Saturday, September 1, 2007

Laughable Textbook Errors in Crucial Supreme Court Decisions

Recently, a certain Mr. Antonio Calipjo Go associated with Marian School in Quezon City, has been hailed by the Media as a crusader against laughable errors in textbooks approved by the Dept of Education for distribution to some 20 million public and private school students, which he has exposed in a series of newspaper ads and television appearances.

Most of the errors Mr. Go points to are only accidentally funny typographical errors ("...cows are inseminated by seamen..."), and some of his alleged errors are not errors at all, but funny nonetheless to the equally uninformed. (See my earlier post on magnifying telescopes. where the observation is made that the Mass Media themselves (newspapers, broadcast) make numerous and similarly ludicrous errors of fact, grammar and spelling.

But Mr. Go he has also found many instances of erroneous historical or scientific information being presented in some textbooks, thereby miseducating perhaps millions of students. These are simply inexcusable and would not exist in a world, where more money could be spent on the authoring, editing, publishing and purchasing of better textbooks.

Recently however, I was really flummoxed to discover several of these kinds of ludicrous and disdainable errors not in lowly textbooks or the tabloidish broadsheets, but in no less than the written Opinions of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Reynato Puno!

In the Separate Opinion rendered by now Chief Justice Reynato Puno in the December, 2000 landmark case of Cruz and Europa vs. DENR and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples one finds some distinctively Callipjegoesque passages such as:
The ancient Filipinos settled beside bodies of water.

Hunting and food gathering became supplementary activities as reliance on them was reduced by fishing and the cultivation of the soil.

From the hinterland, coastal, and riverine communities, our ancestors evolved an essentially homogeneous culture, a basically common way of life where nature was a primary factor.

Community life throughout the archipelago was influenced by, and responded to, common ecology. The generally benign tropical climate and the largely uniform flora and fauna favored similarities, not differences.[47] Life was essentially subsistence but not harsh.[48]
This is what I call the "Garden of Eden" or "Paradise View" of ancient Philippines, although I was surprised to find it in an historic Supreme Court ponencia.

In this quaint conception of the way it was long ago in the Archipelago, the "indigenous peoples" have a common way of life in harmony with nature. Whether they lived in the mountainous aeries of the hinterlands (the Igorots) , or in the riverine gorges and valleys descending to the sea (the Tag-ilogs), or indeed the coastal and island peoples of Visayas and Mindanao, Chief Justice Puno paints an idyllic picture of a homogeneous human culture with a common response to the common ecology. Even the flora and fauna are uniform and therefore encourage similarities among the ancient Filipinos rather than differences!

Yet, just last year, the Philippine Archipelago was named the Center of the Center of Marine and Ecological Biodiversity in the world. Moreover, just a few paragraphs before, the Chief Justice had listed 110 rather heterogeneous "indigenous cultural communities" all over the archipelago. Their heterogeneity could be explained by the the fact that upland, riverine and coastal ecologies represent radically different physical, geological and meteorological biospheres, in stark contrast to Mr. Justice Puno's description of a warm, generally benign and tropical environment in which the ancient Filipinos live in harmony with nature and each other. Yet I seriously doubt that the weather and other natural conditions were any different then than now, unless Mr. Justice Puno wants to blame for example the average twenty typhoons that visit annually on those bad, bad Western colonialists. The arrivals of Spain and America are treated by Puno later in the ponencia as a kind of Fall from the Grace of Indigenous gods followed by the expulsion of the Indigenous Peoples from the Garden of Eden. I am getting ahead of the analysis though.

But it gets worse. Much worse. In the very next section, Chief Justice Puno addresses the legal systems allegedly common among the "ancient Filipinos":
The unit of government was the "barangay," a term that derived its meaning from the Malay word "balangay," meaning, a boat, which transported them to these shores. The barangay was basically a family-based community and consisted of thirty to one hundred families. Each barangay was different and ruled by a chieftain called a "dato." It was the chieftain's duty to rule and govern his subjects and promote their welfare and interests. A chieftain had wide powers for he exercised all the functions of government. He was the executive, legislator and judge and was the supreme commander in time of war.

Laws were either customary or written. Customary laws were handed down orally from generation to generation and constituted the bulk of the laws of the barangay. They were preserved in songs and chants and in the memory of the elder persons in the community.[54] The written laws were those that the chieftain and his elders promulgated from time to time as the necessity arose.[55] The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D.
Well at this point I just tossed my cookies out the window! The Code of Maragtas by Datu Sumakwel?! But I thought that in the 1960s William Henry Scott decisively proved the true nature and provenance of "The Code of Maragtas of Datu Sumakwel" as originating in the 1907 book of Panay legends by Pedro Monteclaro???

