Eureka!” moment, as I looked for the place in the document where the job of the Legislature is set forth.

I couldn’t find it.

The Constitution in Article VI gets right into the particulars of the legislative rules but never says it is the job of the Legislature to write laws.

Astounding, eh?

Law-writing is simply assumed. The reason for being is not explained. Nor what doing a GOOD JOB really means.The Constitution gets right into the details of term lengths and other diversions from what is really important.

Well, that is a lot like what we see in court rulings, is it not? We see obsession with the details and with legalistic processes without considering what the Constitution really means. For example, we see complete blindness to the principle that judicial fairness DEMANDS speed.

The Preamble to the Constitution talks about the RESULTS of what we should aspire toward. It presents a nice statement of values. Very pretty. Bows and ribbons.

Nobody (but me, evidently) would argue with them.

The Constitution then outlines a lot of details, some of which are important. Missing are the reasons, the ways, the whys.

There is no national  demand for us to work together to make our state successful. No demand that we, as individuals, sacrifice for the nation and other Filipinos.

There is no national imperative to use free-market capitalism to promote the well-being of the people. There is no effort made to inspire Filipinos to join the team, understand their part in it, and go to work responsibly.

The underlying mood of the people is one of wanting to be taken care of, it is not of giving or helping to energize the nation.

  • The privileged do not see it is to their advantage to promote a vibrant economy in which everyone is dedicated to producing wealth, so they can take their cut of a bigger pie.
  • The poor don’t feel they are a part of the nation. They just need to get by for today.
  • The red tape and nonsense is the product of mediocrity, of uninspired managers and employees.
  • Disregard of the law is symbolic of the lack of sacrifice and unity. There is no realization that laws are not meant to hassle me, but to protect me and my neighbors. And no sense that “I want to do that”.
  • The lack of vision and forward-thinking is the product of overwhelming self-absorption, and lack of training.
  • Seeing diversity as division rather than richness is also symbolic of selfishness.
  • Education that is mindlessly rote ECHOES the failure of the nation’s founding Constitutional committee to instill in the Constitution the energies of:
    • opportunity
    • fair dealing
    • capitalistic passion energized by personal ambition
    • sacrifice 
    • reward and punishment

That is the how.

The why OUGHT TO BE to assure a higher level of care for ALL the nation’s people.

Here’s a different preamble:

We the sovereign Filipino people herein form a democratic Government that promotes the well-being of every citizen through a deep appreciation for the nation’s rich diversity, willing submission to the rule of law, shared sacrifice for one another, self-fulfillment energized by a free-market economy, and the human values of truth, justice, freedom, equality, and peace.

With that simple understanding, we need not appeal to anyone for help. We only need to get to work.

Together. For each other.


156 Responses to “Eureka! I have found it! Why the Philippines is this way!”
  1. sonny says:

    I missed it too, Joe. But not by much. I was in search of ways how an up-to-date culture, technologically speaking, can and should leverage its timely knowledge of world affairs and tools taking lessons from its own Constitution. I just assumed that everyone knows we can not do these “people and patrimony” things without the manners to exercise rights and duties, i.e. ethical living, and an explicitation of common, shared aspirations as a united body.

    Thank you for pointing these things out. I like this parsing of a civic citizen’s life and participation.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m glad you appreciated the article. I am a tad concerned that it will be taken as a negative, complaining blog, but I really mean it to be discovery, without which solutions can’t be found.

    • Great article, Joe! I thought it was just the PAO mission statement. I know the Catholic church plays a big role there, do all gov’t agency mission statements implore the blessings of God?

      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

      The Spanish Nation, wishing to establish justice, liberty and security, and to promote the welfare of all who make part of it, in use of her sovereignty, proclaims its will to:

      Guarantee democratic life within the Constitution and the laws according to a just economic and social order.

      Consolidate a State ensuring the rule of law as an expression of the will of the people.

      Protect all Spaniards and all the peoples of Spain in the exercise of human rights, their cultures and traditions, languages and institutions.

      Promote the progress of culture and the economy to ensure a dignified quality of life for all

      Establish an advanced democratic society, and

      Collaborate in the strengthening of peaceful and efficient cooperation among all the peoples of the Earth.

      Canada’s preamble is probably the closest, but here the difference is more prose vs. poetry, than religious appeals in place of responsibility:

  2. Melanie Avery says:

    Thanks Joe. As usual spot on. This is really good!! Maybe We should have this discussion on a bigger scale/flatform so everyone, even the ” masa” or the public get to hear this. How do you change the people or the culture? Would a new constitution be enough impetus for change? How do you educate the public without questioning the people’ s faith? Faith of the people to its clan, dynasties, and to almighty. Am “down under” and not scared to say things but would certainly think twice before opening my mouth if am in Philippines. Yes the educators have succeeded in making us.. Me.. obedient. Never question authorities. So who would be the best people to initiate the change?

    • Joe America says:

      Excellent questions, Melanie, and I hope to be working on them in future articles. Most importantly, how do honest candidates speak to the masa who generally believe all government officials are corrupt. Then how to break through with progressive policies when there often is a church in the way.

      Australia is a great place to hide out, I would note. We have several regulars who write from there.

      • Melanie Avery says:

        You re right save for the fact that am in NZ. Near enough. Most people can’t figure out were Nz is hence the ” down under”:) not hiding just easier and perspective is somehow better from a distance. I get to compare the policians between the 2 countries. Is it just the lack of know how or the lack of “delicadesa”?…… I know some people would look the other way when their tummies are rumbling. Others would heed the call of God. Delicadesa to the bones. Maybe inculcate this on the minds of preschoolers so we have hopes..for the future.

        • Joe America says:

          Ah, I’ve not been to New Zealand, and thanks for the idea for my family’s annual vacation jaunt next year.

          I get worked up over education. I think Education is one of the institutions that needs to modernize it’s whole framework, just like the courts. The kids are the key. Too many are forgotten in the 45 kids per room, drop outs, and mundane memorizations and following of rules. Improvements come slowly, so very, very slowly. Soggy paper textbooks. That should be the logo for DepEd.

          • Grace Reyes says:

            Although I am a product of that “dysfunctional” system we call “education,” I know well enough not to subject my kid to that system. So, we homeschool. We, as parents, are responsible for teaching him the right values, as well as spend 24/7 with him, and not leave his education to someone else. Yes, the materials and modules are patterned after the usual textbooks, but the difference is that we get to choose what to teach, how to teach them, and determine how all these could be meaningful for the child. I know it’s not for everyone, and sacrifices have to be made so that he will become a mature, responsible, law-abiding citizen.
            I used to teach in college, and I could not help but feel sad because many of my students lacked guidance from their parents who worked abroad. They were an uninspired bunch, turning in mediocre work just to pass the course. What a waste of time and resources. On the other hand, the school administration continued to line their pockets and milk the parents for tuition because their kids had to repeat a course multiple times.

            • Joe America says:

              I admire your dedication to your child’s well-being. I know home schooling is a significant demand. And you raise the point of the parental role in a child’s development. I think there is precious little education of parents going on in that regard because they don’t read so can’t self-teach. I see some horrid disciplines in my wife’s extended family.

    • chempo says:

      Foreign critic of Philippines should be with good intentions of just wanting to share our views and hoping that in some small way something positive can come out of it. There should be no “changing people or culture”. Who are we to decide what sort of people they want to be?.

      • Joe America says:

        I agree with that, chempo, but don’t consider myself to be a foreign critic. More a foreign student, writer, and hopefully thought-inspiring problem solver. I live in the Philippines and am foreign only by heritage, paperwork and biases. I have to deal with stuff here.

  3. Micha says:

    If that’s the preamble from 1987 Constitution, it’s highly likely that Joaquin Bernas SJ has a direct hand in inserting the religious clause. Although, of course, even the Marcos Constitution of 1972 has pretty much the same wording (“imploring the aid of divine providence”).

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, he’s the culprit, eh?

      • Micha says:

        He’s the only one among the ConCon delegates with an Fr. before his name. Not that the others aren’t overly religious too, but still. It’s suppose to be a secular document with secular prescription for common good but the most prominent member of the Convention is a priest.

        • Joe America says:

          I don’t know how to get to the attitude that, “hey, man, let’s get our shit together” and stop the foolishness of pretending that our moral custodian is helping build the Philippines. They aren’t. Nor are the courts. Nor are whacko leftists. Nor are the Binays or people who accept that it is acceptable to have a crook for President. The ethical courage hereabouts is perhaps the biggest barrier to progress. Or, rather, the lack of it.

