Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Ever-Present Bias in Philippine Politics

*** The following post may contain strong language ***

In deciding things, we always look to some things that would validate a choice; if I'm allergic to peanuts, then I won't touch the stuff. That's how decision-making works. It can be simple and objective like deciding what's the best way to get to work. Other times though, if and then statements are not as easily constructed.

In life, we have to face decisions where the choices aren't necessarily wrong or right and the factors are not necessarily tangible and/or quantifiable. It's like choosing Martin Nievera over Gary Valenciano. Both are undoubtedly talented and legends in their field. It's just that Martin Nievara is always playing and waking me up every weekend morning. And in subjective choices like these, we tap into our individual biases. Martin Nievera has always been better than Gary V. to me. Maybe it's because my parents love him and his voice always accompanies great early morning memories. It's not about talent; Martin is certainly incapable of dancing like Gary. It's just that, I like Martin better.

These biases, I accept them. I actually embrace them because overall, I see myself as a decent guy because/despite of them. And I'm sure most people embrace a few of their respective biases as well. I mean, if you attack Aldub, Lizquen or any other love team, their fans would blow their tops and won't hesitate defending their idols on social media with their names and pictures attached to their posts.

Now, what if the subjective question encompasses more than entertainment? What if the subjective question where we have to exercise our individual biases is something that would affect the state? Say, the elections?

Before proceeding, let's be clear that politics is a grey, if not subjective, area. If it weren't, then every state would be following the same political stance. Free market, command economies or whatever is not the one best way to get things done.

Now, what's ironic here is that the questions I put forth are examples of instances where bias is exercised. I'm sure that some reading this may simply say "hold onto your biases for just a day and vote for someone who will usher in a new era of prosperity for this nation" or whatever. But can we blame a desperate mother looking to feed her child who accepts money in exchange for her singular vote? It's easy to say she's a treacherous moron willing to sell out our nation. But isn't it us, the supposed intellectual elite, who are responsible for shaping the government that failed that woman?

Bias is hard to contain. Whenever people say mass media is biased, all I can say is "Duh!". Everybody is biased. Those who claim they are less biased have actually been proven to be the most biased of all (link).

So, what do we do now?

The urge to close this tab is most likely a manifestation of your bias against whatever I'm writing here. So why don't we just embrace it and actually start to scrutinize it?

Denial is a major speed bump in making sound choices in the elections. Let's accept the fact that some of us turn away whenever bad things about our candidates are discussed. The fear of being proven wrong or being humiliated can be immense. But in politics, sit's different. As I've said earlier that politics is a grey area where one plus one can equate to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The only time you can be proven wrong is when you lose your conviction through something like a complete absence of logic or whatever.

Our failure to accept our bias is actually pretty evident. For example, we can look at Duterte. Duterte once said he won't run. But he finally decided to run because of the Senate Electoral Tribunal's decision to let Grace Poe run. Fast forward a few months and Poe said she would like to make Duterte her "crime czar". And in the most trapo way ever, Duterte said he would be "honored". And yet, the surveys keep looking good for the Davao City mayor. He is still seen as an alternative to what traditional politics normally offers. The unwavering support for the crass, vulgar and trapo-like mayor is amazing. And his supporters' lack of acceptance for their bias towards the mayor may have confused them as to why they were biased towards him in the first place. Walden Bello may have described the situation perfectly in his opinion article in Positively Filipino (link):
"What Duterte actually stands for is drowned out by what people wish him to be: the bearer of their fears and hopes and the sword that will bring about the radical measures they feel are necessary to contain the rot of the system."
People are enamored by the tough-talking mayor because of his hands-on approach on crime and his ability to no let due process get in the way of "justice". And yet, he used/usese due process to deprive us of information we citizens are entitled to have: our public servants' lifestyle situation.