The Verdict of Maragtas

Maragtas was finally placed in its proper perspective as a book of legends rather than historical fact in 1968 by William Henry Scott. For his doctoral dissertation at the University of Santo Tomas, Scott made a painstaking investigation into all the sources of information about the Philippines before the coming of the Spaniards.

Rather than merely plagiarizing past historians, Scott examined the original documents and searched archives and museums the world over for supporting documents and artefacts. He questioned the top historians of the day about their sources of information and consulted with many experts in other fields such as language, geology, archaeology and anthropology. He scoured the vast collection of prehispanic material amassed by his personal friend, Dr. H. Otley Beyer. He interviewed the friends, colleagues and relatives of the figures behind the stories such as Pedro Monteclaro and Jose E. Marco and he examined their correspondence.

William Henry Scott proved in his dissertation that Maragtas and the Confederation of Madya-as were not actual ancient documents from long ago but only legends that were collected and in some cases possibly concocted by Pedro Monteclaro and published in 1907 in his book entitled Maragtas. As for the Maragtas Code, Scott found that it was merely an invention of Guillermo Santiago-Cuino's mind which was probably based on Monteclaro's book and published in 1938.

Scott successfully defended his dissertation before a panel of eminent Filipino historians, some of whom had formerly endorsed and promoted the erroneous facts of Philippine history. The panel included Teodoro Agoncillo, Horacio de la Costa, Marcelino Forondo, Mercedes Grau Santamaria, Nicholas Zafra and Gregorio Zaide. Scott's meticulous research was published in 1968 in his book Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History and since then no historian has contested his conclusions. M12

The Result of Scott's Discoveries
By the 1960s the better scholars already had some doubts regarding Maragtas and they avoided mentioning it in their works. Scott's thesis confirmed their suspicions. However, it was many years before the writers of school textbooks noticed Scott's findings. Most continued to reprint their old texts while others wrote new books that still contained the old mistakes. Take for example this quote from Ang Pagsulong ng Pamayanan (1981):

Maragtas' Code is the premier example of written law and it has been considered the oldest because it was in effect from 1250. M13

Not only is this statement wrong but its authors seem to believe that Maragtas was a person and not a book.

Jose Villa Panganiban used Maragtas to trace the origin of the Tagalog language in the preface of the very popular English-Tagalog Dictionary by Fr. Leo James English in 1965. M14 To this day it remains unrevised in spite of many reprintings.

Even one member of Scott's dissertation panel did not appear to be eager to set the record straight. Gregorio Zaide continued to include information from Maragtas in works such as Pageant of Philippine History in 1979, History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1983 and Philippine History 1984 which he co-authored with his daughter, Sonia Zaide. M15

While making an effort to correct the errors of the past, some historians mistook Maragtas to be one of the many hoaxes of Philippine history rather than a mere legend. When Sonia Zaide revised History of the Republic of the Philippines in 1987, she mistakenly described Maragtas as a fraudulent document:

The legends surrounding the settling of the Philippines by Malay migrants are notably celebrated in the ati-atihan festival and perpetrated by hoaxers in the fraudulent documents containing the Maragtas chronicle and the Code of Kalantiaw. M16E

Zaide clarified her opinion on the following page:

Although previously accepted by some historians, including the present authors, it has become obvious that the Maragtas is only the imaginary creation of Pedro A. Monteclaro, a Visayan public official and poet, in Iloilo in 1907. He based it on folk customs and legends, largely transmitted by oral tradition. M17E

It would be unfair to brand Pedro Monteclaro a hoaxer or his book a fraudulent document because he never claimed that Maragtas was anything more than a collection of legends. Any frauds involving his book were perpetrated by other later writers who misrepresented it as an authentic ancient document.

Send E-Mail to Paul Morrow
1998 Paul Morrow
Latest revision: 22 April, 2007

To this day ignorance and misunderstanding of the true nature of Maragtas is still prevalent throughout Philippine society even among its highest institutions and organizations. Evidence of this can be seen in the following list of web sites:
By the way if you are wondering where Chief Justice Puno got this information:

The oldest known written body of laws was the Maragtas Code by Datu Sumakwel at about 1250 A.D.

it was public school text book published Rex Publishing House.

