The Ugly Files: House Speaker Alvarez


House Speaker Alvarez [Photo source: Inquirer]

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.


77 Responses to “The Ugly Files: House Speaker Alvarez”
  1. karlgarcia says:

    Just yesterday I complained to Chempo about fake accounts( I wasn’t thinking that time that Chem also uses a pen name).And I have lots of friends here using an alias. I should have qualified that to those who use fake accounts maliciously and there are many of them.But there are those for many valid reasons like safety,security and more freedom to express thoughts responsibly have to use an alias and that must not be removed from them.

    Lowering criminal liability have many long term effects and unintended consequences.
    Others offer that this can be solved by limiting population so that the parents can manage their childeren, more responsible parenthood seminars,etc.

    But jailing them together with the adults does not solve the present problem of sardine packed jails.

    That big white elephant rehab center is proof that building one mega structure in one place is also not a solution.
    We need more rehabs and jails but just the right size.

    Also the death penslty can’t solve the jail population because laws are not retro active.
    If crime prevention and deterrence is the objective, it is proven that it does not work.
    I was pro death penalty a few years ago, but I have been convinced that it is just wrong.

    As for Delima and those who are”next” continue to fight the good fight.

    Let us not lose hope.

    • I think the tide for civility is rising. Pushback is everywhere. Pragmatic problems are tarnishing the glow, from mining to Yasay citizenship to jeepney strike. De Lima has been made into a hero.

    • Thea says:

      Karl, I used a pseudonym on my Fb account since Fb was established when UFO thing was still considered by many as “classified”. 😃 That is to protect my privacy. With all the green matter in Fb staff’s brain, I wonder why they couldn’t (or intentionally could NOT), solve the proliferation of fake accounts. Perhaps, Mark Z. has read too much of Xi’s ideological speeches?

  2. NHerrera says:

    It is obvious that the Alvarez bill to make it illegal to use fake name/ account in social media will result in at least two types of citizens:

    A = those honestly but respectfully criticizing the ugly acts of Government;

    B = those who dishonestly and fawningly sing hosannas on or rationalize the ugly acts of Government.

    “A” most probably be accused of destabilizing the Government and meted out the 12 years imprisonment provided for in the bill.

    “B” like Mocha Uson will be rewarded with a place at MTRCB and a place at Philstar Op-Ed section to sing more of their Hosannas.

    The purpose is to “zero” the A types and “bloom” the B types.


  3. chemrock says:

    Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Very obviously 16m see things differently. There may be rising pushbacks to the ugliness, but I see no way for a return to civility and rule of law within the terms of this admin. Institutions are either weak or overpowered, legislative is in the hands of the ugly, judiciary is a shaky pack of cards that will crumble with the next change of 12 supreme court justices. My projection is it’s going to get worse and Filipinos are going to suffer. The uglies do not understand, nay they are intoxicated with power and impunity, to fully appreciate there are severe consequences for their ugly actions. The pain will come from international reaction to the repulsive regimes. Pride and empty bravado made them fail to see international push back is already happening. Last few natural disasters have drawn lukewarm sympathy from the international communities. Foreign investments are getting hit. Trade partners are considering what they can do like withdrawing preferential tariffs. Intl CHR has lots of friends and slowly but surely they are beginning to pull the strings. Philippines economy will get roasted. My challenge here is – I like to see if the 16m will still have their fists clenched in 3 years time, or two hands cupped in search of gravy.

    • NHerrera says:

      Today’s inquirer Editorial

      is in tune with our current blog and chempo’s comment.

      Interesting from an investor’s viewpoint is this comment from the British Community:

      The British business community here has also expressed its concern that a Philippine government willing to breach an international agreement to pass the death penalty would find it “much easier to walk away from a commercial treaty.”

