Women of the Philippines, striving for dignity

The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. The national conscience is weaker without her determined guidance.

By Joe America

Does Mocha Uson strive for dignity, do you think? She does what she does for a reason, for accolades, I suppose, for money, perhaps, and out of spite, I’d guess. I’m also guessing she feels there is dignity to what she does.

Women are complicated. I know that. They have levels and layers of perception and emotion that escape us blockheaded men who have half our brains below the belt. Uson has that figured out, I know.

Before considering Filipino women, let’s discuss dignity.

What is dignity?

Let’s work with the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary, for we are allowed to provide our own definitions. Try this one on for size:

Dignity is the self-esteem generated by doing deeds considered good by people who are helped by those deeds.

So dignity is personal. But it is based on our reading of moral goodness, as our community or tribe or nation or people define “good”.

We can find dignity in being brave, even if we might live longer by being a coward, without dignity. So, clearly, we can choose to reach for dignity, or forget about it.

People can’t give dignity to someone else. They can give honor. Dignity has to be self-generated. Yet members of the group can recognize dignity, because it is behavior that is to their benefit.

The Duterte Administration probably grants dignity to Mocha Uson (for loyalty and success), and a whole lot of Filipinos consign dignity to the Duterte Administration (because they get to feel the power, too), but we must ask . . . is that really dignity, or is it something else? Pride, maybe. Or conceit.

Based on our definition, it is not dignity if it departs from what the group says is morally good.

Therein lies the rub. Most Filipinos appear to go by to a moral standard that is ‘dog eat dog’, or the power mantra, or stacking of people one above the other in terms of influence. Popularity counts. Power counts. That’s why when my shiny new car arrives at an intersection, motorcycles and old cars allow me the right-of-way. I might be someone well-known or powerful, and that is the moral code of the Philippines.

The competing moral code is faith based (Christian or Muslim, it does not matter) that considers compassion and fairness to be good. I arrive at the intersection and await my turn.

Most atheists also adhere to the faith code because they figure things out and end up with the same set of values, but without God in the equation. God is a teacher, after all, and knowledge converges to the same point.

It appears that the power-based moral code is more dominant in the Philippines than the faith-based code. Within the educated and traveled set, the faith-based code is prominent because people have learned, through education (knowledge), that we are better off being kind and fair to one another. Among the masses, power counts, even if people don’t have it. They have not intellectualized or studied this. It is what they live. The code allows them to exercise their own power by backing a warlord or president who is tough and crass.

But another rub . . .

The Constitution is a faith-based document. It mandates equality, fairness, and the compassions of human rights. Those who live the meaning of the document do not see dignity in power that undermines what the Constitution calls for. For example, they do not see dignity in power used to abuse women or frighten people or kill them.

So when we discuss dignity, we must clarify if our standard is power- or faith- based, the former often anchored on ignorance or maybe connivance, the latter on knowledge. And we must understand that the Philippines, as a nation, has certified in the Constitution that a faith-based code is best for citizen well-being. So has most of the free world.

Women of the Philippines

Let me identify several women in Philippine news who appear to belong to three different moral groups:

  1. Power morality: Imelda Marcos, Mocha Uson, Lorraine Badoy
  2. Faith morality: Leni Robredo, Risa Hontiveros, Leila De Lima
  3. No morality: Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe

Group 1 has dignity within the group, but it is the “wrong” dignity for the nation’s well-being, as defined by the Constitution. Group 2 has the right kind of dignity. And group 3 can’t possibly have dignity because dignity requires a set of principles that benefit others. People of group 3 play both sides, for themselves.

Developing more Filipino women of dignity

The power morality generally puts women into subordinate roles. Men can have mistresses while a woman who has an affair is reviled. In the stackings of superiors over inferiors, women end up inferior.

I personally can’t  comprehend why any woman would accept such a lesser assignment, but many do. They benefit, I suppose, by getting jobs or money out of it, or feeling the allure of a man’s attentions. Oddly enough, some faiths, by doctrine, also assign women a submissive role. It’s good that I’m not a woman, because I would be infuriated by all this obnoxious male arrogance.

Group 3, the women of no morality, are horrible examples for anyone, I think. They teach, by example, that it is okay to say one thing but do another. They preach equality and then bow to a man of power. They teach, and live, weakness.

