The Marcoses were forced to go into exile as an aftermath of the EDSA revolution in 1986. Five years after her exile, Imelda Marcos was allowed by then Pres. Corazon Aquino to return to the country to face more than 60 criminal and civil charges against her, including charges of graft and tax evasion (Rappler, 2017). During the post EDSA years, the “ruling reactionary system has allowed the political and financial rehabilitation of the Marcoses.”
In 2018, a Philippine court found her guilty of seven counts of graft, with each count punishable by a minimum of six years in prison (Gutierrez, 2018). The ruling also automatically disqualified Mrs. Marcos, who was then a congresswoman, from holding any public office (Gutierrez, 2018). The same court said the ruling could be appealed, and legal experts said that Ms. Marcos could fight a prison sentence because of her advanced age (Gutierrez, 2018).
The political redemption of the Marcoses was consummated when Ferdinand Jr., won in the recent 2022 national election. A statement from the left succinctly puts it: “For several decades now, and especially during the past several years, historical facts were distorted and people fed with false information which not only pervaded social media, but promoted as well in textbooks which poison the minds of schoolchildren about the “golden days” of the Marcos dictatorship. Imelda and the Marcos family have evaded punishment despite conviction over a number of cases of corruption and human rights violations. The tyrant Duterte, himself, has been a key peddler of the Marcos lie.”
As expected, the new president is more obsessed to “correct” the much maligned name of the Marcoses in the history of our country. After a tandem of authoritarian rule and inefficiency of the previous government in handling the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis, the colossal task of fixing the economy was given to a breed of technocrats who possess undying adherence to neoliberalism. This is unmindful that it is the neoliberal paradigm that actually brought us to this economic mess under a highly contested political terrain.
It is in this context that we will attempt to understand why Mr. Erwin Tulfo is placed at the helm of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The traditional social work practice in the country creates its own vulnerability. Its focus on individual inadequacies both at the level of framing the problem of the service users as well its intervention finds resonance on patronage politics, which have worked and perpetuated itself in the system. Traditional social work practice promotes and nurtures the patron system even in the delivery the state’s social services. This practice is akin to a pendulum that swings according to the push of those in power. In a reactionary state, it always swings to the right. Under Duterte’s authoritarian regime, we witnessed how the state’s social service resources and arsenal have been carved into the counter-insurgency program, making a mockery of the Social Work profession’s held values and principles.
Placing Mr. Erwin T. Tulfo as the new secretary of DSWD is not simply a political payback. Yes, the Tulfo brother are known as Duterte allies. With his questionable journalism practice, highly populist stance, and rabid followers, he is deliberately placed at the DSWD to perform key ideological tasks. The ordinary people have always been victims of the ruling class, especially at the ideological sphere; that is why many people remain to be gullible.
The helping process in our Social Work profession has always been premised on the inherent dignity of the service user. That is why social justice, human rights and people’s liberation are considered as anchors on our practice. We are conscious of liberating the service users from the shackles of ignorance, unscientific mindset, and allow them to fully develop into critical thinking individuals. By fanning the gullibility of the masses, this is what Mr. Erwin Tulfo wants to negate in our profession and practice. For Forgas & Baumeiter, “ gullibility, as a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action. Gullibility is closely related to credulity, which is the tendency to believe unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence. Gullibility is thus a factor in social influence processes, as a person’s willingness to believe false or misleading information facilitates the influence.”
The DSWD already has its own share of bureaucratic mess in its delivery of social services. A well intentioned and skilled band of social work professionals can correct this. On the other hand, Mr. Tulfo is expected to invoke the bureaucratic mess to justify shortcuts wherein his interventions can be interpreted by the service users as “efficient”. His swift intervention riding on being a bully can be harnessed in influencing the public mindset that indeed the new regime is hellbent to help the people in whatever means. We will be witnessing a shift from the Tulfo’s brand of journalism to Tulfo’s brand of social services delivery.
Definitely, he will be building his base among the service users and make the latter harp on the compassionate Marcos regime. From passivity, the masses will usher a “people’s movement” rendering support and further legitimizing the class rule of the Marcos-Arroyo-Duterte (MAD) clique. It is to paint the new regime as having the best interest of the people at the heart of their governance.