          • Micha says:

            Moral custodians who have no trouble breaking their own rules? We ought to consign them in obscurity but no, the sheeple will bow and kiss their hand instead.

  4. hackguhaseo says:

    Hit the nail right on the head again! Do you have a magic hammer or something?

    Seriously though, while I am fully in favor of enacting changes in line with the points presented in this piece, I’m starting to think that it will never happen. At least, not in my lifetime. This site might just be the closest I can get to a better Philippines…

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, the blockage and inertia are enormous barriers to crisp, purposeful change. The Church, political gameplaying, poor problem-solving, weak technology, people’s attitudes (superstition, hard-headed views). Yet there is a push in the right direction. More competitive globally, less corruption, better industries (real estate, business outsourcing, tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure improvements). OFW;s providing stability and adding to the demand for a modern, richer homeland. At 7% growth or better sustained, the middle class will continue to grow and demand better performance from government. Smart phones are everywhere. People talk, and eventually, more order and better processes will come. Time? 15 or 20 years.

      I hope you are younger than me. 🙂

      • hackguhaseo says:

        Still young-ish… Yeah, those are pretty good points. Hopefully, we’ll wake up someday with a generation that’s more aware.

        BTW, I just read this. I thought that it’s an improvement from your usual fare of media crap, but what do you think?

        • Joe America says:

          Excellent, excellent article, Hack. I don’t believe I’ve read F. Sionil Jose before. But he nails it point after point. A little weak with the hammer on the Binays perhaps, but the arguments and descriptions are spot on. I note that it is in the “Lifestyle” section of the paper, not the news or even opinions. I find that the Inquirer also does some excellent write-ups I the Opinion section and otherwise off the news pages. When people can take the time to compile informative or thoughtful pieces. Of course, they also do what seem like paid ads in the guise of news, but that’s a different matter.

          Thanks for the link. I’ll add the article to the “Must Read” section.

  5. andrewlim8 says:

    I got to read this prior to my regular workout, so I got to ruminate on it. Without making assertions, I paint in broad strokes, wondering out loud:

    Does this reveal that deep within, we are really primitive worshippers? Meaning despite the nearing quincentennial of Christianity here we still behave like our ancestors, attributing our fortunes to the unknown and unseen, who need supplication so that “blessings” may come our way?

    • Joe America says:

      I’m not sure it is that deep, andrew, based on my reading of an MLQIII comment in my Facebook column. I had remarked that, because divine intervention also was sought in the 1935 preamble, that God must have existed then, too. He offered this great insight:

      “The God of 1987 was different from the Supreme Being of 1935. 1987 was very clearly the Catholic God. That of 1935, more akin the Supreme Being of the French Revolution; that of 1987 is an active, living one, the one of 1935 an abstract one. That’s an important distinction. That’s part of the re-Catholicization of the Philippines that took place starting in the 50s and peaked in 83-86. Consider divorce –it actually existed but was repealed in 1949, the first signs of the return of the Church to politics.”

      • Melanie Avery says:

        Regardless of era Filipinos will forever be superstitious. I have a patient ( yes am a practicing doctor here ) who despite having lived here for decades still believe that she have been bewitched versus diagnosis and advise given. Not owning to its trouble. I am a catholic and proud of it but not in agreement with some of my kababayans. We have to own up to what is troubling us… Troubling the nation as a whole. I do have high hopes tho. Like you Joe I think we are doing relatively Oks, tho 30-50 years behind Singapore, …right direction tho bit slow for my liking. Am not tech savvy but I admit have a lot to thank Steve Jobs, goggles, etc . For what it’s doing to Philippines. Even FB am sure are helping increase the awareness of the masa and hopelly this would be enough to make people question the policies, politicians, priests and others.

  6. josephivo says:

    Lesson number one coming to Asia should be: “don’t create a situation where somebody could lose face”. Always offer an escape. This was one of the first things I had to learn in the Philippines. My first shock came during an official visit was to Siquior, in the conference room of the city hall was a big sign: “Don’t play cards or gamble in this building, especially during office hours.” Or we understand you gambling after office hours, but please wait until 5pm. On the way back at a Petron station a poster of the rotary club: “Be honest even if others are not, if others will not, if others cannot.” Or you should understand that there are people who cannot be honest, but that’s ok. On the boat a sign: “Don’t damage seats, window shadings, or other expensive normal equipment.” Or it is up to you to decide what is normal equipment and what is expensive. You suggest something and offer an escape at the same time.

    Blaming the Almighty is the ultimate escape strategy. “I tried, but the Almighty did not listen to my prayers”, I heard it again and again. And now you tell me that it is a constitutional right.

    • josephivo says:

      Just a few minutes ago:

      A TRO for the suspension of Skyjet, with 8 irregularities they still can fly according a judge. The company’s reaction: “Aside from praying for preliminary injunction, the low-cost airline also filed a P20 million damage claim against CAAP officials for the losses they incurred during the implementation of the suspension order.” This time the Almighty was listening, a P20 million will be enough to share a little with the judge.

    • Joe America says:

      On one hand, the nation is moving in the right direction. There is a lot of good stuff going on, if slowly. On the other hand, the same old drags on achievement persist and are not always explicit. How do you extract the crab mentality (anti-ambition) from the whole nation and substitute a willing drive to achieve and have principles and live by them? Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are 30 to 50 years ahead of the Philippines. Yet most here seem happy to keep doing it “our way”. Making excuses, letting someone else pull the load. And if they fail, criticize them.

      Yes, they are being constitutionally correct.

  7. Wow! Very well said. I thought the Preamble of the Philippine constitution is good, but actually, it’s not. By the phrase “imploring the aid of almighty god,” it already removes responsibility of each Filipino in national development and enlightenment. All of the preamble and nation’s vision is attributed to God, it’s as if God does everything while we only sit and wait. That’s fatalism. Yes, there may be a loving God who helps, but he only helps people who help themselves. Not everything in your life is determined by God. That’s why we have free will. Sadly, most of us don’t use that; instead, we succumb to our whims and do reckless things and when mksfortune comes, we blame God. Poor God. He must have been ignoring Filipinos’ prayers (actually religious rituals and not communicating with God) because of our attitude… the same goes,with the 1987 constitutiin. I think 1935 constitution is better than the 1987 one…

    Bottom line: have self-responsibility and do not make God your genie who’ll just grant your whims…

    Responsible countries are prosperous, fatalistic ones are not…

  8. karl garcia says:

    I already said that i am catholic,I am not religious,not active and so on,but I am for a better Philippines.
    The constitution must be amended to make it more secular,the separation of state must be reviewed and defined.All I read was Bernas’ definition in his articles.Maybe a lot of changes can happen if the configuration or demographics of congress changes,like more young guns,not necessarily not religious,but open minded enough in everything including religion.In the meantime more legislation to make things secular.

    So that is more reason to amend the constitution through legislation,I hope in the future it would be that way,our partipation won’t be absent for we will demand a more open congress,and maybe closer to direct democracy.

  9. karl garcia says:

    fatalism – bahala na,

    During the prehispanic times it was bathala na.

    When the Spaniards came it became Que Sera,Sera.

    Then it became come what may,now it is bahala na.

  • God as a genie reminds me of a story. A magic lamp washes ashore on a Crimean beach – in the days one could still visit. An American, a Frenchman and a Russian pick up the lamp and rub it.

    A genie appears. “Since you are three, each of you has one wish!” The American wishes for a luxury life on Palm Beach. The Frenchman wishes for the same on the Cote d’Azur.

    The Russian says: “my neighbor has two goats and I have only one. Kill my neighbor’s goat!” Wonder what the average Filipino would wish for. To be like Jojo Binay? And for the country?

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    OMG!!! It is right before our eyes from the days of kindergarten to college! Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. A Pentagram scrawled next to it !!! That directed Joe to the riddle and symbolism of the Philippine Preamlble as amended in 1934 by Laurel!

    How could we missed it! It is also embued in Patriotic Oath that I recite every school days from Prep to Kindergarten to High School:

    I love the Philippines, the land of my birth,
    The home of my people, it protects me and helps me
    Become strong, hardworking and honorable.
    Because I love the Philippines,
    I will heed the counsel of my parents,
    I will perform the duties of a patriotic citizen,
    Serving, studying, and PRAYING FAITHFULLY.
    I offer my life, dreams, successes
    To the Philippine nation.

    I cannot blame myself for not understanding it. It is in Tagalog a language spoken and understood ONLY IN MANILA! All we have had to do was memorize without understanding to get a passing grade.