The women of group two are the women who are for women, as dignified people. As equals. As people commanding respect, not subordination.

It for sure seems to me that if you are a woman of the Philippines, you have a choice. You can accept that it is okay for women to live within the bondage of the popular power moral code of the Philippines, or you can commit to the Constitutional code that says women are free and equal and deserve respect, not subordination.

Or you can play games with it, for self-advantage (group 3).

Put another way, you can pick what dignity means to you.

You can decide, “from where should I get my values?”



56 Responses to “Women of the Philippines, striving for dignity”
  1. NHerrera says:

    Cowards die many times before their deaths.
    — Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

    But old Julius or Shakespeare had not imagined our Groups 1 and 3 women.

    Good read, Joe. There is a whole bunch of those in the Luneta yesterday, not counting the “hakots.”

    • parengtony says:

      BBM is salivating. He is feeling good about the progress of his plan to get VP Leni out of his way. The path to power is steadily getting shorter and shorter.

      But, IMO, the Luneta “Palit-Bise” rally was a mistake. BBM is cockily overplaying his cards. The people will be able to see through all this political machinations.

      I believe VP Leni will not back down. Instead, I see her as doubling down. But her supporters and allies must step up with a forceful information campaign about her message to the UN (translated in Tagalog and Cebuano). Hindi mahirap ipaliwanag kung gaano kalaking kasalanan sa Diyos, sa Bayan, at sa Taong Bayan ang pagpapatayin ang libo libong mga tatay, nanay, anak, kapatid, pinsan, kaibigan,kapibahay, kababayan at kapwa tao.

  2. LG says:

    Well put, JA. Lamentably, so few women leaders in group 2, far outnumbered by those classifiable to be in groups 1 n 2.

  3. Zen says:

    I really cringe at fake news aggrandizing Group 1 and 3, even at ordinary news stating facts of what they said and done. They have demoralized a lot of Filipino women who are so gullible,
    perhaps because of lack of education, family and community moral formation, and the lack of experience with other people and country’s culture. These women may have never been out of their small village and see how the other women in another village live.

  4. NHerrera says:

    It may be too early to veer off in another direction, but I recall reading Duterte saying that he wished her mother — the anti-Marcos and religiously devout woman of a mother, a woman of dignity, if I may add — can see him now. That puzzles me. As Joe commented in the blog, it is probably because my brain is divided between the part up there and the part below the belt. It can’t “compute” well. I need edgar to help me with the puzzle.

    • edgar lores says:

      When I read that item, my reaction was, “Oh no, you don’t. If your mother sees you now, she would wish you were stillborn for having inflicted such a great tragedy on the nation.”

      I read she was a principled woman with great dignity. So, no, she would not be proud. She would be devastated.

      The honor is not in becoming president. As Erap (and Trump) proved, any audacious fool can win the position. The honor is in serving the country well.

      • edgar lores says:

        But it makes me wonder: What is the measure of a mother’s love? Can it encompass monster children?

        • NHerrera says:

          I do not know the details of the situation here but a mother seeing a monster in the making should temper, as a matter of responsibility, her innate love for her child with the liberal use of the rod to evolve the monster to at least the garden variety brat. ( Spare the rod and spoil the child. )

          • bauwow says:

            Well, if his mother was alive, she would kick his ass until it turns yellow! His mother was a devout follower of Cory Aquino. Cory A. would perfectly fit in group 2, with all the sacrifices she underwent including her death by colon ca.

  5. edgar lores says:

    1. I like very much the distinction between power-based morality and faith-based morality. It explains a lot.

    2. If I may, I would like to add another stone – rules-based morality. To a certain extent, power-based and faith-based moralities rest on perception rules. Might is right. Or Allah is the one true God.

    2.1. But rules-based morality rests on rational and secular rules. Thus, authoritarianism is power-based, religion is faith-based, and democracy is rules-based.

    3. The great aberration of power-based morality is that it seeks to be faith-based. Duterte followers say we must have faith in him.

    3.1. True, when we vote candidates into public offices, we must have faith in their capacity to deliver. No one can say Duterte was not given that concession at the start. But when Duterte flouts the Constitution, he acts in bad faith and, therefore, we have naught but lost faith in him and hold him accountable.

