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September 17, 2007


Jon Limjap

Nothing surprises me in Philippine politics anymore, torn. I think you should get used to it -- in a morbid kind of way -- like a coroner getting used to the dead.

Salamat Mabuhay

Speaking of booze and plunder, a former colleague of yours took up a post in the mid-Pacific last year and left behind a nice assortment of single malts. Let me know if you're interested in doing some quality assurance next week.


That's the spirit, Jon boy! Show 'em that nothing can tame that great Philippine apathy.


Many Filipinos have developed a spirit of indomitable apathy. The interesting thing to watch would be whether a pardoned Erap would encourage his followers to 'move on'.

Jon Limjap

But my voice is already hoarse from shouting and my feet calloused by the marching. It's all amounting to nothing.

Is political fatigue equivocal to apathy?


IMO, i don't think it's the same, but the former can lead to the latter.

Jon Limjap

So do I continue shouting and marching?

There's a name for the act of "doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result" you know.

And it's not the antonym of apathy.


If you compare the man-hours spent 'shouting and marching' versus that spent on private concerns, which among the two activities do you think our people have been 'doing the same thing over and over again'?

Jon Limjap

Well let's see.

An uncle who has spent most of his able-bodied years for the Leftist movement he has so loved is, up until this day, dirt poor, seeing his efforts amount to little. His wife banished him a decade ago for failing to provide for the family and not going home for months on end. He depends on my mother for sustenance, both for him and his 1 year old child from a more recent affair, as his work as a teacher for the rural poor gives little.

During that time I was bothered with 'feeble' private concerns like, oh I don't know, studying and actually working, I was having progressive results to the tune of 12,000 pesos of a month when I first started working to almost four times that today, across something like -- five years? Of working.

Over the course of the last year that allowed my wife to set up a little business which if it would grow would actually employ a few people that could be erased from the unemployed list.

So my daily "apathetic" drudgery has had varying results. Our goals include sending a few more people (some of which aren't relatives) to school so that they may learn to vote wisely.


Like you, i also have done my share of 'apathetic drudgery' to help relatives (and non-relatives) also with varying results. Unlike you, i do not believe that compensates for involvement in public concerns. Admittedly, 'political fatigue' (or economic needs) is a better excuse than intestinal flu, but it is nonetheless still an excuse. Let's not make a virtue out of an excuse.

Jon Limjap

But should you or your ilk blame me for "not doing" anything when in fact what we are doing is finding solutions elsewhere, in places where we can actually make a difference?

Call me apathetic then. Anyway I blogged about this issue and I hope you share what you think:



What possible effect can your micro-fiddling have when the head of state uses the military to steal millions of votes in an election, when those around her amass uncountable wealth through illegal practices and nothing is done about it, when the judiciary is for sale to the highest bidder and when the people who represent the best hope for the country continue to leave in their tens of thousands?

How did the Philippines get to be this way? Through the inaction of people who are outraged by what is happening, but choose to do nothing about it.

This is a lovely country with so much potential, but as a Brit who has lived in a host of places, I have to say that I have never witnessed a country that so richly deserves its plight. It's a real pity.

Jon Limjap


Then what shall we do? The EDSAs never really worked, did they? They just replaced one tyrant with another, didn't they? They allowed people like Joseph Estrada and GMA to become president, didn't they?

What else? A bloody revolution? Disrupt the lives of everyone and cause the deaths of thousands, it will just be for a few years anyway? Put into power more charismatic tyrants to replace the old ones?

What else? Make noise and complain? Add to the already deafening howl of the Leftists, the columnists, the pundits, the taxi drivers, and the street vendors who complain of the same things at various degrees granularity?

We've been doing that the past 30 years but while the poor masses ran in circles the few who actually prospered, progressed, and finally made it big enough so that they do wield real influence are the once small people who chose to suck it up while they were small time and just went on to do their thing.

I think the real people who deserve their plight are the people who go on and voice out and complain but do little or nothing to genuinely improve their pathetic little lives.

Too many Filipinos are stuck in a "victim" mentality, think small and do small, and then go on and blame everybody else, the government especially, for their misery.

Too many Filipinos are stuck at "waiting for the benefits of the purported economic improvements to trickle down" upon them when all that they are doing is exactly what Juan Tamad did while waiting for the guava to fall on his mouth.

The hell, you're right Cogs, I deserve what I have. I deserve the more than 1000 pesos a day wage that I'm enjoying. It's all borne out of hard work that I wouldn't have been able to accomplish had I been holding up those flags and placards out in the streets.


Jon, why do you blame the EDSA's and not the general apathy that followed? The problem is that after those people power events, we basically stopped holding our leaders accountable, and then we blame the EDSAs. Go figure.

