The Buck Stops With Us


I came across Randy’ David’s opinion piece on  “Warlords in a weak state“.

He articulated the phenomena quite well and pointed out that warlord-ism is not unique to Mindanao alone. He states:

“rido alone cannot explain what happened in Maguindanao. A fuller analysis must take into account the weak state in which it is framed.

Family feuds are certainly not unique to our society. They thrive wherever kinship remains the dominant principle for organizing an individual’s participation in the larger social world. They usually disappear as a society grows in complexity. The individual becomes entangled in the multiple crosscutting ties offered by the modern world. Thus the kinsman becomes a citizen, a university student, a journalist, a member of a political party, a Rotarian, a doctor or a soldier in the army, or falls in love with someone outside the clan.

This is a process that does not always occur smoothly. For many postcolonial societies like ours, the transition to modernity has been very uneven, spawning problems that are not easily solved in either the traditional or strictly modern way. Instead of withering away in obsolescence, clans can often draw new vitality from the modern institutions into which they are grafted. This could give rise to something as benign as a family corporation, or to something fundamentally vicious. The traditional absolutism of these patriarchal clans, when fused with the immense resources of the modern state, can spawn barbarians of the most lethal and abusive kind. This, exactly, is what has happened to varying degrees in our society.

The massacre in Maguindanao may stand out for a long time for its brazenness and heinousness, but the forces that shaped it are by no means isolated or peculiar to Muslim Mindanao. They lurk in many regions of our country, providing support to various activities—political and economic, legal and illegal—and feeding from the institutional structures of modern society. One only needs to take a look at the local leaders and organizers of the party in power in order to produce a map of modern warlordism in the Philippines. In their ranks, any observer will find an assortment of gambling lords, smugglers, drug lords, human traffickers, and leaders of crime syndicates, who, without exception, maintain private armies. Many of them have become big players in the world of business and politics, gaining reputations as benevolent entrepreneurs, displacing the traditional warlords from the landed oligarchy. They operate through networks and layers of patronage, demanding from their followers unconditional loyalty in exchange for economic security and assisted access to the offices of the state. But whereas the feudal lords softened their rule by appeals to culture, the new warlords govern mainly through intimidation and violence.”

This is a continuum of which integrates the perversion of the values known as bayanihan, pakikisama, and utang na loob turning into a cocktail of impunity and dysfunctionality. Philippine society has yet to learn to draw the line between doing the right thing and knowing when the ethnocentric values Filipinos trumpet cross the line.

While it is true that “This situation, so pervasive still in our country today, will not disappear as long as our national politicians choose the path of enlisting outmoded local power systems into their political parties, rather than patiently create modern organs of political aggregation appropriate to a democracy”, we also need to stress that the politicians are products of our choices as a society.

As a representative democracy, these politicans are reflections, that we, the voters have made. The buck does not stop with the politician.

As a representative democracy, we, the people, VOTED these warlords, thieves, bozos into positions of authority. As a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,  the buck stops with us – THE PEOPLE.

It also ties in with the recent Inquirer editorial “Shallow Pool” –

“WHAT does it say about us, and the quality of our politics, when the first senator to file his certificate of candidacy for reelection in May 2010 was the one who should not have been elected to the Senate in the first place? Sen. Lito Lapid has proven himself eminently unqualified for the work of the Senate, not because he is an actor or a celebrity, but because he has done nothing senatorial in his six-year term. Naturally, since this is Philippine politics, Lapid is favored to win reelection.

That, sadly, is where we are. Despite three massive tectonic shifts in the political landscape in a single year, the pool of candidates for the Senate has turned out to be very shallow indeed. “

When we, the VOTERS, elect not just a national leadership that “is strong and rests on a clear popular mandate” but a national leadership with integrity, competence, vision, and a track record of performance , we, as a society are in  “a better position to dismantle the anachronistic local power centers that operate side by side state institutions. It need not tolerate, or worse accommodate, the existence of parallel sultanates and their abusive armies.”

When we select a national leadership that is strong on pedigree but totally devoid of  integrity, competence, vision, and a track record of performance –  “we have an insecure leadership that colludes with a broad range of non-accountable forces to keep itself in power, it is the modern state that withers away”.

