PHILIPPINE VALUES IN CONTEXT John J. Caroll, S. J.
THE STORY is told that in the year 1900, when William Howard Taft arrived in Manila as head of the Philippine Commission which was to decide the future of these islands, he was met at the boat by a delegation of prominent Filipinos.Their mission was to press for immediate independence, and their argument was that for a people to be selfgoverning all that was required was that there be a minority capable of ruling and a majority willing to be ruled, both of which the Filipinos had. Whether or not the story is historically accurate, it does reflect the elitist mentality of the Filipino illustrado, which was often enough commented on by Taft. He and the Philippine Commission had little sympathy with this mentality and, believed it was their duty to prepare the Filipinos for democratic selfgovernment according to the American model. Yet here they faced a dilemma. Democratic development in that model would have required a dismantling of the social and economic power of the elite, and any attempt to do so would have incurred its fierce enmity and opposition. On the other hand, the support of this group was essential if the masses were to be "pacified" and civil administration established. The dilemma came down to: peace and order, or social reform and change? respect for local institutions or social justice? What eventually emerged was a "meeting of minds" among the "intelligent" leaders on both sides: social justice and reform were accordingly "put on the back burner" in favor of a slower, educational, approach.i The main instrument of this preparation for selfrule, then, was a free public education, oriented to political democracy, economic proficiency, and social equality. It should be noted that not all American administrators agreed with this approach. One, in particular, a gentleman with the unusual name of Alleyne Ireland and, more importantly, with long experience in Far Eastern administrative affairs, argued that "unless the Philippines first secured for itself a solid, balanced, and welldistributed economy, its education and its democracy would be empty shells. "ii The language used here may seem a bit strong, but no stronger than that used today by more than one Filipino and foreign commentator on the local scene. James Fallows' depressing article "A Damaged Culture"iii, for example, was one of the readings sent me by the organizers of this gathering. That piece, and others like it written by people who perhaps have rejected the theological concept of original sin, now tend to present Philippine culture itself as fatally flawed by an anthropological original sin. I have heard it said, though I very much doubt it, that Jaime Ongpin was reading Fallows' piece just
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before he committed suicide; in any case, I trust that any of you who do read it will do so with caution. On a more constructive tack, the ongoing concern of Senator Leticia Shahani and many others in public service with value formation, and the papers already presented here, indicate a concern that our education system and our democracy are not bearing the fruits which were hoped for from them. It will be the theme of this paper that Alleyne Ireland's comment not only pointed out a major source of our present difficulties but pointed toward an approach which, while not contradicting other proposals, does help to put them into a social context. But first, one or two more preliminaries. In talking of "Philippine values" we sometimes give the impression that there are values which are peculiar to Filipinos and not shared by those of other cultures. A moment of reflection will show that this is not the case, and that it would be difficult to point to a "Philippine value,"whether it be pakikisama, utang na loob or concern for one's familywhich is totally unappreciated in other cultures. What distinguishes one culture from another normally is the priority assigned to a particular value, how strongly and in what circumstances a value is expected to be actualized, and the manner in which one value relates to another. Americans, for example, value "getting along with others" just as truly as Filipinos value pakikisama, and I can still recall the lessons in it which I received from may own father. But Americans also tend to put a high value on "getting the job done" and, in a given situation, this may take precedence over their reluctance to give offense. I would say that Filipinos also value efficiency. But less than Americans do and will more frequently sacrifice it in favor of pakikisama. Nor should we imagine that all members of a particular society are identical in their value systems. We are dealing here with averages; and just as the fact that the American is, on the average, taller than the Filipino does not mean that all Americans are taller than all Filipinos, So differences in average scores on values do not mean that there is no overlap. Again, there are, wellknown differences within both the Filipino and the American group, between males and females, and probably also by ethnic group and social class. Finally, I would point out that Filipinos, like other cultural groups, are aware of a range of alternative patterns of behavior and select the one that seems most appropriate in a given situation. It has often been observed that those who emigrate to the United States or Canada quickly adapt to the time discipline, workhabits and even driving patterns of those countries. And closer to home, many of us can probably recall having been the soul of of thoughtfulness and courtesy among a group of friends or at a formal gathering, and then, going home afterwards, bulling our way through intersections with our cars or pushing ahead of women and children in the struggle to get into a crowded jeepney. It is not that one's values changed between the parlor and the street; it is rather the social situation which changed and seemed to call for a different pattern of behavior
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or else an heroic willingness to miss jeepney after jeepney. Even jeepneydrivers, I suspect, would gladly become lawabiding and considerate drivers if they could be confident that other drivers would do the same and the traffic moved more freely. Their goalvalue of making a living would not change; only their judgment on how best to do it.
