Lito Monico Lorenzana

Lito Monico Lorenzana

Thursday, 14 December 2017 07:54

Terrorists among us

PHILIPPINE independence was technically won by us after the second world war. This was meant to free the country from American tutelage. But after several decades of self-government, it became clear that having done away with our foreign colonizers, we substituted them with those from within. Certain segments of our citizenry always thought of this “independence” as fiction as over the years since 1946, a greater part of our people was still manacled to perpetual poverty brought about by policies that served the interests of the new masters—the emerging and thriving oligarchy that had begun to control both the economic and political levers of power. Thus, several types of peasant uprisings, foremost of which was the Hukbalahap insurrection came into the fore to free the farmers and the downtrodden from the shackles of injustice. All of them failed. But the seething anger within continued to boil until the appropriate time.


Thus, in 1968 a call for upheaval was heeded by an academic activist, Jose Ma. Sison (Joma) who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP); a year after, its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), was born.


It all began with a popular ideology, overlaid by a patriotic love to free the peasants from oppressive poverty and an idealistic young leadership. From an ember, the revolutionary fervor spread throughout. Six presidents have come and gone, each with a promise to solve the deep-rooted problems seeping into the country’s socio-economic and political fabric. Yet, the status quo prevailed.
The internecine war that ensued has resulted in thousands of deaths with a greater toll among civilians and innocent lives trapped in this madness. Today, the number of casualties continues to rise in the midst of yet another attempt at peace dialogue. But both sides have accused each other of duplicity. The conversation has deteriorated into the language of violence.


At this juncture, there can only be one end to this sordid narrative and both protagonists have staked their positions. The government on one end will require the total surrender of the communist rebels, with enticements to bring them back to the fold and quell insurgency thereafter. The revolutionary forces on the other hand, distrustful of government’s inducements has but one ultimate design and that is to take full control of government. Unable to arrive at a political solution, DU30 has of late employed a final gambit, one which the international community (the US and EU) unilaterally allowed itself years ago.
President Duterte recently declared the end of the peace talks with the CPP/NPA. Subsequently on December 5, 2017, he signed a proclamation formally declaring the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.


Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said this was because of the “continued violent acts of the CPP-NPA which sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace.” The terrorist tag kills any hope of negotiations and reconciliation with the CPP/NPA.


To recall, during the campaign, DU30 did a song and dance with this group, culminating in his dramatic televised call to Joma Sison, exiled in the Netherlands, offering to restart the peace talks. As a sweetener, he offered cabinet slots to the CPP once he was elected President. The Deegong became the darling of the Left and it reinforced his street cred as the candidate for the “masa.” He went on to capture the presidency. True to his word, three cabinet slots were reserved for the Left and top CPP/NPA leaders were freed from incarceration to participate in the peace negotiations abroad, at a huge discomfort to the Armed Forces which had shed blood in apprehending these prisoners. All of these moves by the PRRD were done to end the almost five decades of the communist insurgency.


Today, a year and half into his presidency, all bets are off.


The terrorist label is of course not entirely new. Back in August of 2002 the US listed the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization, followed by the European Union (EU). The Philippine government refused to tag them as terrorist as there was this hope of a real reconciliation. But over the years, the peace talks with the communists did not go forward and was instead eclipsed by the Bangsamoro peace talks. Also, it was seen that the CPP/NPA Maoist ideology was losing traction and the CPP/NPA had been reduced to acts of brigandage.


Earlier, with the euphoric start of the peace talks in Europe, it was obvious that the central leadership based in the Netherlands were not in control of the local CPP/NPA as sporadic attacks and the extortionate acts continued unabated while peace negotiations were going on.


With the recent government declaration, Joma is putting up a brave face saying that the terrorist tag means nothing. But it is undeniably a most shameful conclusion to their years of armed struggle. On top of this, the implications for their international standing and the sources of their funding could be damaging. The terrorist declaration by the government freezes and forfeits the property or funds of those designated as terrorist organizations; their support from China ended in 1976; and their various fund-raising activities in Europe have dried up following the 1990 collapse of communist regimes worldwide.


The CPP/NPA principally finances itself now by exacting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses, offering the latter “protection,” and by selling “campaign permits” to candidates for elective positions campaigning in the hinterlands. Worse still is their collusion with corrupt police and military personnel selling them small firearms and ammunition.


Ideologically, they have become irrelevant. They have been reduced to mere banditry. Impending arrest also awaits the communist leaders from abroad who may be repatriated to the country.


The implications on the peace and order situation in the entire country could still be deadly. The CPP/NPA is by far not a spent force. They still have the means to wreak havoc in the countryside and still capable of spilling blood and treasure of the Armed Forces and government. The Deegong’s job is up his alley—decapitate its leadership and those remaining few.


We are in for a tumultuous Christmas holidays and beyond. God help us!
Thursday, 07 December 2017 09:44

Aftermath of Nov. 30 non-revgov

“We need a radical change in government. We did not go into a revolutionary government. I don’t want it. Only when everything is turning upside down. Maybe. Hindi nakikinig ang mga gago eh! Bakit ako maghanap ng sakit ng ulo.”
—President Duterte,
Anti-Corruption Summit
November 28, 2017, PICC


TWO days after the President’s pronouncements, the November 30 nationwide orchestrated red-uniformed mass action agitating for a revolutionary government pushed through, albeit with pathetically small crowds, perhaps due to the non-support and dire warnings of the President.


In the aftermath of these demonstrations, two portents made themselves clear: first, the zealots, the fist-pumpers and the DDS will not be inhibited by the DU30 statement ostensibly sidelining revgov from the political conversation and will persist at self-hype to continue to raise expectations. And for the deprived masses expectations are a contagion.


Psychology of the rabble
Second, the mob fired up by social media has acquired a mind of its own and will continue to push beyond the limits of discretion. And when it reaches critical mass, if ever, even the President may not be able to hold them back. The mobs of the French revolution of 1789 and the Bolshevik’s in 1917, come to mind. Although the social and political fabric during those times were different from what we have now, still, the character and psychology of the rabble is essentially the same.


The buzz on the street among the fist-pumpers and the DDS is that the November 30 demonstrations were just a foretaste of what’s to come, in obvious defiance of DU30.This dangerous and unthinking horde has thrown an arrogant challenge to the presidency: “…the people have spoken, now the ball is in your court”!