It isn’t just that “We have indeed paid a high price for allowing an illegitimate president to take charge of the state”, we have a paid a high price for the flawed choices that WE, THE PEOPLE have made. Even in today’s upcoming political exercise, we dignify winnability and pedigree over ability and integrity. We do the same things and yet expect different results.

Even as the mainstream trumpets Peñaflorida’s victory, we lose sight of the fact that a Peñaflorida had to step up because, we, THE PEOPLE, have not voted for leaders who invest in education – who can put more classrooms, books, and well-paid teachers. We have chosen the path of least resistance – of gaming the system. That when given the opportunity to vote multiple times, we showed that the Filipino can outvote other nationalities. Where one nationality votes 5 times, the Filipino votes 100 times. These other nationalities were blasted away – after all we have had generations of FLYING VOTERS and have raised the practice to an art form. That Efren stepped up is commendable. That an Efren was needed because we, as a  society have failed our schoolchildren, is regrettable and tragic.

When we point one finger at Arroyo and blame our leaders, three other fingers point to us.

As Jose Rizal pointed in “The Indolence of the Filipino” –

we set forth the causes that proceed from the government in fostering and maintaining the evil we are  discussing. Now it falls to us to analyze those that emanate from the people. Peoples and governments are correlated and complementary: a fatuous government would be an anomaly among righteous people, just as a corrupt people cannot exist under just rulers and wise laws. Like people, like government, we will say in paraphrase of a popular adage.”

If we, THE PEOPLE want positive change in government, we, THE PEOPLE must become the change we desire – we start by treating our votes sacredly – to choose on the basis of ability, consistency, integrity, and vision. Choose as if it were a matter of life and death – ours, our children, our children’s children. Enough with vacuous pedigree and winnability – platforms, please.

The buck stops.. and starts… with US, THE PEOPLE.




  1. It becomes tiring to hear people express “indignation” over the behaviour of government officials that were elected by popular vote. The lack of substance around the process of evaluating politicians during their campaign leads to a lack of basis for holding them accountable during their terms of office, which then results in these officials taking their liberties to act within their interests.

    In short, their behaviours merely reflect the amount of latitude their constituency affords them. When you apply low standards, you get substandard service and worse, in the case of the Philippines, quality of governance bordering on the criminal.

  2. At least David’s now in his right place: behind the writer’s desk and not in some rally or running for government, hehehe.

    People will criticize GMA’s declaring martial law in Maguindanao, and think it will extend to Manila. But that’s doubtful. Even in Maguindanao, I doubt they’ll have the muscle to enforce this martial law effectively. Insurgents and private armies can be better armed than our own military.

    At least we haven’t degraded into a Somalia. Any place worse than the Philippines would be those tribal places in Africa. Those are like, really backward.

  3. the “educated” middle class in the Philippine society is either outside the country, articulate opinion-writers or speakers (media) and academe personalities, or busy professionals with materialistic pursuits, as if pretending that the 80% mass does not exist. what we actually need is not only EDSA-marching middle-class but a year-round vigilant society that distinguish what is right and wrong and let those who do wrong be informed that they are doing wrong. we are a show-biz-based nation, dining with corrupt government officials each time we have the opportunity as if their popularity will rub off to us with association. sick

  4. Oh by the way Bong you forgot to add that in some cases people don’t vote at all in warlord dominated regions. While granted their are some who vote the fact is when the guns come a blazin everyone know when to get their heads down. Also, in practice armed goons just watch the elections gate to prevent people from voting other congressman, goevrnors etc….

  5. What will it take to disarm and dismantle private armies?

    Hunter-killer teams (a la Vietnam)? :/

  6. Hsing Tao · ·

    Maybe the Black and White Movement can go to Mindanao and do the “Patalsikin Pose” so that the warlords will quit.

  7. This is, unfortunately, one of those ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ situations that Pinoys are so fond of putting their government and themselves in. They demand swift justice for what happened in Maguindanao and yet now that something has been done to try and control the situation, they condemn the same leaders they accused of being too complacent. Now it’s all about panic of impending dictatorship and the ‘I TOLD YOU SO’ cries. If they have better ideas of how to deal with the crisis in Maguindanao, they can go ahead and send gift baskets to the Ampatuans and their gunmen.

