Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: May 2018
When he campaigned for president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte liked to make a ritual out of kissing the Philippine flag. Two years after his election, he cannot be bothered to pay even lip service to the defense of the country that the flag represents.

And the country needs defending, now that an aggressive China has landed bombers in the Paracels and completed the militarization of the reefs it occupies in the Spratlys, encroaching on the West Philippine Sea.

“At this time, I am really playing geopolitics,” an expansive President Duterte said in another free-association speech on Sunday. In between long asides on the sorry state of our military’s rifles, which he compared to “battle-weary” soldiers, and the hypocrisy of Americans, who he said “adopted the garbage of the left and the yellow,” he explained his policy toward Beijing in terms of a diplomatic friendzone. “So kaibigan lang tayo (we are just friends). Pero (But) not that close, making it public because I cannot allow one country to — since we do not have the manufacturing enterprise, talent, but we don’t allow one country to arm us, because if you allow it, automatically, in geopolitics, you become a colony.”

The President talks a good if rambling game. He has come to accept that the armed services have a strong bond with the American security sector that even he cannot break. “Most of our military men and police, most of them who graduate, go to America to take special courses there. Sa police, investigation, they go to Quantico. Of course, I realize that.” He (rightly) calls out the Americans for their sense of exceptionalism. “They think that they are a separate kind from the rest of the world.” And he speaks proudly of traveling to China and Russia to buy arms—again because, he explains, using his theory of geopolitics, “if you agree to that (having only one source of arms), your country becomes a colony of that powerful country.” (In truth, several countries, not including China and Russia, already supply arms to the AFP and the police.)

But then he says something only the defeatist, defeated leader of a colony would say: “Kaya itong China Sea, wala na rin akong magawa (That’s why in this issue of the China Sea, there is also nothing I can do). Do not believe in that s*it that it was during my time that this arbitral ruling was handed down. Of course, it was not. The fate of that started two months before, three months before akong pumasok (I entered office). Because it was already announced there was the arbitration decision.”

This is a lie; worse, this is a lie easy to prove (not even the almighty Chinese were prepared for how sweeping the Philippine legal victory was); worst of all, this is a lie that aligns with Chinese, not Philippine, interests. It puts the blame where China wants it, on the lap of the Philippine president who brought it to court and on the American officials who took Chinese diplomats at their word.

But there is an even more terrible lie: “I am faced with the possibility of a barbaric war. Hindi ko naman kaya ito, ipadala ko yung mga sundalo ko (I cannot do it, to send my soldiers). I will not embark on something, on a war that or battle that I cannot win, hindi ako g*go (I am not an idiot).”

Beijing would like Manila to believe that only one alternative to the Chinese position exists, and that is war. Tragically, the President has completely embraced this wrongheaded, and indeed unpatriotic, view.

On Sunday, we got another glimpse — despite the President’s attempt at geopolitical explanation — of his attitude of surrender. “Anuhin ko man ito, China (What will I do with China)? Justice Carpio keeps on [pushing?] be assertive.”

That’s the problem right there. The President thinks that being assertive can only be expressed in physical, military terms. But he has other options. Forceful diplomacy; close collaboration with allies such as Australia, Japan, and the United States; renewed partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, and other allies in Asean; the strategic use, as former national security adviser Roilo Golez suggests, of what is called “lawfare”; not least, the use of presidential rhetoric directed against Beijing. Ah, but nothing.

What was it Sun Tzu taught? “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”



Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/113369/dutertes-defeatism-china-lack-patriotism#ixzz5GD6ff0BF 
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Published in News
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 14:29

On SCS: Let us help our President

China lands bombers on SCS isles” was the headline that greeted us on Sunday.

These landings took place on a reclaimed feature in the Paracel Islands, which is within our neighborhood, thus bringing Chinese militarization closer to our backyard.

What else can we do to defend and advance our lawful position in the West Philippine Sea?

As a reminder, the Philippine Constitution mandates that our President defend what is lawfully ours. Our government should also be mindful that, as early as 2016, a Pulse Asia survey indicated that more than eight in ten Filipinos believe we should assert our rights as awarded by the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

However, since the incumbent administration made the early decision to shelve the arbitral outcome, not only have we lost opportunities to advance our position, we have also found ourselves thrown into reverse gear, our position fully disadvantaged.

Would it make a difference if we all spoke loudly, clearly, and with one voice to fight for our national security? Should we be more helpful to our government as a proud people of a sovereign democratic nation?

Yes, for obvious reasons.

Our government needs to listen to its people. Our northern neighbor needs to listen to the Filipino people. And, finally, all our traditional partners and friends who are waiting for a united voice need to hear from us.

Nearly all Filipinos, I believe, would agree that our foreign policy should be revisited. Let us say this so loudly.

Is it high time for our government to assert our rightful position by utilizing the experience and diplomatic expertise of the Department of Foreign Affairs? If we believe this, let us say so.

Is it high time for our government to defend our rights by relying on the skill, courage and patriotism of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is capable of developing a credible minimum defense posture against any bully or aggressor, whoever that might be? If we believe this, let us say so.

As we had previously said, we are opposed to war, as we should be. But if threatened by the use of force, we should be ready to inflict, at the very least, a bloody nose on any attacker who is out to harm us.

For example, it is my understanding that this capacity, which may be provided by Bramos missiles that the AFP can acquire from India, would be a good starting point.

With the President’s thoughtful leadership, and with the coordinated execution by the DFA and AFP under Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, respectively, we can stand together more firmly in defending what is ours and upholding the security of our people.

Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod also suggests that all of us take a few minutes to write our President. I humbly suggest that we all ask him to be more proactive and assertive in defending our territory.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, a learned and patriotic advocate, believes that a diplomatic protest should be urgently filed, and that we should take our assertive and lawful stand to the doorsteps of our northern neighbor’s embassy.

I fully agree with these suggestions, and trust that many others will share the sentiment.

The President believes, however, that those of us who endeavor to speak in the spirit of being helpful are not prepared to sacrifice ourselves.

We ask our leadership to have more confidence in our people.

To support our President, to secure our nation and to ensure the future of all Filipinos, we need to believe that there are many of us who are prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for our country, especially when called upon.

Many Filipinos want to be of help. Let us respectfully convey to our President that we eagerly await his inspirational leadership by doing what is right for our country.

* * *

Albert del Rosario is chair of ADR Institute. He is formerly secretary of foreign affairs and ambassador of the Philippines to the United States.



Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/113363/scs-let-us-help-president#ixzz5GD3lt2E8 
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Published in News
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 11:38

West Philippine Sea

Part 1 – A discordant foreign policy
“IF rape is inevitable, you might as well enjoy it.” This just about sums up our foreign policy with regard to the West Philippine Sea (WPS). But the inevitable has happened. We are already being raped by China. And our leadership has decided to struggle and complain only half-heartedly. In fact, our leadership has gone out of its way to convince us that: a) we can’t do anything about it; and b) we might as well make the most of the situation.

Others will probably contradict me and say, this is not rape. This is plain and simple prostitution, a degree of perversion that is much, much lower. We are therefore reduced to defining our relationship with China as either rape or prostitution.

During PNoy’s watch, the Philippines formally brought an arbitration case against China’s territorial claims, based on the so-called ‘nine-dash line’ encompassing almost the whole of the South China Sea, turning the SCS into in effect a Chinese lake, transgressing territories of several countries: Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Our country went to seek relief from the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague as any civilized country would do. On July 12, 2016, at the start of President Duterte’s term, the tribunal decided in the Philippines’ favor, saying that China’s claims exceed the limits of maritime entitlements permitted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In short, China’s claim to “historical rights” has no legal basis whatsoever and that China has violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights. China did not participate in the proceedings and rejected the ruling declaring. According to UNCLOS, nations have sovereignty over waters extending 12 nautical miles from its land and “exclusive control” over economic activities in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) 200 nautical miles out.

The disputed territories include Pag-asa (Scarborough Shoal) in Luzon and the bigger Kalayaan island group off Palawan in the southwestern Philippines. For decades, these islands, islets, keys and reefs were haven for fishermen from different nationalities containing no large settlements, until one country after another countries laying claim on these territories, either by including them in their national maps or occupying the place physically and declaring ownership outright. The Philippines was not entirely innocent in this matter as a Filipino lawyer Tomas Cloma declared the “Free Territory of Freedomland” in 1956. This declaration triggered unfriendly actions from other countries, notably China.

But we did go to the Hague and the PCA decided in our favor. The ruling placed the Philippines on a moral high ground. This helped enhance Philippine credibility when the governemnt executed a pivot to China away from America in 2016 signaling “an independent foreign policy.” This was regarded as a wise move as this acknowledged the formidable economic behemoth with almost 1.4 billion people as a trading partner and the emerging superpower. The Deegong’s gesture endeared him to China and she gladly reciprocated with economic incentives the Philippine badly needed, impelling the ‘build, build, build’ protocols. It was also made clear to America that our century’s old special relations must undergo changes that must respond to the ever-changing geopolitical realities. But the close family ties will not be broken.

But the Deegong, armed with the righteousness of the arbitral ruling and his preeminence as head of the Asean for the year we hosted the summits, failed to rally the other countries fretting over China’s 9-dash line claims. He instead declared expansively that the Philippines, China and Russia now formed the new triumvirate—whatever that means. This naivetè may just have emboldened China, a bully in the playground, to read very well the actuations of a neophyte in geopolitics. A stern warning that China will not recognize the arbitral ruling and will not back down on the 9-dash line caims, risking war on one hand but appeasing the Philippines with large amounts of economic incentives, on the other, sealed the fate of the conflict territories. Thus, China embarked on a massive build-up of its occupied territories in the Kalayaan island group.

DU30, now deep into his bromance with Xi Jinping and protecting his role as a partner to China and the promise of economic goodies has been profuse in his praise and admiration for the China strong man.

From the time the arbitral question was decided in our favor, China has strengthened its hold on the Kalayaan group in the Spratlys, Fiery Cross, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef, expanding their areas by several thousand meters. Hangars along airstrips; underground structures for munitions and essential materiel; hardened missile platforms and radar and communication facilities were installed. Satellite photos from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show short-range missiles in place and aircraft flying in and out ferrying personnel and materiel. There is no doubt of China’s ongoing militarization of the islands that the Philippines lay claim to.

But what has been the Philippines’ response? They range from the pathetic to the bizarre. Duterte said the Philippines cannot stop China from building on (the islands), adding that he cannot let soldiers die in a war that the country is certain to lose. (Rappler, March 20, 2017)

The President is unable to or refuses to see options other than of a “butangero” in the streets is inured to. Reduce the alternatives into a fist fight or flee.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 November 2017).

And the bizarre.

“Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque even said that the time will come that the Philippines will thank China for the artificial island they’ve built ‘if we can ask China to leave the islands’.” (PDI, 8 February 2018)

In the assessment of one expert, Gregory Poling, director of the Washington-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the DU30 administration’s WPS policy as seeking to avoid war with China and wanting Filipino fishermen to be able to fish is “…well-intentioned but naïve. I don’t think that’s practicality. I think that’s defeatist. But the only options here are not surrender or war. There is a whole spectrum of ways to impose costs on the Chinese for being bullies and outlaws, that we haven’t yet tried. It’s a little early to fly the white flag and surrender now.” (Rappler, March 20, 2017)

Published in LML Polettiques
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 14:22

How will the judges be judged?