In our defective democracy, it is a given that a minority however loud and insufferable, deluding itself to be speaking for ‘the people,’ has the right to be heard; but this frustration-fueled moves, bordering on despair, may prove to be a siren’s song to ruin, instead of a real restructuring of Philippine society, initially through constitutional revisions. The true-believers by their engagements have unwittingly posed a dilemma to the Deegong: ignore the challenge of declaring a revgov and risk their wrath; or accept it and throw the country to the unknown.


It doesn’t take rocket science to predict that the Deegong will not kowtow to the demands of those that he has now labeled “mga gago eh!” These people assumed too much by their dare, “…now the ball is in your court!” The Deegong is simply not playing their game.
Ambiguous language
But PRRD could be partly to blame as he injected into this cauldron a certain ambiguity to his language that the unthinking mob misinterprets as a veiled invitation analogous to a moth attracted to the flame.


Thus, the body language of the PRRD are now interpreted by both the pros and cons to favor a revgov declaration; the former, out of euphoria, the latter out of fear. With this emerging scenario, some critical questions need to be answered. What legal or legitimate mechanism is being exploited to camouflage a revgov decision, one that will allow a sitting president of a state he has been gifted to head, to declare that same state, illegitimate? An interpretation of Hobbes overarching social contract demands an authorizing legal mechanism lest the triumph of DU30’s revgov simply anoints PRRD as a dictator, with the concomitant spilling of blood.


If revgov is declared, will the Armed Forces rally to him or stick to its sworn allegiance to a Constitution, however defective that document may be? Will the MNLF/MILF/CPP-NPA just stand by? The “voxpopuli, voxdei” argument won’t wash. But more importantly, will the silent majority of Filipinos, even those level-headed supporters of PRRD, back up the initiative?


The “sea of reds” before their next rallies needs to paint workable scenarios to the public, before the majority buys in.


Revolutionary government is the raison d’être to fast-track the legitimate desire of a large portion of the Filipino population to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, injustice and a host of problems now identified as a product of an anomalous and perverted oligarchic-driven unitary system of governance. A prescription to these ailments is the revision of the 1987 Constitution and a shift to a parliamentary-federal form of government, one that candidate Duterte championed, which catapulted him to power. A large majority now is calling in that promise. But the Senate and House, the traditional bastion of oligarchic interests, are proving to be a formidable hindrance to the people’s interest. Thus, revgov is seen as the tool to break that impasse.


But this is a solution that calls for the anointing of a leader with powers that has spelled disaster to our people. And the argument that revgov is meant to be temporary until the Constitution is revised and the transition to federal-parliamentary system is in place, is at best polemical. Be mindful of Lord Acton’s counsel on the corrupting influence of power.


Storm the citadel
The mob needs to redirect its attention towards the principal obstacle and stumbling block to constitutional revisions – Congress, especially the obstinate Senate. As expressed in my previous columns: “There has to be a constitutional and legal way to break the impasse and crack the hold of an impudent (Senate) minority on the body politic. In a democratic system, negotiations are the norm to arrive at an agreement and a win-win solution between parties with divergent and oftentimes contradictory interests. Surely, we need no revgov to have these august members of the Senate see the Deegong’s way through.”


The efforts by the zealots to involve the president and the whole country in a questionable and illegal endeavor are best redirected towards the storming of this citadel of oligarchic interests. With their numbers and allies within, “persuasion, pressure and intimidation” are tools best suited to this type of engagement, not rallies and street marches – and thus leave DU30 free to govern the country as he sees fit.


As in a festering cancer, what is required is only a surgical operation to alienate and remove the tumor to save the body politic. As the tired saying goes: Think, people, think, outside of the box!
Thursday, 30 November 2017 08:14

The final solution?

THE title does not refer to the Jewish pogroms that started in the Middle Ages in Europe which culminated in the Nazi extermination policies that brought on the Holocaust. It refers to an attempt at a “final solution” to the exasperation of the Filipino people with the slow pace of change promised by DU30’s battlecry “Pagbabago.” By the time this column comes out today, November 30, the Philippines could be in the cusp of another upheaval, a revolutionary government (“revgov”), that the DDS and the fist-pumpers have been working for weeks to entice PRRD to declare. I don’t think this will happen today. The Deegong is much wiser and more politically astute than his partisans who assume that the 16 million people who voted for him and the core of the 80 percent that has sustained PRRD’s popularity – that all have one prescription to solve this country’s ills.


Many of us who support DU30 agree on the causes of the pervasive frustration resulting in our government’s perceived stasis. But we differ in the solutions. As a blue-blooded parliamentary-federalist, I am also aghast at the recalcitrance of the Congress to work on the revision of the 1987 Constitution, this oligarch-influenced document that has reinforced the systemic perversions of the unitary system of governance in the lives of the Filipinos for a hundred years.


PRRD mentioned “revgov” as simply a threat, a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the “yellows,” the CPP-NPA-NDF and the Islamic radicals who are suspected of plotting to topple his government. But he toned down this language when the Armed Forces itself disputed this statement. But the zealots have picked this up as a clarion call to gather the true believers for a show of force today, November 30. Assuming that PRRD were to declare a “revgov,” would he telegraph his punches and join the mob today?


He is the undisputed constitutional leader of this country; although elected by a mere plurality, he has gained majority support to date. So, the zealots introduced another argument: declare a revGov similar to what President Cory did in 1986. Their argument goes this way: President Corg was elected President and sworn in by CJ Davide but she subsequently declared a revolutionary government. This could be the template for PRRD.


Columnist John Nery in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (“Newsstand,” November 21, 2017) pointed out that that the Deegong had already raised this question in August 2015 – long before he declared his candidacy; and reiterated the same in August 2017. Nery proceeded to argue that PRRD then and his cohorts now have a faulty reading of history. I quote: “Corazon Aquino was brought to power by a revolution…that repudiated the rigged election results called under the 1973 (Marcos) Constitution; she replaced it with (the 1987 Constitution). That’s why – and how – in her first year in office she presided over a revolutionary government.”


Senate President Koko Pimentel opined further: “Marcos was also sworn in at the same time as Cory. But because of the Edsa People Power Revolution booting out Marcos, Cory won. The 1973 Marcos Constitution was in effect null and void.” Cory issued Proclamation No. 3 establishing a revolutionary government and promulgated the provisional 1986 Freedom Constitution. She exercised powers until the 1987 Constitution was ratified.