The Social System
ALL of this is by way of saying that supposedly faulty "Filipino values" can hardly of themselves explain the difficulties which the nation is now experiencing. Values and the social system are interdependent and, very often, differences in behavior are not due to differences in basic values but to different perceptions of how to realize these values. These perceptions involve different views of the physical and social universe in which one operates, and different signals which one receives from the behavior and expectations of those with whom he interacts; in other words, the social system. Let us look then at the Philippine social system and how it is organized; and here we return to the observation of Taft and Ireland. Philippine society is one in which wealth and other forms of power are concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of individuals and families. According to the World Bank, "the Philippines has one of the most unequal income distributions among middleincome countries."iv Land ownership, which in a society such as ours with a high man/ land ratio is a major source of social power, is also highly concentrated. The concentration of power and wealth may be even more true now than it was in Taft's time and earlier, as a consequence of such factors as population growth and the disappearance of the agricultural frontier, economic development based in large part on plantation agriculture for export, and the economic and political centralization of the country. All of these forces, and others, tended to shift the balance of power more and more in favor of those who were already welloff, while reducing the social control on the use of power which was inherent in the traditional facetoface relationship between a small landowner, for example, and his tenants. Thus, as land grew more scarce and the number of landless people seeking tenancies increased, it was possible for the landowner to demand more from these tenants. At the same time, the commercialization of agriculture meant that the landowner was now operating on credit, paying interest on loans, and less able to make rasyon [ration] to them. He might, in fact, move to the city and leave the farm in the hands of an overseer, who would refuse to honor the traditional obligations of a landlord to "his people." And more and more, the economic and political decisions which affected the lives of the little people were being made far from the farmin the provincial capital, Manila; eventually, New York and Washington. Thus power in its various forms, when unrestrained by social controls, tends to
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become more concentrated over time. Economic power, in the form of land, capital, credit and access to quality education, can be used to generate more economic power. It can also be used to buy political power and, if necessary, physical power in the form of guns and goons; and these, in turn, can be used to enhance and protect one's economic power. Thus, contrary to the laws of gravity and the expections of some economists, wealth and power left to themselves tend to "trickle upward" to the higher reaches of the social system. For this reason, modem societies have devised ways by which the use of power is controlled and subjected to society's values. The democratic process is one such mechanism, as are the mass media and public education, progressive taxation and social security systems, labor and peasant organizations and land reform programs. Butand here is the pointefforts to establish such mechanisms here in the Philippines have consistently been defeated or at least blunted by the elite, much as Ireland anticipated they would be. Thus Stanley remarks of the "American period" as follows: "Once in office, conservative Filipino politicians became, in effect, the fulcrum of FilipinoAmerican relations and used their position between the two major power blocs, the Americans and the mass of their own people, for narrowly selfserving ends. On the one hand, they arrested the few significant reform programs contemplated by the American government that might have narrowed the gap between the rich and poor. On the other, as the political leaders of the country, they took over the campaign for Philippine independence and used nationalist fervor to deflect criticism of their social and economic power." v Nor did things change dramatically with independence. Philippine society has continued to be divided into rich and poor, the division bridged to some degree by vertical ties of dependence linking the insecurity of the little man to the "benevolence" of his middleclass or upperclass "patron" and thereby accentuating the power of the latter. Thus, Philippine democracy has continued to be elite democracy. Political parties have no distinctive social identities or programs, not even to the limited extent that American Democratic Party can be said to stand for the urban working class, the immigrants and the blacks while the Republicans are based on the farmers, the South, and the business class. Philippine political parties are simply alliances of leaders and followers out for the rewards of electoral victory. Their platforms are made up of vague generalities; candidates who in the 1987 congressional elections attempted to discuss issues almost invariably were defeated. Voters for the most part seem to support those to whom they have personal ties or from whom they expect personal or community favors: a job for the individual or his son, a barrio road or health center as a reward for having supported the candidate. In their insecurity, they are looking for a takbuhan or someone in power