    El Feli and Noli Me the two great works by American-appointed hero, Jose Rizal, requires exfoliation by U.P. Grandmasters to make us understand its elaborate meaning of his works. I STILL FAILED. Took it twice. Barely passed. WHEREAS, EARLY Filipino indios in 19th century WITHOUT U.P. Grandmasters peeling its literary covers to show its deeper meaning were able to understand it that lit the fire of synchronized patriotism and revolution of inhabitants of 7,100 islands from Jolo to Babuyan Island like there was internet at that time and Starbucks offering free Wi-Fi in every street corner. (NOTE: There were only 2,000 copies printed for 7,100 islands, they got to have internet back then for every Filipino to read it for free, books then were a luxury ultra-expensive)


      Monday mornings we had to be on time for the flag ceremony and Panatang Makabayan (Tagalog) in high school, Martial Law Days. The gates were closed and those of us who were late scaled the school fence and sneaked into the class line-ups from behind. First the flag was raised (we once grinned mischievously when the two who unpacked and unfolded the flag accidentally unpacked an old, slightly tattered flag our “Discipline Officer”, responsible for Youth and Sports Development, highly emphasized in those days, had given them) then we recited the Panata, then the school officials made their pronouncements, then we went to class.

      Well at least no religion class in our school then, now it is different, Marcos was not on good terms with Cardinal Sin, population control was one of his agendas, I remember articles about men from the slums smilingly telling about how they had vasectomy after so many children, I wonder how freely they did it, sex education became mandatory for the first time, I remember how boys had to explain about girls and vice versa, how we laughed when a girl explained the male sex organ.. Ceaucescu was exactly the opposite of Marcos, he forced women to have children while Marcos did have an agenda on population control at least on paper and in propaganda and state schools were completely without any religion, Noli and Fili were taught uncensored by the Church etc. while it was the Church and Radio Veritas that helped in the February revolution. Marcos was not a Catholic originally from what I remember, he was Aglipayan and became Catholic for political reasons. Good thing about Cory was democratic restoration, bad side was strong Church influence.

      Finding a balanced and true view of both pre-Marcos, Marcos and post-Marcos times is very hard, when I have done my summary of the Commonwealth stuff on my blog I have lot of work to do. Just a few tentative highlights from my memory: MMDA was originally MMC, Metro Manila was established under Marcos from several Rizal provinces plus Valenzuela, Bulacan, evaluations and plans for C-1 to C-6 were done under Marcos (C-4 = EDSA, C-5 not equal to Manny Villar), PNP (I think PC-INP originally) was established to prevent mayors from controlling police, first LRT project and I think even first studies for flyovers on EDSA, Candaba viaduct (NLEX, then North Expressway extended up to Angeles due to that bridge over the swamps of Candaba), land reclamation in front of Roxas boulevard started. Well dictators are usually builders and organizers so why omit that, the other side is heavy oppression. Rumor mongering laws among other things. Secret decrees, imagine being arrested and being told one had violated a secret decree. So a very mixed bag.

      The old “aristocracy” was weakened by upstart Marcos, but like the upstart Napoleon, F. Marcos created a new aristocracy of parvenus around him and all similarities of Napoleon’s Empress Josephine with Imelda are purely coincidental. Well I better stop rambling again, the topic was the Patriotic Oath, went back down memory lane because of that. The point being: so many good things are poisoned in the Philippines because F. Marcos misused them. And one should also acknowledge that not all things brought back in 1986 were good – Church influence for example. And fortunately stuff from F. Marcos times that made sense like MMDA, Sandiganbayan and PNP were kept! But these are topics I shall touch on when my history series reaches that period…

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, you are in good form today, MRP. That oath is a perfect example of denial of responsibility. Of mandated obedience, relying upon God, and turning over one’s life to nation. Rather than looking inward, developing principles, and taking charge of one’s life, where caretaking the nation is a part of that.

      Your last paragraph is worth a blog. Why don’t you work it up?

      Can you imagine how the Philippine internet community would go nuts if we published a real blog by the infamous MRP? Go for it, Man! Those nationalists at Raissa’s blog would croak, and you’d be doing the nation a great service.

  • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    There are two races in the Philippines: The Coloreds and The Mestizos. The Mestizos are the colonizers. The Coloreds are the colonized. The Coloreds blame the Mestizos for what they became to be: Corrupt. “Lazy” because of colonial mentality.


    So, therefore, if THERE ARE NO MESTIZOS dragged into court, THEREFORE, the ex-colonizers ARE HONEST PEOPLE AFTER ALL. Therefore, The Filipinos could have wayward genes in them that are predisposed to thievery and corruption.

    SO, PEOPLE, PLEASE STOP BLAMING THE COLONIZERS. They are honest. Lookit Ayalas to Zobels. Never tainted with corruptions ONLY THE COLOREDS.

    • Joe America says:

      Hmmmmmm . . . What is Napoles? I have a hard time seeing the dividing line. Okay, Megan Young will never get thrown in jail for corruption. I see her. What is Aquino? Abad? Limlingan?

      I think it is an amusing poke at the biases here toward white, but I don’t think it holds water in the judicial arena.

  • “Small-ball thinking that looks at the past and the present and the details, but seldom figures out the future.” Thanks for inspiring me to write this in my blog – an important question everybody who cares for the Philippines, but most especially the stakeholders who live there and even more so the 2016 voters should ask themselves and ask their candidates: where do they want the country to be in 20 years, and which candidate will make their ideal vision more likely to happen:

    Didn’t want to post further links to my blog, but I believe that for THIS most crucial question, it makes sense. I only posted a scare scenario in my first article here about the Tipping Point. You are now invited to come over and tell us YOUR dream of an ideal Philippines in 2035… 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      A very interesting exercise. I gave a top of mind reaction to the dreams you posed. I hope some of our regulars go over and post their visions.

      Thanks for the link.

      • Welcome – I added to your reaction which builds on my ideal vision. It is based on exercises I know from consultant and management training materials and books – imagine your ideal life in 20 years. Then based on that think of how you want to answer the typical interview question of what your goals are for the next five years – specific, measurable, achievable, reliable, time-bound = SMART. Then think of measures that you will take THIS year to get there. Or like some people liked to say: hitch your wagon to a star. Plus: dreams mean work (Paolo Coelho)

  • i7sharp says:

    A Few Declarations of Founding Fathers and Early Statesmen on Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible
    Samuel Adams

    I . . . [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.9

    The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe [Proverbs 18:10]. Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.10

    I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world . . . that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by the promoting and speedily bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.11

    He also called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that . . .

    the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known and enjoyed throughout the whole family of mankind.12
    we may with one heart and voice humbly implore His gracious and free pardon through Jesus Christ, supplicating His Divine aid . . . [and] above all to cause the religion of Jesus Christ, in its true spirit, to spread far and wide till the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.13
    with true contrition of heart to confess their sins to God and implore forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior.14

    To Joe America, et al:

    Your comments, please.

    • edgar lores says:


      There can only be one rejoinder: “Section 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

    • jameboy says:

      If you are implying that our Constitution is not the only one that have ‘God-issue’ issue, I agree with you. Even in the US the absence of the word ‘God’ or Almighty or a derivative of it in their constitution is a focus of arguments or discussion among and between secularists and religious groups.

  • i7sharp says:

    A google for “God Providence Shakespeare”:

  • edgar lores says:

    Hmm, why are some gravatars on the left side… starting with Karl’s comment?

  • I would not be surprised if this is your least liked article in recent times. Religion is a touchy subject in any conversation and in the staunchly catholic Philippines, where the church actively gets involved in national issues i.e. like family planning, divorce, etc., it is even more so. The references to God in the constitution are easily understood if one realizes the heavy influence of the AMERICAN constitution on the 1987 Philippine constitution. If you are looking for the SINGLE paramount reason for the problems in the Philippines it is this — the belief that the AMERICAN style of democracy — with a bicameral legislative, etc. is most suitable for the Philippines. The culture has its flaws (soft, forgiving, fatalistic, etc) but the government institutions perpetuate poor governance. That is the root cause you seek.

    • Joe America says:

      I appreciate your read-out, Charles. How does one undo that which has been done, without interrupting the current period of sound growth leading to prospective prosperity?

      • Joe America says:

        I didn’t view the subject as religion, really, but the denial of self-involvement and accountability. I said in the article, I have no trouble with faith. How does one inspire commitment and sacrifice to an entire nation when the foundation is so diversely divided (tribal)?