But in an article in the Mindanao Times on November 24, columnist Chito Gavino, claiming superior political knowhow but alien to the nuances of other alternatives, offers the argument that revgov could be “done in a democratic way, meaning ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’.” Enchained to a linear progression of “problems-frustrations-therefore, revgov,” he employs tired old clichés as a backdrop for another upheaval, one that will inveigle the President into declaring a coup d’état against himself.


In short, he claims that the November 30 gathering calling for a revgov is “vox populi, vox dei”; condemning the people to yet another protracted “vox silentium,” akin to the earlier years of the Marcos dictatorship.


The President is a good lawyer and recognizes that Cory’s was not a precedent and will not declare a “revgov” under these circumstances. Yet, his devotees would have him stake his neck and the harsh judgment of history in an illegal and irresponsible adventure. I am myself exasperated, but the proposed “revgov” cure can be deadlier than the disease. We need to help the President see his way clear through this and not pander to his vulnerable passions and rhetoric. So, what then are our alternatives?


Let’s put the problems squarely where they are now. The onus for the revision of the 1987 Constitution rests on the two houses of Congress, but more so the Senate; and the futility of the mode of changing the Constitution – by Congress deciding to vote as one, or separately, to get the three-fourths for a constitutional amendment or revision. The math in favor of constitutional revisions is indeed formidable. The Senate, headed by PDP Laban party-mate Koko Pimentel boasts of its support for PRRD. Yet, the committee on constitutional revisions is chaired by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the LP president, the protector of the 1987 Constitution. He is holding hostage the future of this Republic and the next few generations. With him are Senators Bam Aquino, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros. This is unacceptable. There has to be a constitutional and legal way to break the impasse and crack the hold of an impudent minority on the body politic. In a democratic system, negotiations are the norm to arrive at an agreement and a win-win solution between parties with divergent and oftentimes contradictory interests. Surely, we do not need a “revgov” to have these august members of the Senate see the Deegong’s way through?


But where is the vaunted political will of PRRD? The kind of sense of purpose that allowed “tokhang” to arrest the proliferation of the illegal drug menace and stop in their tracks the Parojinogs, the Espinosas etc.? But have we exhausted all efforts at negotiation? Have we closed the avenues for compromise, and the application of threats and pressure as legitimate tools, when necessary?


Do we need to spill blood that is sure to ensue in a “revgov” because of the obduracy of a few people? Why involve the whole country? Do you use a hammer to exterminate a fly? Can the President not do a surgical operation? These are templates worth looking into. Let’s all think through these alternatives and crowdsource specific solutions in social media where truly the “vox populi” can be heard.
Thursday, 23 November 2017 09:23

Cha-cha is running out of time

LOOKING back these past 16 months, the euphoria of the 16 million or so voters that catapulted DU30 to power shows some signs of fading. Those who are in social media will see the deepening divide between the exuberant “DDS and the Yellows,” and the Duterte fist pumpers vs the PNoy loyalists.


Normally, after every national election there is a healing process that allows tempers to subside, the licking of wounds and the grudging acceptance of the ascendant winning brand, thereby letting the rest of the populace go on with their ordinary lives.


Sixteen months into his presidency, DU30’s projection of his alpha-male personality, his earthy language and the variation of the same cantata—“I will kill you if you destroy my people”—has morphed into a tedious broken-record of a sonata. These are reinforced by the heightened anxiety of the citizenry: over the daily killings brought about by “tokhang”; the worsening traffic in the capital; the disruptions of the MRT that of late have turned bizarre with the loss of a passenger’s limb; televised exchange of insults by the “august members of the Senate”; endless congressional hearings on corruption. The list goes on.


President Duterte’s actuations and exceptional performance in the Asean and APEC summits are mitigating factors, if indeed sustainable. But judging by his past attempts at being presidential, I have my doubts. So, I arrive at some conclusions which are personal assessments based on decades of experience in several levels of governance with four administrations.


My first hypothesis is, the ways things are going now—there will be no political reforms.


From the time the Deegong assumed power, he has been glued to his first election promise of eliminating illegal drugs that for him comprises the end-all of his peace and order agenda – on which he made himself an expert as mayor of Davao City. But early on, he had to confess that the problem was actually much bigger than he thought.


The economy admirably showed robust growth and the stock market has seen new heights, but these don’t matter with the greater masses of our poor. The trickle-down effect will have to be given time to reach the masses.


Commendably, the Deegong has reoriented our foreign relations and exacted rewards from China, Japan and our other rich neighbors with loans hopefully to be used for infrastructure – critical basic ingredients for the country’s industrialization.


But the economic growth and foreign sorties putting the Deegong in the international limelight are at best fickle as shown by the siege in Marawi.


The Marawi siege is but one of the many symptoms of the systemic problems hounding the country for centuries that needs attention; social justice, good governance, political reforms and the longing of a people for autonomy and self-governance. But some of our policymakers have been deluded enough to declare its immediate cause as “illegal drugs driven”.


The resolution to the multi-faceted problems of the country is very much contingent on the solution to the Moro problem in Mindanao, with the passing of the BBL being merely the first step to a sustainable peace. Muslim autonomy and the revision of the Constitution are the sine qua non for genuine systemic and systematic political reforms. But we are no longer sure what is happening to these initiatives.


My second hypothesis is—the lingering perception that DU30 has “dropped the ball on federalism.”


A major part of the exuberance of the 30 percent that propelled Duterte to power was his vaunted agenda for federalism, the system change that will emancipate the periphery from the center and allow their development as they see fit. Many of the federalists gathered round his banner and with only their enthusiasm propelling them, went to the provinces spreading the gospel of federalism—but in many tongues and sometimes contradictory nuances. Fortunately, a few groups like the president’s political party, the PDP Laban, the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP) and some adherents codified the important concepts and are now being debated in a more disciplined manner in and outside of Congress.


Therein lies the complexity. While the House has slowly started public hearings and has come up with its own proposals, some of which are self-serving (making all provinces federal states; protecting political dynasties), the Senate, with their constant bickering and TV-driven public inquiries, has not taken the first step on Charter revisions. Without the Senate’s concurrence, Charter change will not happen!


The President, whose political party nominally controls both houses, has not been able to move the debate. Last December, an executive order was issued establishing a 25-man commission to study and propose political changes in the constitution. A year has passed. It has not been constituted.