IN the Requiem Mass said on All Souls Day, we normally hear the Latin hymn which describes the Last Judgment:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla
Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
(The day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl [the prophetess]:
How much tremor there will be when the Judge will come investigating everything strictly!)

This hymn is variously attributed to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274), the Franciscan Thomas of Celano (1200-1265), and the lector Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1254) at the Dominican stadium at Santa Sabine, forerunner of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas or the Angelicum in Rome. It is one of the most profoundly moving Catholic hymns which draw our hearts and minds to the Last Things.

They played God
I have not heard this hymn in a little while. But for some strange reason, I suddenly, mysteriously heard it playing inside my ear on Friday, May 11, 2018. On that day, eight justices of the Supreme Court arrogantly played God and claimed, in obedience to President Rodrigo Duterte’s stern orders, a right they did not have, to declare Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “disqualified from and guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of Chief Justice” during the last five years.

Five of the justices had become Sereno’s accusers when they appeared before the House committee on justice to support an impeachment complaint against her, and four of them are appointees of the President who had proclaimed Sereno as his “enemy” and asked for her immediate ouster.

Every ruling of the high court is supposed to add to the law, not diminish or degrade it. However, as a plain citizen, I cannot in conscience bow to the validity of this particular ruling. Even if all 14 other justices had ruled to oust the Chief Justice, I would have to beg off from joining the bandwagon. What makes a law valid is not the number of those who have enacted it, but the undeniable quality of justice. The law must be just. Such a law would be valid whether promulgated by one or by many, in a democracy or in a totalitarian order, while an unjust law can never be valid, whether promulgated by a landslide democratic majority, or without a single dissenting voice in a totalitarian order.

The Court vs its members
The late Alan F. Paguia (1954-2015), a formidable lawyer and professor of law, who was suspended by the Supreme Court for eight years for asking the justices some uncomfortable questions on the 2001 ouster of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, used to argue that the justices do not always represent the Supreme Court even in their majority decisions. When they speak according to the Constitution, they do; when they speak for themselves alone, they don’t.

Within that context, we will have to ask whether Associate Justices Teresita de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo and Noel Tijam are speaking for the court or for themselves alone in their quo warranto ruling. Their violation of the Constitution is as clear as the clearest glass and not all their fallacious arguments are able to muddle it.

The basic and all-encompassing issue is jurisdiction. The Supreme Court as court and the justices as justices do not have the right, the duty or the power to try and remove an impeachable Chief Justice, especially one who is already under impeachment, by any other means than that of impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by no less than two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

A cowardly response
The offending justices acquired the right, the duty and the power to try their own Chief Justice not from the Constitution or any law, but from a president gone mad who had barked his order against the Chief Justice, whom he wanted destroyed. In cowardly acquiescence, the justices decided to become his proxy and surrogate in his fight against the respondent.

Justices do not have the duty nor the competence to review the validity of the President’s appointment of any SC justice. Such power of review was once reposed in the Commission on Appointments; it now resides in the Judicial and Bar Council, which recommends all judicial appointments. Once appointed, and qualified into office, justices may be removed only on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

The House committee on justice has already voted to impeach Sereno. But the process stopped when it became clear that there were not enough votes in the Senate to convict the respondent. So, Solicitor General Calida led the charge by filing a quo warranto suit, and the eight justices dutifully fell in line. It is not too late to ask the justices if they would have done what they did if DU30 had not gone on a rampage against the Chief Justice. So, I am asking the question now.

False precedents
In a foolish attempt to defend the indefensible, Tijam’s ponencia invokes two false precedents to justify the justices’ action: the quo warranto petition filed against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001 after she assumed the presidency following the judicially assisted coup against Estrada, and the quo warranto petition against Commission on Audit Chair Reynaldo Villar in 2008. These are false precedents because they are not on all fours with the quo warranto petition against Sereno.

In the petition against Arroyo, the question sought to be resolved was whether she had taken her oath as President, as she claimed, when she took over from Estrada, or merely as “Acting President,” as Estrada’s camp claimed. There was no effort to remove Arroyo. In the case of Villar, the question sought to be resolved was whether he could serve for seven years as COA chair after he had served for four years as member of the COA. There was no move to remove Villar.

In both cases, there was no question of the quo warranto petitions being filed after the one year-period had expired, from the time the cause of action arose, as required by the Rules of Court. In Sereno’s case, the one-year reglementary period expired in 2013.

Flawed argument
The ponencia further argues that Rule 16 of the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal provides that “a verified petition for quo warranto contesting the election of the President or Vice President on the ground of ineligibility or disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines may be filed by any registered voter who has voted in the election concerned within ten (10) days after the proclamation of the winners.” This, in the ponente’s view, serves to point out that if a President and a Vice President, who are both impeachable officers, could be subjected to a quo warranto proceeding, why not a Chief Justice?

The argument is flawed. Someone who has been proclaimed president or vice president 10 days ago is only a president-elect or a vice president- elect, and not yet an impeachable officer who may be subjected to impeachment; he may be subjected to quo warranto only.

More flawed analogies
Outside of Tijam’s extended ponencia, a distinguished advocate argues that supposing the President appoints an incompetent bar flunker as chairman of the Commission on Elections, will he Supreme Court be prevented from hearing a quo warranto petition against him or her? The construction is materially flawed.

In the case of the hypothetical Comelec chair, the language of Constitution is precise: the President shall nominate, and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint a chair of the Comelec. If in spite of this screening process an incompetent bar flunker is appointed as Comelec chair, then the Commission on Appointments should be held accountable, if not the President himself.