Jon Limjap


Because it's the only concrete and tangible results of public opinion expression and outrage that I know of.

Besides, have we stopped holding them accountable? Hasn't the Estrada conviction proven that, at least for this test case, we can hold someone accountable?

Take note that I'm not saying that the conviction proves that the justice system works, I'm just saying that, if used with a certain degree of due diligence and political will, it has, at least, the potential to be effective.

What I do not understand is how protest actions and voice outs and complaints could have influenced the turnout of the trial. The conviction prospered because the handling of witnesses and evidence with regards to the Belle Corp aspect of the accusation was done superbly. The conviction didn't stem from the Jueteng payoffs everyone shouted about, nor was it actually helped by the eventual opening of the 2nd envelope.

Seriously, what concrete achievements can the protests and outrage in general claim, whether or not under the Leftist banner?

All that these opinion formation movements can claim to is its penchant for trial by publicity and mob formation that erodes the very essence of democracy and justice.


Jon, that's because we left things half-baked. We helped install Gloria Arroyo via People Power, she made promises, but when she broke them one after the other, we did not act in sufficient numbers. So now, her learned behavior is one that says she can get away with making a promise and breaking them without paying any political price.

In the case of Estrada, that Sandiganbayan trial (i.e. the justice system) would not have been made possible without the explosion of public opinion that was EDSA Dos. If Erap were still in power, he would have had immunity from prosecution. Same applies to Gloria Arroyo.

As far as 'concrete achievements' of protests, aside from EDSA Dos and EDSA Tres, you have other examples like the government's widthdrawal from Iraq and the shelving of Charter Change initiative. We can debate the desirability of these outcomes but we cannot deny that it was public opinion that made these possible.

Public opinion and its expression is an essential part of any political system. If we want the public interests to be protected, democracy cannot be left to the politicians, lawyers and judges.


I swing wildly between a state of resignation about the world we live in and a belief that we all have a right and duty to try to change it, so I can see both arguments. Jon’s wish to concentrate on carrying out small but important changes in his own manageable universe, seems quite reasonable to me, but I can also understand cvj’s argument that *real* change can only come through “political” action.

Cogs, since you and I have avoided fighting battles in our shared home country by emigrating, I wonder whether we are in a strong position to criticize Filipinos for inaction. I can’t even be bothered to vote in British elections (though my disgust at the Iraq war has prompted me to register for the next one).
Finally, I do agree with cvj’s last point. EDSAs I and II were both uplifting and positive experiences that showed Filipino culture at its best. As he says, those bright shining moments were not followed through, dogged persistence and commitment not being characteristics of that culture.

Jon Limjap

cvj, torn, Cogs,

After sleeping this issue over and letting my emotions calm down, I reexamined my statements and found that what I was saying could be misconstrued as saying that public opinion was not necessary.

As with many things in life, a balance has to be achieved somehow, somewhere, in the sense that while we as the "little people" voice out our opinions we must also make our own lives work. On one end of the spectrum there's the perceived apathy where public opinion will only seem to matter when it has become an issue subject to outrage, just like the EDSAs were. On the other end of the spectrum there's the very real possibility of being used as pawns for various political agendas in the chessboard of public opinion under the altar of politics -- which was what I was griping about.

Indeed I feel I was pawned in EDSA Dos, and my statement with regards to improving our own tangible lives first is a statement of refusal to be merely a pawn, that is, I'd rather be a bishop or a knight, or better yet a queen by trekking the path of prosperity and achievement. What I perhaps failed to recognize is that there is a reason why there are 8 pawns and only 2 of the other pieces, and only 1 queen and 1 king.

There's a delicate balance to be achieved between the two sides of this coin, but while we can enjoy the relative ease of inciting people to move, voice out, and protest, we must likewise encourage them to act within their "own universes" and not rely on improvements of the economy or the government for the betterment of their lives.


That splendid summation seems an excellent point at which to close this debate!


Why the pessimism peeps? Erap was unseated, tried, and convicted. The system worked.

Sure he's being pardoned or given amnesty, but tell me of a corrupt leader in the whole wide world, who was metted out his punishment through jail or execution (aside from Saddam) in the last 50 years?


*Slobodav Milosovic(Yugoslavia)-died in jail
*Charles Taylor(Liberia)-in jail awaiting trial
*Augusto Pinochet(Chile)-died in house arrest
*Saddam Hossain(Iraq)-executed
*Pol Pot(Cambodia)-died in house arrest

But the above are murderes. Erap is a common thief, so he deserves "a little bit more sympathy".

Suharto(Indonesia)-can't be tried due to old age
Richard Nixon(U.S.)-impeached and pardoned


*Idi Amin(Zambia)-died in exile, never faced trial
*Ferdinand Marcos(Philippines)-died in exile, never faced trial

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