The President has declared that passing the BBL should come first before the creation of the commission, and he wants the two major Muslim insurgencies, the MILF and MNLF, to agree on the final structure of their desired autonomous state or territory. On the other hand, the Senate leadership has intimated that the commission must first be constituted so they can assess the thrust of the President’s agenda on the shift to a parliamentary-federal system. This chicken and egg scenario is what stymies the revision of the Constitution. And this is further complicated by the alliances and substructure within Senate itself. The committee on constitutional revisions is headed by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, the Liberal Party leader who has shown disdain for amending the Constitution.


The President’s party is dominant in both houses of Congress, and he wields enormous power. Yet the administration agenda is not moving at a desired pace. There is definitely something wrong here. And the growing frustration of the President’s allies may entice them to inject their own dangerous agenda into these dynamics to break the impasse – either legitimately or otherwise.


Next week: A final solution?
Thursday, 16 November 2017 07:09

IS in the Philippines

Part 2 – Marawi aftermath
THE Islamic extremist leaders in the battle of Marawi—Isnilon Hapilon of IS and the Maute brothers Omarkhayam Romato and Abdullah of Dawlah Islamiya—were sent posthaste by the police Special Forces to Jannah with its 72 virgins (for each). But like the multi-headed Hydra of Greek mythology, once chopped off, more heads will regrow; and the current “Caliph” of IS in the Middle East, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has many candidates to choose from.


It is estimated that from 2013, 40,000 jihadists from 120 countries joined IS in Iraq and the civil war in Syria. What is disturbing is the approximately 1,000 Southeast Asian, including some from the Philippines, who trained and fought in these arenas. We don’t know how many were killed, but as IS is crushed in these wars and continues to lose territories, especially after the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, these highly trained and motivated jihadists with their deadly skills are returning to their countries.


The ascendancy of IS and the decline in influence of al-Qaida saw the transfer of allegiance by countless terrorist groups to the former. Among them was the Abu Sayyaf (ASG), founded by Abdurajak Janjalani. After his death in 1998 and a series of assassinated successors, the ASG pledged allegiance to IS in 2014. Fighting for an independent Islamic State in Mindanao, it struck an alliance with the Dawlah Islamiyah of the Maute brothers to establish a foothold in Marawi.


In the Marawi siege, Philippine intelligence reports said that approximately 500 jihadists joined the battle, of which 80 were thought to be foreign fighters. About a dozen of the dead were identified as coming from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Chechnya, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia. These survivors from Marawi could apply their murderous skills in other parts of the country. They could regroup and may not be able to do an encore in Marawi, but they could wreak havoc on communities all over the country like Cotabato, Zamboanga, Basilan and the Sulu provinces. What could be replicated are bomb-making skills and placement of improvised explosive devices (IED) and suicide bombers; both were applied with devastating effect against the US led-coalition armies in Iraq. God help us if the same is employed in our cities and populated areas like Metro Manila.


But how did our country decline to this condition where the Islamic radicals are threatening to dictate their lethal agenda?


Our relations with our Muslim brothers go back centuries. The Crescent Moon and the Star came to the Philippines long before the Cross and the Sword of the Catholic faith were planted in our shores. Predominant in the south, the Moros resisted the Spanish conquistador for centuries, along with the subsequent American and Japanese intrusions. In effect, the Muslims were never a “conquered people.” But the enduring unresolved disputes involved the encroachments of the dominant “Christians” and the other “lowlanders” into their domain, constricting the Moros and their faith into pockets of territories, confined mostly within Mindanao.


Redress of these grievances centered on the economic, political, and cultural marginalization of the Moro,s were never seriously addressed by the Christian-dominated central government until the advent of the separatists Moros elevated the political and economic discourse through the articulate language of violence. From the Kamlon Rebellion in Sulu to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), wars were intermittently fought. But over the decades, the shortsightedness of a highly centralized government exacerbated these conflicts, culminating in President Erap’s “all-out war” that resulted in an ever-escalating mindless quid pro quo of blood for blood.
These conflicts are no longer just confined to the Philippines although the solutions should have been characteristically Filipino. These centuries-old injustices were cloaked and turned deadly with the passionate divergences in faith and culture. Samuel Huntington succinctly describe this in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. He wrote: “The most important distinctions among peoples are no longer ideological, political or economic. They are cultural. New patterns of conflict will occur along the boundaries of different cultures and patterns of cohesion (and) will be found within cultural boundaries”.


What at first was a countrywide Philippine problem could not simply be bottled up within national boundaries. It has broken out and taken on regional dimensions permeating Southeast Asia and beyond. Like that of the Middle East and the Levant, violence is a cancer that has metastasized.


Tomas Sanford reports: “Many conditions and features in Southeast Asia enable terrorism and insurgency: socioeconomic strain, sectarian friction, small groups of influential religious conservatives, radical ideologies, large archipelagoes and porous borders, preexisting insurgencies, jihadi veterans, permissive immigration rules, and flexible and informal funding networks. And unlike the 1990s and the early 2000s, social media is now everywhere, allowing for easy communications, recruitment, and financial transactions.”


But there are also mitigating factors that the DU30 government has in its favor. The two major separatist groups, the MILF and MNLF, with their weapons on stand-down. are assuming a “wait and see” posture and divining the body language of the Deegong government on the moves towards the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will provide the Muslims a modicum of autonomy in a federal set-up. On the international stage, the Muslim community rejected and condemned terrorist attacks all over the world: the Bali, Indonesian bombing perpetrated by the Jemaah Islamiyah was one example.


But patience of even the majority moderate Muslims is running short. What we saw in Marawi are “the consequences of a failure of the Philippine government negotiations with Moro insurgents and the growing IS presence across the region—and ones that may be repeated across this large and restive region. ISIS could come to see this as its primary, extra-regional destination as its fortunes continue to tumble in the Middle East and North Africa.” (Anderson)


Before his report to the House committee of foreign affairs’ subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the US Congress, Thomas Anderson came up with his conclusion, and I agree with him.


“The violence in Marawi is a stark warning of a convergence of several troublesome factors, including an expanding, insurgent-minded IS, radical ideologies, poor (and violent) governance, highly stressed communities, returning and regional foreign fighters, accessible funding, criminal activity, and adept use of social media.”


And I might add, we can’t allow the Islamic radicals to arrogate unto itself the initiative to settle the Philippine agenda. Marawi’s rehabilitation will be the country’s focus in the coming months. If it goes the way of the “Yolanda-Haiyan” template, Deegong may as well forget about the BBL, his federalism legacy, and kiss his hold on power goodbye.


