A certain lack of character in the Philippine legislature

Declaring allegiance to a person rather than the nation? [Photo source: ABS-CBN News]

By JoeAm

I started thinking about how to characterize a legislature that would have 9 year-old children taken from their parents and placed in confinement with other so-called “kids in disregard for the law” until they are as old as 25, and then expect them to emerge into the greater world as constructive members of society.

The question goes way beyond this bill of course, sometimes entering the realm of the surreal as we saw with the strident efforts of the House Justice Committee to concoct reasons to impeach Chief Justice Sereno. The charade went on for months, supposedly dignified men and women sitting in a room following regimented parliamentary rules whilst trying to coax usable information from witnesses under the scurrilous probing by a certain undignified attorney named Gadon (who is so full of himself that he believes he ought to be a Senator).

Then we see in the Senate how the majority are not guided by service to Filipinos, but by advantage to themselves. They are the populists . . . Poe, Angara, and the whole bunch of them who decided it would be great for their careers if they dined with the President who sought their pledge of loyalty. A President who, with his loyalists in place, then led the nation’s police on a killing spree. Now the ruthlessness is wrapping in the kids.

While these legislators are busy self-dealing, they ignore the damaged nation, damaged people, and damaged principles that have represented the Philippines for years. They ignore the way due process is not applied to protect the poor who are being killed regularly. They act as if nothing were wrong.

The self-dealers spend their time in office leaping on popular bandwagons and shying away from any controversy that might tarnish their names among the President’s substantial killer constituency. It’s like, because most of the nation support the drug war, they can ignore what the Constitution says and stand silent to the carnage.

It’s just poor people, after all.

As I said, it is a damaged nation, and the legislature does a lot of the damage.

The self-dealers don’t hold the Philippines to laws or order, to improvement, to prosperity, or to justice. They do just the opposite, to make their own way forward to enrichment and fame. They are wang wanging their way through life and we are paying the price. The poor are paying a horrifying price . . . but who cares, right?

Excuse my brief diversion. As I started to say, I was looking at a way to characterize this legislative negligence and arrogance in a few words. I started with “the legislature lacks refinement”, thinking it is mainly a lack of knowledge about how the modern world operates. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, of not having knowledge or experience at dealing with the compassions of human rights or a knowledge of child psychology. But that seemed not quite right, because people with knowledge are screaming certain truths and information at them. They are simply not hearing. They are covering their ears.

So it cannot be the innocence of ignorance that drives them.

Most of them are not of poor families, but of privileged families. So they ought not be nursing grudges about their youth. Maybe they are spoiled, having always been wang wanged along by privileged parents of regional dynastic realms. So they are just greedy for more of the good life.

That seems a little closer to accurate. That would explain the rotten, self-serving ideas coming from old families like Pimentel and Angara and Villar and, I suppose, Poe sneaks in there too, leveraging the popularity of her adoptive father.

But there are other old family members who do not subscribe to such “me first” thinking.

Refreshing and surprising is Senator Nancy Binay who clearly favors principles and knowledge as the foundation for her voting. This has been clear on several of her stands lately, the most recent being opposition to the confinement of 9 year olds who have not reached emotional or neurological maturity.

Or consider Senate candidate Mar Roxas who has served in several high posts in the past. He’s from a very privileged “old” family but holds to the highest principles.

So it is not just family and being spoiled and greedy that drives all the self-dealers.

What is it that separates the principled from the unprincipled, the democratic servants from the self-dealing wang wangers?

The best word I can come up with is a lack of “character”, where character is the merging of three particular personal qualities:

  1. Intelligence, or the ability to think, associate, discover, and organize information and ideas.
  2. Emotional stability, or the self-awareness and self-esteem that allows a person to work within a group of people and assimilate others’ needs, as well as their own, in a calm state of emotional equilibrium and understanding. Strong legislators are not emotionally “needy”.
  3. Knowledge, or how much information has or can be brought to bear on specific issues.

Some of the self-dealers lack capacity in one or more of these areas.

