Philippine congressmen choose tyranny over democracy

When congress fails to represent the people properly, the people take it upon themselves to act. [Photo source: Movement against Tyranny via The Guardian]

By JoeAm

One thing you will notice about Philippine politics is that the President is very good at creating enemies. Think of the enemies he battles every day: drug addicts, terrorists, human rights advocates, NPA, the Catholic Church, leaders of other nations who criticize him, students at universities and other citizens who criticize him, and Senators De Lima and Trillanes.

Never has a government been so intensely destabilized while carrying on its business in peace.

It often seems that the President is the president only of people who support him. Every other Filipino is an enemy, disloyal, and threatened with words or jail or death. This antagonism toward criticism influences how cabinet officials react. They are afraid to admit any agency failings at all. And the police set aside any notion of due process or respect for the lives of Filipino citizens.

In its original concept, Democracy is supposed to be structured to prevent this. It installs a middle ground, a batch of representatives of the people, to handle disputes. In fact, there are two layers of middle ground between the people and the president: the Senate and the House. These two bodies are empowered by the Constitution to do many things, hold hearings to understand issues, write laws, pass budgets, confirm appointments, and organize the courts. Resolving conflicts is a major part of what they do. Ideally, the President can be a president of all the people because issues only come to him after they have been argued by the legislators.

But not in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, the legislators have decided to take their power from the President instead of the people. As such, they are no longer self-determined or independent. They are order-takers. They don’t have to listen to the people. They just do what the President wants, just like the police and Cabinet secretaries and economists and a lot of judges do. They are order takers of the President and order givers to the people.

Well, they were that for two years, anyway.

Now it seems that some have decided to take their orders from a new House Speaker, former President Gloria “Hello Garci” Arroyo. Perhaps she is just a new filter for the President who still expects the legislators to do his bidding, we don’t yet know. But we do know that the legislators still refuse to hold power for themselves. They give it to Speaker Arroyo or the President. They listen, they don’t speak. They listen and obey.

Then they sing and dance for the people and tell them stories about what is best for them.

That is a huge national tragedy, that hundreds of so-called distinguished legislators do not have the strength of character, the ethical commitment, the patriotic honor, to do what the Constitution demands:

Stand independent and represent the people

The Constitution empowers congressmen and women to be a force in government but they willingly give up that force for personal power and enrichment. They cede their Constitutional authority and responsibility to an aspiring dictator. And they spend their careers in government taking orders, giving orders, and issuing forth blames, excuses, and propaganda for consumption by the voters they are supposed to represent.

I used to think judges were distinguished and honorable. I no longer do. Okay. One is, but the rest? No confidence.

I used to think congressmen and congresswomen were distinguished and honorable. I no longer do. Oh, some are, but they do not hold sufficient weight in their collective opinions to control the mood and character of the Congress.

The majority of the legislators are weak of character. They are butterfly turncoats quick to betray one interest for another. Quick to abandon their oaths. Quick to abandon their dignity and honor. They are skilled at rationalizing away their accountability. They are skilled with blames and excuses and story telling.

It’s a problem, because when the representatives of the people choose tyranny over independent representation, they are lying to everyone. They are representing that the people themselves choose tyranny.

The people may endorse a strongman, but . . . if we follow the cycles of history . . . they will not agree to being punished themselves. They will not agree to the tyrannical aspect of authoritarian rule.

So congressmen and women, by not representing the people accurately, are setting the stage for a broad increase in hostility, and more recruitment by, and empowerment of, all the various enemies of the State.

At some point, it becomes untenable.


66 Responses to “Philippine congressmen choose tyranny over democracy”
  1. arlene says:

    And now it’s a good thing that Facebook chose to close those FAKE

  2. arlene says:

    Sorry, I pressed enter before closing the sentence. Those FAKE sites are gone now.

    • I found Panelo’s remarks fascinating. He did not disavow the State’s involvement in building or promoting the propaganda sites. He said it was no big deal because there is Twitter and other outlets. He basically certified that the State promotes fake news.

      • arlene says:

        Yes JoeAm, they are now into Twitter and Instagram to propagate fake news. But their comments sadly on legit sites are still unpalatable.

        • I think Twitter and Instagram are likely to undertake similar clean-ups. As I understand it, the FB work is in cooperation with US intelligence services who are mainly interested in stopping the Russian bot sites from interfering with US elections and promoting anger and divisiveness. But the identification of bot sites picks up Filipino abusers, too. So they are shutting all that they find.