        • How to undo and change? Simple – the institutions to some extent define and shape culture. Change the institutions i.e. for GOVERNMENT switch to parliamentary and federalism, for EDUCATION institute national service for all college graduates that sends them to underdeveloped areas of the country. A developing country and “weak” culture needs a certain measure of PROPAGANDA and government campaigns.

          • Joe America says:

            I have reservations about parliamentary and federal institutions because of the cost of conversion (disruption) and a wariness that the current problem of ineffective problem-solving would multiply, and it would be another layer of contentiousness and fighting for the national economic pie. But that is a huge topic and hard to address here. I do like the service mandate. A lot.

            • Disruption? To what? The magnificent way things are going now? If you refer to the supposed fast pace of economic growth, as I keep on saying, that growth is not sustainable: it is growth off a low base, the quality of growth is lousy and not inclusive, it is based on unsustainable human labor export. The Philippine government is not spending enough on infrastructure and education. Once the US starts hiking rates, that growth will evaporate. You have earned quite a following so I hope you commit to a solution at some point instead of keeping on waxing poetic about “flaws in our nature”.

              • Precisely, the solution to the ineffective problem solving is to <> of govt. There is no other way! And you would actually be taking out a layer if you had a unicameral parliament — even from a cynical point of view, that is less legislators to be bribed!

              • Joe America says:

                The solution I have committed to is stability and a belief that it is not the government structure that is the problem, but the processes within it. The cultural foundation, if you will. I don’t wax against the “flaws in our nature”; those are your words. I object to the idea that citizens should expect to be taken care of and not do their part. Like, pick up the trash after visiting the Pope, eh? Accountability.

                “The quality of growth is lousy and not inclusive.” What makes you say that? I agree the base is low, but the economy seems to be developing some strong elements to me, BPO, tourism/gaming, manufacturing, RE and retail. The OFW’s provide a bed of stability to insulate against shocks.

                I’m not speaking anything new here, nor really am I speaking what I concoct on my own. I speak what I learn from others here, in the main.

                If you have a better article to write, I welcome guest contributions.

              • jameboy says:

                “…as I keep on saying, that growth is not sustainable: it is growth off a low base, the quality of growth is lousy and not inclusive, it is based on unsustainable human labor export. The Philippine government is not spending enough on infrastructure and education. Once the US starts hiking rates, that growth will evaporate.” – charlesenglind
                The positive (growth) is not sustainable. It is based on something not realistic. The country is not spending enough. All things depend on the US. Anytime she pulls the rug under us, we’re dead meat.

                So, what do we, Filipinos including Am-Fils like Joe, do, just grin and bear it? Accept that we are really in a losing proposition every which way it goes? We’re screwed for making puny improvements?

                I do not only get your point I can also see from here how high the pulpit you are delivering those sermons from. 😎

              • @Joe, the F. Sionil Jose article on your must reads also recommends going parliamentary.

                in fact it is quite simple: abolish the Senate – which is partly a madhouse – and keep Congress.

                That the growth needs to be given more of a base to be sustainable is not only my opinion.

                Now this Charles Englund has a foreign expat blog as well, clicked on his link, not much yet.

                The more competition, the more fun, so I do hope he expounds on his ideas over there.

              • Joe America says:

                Thanks. Parliamentary is the lesser of the two transitions, and for sure, healing the Mad House would be constructive. Federalism is quite a significant change.

              • Maybe making the Senate into a regionalized representation would make it more real and keep the structures intact. Lot of Filipino hardheadedness and formalism is like a corset, they fear quite really that things will fall apart without it.

                In a regionalized Senate – two Senators per region, you might have Senator Cayetano fighting it out with Senator Iqbal, and Senator Misuari joining the fray while Senator Duterte tries to calm things down – well maybe you would need a metal detector at the entrance to prevent worse…

                As for Federalism, I am for careful decentralization and devolution to prevent the country from falling apart into separate warlord states – a very real scenario! Maybe give a part of the taxes earned locally straight to regions and LGUs to give incentives for them to promote business!

              • josephivo says:

                The transition to a federal state took Belgium more than 40 years. It started with culture and language related issues. Now almost everything is regional, except the King, most of the foreign policy and the representation in international institutions, what is left of the army… No reason to be disruptive.

          • Melanie Avery says:

            I wish I have same enthusiasm Charles. Your response to our problem is as expected. Unfortunately it’s never that simple or easy. I haven’t come across a person or any institution that would embrace change. It’s deeply rooted, intertwined, knotted to the core. You can only change a person or an institution if they acknowledge the mistake or wrongdoing.
            I commend joe for even the guts to start this forum. It might be a big ask.. Flaming a fire? Nevertheless glad somebody have the initiative.

          • jameboy says:

            “How to undo and change? Simple…”
            Usually, a premise that starts exactly with those words I tend to confine to my file entitled “Nutty”. But since curiosity caught up with me I would like to respond with inquiries.

            You have previous case exactly like the Philippines setting? Like what country? Any realistic precedent? Thanks. 🙂

    • jameboy says:

      The references to God in the constitution are easily understood if one realizes the heavy influence of the AMERICAN constitution on the 1987 Philippine constitution. – charlesenglund
      How can that be when the word “God” (except in the “in the year of our Lord” line) was not even mentioned in the US constitution?

      You talked about heavy influence but the US consti. was nowhere near the Phil. consti. with regard to invoking God especially in the preamble part.

      Maybe the influence was in the idea and the essence of nationhood, common good, general welfare, etc. but surely not in an aspect of God’s influence and dominance in the country’s affairs and existence.

      • Melanie, I live in the Philippines and have decided to settle here indefinitely. Your problem is my problem. I am still adjusting to the sensitivity of Filipinos, so pardon me if I come across as rude. Living in the province with little intellectual stimulation, I do find Joe’s blog stimulating and find the comments quite entertaining (ok, some are laughable). Thank you Joe! I may just take you up on that guest contribution.

  • Lardy Caparas says:

    Great analysis, Joe. I had never put emphasis on any pledge apart from mandatory recitation in school 🙂 The founding fathers and mothers had already been succeeded by their children and extensions whose actions are no longer about the preamble or its parts. Some old-timers in/outside govt (and some in jail) are worried about the weakening of our institutions (i.e., church, judiciary, most old media, old-style politics) that they will rally behind a throwback politico in his 70s rather than embrace the rapid changes in society. Even the usual tiresome militants are part of this old society because of their destructive ideas and antics. We all have to admit we do not subscribe to any vision at the moment. Daang matuwid is losing its edge in every daang ma-tweet street fight. I couldn’t even convince my son (born in 1992) that martial law was when the national spirit was pummeled into submission. The rallying soul is in a twin grave. The present champion can’t even unify his family behind him.

    • Joe America says:

      Thanks, Lardy. Glad you appreciate it. And I appreciate your take on it. Yes, a nation on the rise electing an old buzzard from the most troubled era in modern history. I wonder who controls all those local masa votes? The “elder” politicians there who may not be old by age, but by method (skimming taxpayer money). Tata and Tatay control the family votes? The drunks around the tuba table make up the future of the Philippines? Very interesting. I see in Manila a new, modern, younger group emerging, but it is small and lacks political power. Maybe it is even politically apathetic. There are anti Aquino rallies, but no Anti-Binay rallies. Weird.

      Entertaining, but dismaying.

      The only thing I can figure to do is keep yapping. 🙂

      • Percival says:

        Various anti-Binay groups on FB have joined forces (and formed Reporma Pilipinas) and coordinated and scheduled an anti-Binay rally on June 4,2015 in Makati. I think the rally will be headed by Mr Jim Paredes and Ms Cynthia Patag. Please check out the various FB group pages like NETCAB (Netizens Against Binay) and others for details. They are also planning a series of rallies simultaneously in the provinces. I hope this will be the WAVE that will finally engulf the Binay family.
        I hope this link will work

        • Joe America says:

          The link works fine.

          That is good news. Jim Paredes is highly respected I know. Cynthia Patag is new to me. I hope there is good participation, and that Filipinos take their nation back from the class of impunity and low ethical standards.

          • Joe America says:

            Strike that remark. As a foreigner, I can’t engage in such matters, so explicitly. There is a dividing line between opinion and deed, and I have to stay on the side of opinion. Well, I like Jim Paredes, for sure. He is a writer, an artist, and climbs mountains, as I used to do before the mountains close at hand got embedded with snakes. He has a twitter following of a bazillion people and is kind enough to send out links to most of the articles written here. He is a HUGE reason for the growing popularity of this blog.