Please, don't think Duterte's supporters are the only ones being clouded by their bias. There's Binay's that I feel need no clarification. Roxas' clean persona can be dashed by a little research that his supporter's fail to do because they just trust the Daang Matuwid thing a little too much (*ehem* overpriced firetrucks *ehem*). People will vote for Miriam because she's intelligent. Never mind that the drugs she is taking are having effects on her (Really, we have to spend billions on a plebiscite just to decide on the legacy of Ferdinand Marcos? Even in death he's gonna cost us shit?!). Grace Poe supporters so desperately want new blood that they are willing to look past her inability to answer Duterte's question in TV5's debate convincingly showing an utter lack of preparation. And to be perfectly honest, she has yet to divulge any meaningful macro plans that would help me evaluate her. Maybe I'm biased against her.

Understanding of biases is important whether they be our own or others. The accusations of supporters that mass media is biased towards a candidate don't hold water for me. Since these are profit-driven entities, they are biased towards whatever gets the clicks or viewers and not necessarily towards or against a certain candidate. Duterte was followed incessantly by mass media even before declaring his intentions. That proves to me that these entities only go where the story is hot. They are focusing on Trillanes' corruption allegations against Duterte because it's hot and not because it's against Duterte. It's that or they really are supporting someone because that someone would lead to more profit. Either way, I doubt the name of the president is important to them. The almighty peso is where their bias lies.

Can you imagine a Philippines where being biased is not held against you? We would have actual communists on prime time news programs talking about their ideologies giving us laymen the chance to know more about what they believe in and why they believe it. We would have disenfranchised, apathetic youths on TV talking there instead of some dude saying he wants to vote because he wants it to be an instrument of change or some shit like that. Karen Davila would actually be talking with LGBT representatives about same-sex marriage instead of some politician who respects the LGBT community but not to the point that he would allow them to marry each other. 

Acceptance of bias can lead to exchanges like these where idiotic ideas are exposed:

Really Jeffrey Lord?
Screw unity. Unity is a hollow, meaningless concept blurted out by trapos desperate to clean their hands of their dirty laundry. 

Let's talk about issues. We all want better healthcare. But not all of us share the sentiment that hospitals should be under the PPP program. That's where our bias lies. Some want hospitals to be under the PPP program because that leads to better equipment. I'm biased towards the idea that hospitals should remain purely public because profit-driven operators won't take into account the value of positive externalities of healthy people in determining their revenue.

Let's embrace our biases; scrutinize and understand them. And maybe, just maybe, our politics won't be as fucked up.

And as I say that... MARTIN NIEVERA PA RIN!!!


  1. I am a newcomer to the Philippines from Australia with a Filipina partner.

    There is much from the past I do not know..And in this post you mentioned/implied that Roxas at DILG secretary benefited from organisng the purchase of expensive fire fighting equipment..Could you say more about this..I have not heard it before
    Bill in Oz

    1. I'm not necessarily saying that he benefited. I'm implying that a lot of his supporters' bias blinds them from actually searching the internet for corruption allegations. Or, if they have, their bias towards Roxas, and not for what he stands for or his platforms, quickly douses the flames of doubt... just like most supporters of any candidate...

      Anyway... here's an article from the Manila Standard...

      If your out to prove the allegation is true or not... I'll be cheering you on my friend... hehe

  2. I checked out your source/link. Are you aware that the Standard Newspaer group is owned by the Romulduiz family and that the leader of this family is an ally of Binay ? Yes the plundering thief Binay who is currently vice president..So your source is tainted..Not to be trusted...Put out by individuals who are politically opposed to Roxas.

    I also read the story in the Manila Standard about the purchase of the Fire trucks by Robredo/Roxas.

    I note the following
    1 : The deal was initially signed by Gloria Macapagal Aroyo. It was her government which signed the purchase order.. And it seems that they were over priced compared to locally built fire trucks..There were allegations of corruption with money being siphoned off into the pockets of government officials.