I think of a number of senators who seem confined as to intelligence. I think of the populists as being mainly lacking in emotional stability. They have a need to be appreciated and loved, not helpful. They do not possess the drive to build a great nation, for all Filipinos. And a whole lot of them lack knowledge about anything beyond very simplistic ideas. That’s how we got TRAIN and dengvaxia hysteria and acceptance of drug lords not being jailed and willing confinement of (other people’s) kids . . . and a whole lot of bad thinking that seems always to emerge from the legislature as lengthy, tedious, regimented laws that have about as much chance of being constructive as a snowball has in cooling Pinatubo’s waters.

So that’s where I end up. Most of the legislature lacks character . . . I’d say 95 percent of the House and 75 percent of the Senate. The self-dealers are limited by some combination of confined intelligence, emotional instability, and/or weak knowledge. They are not able to formulate principles and ideas and acts that take care of the nation.

Simply put, they lack character.

That is why the nation struggles as it does.

I can imagine they have pride in their personal achievements, or boxing wins, but I can’t imagine they find pride in what the nation has become under their stewardship.

I am afraid that these leaders lack the “inside stuff”, the principles and NEED for accomplishment, that can lead a nation to excellence.


35 Responses to “A certain lack of character in the Philippine legislature”
  1. NHerrera says:

    If we exclude politicians with lack of rudimentary knowledge and capability of analysis — such as the likes of Old Revilla, Lapid and Pacquiao — and include only those with such capabilities, then I can simplistically categorise politicians (who are no saints) into those:

    – who balance the country’s welfare more than the need to advance politically;
    – who balance the need to advance politically more than the country’s welfare.

    Bam Aquino and Roxas belongs to the first category; Poe and Angara belongs to the second.

    • Yes, the divide is fairly clear. I think Senator Binay is moving to the second category, although she was at the President’s dinner. I don’t know of anyone else there who has clearly moved. I personally don’t have much confidence in any of them who were there other than Senator Binay.

    • edgar lores says:

      1. Joe Am’s characterization of the “democratic servants” is spot on according to the three vectors of intelligence, emotional stability, and knowledge.

      2. I agree that there are two kinds of democratic servants – capable and incapable. And that there are also two sorts of “capables” – mostly self-serving (or self-dealing) and mostly country-serving.

      2.1. Not to put too fine a point on it, the “incapables” can also assume the latter sorting.

      3. From the vantage point of the Three Primary Virtues – i.e., the Loyalty Triangle of loyalty, honor, and duty – the pivotal point in allegiance is the answer to this question: To what construct do I owe my primary loyalty? Is it to Self? Or to Country?

      4. In the peculiar milieu of Philippine politics, loyalty to Self translates as loyalty to the reigning presidential power. The President exercises enormous political powers and has co-opted, per our previous analyses, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

      5. We foresee that the senatorial elections will be a watershed moment. It is not only that we will see the further validation — or not — of the Duterte administration. It is also that we will see a paradox: the victory of Duterte-supporting senators – such as Poe, Angara, and Ejercito – will see an erosion, if not a breakage, of support for the President.

      6. Let me try to marshal my arguments.

      6.1. Duterte is already a lame duck president. Foreseeably, he will not be downed by an EDSA-like civil movement but by political machinations. Already, we see the backhand stabbings from Arroyo and the grumblings of loyalist senators. (Arroyo finishes her third term this year.)

      6.2. Any weakening of Duterte’s physical health will exacerbate his lame duck status.

      6.3. The re-elected senators will not necessarily credit Duterte for their win. As it is, the President has not completed a list of twelve, just a list of two – Go and Bato.

      6.4. The inclusion of at least 4 of the opposition senatorial candidates into the magic 12 will create an insurmountable barrier to cha-cha and federalism.

      6.5. Ironically, if Poe tops the senatorial slate, her ambitions for a presidential run in 2022 will be revitalized. This will encourage her to strike an independent position from the lame duck president. More, it will make her challenge the status quo. It may not be necessary, in fact, to have a “kwatro diretso.” Poe has nothing to lose as she will have her Senate position as a fallback.

