There He Goes Again

Listen now to how F. Sionil Jose explains himself to Inquirer columnist Boying Pimentel:

“Of course, I know that many Chinese Filipinos are really Filipinos. I never lumped all Chinese Filipinos as possible collaborators with the Chinese.

“All I said was that there will be more Chinese collaborators in the future than there were during the Japanese Occupation. I did not say, and I never said ALL Chinese Filipinos will be collaborators. What is misunderstood is the fact that I did not quantify many; I made that conclusion from our experience with the Japanese during World War II. What those who disagree with me did was to hoist conclusions I did not make. Do read me carefully, again.”

The more Jose tries to explain himself, the deeper the fallacy-hole he digs himself into. He argues that there is no reason to quantify the word “many” because he only needs to look at the case of the collaborators during the Japanese Occupation to know that there will be “more Chinese collaborators in the future than there were during the Japanese Occupation”.

His reasoning isn’t based on estimates and projections, both of which would have required hard data and sampling. No, his reasoning is based squarely on Grade 6 math lessons in simple proportion. There used to be only 20 million people living in the Philippines; now there are 100 million. So therefore there will be more “Chinese collaborators in the future than there were during the Japanese Occupation.”  In other words, population growth breeds more treason!

Jose begs for understanding: “Do read me carefully, again.” So why don’t we read him again, carefully? In fact, why don’t we try and think like Jose and draw out the conclusions based on Jose’s own (flawed) reasoning?

Note, for example, how in this latest passage, Jose insists on drawing an analogy between a war that pitted both Filipinos and Chinese (by “Chinese,” I mean citizens of China) against a common enemy, the Japanese, on the one hand, and a “coming” (i.e., hypothetical) war pitting Filipinos against “Chinese” (by which Jose means not just the mainland Chinese government, but “many Chinese”–a category that, in the way he deploys it so loosely, includes Filipinos– whom he is sure will side with China), on the other hand.

Apart from his deliberate fudging on what or who counts as “Chinese” and apart from his self-appointed arbitration of who among the “many Chinese Filipinos are really Filipinos”  and who are not because he is sure “many of our ethnic Chinese” will side with China, there’s another problem with Jose’s recourse to historical analogy. Given that the Chinese were a minority (no more than 2% of the population) in the Philippines at the time of the Pacific war, then it would be reasonable to assume that, proportionally speaking, the vast majority of the collaborators during the Japanese period were Filipinos. But regrettably, Jose won’t divulge–or can’t show–the statistics on how many Filipinos actually collaborated with the Japanese during the war.  He prefers to use his favorite adjective– the large but ill-defined “many Filipinos.”

But if we follow Jose’s logic of linking the Pacific war to the hypothetical Philippines-China war, then we would expect Jose to vent his anger on the “many” (“more”) collaborators of the mainland Chinese state in this hypothetical war, regardless of whether they are “Chinese” or not, as he did on the “many Filipinos” who committed treason during the Japanese Occupation. So how come, in his column, Jose singles out only the potential “ethnic Chinese” collaborators/fifth columnists and does not discuss the issue of the potential (“many” “more”) Filipino collaboration more generally?  Is this some sort of special pleading or just plain selective amnesia?

Inquirer columnist Jose Ma. Montelibano, on the other hand, will not be outdone in his zeal to apply the loyalty test to all inhabitants of the Philippines. Montelibano has argued that “It might be a good move if Filipino-Chinese communities and organizations make overt public expressions of their loyalty. That way, if and when we have to deal with Filipino traitors, we will not be distracted.” Montelibano wants the “Filipino-Chinese” to publicly proclaim their loyalty so that he won’t be distracted by the race issue–not to mention the tedium of sorting out the “good” Filipino-Chinese from the “bad” Filipino-Chinese one by one–as he goes after the Filipino traitors, whom he will then also have to either sort out individually or else order entire “communities and organizations” to make overt public expressions of their loyalty. This would be a far more daunting task than building Gawad Kalinga houses or typing out a weekly column! Would Montelibano be up for the challenge, I wonder?

Moreover, the problem with internal purges, hypothetical though they may be now, is that actual historical experience has shown that purges are more likely to spiral out of control very quickly as people rat on each other out of spite, envy, avarice, unfounded suspicion, racial prejudice (plenty of this already evident in the internet responses to l’affaire Jose), etc. In the event of such purges, we Filipinos will be lucky if we still have a standing army left to fight the “coming” war!

And I have yet to see the Grand Panjandrums of hypothetical scenarios actually “volunteer” their sons and grandsons to the Philippine armed forces. Talk–particularly internet hate-speech hiding behind the cloak of anonymity and impunity–is cheap. In real wars, tragically, it is more likely that the ordinary people, especially indigent Filipinos whose children cannot go abroad (let alone acquire the fabled U.S. passport), will end up disproportionately sacrificing their children and themselves for the greater glory of the war-mongering ilk among the chattering classes and the internet-surfing armchair commandos.

To get back to the point, then. Does Jose have any statistics on how many Chinese (or Filipinos, for that matter) in proportion to the total population actually collaborated with the Japanese during the war? If he does not have any credible statistics, how can he make the calculation and draw the conclusion that there will be “more Chinese collaborators in the future than there were during the Japanese Occupation”?

If Jose is talking only about some vaguely defined proportion of “many” in relation to the total population, then shouldn’t he look at the bright side and be happy with the thought that, now that we have reached the 100-million mark, there would be “many” “more” non-treasonous “Chinese Filipinos [who] are really Filipinos”? Having been so liberal in invoking the indefinable “many,” has Jose now turned paranoid, frightened by the specter he himself conjured up of a “coming” war with China and the “many Chinese” (but not “Filipinos” this time around?) committing treason in the Philippines?

What we do know for a fact is that there were Filipinos and Chinese who resisted the Japanese during World War II. There are written and oral accounts and scholarship on these people.

I know of at least one. My grandfather was a Filipino guerrilla during the real war. He and a number of other friends and co-workers (a group that included both Filipino and Chinese citizens, some of them no more than 16 or 17 years old, the same age as Jose himself at that time) went underground as soon as Manila was declared an Open City in December 1941. These guerrillas were active in San Pablo, Laguna, in Lucena, Quezon, and in neighboring provinces, fighting alongside and living among ordinary Filipinos who, at great risk to their own lives and their families’, hid, fed, and protected them.

My grandfather died in his early fifties in the early 1960s, some years before I was born. I only have a few photos of him and the stories of him that my father has handed down to us. Plus one small memento: a Philippine Veterans medallion that my grandfather kept in a drawer of personal valuables all those years.

Originally posted in Letters to Narcissus.


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