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to whom they may nin for help as they used to run to the landowner, rather than one with whose policies on land reform, pricesupports for farmers, the American bases or whatever they happen to agree. Thus it is not surprising that, once elected, many legislators give first priority to their individual, group, and class interestssometimes shamelessly as in emasculating the Comprehensive Land Reform Program, and sometimes arrogantly as in the recent move in Congress to abolish the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Board which had suggested that some of its members may have had their hands in the cookie jar. What the politicians do for their constituencies is presented as personal favors, advertised on billboards and, if possible, limited to their own supporters. In turn, the politician's ability to deliver such favors depends not on the needs of his constituents but on his own links to the powersthatbe. This power structure, rooted in the economic insecurity of the little man, serves to maintain and even increase that insecurity. The World Bank report cited above notes that "There are more poor people in the Philippines today than at any time in recent history," that "the situation has worsened during the past three decades," despite the economic growth which has taken place.vi One of the mechanisms behind this is the fact that the poor pay 27% of their income in taxes while the wealthy pay only 18%. On top of this, "the Philippines spends less than half of what other countries at comparable levels of development on social services spend." With regard to the distribution of social services, the report has this to say: The poor have not been the major beneficiaries of government expenditure programs in the social sectors. The benefits of public education have been greater for higherincome students. In health, most public resources have been devoted to expensive urbanbased curative services. Housing subsidies, both in financing loans and in providing shelter, have mainly benefitted the upper half of the income ladder. Family planning programs, too have failed to reach a large portion of lower income women. It is easy to guess who has been making the policies in these areas; surely it has not been the poor. Thus, in the wider society, as distinguished from the family and small group, the key structural factor has been power rather than the democratic and Christian values which we profess and which are inscribed in the Philippine Constitution, power rather than law and abstract rights. My personal judgment is that even President Aquino has found it necessary to accommodate the key organized powergroups within the society, namely, the business community, the military, and the traditional politicians; and in so doing has been forced to put her hopes for a more equal and equitable society on the back burner. In concluding this section on Philippine social structure, I should point out that the
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"big people" upon whom others depend are not only those whom we would consider wealthy or the elite. At the barangay level and in squatter communities, the poorest come to depend on the less poor, who may in turn depend on others somewhat better off. I was reminded of this recently in reading a term paper of one of my students, describing a very rural barangay of Baybay, Leyte.vii Even there, one finds the more secure and the less secure, the' former being those who own some land, a thresher, a hand tractor, a sarisari store; and it is to them that the others turn in time of emergency. The author attributes the failure of various programs for the community to this power structure and to the ability of the betteroff families and groups to appropriate any benefits for themselves.
GIVEN the concentration of power in Philippine society, and the extent to which it, rather than the democratic and Christian values which we profess, structures social relationships, it would not be surprising if this were reflected in the individual's expectations and behavior patterns, and in the value system of the society. And indeed, the study prepared for the Philippine Senate under the inspiration of Senator Shahani suggests precisely this. It notes, as you well know, many strengths of the Filipino character: pakikipagkapwatao, family orientation; joy and humor; flexibility, adaptability and creativity; hard work and industry; faith and religiosity; ability to survive. And then seven weaknesses: extreme personalism; extreme family centeredness; lack of discipline; passivity and lack of initiative; colonial mentality; kanyakanya syndrome (following those who succeed); lack of selfanalysis and selfreflection. What is most interesting in our present context about these lists, particularly the weaknesses, is how many of them are related to a weak sense of the community, the nation, or the common good, and are seen as having their roots in the power structure of society. The authors point out that the "social environment of the Filipino is characterized by a feudal structure where there are great gaps between the rich and the poor majority," and "where we have to depend on our relationships with others in order to survive" to the point of an exaggerated concern not to offend.viii Thus the traditional emphasis given to pakikisama (cohesiveness), utang na loob, (debts of gratitude) and other Filipino values both reinforces and is reinforced by the social system. The author notes further that the Philippine political environments characterized by centralization of power. Basic services are not provided by government, particularly in the outlying areas, and government structures for delivering justice, education and the rest are ineffective or inefficient. Hence Filipinos depend on family, kin and neighbors for their everyday needs, thus enhancing family and smallgroup centeredness. "We find it difficult to identify with a nationfamily since the government is not there to symbolize or represent the state."ix