Tijam’s ponencia argues that when Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution says, “The President, the Vice President, and the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” the use of the word “may” means quo warranto action may be used against an impeachable officer. The word “may” denotes discretion and admits of an alternative mode of effecting an impeachable officer’s removal, the ponencia says; ergo, quo warranto action is authorized.

Non sequitur
The word “may” simply means that the officers so named who all have a fixed term of office may still be removed on impeachment for, and conviction of, specific crimes, with the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court. If the Constitution had meant to authorize their removal by quo warranto, on grounds lesser than those required for impeachment, it would have said so categorically and clearly. And it would have specified the number of votes needed to nullify an impeachable officer’s right to his office. But the Constitution did not and does not.

Balderdash
Much of Tiijam’s ponencia is balderdash. We may be able to overlook that offense, except that unless the abominable ruling is changed, there would be no appeal from it. We are sure to enter a period of legal chaos. The people will have to judge the justices. Physical challenges to political authority will rise, even the physical safety of justices could be at risk. And some people may want to apply the quo warranto reasoning of the eight justices on the moral, intellectual and mental fitness of our strongman-president. The withdrawal of allegiance by the military to their Commander in Chief may no longer be a taboo subject.

I did not see the puffed-up faces of the justices as they pronounced their verdict. But their ruling transported me, as I said in the beginning, to an eerie world where I saw their corrupted bodies curled on the wreckage of our Constitution and the Supreme Court while an all-powerful judge pronounced his sentence on our mortal justices. Clearly it was a fantasy, or a trance. But I suspect my conscience was trying to assure me that despite the obscene hosannas from the rented crowds and the lack of offended justice from the various faiths and the constitutionally upright, no one gets away with an injustice as gross and as life-threatening as this. In the end, justice will have to be restored. As Christians and as Filipinos, we have to believe in it. We will have to work on it.

IN MEMORIAM. I was deeply saddened to learn that while I was on a brief trip abroad, my dear friend, the National Artist for literature Cirilo F. Bautista passed away after a lingering illness at 76. He was a poet par excellence and was richly loved both for himself and for his poems. We first met at the University of Santo Tomas where, as literary editor of the Varsitarian, I had the privilege of publishing his prize-winning poems. He was already a giant oak presiding over a forest of gentle saplings even then. Some of his best Varsitarian friends had preceded him on this journey home—Benjamin Afuang, Ophelia Dimalanta, Bayani Mendoza de Leon, and Jose “Papen” Flores. I ask the gentle reader to pray for the repose of their souls. Thank you very much.

Former Senate President Edgardo Angara, 83, joined his Maker yesterday morning after a heart attack. Details about his wake and funeral arrangements will be announced later. Let’s pray for him. Thank you very much.

Published in News
Tuesday, 15 May 2018 13:22

How will the judges be judged?

IN the Requiem Mass said on All Souls Day, we normally hear the Latin hymn which describes the Last Judgment:

Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet saeclum in favilla
Teste David cum Sibylla
Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
(The day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes
As foretold by David and the Sibyl [the prophetess]:
How much tremor there will be when the Judge will come investigating everything strictly!)

This hymn is variously attributed to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274), the Franciscan Thomas of Celano (1200-1265), and the lector Latino Malabranca Orsini (d. 1254) at the Dominican stadium at Santa Sabine, forerunner of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas or the Angelicum in Rome. It is one of the most profoundly moving Catholic hymns which draw our hearts and minds to the Last Things.

They played God
I have not heard this hymn in a little while. But for some strange reason, I suddenly, mysteriously heard it playing inside my ear on Friday, May 11, 2018. On that day, eight justices of the Supreme Court arrogantly played God and claimed, in obedience to President Rodrigo Duterte’s stern orders, a right they did not have, to declare Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “disqualified from and guilty of unlawfully holding and exercising the office of Chief Justice” during the last five years.

Five of the justices had become Sereno’s accusers when they appeared before the House committee on justice to support an impeachment complaint against her, and four of them are appointees of the President who had proclaimed Sereno as his “enemy” and asked for her immediate ouster.

Every ruling of the high court is supposed to add to the law, not diminish or degrade it. However, as a plain citizen, I cannot in conscience bow to the validity of this particular ruling. Even if all 14 other justices had ruled to oust the Chief Justice, I would have to beg off from joining the bandwagon. What makes a law valid is not the number of those who have enacted it, but the undeniable quality of justice. The law must be just. Such a law would be valid whether promulgated by one or by many, in a democracy or in a totalitarian order, while an unjust law can never be valid, whether promulgated by a landslide democratic majority, or without a single dissenting voice in a totalitarian order.

The Court vs its members
The late Alan F. Paguia (1954-2015), a formidable lawyer and professor of law, who was suspended by the Supreme Court for eight years for asking the justices some uncomfortable questions on the 2001 ouster of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, used to argue that the justices do not always represent the Supreme Court even in their majority decisions. When they speak according to the Constitution, they do; when they speak for themselves alone, they don’t.

Within that context, we will have to ask whether Associate Justices Teresita de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo and Noel Tijam are speaking for the court or for themselves alone in their quo warranto ruling. Their violation of the Constitution is as clear as the clearest glass and not all their fallacious arguments are able to muddle it.

The basic and all-encompassing issue is jurisdiction. The Supreme Court as court and the justices as justices do not have the right, the duty or the power to try and remove an impeachable Chief Justice, especially one who is already under impeachment, by any other means than that of impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by no less than two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

A cowardly response
The offending justices acquired the right, the duty and the power to try their own Chief Justice not from the Constitution or any law, but from a president gone mad who had barked his order against the Chief Justice, whom he wanted destroyed. In cowardly acquiescence, the justices decided to become his proxy and surrogate in his fight against the respondent.

