“Bibiang ni Bianca”*
Last week, this tweet by Bianca Gonzalez/@iamsuperbianca (we have to emphasize that the spelling of the last name is with a final Z) provoked so much bad feels on Philippine media and on the internet as well. The tweet in English:
“A lot of us are working to earn for a prime house-and-lot and then [to] additionally [pay] taxes. For what reasons are the informal settlers being treated with kid gloves?”
With the sole exception of this blog post, which wasn’t even a commentary, that’s it. It wasn’t even reported on the media websites. That’s to be expected, though, given that the vast majority of those who would be hurt by this do not even care to read Twitter posts. And also that netizens, who belong to the lower-middle class upwards, would probably agree that Bianca is just posing a normal middle-class question directed, not at the informal settlers themselves, but at the government for its lackluster approach to resettlement of informal settlers, gentrification of their former abodes, and employment in their future abodes.
But anyway, if the furor was recorded on the tabloid Remate, along with the sex stories in which Dodong has secret, totally dirty sex with his voluptuous and horny elder sister, it must be real. They were practically (so I’m told) screaming that Bianca is not knowledgeable in this problem, has taken little interest in it beforehand, and went out on Twitter like an Espanyola madam anyway. Her fair skin, her position as a celebrity, and her bourgeois tweets do not help console her detractors.
But, as people detract her, people also show their support for Bianca G.
This is from Ilda’s Get Real post regarding the issue. She hails Bianca G. as “the long-awaited messiah of anti-squatter activism”. You’d imagine she’d get her to swallow the Stone and become a superhero. Or celebrate her birthday henceforth forevermore as a sacred event.
You see, dear reader, this mini-episode illustrates an ideological problem in the Philippines today. Since independence, the Philippines has had an ever-increasing socioeconomic gap, which only seems to worsen as each new president is elected. People are increasingly seeing the Philippines and its society in more and more, altogether different perspectives.
But of course, you say, this is a democratic society!
The problem is that these perspectives are contradictory and they affect politics. For example, it is objectively clear that clearing the cities of informal settlers, or squatters (and punishing the people who actually benefit from the squatting, as Paul Farol points out) is not hard to do: there is a roadmap for doing this, several proposals have been laid down – the most compelling being the introduction of jobs in provincial areas to halt the migration to the metropolises, which involves a devolution of powers to the regions, which (if you push this) involves further an admission by this government that federalism is the solution to uneven economic growth.
But why doesn’t the government want to clear the squatter areas? Because (and this is what Bianca G is pointing out with her tweeted rhetorical question)
1) the government knows the electoral cost of this project. Heck, it was this electoral advantage that brought the squatters to and held them in Manila. The squatters see this as inimical to their very existence and injurious to their human rights, and obviously they will fight back the democratic way.
2) the government does not want to disturb local governments by pouring in so many informal settlers, which is weird because as of now the Philippines is still a unitary government. Of course this will bring us to the issue of bailiwicks, turfs, and, well, in the case of Cebu, separatism. Anyway, the government will face the wrath of these democratic landlords, especially if these are political enemies of the President, and it will not want to tread such waters until elections have made it safe for them. Regionalism is a two-edged sword, and a powerful ace.
3) the government is just lazy with the roadmap. In itself it is already totally un-dynamic, retrogressive, because it likes to spare itself the effort of all this squatter drama – the ad misericordiam pleading, the violence, the reactions by dramatic or dull-witted people in the Senate.
Wait: this pattern is not just with the squatters. My point though is that, because of this, nothing ever gets done by government, which is supposed to be democratically mandated to enforce its policies on the populace. The government, under the pretext of being “democratic”, has become a house of demagogues swaying it and its policies in opposite directions.
I showed you Ilda’s less-than-discrete worship of Bianca G, because it’s not just the squatters, the landlords, the government who see the Philippines in mutually conflicting ways. Even the so-called intellectual or thinking class (as if others actually do not think) has this sickness too.
You will further say: But it’s not uniquely Philippine! It’s also found in American politics and society!
That’s the sad thing. China, our rival in the West Sea, is completely unhindered by this problem, and now it is gaining the ground (not merely gaining ground): not only East Asia, but also the world, while the US, confused and not knowing what to do, is only going down protesting human rights considerations – it might even throw in Madonna to vigorously protest by way of sexy dance, or its other celebrities perhaps.
We saw this kind of indecision in history, when Britain was trying to decide whether Germany should be allowed to take the Rhineland, and afterward Austria, and then the Sudetenland, and then the rest of Czechoslovakia. This was not normal democratic indecision, this was indecision based on fundamentally contradicting views on how Nazi Germany must be countenanced, with emotional, sentimental episodes and all.
And we – are we going to throw our Bianca Gonzalezes into the fray of national politics and twist whatever she says for our own ends? Bianca G has her own point of view, and she exercises her media use responsibly. In a more evolved democracy, she would have been just one commentator among so many, and she would earn her own supporters and detractors. But in our societal shambles, she immediately became an emotional mouthpiece – probably an unwilling one at that.
*In Ilokano, bibiangko? means What do I care?