    • Thea says:

      @ Chemrock

      We always see the 16M who voted for Duterte last election. I see a different number and that is more than 16M. I include those who voted against Roxas/LP, those who voted for Binay and Poe,where are they now? Those are Filipinos who, despite the issues of plunder, are loyal to the Binays. Those are Filipinos who admired FPJ and believed they were cheated the second time when Grace Poe lost the race. Do we think their candidates lost to Duterte? Nope. They did not win because of the LP propaganda against Binay and Grace Poe. Filipinos have full of grudges in their veins, they may forget history but never their “pagkatalo”. I call them “floaters” They are not against Duterte because they are against LP. Or, they are unmindful of the “happenings”(Popoy’s) because their patrons are unmindful too of the perils.

      So, by saying 16M, will lead us to miscalculation.

      That was evident in the EDSA31.

      And, perhaps we turn on our attention to these “floaters”. I prefer, your attack as the best defense proposal.

      • chemrock says:

        i have to say you are absolutely right. However the issue we are up with now is a govt head put there by 16m. We are not saying you guys did’nt put Mar there which is a different perspective altogether.

        For the records, I’m not a Mar die-hard supporter. For me, he comes with lots of baggages. But in 2016, he represented the best in the field.

    • Francis says:

      Tell that to the populists and they will point at you and scream:


      The solution (or rather—the decisive and deciding factor in such) won’t rest with aid from the rest of the world. It will have to come from ourselves as a people. It will have to be something we ourselves resolve to commit to. Such a solution (a “nationalistic” one) is the only way to drive a stake through the heart of this mad populism. Otherwise—the body will resurrect again, and again: see Marcos.

  4. Thea says:

    The ugly fly, I thought.

  5. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Right on, Joe! For those uglies, their days are numbered! I can just see our tuta Congress
    turning balimbing again! People power will prevail — as always!

  6. madlanglupa says:

    This mullah is more interested in discipline and totalitarianism more than anyone on the House Floor (aka the future Batasang Pambansa II). For the greater good of the many, he thinks.

    Offtopic: Does this thing come off as very suspicious?

  7. arlene says:

    Fake accounts, I read plenty of them on FB but trolls are really the ugly ones. And to think most of those under the new administration possess those ugly qualities too.

    • The leadership of the nation has been hijacked by ugly values. Lying, bullying, cheating, killing. Complete lack of compassion. It is in some respects an awesome thing to behold, that so many people with dignified positions are fine with it.

      • RHiro says:

        An authoritarian system of government requires that the beast (masses) be cowed and controlled with cake after pervasive fear is introduced as the basic policy of the State.

        There are no political parties to speak of with strong mass bases to insure a viable political spectrum. It is mainly big business with their foreign counterparts and the military still tied to their historical connections with the main superpower.

        President Bannon and Trump have clearly drawn the line and will bring the U.S. to the hard right.

        Alvarez is simply the running dog, the shift to parliamentary system will be done and I doubt that Federalism will happen during Duterte’s term because it is too complicated. But the old Marcos template can get things done faster for the people that truly run the country. Big business and the military do not want us to be dragged into being the stalking horse for the U.S. – China contradiction. Under the parliamentary system a temporary fix for the Muslim problem an be easily legislated as putting in a federal system is tedious.

        It is a totally different world coming with Bannon and Trump. The age of America the Church of the Redeemer is almost over. (D. Brooks America)

        The governments rally the other day shows the skeletal framework of government use of its resources and its use of local governments to bring the crowds all courtesy of the taxpayer. The left has been frozen due to the peace talks.

        Politics here has always been about competition of the elite on who will lead. Just take a look at the landscape. Cayetano and Marcos will be vying to take over after Duterte.

        • RHiro says:

          The Philippines graduating from a failed state under Marcos to a weak state is a perfect candidate to be transformed into an Authoritarian State in a short period to conform to what big business/military would feel is a Strong State.

          Neo-liberal economics firstly destroys the State and then the market itself.

          Just take a look at The Fort. Managed primarily by a private corporation. No jeepney’s allowed to pick up passengers within the area. No tricycles. Private security in charge. It has its own transit system.