          Also neither of those outlets has the massive penetration of FB.

      • karlgarcia says:

        I have noticed that too, but the #factchecking on Twitter may soon be if it is not already populated by Filipino Twitter users debates, right now it it is still about Trump.

        • The Globe free FB and OFW crowd are usually only on FB, not on Twitter.

          They WERE the main audience of all the fake pages that are gone now.

          • karlgarcia says:

            Then The three telcos will offer free Twitter, and or other free platforms that creates demand.

            • Twitter is better for sharing ideas, FB is about sharing content.

              The difference even in how information is spread (share as opposed to retweet) makes for different target audiences. Trolls have it harder on Twitter. Alan Robles deals with the rest.

              • karlgarcia says:

                I have read a few of those before.
                A while ago I checked Mocha’s Twitter account, just to check on the number of followers she claims to have.
                160+k compared to her 5 M FB followers.

                Due to the FB cleanup, Maybe her Twitter following will rise a bit, maybe not.

                But soon we will have more fact checkers, and more people like Alan Robles.

            • Twitter is free already, and Instagram, Spotify, etc. but one has to choose between it and FB, on Globe promotions. Globe also offers free You Tube, within bandwidth limits.

  3. arlene says:

    It is a pity we never learn from the past. We still choose those who are popular but don’t have the qualifications to run the govt. Companies hiring job applicants require a better qualification for one to land a job than some of those who are applying for government positions.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    I will paste my comment in the previous blog installment regarding the third telco.

    karlgarcia says:
    October 24, 2018 at 8:50 am
    Filipinos can not participate in any big project because of strict entry rules.
    They look for experience and capital.
    Most don’t have both, but finds a foreign partner with experience and money.
    But even those with money like Ramon Ang have money, in the case of being the third telco his foreign partner backed out, due to regulatory, and competitive issues.
    Then we have a body that is supposed to prevent monopolies or oligopolies, but big projects are capital intensive, so we still have oligopolies.

    Now for the VIllars, I agree it is conflict of interest.
    How do put to an end duopolies and situations of conflict of interest.
    We tried legislation, but it is already a web of multiple interests?
    Even if I sometimes disagree with Micha, she has a point(about opolies), but I don’t still know how we untangle the web.

    • It has become clear that the ethical boundaries we imagine to exist from our school studies do not exist in real life. Philippine governance is not according to laws or the Constitution or representation on behalf of the people, but according to power and favor. Conflict of interest is a western ideal that does not apply here. Here, favors are expected and accepted. To believe it ought to be otherwise is good thinking . . . it is what motivated me to write the article . . . but one could go crazy to expect a spotted leopard suddenly to have stripes. Justice is a western ideal in a nation that thrives on vengeance. Anti-dynasty legislation, ethics committees meeting to do good instead of being vengeful themselves, courts issuing honorable judgments, conflict of interest being prosecuted, plunderers being consigned to jail . . . those are western ideals that can’t prosper under an authoritarian regime. Our wishes and writings are wisps of irrelevance in a world that has lost any sense of honor.

      • “Western” ideals all are a result of centuries, even millenia of experience with the results of what they try to suppress or mitigate.

        1. Justice tries to give people satisfaction but rein in their desire for vengeance. Because history has shown where cycles of vengeance lead to even since Greece and Rome.

        2. Conflict of interest is to prevent the natural greed of people, and to prevent powerful and greedy groups from taking over the “res publica”, the public matter that is the Republic.

        3. Courtesy, decency and morals put a dog collar on the animal within every human being.

        The Eastern way of regulating things is more based on shame and honor – example Japan – but as one can see in China, absolute power is coming through, just like in Trump’s USA.

        All of history is cycles of development and decay, the latter setting in when people succumb to their baser instincts and destroy what they have built. Thinking of gibbons. And more.

      • karlgarcia says:

        Though it is both sad and true! at least we know that there are still people continue to strive for honor.

  5. One has to see the difference between how the US House of Representatives came to be, and how the Philippine House of Representatives came to be. Same name, very different origins.

    1) US House of Representatives = out of a mainly middle-class culture (not the South, but that would be an issue some fourscore and seven years later) of English-speaking colonists striving for independence from the Motherland, but based on ideas developed there like John Locke who was avidly read by Thomas Jefferson. Middle class people, even in France 1787 or the Philippines 1986, were behind all democratic movements. Poor are too poor to care and rich don’t have to care.