            • Percival says:

              Yes, Jim Paredes is a highly principled man. Even during the Marcos Dictatorship, he (together with the other 2 members of his former music group The Apo Hiking Society) is always active in voicing out his opposition to any blatant abuse of power. But he never takes advantage of his popularity and image as a cause-oriented personality to venture into politics for personal gain. Ms Cynthia Patag was a popular and respected singer in the 80’s to 90’s..

              Ah Joe, I understand your limitations as a foreigner (although you have shown that you are more a Filipino than some of us) and I was hesitant at first to post this in your blog. I just feel that I should share this call to as many people as possible since it is my duty as a Filipino to contribute even a little way I can to save OUR country from the possible unlimited control of the great plunderer. I will understand if you would delete this post later if you feel that you would be compromised.

              • Joe America says:

                In the blog policy and terms, it says “Comments are the property of the commenter who grants the Society of Honor full right of re-publication and use.” You are Filipino and are not bound by the rules that restrict me. I am happy to publish your comment because it is your right to express it. There is absolutely no problem at all with you advocating a cause here. Pertaining to the election period, I say this:

                “The editor neither encourages nor discourages Filipinos from voicing opinions regarding elections, recognizing that it is their right to express their views under Philippine Law. Foreigners are encouraged to respect COMELEC regulations and the Immigration mandate and refrain from expressing views that may be seen as favoring one candidate over another. The Society recognizes, however, that comments belong to the comment author, not the Society.”

  • jameboy says:

    The 1987 Constitution was the end product of the time when it was approved and promulgated. It was the document deemed necessary needed by a country looking for deliverance after coming out from the shadow of the dictatorship. It was the document seen by the majority of the people as the concrete proof of the country’s victory and revival of democracy and liberty. It was the essential instrument that will guide and steer the country to the challenges of the future.

    The Constitution, like other documents of importance, is not a perfect embodiment of what the country is exactly like or would be like. Certain provisions will surely require amendments eventually due to the absence at present of the prevailing condition back then. Current and future condition may require rewriting or amendments of certain relevant provisions to address new developments to enable the country to make the necessary adjustments in terms of political or economic issues.

    From time to time we may look at the Constitution as becoming unresponsive to the current events or even chide it for the country’s inability to cope up and be in-step with the time. But we all know that it is not the proper entity that should be tasked for the day to day activity of governance. It is not a road sign that points to us the direction to take to reach the desired destination. It is not the magic bullet that will cure whatever ails the country or her people.

    Given that premise, I have to take the opposite side of the discussion. To expect the Constitution to spell out or strictly articulate everything to the letter to the point of denying the citizenry any breathing space for interpretation or to find out the real meaning and objective of the provisions therein is not only an attempt to put a straight-jacket on their minds but also create a convenient escape goat every time a unscrupulous personnel of the government violates the law.

    The Constitution, for me, is like a manual of an equipment the purpose of which is to the guide the operator towards proper operation and maintenance. The manual is there not to enable us to create but to guide us in the operation and preservation. Same thing with the Constitution. It was not meant to make a country and create a perfect government. It was meant to guide the effort to what its Preamble states and I quote, “to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

    The acceptance or distribution of responsibility or accountability lies not with the fundamental law of the land. While in a very general terms it maybe acceding on that direction we have other legal documents that spells out precisely the requirements for the citizenry and government to abide with and submit to in with regard to responsibility and accountability.

    I have my own take on the Constitution, however, it is not one where I cast blame or fault to it because it failed to clearly spell out something that should be performed or accomplished by the citizenry. Our failure or success largely depends on our resolve and determination to overcome the challenges before us as a nation. The Constitution can assist us in the effort towards betterment of everything but we should not expect it to produce and create the effort for us.

    We are not who we are because of the Constitution. We are who we are, unfortunately, in spite of it. 🌻

    • I think a point is missed @jameboy.

      Our constitution is precisely what is being lampooned. It is overly detailed on petty stuff but lacking in the spirit of mode that gives leeway to future SCs to interpret any law with the interests of the nation as it’s most important guide post.

      • jameboy says:

        Got your point. 🙂

        • Jameboy, you are right : the 1987 constitution is a product of the times. It was a reaction to the end of the Marcos dictatorship. Therefore, it has obvious reactionary provisions e.g. presidential terms limits, and a return to the pre-marcos form of government, meaning Congress and Senate. It also had very nationalistic provisions (probably a concession to the left) about throwing US military bases out and not allowing 100% foreign-owned businesses.
          You are right, the constitution is not meant to be a detailed document — that’s what laws are for; supposedly to be promulgated and passed by your congressmen.
          You are right, the Constitution can be changed. But it has not been. The fear of charter change is precisely a collective primal fear among Filipinos that any change would bring back a dictator.
          You are wrong, however, in the premise that the Constitution is useless and has no effect on the problems of the Philippines.
          As you say, if the manual to a piece of equipment is faulty or obsolete, fully understanding the context in which it was written, why is the Philippines not changing it???

          • Now this is an interesting subthread! Fully agree on too detailed for fear of dictatorship and that it is a partial restoration similar to what happened after Napoleon was thrown out – the Bourbons came back, having learned and forgotten nothing.

            But discussions on the BBL – my specialty topic by now – have shown that people only think in terms of the letter of the law, not the spirit. Instead of looking at what makes sense and what doesn’t they nitpick on the BBL’s constitutionality. Just like the endless discussion during the drafting of the 1987 Constitution on whether the national language should be Pilipino or Filipino, well at least that discussion had some meaning behind it even if it sound absurd at first glance.

            • Joe America says:

              Irineo, have you read Riassa’s new blog about the MILF? Required reading:

              • Thx Joe… let’s keep our collective thought processes churning!

                Regarding MILFs, I would rather trust a MILF than a young, immature chick, based on experience, but back to serious I will read and give my take on that part, even if I have up to now suspended judgement on that for lack of conclusive evidence – I would say from intuition plus impressions until now trust but keep your powder dry, and remember that many Muslims have an oriental bazaari mentality, you have to be tough but friendly with them then they respect you.

          • jameboy says:

            How can I be wrong on something that I didn’t even imply nor intimated on? I don’t remember saying the Consti. is “useless and has no effect” on our problems. To the contrary, I stated this, “The Constitution can assist us in the effort towards betterment of everything…”

            The manual to an equipment, from personal experience, is never faulty or obsolete. Why? Because the contents of which is what the equipment is all about. The instruction, the tools, and the details of a manual refers to what the machine is and what’s it made of and how to run it. It’s really a cut and dry thing. Very easy. The same cannot be said of the constitution.

            Like I said, I also have my take on the Consti. and you happen to hit some of them. One is the need to change or amend some of its provisions relating to economic (Requirements to foreign investments, among others) and political (term limits for president, etc.) issues. I believe that the time has come to conduct a full review of the constitution by acknowledging the critical interest and reaction of people with regard to making it in step and be updated with the ongoing development not only domestically but in external matters as well. The issue of why and when is what boggles my mind.

            Partly, you are right in the view about the apprehension in the revival of the dictatorship. And understandably so, every time some individuals possessing a character of strong man rule (Lacson, Trillanes, Binay, etc.) pops up the people starts to recall in fear the country’s experience under martial rule.

            Anyway, those issues are best left for another separate blog.

    • Joe America says:

      I agree entirely. My thrust would really be toward the last line of your statement. “We are not who we are because of the Constitution. In spite of it.”

      The essential question is how to get to unity, and under than umbrella, productivity. It is a natural follow to other articles, some of which you agree with, and some of which you do not. The great weakness seems to be to be in “order and process”. Order is reactive and not pre-planned and out of balance, favoring the favored and the corrupt. Process is very weak. Problem-solving is weak. To me, the key element is a citizen’s commitment to the rules, the laws, which seems weak. And the government’s and some private companies’ commitment to the citizens, which seems weak. Customer service is poor.

      We can agree the Constitution is irrelevant to those weaknesses. And maybe you don’t even agree that they are weaknesses. I am searching for something nebulous, called “effort for the nation’s good”. How can we get more of it? More unity? More sacrifice (more consideration of others and obedience to the law)? Better processes?

      Taxis in Singapore arrive in fleets of 8, pulling into dedicated pick-up slots, all trustworthy and clean. The waiting area is indoors, air conditioned. The traveler is whisked away quickly and cleanly.

      Contrast that to arrival in Manila. Cabs restricted, untrustworthy, arriving in a line if there are any available. Lines are 100 people long, creeping, creeping. In the gritty heat, curbside.

      Do we want to move toward the Singapore model? If so, how can we do it forthrightly, without nonsense?