Justices do not have the duty nor the competence to review the validity of the President’s appointment of any SC justice. Such power of review was once reposed in the Commission on Appointments; it now resides in the Judicial and Bar Council, which recommends all judicial appointments. Once appointed, and qualified into office, justices may be removed only on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

The House committee on justice has already voted to impeach Sereno. But the process stopped when it became clear that there were not enough votes in the Senate to convict the respondent. So, Solicitor General Calida led the charge by filing a quo warranto suit, and the eight justices dutifully fell in line. It is not too late to ask the justices if they would have done what they did if DU30 had not gone on a rampage against the Chief Justice. So, I am asking the question now.

False precedents
In a foolish attempt to defend the indefensible, Tijam’s ponencia invokes two false precedents to justify the justices’ action: the quo warranto petition filed against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001 after she assumed the presidency following the judicially assisted coup against Estrada, and the quo warranto petition against Commission on Audit Chair Reynaldo Villar in 2008. These are false precedents because they are not on all fours with the quo warranto petition against Sereno.

In the petition against Arroyo, the question sought to be resolved was whether she had taken her oath as President, as she claimed, when she took over from Estrada, or merely as “Acting President,” as Estrada’s camp claimed. There was no effort to remove Arroyo. In the case of Villar, the question sought to be resolved was whether he could serve for seven years as COA chair after he had served for four years as member of the COA. There was no move to remove Villar.

In both cases, there was no question of the quo warranto petitions being filed after the one year-period had expired, from the time the cause of action arose, as required by the Rules of Court. In Sereno’s case, the one-year reglementary period expired in 2013.

Flawed argument
The ponencia further argues that Rule 16 of the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal provides that “a verified petition for quo warranto contesting the election of the President or Vice President on the ground of ineligibility or disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines may be filed by any registered voter who has voted in the election concerned within ten (10) days after the proclamation of the winners.” This, in the ponente’s view, serves to point out that if a President and a Vice President, who are both impeachable officers, could be subjected to a quo warranto proceeding, why not a Chief Justice?

The argument is flawed. Someone who has been proclaimed president or vice president 10 days ago is only a president-elect or a vice president- elect, and not yet an impeachable officer who may be subjected to impeachment; he may be subjected to quo warranto only.

More flawed analogies
Outside of Tijam’s extended ponencia, a distinguished advocate argues that supposing the President appoints an incompetent bar flunker as chairman of the Commission on Elections, will he Supreme Court be prevented from hearing a quo warranto petition against him or her? The construction is materially flawed.

In the case of the hypothetical Comelec chair, the language of Constitution is precise: the President shall nominate, and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint a chair of the Comelec. If in spite of this screening process an incompetent bar flunker is appointed as Comelec chair, then the Commission on Appointments should be held accountable, if not the President himself.

Tijam’s ponencia argues that when Article XI, Section 2 of the Constitution says, “The President, the Vice President, and the Members of the Supreme Court, the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, and the Ombudsman may be removed from office, on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” the use of the word “may” means quo warranto action may be used against an impeachable officer. The word “may” denotes discretion and admits of an alternative mode of effecting an impeachable officer’s removal, the ponencia says; ergo, quo warranto action is authorized.

Non sequitur
The word “may” simply means that the officers so named who all have a fixed term of office may still be removed on impeachment for, and conviction of, specific crimes, with the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court. If the Constitution had meant to authorize their removal by quo warranto, on grounds lesser than those required for impeachment, it would have said so categorically and clearly. And it would have specified the number of votes needed to nullify an impeachable officer’s right to his office. But the Constitution did not and does not.

Balderdash
Much of Tiijam’s ponencia is balderdash. We may be able to overlook that offense, except that unless the abominable ruling is changed, there would be no appeal from it. We are sure to enter a period of legal chaos. The people will have to judge the justices. Physical challenges to political authority will rise, even the physical safety of justices could be at risk. And some people may want to apply the quo warranto reasoning of the eight justices on the moral, intellectual and mental fitness of our strongman-president. The withdrawal of allegiance by the military to their Commander in Chief may no longer be a taboo subject.

I did not see the puffed-up faces of the justices as they pronounced their verdict. But their ruling transported me, as I said in the beginning, to an eerie world where I saw their corrupted bodies curled on the wreckage of our Constitution and the Supreme Court while an all-powerful judge pronounced his sentence on our mortal justices. Clearly it was a fantasy, or a trance. But I suspect my conscience was trying to assure me that despite the obscene hosannas from the rented crowds and the lack of offended justice from the various faiths and the constitutionally upright, no one gets away with an injustice as gross and as life-threatening as this. In the end, justice will have to be restored. As Christians and as Filipinos, we have to believe in it. We will have to work on it.

IN MEMORIAM. I was deeply saddened to learn that while I was on a brief trip abroad, my dear friend, the National Artist for literature Cirilo F. Bautista passed away after a lingering illness at 76. He was a poet par excellence and was richly loved both for himself and for his poems. We first met at the University of Santo Tomas where, as literary editor of the Varsitarian, I had the privilege of publishing his prize-winning poems. He was already a giant oak presiding over a forest of gentle saplings even then. Some of his best Varsitarian friends had preceded him on this journey home—Benjamin Afuang, Ophelia Dimalanta, Bayani Mendoza de Leon, and Jose “Papen” Flores. I ask the gentle reader to pray for the repose of their souls. Thank you very much.

Former Senate President Edgardo Angara, 83, joined his Maker yesterday morning after a heart attack. Details about his wake and funeral arrangements will be announced later. Let’s pray for him. Thank you very much.