    The US also attracted carpetbaggers. That one is President now is on a very different page. Still the principles of what the US is have been lived, are not just nice words, have real meaning to people.

    2) The Philippine Assembly of 1908 was composed of principalia, the ruling class the Spanish formed from the datus of old. Datus that resisted Spanish rule landed in exile in Acapulco, or in even worse exile on the island of Fernando Poo (no relation to Grace or her adoptive father) off the coast of Africa. Intimidation against those who resisted and lifetime hereditary posts for those who cooperated (MLQ3 mentions how cabezas or barangay captains were hereditary, and selected the gobernadorcillo or mayor from among themselves, in contrast to the old native datus who were selected by mettle, meaning no guarantee of dynasties) must have formed a certain character – or better lack of character and cojones, as evidenced by Aguinaldo’s double-dealing with everybody, or the American-sponsored politicians collaborating first with the Japs then back to McArthur again.

    The Philippine Assembly became the Congress eventually. The Senate was formed back in 1916. The President had enormous (super-)powers similar to those of a Spanish or American governor. Even the cut off powers of 1987 are more than what Turkey’s President Erdogan has craved for.

    Especially significant in that respect is the American-based pork barrel system. This is what guides the Congressmen to go in certain ways. Every President (yes, each one!) has used that power and it means more to the Honorables than the people who voted them.

    3) The Filipino middle class remains very thin. That means that Congressmen can ignore them.

    The trapo class prefers poor whom they can hold in “utang na loob”, intimidate or buy votes from. Or bribe them with projects – or outright money – coming from the pork barrel.

    The cynical type of Filipino prefers a corrupt politician he can earn money from in some way because he is supporting him to an honest one who tries hard, but loses against the system.

    • Francis says:

      Add to 3)

      1. The middle class can always leave.

      2. The (rank-and-file) middle class is just rather unorganized, if one is not counting the active “ideological” types—i.e. the politically active conservatives in the Church, the leftists on the streets, the NGO social democrats in between.

      3. Resulting from #2: The middle class is pitifully bad at playing Machiavelli’s game—too naive, too wedded to an “overly-high-expectations” view of politics as pure morals.

      Morality is central to politics—but even Gandhi and MLK in their radically moral and non-violent politics did not ignore questions of strategy, of tactics.

      4. Disappointment from #3 results in #1.

    • Thanks for making the distinction between how my (our?) values were formed, and those of most Filipinos. That answers the “why” question quite clearly.

      • distant observer says:

        Joe, you say that “the representatives of the people choose tyranny over independent representation, they are lying to everyone.” And that “they are representing that the people themselves choose tyranny.” Yes that may be true, but I would say the representatives in question do not even have to lie. In the political discourse in the Philippines it is the case, and it was much discussed here, that people get along or even welcome tyrannical political structures.

        As others point out, liberal democratic ideals are first and foremost a European construct. This does not mean that the rejection of tyranny are not found in non-European contexts, but some cultures seem to accept or even embrace more authoritarian structures than others. The Philippines obviously belongs to the former. An by the way, Brazil is on the way to get its very own Duterte on Sunday.

        • I agree that people choose authoritarianism, but not tyranny once the disregard for civility, fairness, and compassion strikes them personally. But I admit that is a hypothesis, not a fact that I can recite sources to. But when a nation is run badly, I think it is only a matter of time before there is rebellion, and in the meantime, people struggle, starve, are killed, and economic malaise sets in. Most European nations, it seems to me, are doing comparatively well (not a lot of struggle, starving, killing, and economic malaise) as I think liberal democratic ideals work fairly well to harmonize differences, even if they are hard to manage through people who are inherently flawed. So there are cycles and exceptions.

          The Philippines does seem to be a collection of peoples who don’t grasp the way democracy works, and so Filipinos are trapped in a system of endless abuse. They get the system they want, and so deserve what they get. At least the view I read on Twitter today, and I don’t know how to argue otherwise, if one accepts that people are accountable for their own free will.

          • I am presently reading “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer. It is more focused on the way people in companies worldwide work together, but nonetheless is quite representative.

            The main points applicable here are how authoritarian and how consensus-driven a culture is. Japanese and Swedes are consensus-driven, although the Japanese are authoritarian and the Swedes are not. The difference being that the Japanese have a behind-the-scenes process of consensus building involving middle managers working out proposals and the bosses proclaiming them as their decision – very face-driven – while the Swedes discuss everything, and I mean practically everything, until the entire Viking horde has a consensus.