    2 : Jesse Robredo renegotiated the deal with the Austrian government ( for a low interest loan ) and the Austrian fire truck manufacturers for a lower price. He was able to do this by having the freight costs in Country ( IE In Philippines ) and Filipino Customs duties deducted from the unit price ..Now that seems like a good idea to me..After all why should the government pay customs duties on fire trucks it is buying overseas and bringing into the Philippines for the safety of the Filipino people ? And I'm sure that the In Country freight could also be arranged cheaper than by a foreign company based in Austria..

    Conclusion to this point : A deal tainted with corruption was rescued and made honest by Robredo

    3 Jesse Robredo was killed in a mysterious plane crash into the sea off Masbate Island

    4 Aquino transfered Roxas to DILG to replace Robredo who was his his close family friend. It was Roxas who persuaded Robredo the mayor of Naga, to offer to become a cabinet minister in 2010. It was Roxas who persuaded Aquino to appoint Robredo to the cabinet position. He was also devastated at Robredo's death in the plane crash.There are questions still unanswered about that crash. But I don't think any of them need to asked of Roxas.

    1. Continuing on..
      You imply that Roxas is corrupt because the unit price was set at 65 pesos to the Euro - well below the market value for the pesos at the time which wss about 56 pesos to the Euro.

      But does it matter ? The fire trucks were paid for in Euros bought from the BSP by the government. The 65 is merely a 'cap' to ensure that if the peso went south the risk for Philippine government was limited. That's good effective government at work.

      But the Standard reproter does not understand this concept or chooses not to understand or explain it for readers..Sloppy or deceptive journalism !!!

    2. Once again, I'm not implying Roxas is corrupt. The first sentence of that paragraph set up the plot. It's not about corruption or the deficiencies of the candidates. It's me imploring people to Google possible negative stuff about their candidates. By simply Googling "overpriced firetrucks", the allegation will pop up. I'm not saying it's true. I'm just informing laymen that it is there and further research is needed before labelling Roxas as the best representative for the Daang Matuwid Coalition. I guess need more work in writing, huh?

      In saying that, I appreciate your research. That's added information that a lot of common people like me need to scrutinize before voting. By the way, I don't believe the owner of the newspaper matters. It's like saying the anti-Duterte ads' merits is reduced because Trillanes was the one who paid for it.

    3. Hi, Ron. Sorry for the late comment. I enjoyed the article and the comments. We are all biased by our upbringing, whatever knowledge we have in our heads, and emotional tendencies. Your suggestion to research and try to unwind these biases is good, but the problem in today's fly-off-the fingers way of communication, there is a lot of misinformation, wrong data and conclusions, and black propaganda infiltrating the pipelines of "news".

      Why should someone who is correct to assume Roxas is honest go out to look for some new truth in a rag like the Standard, when the Standard is the problem. Not Roxas?

    4. Note. I've stopped following any news outlet here and rely upon Google to do the reading and let me know of the articles getting a lot of reads. Duterte is president because mainstream media here did a piss-poor job of providing the kind of information that would allow voters to be intelligent, rather than emotional.

    5. In politics, correctness is vague. Politics is the art of convincing others that what you are saying is true. Mar Roxas can be an absolute saint in real life. But it is still possible to turn him into Judas by publishing articles like the Standard's... supposedly.

      If you truly believe in a person or an ideology to the point that you are effectively determining the future of the nation through voting or campaigning, it is only right that you expose yourself to every information out there regardless of their effect on the candidate. Democracy suffers when one's bias leads to a person spending more time spreading propaganda than gathering information and thinking. It's like Marcos supporters invoking their right to ignorance in economics whenever they claim that the Martial Law era was the greatest economic policy we ever had.

      I understand how you are feeling regarding the media. But by simply dismissing them and not rebutting their supposedly bad journalism, all you're doing is tolerating them.

      Bias is awesome when it leads people like the anonymous person to actually go out there and research and publish his/her conclusions the moment he/she thought I was attacking Roxas. Bias can undermine democracy when people simply respond to that sentence with "The Standard is full of crap and owned by the Romualdez so it cannot be trusted with anything". But that's just me...