Published in News
Friday, 11 May 2018 16:59

Hanoi to Beijing: Pull out missiles

Vietnam has requested China to withdraw its weapons from disputed territory in the South China Sea, while security experts have urged the Philippine government to upgrade the country’s defenses in the Spratly archipelago in response to China’s militarization of the strategic waterway.

“Vietnam requests that China, as a large country, show its responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea, do not carry out militarization activities, withdraw military equipment illegally installed on features under Vietnam’s sovereignty,” international news agencies on Wednesday quoted Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang as saying in a statement on Tuesday, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea.

The statement came after US news network CNBC reported on May 2 that China had installed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three Philippine-claimed reefs in the Spratly archipelago that it had seized and transformed into artificial islands then developed into military outposts—Kagitingan (international name: Fiery Cross), Zamora (Subi) and Panganiban (Mischief).

“Vietnam is extremely concerned about the information [as reported] and reaffirms that all militarization activities, including the installation of missiles on Spratly islands, is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Hang said.

China has earlier deployed similar weapons on Woody Island, the biggest feature in the Paracels archipelago farther to the north that Vietnam considers part of its territory.

No word yet from PH

While Vietnam has protested China’s missile deployment in the disputed waterway, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to say what it intends to do about the installation of high-tech weapons on Philippine territory.

Several lawmakers have urged the Duterte administration to protest the missile deployment, but presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has said the government has yet to verify the information because it does not have the technology to do so.

The government, however, is acquiring equipment that will enable it to verify the missile deployments, Roque told reporters on Tuesday.

China has neither confirmed nor denied the installation of weapons on the three Philippine reefs.

The Philippines’ defense treaty ally, the United States, warned that China would face “consequences” over its militarization of the strategic waterway.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said “China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defense facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security.”

Naval battles

Vietnam and China have fought naval battles over their conflicting claims in the South China Sea, while the Philippines has taken—and beaten—China to the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to resolve their own maritime dispute.

But instead of asserting the Philippines’ legal victory, the President, who came to power shortly before the tribunal handed down the decision in July 2016, mended fences with China and wooed the economic giant for aid, loans and investments.

China pledged to give the President billions of dollars in investment and aid. Beijing then proceeded to develop its military outposts on Philippine territory, which was discovered with the Inquirer’s publication of surveillance photos in February and April showing nearly finished bases with airstrips, at least one with two military transport planes on the tarmac.

Alarmed at the Duterte administration’s lack of initiative, lawmakers have called for legislative inquiries into China’s actions in the South China Sea.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday called for a meeting of the National Security Council to tackle China’s deployment of missiles on Philippine territory.

“If up to now the government still has not confirmed the presence of a foreign country’s missiles [on three] of our islands, we may have a serious national security problem. Convening the National Security Council is the least that we should do, given the situation,” Lacson said in a statement.

‘Be not timid’

Security experts also urged the administration to upgrade the country’s outposts in the Spratlys, after the Inquirer reported that the Philippines has been left behind by its rivals in development of their claims in the South China Sea.

“It is not fair to our [troops at] hardship posts in [the Spratlys] that the government is hardly upgrading our facilities there, yielding to China’s objections,” former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said on Wednesday.

The Philippines has stopped developing its outposts in the Spratlys to keep a 2002 claimants’ agreement  to maintain the status quo in the South China Sea.

But Golez said the government was “overdoing” its “act not to antagonize China by not reinforcing” the country’s defenses in the Spratlys.

Golez cited Vietnam’s development of its defenses in the South China Sea, saying Hanoi has demonstrated that “a good defense capability buildup is not incompatible with a vibrant economy.”

Despite past violence in their maritime dispute, Vietnam and China maintain economic ties, though Hanoi continues to oppose Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea, Golez said.

“The message: Be not timid in facing China,” he said.

‘For greater survivability’

Defense analyst Jose Antonio Custodio said the Philippines’ defenses in the Spratlys must be improved “to allow for greater survivability” in case of “any eventuality such as hostile incidents or even natural calamities.”

“Now, given that China has upped the ante by deploying missiles [on Philippine territory in the Spratlys], it becomes imperative to increase our defenses,” Custodio said.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said upgrading the Philippines’ outposts in the Spratlys could serve a “symbolic purpose.”

“[It’s] demonstrating resolve even in the face of China’s intimidation. To do nothing would be to signal that we concede the South China Sea to China,” Batongbacal said. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and the wires



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At least 46 unfinished housing projects for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) are facing cancellation due to various defects, the National Housing Authority (NHA) said on Wednesday.

These projects comprise the bulk of 53 contracts which the NHA has sought to cancel, NHA spokesperson Elsie Trinidad said.

“All these 46 [projects] remain unfinished due to [problems in] deployment of resources such as manpower and supplies. Others have incurred negative slippage of more than 15 percent,” she said.

Under the government procurement law, no project should incur a delay of more than the 15-percent slippage rate.

‘Legal action’

Marcelino Escalada Jr., NHA general manager, announced on Tuesday that he cancelled 20 housing contracts for various defects, and issued notices of termination to 33 other projects across the country.

“We are not only investigating the developers; we are also looking … if there are NHA employees who are also involved [in the irregularity]. If it turns out that they are, then we will also be filing the necessary legal actions,” said lawyer John Christopher Mahamud, Escalada’s chief of staff.

Mahamud said the NHA reactivated a fact-finding committee to look into the liability of contractors, as well as NHA personnel.

He said contractors for the 33 other projects were issued notices requiring them to explain the causes of delay, and justify why their projects should not be cancelled.