            There are 8 metrics mentioned in the book:

            1) Communicating: low-context high-context
            2) Evaluating: indirect neg. feedback direct neg. feedback
            3) Persuading: principles first applications first
            4) Leading: egalitarian hierarchical
            5) Deciding: consensual top-down
            6) Trusting: task-based relationship-based
            7) Disagreeing: confrontational avoids confrontation
            8) Scheduling: linear time flexible time

            Contrast that with Hofstede’s cultural dimensions:

            1) Power distance index (high in both Russia and the Philippines!)
            2) individualism vs. collectivism
            3) uncertainty avoidance
            4) Masculinity vs. femininity
            5) Long-term vs. short-term orientation
            6) Indulgence vs. restraint

            Of course Meyer’s model is a better tool for managers going to foreign countries.

            • Culture as expressed through corporate dynamics . . . it sort of compresses the time functions of the way politics work, I suppose. I worked directly in the upper ranks of a Japanese owned US bank for a long while, and it is indeed consensus over a layer of face-definition. Incompetents were never identified as such, they were just moved to a window office.

    • madlanglupa says:

      This best explains why we have politicians who act more like titled feudalists.

  6. Francis says:


    I am not surprised.

    We do not have a representative body in the Congress. Maybe the Senate—but Congress? It is misnomer to call them the House of Representatives, as if implying that they are our representatives, the people’s representatives.

    Well, in a way—they are representatives. Just not our democratic representatives.

    They should stop being dishonest (Bah!) and call the House of Representatives the House of Lords instead. That would be a far more truthful and accurate name; and let us not stop there: call House Speaker Arroyo the Grand Duchess Arroyo, her subordinate speakers the Dukes and Duchesses, the commitee chairpersons the Earls, the ordinary congresspersons the Barons. Let the President be called by the true name—what Filipinos think of the President anyway, if the unusually high ratings of SWS is to be the judge: an Elected Monarch, chosen among candidates of noble blood.

    What is an electoral district anyway—but a noble fiefdom where either one noble family rules or rival noble families compete with another for dominance? Only instead of sword and guns, with the ballot box (most of the time in most places in this current generation, at least).

    This is a two-way street.

    Filipinos generally don’t value legislators for their laws. No. Legislators are no different from Governors, Mayors, Councilors, Barangay Captains in the eyes of many Filipinos; all them are just different keys to the big storehouse of stsate resources that one must access to survive, to alive.

    In short, legislators are just like their counterparts in the executive branch in most Filipinos’ eyes: the givers of hand-outs, favors.

    This is our understanding of representation, for the most part. An instinctive one. He brings home the bacon. He brings home the harvest. He is a “good man” since he gave us all these scholarships…

    Ah—this isn’t unique to Filipinos though. Americans build their military aircraft in almost every state because every Republican, every Democrat (this knows no party) wants to be called a job-creator, someone who can bring home the pork flowing from the hundreds of billions that flow through the military-industrial establishment.

    There is a difference though…

    • Francis says:

      In the West—legislators are expected to cater to both purely material and material-abstract interests of the electorate. Not just da pork (the former) but the preferred policies of the electorate, stemming from their concerns in concrete everyday life (the latter).

      In the Philippines—legislators are just conduits to satisfying the itch of purely material interest.

      • There is more of an idea of collective material interest over here, not the Filipino idea of my family first and to hell with the rest. The Filipino way makes people easier to divide and rule.

        There is a collective material interest within families and clans in the Philippines, meaning even incompetent clan members want “balato” or a share. Collective interest in Europe also has an aspect of “leave no one behind”, but everyone is expected to do what he/she can.

        US/UK individualism is tempered by certain ideas which are unfortunately fading as of now.

        • Francis says:

          I agree.

          The patronage in the West is a bit of a “public” character (if crudely so) in that it is directed towards the whole community, whereas our style of patronage is more oriented towards a one-on-one/goodies for individual families approach (i.e. job order, scholarship, etc.) which makes Filipino patronage have more of a “private” character.

          While the “Western” style of patronage—like all forms of patronage—is a double-edged sword in many ways, it also is better than our “private” patronage in that the corporate character of “Western” patronage can serve as a stepping stone towards individual interests being clumped up, aggregated into general interests which can serve as the basis for policy platforms, ideological directions.