  8. edgar lores says:

    1. The Ugly Files. These files must be so big that they would fill a library.

    2. We Filipinos know ugly too. Our word for it is pangit. Substitute the first letter with “l” – which is the only acceptable letter to form another valid word in Pilipino (?) — and we have langit .

    2.1. Syllogism:

    o Major premise: Maraming pangit sa Pilipinas.
    o Minor premise: Ang Pilipinas ay langit.
    o Conclusion: Ang Pilipinas ay isang langit para sa mga pangit.

    2.2. Which is true because the Uglies dominate the landscape right now.

    3. Wish that it were not so.

    4. In his novel “You Lovely People,” Bienvenido N. Santos averred that we are a lovely people, although sometimes lost in exile. And yet foreigners see some goodness in our hearts and charm in our bearing.

    4.1. From the evidence, we are oblivious to this goodness and charm. We are constantly at each other’s throats. We seem to be in exile even in our homeland. Even from our own Eden.

    5. It is possible to return to Eden.

    5.1. I hold up Bert as an example. Consider: Bert has his own kingdom by the sea. I wonder if he holds the secret to our return. From his comments, I observe the following:

    o Bert is his own man.
    o He has a mind of his own.
    o However, he keeps an open mind and is open to persuasion.
    o He questions what he does not understand.
    o He evinces humor.
    o He has developed a liking for satire.
    o He knows and likes fishing (meaning he is self-sufficient).
    o He knows the seas and the weather.
    o He is friendly and extends invitations to visit his kingdom.
    o He has a crystal ball albeit a cloudy one.

    5.2. Gadzooks! Bert is da man.

  9. NHerrera says:

    Another ugly file or move:

    The following Senators were stripped of their Senate Posts/ Committee Chairmanships:

    Franklin Drilon — Senate President Pro Tempore (replaced by Recto)
    Francis Pangilinan — Committee on Agriculture
    Bam Aquino — Committee on Education
    Risa Hontiveros — Committee on Health

    Pangilinan, Drilon, Aquino and Hontiveros then moved that they join the minority bloc. Drilon said De Lima would also like to associate herself with the minority, but Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said he would rather wait for a formal communication (from De Lima). As of posting time, the chairman of the minority bloc replacing Recto is Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

  10. gerverg1885 says:

    The ugliest of them all is turning to be the exact copy of Hitler although on a very minuscule level, even calling those youths Duterte’s youth, as if they will last forever like Hitler’s dream of a thousand year Reich with the Hitler’s youth supporting him.

    We must not forget that nothing lasts forever.

  11. the end has come… ;-( <- the ironic frown..

  12. Another nomination for the uglies: VACC

    What is going on? Why can’t they respect people’s freedom of speech? Why do they want to drown the dissenters?

  13. karlgarcia says:

    Things are getting uglier by the day. Aguirre saying that asking Who is next is just entertainment, at same time Calida is preparing charges.

    Trillanes told Delima that she can still legislate while in Crame. I doubt that because for sure she won’t be allowed to have laptops and smartphones, unlike Trillanes before where he even got to enroll and graduate in an online course.
    But very good if she will be allowed online privileges.

    Now as to jailing Trillanes, he will just say “Been there, done that”. Just hope no “accidents” will happen.

    • NHerrera says:

      In all of this depressing news and events, it is some relief that the Military has behaved reasonably well and is a factor of stability. What would have happened if its high officials started to behave like Aguirre — whose sense of propriety as a Secretary of Justice has sunk to great depth. Then all is lost.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Indeed NH. There is a method to the madness of Dutere in courting the active and retired soldiers.

        • NHerrera says:

          karl, additional thought: Trillanes must be a pain in the neck to Duterte and his lieutenants, but Duterte cannot move decisively on Trillanes because being a military man — although a former mutineer, but even in that Trillanes shows he has guts — Duterte probably does not know what kind of support Trillanes has with the military with it not being fully sold to Duterte.