“We are working [to have] these contractors blacklisted,” Mahamud said, adding that the NHA was also aware that many contractors escaped liability by hiding under a different company name, or engaging in joint ventures.

The government embarked on a massive rehabilitation work for survivors of Yolanda, after it hit the Philippines in November 2013 and rendered homeless thousands of families in the Visayas.

Project sites

NHA records showed the government was trying to construct houses in 119 project sites spread across the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Leyte, Easter Samar, Samar, Biliran and Palawan, and Tacloban City.

Of the 205,128 units that the NHA had targeted to build, only 92,088 had been completed. However, only 59,420 units had been occupied, according to records from the housing agency.



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Published in News
Wednesday, 09 May 2018 14:52

Duterte Doctrine revisited

LAST year, I wrote an article about the President’s firing of the perceived corrupt and incompetent members of his official family. The manner of these high-profile dismissals, I declared then, could be the core hypothesis of DU30’s emerging “whiff of corruption” doctrine. He stated that he would “…not tolerate any corruption in his administration and he will dismiss from office any of his men (and women) who are tainted even by a ‘whiff of corruption’; and he is ready to sack any public officials even on a basis of false allegations of corruption.” (Inquirer.net, March 30, 2017)

This met with mixed reviews, but mostly positive ones, as the citizenry for the first time was being unusually initiated into the world of a foul-mouthed, no-nonsense president who will not tolerate deviant behavior in his administration – more so among his intimate circle of cabinet alter egos. Many suspended judgment on the acts of the President, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

DU30 has to date sacked a couple of hundred bureaucrats, majority of whose names were not made public by him, “to protect their families.” But we too are in the dark as to whether any formal investigations were conducted. They were simply ‘let-go’ from their posts.

I took exception to this presidential directive and I said then: “…the targets of these charges were not given ample time to prepare a reasonable defense; and they were not allowed to confront their accusers. But insidiously, the dismissals were done publicly putting to shame these alleged offenders without a measure of a prior face-saving mechanism. This public humiliation was a deliberate act by a President out to send a strong message to the bureaucracy, that the consequences of even a ‘whiff of corruption’ are immediate, deadly and total.” (The Manila Times, “Duterte Doctrine,” April 27, 2017)

I am revisiting my article as this is timely in light of a similar controversy just this month: the perceived anomaly involving Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo concerning the award of a P60 million contract to family members. The details will not be discussed here but only the general circumstances against the backdrop of the Duterte Doctrine. To all intents and purposes, Secretary Teo should have been summarily dismissed if the President were to be faithful to his actions in the past. On the other hand, if she were sensitive to the president’s quandary, or even possessing a semblance of delicadeza, she should spare the president embarrassment by resigning.

So, Mr. President, where is your vaunted political will? And will you execute your doctrine? If we still operate under a democratic system, you are not allowed to be arbitrary in your decisions.

But I am digressing. I am against both courses of action. I was against the Duterte Doctrine when it was applied against the erstwhile heads of the DILG and NIA. I am now also against dismissing Secretary Teo outright based on the same fallacious doctrine. As I wrote then, and I quote, “…the President must be subject to the minimum of fairness and the etiquette of dismissal, for no apparent reason than that the process is widely regarded as civilized behavior. But more importantly, there is a greater overarching principle that covers the conduct of the mighty, the powerful and the humble – the rule of law.

“In a democracy under which we claim we practice, prudent laws are its foundation and the glue that bind a civilized society. It is imperative that the laws laid down by government must be followed by all its citizens. The simplicity of the concept of the rule of law is oftentimes made complicated by those authorized to uphold it… allegations of transgressions (must) be investigated in a transparent manner by structures legitimately sanctioned. And the President by virtue of his ascendancy granted by the Constitution also has the primary guardianship of that Constitution conferred on him. He must therefore uphold its principles.

“From another standpoint, nations with weak leaders breed weak laws and will find themselves in a quagmire of corruption and lawlessness. Nations with prudent laws but governed by leaders void of political will to implement such laws may only cripple the primacy of the rule of law. But strong leaders with political will must understand that all are equal under the dominance of The Rule of Law; none above. President Rodrigo Duterte must aspire to be one of the latter.”

It is a well-known fact that the Deegong has personal ties with Secretary Teo’s family whose pro-Duterte brothers are well-entrenched in mass media with their own formidable public following. But this bond with the President must transcend the personal and familiar as the more important covenant with the citizenry has ascendancy.

But the Wanda Teo affair is just one of those that has of late been eroding this delicate pact with the people through DU30’s actuations.

Another disturbing episode is the case of Pompee la Viña’s dismissal as SSS commissioner for corruption. “Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the termination of La Viña was proof Duterte would not tolerate even just ‘one whiff of corruption’.” (Pia Ranada, Rappler, April 25, 2018)

As of last week, La Viña had received a new presidential appointment promoting him to the position of undersecretary at the DoT. It is likewise true that Usec La Viña was an original close comrade of candidate DU30.

Both Teo and La Viña, once appointed to their positions, were honored by DU30 with prerogatives, prestige and power, adding their own to it, to enable the president and them to do their task well. The sum of all these is the vaunted political capital of the president with a sustainability dependent largely on a fickle citizenry.

Secretary Teo must be investigated fairly and given her day in court. Undersecretary La Viña, who has already been dismissed from SSS, should not be allowed to assume his new position until he is first cleared of prior accusations.

The President’s covenant with the people is at best fragile and the wrong choice between personal ties and public good could have a deadly impact on the majesty of the office of the presidency and more importantly, the rule of law.

Published in LML Polettiques

China has assured the Philippines that it will come to its aid in the event of external threats, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“China said, ‘We will protect you. We will not allow the Philippines to be destroyed. We are just here and you can call for our help anytime,’” the President said in a speech in Davao City on Friday.

