Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 November 2018


What we can take to the bank, Reader, in this era of fake news and overstated achievements, is the fact that Filipinos don’t trust China. Social Weather Stations (SWS) has been conducting surveys on this since 1994, and out of 47 surveys, only nine times did trust in China come out positive (but just barely).

Understand, Reader, we’re not talking about trust in Chinese, but trust in the country China.  Whether one spills over into the other, we have to ask my colleague Mahar Mangahas, who writes a column in the next page.

The difference is important. I for one, don’t trust the US government. They’ve done this country too many wrongs, some of which I have cited in my previous columns—they colonized us against our wishes (the issue in the US Congress was won by one vote), they reneged on their pledge to recognize our soldiers in World War II as US veterans, they mistreated the relatively few veterans they did recognize, they intervened in our constitution and in our elections to make sure that American interests were carried out, and they used our land as military bases and insisted that what they were giving us in return was “aid” rather than rent, leaving us with a sense that we owed them a debt of gratitude.

But I do have great trust in the American people to do the right thing. And this trust has been constantly justified—most recently, for example, by how they spurned Donald “Rodrigo” Trump and what he stands for in this month’s US elections.

On the other hand, the Filipinos’ trust in the United States is practically phenomenal. Using the same SWS survey data, the latest shows a net trust rating of +59 percent (“very good”) compared with a -35 percent (“poor”) for China. It seems that, as much as we distrust China, we trust the United States by an even greater margin.

Why is this so?

I can only surmise. Maybe the benefits we have received from the United States (our education system, our democracy) far outweigh the costs mentioned above.  Or maybe when those costs were being imposed, we were kept in ignorance.

With regard to China, though, our relationship with the Chinese government and China is relatively new. And in this day and age of blazing media scrutiny, it is difficult to be ignorant of what is going on. In addition, we may have been brainwashed against China, especially since the communist takeover of that country. Or, alternatively, our experience with the Chinese themselves, which has been going on for centuries, has influenced our opinion.

There seems to be no distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese government, as there may be in the case of the United States. Actually, I have often observed, Reader, that a Chinese-Filipino will never ever state unequivocally that he/she is a Filipino first, and a Chinese second (meaning, his loyalty is to the Philippines).

Combine this with the fact that most of our billionaires are Chinese-Filipinos, and that Chinese-Filipinos (especially the males) seem to be culturally averse to marrying Filipino women, and that they are some of this country’s most hated employers. It then becomes easier to understand the distrust factor.

But what about China’s increasing hegemony? Isn’t that a factor in our distrust? Not particularly, especially since the United States is equally, if not more, guilty.

Well, what about China’s unkept promises to the Philippines? When President Duterte went to China in 2016, he came back with glowing promises of $24 billion worth of  goodies: $15 billion worth of foreign direct investments and $9 billion in projects. Two years later, according to estimates, less than $400 million has come in. Is that a factor? I don’t think so. That is more a question of hype on the part of our government than anything else.

So does it boil down to: We don’t trust China because we don’t trust Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos? On the face of it, no. So let’s go back to the SWS survey. We don’t trust them because we see that they are taking away what is ours (including what has been ruled to be ours by an international court). Because they treat our fishermen like dirt.

Nothing President Duterte says to the contrary will disabuse Filipinos of that view.