          In contrast, “private” patronage hinders that sort of direction: thus hindering long-term thinking, the in-depth policy participation of the people…

    • This makes me think of how the first two major Filipino organizations in Germany:

      1. The first one was formed around a German travel agent strongly involved in getting the first Filipina nurses to Germany – and his Filipina wife.

      2. The rival organization was around a Filipina who had married a German (former) priest and gotten work at a Catholic welfare organization, quickly getting the responsibility for the welfare of Filipinas in Germany. Every Catholic group among foreigners had a responsible.

      Basically givers of hand-outs, favors. like at home. This changed when groups of Filipinos became more independent, both financially and in dealing with life here in Germany. The givers of hand-outs and favors became localized, more established migrants who then headed their own organizations. Some were groups of people working together in similar jobs in one city, some were real tribal barangays in the sense of being clusters of families, often from the same region, helping each other. But the structure of leadership described in the book “Raiding, Trading and Feasting” by Laura Lee Junker is the same. Although the power to choose your chief – if you are not a slave and have own money and a family big enough – is proto-democratic. Too much power on one side makes it despotic.

      There are two new major kinds of organizations I see now, after the old organizations have somewhat faded into insignificance – religious groupings and groups to help the home region.

      There is a difference though… American pork barrel is not for the benefit of individual constituents in exchange for loyalty, it is for the entire community. Similar to how the deceased Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss got Airbus plants to Bavaria. And Siemens to Munich. And his successors got Microsoft to Munich. And biotech to Martinsried just nearby – there even was/is a biotech company there owned by a Filipino scientist couple. The whole thing is a win-win game, growing the cake so there is enough for everybody.

  7. On the topic of ethics . . . for artificial intelligence . . . here is an excellent article that considers the ethical ramifications of machine-based intelligence, like bias and accountability.

  8. edgar lores says:

    1. Under the Parliamentary System (in Oz), the Executive and Congress are one.

    1.1. Primarily, this non-separation of power means that the government agenda can be more efficiently legislated and implemented than in a presidential system.

    1.2. Secondarily, this means that the Executive does not have to court Congress with pork barrel funds. This means no need for the trading of favors between branches, which means less corruption.

    1.3. Tertiarily, this means that turncoatism is practically unheard of. (Exception: there was one case of a member belonging to a minority party joining one of the two major parties.)

    1.4. Quarternarily, this means, in Oz at least, that the Prime Minister may be changed midstream between elections. The change is effected by a caucus of the party in power and not by popular election.

    2. Therefore, unlike the Philippine set-up, there is no likelihood that the Australian parliament will choose tyranny over democracy. The problem of congressional independence does not exist.

    3. Can a parliamentary system nurture a tyrant?

    3.1. The answer is yes. In fact, more easily than in a presidential system.

    3.2. In Oz, Prime Mister John Howard served for more than 11 full years. He was the second-longest serving prime minister after Sir Robert Menzies, who was in office under two separate terms for a total of18 years. Fortunately, none were despots of the Duterte kind.

    3.3. Lee Kuan Yew ruled Singapore with an iron hand for three decades and Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years. Not to forget Marcos and the Batasang Pambansa. Or the near fright of Arroyo and her sinister plans.

    4. Another feature of the parliamentary system is that the Cabinet is drawn from within the party. This ensures a homogeneity in values, although heterogeneity may be obtained in a ruling coalition government.

    4.1. To me, this would mean that outside henchmen with no constituent accountability — like Aguirre, Guevarra, and Teo — would not be able to serve.

    5. The structure of the Philippine government — if not that of Philippine society — reminds me of a giant communal spider web. There are clusters of powers in the central government and in the regions that extend down to the fake ((©) Irineo) barangays. The strong strands consist of the mechanisms of the trading of favors, from the traditional utang-na-loob, to the dynastic ties of blood, and to the pork barrel. The conflicts of interests are not ethical but territorial. They are conflicts in spoils.

    5.1. Congress has given in. The Judiciary has given in. Except that there are a number of Independents in each branch. The Independents are outnumbered and, so far, outfought. But there are significant victories that, with each passing day, give heart.

    • chemrock says:

      Enlightening, Edgar.
      I agree with 3.1. But I think this is more of a major problem for middle- eastern and eastern countries where the ideals of liberalism are not foundational. Western liberalism is entrenched and activism is, well, active. And so the public is a constant pressure on ruling party to behave. We see this happening in UK and Australia often.

      • edgar lores says:

        Agree. Australians use the vote effectively (as Bill from Oz noted).