    4. Conversely, the great aberration of faith-based morality is that it seeks to be power-based. We see this plainly in theocracies. In democracies, we see this in the dogmatic attempts of religion to dictate and influence public policy.

    4.1. In the long history of our country, we will observe that progress has been held back by the inordinate power of religion and religious leaders. There’s the RH law, for one, and divorce, for another.

    5. Rules-based morality may also suffer from deviations. We see this in the acceptance of slavery, and in the extremes of left-wing and right-wing politics.

    5.1. The Constitution is faith-based and rules-based. The faith is expressed in the Preamble and the rules in the body of the document.

    6. With exceptions, I generally find Filipino women greater adherents of rules-based morality than Filipino men. Filipino men follow power-based morality as evident from their behavior in Congress and even in the Judiciary. (Even in the home, ‘di ba, mga ka-takuza?)

    6.1. There is greater dignity in the little finger of one hand of Leni Robredo than in the whole body of Duterte.

    6.2. In Senator Pacquiao, we find the strange hybrid of a power-based and faith-based creature.

  6. Micha says:

    David Brooks had an interesting, albeit confused, column last Friday. He observed that while religion-based morality is pretty much in decline, most Americans still has a strong sense of right and wrong and hasn’t descended into the abyss of moral relativism.

    His only beef is that we’ve lost the moral framework or criteria and a possible path from sin to redemption offered by religion.

    As a non-believer, I can’t help but feel amused at his observation.

    Earth to David Brooks : if you still need God to tell you what is right and wrong, you’re most probably a horrible human bastard.

    In Philippine context, the fact that the Catholic church had largely remained ineffectual in its denunciation of Duterte instigated killings demonstrates its institutional irrelevance borne by its own sins.

    • NHerrera says:


      • NHerrera says:

        I generally agree on the last line. I digress here but let me try this, Micha.

        The higher socio-economic classes and the people at the three branches of the Government, I believe, are secularized and have been so for sometime following worldwide trend.

        The institutional irrelevance of the Catholic Church is probably much directed to the Church’s very weak influence on the common or poor people of the populace. But the poor populace — seeing the behavior of the Government leaders and their socio-econ betters who really pay lip service to the Churches teachings especially as it is seen as an ultra-forgiving institution except when it relates to RH practices or divorce (hahaha) — cannot but be un-influenced by the Church which as you said have their own sins.

        That smart gadget in the pocket or bag has not helped.

        So let us not expect the Church of the Knights Templar — who after they have served their purpose was thrown to the garbage dump by the sinful Pope conniving with the King of France at that time — to solve our earthly problems.

        • Micha says:


          Why is the Catholic Church so obsessed with opposing the RH bill?

          • NHerrera says:

            Micha, the Catholic Church puts much weight on its Sacrament of Marriage and the family. An internet search can yield you better explanation than I can write. As an aid in the search consider what Vatican has to say, because of the rigid hierarchy of the Church. (You may have well asked of people from another faith — what is the problem of eating pork?)

            Pertinent here:

            ‘God is, or He is not.’ But which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here.
            — Blaise Pascal

            • Micha says:

              The RH bill is not an assault on the Sacrament of Marriage. There are in fact many married Catholic men and women who support it. The Church’s dogmatic opposition to the bill is not based on present day realities. It still clings to stone-age morality and tradition that is no longer pertinent in light of the advances made in human civilization.

              The problem of overpopulation is intertwined with AGW which threatens the very survival of life on this planet. In opposing the state sanctioned solution, the Church plays a destructive role in human progress and flourishing.

              • NHerrera says:

                You have a good point. I am a Catholic, probably labeled as on the liberal side. But I will not debate the issue. Cheers.

            • Micha says:

              And that is why the Church-led protest against drug related killings is laughable and hypocritical because while it purports to uphold human life and dignity, it opposes the very measure which seeks to do exactly that – give married couples the ability and freedom to plan the number of children they could raise without subjecting them to paralyzing poverty which would in turn make them vulnerable to engage in drug related activities, either as a source of livelihood or to numb the hunger and the pain of a wretched life.