          • karlgarcia says:

            He might have gotten the support of a PMA class who still blames Trillanes for Angelo Reyes’ demise (PMA class 66) and he got adopted by class 67.
            He can not base the support base of Trillanes in the past elections. People may validly think that he was not the right guy for VP.

  14. karlgarcia says:

    And the Oplan Tokhang is back! After That PDEA jail prison break. AIDG snafu. Then DILG proposing to put drug free stckers on every home sucked big time.
    They still think Tokhang is a good idea. 😡

  15. chemrock says:

    I wrote long ago, the biggest danger or a Duterte presidency is the spawning of many Little Dutertes everywhere.

    • edgar lores says:

      They are taking your “offense is the best defense” seriously.

      o Stripping senate committee chairmanships
      o Threatening reps for voting their conscience on the death penalty
      o Threatening Trillanes for coddling
      o Threatening Jim Paredes
      o Countering EDSA rally with Luneta rally

      Intimidation is a tool to strike fear and to suppress the righteous expression of conscience and morality.

    • madlanglupa says:

      The Apt Pupils. Elsewhere it’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  16. NHerrera says:

    As a sort of refreshing counter-punch to Aguirre’s “Who do you want next?” we have Trillanes:

    – To Duterte: “If I am insignificant, why are your knees shaking?”

    – To Calida: “Shut up! Just do it.”

    Trillanes does not include Aguirre in these recent one-liners, a measure, I believe, on the insignificance he attaches to the newly minted motor-mouth Aguirre.

  17. Bill In Oz says:

    Some good news on the Philippines in the Guardian. Some parts of the Catholic Church is pushing back :

  18. gerverg1885 says:

    Duterte’s war on drugs will never be successful as long as Peter Lim is alive and well and exporting drugs to the country (assuming he is in China) and daily adding billions to Duterte’s account (the most likely reason why he was let go after they talked personally).

    Trillanes has very good intelligence gathering men so we can expect more additional info about Duterte’s hidden wealth after Lascanas’ testimony at the Senate…and Duterte will fume more and name him more names, maybe this time sundalong sinangag na kanin.

  19. popoy del r cartanio says:

    No quotes, Minced words: He and his free loaders who ride the tiger will definitely be eaten by the tiger; doesn’t matter how. The power of fear strikes back at the bearer and sower; time doesn’t matter when because sa masamang gawi, Lintik lang ang walang ganti. Watch the timeless world. We are the world.

  20. popoy del r cartanio says:

    Make it look like a poem:

    He and the freeloaders
    who rides the tiger
    will definitely be
    eaten by the tiger;
    doesn’t matter how.

    The power of fear strikes
    back at its bearer and sower;
    time doesn’t matter when because
    sa masamang gawi, Lintik lang
    ang walang ganti.
    Watch the world.
    We are the world.

    Make the above
    the lyrics of a ditty
    sing no less by the
    Apo Hiking Society.

    • popoy del r cartanio says:


      Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along,
      but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that
      consumes me, but I am the fire.

      -Jorge Luis Borges

  21. karlgarcia says:

    FPNoy said that it is time for the LP’s voice to be heard again, but should be constructive.
    The LP in the lowerhouse has not yet transferred to the minority for now.
    Maybe if the death penalty is railroaded maybe they will move to minority?

    • NHerrera says:

      That is one thing good about someone like FPnoy. Not being corrupt and one whose term as PH President he can be rightfully proud of, he can take his time analyzing what he is going to do and say.

      He said he will give one year before speaking out and he wants to be true to his word. And whatever little words he uttered, he hints to being supportive of the current Administration and will be constructive in his comments when that one-year moratorium expires.

  22. caliphman says:

    Joe, witnessing from afar this horrid transformation into the heart of darkness what was once a nation of beauty and promise, I share the utter consternation, frustration, and despair evoked in your blog about the country’s future. I fear for the plight of my countrymen and their families who are at risk not having the safe haven of being in a foreign shore like me and many others who frequent your site. Stay safe.

  23. karlgarcia says:

    No one would like to take the role of Manny Paquiao in the HOR……for now.

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