He criticized the United States, saying it would not protect the Philippines because it was afraid of war.

Help from China, Russia

The Philippines and the United States are defense treaty allies, but the President is distancing the Philippines from the United States because of US expressions of concern over the thousands of killings in his brutal war on drugs.

The President recalled how he decided to seek help from China and Russia after some American senators filed a bill that would block the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, as these could be used against Filipinos.

He thanked China and Russia for giving firearms to the Philippines without asking for anything in return.

“So to this day, China and Russia has not asked me for a single piece of paper or pencil in return. And I told them that I’m not ready to enter into military alliances because we have this pact with the US. If I have a treaty with them, I cannot enter into other treaties,” he said.

The President expressed doubt that the United States would come to the Philippines’ aid in the event of an external threat.

“If America helps us, which I doubt, they have missiles. But foot soldiers? America is allergic to that. They have lost so many wars … She’s not going to protect us,” he said.

The President lauded China and Russia for promising that they would be there for the Philippines should the need arise.

US commitment

“When you talk to China or Russia, they keep their word, ‘We will be there.’ This America, this Italy … They are afraid to die,” he added.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim renewed the US commitment to its alliance with the Philippines on Thursday following reports that China had landed military planes on Panganiban Reef and deployed antiship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on that reef, and Kagitingan and Zamora reefs—all Philippine-claimed features in the Spratly archipelago.

Kim vowed the United States would do “whatever we can” to protect the freedoms of navigation, overflight and commerce in the South China Sea, nearly all of which is claimed by China, including waters close to the shores of its rivals for territory in the strategic waterway—the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, ruling in 2016 on a challenge brought by the Philippines, declared China’s sweeping claim invalid and pronounced it in violation of the Philippines’ sovereign rights to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

China ignored the ruling and proceeded to develop military outposts on Philippine reefs in the Spratly archipelago.



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(Editor’s Note: The author is the chair of ADR Institute. He is a former secretary of foreign affairs and ambassador of the Philippines to the United States.)

The discovery of China’s deployment of missiles on three Philippine reefs in the Spratly archipelago is deeply concerning but not the least bit surprising.

If one has dealt with China, of certainty is the stark inconsistency between what is being declared and what is actually happening on the ground.

Regardless of Beijing’s commitment not to militarize the South China Sea, its methodical upgrading of military aspects on the artificial islands it has built on disputed reefs in the strategic waterway will surely and progressively continue.

In other words, the salami slicing proceeds as planned.

Threatening rivals

Notwithstanding the fact that the July 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in favor of the Philippines is now an integral part of international law, China will persist in flexing its muscles to threaten those who challenge its claim of sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea.

Former President Benigno Aquino III ensured that we had undertaken all possible means—both bilateral and multilateral—to achieve a political and diplomatic solution to no avail.

As a last resort, we pursued a legal track, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Filipino people.

When the arbitral outcome was announced during the beginning of President Duterte’s term, the whole world awaited what the Philippines could and would do.

Our new government unfortunately decided to manifest the softest diplomacy possible toward China by offering to shelve any discussions on the The Hague tribunal’s ruling.

Beijing’s calculated response was to advance as planned in further militarizing the artificial islands.

Foreign policy strategy

Since diplomacy is about reciprocity, with such a response, should there not be urgency in revisiting our foreign policy strategy?

To begin with, should we be accepting China’s unlawful expansion agenda as a fait accompli that renders us helpless?

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), what China has done and is continuing to do in the South China Sea is unlawful.

We should therefore start from there, and not end there. Ergo, we should start by not allowing ourselves to be bullied into a position of acquiescence.

Other options

We should also not allow ourselves to be directly threatened with war as the Chinese president had allegedly done with our President. The threat of the use of force is an outright violation of the UN Charter.

On the deployment of missiles, should we not immediately issue a note of protest in order to protect our legal position?

A host of other options is available to us with regard to the South China Sea.

Should we differentiate between the importance of “promised” benefits vs promoting national security?

Should we be showing greater appreciation for the support of traditional partners hoping that they can be galvanized multilaterally to convince China to adhere to what is lawful?

Should we be consulting regularly with acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to benefit from his wisdom, expertise and sound judgment on the South China Sea challenges?

Should we be studying recommendations on converting reclaimed islands into marine parks?

Should we be working with the UN General Assembly on how it can help in consolidating its members to promote international law, specifically Unclos?

Code of conduct

Should we be proactive in the development of the proposed code of conduct in the South China Sea, given that China will only agree to conclude such a code with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations when its expansion agenda will have been completed?

Further on the code of conduct, should we be mindful as well that China will use the code, if we allow them, to protect and preserve their unlawful gains in the South China Sea?

Should we conduct a national security summit to discuss these and other options to preserve the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Philippine republic?

Moreover, when will we consider further tasking the Department of Foreign Affairs officials, who are the best and the brightest in the government, to formulate other doable options?

Finally, we are a sovereign nation with a proud heritage of patriotism, of courage and of standing for what we believe is right in protecting our country, our families, our friends, and all our people.

We are opposed to war, as we should be. But we should endeavor to never allow ourselves to be bullied, not by any threatening potential aggressor, whoever that might be.

That is why there is every right and reason for us to reinforce ourselves even just to thoughtfully muster a minimum credible deterrence posture.

On this potential threat from the South China Sea, if we, for example, were to develop an arsenal of mobile ground missiles that could be strategically placed along the length of Palawan, this would send a message to anyone who may wish to do us harm. No matter how powerful the aggressor, at the very least, they must be prepared to suffer from us a bloody nose.



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