      It is only one example. There are thousands.

      • jameboy says:

        Since I see the Constitution as an ‘instrument’ of change and development the emphasis of that view, if you will notice, is on the one who utilize such instrument.

        I agree with you on those ‘weakness’ observation you raised but I’m completely convinced that it all starts with the leader or even a group of leaders that we’re supposed to follow and submit to not out of fear but because of ideals and vision they have for the country. We are all hoping that there would never be another Marcos who will bastardized the law for personal interest and gratification.

        Anyway, I may be on be other side of the discussion but your desire to look for matters that represent difficulties or problems and formulating questions and theories and throw it to the members to explore and pick their brains all in the interest of continued conversation meant to benefit everyone regardless of viewpoint does not escape this corner. Salute!

  • Louie Fernandez says:

    I agree with this so-called Joe America— he who hides behind a curtain. …Like the Wizard of Oz.

    He is right about the language of the Constitution of the Philippines, a country, like the United States, that is supposed to be secular. But, unfortunately, the Philippines is, after all, ruled from the Vatican through their minions in the CBCP and the clergy in the hundreds of Catholic schools. Is it any wonder then that the Constitution was written that way? And many here complain the Shariah laws in some Islamic countries?

    But back to Joe America who is wont to point at the mutà in the Filipino’s eye.

    While the Constitution is fundamental, really, how many Filipinos have actually read it?

    Meanwhile, on every greenback —billions of them in circulation and seen by hundreds of millions Americans every single day — is the plank on the accuser’s eye, America’s national motto “In God We Trust.”

    Clearly, with this prayer the United States “places responsibility for the nation’s well being elsewhere”. With this invocation “the NATION denies it is responsible for the deeds done, for the methods, for the outcomes”. In other words, God will provide. God will pour his blessings, his protection to the people of America according to his Plan, et cetera, et cetera…

    “Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

    In short, in God we trust. And it’s official in the US of A as well.

    • Joe America says:

      I’m sorry my decision to take cares to protect my family causes you concerns, but, as I bear the consequences, not you, I trust you can let me have a break. There are a few people here who know my real identity. Some contribute here, some just read. There is usually a “need to know”, and always great trust.

      Yes, God is important to Americans, but Caesar and He have an agreement that keeps His agents from interfering with government processes. The Christian morality is central to American values, and Americans are generally obedient to God’s message, as stated in the Bible. The faithful study rigorously. The government owes its allegiance to the people, and does not state a reliance upon God to perform.

    • The Wizard of Oz? Edgar Lores lives in Oztralia, Joe lives in Cebu if you read his stuff well and is not the world famous magical clown, don’t know if he eats Jolibee but he does play basketball with his Filipino neighbors.

      Now I have seen a prayer in Facebook asking China to spare us – I commented to that let us pray but be prepared. The Americans believe in God, they are a missionary nation by origin – pioneers, businessmen and cowboys to this day if you ask me, nearly each American is a certain mixture of the three original types. Just like nearly every Filipino is a mixture of datu (native leader), comprador (rent-seeking businessman) and bandit (Spanish influence) if you ask me but I digress.

      Now if you ask me, Joe is truly trying to understand the Philippines and means well. He does not always get it but who of us does all the time? His American migrant perspective on the Philippines is just as valid as Filipino migrant perspectives looking back home and comparing.

      On that side you have MRP, you have GRP and you have me. I for my part try not just to say things are better in other countries, but I try to find out WHY they got to be better and look for solutions that can be ported to the Philippines. WHAT locals actually use and discard is their choice!

      Joe was in Vietnam so he might know this song, and it could be that for him everything that puts God too much on one’s side is suspect with that experience. Protestants in general, not just Americans, sound self-righteous to many shaped in Catholic cultures which have a more relative view (at best, more tolerant, at worst too tolerant) in matters of morality and truth. Germanic people tend to lecture – I as a Filipino-German have to guard against that myself. Let us all remember what native Americans once said: don’t judge a man until walking a mile in his moccasins!

    • edgar lores says:

      “In God we trust”?

      That was a typo. It should read, “In Gold we trust.”

      • andrewlim8 says:

        Louie Fernandez fails to note that US currency as well as historical monuments (e.g. Washington monument) are replete with Masonic symbols like the “all-seeing eye”, pyramids, etc. Since majority of the founding fathers of America were Masons, they made a deliberate effort to exclude the US from the influence of Rome. So they could very well be referring to a different God altogether, compared to our constitution.

  • chempo says:

    Nice read again Joe. I’m glad you place blame squarely on the people and not God.

    You are dead right with the “obsession with the details and with legalistic processes” in legal proceedings. I have a businessman friend here who is embroiled in hundreds of legal cases (I’m not exagerrating) and I sat in as silent observer on several of his meetings with his legal counsel. I could not believe what I heard. The lawyers’ recommendation were all about nitty gritty legalistic processes. It was all about forms and absolutely nothing on substance.

    And there is something which for the life of me I can’t understand. All the legal mumbo jumbos always end with a PRAYER.

    I remember there was a murder case where the accused maintained he was away in USA on the date in question and therefore he could not have been the perpetrator. The judge refused to accept the passport as evidence because the defence could not produce as witness the signatory of the official who signed the visa, or something like that. Of course the defence could not compel Magdeliene Albright to come Manila. Based on this judge’s reasoning, pesos notes will cease to be legal tender once the signatory on those notes is deceased!.

    • The convoluted legal and administrative system of the Philippines has obviously not changed.

      Coming from a family of Filipino lawyers I am remotely familiar with it, and I did work for an Embassy as a student so I am aware of the signature issue – a signature of an unknown foreign official has to be authenticated first by the authorities of the homeland, then by the Embassy of the Philippines in that country which has all signatures of higher court officials in that country on file, to be legally recognized as a document in the Philippines – German companies that want to file for patents in the Philippines based on their European or German patents have to go through that. First to the Landgericht, then to the Oberlandgericht or something like that, then to the Embassy or Consulate who will authenticate, meaning compare the signature, then print out (yeah at least they do that now, when I created the program for that in the 1980s we needed to ask DFA Manila please may we use a printout instead of the official stationery you send us?) the certificate of authentication, a hole is made through it and all accompanying documents, a red ribbon goes through then it is fixed to the certificated with a dry seal so no tampering possible, then it goes to the boss for signature.

      That system partly makes sense for some things, partly has its origins in 16th-century Spanish legal traditions from what some Filipino historians have told me and badly needs overhaul, but many Filipinos discuss like medieval monks who only half understood the Latin that they used instead of Renaissance people who wanted to go back to understanding and doing things so the mentality has to progress at least to 16th century from Spanish friar middle ages first if you ask me.

      That legal system is a pain for doing business, only big companies with the resources to deal with that will go to the Philippines – others I know, I am in the IT business, go to Vietnam for example, I have a business associate who has a small 10-man German firm and 15 programmers in Hanoi, I don’t think he would go through the trouble of doing business in the Philippines, gotta ask him how the system is in Vietnam, probably strict (post-communist) but clear and therefore somehow fair.

  • Bing Garcia says:

    The two legislative committees primarily handling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) favor peace. However, they are using diverse strategies to achieve their common goal.

    Artemio Panganiban believes the Senate track is safer and better.

  • i7sharp says:

    Joe America concluded his blog article thus:
    Here’s a different preamble:

    We the sovereign Filipino people herein form a democratic Government that promotes the well-being of every citizen through a deep appreciation for the nation’s rich diversity, willing submission to the rule of law, shared sacrifice for one another, self-fulfillment energized by a free-market economy, and the human values of truth, justice, freedom, equality, and peace.

    With that simple understanding, we need not appeal to anyone for help. We only need to get to work.

    Together. For each other.

    In essence,
    Joe America wants Filipinos to extirpate Christ out from the Constitution of the (arguably) only Christian nation in Asia?

    • Joe America says:

      Arguably, but it is a secular state, and what is currently removed is personal dedication to the nation. Or, be honest and consistent and remove secular, putting Christ in the Constitution, and live with that. My point is not of faith, but of personal commitment to the state, without relying upon God to protect us from calamities, or ourselves. He is busy bringing the calamities and doesn’t have time to build seawalls. We should be doing that instead of sitting under the Mango trea sucking tuba. Personal opinion.

      • i7sharp says:

        @Joe America
        “He [God] is busy bringing the calamities
        and doesn’t have time to build seawalls.”

        With such words, Joe America outdoes and defines himself.

        And beats all other instances of
        “unmitigated insolence” …

        A personal opinion.

