Archive | Society

Phelim Kine on Duterte’s War on the Poor and Human Rights | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about Duterte, extra-judicial killings, and the Davao Death Squad. Phelim Kine from the Human Rights Watch gives us facts on crime statistics in Davao and Duterte’s drug war. We discuss what people need to look out for as these human rights violations might become more common as the threat of martial law looms.

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Imperialism of the Tagalog-Filipino

Filipino, which is largely Tagalog-based, can be just as imperialistic as English is, and probably more in its own way. Speaking Filipino does not automatically you maka-Pilipino or nationalistic.

Hear me out: Filipino (being mainly Tagalog) is a language that was imposed on the rest of the country. Just because almost everyone in the country speaks it now, does not mean it was not forced on them through education, necessity or practicality over the decades. The Tagalog territories being the dominant center of economic activity for so long did much to make learning Filipino advantageous at best, or necessary at worst.


Can you truly claim you are maka-Pilipino if you use Filipino as a tool of elitism over other Filipinos, or tout its primacy over the rest of the Filipino languages? Before you go “English is the language of the colonizers and foreigners!”, remember that you probably take for granted the fact that anyone in this country can speak Filipino, even if it may not be their own beloved or native tongue.

True, most Filipinos may be familiar with Filipino, even intimately, but that does not necessarily make the language their own. In some cases, they even appropriate it for use in their own way. But, how different is that for Filipinos who appropriate English, because that is what they grew up with or it was practical for them? I was born and raised Tagalog and it took staying in Bikol for years to realize this. The look in people’s eyes when you have to tell them that they must speak to you in Tagalog (because you do not know their language) is not hostile, but it is certainly strange and possibly uncomfortable even if they do not say so.

Most of the time they just carry it in stride or not recognize their discomfort themselves. But sometimes, you get a nervous laughter of sorts or an embarrassing moment where you’re left with a lingering feeling that they think you’re just trying to one-up them.

Some people, like myself, would try to learn the local language, and you can see people appreciate it. It is difficult to learn another Philippine language, but it helps you get a measure of what you’re asking non-Tagalog speakers to set aside for you (probably without a single thought).

It’s when you realize that you simply cannot learn all the Filipino languages though, that you end up with a dilemma; we do need to efficiently and effectively understand each other, after all. You realize that Tagalog/Filipino is fine, English is fine, Bikol is fine, any other language is fine, so long as you can understand each other. However, it’s the change of mentality that comes with the realization that’s important.

I understand that some people use language as a tool of elitism (whether that be Tagalog or English), but that’s part of the problem I’m trying to speak against: if you somehow accept the primacy of Tagalog among Filipinos (or worse, actively using imposing it), then you are as elitist as someone who uses English to step on other people.

We need to treasure our Filipino languages and make them grow, that is true, but perhaps there is a better measure of what makes a Filipino a Filipino. Maybe it’s better if we can look past the language used, see the use of the language, and stop using it to superficially judge our fellow citizens.

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What We Can Do in the Age of Fascists

As the world watched the meteoric rise of eventual presidents Duterte and Trump, Filipinos could not shake the pair’s family resemblance. Both were seen as clowns who only lacked the ridiculous facial hair to complete the cartoon villain caricature. But, when Duterte cussed and bullied all the way into Malacañang, that should have been a clue to us that Trump would do a lot better than what the polls were saying.

Now that Trump has won despite all the ridicule and naysaying, there has been a lot of finger-pointing and self-flagellation among liberals and Democrats. Chiefly, we shouldn’t have been so smug, painting Trump supporters as racist inbreds.


Frequent users of the SJW epithet were quick to blame progressives for being overly sensitive to the Trump campaign’s overt racism and misogyny. Anti-globalists with particular disdain for the United States pointed to “neoliberalism’s” neglect of the American working class. Political nihilists blamed Hillary’s being a corrupt Washington insider for failing to convince independents to vote against Trump.

It is true to some extent that odious self-righteousness is a turn off and does little to convince fence-sitters. But, just like Ken Bone, people who were on the fence about Trump and about the values he validated weren’t fence-sitters for lack of reasonable arguments for either side. Breaking down the Trump voter demographics, it is clear that his base was not full of people left behind by eight years of Obama.

The median yearly income for Trump voters is $72,000, above the $62,000 median for Clinton’s.  Singling out Trump’s poorer voters, only 14% earned less than $50,000. And, as Trump whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment, a Gallup study showed that his average voter was “no more likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.”

This false narrative of revenge-against-the-elites should remind Filipinos of the lie that the Duterte vote was an anti-elite, anti-oligarch vote. As with Trump, the wealthier you were, the more likely you would have been a Duterte voter. Rather than being victims of the Aquino administration’s “neoliberal” economics, Duterte’s supporters flourished more than their countrymen. Add to that, among Filipinos living abroad, Duterte and Marcos polled highest.