    I may not be a fan of GMA but with having to govern a country full of people who can’t make up their minds and have the mentality of 3rd graders, I don’t blame her for being mataray. Hell, if I were in her place, I might step down from the podium and give these hecklers a swift kick in the ass. Diplomacy can only get you so far and if I were to be honest, it’s really just the art of telling someone to go to Hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip and packs a suitcase.

  8. With matching “Loser” hand signs, hahaha.

  9. Hyden Toro · ·

    Family Clans are with us. We are still a Feudal Society. The Ampatuan Clan ruled the Province
    of Maguindanao. The father is an elected Provincial official. So, are the sons. They Uncles and
    other relatives. It is like a Monarchy. So, when their rule is contested by another family clan. They
    have to murder.

    The guns and ammunitions taken from them, aggravated their situation. This is a murderous
    family. Who may have killed many people like Saddam Hussein and his sons.

  10. BATANG TONDO · ·


    Yes, we are ALL corrupt

    Yes, we are ALL tamad

    Yes, we are ALL bobo

    Yes, we are ALL stupid

    Yes, we are ALL ignorant

    Yes, we are ALL gago

    Yes, we are ALL whatever

    Sige tinatanggap na namin ok tama na mga sinasabi nyo

    YOU ARE the very few na Pinoy na nag-iisip, matatalino, masipag at magagaling na tao.

    The rest of us are bad eggs

    Through these blogs you have proven your point

    So what now?

    Annihilate us ALL PINOYS like Hitler killed the Jews?

    Ano ba gusto nyo talaga mangyari?

    Sige accepted na nga namin what is wrong with us…


    Ano gagawin nyo sa amin????


    Ano ang magagawa nyo para umunlad nga tayo?

    Wala pa akong nakikitang mga solution eh puros problema pine-present nyo

    Asan mga solutions nyo asan na???

    The fact remains you are making FALSE GENERALIZATIONS on a whim

    NOT based on facts including the EFREN’S VOTERS RIGGING ACCUSATIONS that



    Kahit the facts are IN YOUR FACE na CNN asked everyone to VOTE AS MANY AS YOU WANT

    Di nyo ma-accept—THAT ARTICLE should not even be here anymore because IT’S FALSE


    Kaya ako umiinit ang ulo dito!

  11. For a start, control the things that you can – that’s YOU, yes YOU:

    STOP BEING corrupt

    STOP BEING tamad

    STOP BEING bobo

    STOP BEING stupid

    STOP BEING ignorant

    STOP BEING gago

    START BEING honest

    START BEING industrious

    START BEING discerning

    START BEING factual

    START BEING rational

    Ang tigas ng ulo mo

  12. Wow. Replay na pala yung isa. hehehehe

  13. To BongV (or to anyone who care to enlighten me),

    i’ve been reading about the types of filipinos described or have displayed themselves here at AP and one thing puzzles me still. i am not the socially-aware type and have shied away from any political activity (even with the remotest hint) that came my way since Ramos’ time. I am as middle class as any and have earned my keep just like the rest of my peers. one thing i noticed is that most people i know have always been apolitical but they are neither lazy, stupid nor lacking in initiative. some are very creative and some have even become successful in their own right. but none of them complain nor make any apparent effort to engender change.

    so here is my question: how do we reach out to (or how do we change) people who are intellectually able and industrious enough but for some reason do not actively participate or contribute to make a vigilant society? are there other means to educate people more (other than reading AP articles and related sites found here) who are not necessarily “bobo” or lazy?