This article borrows from the testimony of Thomas Anderson, Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS); and the book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan; and Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations”.
Thursday, 09 November 2017 12:35

IS in the Philippines

Part 1 – Genesis of IS
IN the afternoon of May 23, 2017, a joint police and military operation was conducted to serve a warrant of arrest on the terrorist Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), in what was thought to be merely a walk in the park. A heavy firefight ensued. National security adviser Hermogenes Esperon declared that “the AFP was in full control of the situation.” This was echoed by Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Año. This was not true! The government forces were clueless. That same evening, the IS flag was flying over parts of Marawi, considered the Philippines’ only Islamic city. It was a total failure of intelligence. DU30 cut short his Moscow state visit and declared martial law in the entire island of Mindanao.

Facts intermittently filtered out through the haze of battle. The Maute, a small terrorist group headed by two brothers led a series of attacks upon the failure of government to arrest Hapilon. This was a different ball game being played by the terrorists as they have shifted strategy; from the usual kidnap-for-ransom (KFR), extortion and bombings to an all-out control of territory. The same strategy the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (IS) employed in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. The Maute and ASG combined under the leadership of Hapilon was to establish a caliphate in Marawi under the “Emir” Hapilon. This is the first major incident that saw the emergence of the IS. It was obvious that they have been preparing for months, digging tunnels between houses and buildings and stocking up on guns, ammunition, logistics and even cash.

The government was caught flatfooted and this exacted a terrible toll. Marawi was devastated almost beyond recognition and would take months if not years to rehabilitate costing billions of pesos: 168 military personnel gave up their lives; thousands of “collateral damage” of dead civilians; and hundreds of thousands more displaced Marawi residents called “bakwit.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated, from the terrorists’ influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte proclaimed on October 17, the 148th day of the Marawi fighting. This prompted former President PNoy to later gloat, comparing statistics. The Mamasapano encounter, on which Pnoy’s reputation was tattered, lasted 24 hours, exacted 44 lives of the Philippine Special Action Force (SAF) that went in to capture the terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir. No city was obliterated and there was minimal displacement of residents.

Al-Qaida and IS
According to a book co-written by US journalist Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, a Syrian political analyst, the pedigree of IS comes from various strains of faith-based Islamic groups, various terrorist fundamentalists and nationalists of many shades coming from the Levant around the Mediterranean basin.

In the aftermath of al-Qaida’s September 11, 2001 attack on New York’s Twin Towers, America with its NATO allies decided to invade Afghanistan to capture Osama bin Laden and destroy his al-Qaida network. They failed but toppled the terrorist’s sponsor, the Taliban government. Subsequently, a US-led coalition in 2003 invaded Iraq, the region’s sponsor of terrorist groups, although it was not involved in the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks, under the pretext that it had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the fear that it was going to farm these out to international terrorists like al-Qaida.

After the blitzkrieg invasion, Iraq was tragically managed by the conquering armies. The collapse of the Ba’athist government and the execution of President Saddam Hussein produced a vacuum that precipitated sectarian violence between the minority but politically dominant Sunni (Saddam was a Sunni) and the Shias. Saddam’s disappearance from the scene wreaked havoc on the fragile balance of political accommodation that for years had kept the peace between the two major Islamic strands. In the chaos, various Sunni, Shia and other ethnicities formed sectarian militias principally to protect families, clans and tribal interests against the others. The expulsion of the invading US-led Western “infidels, unbelievers and enemies of Islam” (jihad) was a common goal. But later, the appearance of a deadlier extremist Islamic jihadist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, working in tandem at first with Osama bin Laden, expanded Islamic extremism and reoriented their targets. IS champions Sunni minority in Iraq, the persecuted Sunni majority against the Alawite dictatorship in Syria and the encroachment of Russia, the Gulf States and the US, the Shias in Iran and “Iran’s satrapy in Baghdad.”

IS was bent on the elimination of national boundaries, redrawing the map and bringing back the 13th century idea of the Sunni-led caliphate of an Islamic empire “reaching Spain again and defeat the armies of Rome.” IS spokesman Abu Muhamad al-Adnani declared that killing disbelievers abroad, including Muslims allied with the West or against the Islamic State and salafism (irreconcilability of Islamic Faith with western-style democracy and modernity) are core tenets.

The two founders of these deadly Islamic extremist groups were both assassinated by the Americans; al-Zarqawi in 2006 through an F16 laser- guided 500-lb bomb and Osama bin Laden in 2011 by the Special Forces and Seal Team Six. They are now gone but they have spawned a coterie of zealots, a cancer that could metastasize worldwide by establishing franchises swearing their allegiance to IS.

The swift sacking of Mosul, a province in Iraq of two million, and Raqqa, a predominantly Sunni populated city in Syria, redirected the attention of the jihadists towards IS; which reflected the declining influence of al-Qaida’s brand and the ascendancy of IS. Also, Al-Zarqawi understood the power of the marriage of mass media and horror. Images of public televised beheading became the “de rigueur” in its propaganda and recruitment. These tools of terror were employed to establish a pattern for IS to hold territories and their people; although it held these areas only for three years (2014-2017), IS established a modicum of government administration extending public services and even health care for the remaining citizens. It was in Mosul that al-Zarqawi’s heir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed the birth of the Caliphate. But deadlier was the influx of foreign jihadists to Mosul and Raqqa to fight for IS. This was perhaps the IS template for future expansion of the Islamic Caliphate.

This loss in IS territories and the marked contraction of the caliphate produced an unintended chilling effect. Foreign jihadists (those from other Muslim countries outside of Iraq and Syria) heeding the call of the caliphate came in droves to train and fight in Iraq and Syria. The highly trained and motivated survivors may now have to use their deadly skills; skills to bomb, maim and kill, where it is needed most. A new battlefield—in a new country.

Among the dead jihadists in Marawi were those from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Chechnya, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia. (Part 2—IS in the Philippines—Marawi aftermath)                                                                                                                                                 
Thursday, 02 November 2017 08:44

To revgov or not to revgov

I AM ambivalent and uncomfortable with this idea of revolutionary government (revgov), having lived through one earlier in my career as a political technocrat; and whose effects have resonated negatively on the body politic even to this day. I’m afraid this could be another formula for disaster. Nothing less than the devil’s journey to perdition.