        • Joe America says:

          I love that term “unmitigated insolence”. I’ve long held that God has a sense of humor and is compassionate, and that, if my expression is sincerely aimed at good ends, He is understanding at least of the sincerity of effort.

  • raggster says:

    Hi Joe. I believe this is my first comment on your website, despite reading it for some time. As I’ve been reviewing for the bar exam this year, maybe I can contribute a little to the discussion:

    I’m of two minds on your take on the Preamble. On the one hand, I understand and agree with your argument. On the other hand, I’m not sure that breaking down the Preamble, parts of the Constitution, and picking on the legal system is the best way to go about it.

    Let me highlight a few words in the Preamble (while reducing its verbosity):

    “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to BUILD a just and humane society, and ESTABLISH a Government that shall , do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.”

    I read here two fundamental acts of the sovereign Filipino people: 1) building a just and humane society, and 2) establishing a government to do a list of good stuff. I believe that’s a fair amount of responsibility that the People are taking upon themselves, albeit with the aid of the Catholic God.

    Speaking of which, I agree that “imploring the aid” of the Catholic God is somewhat problematic, but to me that’s simply the state of things at 1986. We had just kicked a dictator out, and the Church had played a very visible role in it. As much as it would be easy to blame Fr. Bernas for it, I suspect that it was Archbishop Jaime Sin’s influence that weighed more on the inclusion of that line.

    I get what you’re trying to say with the “patrimony” bit, but I think you’re misinterpreting what it refers to. See Art. XII, on “National Economy and PATRIMONY.”

    I disagree with the “secure the blessings” part – especially since the 1935 version that phrase is based on is almost a word-for-word adaptation of the US Constitution counterpart. I believe it simply means that whatever has already been established by the Filipino at that point, moving forward the same Filipino people should not need to fight for it again, and that the whole point of ordaining the Constitution is to ensure that independence and democracy will not be lost again.

    The primary role of Congress to make laws is in the very first line of Art. VI: “Section 1. The **legislative power** shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives, except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and referendum.” Legislative power, at its core, is the power to make, amend, and repeal laws, as an exercise of the sovereign’s police power. Granted, “legislative power” is not spelled out the way it is in the US Constitution, but considering how our Constitution has some lineage from the US Constitution, it is safe to say that when we say “legislative power” here, we’re referring to that power which includes what the US Constitution lists down.

    The legal and judiciary system here is a whole other animal that would take far too long to discuss in this comment. Let me leave it at this for the time being: this country inherited the bastard child of the Spanish justice system (a civil law jurisdiction) and the American justice system (a mix of both civil law and common law jurisdictions). That alone should give us pause.

    I think part of the problem is the disparity between who wrote the Constitution (ie. intelligentsia voted into the Commission) and who ratified the Constitution (everyone else). How many Filipinos actually understood what they were ratifying at the time? Or more precisely, how did they understand what they were ratifying at the time? And was that understanding universal throughout the voting population? At least in the US, before the ratification, there was a lot of public discussions on the pros and cons of the US Constitution as it was crafted then; I do not recall any such level of public discussion for the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

    Yet here we are.

    I may or may not have more to share on this, but I’ll keep it at this for now.

    • Joe America says:

      I appreciate the argument, raggster. Well, put, actually. From a legal standpoint, you are absolutely right, I think, that historical and comparative (US) justification is there for the language, and securing God’s blessings does not actually mean deny accountability by leaning on faith instead of working. Nor should we spend the Legislature’s time on such a minor matter. I pound on the preamble to try to make a point that . . . at least it seems to me . . . there is an element of personal dedication that is missing from “performance”, where performance means the work done by government (poor processes) and the behaviors of citizens (trash in the streets, riding without helmets). That dedication is found in the understanding that we are not here to be given things by the state, but to work to give things to the state. A part of the work is discipline and sacrifice.

      So that is the point. The article is just a vehicle used to try to make it, and I don’t think the Constitution actually has to be amended on THIS point.

      • raggster says:

        Just realized, after re-reading my post and reading your reply, that I inadvertently helped your case by comparing the US Constitution preamble to ours. The Preamble of the US Constitution speaks nothing about establishing a government in order to achieve their “list of good stuff” (which was omitted from my last comment, sorry about that), whereas in ours, “government” seems to be an exclusive machine towards those goals, apart from “building a just and humane society.” In this sense, we can argue that as compared, the People who ordained the US Constitution pledged to act or participate directly in achieving their goals as a union, whereas the People who ordained the 1987 Constitution pledged only to act indirectly through the government they pledged to establish, and vaguely pledged to build a just and humane society within the same framework.

        Hence this idea of being given things by the “state” (more accurately, by government), rather than participating in developing the state, including the government.

        Maybe this concept has historical roots? Over 300 collective years of colonial rule by 3 occupants – and each time having someone else kicking them out, rather than having that historical “win” as a nation – might tend to warp the sense of patriotism.

        • Joe America says:

          Excellent readout of how the preamble omits the call for union and commitment. The history might indeed have influenced that, the historical lack of “buy in” to governments foisted onto the people by occupiers.

          Light bulb moment here. . .

  • mindanaoan says:

    Just to let you know people are reading. Very good ideas here, Mr. Joe, raggster.

  • Bing Garcia says:

    Vice President Jejomar Binay may top early surveys on the 2016 presidential elections, but President Benigno Aquino III says his status as the “man to beat” in the coming polls depends on his ability to answer corruption allegations against him.

    • Joe America says:

      That is good to hear. I think the pounding on Binay has not yet even begun. I hope some of it is from the legal machine. The political machine is definitely not going to give him a free ride during the campaign season.

  • sonny says:

    off blog-topic (not too off, though)

    @ just clicked from Raissa’s blog. I’m glad you got introduced to Fr Tabora, SJ – among the better intellectuals to meet, Joe. Among other things, during his campus days at the Ateneo de Manila he was looking to become a pure mathematician but God had other plans. After his Jesuit ordination, he became the go-to expert for things Communist, Marx et al. then took the presidencies of Ateneo de Naga U at Bicol and the Ateneo de Davao U at Mindanao. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      His article of yesterday absolutely floored me. Now we need to find a leading, respected Muslim who can express those same sentiments for the members of that faith and we can get this competition of the faiths tamed down and move on to the economy and defense against global warming.

      My masters adviser at the University of Southern California was a Jesuit priest. The intellectual might of that order is just astounding.

      • sonny says:

        Right you are, Joe. “Plumbing the depths” has always been an aphorism I associated with Jesuit thinking.

        • sonny says:

          Addendum: Mindanao and its peoples have been historically the mission fields of the Jesuits from 1565 (interrupted by the suppression of the Order). Good histories were written wherever the SJ missionaries went. The Philippines was no exception. The Society’s History written by Fr Horacio de la Costa, SJ (PhD, Harvard) is compulsory reading for the Philippine historian.

    • i7sharp says:


      Are you and Joe referring to the blog I had just now sent a response to?:

      ps Mine seems to be the first and only, thus far, response to it.

      • Joe America says:

        Yes, that is the article. His blog is a simple re-post of his newspaper article. I don’t know if there are comments there or not. I’d be very much interested in your comment, if you’d care to share it here. It looks like it might have gone to moderation because it doesn’t show up on the blog.

        • i7sharp says:

          Yes. Awaiting moderation.

          ← Contentious Positions and the BBL
          0 Responses to The Christian Filipino Nation and Prejudice
          i7sharp says:
          Your comment is awaiting moderation.
          May 27, 2015 at 7:22 am
          “Pope Francis has told the Catholics in China to be good witnesses to the truth of the Catholic faith.”

          What is “the truth of the Catholic faith”?

          “He [Pope Francis] might say the same to Catholics and Christians in the Philippines.”

          “Catholics and Christians”?
          What is the difference between them or their faiths?

          btw, …
          Has any of the popes said to people,
          “Search the scriptures … they are they which testify of Jesus Christ”?
          Please see

          Salamat po.