        • Bill In Oz says:

          I’d like to throw in some information here : the Roman Catholic church only ‘recognised’ marriage as a sacrament in 1184 at the Council of Verona. This was confirmed with Marriage being included in the list of the ‘seven’ sacraments at the Second Council of Lyon in 1274. (Wikipedia : The sacrament of marriage )

          Thus prior to these declarations for over a thousand years after the Jesus of Nazerath, in the Christian churches, marriage was not considered a sacrament. Rather it was seen as a civil private contract much as the Romans, the Jews and indeed the Chinese, had done.

          This was in fact one of the major complaints of the Reformation started by the Lutherans in 1520’s. That the popes of the Roman Catholic Church ‘invented’ sacraments, among them marriage.. To this day many of the protestant Christian churches do not recognise any sacrament of marriage.. The service conducted is simply a blessing service.

          • sonny says:

            The number of Sacraments is 7 as it has always been. If one does not recognize Sacred Tradition (capital T) as the Catholic Church does then the error comes. The councils simply confirm established fact, Bill. This process can be shown here:


            This is the best I can do.

            • Bill In Oz says:

              Thanks for your reply Sonny and the link. I read the writings of Luther there with interest.

              I was brought up catholic but have not been by conscious choice since I was 22-23 (1967-8).

              It is ironic. I looked at the link you give. The information provided there re the ‘Sacrament” of marriage is the same as provided by Wikipedia. However we have come to different conclusions re it’s significance. I see these church council decisions as stating doctrine new and binding for Catholics. You as confirming as existing belief that predated the councils decisions.

              And slight change of topic : Does the Iglesia Kristi have divorce or does it have the same doctrines as the Roman Catholic Church ? I don’t know.

              • sonny says:

                The Iglesia ni Kristo (INK) I know is the church and the movement founded by Felix Manalo. Presently I know next to nil on their practices regarding divorce and marriage. If one is to compare INK to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) one has to start at their theology and philosophy and their history. The INK has a good size membership and their political clout is courted by some politicians. Here’s a guide:


      • sonny says:

        Ditto that!

        • sonny says:

          meant to attach reply to NH.

          • NHerrera says:

            Glad we are on sync there, sonny.

            • sonny says:

              Aye, NH. Irineo has sagely pointed out, old institutions like China and the Catholic Church have existed on a timeline of millennia, viz each has dealt with the human condition in depth and breadth. So situations such as RH, life issues, divorce are not exactly terra incognita.

  7. Power vs. faith (or community, if one wishes to be more neutral)

    A very useful model to describe a lot of things..

    A feminist like Ninotchka Rosca would describe power as patriarchal, faith as matriarchal.

    Marcos = power, Cory = faith is a very clear thing.

    I think the world is a mix between both extremes most of the time, with a wide spectrum.

    • Yes, agree that few people are totally in one camp or another, and just about all of us are also partly in the third camp, working for ourselves. But in the context of how to take care of the Philippines, it is fairly clear that over 100 years dominated by power has produced not much but poverty and inefficiency. That gets us back to the tipping point, and whether power is so deeply installed that it is impossible for a more cerebral, efficient community model to take root. Or does it make sense to look for a different kind of power monger, one who understands economics and customer service.

  8. karlgarcia says:

    Where or how do we classify the marginalized, the “needy” or the ones really striving for dignity?

    • edgar lores says:

      Karl, interesting question.

      I think the poor are caught between power and faith.

      In their efforts to survive, they dwell in power-based morality. They will mainly rely on their skills whatever these may be — farming, fishing, driving a tricycle, etc. — but will seek government assistance, handouts of patrons, or a toss at the wheel of fortune to climb up the economic ladder. Or simply to tread the rising waters.

      To give meaning to their lives, they will seek the solace of faith… and the anodyne of drugs. In the photos of the wakes for the victims of martial law, one will find the trappings of religion and superstition. The cross, candelabras, candles, images, and the fluffy chicks on top of the white coffins that belie the grim surroundings. No doubt proper faith rituals accompany the entire wake.

      The poor have no care for, and perhaps no inkling about, rules-based morality. But, then, neither do most of their patrons. As their chieftain pronounced. “Human rights is shit.”

  9. karlgarcia says:

    I did not want to open lots of cans of worms with the discussion of divorce with Bill, but as Sonny said it is not exacty terra incognita. Divorce maybe a quick fix for some, but some it maybe the only answer. It would be a game changer in this part of the globe.

    I maybe be going off topic, but women,dignity and morality are part of the subject of discussion, I might mention divorce one more (maybe the last )time.