        In the recent by-election in Wentworth to choose Malcolm Turnbull’s replacement, the Liberal Party lost a blue-ribbon seat they had held for 80 years. An Independent won. And now the Liberals are a minority government held together by an alliance with Independents.

    • Love the language: “Quarternarily” “Outside henchmen” 5.1 expresses the ongoing drama well.

      I think any form of government would work if the foundational values are strong. Erosion has set into the American form, so it is no longer doing what was intended. A parliamentary form of government would work in the Philippines, except if it is proposed by someone like Arroyo who does not possess any patriotic values as far as I can tell. We always get back to the notion that “character counts”, and there is not much of the right kind in the Philippines.

    • 5. The structure of the Philippine government — if not that of Philippine society — reminds me of a giant communal spider web. There are clusters of powers in the central government and in the regions that extend down to the fake ((©) Irineo) barangays. The strong strands consist of the mechanisms of the trading of favors, from the traditional utang-na-loob, to the dynastic ties of blood, and to the pork barrel. The conflicts of interests are not ethical but territorial. They are conflicts in spoils.

      Germany of course has its discussions about who gets what, but it goes more like the unwritten rule that at a party, the host is the one who is the first to cut the cake and distribute the first slices, after that is done the rest is up for grabs. It is NOT a boodle fight.

      There is also the regional dimension due to the Federal States, but there a mechanism of richer states helping poorer ones applies, using a well-defined computation. Cities also want help from the States and the Federation, there is lobbying to get projects co-financed.

      Plus there is the typical clientele of the respective political parties. Christian Democrats will have their small- to medium-sized business owners, CEOs, managers, doctors, lawyers. Free Democrats (Liberals) will have big money, startup enterpreneurs and the like. Social Democrats will have trade unions including their workers, some intellectuals and the like. Greens will have a mix of rural conservatives, ecologically conscious young professionals and students and of course a lot of intellectuals. The budgeting process is a give and take, sometimes not that easy with marathon sessions to find compromises.

      Switzerland with its cantons and the Netherlands with its “polder model” of different groups is hardly different, but all these systems are oriented towards well-defined interest groups and not bound too much by personalities.

      The Filipino system also has its roots in the fact that trust for strangers, even those with the same interests, is very low. And often it is justifiedly low. Filipino organizations abroad, as a microcosm of the way Filipinos act toward one another, have abundant stories of people or small groups of people running of with the common funds or a part of them – and in addition inventing stories that other people did so. The latter BTW is why Mocha and trolls do not surprise me at all. “Paninira” or lying to defame is a common weapon in Filipino turf wars.

  9. Andres 2018. says:

    Well, the house was reactive in dealings with the president. That is, working hand in hand with the executive with the mindset that the president is doing the right thing for the nation unless it speaks otherwise then thats the time that the house should do something. This was the tradition ever since and not only recently.

  10. NHerrera says:

    WOW. What is happening US of A? Seven suspicious parcels/ bombs were sent through the US mail system to targets across the US Trump has been critical of — the Obamas, the Clintons, Brennan … Soros. An 8th parcel was sent a while ago addressed to actor Robert de Niro, a critic of Trump. This is not to suggest Trump inspired these terroristic attacks. In fairness, there is the other view: a “false flag operation” or some other terroristic acts of unknown motives. Fortunately, no one has reportedly been injured as of the moment.

    • NHerrera says:

      From CNN:

      Before this [De Niro] package was reported, authorities said pipe bombs stashed in manila envelopes were discovered this week addressed to seven prominent Trump critics: Former President Barack Obama; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former Attorney General Eric Holder; Democratic US Rep. Maxine Waters; former CIA director John Brennan (sent to CNN’s New York offices); former Vice President Joe Biden; and billionaire investor and Democratic donor George Soros.

    • sonny says:

      Reminds me of Niebuhr’s prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” The senders have not heard the prayer, or have heard but didn’t care.

    • The US is an angry place these days. Russia has largely succeeded in efforts to promote division and anger.

    • chemrock says:


      These are 100% false flag ops. The tell tale is the use of a timer trigger. Take it from someone with a bit of knowledge in these things. If someone sends a bomb with a timer trigger, how is he going to know when the target will be home or in the office. So it was obvious the perpetrators were novices.

      Targetted opps mostly utilise a mercury switch which triggers the explosion when the parcel is lifted. Shifting and tilting makes the mercury roll over and initiate the trigger. This is often used in letter bombs. Or the use of booby-trap triggers which set of the bomb when the parcel is opened. That way you are likely to hit the intended target.