  14. Kahlil,

    that’s a great question.

    imho, they remain apolitical because they look at politics as “dirty” and would rather devote their time to more “productive” activities. unfortunately, politics has an impact on their apolitical activities, specifically business.

    one way you can educate people is to bring them to volunteer activities in order to bring awareness about the gap or the disparity – and to identify opportunities for improvement.

    the temptation to “feel good” will be strong and there is a tendency that the tactical patchwork will be seen as a strategic answer to a systemic disparity. that’s where you can discuss and look at the long view.

    essentially, it is still a marketing proposition – one model you can use is the AIDA model

    In 1898, the American advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a practical sales tool using the latest Scientific Management insights. He created his AIDA funnel model on customer studies in the US life insurance market to explain the mechanisms of personal selling. Lewis held that the most successful salespeople followed a hierarchical, four layer process using the four cognitive phases that buyers follow when accepting a new idea or purchasing a new product.

    The AIDA model describes the basic process by which people become motivated to act on a purchase and is based on external stimuli from sales representatives. This motivation to make a purchase depends on:

    1. AWARENESS of the existence of a product or service;
    2. INTEREST in paying attention to the product’s benefits;
    3. DESIRE for the product.

    Lewis held that the fourth stage or mental state, ACTION, was a natural result of moving through the first three stages — that desire leads to action, i.e.

    1. Are you talking to me?
    2. Why are you talking to me?
    3. Good idea, but do I really need it?
    4. What will I have to do to get it?

    In 1911, Sheldon extended the model with a fifth phase, ‘permanent Satisfaction’ to stress the importance of repeat sales. In the following decades, the AIDA model served to study how advertising affects consumers and was the basis for numerous motivational driven consumer behaviour research models such as ACAIP, ACCA, and CAB.

    The AIDA funnel model was to be used as the backbone for structuring an organisation’s sales. The sales funnel helps sales personnel to better target a client by basing their actions on the client’s position in the funnel. Salespeople should seek different sales objectives for their suspects, their prospects and their customers. The aggregated information from the sales funnel allows a firm to construct an overview across sales representatives and departments and to deliver better structured sales forecasts.

  15. thanks for that speedy reply but i’m gonna have to pester you some more:

    so, the AIDA model is primarily used as a basis in engaging people to buy into politics. in a manner of speaking, i would be in the ACTION phase and the objective would be to get as many friends i have into the funnel. right?

    correct me if i’m wrong, but does “volunteer activities” mean to see people with pamphlets in college campuses?

    and sorry but the following lines just went way over my head:
    the temptation to “feel good” will be strong and there is a tendency that the tactical patchwork will be seen as a strategic answer to a systemic disparity. that’s where you can discuss and look at the long view.

  16. @ Khalil

    Indeed, I second BongV in saying that you ask a really good question — one that describes the biggest challenge that faces us.

    I was also an apolitical person. In fact to some degree I still am as I am not really one to give much of a hoot around who will be sitting in Malacanang after 2010 and who is allied with who or what party and all that crap. I wrote an article Who cares if Gloria is president after 2010 where I described in detail my view that there is really no strong correlation between who is president and how on-track we are in our march towards progress.

    That’s because my thesis has always been that the ultimate source of our inability to prosper and progress as a society lies in our character as a people — our culture. My belief is that the issue is deeply systemic (far more fundamental than our politics) and therefore the solution should be at the systemic level as well. Those traditionally seen as the “socially-aware types” that you mentioned are really people who advocate political solutions. In my case, I see politics merely as a potential vehicle for instituting the changes at the cultural level of our society. My interest in politics therefore mainly revolves around whatever impact it might have on changing our character as a people. As such any “politics” focused on partisanism and personalities for me is just noise. What is important is the societal goals of politics rather than its power-brokering goals (which explains my focus on platforms).

    As an engineering student in UP, I observed that the College of Engineering (the largest college in the University at the time) was an obvious target for campaign among the “socially aware” — those bozos active in what I believe to be largely Leftist-infiltrated campus politics. But the College Engineering consistently frustrated these bozos because we were a largely “apathetic” crowd.

    In my case, my interest in social advocacies began when I started to see some kind of science underneath the moronism of politics (i.e. the cultural angle) and that’s what pushed my buttons.

    My point is, in order to appeal to those who seem to be apathetic, we need to be able to present our case as something that is BIGGER and more coherent than the buffoonery that gets all the airtime and profile in Mainstream Media and the discussions of small and average minds. In short (as Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have said):

    Small minds discuss people
    Mediocre minds discuss events
    Brilliant minds discuss ideas

    Perhaps a big chunk of those who are apathetic don’t see any hope in the more visible national “debate” that real ideas of true merit will ever see the light of day. Our job here is to elevate the national “debate” to the level that appeals to the truly smart lot in a society dominated by the vacuous.