In a highly stratified society devoid of morals, the ruling class always has a deep bench of jesters, apologists, and mercenaries.
More than being a personal insult to each Social Work practitioner and student, this unfolding scenario negates what gains we have had in our pursuit of transformative social work in the context of real service to the people. It posits to bastardize the profession in the pursuit of their partisan objectives.
As we journey in these perilous times, we should not waver in our resolve to truly serve the genuine interests of the people and uphold our Social Work profession, values and principles.
Rappler, 2017). TIMELINE: How the Marcoses made their political comeback. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/162459-timeline-marcos-political-comeback/
Forgas, Joseph P & Baumeiter Roy R. (2019). The Social Psychology of Gullibility. Fake News, Conspiracy Theories and Irrational Beliefs. Taylor & Francis Group.
SOCIAL WORK ACTION NETWORK-PHILIPPINES
June 1, 2022
Ms. Carmel A. Eubra, a municipal social welfare and development officer (MSWDO) of Viga, Catanduanes was killed by riding in tandem in Virac, Catanduanes last May 24, 2022. She was shot twice while driving her car inside a subdivision.
It is obvious that her killers had subjected our colleague to a surveillance and decided that the location where Ms. Eubra died was the perfect killing spot. Apparently, the location also afforded the killers the best route for their getaway.
Contracting hired killers for this dastardly act is a clear sign that somebody or a group of individuals was hell bent to eliminate Ms. Eubra.
This is again a classic case of senseless killing. It is very ironic that a social work practitioner that has overcome the challenges of being a frontliner in a rural setting just to put premium on the sacredness of life, died violently. Her passion to serve other people especially those in need was cut short. She was only 43 years old. Her dreams were crushed with her lifeless body.
Her murder was another notch of a long thread of professionals who also met the same fate, another testament that rendering service to the people invites violent death and how impunity has permeated the society.
We are living in perilous times. The death of Ms. Eubra is even not a bad omen. With a Marcos-Duterte tandem capturing the helm of the country’s political power, there will be no radical departure from the legacy of widespread human rights violations of their predecessor. In fact what is worrisome is the possibility of invoking the landslide victory in inflicting harm against the people and the so-called adherents of the “pink movement.” BBM loyalists in the social media are now starting to push for the physical decimation of the critics of the new administration.
While we demand justice for our colleague, it is now than ever that social work practitioners should close ranks and start instituting precautionary and security measure to preserve our ranks.
The battle is long and risky, but victory is inevitable.
Department of Social Work
College of Social Work and Community Development
May 27, 2022
Colleagues from various social work organizations have appealed to the incoming president “to appoint a professional social worker for the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or within the qualifications of an experienced development worker, exposed and familiar to the wide range of welfare issues and social protection programs.” The collective appeal was simply dismissed.
With the lingering impact of the nexus of pandemic and the economic crisis, the DSWD confronts an enormous challenge of providing much-needed social services and social protection to the marginalized. Social welfare administration requires expertise that is nurtured by academic training and professional experience, as clearly stated in Republic Act No. 4373: An Act to Regulate the Practice of Social Work and the Operation of Social Work Agencies in the Philippines and for Other Purposes.
Let us go back to an incident where the newly designated secretary of DSWD was involved.
Last May 31, 2019, Mr. Erwin Tulfo lambasted DSWD Sec. Bautista for declining to grant him a live interview, arguing it was his obligation as secretary of the dept. “Sino ba itong buang na ito? Pasensya na muna ano ha. Maski tao ka ni Pangulong Duterte, le-lecture-an muna kita (Who is this crazy person? I apologize, but even if you were appointed by President Duterte, let me lecture you (Fonbuena, 2019). Tulfo’s rant included threats to slap Bautista if he ever saw him, and to dunk his head inside a toilet bowl (Fonbuena, 2019).
Several days after, Mr. Erwin Tulfo apologized to Sec. Baustista, vowing to tone down “Tulfo’s brand of journalism (CNN Philippines, 2019). The practice of journalism has its own recognized ethical norms and standards. Practitioners in this profession always uphold these at all times. Aside from the DSWD Chief, he also apologized to the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, who threatened to file libel and defamation charges against the broadcaster (CNN Philippines, 2019). A bully can only be contained by a force greater than him.