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What, then, are we to make of the emphatic and detailed Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution of 1987, entitled "Social Justice and Human Rights," which some, at least, of the Commissioners wished to be the centerpiece of the whole document? Were they engaging in purely rhetorical exercise when they wrote Section 1 as follows? Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequity by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. Or when they went on to define the rights of laborers, farmers, subsistence fishermen, the urban poor, women, and people's organizations and even provided for direct representation of disadvantaged sectors through the sectoral representatives in Congress? And were the people themselves playing games when they voted overwhelmingly in favor of this Constitution and its egalitarian provisions? I would say that they were not engaging in a purely rhetorical exercise, or playing games. I would argue that these ideals represent the true values of the Filipino, even when blocked in their expression by the powerstructure, such as the American Declaration of Independence's statement that "all men are created equal" was a valid expression of the American ideal through almost a century of Negro slavery and another century of racial discrimination. And it was precisely a deepening awareness of the implications of this ideal which led to the progress, however slow and painful, towards racial equality in the United States. Paths to the Future HOW, then, do we help to bring about the fuller realization of the egalitarian and democratic ideals of this society? In the concrete, how do we bring about a situation in which power is subordinated to the common good? In general, one finds two types of answers to question of this nature, one (1) emphasizing values and moral education, 'the other (2) power relationships. Put in over simplified form, the fjrst approach would aim at converting the elite, perhaps by attracting them to the Cursillo or the charismatic movement, or by a stronger value education program in the schools; the second would aim at overthrowing them, by revolution if need be. Church people in general and educators tend to favor the first; and Marxists, the second. Behind the two approaches lurk, it seems to me, two visions of man and society, two philosophies or even theologies: the first sees man as autonomous, responding to values, and the elite as capable of change; the second sees man as totally determined by social structure and changing only when the structures themselves are
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changed. The moral recovery program proposed by Senator Shahani, as its title suggests, tend toward the first; but it does speak of decentralizing government power, promoting pluralism, encouraging people's organizations and people's participation in administering social services, all of which imply a certain change in power relationships.x I myself would attempt to combine the two approaches arguing that man is bouth capable of responding to values and frequently influenced or blinded by his own interests to the point where he identifies them with the common good. One's position in the social structure does undoubtedly give him a particular point of view; the pyramid looks different depending on whether one views if from the apex, the bottom, or someplace inbetween. And sometimes those at the apex of the social pyramid find it difficult to hear or take seriously the appeals coming from below until they feel the pyramid itself being shaken. This approach to change, emphasizing suasion and organized pressure, find justification both in the social and moral history of many nations, notably in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. It was a struggle: there were marches and boycotts, confrontations with the police; people were imprisoned and some, sadly, were killed. Yet it was never simply a test of brute force; the moral aspect of the struggle was insisted on by the black leaders and their white allies. And ultimately the struggle forced American society and the American courts to reflect more deeply on the basic values of American society, and to see these as irreconcilable with racial discrimination. A policy of combining organized social pressure with moral suasion seems to me to stem also from a Christian view of man. I recall reading, some years ago, a mischievous little piece by the Polish historian of Marxism, Leszdek Kolakowski, entitled “Can the Devil Be Saved?”xi For the author, “the Devil” was religion and the churches, and his question was whether or not they still have a social function. He argues that society can do very well without God, but cannot do without the Christian doctrine of original sin. For if one abandons the convept of original sin he will tend to hold that man is either totally perfectable, or totally depraved; and both of these positions lead to authoritarianism. If man is totally perfectable, then we can permit no peccdilios and we end up in the puritanism of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. If on the other hand he is totally depraved, that we must control him totally, we end up in Nazism. Thus Kolakowski concludes that it is the social function of the churches to maintain human freedom by presenting their complex but realistic view of man as basically good and open to balues but prone also to selfishness and moral blindness. Thus I would insist strongly on the moral education theme, for the weak as well as for the strong, lest a change in the locus of power only create a new class of oppressors. But I would put stronger emphasis than the Senator's program does on a change inpwer