  • Melanie Avery says:

    Hi Joe,

    Read all the arguments. Would love to agree with most, if not all. Arguments raised very valid but am looking at different angle here. The nation is sick. We have been sick for a long time. No point in finger pointing as who to blame. My analogy to this? When the body is sick, the mind is not willing to accept or absorb what it meant to do. No legal mumbo jumbo would make Juan do or undo things .. Even if you say for a better Philippines .. if his stomach is empty, his family in dire need of medical attentions, his brain destroyed by constant use of chemicals ” to help forget his problems”, and etc. Sounds familiar? This is not the story of the 20-30 % of population, certainly not from Makati, nor the graduates or intellectuals who have contributed to this discussion but this is a common scenario, I’d say of remaining 60-70% of population, in the provinces, side streets of Manila, etc. Even the ” emerging middle class” is not immune. The talk is all about money. No wonder they idolised people who made it big, regardless of the mean they got their wealth. When you go to a home in the Phil, how many families have books to read, magazines, or any sporting equipment to improve their physical, mental, psychological well being. Very few, because whatever little money that they get for selling lumpiang ukoy or BBQ by the road is just enough for the next meal. Heck, not even enough for the next meal!!
    Their escape.. Televesion, cell phone. The movie stars.

    It’s not too late. The brain is neuroplastic, and will change, given the right combinations. It takes 2 weeks of doing new habits to form new connections become part of new person. Old habit is hard to break( hence nil chance of changing the Binays, etc). Better to start new habits. Start with our young- new generations.. Give them proper nutrition, proper education. Help them to understand what is ailing us. Be honest. Inculcate in their mind responsibility to themselves and their country.
    We can make the “negative ” aspects that makes the Philippines infamous into something positive. Like population-huge market potential. . A haven if you are in buying and selling business. Why not start a business that has something to do withi religious icons? And so on and so forth.
    The most progressive countries in the world are the ones where economy is the main driving force, where democracy well received. Now the question is what came first the democracy or progressive economy?

    We can talk about changing the preamble forever but .. A big but . Unless we help deal with what’s ailing us .. As a nation, we cannot proceed with change.

    • Joe America says:

      @Melanie, you argue for a patient but smart long-term plan to build from youth up. I think that is a very, very constructive approach and ought to be done. I also agree that changing the Constitution is not necessary. That was more a way to make an argument than a serious proposal. But I think “building on youth” ought not be the only approach because, (a) Binay is a huge threat that must be dispensed with, and (b) there are other development paths that ought not be set aside, but ought to be pursued with purpose:

      1. Decentralized infrastructure investment (Davao/Cagayan de Oro and Cebu) and job development (Mindanao is so very very rich with manufacturing and agribusiness development potential; Cebu is so very very rich with tourism and shipping potential).

      2. Pro-competition (anti-trust) initiatives to create more opportunities for small and middle-income businesses to thrive.

      3. A concentrated effort to develop Philippine manufacturing, from start to finished product, to capture the whole profit, not just the piecemeal profit.

      4. Hunting down the corrupt and getting their value system out of the mainstream.

      • Joe America says:

        I would add that these initiatives are not aimed at changing personal values directly, but are a continuation of the excellent economic initiatives begun under President Aquino, and would develop more “opportunities”, which themselves would reshape the values to more mainstream, norm, middle class. Good.

        • Joe America says:

          This article, which just popped out today, illustrates the potential of continuing the drive for economic growth:

        • Melanie Avery says:

          Agree totally. The youth approach is just one part. It will never work if done in isolation as problems are too deep. Can’t be tackled by isolating one without affecting other aspect of society. Need concerted efforts of everyone. Am just looking at areas where it is easier to approached than dealing with the misguided head on. You can only change a person( or in this case our country) if that person (government our country)acknowledge his/ their wrong doing. I have yet to meet a person in the government who admitted his/ her part in the problem. Big or small. Some have done it with disastrous consequence.. To them and their family. Who am I to impose my believes on others , and put their lives at risk?
          Definite economic momentum since Aquino. Sustainable?? . Hope so, provided Mother Nature does not show it’s displeasure. 6-12 times typhoons/super-typhoon per year, on top of man-made disasters.
          I agree with developing the manufacturing businesses. Where to start? Countries are offering sweeteners. Am not sure if giving companies tax incentives ( to start business) would be a good move for us. Filipinos are well sough after as showing good work ethics..everywhere in the world, and cheap. That’s incentive enough.
          Encouraging, and supporting small and medium size businesses from barangay level upward is also a good start. Government sending young people to up skills, preferably overseas.
          The cancers of society should also be removed and preferably discarded as their likes tends to ” metastasise elsewhere” . Hah

  • I read this article hoping to get a break from my own article that I have trouble ‘setting straight.’ “Ah, good! A distraction!” I cheered. Instead, I ended up quaking–out of sadness, because I am not sure there will be more than enough of us who would be willing to change this. Can we? Me, I am willing to do my part. (I so hate becoming a victim, a plaything of the society we have created.)

  • DAgimas says:

    spot on. that’s why I always wonder why Pacman or anybody else who just got an award that they immediately thank whatever their god is. I mean, don’t they ever believe in their hard work? that its their hardwork that took them where they are?

    • Joe America says:

      The mixing of faith in sports has always perplexed me, too. Why do players believe they are putting God on the line? Seems king of presumptuous to me. I enjoy the spiritual and the intellectual side of Christianity (trying to understand the wisdoms in the Bible). But I don’t understand the public show component, the elaborate public rituals, the introduction of God into wholly man’s affairs (government, sports). God is not a crutch, I think.

  • edgar lores says:

    1. The preamble is prolix and tautological. (And there should be no comma after the word “posterity”.)

    2. As an exercise in blue pencilling, I tried to rewrite the preamble, adding nothing and just subtracting and transposing words:

    Original: We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

    Revised: We, the Filipino people, in order to build a Just society, promote the Common Good, conserve and develop our Patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of Freedom, Equality and Peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

    3. Here are my reasoning’s:

    3.1. Sovereign. Unnecessary adjective. It shows a bit of insecurity to claim the obvious.
    3.2. Imploring the aid of Almighty God. Pathetic as discussed.
    3.3. Humane. Redundant. A just society must of necessity be humane.

    3.4. Establish a government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations. Redundant. The purpose of a constitution is precisely that.
    3.5. Independence. We have been independent since 1945. No need to say we are adults now.
    3.6. Democracy. Democracy is a form of government in which the people rule, directly or indirectly. The substance of democracy is freedom (or liberty) and equality. It is better to mention the substance than the form.

    3.7. Rule of law. A constitution is precisely that.
    3.8. Truth. What truth? There are many truths. Truth is pluralistic.
    3.9. Justice. Redundant. Remember “just society”?

    3.10. Love. Oh, come on.
    3.11. Equality is an attribute of a just society. Together with freedom, it forms part of the substance of a democracy.
    3.12. Peace. Peace? Peace has never been obtained but, like freedom and equality, it is a worthy aspiration

    4. If I were to add a word, it would be “Fairness”. Being fair is different from being just in that it pertains to dealing with others and not merely to the dispensation of judicial and social justice by the government. I would add the word between “Freedom” and “Equality”.

    • Joe America says:

      Ahhh, I love your attention to detail, Edgar. I also like your “cut to the chase”, without the redundancies. Still, I am a bit in favor of poetry over prose, as the commitment to following the constitution needs to be heartfelt. It is this heartfelt allegiance, the DESIRE to sacrifice, that I find missing from the Philippine rulemaking. The thrust is on obedience.

      When people stand at the mall at opening and the National Anthem is played, I always get emotional. I wonder what the people feel. Or are they just obeying.

      • sonny says:

        Now you’re shaking my civic faith, Joe. I am beginning to wonder what the kids are being taught in Civics classes all across the country! Yikes or Yesss! 🙂

        • Joe America says:

          I can only guess, based on my young son, that schools for sure teach the history of national heroes and pledges. He could sing the Philippine National Anthem in kindergarten. But he did’t really grasp the FEELING of patriotism. I’m not sure when or if . . . or what share . . . of Filipino kids grasp that feeling. There is clearly great pride in the nation. The commitment to personal sacrifice seems missing to me (why throw trash in such a beautiful landscape). So color me befuddled.

          • sonny says:

            Am really relying much on homeroom and history/Social Studies teachers. Surfing PH links not very encouraging either. Subpar textbooks suspect too, I suppose. Alumni (expats specially) connections/input sorely needed. There seems to be no channels of communication there.

            • Joe America says:

              Yes, that pretty much nails it. To some extent, DepEd is simply overwhelmed with volume. The need to provide millions of textbooks and hundreds of thousands of desks and thousands of new classrooms and find the teachers. What is disconcerting is the “same old same old” rather than thinking, well, the internet could take a lot of weight off our teachers and class rooms and need to peddle paper.

              • sonny says:

                Borrowing from Paladin: “Have teachers, will travel” Or from Diogenes too!

  • People here are NOT selfish we are just lazy unlike other countries we don’t have bullies, we help each other if we can.

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