Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Had the SC not lowered passing grade, only 11 percent would have made it

Of the 5,000 who took the recent bar exams, only 19 percent passed. But do you know that had the regular passing grade of 75 percent not been lowered by the Supreme Court to 72 percent, only 11 percent of them would have passed?  Of course the excuse of those who failed is that the exams this time were perhaps among the toughest in recent history, but nonetheless we pity the 81 percent  who failed and commiserate with the immense sacrifices their families, especially the economically hard-up, have put up to enable them to study law and graduate.

Something’s definitely wrong with our legal education if only such a tiny percentage passes. It’s time to examine the system.

Japan on my mind

Japan is very much on everyone’s mind these days, especially after the alert level over the nuclear fallout has been pushed to the highest today by the authorities there.  I am, however, more concerned than perhaps most people because I have family there---my son-in-law, who’s with an asset investment firm, remains in Tokyo---a true corporate warrior--- and no day passes that I don’t pray for his safety and welfare.

Japanese repair destroyed street in quake area in six days

The tragedies that the Japanese have endured in recent weeks, their worst  since World War II, have only managed to win admiration from the rest of the world for the way they are bearing up. For instance, columnist Ciel Habito lamented how there’s so much pushing and shoving that his daughter undergoes in our LRT trains daily even in the women’s section. One can’t help but contrast this with reports about how the Japanese filed out of the crowded trains in orderly fashion after the magnitude-9 earthquake hit more than a month ago.  Even in supermarkets with their dwindling supplies the Japanese line up.

Then too, commuters who had to endure many months of road construction in the very short Lawton Avenue in Taguig City, in front of McKinley Hill, cannot help but marvel at how the Japanese in quake-stricken Sendai in the northeast were able to repair within six days a road left with a huge yawning gap by the killer quake!

Tokyo Gov wants to compete for 2020 Olympics!

On the other hand, newspapers quoted the “nationalistic” governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, who was reelected last Sunday, as saying his city would bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics as part of efforts to boost recovery.  Ishihara said Tokyo, which lost out to Rio de Janeiro in the race to host the 2016 Olympics, “can start ‘raising’ our hand now” for the 2016 Games. Recall that only this morning Tokyo was again rocked by powerful aftershocks, and Japan has enlarged the perimeter of evacuation in the north due to heightened alert from the nuclear fallout.  Yet the governor is raising his hand to compete for the 2020 Olympics!

Was this just a politician’s typical braggadocio? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps it’s not. Rather, it is the determination of this admirable people to never say die; to pull themselves from their bootstraps with stoicism and quiet dignity.  We see this over and over again in these times of crises for Japan.

Bushido Code as society’s glue

In our dzRH program two weeks ago, Cecile Alvarez and I discussed with clinical psychologist Dr. Francis Sta. Maria, who obtained his Ph.D from the University of London, just what makes the Japanese behave the way they do (and why we Filipinos are a far cry from them even in times of non-crisis).  He said the Japanese's behavior did not develop overnight, but has been inculcated into their society as a code of conduct in the “Bushido Code,” also known as the “Way of the Warrior. This code has been adhered to by the samurai class since the feudal times, Sta. Maria stressed, but over centuries this has also been “the glue to their society.”

Included in the Bushido Code, which has been influenced by the teachings of Zen Buddhism and Confucianism, are the seven virtues: namely, rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor and loyalty, while “associate virtues” are filial piety, wisdom and care for the aged. All these virtues demonstrate a concern for others, whereas, by contrast, said Sta. Maria, we Filipinos tend to think only of ourselves and our families.

Missing element

In the course of looking at Japanese behavior in crisis, I did some research of my own, and noted from a resource document that while the Bushido Code disseminated moral virtues and the moral edification of Japanese society, the Japanese, however, would perhaps be the first to admit that its enduring influence into the modern Japanese period has at times led to extremes, such as the suicide ritual (seppuku) and loyalty even to despotic rulers.  In fact, noted another paper, modern Japanese Christian writers, searching for a link between Christianity and the warrior’s code have stressed that lacking the “moderating qualities” of Christianity such as the “ethic of forgiveness and compassion toward one’s enemy,”  Bushido may, in fact, have led Japan to militarism and its abhorrent treatment of prisoners of war during World War II.

This is an interesting sidelight which some Japanese would probably dispute, but for the moment, the virtues drummed up by the Bushido Code in their psyche over time appears to be effectively working as the “glue” to the society, holding it together at a time of untold sufferings, to the admiration of the world.
We Pinoys saw our nation "glued together" for a a fleeting moment in our history by EDSA 1, but we all realized soon enough that it would take much more to forge nationhood. Recent efforts by some politicians to have Ferdinand Marcos resurrected as a "hero" threaten to drive an even deeper wedge among us again. We should stop this nonsense.

 The drug situation local and international

Last Sunday night  Cecile and I had another interesting dialogue over dzRH, this time program with the former chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), retired General Dionisio Santiago (a PMA class ’70 graduate,  a former Chief of Staff in the Arroyo administration and former executive director of the Dangerous Drugs Board), who talked about the drug situation in our country and abroad, especially in the light of the recent execution of three Filipino “drug mules” in China.  The information tidbits he offered were simply eye-popping, as he acknowledged that in his 45 years in government service, “sa PDEA ako nangayayat at nakalbo.”

 For instance, Santiago revealed that over 700 Filipinos are imprisoned  around the world because of drug-trafficking, although there are also nationals from other neighboring countries, including Japan.  To show that China is dead-serious (no pun intended) about licking this problem, he said it has executed over 20,000 of its own citizens for drug involvement.  Santiago also stressed that in the battle against drug-trafficking in the region, there is cooperation between China, RP, Thailand and Malaysia, although the latter two are considered the “melting pot.”  Cocaine is shipped worldwide from West Africa but as if to throw off international authorities, it is often made to pass through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam despite strict controls, before it ends up in big Asian cities. 
Swallowing drug packet the size of a carrot slice in chopseuy

We queried how the syndicates that prey on Filipinos operate.  Santiago opined that people are enticed from the provinces by syndicate members who sometimes pretend to be bible-toting missionaries or suitors of our women.  He noted that Filipinas are preferred as drug carriers because of their communication skills (including IT) and innate charm, and while some are indeed innocent of the crime as they are just victims of the “padala-padala system” that’s so innately Pinoy, most are more than willing to engage in drug-trafficking for the money of it.  How do they carry the drugs?  In various ways, including swallowing them in packets as slim as carrot slices in the chopseuy, said Santiago, who added that these practices are carefully rehearsed.

He stressed that the job of apprehension is made difficult by a number of factors, not the least of them the interference of some politicians, including some “super-big” ones as well as of police agents themselves (“why is it that lots of apprehensions are near police stations?”).  Santiago noted that drug trafficking surges when there’s a crackdown on gambling and vice-versa, and he called on local authorities as well as institutions such as the Church, the families and schools to be on the constant watch, as exclusive schools and even call centers have become targets of infiltration by drug rings. If we can maintain vigilance, he said, then our three kababayans who were executed in China would not have died in vain.  I agree---we cannot be too careful.

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