Rather than an uprising of the victims of capitalism and globalization, the wave of nativism and fascism sweeping the world: from Duterte to Brexit to Trump, is a backlash from the privileged classes: the male segment, in particular. It used to be that men could comfortably make misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments without much pushback. Now, progressives can be relied upon to cast light on what used to be socially acceptable but bigoted behavior. In response, there is resistance from the privileged class against “political correctness,” which has now become shorthand for, “I’m not allowed to speak my mind about people outside my group.”

Progressives have been playing identity politics for much of the past ten years, and it has finally blown up in our faces. We forgot that the ruling class can also play identity politics, and play it they did.

We have to realize that though we think we are right to call out oppression, the other side, well-to-do (white) men, are still the ones in charge. And though we feel empowered as the momentum in the politics of language is on the side of progressives, politics itself is still largely out of the hands of the underprivileged, women, and people of color.

To be sure, moralizing has not worked. Even before the elections, Duterte critics unceasingly reminded Filipinos of the carnage he had wreaked on Davao and would wreak on the rest of the Philippines. Every day now, we see photos of people, generally poor, murdered in the streets. Over 4,000 Filipinos have been killed so far and his support has not wavered. And this is on top of Duterte’s misogynistic behavior. In the US, liberals constantly picked apart Trump’s misogyny and his supporters’ racism and racial resentment.

It may seem to many of us that state-sponsored killings, misogyny, and racism are self-evidently wrong, but 2016 should show us that, no, they are not. And, we should have known this from the start.

We were seduced by the religious certainty of moralizing. Yes, you can probably argue from many moral frameworks how homophobia is wrong or how vigilante justice is a net negative on our social institutions, but politics on either side is rarely about reason, but emotions.

Duterte’s key supporters are richer than their neighbors, and so are Trump’s. They are largely isolated from those most affected by murders and racism, respectively. As long as the oppressed remain hypotheticals to them, they will not empathize.

Like Harry Potter’s Dudley Dursley complaining about having 36 presents when he had 37 last year, the privileged classes are lashing out against having fewer words to say and, dare I say it, fewer pussies to grab. It doesn’t matter what you think is fair. If the privileged classes experience the insecurity of their status, they will reliably lash out in the way they have in electing Duterte and Trump.

Schadenfreudists have been satisified in calling liberals smug, and saying that Clinton/Roxas/Poe/etc. offered no alternative, while Trump/Duterte at least offered something new and different. And yet, schadenfreudists have offered no alternatives either.

So, what is left for progressives to do in the face of obvious oppression? If calling bigots bigots and fascists fascists does not work, do we just let Duterte call diplomats white monkeys and faggots (the more appropriate translation of “bakla” when said in contempt)? Do we just let him ogle the Vice President’s legs and cat-call reporters? Do we just let him threaten our right to due process? Do we just let American racists tell non-white citizens to go “home”?

I believe that there is room for multiple approaches. And though we shouldn’t stop pushing back against fascism and call it out when we see it, we must also recognize that it is not a given that our opponents share our values for fairness. This is a lesson we should have learned when we were on its receiving end from religious conservatives. They call contraception murder and secularism immoral. To them, these issues have consequences as heavy as heaven and hell. But, these concerns are incomprehensible to secular progressives.

Some people have called for constant dialogue, though I think that this is not as effective as it makes us feel better about “going high.” What is left to say on the matter of state-sponsored murders? What is left to say on the matter of barring Muslims from the US? I believe that the strongest argument against the fascistic urge, rather than play their winning strategy of populist dishonesty and demagoguery, is quiet perseverance.

We organize. We defend our institutions, our environment. We stop congratulating ourselves over recognizing our faults. We have to fight against the normalized fascism we already see in the Phlippines and will soon see in the United States. And, critically, we have to do better than Hillary Clinton. We have to do better than Mar Roxas or Grace Poe. We have to offer something better than status quo.

Trump’s and Duterte’s voters did not vote against a better future. They believed they were making the best choice available. And, I am sure both administrations will improve on the previous in some, perhaps many ways. Nevertheless, a vote for a fascist is a vote to define who gets to share and who does not in that better future.

Yes, quiet and continued perseverance is not sexy. It’s not noisy. And it’s not going to promise anything big by 2020 or 2022. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. In the long view, the world is only getting better. Let’s not forget that over a million people more voted for Clinton than Trump and Duterte won by plurality, not by majority. We just have to make sure the world exists long enough for it to get even better.