Leogardo, Felicitas T., Rosalina R. de Leon & Purification Jacob. Ang Pagsulong ng Pamayanan para sa Unang Taon ng Mataas na Paaralan, Published by Rex Book Store, Manila. First edition, 1981. p.177

I'm not done with the ponencia of Chief Justice Puno in the case because it was that decision which upheld the constitutionality of the Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997, which is in turn the basis of the Muslim Juridical Entity or Ancestral Domain that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is negotiating with the government of Mrs. Arroyo in the Malaysian brokered peace talks.

The Opinion of Puno above represents the the seven Justices that voted to uphold the Constitutionality of IPRA, while the seven that opposed it, are represented by this Opinion of J. Artemio Panganiban.

One is forced to wonder how much more of the Opinion is based on comforting old legends or fanciful "history" tendentiously assembled to support an inexorable conclusion?

In my next post, I shall tackle some of the amazing pseudo scientific and historiographic claims of the Mr. Justice Puno and specious reasoning that led to a politically correct result that could have devastating historical consequences very soon.

Related recent posts are:

Ancestral Domain or Bangsamorostan?

Are Ilocanos, Pampangos, Tagalogs and Cebuanos Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines?

Do You Think This Version of Ancient Philippine History Is Correct?

What Some People Don't Know About Magnifying Telescopes.

Chief Justice Puno on Terrorism--Sophomoric, Uninspiring, Self-Loathing"


blackshama said...

Scotty has established that the Maragtas while may be a real event is more oral history than written history.

Scotty's PhD was conferred by the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas. His PhD was supervised by no less than Father Horacio de la Costa SJ. Father de la Costa is one of our most esteemed historians. Ateneo rightly honours him with a bronze statue.

Lawyers including chief justices should be more careful of the facts of the case and they really have to read on the literature.

DJB Rizalist said...

This ancient history is only a part of the "Creation Story" that the Supreme Court has presented in order to justify its Decision. There is Fall and an expulsion from paradise; a falling into the sins of capitulation and subservience to "foreign" gods and imperialist idols! Finally there is salvation via independence and now a desire to "right the wrongs of the past" to win salvation by atoning for our sins and doing penance by "restoring" the indigenous peoples to the ancient Eden!

All of it supported by history viewd a certain way, with all untidy or contradictory facts and details either hidden or changed.

Do you know the amazing origin of the list of 110 IPs. It was something merely suggested by a certain Cong. Andolana, that has become THE definitive list. And as I have pointed out, the Christian Majority, which is responsible for the "fall" must atone for those sins by dismembering the Republic.

Chyt said...

That Supreme Court decision is a chapter in the continuing history of oppression of the IPs. It means that they did not take our case seriously enough to probe deeply into our past so that they could come up with a decision that stood on solid, factual basis, and not on some romanticized white tale.

That case was a condescending, token response to the IP's relentless clamor for self-determination. What has the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples accomplished thus far? It still has to issue a single Certificate of Ancestal Land Title (CALT) in Baguio. Elsewhere in the Cordillera, you can count with your fingers the communities that received Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles. The NCIP officials may want to issue titles but the bureaucracy simply does not allow it. The IPRA Law was designed to fail, from the way things appear.

Anyway, I still grow livid everytime I hear Imperial Manila's princes refer to my region as the Cordillera AUTONOMOUS Region. Hello, not even the nursery pupils here commit such blunder. Coming from government officials, it is unpardonable. Don't they care just enough to know?

DJB Rizalist said...

I think we can agree that one injustice cannot cure another. Two wrongs do not make a right. That is an element of justice as fairness.

My point however is the same one that Shakespeare makes in The Merchant of Venice.

Even if the "princes of imperial Manila" were to grant that they owed the Igorots a "pound of flesh", as a simple "native" of the Philippines I would insist that when the Igorots come to extract their pound of flesh, they must do so "exactly", not one molecule, not one drop of blood more or less than one pound!

And though no CADT's have been issued in Baguio, at least the US Supreme Court did give the Carinos Camp John Hay!

BTW, the American Colonialists certainly succeeded in "subjugating" and "Christianizing" the Igorots did they not?

I think that makes them mere natives under your definition does it not?

English and Protestantism are well represented even among the Igorots. All of Mt. Pulag is Lutheran, not animist. Why do we not say they surrendered to colonialists too?

A pound of flesh you say? Be my guest, but do it justly and precisely, not one molecule of native land more or less than one pound.

And every Igorot must prove his ancestry, for how do we know it wasn't some native who wandered into or married into the Ibalois tribes that will now own as private ancestral land, Session Road or Pacdal?

Chyt said...

