The Ugly Files: House Speaker Alvarez
By Joe America
We Americans know ugly, because we’ve been that from time to time when we’ve looked down on other nations or peoples. Today, we can see a peculiar kind of ugly arising in the US under the obscene banner of “America First”.
There are many uglies, both in America and the Philippines, and we’ll get to them in time. Right now, let’s just consider one specific case.
Philippine House Speaker Pantaleón Alvarez seems to fit that bill today. He represents the Philippines in a way that does not look nice at all. The people he is looking down on are not other peoples, but Filipinos. This is a great tragedy when you think about it, and if you think about about his oath, and about what nationhood means.
Let me also be clear. I am not talking about Speaker Alvarez, the person. I don’t know him and suspect he, like most of us, is a regular guy with family and friends and things he enjoys doing. I am talking about his work product, his deeds, and the words he uses as a legislator.
Alvarez seems clearly to be an extension of President Duterte, exercising the whims and will of a man of no apparent dedication to democracy whatsoever. Alvarez is the guy who puts punishing ideas into the political pipeline to become official deeds of state.
The People’s interests? Oaths of office? Democratic freedoms? Compassion? Those seem to mean nothing to the Speaker, and it is this thick-faced arrogance of power that represents the kind of ugly that has become prominent in the Philippines today. He is of the prototype where . . . on the job . . . ugly is an ego-bound, brash, manipulative, game-playing . . . too often older male . . . proving he is a big shot by punishing others. Showing disdain for civility. Abandoning truth and candor and the idea that, hey, we are all well-meaning citizens after the same goal of building a great nation.
Intimidation and threat are popular in this form of ugly. You see it everywhere, raised fists and sneering at decent people. That’s what uglies do. They don’t motivate and uplift. They bully and punish and suppress.
And they provoke division, labeling well-meaning people bad and inspiring them to anger. I won’t mention Senator De Lima. Her case is too obvious. There are others resisting, good and principled people working earnestly for the citizens of the nation. Vice President Robredo is one. Senator Hontiveros is another:
Hontiveros: “I lament the slow death of our democracy, forged by the rich legacy of courage and heroism of Filipinos who stood up against tyranny, but today dealt a blow by a government that punishes its dissenters, rewards its sycophants, thrives on fake news, kills the poor, and believes that a cowed population is a good population.”
The uglies claim these principled people are part of a destabilization plot, neglecting to note exactly who it is that ran for the presidency on the destabilization agenda of “change”. As far as I can tell, the opposition to the Administration is a RE-STABILIZATION effort that seeks to return to laws and civility and respect for human rights.
Here are the uglier Alvarez-backed initiatives working their way through the political system:
- Death penalty
- Lowering the age of criminal liability to elementary school kids (age 9)
- Persecution of Senator De Lima
- And his latest, a bill to control those using social media
Senator Alvaraz proposes to make it illegal to use a fake name or account on social media, with the stark penalty of 12 years in jail plus large fines gifted to those convicted of violating the law.
I suppose Mark Twain, a strong and vocal advocate for Philippine independence during the colonial period, would have used his twelve years in prison to write more novels. I’d also guess he would not have been as enthusiastic, afterward, in arguing for Philippine independence. After all, the key question asked by American leaders prior to, during, and after the Philippine American War, was:
“Are Filipinos capable of governing themselves?”
We can see from the way the House of Representatives is run that the evidence is stacking up fast for a clearcut:
“No, they are not!”
Kangaroo courts do not have a place in modern governance, nor laws that are cruel.
Good governance requires a moral framework of decency and fairness, and a recognition that freedoms are what keep a nation balanced and held to a healthy, productive center line.
Those who write anonymously do so for many reasons. Privacy. To avoid threats from bully governments. Security for oneself and family. For marketing purposes.
I know that my ideas are RICHER AND DEEPER for being uninhibited and detached from the kind of ugly lunacy that we see during murderous Filipino elections or when the President is a thin-skinned, bloodthirsty guy who has a reputation for murdering journalists, bombing mosques, and shrugging off dead kids as collateral damage.
Is that the kind of macho hubris the 16 million idolize? Shrugging off dead kids? To me, that is as ugly as ugly can get.
But back to Speaker Alvarez. Is he afraid of ideas? Does he think Administration propaganda built on lies and character assassination is okay, but some nameless guy pounding out opinions under the name of “Whozit” is a danger to society?
I suppose there might be parts of his bill that have merit, like to ban malignant bots or hacking, but I tend to think that hackers will only laugh and suggest to the Speaker that he jam the bill up his android. Plus, the law would require Facebook to submit to Philippine legal jurisdiction, and lots of luck with that. Doesn’t he realize that Facebook is a sovereign state?
There is a word for this kind of legislation. Actually, several. Chilling. Absurd. Oppressive. Violation of the Constitution. Impractical. Naive. Ugly.
If this is the modern-day Philippines, then it is an ugly nation promoted by ugly leaders who don’t grasp . . . or choose to ignore . . . that human rights and free expression are essential elements of a vibrant, compassionate, learning humanity.