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Chatting Back to Life | FF Podcast

Chatting Back to Life | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the resurrection of the dead… with chatbots. We discuss a case where a dead person was “revived” into a bot that emulates his texting patterns and whether we should all want a bot of our own.

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The President Asks, What If There is No God?

The President Asks, What If There is No God?

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the question, “What if there is no God?” He asked this in light of criticism of his stance on the war on drugs and the reinstatement of the death penalty, particularly to those who argue that only God can take a person’s life.

As freethinkers and secularists, we applaud the President’s recognition in that speech that not all Filipinos believe in a god. This might be the first nod toward non-believers by any sitting Philippine President in history. He also raised the valid problem of suffering in a world supposedly designed by a benevolent god.

Perhaps the Filipino public might begin to ask themselves that question, “What if there is no God?” How differently would we organize our lives if there were no God? How would our values change as a society? How much importance would we place on social justice in this life, rather than postponing it to a supposed afterlife?

We believe that it is about time that non-believers were recognized as equal citizens in this Catholicism-dominated country. Despite the Constitutionally protected separation of Church and State, too many politicians have used their belief in God to justify their policies, with Senator Manny Pacquiao leading the charge.

However, we also decry the misuse of atheism and agnosticism to promote non sequitur conclusions. President Duterte raised the issue of God because he believed that the death penalty would be his answer to the absence of a god judging the living and the dead.

We disagree that imposing the death penalty follows from the lack of justice in an afterlife. On the contrary, the highly likely execution of innocent citizens would be exponentially more despicable in the absence of an afterlife. There is no undoing the execution of an innocent life. There is no consolation for the wrongfully executed. In the United States, whose system of criminal investigation is already much more advanced and scientific than the Philippines’, an estimated 4% of defendants on death row are still wrongfully convicted.

And even when we are certain of a person’s guilt, the application of the death penalty should take into account its probable disproportionate imposition on the poor since the drug trade is often a refuge for those abandoned by society to fend for themselves. There is also little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, when it can also serve to escalate and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

If there is no God, if there is no afterlife, justice in this life is of supreme importance. There would be no God to sort out the dead. Only we can provide justice, and there is no justice without due process.

Posted in Advocacy, Featured, Organization, Politics, Religion, Society1 Comment

Saint Teresa of Suffering | FF Podcast

Saint Teresa of Suffering | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the new Saint Teresa of Calcutta. We discuss some of the myths surrounding her and whether it’s better to let the false idea of her inspire people to do good than to tell people the truth.


Mother Teresa: Blessed Billionaire, Holy Hypocrite

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Casting Trans Roles  | FF Podcast

Casting Trans Roles | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the movie directed by Mark Ruffalo, “Anything.” We discuss the portrayal of a trans woman by Matt Bomer and whether only certain actors can portray certain roles.

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France Bans Burqinis | FF Podcast

France Bans Burqinis | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about France’s burqini ban. We talk about oppressive rules about women’s clothing and where to strike the balance between freedom of religion and protecting people from coercive religious beliefs.

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Filipino Freethinkers Condemns Davao Terrorist Attack

Filipino Freethinkers Condemns Davao Terrorist Attack

The Filipino Freethinkers condemn the attack in Davao. This attack was recently claimed by Islamist terrorists allied with the Abu Sayyaf, calling themselves Daulat Ul Islamiya. They have made demands of installing Islamic hadiths as laws for the Philippine nation and its people.

We strongly denounce the use of violence as a coercive tool for political agendas over peaceful solutions respecting human rights. We strongly denounce the demand to impose sectarian beliefs of any stripe on our ostensibly secular nation.

We express our condolences for the victims of this attack and share with them our grief in the loss of innocent lives.

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What’s up with Catholic schools? | FF Podcast

What’s up with Catholic schools? | FF Podcast

It’s back to school this month. This week, we’re talking about Catholic schools and how freethinkers fit in a country that’s dominated by Catholic educational institutions.

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Internet Lynch Mobs Against the Innocent | FF Podcast

Internet Lynch Mobs Against the Innocent | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the false accusation Top Gear Philippines made concerning a road rage incident. We also talk about how violence has become an acceptable response nowadays.

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Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about dealing with Duterte supporters. We discuss the best ways to deal with political disagreements and whether it is right to judge people for political opinions.

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Mourning Orlando | FF Podcast

Mourning Orlando | FF Podcast

This week, we have Sharmila Parmanand and Leloy Claudio to talk about the massacre in Orlando that targeted an LGBT club, killing 49 people. We talk about homophobia and how religion and macho society might be its prime drivers.

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Badjao Girl Exploited? | FF Podcast

Badjao Girl Exploited? | FF Podcast

This week we talk about Badjao Girl and Friends. We discuss whether she’s being exploited and how someone’s attractiveness may affect our ability to empathize.


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