Where do our national loyalties lie?

Patricio N. Abinales
Where do our national loyalties lie?
The echo here is Manuel L. Quezon and his declaration that he would rather see the Philippines run like hell by Filipinos than Heaven under the Americans. This political chest-thumping animated the Nacionalistas and their supporter, but in a sense, Quezon was right.

Since we are all waving the flag these days – against China, against Grace Poe, against the Moros – let us look closer at the motivations for this unprecedented rise in jingoism.

With China, there is hardly any argument: The superpower has decided that it owns a huge chunk of the Pacific Lake and that includes our territory.

It is the sideshow to this anti-China sentiment that is more alarming. F. Sionil Jose decided to go on a racist rant, demanding that Tsinoys declare whose side they will be on once war erupts. A good many followers of the bookstore owner followed suit and for a while, our countrymen and women who happened to have Chinese lineages were put on the defensive. However, that fizzled out, and it is good.

The signing of an agreement creating a Bangsamoro entity as a way of consolidating a peace process that is now moving forward, had also drawn the worst of many Filipinos’ anti-Muslim sentiments. Not much has changed since a Pulse Asia survey for the 2005 Philippine Human Development report revealed that 47% of Filipinos “think Muslims are terrorists or extremists” and another 44% believe that Muslims “harbor hatred toward non-Muslims.”

Its rival, the Social Weather Stations, found a much lower percentage: 33%-39% of Filipinos showed “latent anti-Muslim bias.” After the BBL passage and the Mamasapano massacre, it would be interesting to see if these percentages remain. Which I doubt they will.

Religion is what mainly drives this anti-Muslim attitude, but it is also sustained by the view of many Christian Filipinos that Muslims are an inferior group compared to them. The reasons abound: from their being prone to violence (amok!), their economic backwardness (look how poor their provinces are!), their refusal to abide by the law (smugglers, pirated DVD dealers!), to, of course, a long history of enmity and war (a dead Muslim is a good Muslim!).

Lost in all this are the nuanced lives of those in the war zones – from the overlapping
kinship networks that make it difficult to ascertain who is MILF, BIFF, Abu Sayaff, or why army soldiers and policemen readily team up with these rebels when their clans and kin are imperiled, to the fusing of national fidelities with regional economic mindsets (legal and illegal), to the ad hoc truce between AFP and MILF commanders, both knowing that no one wins in the long term.

It is a marvel to watch the MILF deal patiently with the arrogance of national Christian (kuno) leaders and this resurgence of anti-Muslim sentiments in Manila and elsewhere, stoked by politicians who want to score points to enhance their standing, and who see an opportunity to cover up their lack of program and principles.

And then there is Grace.

The senator has been hounded by narcissistic pundits, public intellectuals and politicians over her real citizenship. Americans even had chimed in berating the senator for being cavalier and instrumentalist when she changed back to Filipino.

CITIZENSHIP ISSUE. Senator Grace Poe arrives at the Supreme Court to attend the preliminary hearing of the Senate Electoral Tribunal on her citizenship issue on September 11, 2015. Contributed file photo

This shift into legalese by people who are more at home with backroom negotiating, negotiating with and buying votes, and when problems worsen, terrorizing voters, and political grandstanding represents a hypocritical mindset.

As I’ve pointed out way back, there are two threads that are at play here, but Poe’s critics wish people just to believe one: that they are doing an honorable thing in “exposing” Poe as unqualified for the post because she is not constitutionally Filipino. They then place her opponents alongside and try to convince people that these politicians are more worth their time and vote, for they are, and remained, Filipinos.

The echo here is Manuel L. Quezon and his declaration that he would rather see the Philippines run like hell by Filipinos than heaven under the Americans. This political chest-thumping animated the Nacionalistas and their supporter, but in a sense, Quezon was right. 

By the second decade of colonial rule, Filipinos had taken over the patronage and spoils system that the Americans introduced and promoted. And while there were attempts by reformists like Leonard Wood and others to reverse the tide and stop the patrimonial plunder of the state by Quezon’s supporters, it was too late by then.

The Filipinos were already in control of the colonial state. Americans in the metropole orchestrated an anti-corruption campaign against their former prodigy that Quezon just turned to his political advantage.

This is what Poe’s “nationalist” opponents are also trying to say. Yes, Bongbong, family, and cronies stole $15 billion from us, killed and tortured thousands, and never admitted the conjugal dictatorship that destroyed our society. Yes, the Vice ran Makati like it was Little Italy and yes, Mar will remain a son of the alta sociedad (high society) and worry very little about the plebeians. Yes, they all have warts, but dammit they are Filipinos!

Indeed under Quezon, the Filipino elite ran the state like hell, but those who suffered this secular damnation were not them. It was the people. The old man will be happy to know that his legatees will continue what he and his allies started. – Rappler.com

Patricio Abinales is an OFW

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