      7. The character of Filipino politicians is not restrained. It droppeth as the storm-driven rain from heaven upon the fools beneath.

      • NHerrera says:

        On 2.1 — agree. Although, I was trying (perhaps not too hard) to get an example from the present crop of House and Senate members but failed.

        Interesting political projections involving the Mid-term Election and Arroyo, Poe.

      • I love the poetic moment in 7. I think that, given the dynamics of 2022 and the possible pitting of Poe against Sara Duterte Carpio, with Trillanes and/or Robredo in there as well, I’d say the President may indeed be a one-legged duck for the next three years. Poe will have to establish her credentials and those credentials must be in some opposition to the President’s wishes. He may find it difficult to master the Senate. For example, the Senate is opposing the reduction of kid-liability to age 9, but could go with 12 as a compromise. Nothing is definite any more.

      • NHerrera says:

        I have written it before in TSH and am writing it again. There seems to be a “sympathetic vibration” spanning the ocean — specifically between Trump and Duterte, with this variation:

        – Trump is currently in a political difficulty largely of his making;

        – Duterte I believe sympathetically vibrates with Trumps predicament, but in a different way.

        In the latter’s case I believe it to be a notch lower and the two posts — edgar’s and Joe’s — correctly characterize it as being a lame duck, especially as it relates to the Mid-term Election and the dramatis personae involved in that election.

        Said another way: there seems to be some inflection point happening at about the same time for the two.

        What is that saying?

        This, too, will pass.

      • NHerrera says:

        More on politics.

        VP Robredo’s lawyer Macalintal says “It’s ‘game over’ for Marcos’ electoral protest.”



        Vice President Leni Robredo’s lawyer believes that the election protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is “essentially” dead.

        Lawyer Romulo Macalintal disclosed at a press briefing on Wednesday that an eight-page supplemental manifestation was filed before the Supreme Court (SC), sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which states that “Marcos did not make a substantial recovery from his pilot provinces for his protest to continue.”

        “Essentially, this is game over for Marcos as he failed to make substantial recovery from the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Oriental and Camarines Sur,” Macalintal said.

        “Marcos needs to obtain substantial recovery in his designated pilot provinces before recount could proceed in other areas that he questioned in his election protest,” the lawyer noted.

      • edgar lores says:

        6.3. Duterte has expanded his list. Not just Go and Bato but also Tolentino, Angara, Villar, Cayetano, and Marcos.

        IMHO, the first two are “incapables.” All are self-dealing.

  2. jose says:

    very well said, the problem is those stupid idiot congressman and senators they don’t care what you said, they care only on their interest how they can make money and stay in power, they don’t care about their integrity and morality whether it will cost of their dugnity, they dont care

  3. karlgarcia says:

    They are called “honorable”, or at least they call each other that sometimes.

  4. Margaret Mationg says:

    Hi JoeAm, would you know when this photo was taken? I know that this was sourced from ABS-CBN News.

  5. They are just following the crowd..

    Not yet with torches though.

  6. Pablo says:

    Never in your blogs have I tasted so much understated disgust, loathing and anger. And justified. A nation which puts kids in the trashbin is hopelessly lost. There should be outrage by all spiritual leaders. There should be thunder-sermons every day of the week. Dead silence.
    It starts to smell like an overflowing sceptic tank and no vacuum truck available.

    • Well, I’m a father of a son in the vulnerable range. He is smart as hell but is in no way able to stand up to adults who may choose to put him in a bad position. What chance do the poor kids have, that they could in some way resist the demands of the adults in their lives? The proposed law is so detached from compassion and recognition of the vulnerability of young people, and the job of adults to CARE for them, that I get a tad worked up.

  7. Sup says:

    Last moment change from 9 to 12..

