Philippine Society. Politics. Rants. Critiques.

Utang Na Loob: Noynoy-Style

| Saturday, July 10, 2010

After watching last night’s news report by Saksi, the thought of writing an article about “bahala na” attitude came to my mind. As a response to last night’s calling, I penned this entry about this distinct and disastrous Filipino value.

Utang na loob transliterates as, “A debt of one’s inner self” or simply, “debt of gratitude”. In the Philippines, it is an obligation to appropriately repay a person who has done one a favor. It is, what psychologists would call, an “accommodative surface value” which accommodates the demands of the world around him or her.

To give you an illustration (just in case you don’t know what it is), when the family visits the guest in another country, there is some kind of understanding that they will be treated by the guest in a similar manner. It's like tit for tat, but does not go as deep as ours. C’mon, we are that unique.

There is a voluntary assistance which creates an obligation that the receiver must attempt to repay through reciprocal assistance. Even “Wala kang utang na loob!”is a common expression in our evening teleseryes.

But clearly, it is a flawed human value.Because of this, we tend to expect for something in return each time we do something good. It is not a legal debt whose fulfillment is based on an external law; rather, it is a moral debt whose fulfillment is based on something within a person.

Utang na loob steals the genuineness of giving. It is not good however to feel the weight of obligation or worse, allow those who have helped us try to put that weight on our shoulders. This kind of attitude robs the giver and receiver of joy. In our country, this has been a source of a lot of abuses and misuses. It's a burdensome kind of giving that sets people up for disappointment. Having done a good deed toward a stranger or a friend one should not ask or hope for anything in return. The Bible even says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

According to my studies in Political Science in MSU-IIT, this mindset has a bad effect on our political system, more specifically, during and after elections. Such mindset fosters the so-called "patron-client" system in Philippine politics.

Candidates running for public office need political machinery for support and this require people, i.e. workers, leaders, and padrinos. If and when elected, they would of course would repay the services and assistance of those who helped them achieve their success. This may come in the form of positions in government, grants of government projects, dispensations and the like.

Utang na loob was well illustrated by the Arroyo administration with all her political appointees who more often than not, lack the necessary qualifications for the position. But unfortunately, this also is also reflected in the current administration.

A president can hinder the price increase in services or products but President Noynoy Aquino just did not respond to it. You know why? Because the owner of a power distribution company was his campaign donor during the last elections. Because of this, there had been a five-peso per kilowatthour increase that would be a burden to all the customers.

President Noynoy is a living testament of this attitude that was quite innate in the Filipino politics. (Click here for the list of Noynoy’s appointees). Consider Noynoy’s appointees and you’ll know what I mean:

Current Meralco President Jose "Ping" de Jesus and former public works secretary of PNoy’s mother was named secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Gregory Domingo was named secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry. He was formerly trade and industry undersecretary when Sen. Mar Roxas, PNoy’s runningmate in the Liberal Party, was at the DTI.

University of the Philippines (UP) Economics Professor Cayetano "Dondon" Paderanga was appointed socio-economic planning secretary. Professor Paderanga headed the same agency in the last 3 years (1990-1992) of the first Aquino government.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, a long-time ally and supporter of the Aquino family, stays in his post. He has been foreign affairs secretary of the Arroyo government since 2004, and has expressed his personal support for Aquino in the 2010 elections. Romulo was the late former President Corazon Aquino's budget minister before he ran and won a seat in the Senate in 1987.

Aquino's campaign manager Florencio "Butch" Abad will be secretary of the Department of Budget and Management. His daughter, Julia, will head the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) office.

Cesar Purisima, the one who “donated” 10 MILLION PESOS to fund Aquino’s campaign was given the secretarial post of the Department of Finance.

I think, if only a ‘thank you’ would be enough, Philippine politics will never be viewed positively. Too bad, this attitude, Noynoy's action encourages nothing but nepotism.

Hay naku, “Kabago-bago pa si Noynoy, may UTANG na”.