I am, however, conversant with the compelling arguments in favor of revgov. On one hand, the Deegong is running out of time on his campaign promises; that of dismantling or at least arresting the unyielding grip by the oligarchy on the economic lifeblood of the country that perforce leads to the seizure of the political levers of power. On the other is his perception that the tools granted him under the 1987 Constitution are too restrictive for one whose experience in governance thus far is to act impetuously ignoring the legal niceties.


And more importantly, his exasperation with the traditional republican democratic concepts of check and balance by Congress, many of whom are subservient to those that financed their assumption to power – the business interests and the oligarchy.


DU30 has been psyched by his sycophants that these arguments are enough to take a possible shortcut from the democratic processes and plunge the country into the unknown.


I sympathize with the frustrations of today’s young and the millennials on the slow pace of change– as the Deegong promised during his election campaign. After decades of stasis, Filipinos expect quick and immediate gratification from a populist leader. We had similar frustrations as “parliamentarians of the streets” during the Marcos regime and the subsequent short-lived revolutionary government of President Cory. But the conditions during those times compared with Deegong’s are both different, and paradoxically, similar.


In his book, “The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand Marcos,” William H. Overholt wrote: “Marcos introduced a series of wide-ranging reforms aimed at enhancing economic growth and social equality. He made huge investments to expand the nation’s infrastructure. He improved the laws on taxation and investment, reorganized the management of foreign investment rules, and promised to attract foreign investments and promote exports rather than persisting with import substitution.” Marcos’ early image was that of the benevolent strongman.


Furthermore, “[t]hrough various means, Marcos destroyed most of the old landed oligarchy that had dominated Philippine economic and social life since Spanish times. Marcos also reduced the Philippines’ traditional discrimination against its Chinese minority by providing them greatly increased access to formal citizenship and to participation in sectors of the economy formerly closed to them.”


Marcos, an elected two-term president, had the time to accomplish this. With the genius of foresight, he put in place the infrastructure for his eventual authoritarian rule. He dismantled decades-old political parties and established his ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). He clamped down on the press and the media. He emasculated the old oligarchy but replaced it with his own cronies. More importantly, he seeded the military with his handpicked men that allowed him to unleash his dogs of war from the barracks when he declared martial law.


But Filipinos’ early support for him eventually dissipated, exacerbated by his family’s extravagance and his minions’ abuse of power. Lord John Dalberg-Acton’s admonition caught up with him: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.


We helped usher in the Cory regime and booted Marcos out but along the way, the chameleon-like oligarchy simply changed colors. But the greater tragedy, looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, was that the revolutionary government, a gift by the people at EDSA, was rejected by Cory. Instead, she reverted to the creation of the 1987 Constitution, one which allowed the rejuvenation of the oligarchy and its continued hold on the country. Furthermore, the same systemic anomalies were embedded in the same traditional political dynamics similar to the pre- Marcos years.


In contrast to Marcos’ regime of almost two decades, PRRD has had only 15 months in office, although he has been flexing his muscles and practicing how to use his tools against the oligarchy (Bobby Ongpin, Lucio Tan, Rufino-Prieto and Mighty Cigarette capitulations, etc.). And his biggest weapon in his armory is the claimed support of the populace, the ordinary folk, the disenfranchised of society. But for how long can he hold on to them?


By definition, a revolutionary government is a “repudiation or overthrow of an established government by the governed; a radical and pervasive change in the social/political order, oftentimes accompanied by violence”(Wikipedia). But the Deegong already heads the established government. The PDP Laban, his political party has virtual control of the two houses of Congress. But the recent recalcitrance of the legislature, especially the Senate, may derail PRRD’s plan for charter revisions. Unless Senate President Koko Pimentel and Speaker Bebot Alvarez, his party lieutenants, deliver, they could sink PRRD’s agenda. Then the Deegong may be forced to play his last hand and declare a “coup d’etat on his own government,” castrating both houses of Congress.


But what would be his mechanism for a revgov declaration? “Vox populi, vox Dei,” this romantic principle is simply that – romantic, untranslated in the Constitution. He took out of the table the martial law option as this is limited and strictly defined and DU30 denigrates congressional review. Does he have the military holding his back? But more importantly, to get the majority of the people to buy into his revgov, can he convince the multitudes and guarantee the following:


– The elimination or at least weakening substantially the hold of the oligarchy on the economic and political levers of power;


– The critical and immediate reform of political parties differentiating them by platform of governance based on a set of ideology and penalizing “political turncoatism”;


– Enforce transparent mechanisms providing and regulating campaign financing to eliminate corruption and patronage, and implement a system of public financing for electoral exercises removing dependence of candidates on big contributors;


– The elimination of political dynasties (including his own family) through a self- executory provision in the Constitution; and


– All of these done through a systemic change beginning with the immediate revision of the1987 Constitution and putting in place a unicameral parliamentary and federal system of government.


If DU30 can pull this revgov off, there is the truism that nothing beats success like success. Then the words of the ancient Chinese politician Wen Jiao will come into play: “How do you dismount from the back of a tiger?”
Thursday, 26 October 2017 09:58

Anatomy of a scam

A YEAR has gone by since the famous DU30 profanity against Barack Obama and subsequent Philippine “pivot to China.” His declaration shocked the world, especially the US government, which was in the midst of a presidential campaign that also propelled an “outsider,” the Donald, to the “most powerful presidency” of the Western world.
The Deegong’s declaration of non-alignment, or “independent” foreign policy, was hailed by China in its win column. It is unfortunate that China’s own setback at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which rejected its 9-dash line claim to the South China Sea region, seems to have been reversed by the Philippines’ virtual acquiescence to everything that Beijing wants.


The Deegong, with the newfound confidence of a bit player in the global stage, proceeded to visit China with a historic full entourage of Cabinet men, business tycoons, well-connected bureaucrats and prospective Chinese middlemen contacts. Playing this role to the hilt, he subsequently declared “the Philippines, China and Russia together against the world.” Quite a number of Filipinos cheered with a vicarious thrill over this “global triumvirate.” We can only guess Xi Jinping’s and Vladimir Putin’s thoughts on this presumptuous pronouncement by an upstart “wannabee of a country” claiming a seat at the table with the superpowers. But they were the perfect hosts, leaving the Filipino entourage to cherish the moments as “legends in our own minds.”


On his triumphant return, the Deegong brought along goodies worth an estimated $24 billion consisting of two major parts.