    Hope this makes sense. 😉

  17. hi Kahlil:

    take it with a grain of salt. 🙂
    having said that, yes – you are in the action phase – generating awareness to your friends, bringing them into the awareness stage, getting them to take interest, so they. too desire to take action.

    it is a type of volunteering activity. a more meaningful volunteering activity would be one that enables you to participate in a range of fun activities – yard sale for a cause, dinner for a cause, dinner/dance for a cause, serving free food to hungry people, concert for a cause, to more formal ones – seminar on participating in government supply contracts for small business owners, meet-and-greet networking activities, collecting food/books/scholarship for children of wounded soldiers/firemen. – this develops awareness of gaps, and possible solutions to the gaps/disparities. being an entirely volunteer organization you.

    oftentimes, volunteers get deeply immersed in the activity and wind up building “silos” and loose sight of the longer view – the structural and systemic adjustments needed to peacefully bring an expansion of the middle class. this means a reduction of the poorer socio-economic class as greater numbers from the poor transition into a higher quality of life.the bottom line – a more prosperous life for a wider number of Filipinos. when silos are built, the volunteer tends to limit volunteering into just one type of activity (i.e. spreading pamphlets), developing the volunteer as leaders implies they get exposure into lots of types of activities to allow for versatility (info-dissemination, multimedia, fundraising, public speaking, etc).

  18. “…we need to be able to present our case as something that is BIGGER and more coherent…”

    thus, AP and the number of websites linked to it, is a means to elevate national “debate” by presenting pressing issues in the society with brutal objectivity which have ruffled some feathers in the process. in the case of Batang Tondo, it was interesting to see that none of you AP guys stopped trying to make him understand. you guys even presented different ways of looking at the issue even when it was clear that BT could not contain his emotionality thus his understanding and every rebuttal he had was clouded by anger.

    i see, the “apathetic” filipino would rather think about something more challenging like, say, Gladwell’s theories or the mysteries in Dan Brown’s books (not that there’s something wrong with that) or just busy themselves with their own personal pursuits because the usual drivel coming out on national TV and broadsheets bore them, or worse, they might think that these are “BIGGER” issues that they can’t grasp at all but in reality, is just plain “irrationality” made to look sophisticated and true.

  19. hmmnn… this has made a lot of things clearer for me. in practical terms, again, in a manner of speaking, one has to keep understanding and talking about the greater issues and ideas of the day amongst friends to generate awareness, interest and propel them to action whatever that activity may be. but one cannot suffice by talking alone. one may apply his “volunteerism” in other avenues as well, say, write fiction with advocacy in mind or pushing photojournalism to amateur photographers or, like what was suggested to Batang Tondo in another discussion, to make films that are geared towards awareness. did i miss a point there?

  20. kahlil, very well said.

    also, as a photographer you can capture the disparities and commonalities – food (i.e. tuyo versus angus steak); clothes (branded versus tattered); attitude (apathy vs activity); housing (shanty vs Forbes) – the vendor in Boracay (behind the seascape panorama is someone hawking cigarettes, peanuts, etc.). then you might have photographer friends who share your advocacy.. or not even.. then you and them can do a street photo exhibit – block off one street – put a display of your works there in one weekend – donate portions of your sale to a charity in your community. also, use the photo exhibit as an opportunity to display contact information for yourself, or drive traffic to your online photogallery or blog.

    the entire exercise boils down to bringing as many as possible into the funnel – awareness-interest-desire-action.

    in the parkance of the 80s activists – their keyword was AOM – Arouse, Organize, Moblilize.

  21. I think Batang Tondo understood, but refused to agree and continued to refute our views. He implied that even a slight criticism of Penaflorida is wrong and was a traitorous act to the country. Unfortunately, that was his undoing. Some people are like that though… with how low the Philippines has been going, having a Filipino like Penaflorda gain international recognition gives an escape from all the negativity. But they forget that the negativity is still there.