Like the Supreme Court, we oversimplify the meaning of IPs when we use religion as the yardstick by which we determine whether an ethnic group is indigenous or not. Dean, I never said that it is the Igorot's religion, coupled with their having resisted colonization, that makes them IP's. I said that it is their pre-Hispanic way of life to which they still adhere. I should have added that, also, they are still settled in the territory of their ancestors. So obviously, mine is diametrically opposed to CJU Puno's position.

Sure, most Igorots converted to "Christianity." They speak English. Perhaps, it is probably in the Cordillera where everyone speaks English. It is preposterous to say that they are no longer IPs because they embraced Christianity and the English language. It is even more preposterous to say that because they know Jesus Christ and speak George Bush's language, they are no longer entitled to their ancestral domain and they should be treated as every other Filipino belonging to the majority culture.

Another point: The Carino decision is nothing but a piece of paper. Up to this time, the Carinos are still asking the government to recognize their claim. John Hay is now under BCDA control. In a few years, it will be under Korean control, if the ongoing construction of cottages of Koreans will not be abated.

I am a member of Portia Sorority and, thus, acquainted with the Merchant of Venice. I beg to say that the analogy is misplaced. The Igorots are not asking for more than one pound. Truth to tell- for every one pound taken from them, a miraculously just Philippine government will be able to return to them not even half of that! It will still be an injustice, but one committed not against anyone but the Igorots. Who will sustain an injustice when the State hurls into the trash can all those environmental laws that made the Igorots squatters in their own land? Who will suffer damage when the State restores to the IPs the mountains mined and destroyed by the greedy capitalists who could not even contribute to the host provinces' Internal Revenue Allotment because their principal offices are in Makati or Pasig or elsewhere? What common good is injured when the State surrenders to the IPs lands it reserved as dairy farms or watersheds (By the way, one watershed was eventually registered in the name of a DENR Secretary)?

The recognition of IP rights does not tilt the balance in favor of IPs (who, by the way, are also natives of their territories) and against the non-IPs. I still assert that the Igorots are notsimilarly circumstanced as the Ilocanos, Kapampangans and the Tagalogs. The most unequal treatment is to treat unequal persons equally.

I love your blog, Dean. I love the dialectics. More power to you.

DJB Rizalist said...

I love the Cordilleras and I love the Cordillera People. But I suppose when I write stuff in this vein, that would not be obvious. I do appreciate your very well thought out points and hope I can do justice to them. As I was just commenting to Bill Billig, in the other post on Indigenous peoples, I learn the most from those who disagree.

I must apologize for the rather fuzzy and abstract point I may be making with that pound of flesh thing. I don't want you to think I'm some kind of shakespearean snob either by using that example. It's just that the analogy to that play and the bit about the pound of flesh is a kind of "gestalt analogy."

There, it is acknowledged that the debt exists. Here, I am not saying the Igorots want more than a pound of flesh, but only that they cannot extract it without doing harm and injustice to someone else. That is the only meaning of my insistence that they take exactly the one pound of flesh owed them, to emphasize this impossibility of doing it justly.

Btw, I agree with this statement even more than you do:
Sure, most Igorots converted to "Christianity." They speak English. Perhaps, it is probably in the Cordillera where everyone speaks English. It is preposterous to say that they are no longer IPs because they embraced Christianity and the English language. It is even more preposterous to say that because they know Jesus Christ and speak George Bush's language, they are no longer entitled to their ancestral domain and they should be treated as every other Filipino belonging to the majority culture.
but in fact this is what is being applied to the non-indigenous peoples who were Christianized like the Tagalogs.

That is precisely the point I was making in the post, that the reason my tribe, the Tagalogs, for example, and my wife's tribe, the Pampangos have now lost their status as IPs, according to the Supreme Court.

In other words, I am objecting to a definition made by the Supreme Court (not you!) which amazingly claims we Tagalogs and Pampangos have lost our own status as IPs because our ancestors succumbed to Catholicism.

Puno defines the IPs as those tribes that "ran away to the hinterlands" or who "resisted subjugation successfully"

Well I know the Tagalogs and Pampangos must also have resisted, but because they failed they are no longer IPs like the Igorots who happened to live in the mountains and were smart enough to roll boulders and trees down on Spanish interlopers.

I make the observation that their definition is not only internally flawed but unfairly applied, and that there are exceptions such as the Christianized Igorots who successfully resisted Spain but not America.

In other words, I believe that Justice is Fairness, but the IPRA law is not fair, not fair to the
Christian majority.