• $9 billion, or about P450 billion, for some 40 proposed government-to-government, or G2G projects that have been proposed to be funded with loans from China; and
• $15 billion, or about P750 billion, for 27 proposed business-to-business, or B2B projects that will come from “direct investments” of Chinese companies in partnership with Philippine companies.


As a result, a new Philippine mantra has emerged: Build! Build! Build! The ambitious and unparalleled infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration could dramatically transform our landscape as these do not merely involve infrastructure but also transportation, agriculture, and inter-island bridge systems, and even energy and manufacturing. A memorandum of understanding and joint-venture agreements were signed for loans from China worth P1.2 trillion. It is estimated that about two million jobs will be generated. Not bad, for a four-day state visit.


But then, questions began to be asked.


In its excellent research, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism has identified Filipino parties involved in these deals. The information they have uncovered is rather disturbing. Twenty-two companies in the business-to-business deals have no track record in “doing big-ticket infrastructure projects”; and have inadequate operating capital and considerably small asset base. Two of the firms (Zonar Systems, MVP Global Infrastructure Ventures) only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission after they signed MOUs with their Chinese counterparts sometime in November 2016 and January 2017. These unknown companies with multi-million-peso deals (on paper) whose “name-droppable” principals were in the entourage of PRRD to China could thus be inferred as the new cronies, “friends of the administration”. Shades of the Marcosian prototype.


Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said the preferential interest rate has not yet been discussed as the Chinese do not want other countries to get jealous as it will be much lower. This is what a slick secondhand car salesman will tell you supposedly in confidence. But would you seriously want to borrow money from the bank and not discuss the interest rate?


I talked to several government and private potential business partners. Their response: the Chinese just love to sign MOUs here and MOAs there. And funds…are they in place? Nada.


These deals are simply not even in the pipeline. Which brought me to research similar deals in other countries. Sri Lanka was one of the underdeveloped countries that similarly arranged for Chinese loans. Over the years, China has provided Sri Lanka loans for infrastructure which include a deepwater port, airport and railway projects. One of these, the Hambantota deepwater port, was built with loans with interest rates of 6.3 percent per annum, compared to the World Bank’s and Asian Development Bank’s 0.25 to 3percent. Sri Lanka was unable to pay, forcing it to an onerous debt-to-equity conversion that gave Chinese firms 80 percent share (and profits, if any) of the port over the 99-year lease period. Similarly, Chinese firms took over operating and management control of the nearby Mattala Airport, also built with Chinese loans.


China’s intentions are also suspect as the Sri Lankan port and airport “provides Beijing with a strategic military position in the event of an Indian Ocean conflict and is also key for its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.”


According to knowledgeable government sources, in the proposed railways and other infra-projects for the Philippines, the joint-venture agreements call for the Chinese government to recommend three to five Chinese mainland contractors for the Philippine partners to choose from (no international public bidding); supplies and equipment must all come from China; Chinese personnel may have to be allowed to work in the projects; and accompanying long term-maintenance and service arrangements.


Shouldn’t we rethink these “soft and concessionary” loans from China in light of what we have already conceded? We have been silent and helpless on China’s encroachments on our claimed territories in the Spratlys archipelago, Reed Bank and Scarborough Shoal.


While the euphoria over this novel relationship struck with China still lingers, it may be prudent for the DU30 administration to examine more closely this new partnership lest we find ourselves later in a quandary on how to disembark from the tiger’s back. Let us learn from the lessons from past mistakes of China’s partnership with other Asian countries. We do not wish to be in any way near Sri Lanka’s fate.
Friday, 13 October 2017 16:06

Deegong’s controversial alter egos

Part 3
Shaping culture
CULTURE in the political management context, is the personality of the collective. The Deegong is very clear on this promise of “pagbabago,” or change. All incoming administrations have their slogans related to this much-prostituted word. But the Deegong has a proven track record encompassing two decades of local governance backing up this slogan. His administration is perceived to have one of the lowest incidences of corruption in government and he intends to introduce this culture of anti-corruption applying the same methods in the national level for the desired outcome.


The alter egos’ task is to help him shape this culture, from one where the practice of corruption is pervasive, legitimized and a matter of course; to one where corruption is perceived to be a perversion of positive values and ethically unacceptable. These Cabinet men and women must internalize the task to do what the Deegong did at the outset in his city—to overhaul their own respective departments also. They can’t go for cosmetic changes in techniques and tactics but must go all out to stamp out this sordid practice. Initiating management controls, reeducation and training are just some of the facets of the process. The more important aspects are the firing of corrupt personnel and instituting other sanctions, including cases in court. There is now a critical need to change this culture within the departments yet the pace of change will depend upon the political management skills of the principals—the Cabinet heads. And all these changes and initiatives need to be communicated to the public, clearly and unequivocally. And this is not simply a job for the presidential spokespersons – this requires the all-out efforts of PRRD’s alter egos, the Cabinet members. They need to be the “talking heads” of their own departments.


To understand better the political culture of the Deegong regime, we look back at where he comes from. A city mayor who ran his city successfully, boasting a good steady economic growth over two decades and imposing “law and order” on a city that was perceived to be the CPP/NPA laboratory during the martial law regime. Except for one term as a congressman, the mayor was really—as he himself admitted—“…just a local city mayor who did good by his constituency”. His no-nonsense approach to political governance was effective locally and he is applying the formula on a large scale for the whole country. This is perhaps where his critics may have some argument, on the type of people the President chooses.


Those within the periphery of power (not necessarily Cabinet posts) are from his intimate circle of friends and local boys and girls; some from his alma mater. The profile of his Cabinet are basically local personalities who made good in executive capacities as Cabinet members in past administrations (Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, heads the list with Secretaries Bello, Dureza and Diokno); some have extensive experience as local government executives (Secretaries Piñol and Sueño); and some have international exposure (Yasay of Foreign Affairs and Lorenzana of Defense).


Some chosen personally by the Deegong are those recommended by his allies in Congress, those he relied upon during the presidential campaign and the coalition he hammered to catapult him to the presidency. No doubt these choices are qualified and may have the complete trust of the President. We don’t exactly know who these people are but we do understand their entitlements in relation to the realities of this new government, the dictates of the coalition that support it and the decisions dominated by political imperatives. The President must now pay the price for the coalition’s support, by allocating as evenly as possible, appointive positions at all levels of government to the coalition members. This is of course a logical offshoot of the politics of patronage and spoils system practiced over several generations.
To date PRRD has reportedly over 3,000 positions in the bureaucracy and government corporations still left unfilled with the holdovers of the old regime still in place. This is understandable as the PDP-Laban, the nominal party of the President, does not have enough qualified people to take over the sinecures. The old office-holders may also be protected by the large influx of the Liberal Party members into the PDP-Laban who now practically dominate Congress.
But now, these people must perform their jobs based on their discernment of the new set of values which the PRRD has brought with him. And in turn those with specific Cabinet positions will have to reshape the missions and goals of their departmental turf. To do this, each Cabinet head and his own team must remold the organization and re-inject the concepts of ethics and creating public value. Those key persons in the “old organization” who are unable to give way and submerge their personal values to the collective (new political culture) must be done away with.