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relationships not by revolution but by a determined effort to build people's organizations. Here, I am thinking of labor unions, peasants organizations, urban poor movements, basic Christian communities, parentteachers' organizations, and whathave you, organizations of all types in which individuals can come together, articulate their needs and define their interests, work together to meet their needs as best they can, and put pressure on society to see that their concerns receive due attention. You are all familiar, I am sure, with organizations of this type. Personally I knowsomething of the urban poor organization on the National Government Center in Quezon City which, by organization and determination and nonviolent pressure leading to negotiation, has succeeded in obtaining land nearby and, hopefully, a reasonable relocation plan. And in a remote area of faroff Bukidnon, the people of San Fernando organized to save their forests from predatory logging; they formed a picket and blocked the logging trucks for 12 days until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources took notice and suspended the permit of the company. More recently, the company was about to initiate a lawsuit against the people, until Secretary Factoran stepped in and sent his own lawyer to defend them. My hope is that organizations of this type will eventually come together and form a national people's movement which will shift the balance of power to where it should be the hands of the people themselves. I have been even more interested in this since reading a summary of research on social security programs in the developed countries. The studies indicate that more important than democracy itself in promoting such programs for the poor have been the roles of socialdemocratic parties based on strong and unified labor movements.xii Sadly, we have a long way to go in the Philippines before we shall have either a strong and united labor movement or a significant political party based on it. I would couple this with an emphasis on development, livelihood, and social service programs which will help to free the poor from their dependence on the less poor; in other words, I would lay emphasis on the "solid, balanced, and welldistributed economy," of which Ireland spoke. For recent elections have shown that, as long as the little man is economically insecure and dependent, we shall not have a politics of issues but only one of promises. Hence I see the great importance of the efforts of the churches and the other NGOs and of some government bodies, such as the Department of Health, to provide livelihood opportunities and social services outside the control of the traditional politicians. Eventually, new behavior patterns more attuned to the common good will have to be institutionalized: But again, while emphasizing value formation, I would look also to the social system. It is folly to teach someone to be trustful and then send him out into a social jungle; trust is much easier when there are reliable policemen around, just in case someone should abuse your trust. And the common good will be taken much more
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seriously when we see some bigtime grafters and plunderers of the nation's wealth behind bars in Muntinlupa prison.
I have argued that value formation is very important, but not sufficient in itself to bring about the changes which we all hope for in Philippine society. Changes in social structure, and particularly in power relations, are needed as well; and I have expressed my belief that a key role here must be played by organizations among the poor themselves. There is much to be done and the problems are all interrelated. But to my mind that is a motive for hope, rather than for discouragement: precisely because everything is interrelated with everything else, a little progress in one area can loosen things up and make possible some progress elsewhere. It is evident that the churches can play a very important part in promoting this type of change. Values are their "business", if I may use the term; and they are skilled in organizing as well. The challenge is to bring these resources to bear even more powerfully in the struggle for constructive, peaceful but radical change. For my own Church, the present Pope has made it clear in his call for "every new0. movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers" and asserts that the Church sees this solidarity as "her mission, her service, a proof of her fidelity to Christ. "xiii
This Paper by Fr. John J. Caroll, S.J. is included in the Liberal Party Primer for Basic Orientation Seminars, published 1989.
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iNOTES Peter W. Stanley, "Introduction," in Peter W. Stanley (ed.), Reappraising an Empire: New perspectives on PhilippineAmerican
History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984). ii Cited in Frederick Fox, S. J., "One Hundred Years of Philippine Education: 18601960," Part II: "New Flags Over Malacanang, 18991963." Unpublished manuscript, 1963. iii The Atlantic Monthly, November, 1987. iv World Bank, "The Philippine Poor: What is to be Done?," 1988, pp. 2,3. v 5. Stanley, p. 5. vi World Bank, "The Philippine Poor ...," p. 5 vii Ma. Aurora T. W. Tabada, "How Viable Is the Interest Group Model? Reflections from the Field" (October 1988). viii "A Moral Recovery Program: Building a People Building a Nation," submitted by Senator Leticia RamosShahani to the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture and the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Development, May 9, 1988, pp. 1415. ix Ibid., pp. 1819. x Ibid., p. 27. xi Encounter, July 1974, pp. 713 xii Theda Skocpol and Edwin Amienta, "States and Social Policies," Annual Review of Sociology, 12 (1986), pp. 131157. xiii Encyclical "On Human Work," No. 8.