Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1 December 2018


First things first: The Filipino people have been robbed of arguably one of the best chief justices we could have—Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

If seniority were followed (there is no doubting his competence), he should have been appointed chief justice eight years ago. But then President Gloria Arroyo made a midnight appointment of Renato Corona.

When Corona was impeached and convicted, President Benigno Aquino had the opportunity to correct his predecessor’s lapse. But he, too, passed over Carpio and appointed instead Maria Lourdes Sereno, a newbie.

Sereno, too, underwent impeachment proceedings, but was removed from the Supreme Court by quo warranto. This gave Carpio a third opportunity, but he refused to submit his name, because he thought Sereno’s removal was wrong, and did not want to take advantage of it. In fact, he has behaved impeccably  throughout. President Duterte then appointed the most senior justice (after Carpio) to serve for less than two months.

On the fourth vacancy, Carpio allowed his name to be submitted for chief justice. After all, Mr. Duterte’s rationale for choosing the last one was “seniority.”

The rest is history.

Three strikes against Carpio. A pity. An independent,  he would not have allowed any interference in the judiciary, either by the executive or legislative. Unfortunately, presidents don’t like that. The Filipino people lost. The country lost.

Second, I would like to revisit last week’s column, which the Inquirer editor entitled, quite aptly, “Why Filipinos distrust China.” The column raised a hailstorm of fury. One in particular, Caroline Hau, who is connected with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University, stands out, particularly since her critique was full of ad hominems. I have rather “blinkered and limited powers of observation,” I “swan around” in “rarefied circles,” I am a racist (pure and simple, even), and “what do you expect from newspaper columnists who don’t do on-the-ground research?”

Wow. My column must have struck a raw nerve there.

First, I wish Ms Hau would read the column again, and she will realize that some of her observations are way off.

Second, I want to remind Ms Hau that the basic fact I started from is that the Filipinos distrust China. They trust the United States, Japan, Malaysia, Israel, but on the whole, they don’t trust China. This feeling is not unique to Filipinos, as Ms Hau is well aware. Don’t kill the messenger.

I then make a distinction between trust in a country and trust in its people, using my distrust of the US government and my trust in the American people to illustrate. But the Filipinos don’t seem to make that distinction, judging from the survey. They “conflate,” as Ms Hau uses it, the two, insofar as the United States is concerned. Which leads me to believe that they have done the same with China.  Not an unreasonable assumption.

If so, then what is the basis for their opinions, as reported by SWS? It has to be their experiences with the Chinese people they meet, plus inherited values, plus what they get from the media.

And the Chinese people they meet up with are Chinese nationals (please—they certainly don’t distinguish between the mainland and Taiwan), and Chinese-Filipinos.

One of the objections is to a statement in my column: “I have often observed… that a Chinese-Filipino will never state unequivocally that he/she…” That, says Ms Hau, is a generalization. I merely stated my observations from personal experience. The Chinese-Filipinos I have asked as to whether they will side with the Philippines or China in the event we get to the crunch have equivocated (all of them, but I used “often” to soften the statement). I can mention Ms Tessie Ang Sy; I hope she doesn’t mind, because it was during a taped and released interview. I cannot name the others, because these were private conversations.

Chinese-Filipinos comprise less than 2 percent of our population, but they comprise at least 50 percent of our richest listed in Forbes magazine. You don’t think that causes resentment, and even distrust? Perhaps because of their conspicuous consumption? It is Ms Hau that generalizes; she jumps from distrust of the richest Chinese-Filipinos to ALL of them. Excuse me. (To be continued)