    And with the problems of our country being traced to the culture, it sure looks like a tough challenge. Culture comes from the hearts and minds of people. I’ve often found hearts and minds to be the hardest to win. Some people, like Hitler and Joseph Smith (Mormon), have the knack for it. Some people are really intelligent but can’t win hearts and minds, like Einstein. Yet this is the challenge we’re faced with and have to do. Like Kennedy said, “we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” and may I add, they are necessary too.

  22. @Kahlil:

    you are correct –

    AP and the number of websites linked to it, is a means to elevate national “debate” by presenting pressing issues in the society with brutal objectivity

    AP is a channel of the Get Real network of sites. The driving force being the advocacy to “Get Real” – to start looking objectively, to get grounded, to level off. The various sites are channels of the “Get Real” advocacy. In effect you can say that there is an overall strategy that involves Channel Management.

    Channel management, as a process by which a company creates formalized programs for selling and servicing customers within a specific channel, can really impact your advocacy—and in a positive way! To get started, first segment your channels by like characteristics (their needs, patterns, success factors, etc.) and then customize a channel management program.

    Thus, some segments are visual-oriented – for that, there’s

    For the more asinine blogs that block the message to “Get Real” – there’s

    For the middle class segment – there’s AP.

    For the CDE segment – we comment in other blogs ( FV, B7, Ellenville, MLQ or forums like PEX and generate awareness, which in turn drives traffic based on readership behavior.

    Then there’s the central repository – GRP – with archives of various articles about “getting real”.

    To benigno’s credit, he has been blogging in his seminal website even before the word blogging was born.

  23. Responsibility would be nice but Filipino culture teaches us to blame others. I am not sure if it is Catholicism per se but Filipino culture is geared towards the collective. That’s why few step up to the plate. When they do they are hated.

  24. If you think Catholicism is bad wait ’til you meet these Goddamn sosyal-born-again christian types who, for reasons I still do not fully understand, seem to love doing the work of Jesus mostly from Starbucks.

    I dunno, I just can’t get myself to imagine (even when high on weed) Jesus Christ in Starbucks drinking overpriced coffee while there are so many starving children out there in the streets.

    See you at Starbucks 🙂

  25. ei conyo 🙂
    who/what do you actually mean when you say “these Goddamn sosyal-born-again christian types… [who] love doing the work of Jesus mostly from Starbucks.”? i’m not quite sure what you mean by that. sorry, i’m a bit slow.

  26. After checking out your website, I am afraid to give you a straight answer.

    I don’t want a fatwa over my head 🙂

    See you at Starbucks 🙂

  27. oh… don’t worry about fatwa man, i’m a catholic, and i don’t think anyone would bother anyway. so, what did you mean by that statement? oh, BTW thanks for checking out my site.

  28. Cavite Intelligence Agency · ·

    He must have meant those from Victory Christian Fellowship who say “I want to serve the lord na, now na”. They all gather in their expensive clothes at Starbucks and plan their next activity with their pastors. Then they go sing “Let’s turn around, touch the ground, jump around and praise the lord!”

  29. […] If one were to have a Philippine Inc, this would be the better model  – the government officers and staff are employees, and the citizens are the shareholders. Shareholders have the power to make or break a CEO. Filipino voters have forgotten that they are shareholders – and the government officials and staffs have forgotten that they are employees whose main role is to serve the shareholders. The Philippine electorate needs to be roused out of its slumber and its telenovela-driven stupor. The Pinoy electorate needs to be reminded it is not a telenovela audience but a shareholder – the buck stops with us – the electorate. […]

  30. At least David's now in his right place: behind the writer's desk and not in some rally or running for government, hehehe. People will criticize GMA's declaring martial law in Maguindanao, and think it will extend to Manila. But that's doubtful. Even in Maguindanao, I doubt they'll have the muscle to enforce this martial law effectively. Insurgents and private armies can be better armed than our own military. At least we haven't degraded into a Somalia. Any place worse than the Philippines would be those tribal places in Africa. Those are like, really backward.

  31. yappy · ·

    vote wisely^^… and wisely doesnt equate to an aquino…

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