What is worrisome is the streak of arrogance and bullying exhibited by the Tulfo brothers, including Erwin Tulfo. This is about mindset. The Tulfo brothers had always been bullies, even challenging their perceived enemies to fistfights.
The appointment of a bully as head of the department is an act of political payback since the Tulfo brothers are closely allied with the Dutertes. Good governance is about to be thrown into the gutter. It is political loyalties again rather than upholding the best interest of the people. A bully has no space in a professional organization much less being its key leader.
As the country slowly recovers from the effects of the pandemic, social service delivery should be anchored on compassion and comprehensive understanding of the relevant policies, programs, services, protocols and mechanisms. Social welfare and development programs are beyond the realms of charity, whims or popularity. They are best administered by professionals who have extensive experience, possess appropriate technical knowledge and skills, and uphold the principles and values of social work and social development practice.
CNN Philippines. (2019). Broadcaster says sorry to DSWD secretary, vows to tone down “Tulfo’s brand of journalism. https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/6/3/Erwin-Tulfo-DSWD-Secretary-Rolando-Bautista-apology.html
Fonbuena, Carmela. (2019). Soldiers seethe on line after Erwin Tulfo threatens to slap ex-Army chief. https://www.rappler.com/nation/231925-soldiers-seethe-online-after-erwin-tulfo-calls-ex-army-chief-crazy/
Department of Social Work
College of Social Work and Community Development
According to the Professional Regulation Commission, 533 out of 1,211 passed the examination, which was held in Manila, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lucena, Pagadian, Pampanga, Rosales, Tacloban, Tuguegarao, and Zamboanga in February 2022.
Hands off our Development Workers!
Ang Kolehiyo ng Gawaing Panlipunan at Pagpapaunlad ng Pamayanan, sampu ng kanyang mga guro, kawani at mag-aaral ay nagkakaisa sa pagkondena sa hindi makatarungan at iligal na pag-aresto kay Agnes Mesina at kanyang mga kasamahan, at sa tahasang panggigipit at pagpatay sa mga development workers at human rights defenders tulad ng tinaguriang New Bataan 5.
28 Pebrero 2022, bandang 7:00 NC, inaresto si Agnes Mesina habang kumakain sa isang karinderya sa Aparri, Cagayan dahil sa isang kaso na pinawalang-bisa na ng korte noon pang 12 Hulyo 2021. Si Agnes Mesina ay nasa Cagayan upang magsagawa ng community outreach at fact-finding mission para sa mga pamayanang Agta na biktima ng walang habas na pambobomba na militar sa Conzaga, Cagayan. Bandang 11:30 NC, si Agnes Mesina ay pinalaya mula sa kustodiya ng mga pulis.
Walang duda, ang pag-aresto kay Agnes Mesina ay isang anyo ng panggigipit sa mga development workers na kadalasang pinaghihinalaan o inaakusahang kasapi ng mga rebeldeng grupo na walang sapat na batayan. Hindi ito makatarungan. At batay sa karanasan mula sa New Bataan 5, Bloody Sunday at Human Rights Day 7, ito rin ay lubhang mapanganib at nakamamatay.
Naniniwala ang Kolehiyo ng Gawaing Panlipunan at Pagpapaunlad ng Pamayanan na ang aktibismo ay hindi terorismo at may mahalagang gampanin ang maa development workers lalo na sa paghahatid ng tulong, kaalaman at kasanayan sa mga pamayanang nasa laylayan at pinagkakaitan ng kanilang karapatan. Nananawagan kami sa mga kinauukulan na kilalanin at igalang ang mahalagang gampanin ng mga development workers sa pagpapaunlad ng mga pamayanan at ang karapatan nilang makipagtuwangan sa mga maralitang sektor ng ating lipunan nang walang takot at pangamba sa banta ng pang-aabuso, hindi makatarungang pagpapakulong o kamatayan. Nananawagan din kami sa mga awtoridad na panagutin ang mga nagsagawa ng ilegal na pag-aresto. ###
Any election is defined as an exercise of rights and power of the people in forming the government that carries their mandate and implement their decision. This is the reason any electoral exercise has always been considered as a sacred act.