    House changes proposed minimum criminal liability age from 9 to 12 years old


  8. Sup says:

    About ”killing spree”

    177 farmers killed in Duterte’s reign – ex-DAR chief Mariano


  9. QuietPoetic says:

    I am going to enter this discussion with a libertarian mindset. One of the major reason this happens is because the Philippine government is too big – so big that they can snatch 9-year old from their parents. So big that the political elites can manipulate the so-called drug war as a right to imprison the future of the country. The power is so centered and concentrated in Malacanang, congress and senate when they don’t have a grain of idea what is happening in Visayas and in Mindanao or even in our local communities.

    They can do these things because we, the people, gave them such power. I suggest to make the government smaller. I don’t know exactly how do we go about it – and I don’t think we can be successful in our lifetime. I guess we can teach the next generation – but ooopss, they already placed them in prison!

    • That is a fresh and attractive point of view. It warrants probing ‘how to’ make government smaller. Allocate to LGUs, privatize, stop doing some things (like mass policing in favor of smaller, targeted efforts focused on the orchestrators of crime). Rather fascinating idea.

      • QuietPoetic says:

        The Philippine’s system itself is broken. We cannot allocate to LGUs, nor privatize, nor stop the mass policing – because the system does not give the citizen that power. Our system places power to the elites.

        Did I mention the system is the problem? 😉

        First of I suggest we remove the word “democracy” from our vocabulary. DEMOCRACY = MAJORITY WINS = MOB RULES. This is why people still believe in Duterte in spite of the injustices he has done – he got majority of the votes, therefore he gets the sympathy of the mob. The Philippines is a republic – our official name is The Republic of the Philippines. Right? Why don’t we start acting like one?

        Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And so, it does not matter if Duterte entered the office a noble man, he will exit his post with guilt and clouded mind. The solution, I think, is disperse the power locally.

        Concepts for dispersing the power in a government:

        1. The president’s main job is to protect the country from outside forces (invaders, ehem China) and represent the country to the world – nothing more nothing less. VP will carry the power of the president if he dies in office.

        2. Senators will not be voted nationally. They will be elected by their constituents from the region they reside – just like Congress.

        3. The number of Senators and Congressmen that will represent a region will depend on the population that resides in the region.

        4. Major cities will not be represented in the House of Representatives – they don’t need to.

        5. Governors will take care of regional affairs and he is not answerable to the president. If Ilocos voted to legalize drugs – Davao, Cebu, (etc.) do not have a say about it. However, he does not have the power to decide to separate from the country.

        6. We get rid of the different departments. DOE, DOLE, BIR, and anything that has “Department of…” or “Special Envoy to…” in their name. They are unelected bureaucrats who rule (and ruin) our lives.

        7. We get rid of the Barangays – we have neighbors and our Church to help us!

        These are just concepts – just to give a general idea of how much our elites overpower us. Imagine a society wherein we are not affected by whatever mumbo jumbo idea the president decides on a given day. Would that not be nice?

    • karlgarcia says:

      First no to federalism, it may divide the government but it doesn’t make it smaller.
      It will mean more redudandancies.

      Privatization? Many here have expressed doubts.

      Baranggays? For me, I am not in favor of ore baranggays.

      I guess the answers lead to more questions.

      • sonny says:

        Barangays are probably not conducive (because of size – no critical mass) to list, define/identify/analyze/act on meaningful issues that will benefit community.

      • QuietPoetic says:

        In theory Federalism is better than the system the Philippines have right now – but in my humble opinion the British parliament has the best system. The monarchs are just there to look nice – tourist attraction and the Brits can feel good about themselves, etc. Then the parliament battle how to run the country. Prime minister is like the CEO and the monarchy is like the founder (of a company).

  10. Sup says:

    Nicanor Escalante Mislatel.got a huge deal from PSALM
    Boardmembers PSALM?
    By the way Trillanes forgot to tell the public that Migz Zubiri is a ninong (and a lot more Duterte top guy’s) during the Christening of Dennis Uy his son.
    Migz defending Mislatels deal ..right?

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