      Question is why would Dems do to Dems? One reason is the votes seem to be going to GOP candidates. The false flag ops are meant to garner sympathy votes for the Dems.

      • Francis says:

        My gut (biased as it is) strongly disagrees with you.

        Frankly, the Democrats are many things—but ruthlessly effective political operators who can contemplate stuff like false flag operations?

        With all due respect—no. We must remember that the Democrats are the people who grew up watching “West Wing” and virtually worshipped the bipartisan, wonky politics espoused by it. Civility, above all. “Both sides.” This is the party of Obama—the party that naively thought it could “talk reasonably” and “strike a grand bargain” with the Republicans.

        Yep. That went well.

        As a guy sympathetic to the progressives in America—I fully agree to their critique that the Democrats are overly attached to an overly nice, civility-obsessed, “nice guy” image of politics. Where they endlessly compromise and compromise—and the Republicans take and take more ground.

        Why? The Republicans are the party of Gingrich, the party of Fox News—the party of people who’ve long blamed Obama (literally one of the most centrist guys on earth) as a “Marxist,” people who’ve long dehumanized liberals as an evil influence upon society…

        So I am not surprised that this happened. Yeah. And it ain’t just Russia’s fault—Russia’s just icing on the cake.

        This was craziness long boiling.

        Conservatism in America has gone mad because it made a Faustian bargain* with Gingrich et. al: build a politics grounded on hate, get more political power. Well, look where that ended up.

        (Of course—I put an asterisk because that’s assuming a timeline where Gingrich’s “Conservative Revolution” is the main juncture. I do not exactly agree, because I concur with many progressives that there are significant flaws in America’s very foundations, very history which would invalidate a Whiggish “America was once good” narrative. America was always…bad in a very disturbing way…and this badness uniquely manifested itself in various forms throughout history. Unlike many progressives though, I do not think that invalidates the liberal project or liberal ideals entirely; the little bright spots should still be seen as inspiring, even if they are lying in much darkness—and just because that many Americans was fairly hypocritical many times in history, does not invalidate the fact that for many Americans, the idealism and belief in these universal moral values was real. But I digress.)

        • chemrock says:

          When I say Dems to Dems I don’t mean the party guys. I agree with Joe it’s likely to be some angry people. According to some observations, the hate seem to be more pronounced and stronger with the Dems voters. May not mean anything, but with the exception of JFK, the other presidents assasinated were GOP, including Reagan who forgot to duck.

          For conspiracy theorists, it’s the hand of the deep state.

      • I tend to think it was not a false flag because the explosives are real and the idea of sending them to two former presidents to fake out the electorate is too big a stretch for me to reach. I’d imagine they will track down the culprit and find it is just a very angry citizen. Today, Trump was at it again, berating media as if his hostility meant nothing. Strange, dangerous man.

      • edgar lores says:

        Conspiracy Theories

        First theory. It’s the Trump right-wing fringe trying to harm Trump’s outspoken critics.

        Second theory. It’s a false flag operation by the Democratic left to gain sympathy and win votes.

        Third theory. It’s the Trump right-wing setting up the Democrats for a false flag operation.

        Fourth theory. It’s Putin seeking to destroy the US by introducing armed conflict into US domestic partisan politics. (The bombs were sent from Florida obviously by Cuban communist sleepers.)

        Fifth theory. It’s Xi Jinping using Florida-based Cuban cutouts to hit back at Trump for the Tariff War.

        Sixth theory. Actually, it’s Brett Kavanaugh. And the real and only target is Robert De Niro. The pipe bombs sent to the others were just false leads. De Niro is supposed to have said at a charity event: “The drinks, wine, and beer are flowing. But be careful — if you have too much, you may end up on the Supreme Court.”

        All these theories are probable… until some facts, such as the identity of the bomber, become known. The identity of the bomber will be confirmed by his cat hair fibers sticking to the electrical tape wrapped around the pipe bombs.

        • Slick work, Sherlock. I think they will get DNA from the stamps on the packages.

        • distant observer says:

          I liked your enumerations of theories. I would suspect either theory three or four as the most plausible ones.

        • NHerrera says:

          Seventh theory — I don’t know theory. 🙂

          • edgar lores says:

            Ahaha! Looks like the third theory — a disgruntled Republican kook.

            Get this. There is a Filipino connection!