Yet this definition is far and even runs counter in practice and reality of our elections where the obligation to elect is significantly narrowed down by our choices among the candidates. The electoral landscape and the hold of power at various levels are painted by a dynasty rule of families and clans in the form and essence of feudal patronage politics. Positions from the local to the national level has been regularly shifting within members of families and among relatives of traditional politicians and have been reduced into political fiefdoms where the rule of the governance is amassing wealth in the name of public service. Together with the conditions and institutions, culture and mindset that support and promote it, feudal patronage politics prevents the realization and conscious engagement of the people in their democratic rights and freedom to decide and ensure the realization of their decisions. Consequently, what we have today is elite democracy instead of people’s democracy.
At the current juncture of the nation’s electoral exercise, the insidious effects of feudal patronage politics have been exacerbated by the preponderance of fake news. According to Andrew J. Masigan, “administration candidates have an advantage since their trolls are firmly in place. Although they will never admit it, I have it on good information that their army of trolls are managed (and funded) by no less than a department of government, under the supervision of an undersecretary. For brevity, let us call this undersecretary the ‘Soft Master’. He added that “analytics derived from social media listening platforms estimate that there were approximately 250,000 unique accounts tagged as “pro-Duterte trolls” last year. The actual number of individuals is significantly lower since trolls operate numerous accounts. Out of all active trolls, about 30 percent are organic (real people with real convictions), while the remainder consists of paid individuals under the employ of public relations or messaging agencies.”
Another 12-month study conducted by Jonathan Corpus Ong and Jason Vincent Cabanes using in-depth interviews with 20 “disinformation architects” showed that “on top of the disinformation hierarchy sits advertising and public relations executives acting as the ‘chief architects of networked disinformation in the country.”
Other candidates similarly engaged in disinformation. One candidate that is projected as a “frontliner” in surveys for the presidency is no different. There is nothing sacred about what this candidate and his family have been doing to make a political comeback. All their efforts have been laced with repeated lies and condemnable political posturing, even engaging on historical revisionism. With the handling of the COMELEC on BBM disqualification case and Imelda remained free despite a conviction in 2018 for seven counts of graft, there is indeed truth to the adage that “some are smarter than others. The tandem BBM-Sara Duterte even dangles the call for national unity minus rendering justice to the victims of martial law.
Another candidate harps on healing the nation after reducing the complex issues confronting the people as a “war” between Marcoses and the “dilawan”. Another presidential candidate even refused to account for his involvement in torture of activists during the martial law. His running partner conveniently distances himself from Duterte after navigating the Senate as appendage of an authoritarian rule.
Arendt captures the unfolding scenario by stating that “the liar is defeated by reality, for which is there no substitute; no matter how large the tissue of falsehood that an experienced liar has to offer, it will never be large enough, even if he enlists the help of computers, to cover the immensity of factuality. The liar, who may get away why any number of single falsehoods, will find it impossible to get away lying on principle.”
As we commemorate the 36th anniversary of EDSA revolution, let us again be firm on the side of the truth amidst this massive disinformation. In her acceptance speeches of international awards, Maria Rezza, the co-founder, and CEO of Rappler is noticeably clear in saying that “there can no integrity of elections without integrity of facts”.
At this crucial historical junction of our society, we should not be afraid of confronting the issues of power and be part of people’s efforts in ensuring the thieves, dictators, and pretenders cannot make a political comeback. We have a saying that “the personal is political and the political is personal.” As citizens, we have an obligation to ensure that the interest of the people is best pursued and served in the future. As one quote extolls “the next time somebody says you are ‘too political’, tell them silence is a political stand. It is a full-throated endorsement of the status quo.”
Enrico Julian Estrellado inspires us to be part of this historic mission by saying that “making a stand is always glorious if it is a call for freedom. I will make a stand again, if the signs of the time call for me to make a stand as I do now, since the tyrants are taking a step to curtail the truth and change history.”
Social Work Action Network (SWAN)-Philippines
February 25, 2022