  10. grammy2342 says:

    I love your Group 3 – no morality.

    Topmost for me is Loren Legarda with scrambled sense of loyalty and not getting any reward.

    Grace Poe is another example who is wishywashy – only interested in which side of her bread is buttered. Rumors has it that she will try again. Heaven forbid.

    Pia Cayetano, together with her brother, are a shame to their late father – the compañero who had principles when he was still alive.

    • madlanglupa says:

      Navarro-Pedrosa addressing the mob last weekend was the last straw, so effectively destroying any hope of credibility as her being the author of two books on Imelda, having sold herself to the idea of an absolutist simply because of her hatred.

      “You either die a hero… or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” — Atty. Harvey Dent.

      • Micha says:

        She had been, and maybe still is, a strong advocate of federalism. That should partly explain her sucking up to the murderer’s camp.

  11. chemrock says:

    A couple of sessions on Immanuel Kant decades ago left me confused more than ever on the topic of dignity.

    What is dignity — a concept thingy or some value sets? We normally view dignity in the third party sense. Rape, acts of depravity (eg stripping Cebu inmates in public), sex video in the Congress inquiry on deLima, treating drug addicts as non-humans, endo, poverty etc, all these are acts against the dignity of others. In the third party sense, dignity implies some universal standards of decency, not just in the moral sense but generally — decent standard of living, decent treatment in incaceration, etc. That standard of decency may vary from person to person (eg tables for Congresswomen need decency boards, but for Congressmen it’s not necessary – because they are sans decency) or it may be situational.

    Some countries consider dignity so important it is specifically stated in their constitution. ‘Dignity’ is the fundamental principle in Germany Constitution. It is mentioned way ahead of ‘human rights’.

    Your Humpty Dumty view – “Dignity is the self-esteem generated by doing deeds considered good by people who are helped by those deeds.”
    You discuss here dignity in the first party sense which is interesting for me as I’ve never considered it from this perspective.
    So dignity is an active agent. It requires of one to act positively for the well-being of others, based on one’s standing of what is morally right or wrong. To qualify for having dignity one then must have the decency to act, one subscribes to a universal sense of morality, and one acts for the well-being of others. If one has done so, then the self-esteem can be held high.

    You compartmentalised into 3 groups makes it easier to see. I would add the conditionality factor. Group 2 acted unconditionally. Group 1 acted for money, and the intoxicating addiction of fame (or notoriety) or a self-induced feeling of power rubbing off the powerful. Those working in big corporations should know – many secretaries of CEOs thought they are the 2nd in command in the company.

    • The blog is my thinking out loud, not based on academic work. I am trying to figure out the dynamics that have some people locked into deeds that seem to me to be against the well-being of the nation. It is peculiar, but there are so many people who seem to be behaving badly that their drives must be considered legitimate rather than something to condemn. Or, rather, they can be condemned if one starts with the basic premise that we really should be protecting democracy and the freedoms and responsibilities that are gifted to us. They seem not to consider that.

      But that is indeed the ‘conditionality’ of dignity. Thanks for putting it in those terms.

    • https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_gg/englisch_gg.html#p0021

      Article 1

      (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.

      (2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

      (3) The following basic rights shall bind the legislature, the executive and the judiciary as directly applicable law.

  12. bauwow says:

    There is a lot of work to be done. I believe that as a country, we are way ahead of other countries, in respecting women. We already had 2 woman presidents, and if the nation wakes up from its stupor we might have a 3rd one.

    Giving women their due dignity is the work that we need to get done

  13. NHerrera says:

    Off topic

    Duterte fires DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno

    Updated 7:57 AM, April 04, 2017


    • madlanglupa says:

      Some people have the first thought of who would be taking that Cabinet position… That guy doing a crappy imitation of a Jedi when he looks more like Emperor Palpatine.

    • karlgarcia says:

      The only thing I can think about is, those under secretaries he crossed are more closer to Duterte and contributed more to the campaign.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Laviñas case maybe the same or diffent at the NIA, but that post was given to the ex AFP chief Visaya, so he was on borrowed time.
        After Bato retires expect to see him get a juicy post.

        The no government posts till three years after retirement of AFP/PNP chiefs legislation will never be passed in this admin if ever it will be passed at all.

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