            And it seems Dr. Watson was right. Cesar Sayoc was identified by DNA on one of the packages.

          • edgar lores says:

            Kudos to the fast work from the multi-agency US federal, state, and local law enforcement task force.

            Now, if only our local law enforcement can do the same thing for the multi-billion shabu imports.

            In our case, it should be easy. Some of the suspects — and official connections — are already known.


            o The suspects are allowed to flee or conduct business as usual.
            o The official connections are shifted and promoted to new and higher positions.
            o The lower public service officials are relieved of their duties and floated.
            o Worse, they are subpoenaed to attend congressional hearings and humiliated by openly biased reps. And subjected to lifestyle checks.
            o The warehouse caretaker and the intel officer get, or are ordered to get, arrested.
            o Worse, the daughter of a drug queen is acquitted.
            o Much, much worse, an upright senator is maliciously labeled a drug queen and is incarcerated.
            o The evidence is not planted but slanted. The x-ray evidence of lifters is photoshopped and darkened.
            o Worse, the evidence is ignored or kept hidden. These include crude tattoos at the base of the back of the thumb and elaborate tattoos on the back of the torso. Tita Nanie is never identified.
            o The findings of the trained x-ray technicians and the trained canine unit are deemed speculative.

            Law enforcement, from the DOJ to the PNP and the judiciary, has been politicized. And only senators critical of the administration get, or are ordered to get, arrested.

  11. Ed Maglaque says:

    As to why congressmen, or for that matter, politicians behave the way they do, I would go back to a basic point. The people who put them there are ignorant of the true dynamics of democracy, in this case, that they are the selectors and voice of those who are supposed to serve them. Notice how after every election, constituencies quiet down and leave everything to their elected officials? Why? Because only the election itself is viewed as the democratic exercise and participation in it sufficient observance of responsibility; continuous engagement in the conduct of governance unnecessary. Indifference, moral sloth, ignorance? The sad thing in this torpidity is the failure of society (as a whole) to educate itself in how to chose the deserving candidates. For this I put the finger of blame on: the thinking class and civil society, the Church, and all free-thinking Filipinos. If I haven’t included the government it’s because it’s elected officials have always known that they would benefit least from an enlightened electorate; their culture of rent-seeking, corruption and greed would be exposed.

    On 10/24/18, The Society of Honor: the Philippines

    • Notice how after every election, constituencies quiet down and leave everything to their elected officials? Why? Because only the election itself is viewed as the democratic exercise and participation in it sufficient observance of responsibility; continuous engagement in the conduct of governance unnecessary. And why is it seen that way?

      1) MLQ3 mentions in one of his essays on the “Great Eagle Father” (Duterte) that those who voted Duterte want him to deal with problems for them, not deal with them directly.

      2) Jocelyn Duterte, his younger sister, said in an interview that as the majority of Filipinos have now voted her brother, they must follow him.

      Both statements can also be transferred to other elected officials and are indicative of an attitude that goes both ways:

      a) most people want the elected officials to take care of stuff for them, not participate.

      b) most officials also expect to be obeyed, not criticized even in a constructive way.

      (Aga Muhlach’s comment that Trillanes “should help instead” corresponds to b)

      • Micha says:

        I suppose Ed Maglaque had addressed the why aspect of it in the latter part of his comment although elected government officials are definitely not alone in deliberately constructing a society that condemns most of our citizens to ignorance and political indifference. The tentacles of our ruling irresponsible oligarchy are spread everywhere, from government to business to religious organizations and yes, even in showbiz.

        If you subject your citizens to such level of poverty and difficult life you wouldn’t expect them to be active, engaged, and enlightened participants in the affairs of government.

        The acquisition of political power is ultimate. When you are delegated that power, the ordinary Pinoy naively believe you’d be working to better their lot, not yours.

      • I responded to Ed before reading your remark. My only add-on is that people have learned that it is risky to counter authority. I was first hand witness to the physicality of the response when a long-term barangay chairman retired and his choice of successor (a niece) was challenged. Kidnappings, assaults, it was wild.

    • I am reminded that “you can’t know what you don’t know”, which I would switch to “you can’t feel what you can’t feel”, the former being knowledge . . . in this case of how democracy depends on citizen engagement . . . the latter being an emotional connection to the inspirations of being engaged. Too many have only experienced anything being order takers. Indeed, being engaged is risky in a political environment that is authoritarian from top to barangay.

      Thanks for crystallizing this line of thinking for me.

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