The job of these appointed presidential alter egos are not really cut out for them. But they need to follow the lead of their principal, the President. And here is where it becomes complicated. PRRD is a self-directed public manager always setting his own goals, pushing the boundaries of discretion. He is a proven political organizer and coalition builder. It was instinctive for PRRD to build consensus for whatever endeavor he is occupied with at the moment; but the Deegong is perceived also to be cavalier in anchoring his actions on the rule of law – and even seemingly has shown contempt for it.


Which puts the alter egos in a quandary as to how their own personal values and those of the President are analogous. A case in point is the concession given by PRRD to the CPP-NDF where three Cabinet posts were assigned to the openly avowed leftists. In the light of the failure of the peace talks between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF, and the indictment by PRRD of these groups as terrorists; how will these alter egos now align their beliefs with that of their principal?


Another consideration for the managers recruited to populate the bureaucracy is a common belief that it is easy to transition from the private sector, where many of the Cabinet members and heads of GOCCs were recruited from. This is not exactly correct. Central to their careers as public entrepreneurs are their non-aversion to risk taking. While in the private sector, the gauge of the success or failure of entrepreneurship is in the pesos earned or lost, the bottom line for alter egos is the public good and value they create. Success of the alter egos’ work in government is reflected therefore in the eventual emancipation of the Filipino from the shackles of poverty and injustice – even perhaps at a great personal risk. This is the essence of public service.
Part 2
PRESIDENT Deegong’s breakout from an image of a small-time but effective local city mayor to a national candidate of prominence and onto the presidency was single-handedly defined by the force of his personality. Looking back these past two years from his debut on the national stage, his image as a no-nonsense mayor was projected at first by the local media and captured by the national press but, as claimed by some locals, was distorted to some extent, such that at one point, the Deegong refused any further “press-cons”.


The original talking head, Secretary Pete Lavina, who was competent enough speaking for the Deegong locally was out of his element on the national stage. His demeanor and attempt at the “English language” was perceived to be a disaster; and he was unjustly disparaged for it. Blame too could be attributed to the Deegong who may not have understood the difficult role of his spokesperson. One cannot cage a whirlwind out to proclaim his message to the four corners.


Atty. Panelo’s stint was even more short-lived as the Deegong’s message was deflected by the flamboyant persona of the talking head himself; redirecting instead people’s attention to his sartorial tastes, a garish multi-hued combination and his forced attempt at explaining the presidency, also in colorful language uniquely the President’s. He was better off using his excellent legal mind in the service of the President away from the public glare.


The two that followed, Secretary Martin Andanar, the communications director, and Secretary Ernie Abella, the presidential spokesperson, have been recruited to do almost impossible jobs. Which brings us to the issue at hand.


These two Cabinet members who handle the Deegong’s image and disseminate his messages are his alter egos too, and aside from being his political heat shields and lightning rods, must understand the more specialized roles assigned to them. The current problem of “vigilantism and extra-judicial killing” has entered the lexicon of the political conversation. This issue needs to be expounded in a different light projecting a different image. Changing the face of the issue is one such tool in political management. The issue must emphasize the inevitable slow but deadly slide towards narco-political abyss. Why not capture a big fat drug lord and make an example of him? A Lim Seng of the Marcos regime but going through the justice system–-and doing it fast. Surely, the political capital of the Deegong can guarantee fast justice.


Or project real investigations of rogue policemen and generals whom the Deegong have already shamed, but not in the TV camera-centered congressional hearings that go nowhere. Why only poor dead addicts, why not dead rogue policemen and rich corrupt politicians? Why not sample congressmen in the presidential blue list (refer to the Manila Times, “Conversations with the Deegong” Dec 15, 22, 29 2016…


And this cannot be the job only of the “talking heads”. Make it an executive department-wide concern and expand the context by bringing it to the national consciousness. Field articulate Cabinet members to several national TV and radio networks where they can defend the government action on illegal drugs as a legitimate response to a threat, menace and danger. There are countless literature and horror stories in Columbia, Mexico and some other South American countries of drug cartels and narco-politicians capturing political and economic power and sipping the life-blood of the country dry. Bring these out as illustrations of weak states! This massive government response could succeed in changing the character of the debate from one focused on human rights violations to that of the legitimate right of the people with the help of government to defend themselves and their homes from the evils of illegal drugs. But this can’t be left alone for the President to champion. This requires a well-oiled team in the highest echelons of government. But do we have that team? (This will be discussed in the last part of this 3-part article).


Relating with external environment
(Excerpts from the above-mentioned paper “A critical appreciation of a job of high officials in public service is the importance of relating with key elements of their external environment: interest groups and lobbyists who tend to see their issues as having preeminence over others (anti- and pro-capital punishment etc.); a majority of those who supported the winner’s candidacy may call upon the administration to extract their pound of political flesh for their perceived entitlements; the practitioners in the media who consider themselves the “fourth estate” and sometimes final arbiter of conflicts, and are prone to reporting controversial events and nothing else. The power of social media and the internet was also shown during the presidential campaign, which helped catapult the Deegong to the presidency, freeing him from dependence on the editorial boards. The political and legislative overseers who have a handle on the Cabinet departments’ resources (threat of budget cuts, tightening funds flow, restrictive laws and regulations); and the more important authorizing environment, Congress and more particularly the President, who, in the course of the transition from the PNoy regime also brought with him a new change in a set of dominant values.


“It is in relation to the realities of this new seven-month old government, the dictates of the coalition of political parties that support it and the decisions dominated by political imperatives that will have to reshape the missions and goals of each department and of each Cabinet secretary. They who are themselves the President’s personal choices should be ready to accept Usecs and Asecs whose qualifications are offshoots of the politics of patronage and spoils system—not necessarily congruent with the demands and skills needed for the jobs.”
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