Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: February 2017
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09:25

Character, opposition and change

MUCH has been said about Edsa@31, how we started finding our star and how we held on to each other to reach that star. Those were good times when being Filipino made us stand straight and hold our head high. Those were times where imperfect individuals, yes, they were implementers of martial rule, decided to stand against the rising tide and dared go with soldiers so accustomed to war. That there were no bombings and shootings were proof of the DNA of Filipinos—we are not an aggressive lot; more like a happy race, hospitable to most, close family ties and loves to entertain where food, song and dance are the thing. Yes, the fire is there, an ember perhaps, but it takes long before the combustion happens again and we will always stand tall despite the frailties of our leaders.

Our character defines us, not our reputation. And in defining moments we see in us and among our leaders that which we may respect or abhor. “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” And in the several events this past eight months, we have seen a lot in our leaders and celebrities that may not be to our liking.

EDSA@31 would have been defined by what PRRD said: “No single party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim credit for the bloodless revolution in EDSA. In the same way that no party, ideology, religion, or individual could claim a monopoly of patriotism.” Or the retort made by Davao Mayor Sara Duterte against a Catholic Archbishop: “I find it hard to understand why this bloodless revolution has become the standard definition of freedom for our country and this standard is forced down our throats by a certain group of individuals who think they are better than everyone else.” Or BSA3’s, “we would mark it with a celebration. Now, it seems like we need to do more than just remember the revolution. Maybe, this is a reminder for us that the fight continues, it’s not done yet.” And Vice President Robredo’s, “I hope we never forget that the people hold the power. Whatever we want to fight for, we can do it if we are united.” So, if the people are not with you, there will be no destabilization.

But in the end what appears top of mind was the public meltdown of a known celebrity, too yellow in color that he forgot decency and character. And then some even exalted what this celebrity did by harping on the Duterte Youth being also a BBM supporter. The slip showing is such that if one is Duterte and BBM that the group was planted to agitate the “owners” of the People Power Monument? That if the individual is pro-Duterte and later turned out to be a supporter of BBM, there was malice? And that it was all right to subject them to bullying. Worse, the celebrity went forth and proclaimed to the world that “it felt good.” All that EDSA stood for melted away and not one from among the Liberal Party called him out for being out of line and damn wrong. That is EDSA, 31 years after.

And so we go to our democracy that has been played out so many times that we do not know who is the real Opposition. Since time immemorial, our politics have often been transitioning from one monolith party to another, bringing everyone under one roof, setting aside the role of a true opposition party. We had monoliths like KBL, LDP, Lakas-NUCD, Partido Masang Pilipino, KAMPI, Liberal Party and today, PDP. The last time we had a real opposition was in 2007, under UNO and then it became a labor-management settlement, thus destroying altogether the role of an opposition in a democracy.

The Opposition is the check and the balance to an overreaching party in governance. A check on a dictatorship or insensitivity to the masses. Ideally, a constructive opposition, “would emphasize more on discussion, ask more questions, resolution of problems being faced, help in amendments and passage of important bills. Also, unite with the ruling government in issues of national interest. At the same time, the opposition must warn or bring in focus issues that government is not addressing effectively at its level.” A disruptive opposition—opposing everything for the sake of opposing—is not good for democracy (and taxpayers) for it simply avoids discussion. A strong opposition complements democracy. In the event of a weaker opposition, the ruling government and its representative may become complacent and insensitive for the duration of their rule. A party in opposition may be the next ruling party and the other way around. If we are to be governed by political parties and not personalities, we must be able to see a clear and distinct opposition. Voters would need to see their actions and how they will be remembered or forgotten. Super majorities are just that because there is no party behind it and when there are no parties, there are no policies uniquely defined by party ideology or plans, programs and activities formulated and implemented by the party at the grassroots level.

BSA3 never implemented any political party reform in his six years. The Duterte administration has not even articulated any political party reform save the change of form and structure of government. No institutional reform with COMELEC despite the leak as further pointed out by the Privacy Commission. No political party measure certified. So, it’s the same politics that governed from 2010 to the present, save for a change in label, from LP to PDP. If we do not have a clear opposition, we will be forever subjected to destabilization efforts by those whose ways are not embraced by the prevailing political disposition.

How can we push for change when we do not know who among the political players are just riding the carpet for political survival and are not really for the structural change that PRRD has been talking about. Three crucial points that PRRD promised: controlling illegal drugs use, fighting corruption and poverty alleviation. Launch the Build.Build.Build and the PPP approved projects and we will see in actuality if this administration walks the talk in fighting corruption and putting more jobs in the market. Continue with the illegal drugs campaign with joint efforts of the PDEA and the PNP but this time be cognizant of the lessons and the issues. Correct the line that 7,000 have been killed.

Build in the rural sector first and we touch the poorest. With the agricultural produce, ensure that pricing is not dictated by the middlemen so the farmers and fisherfolk earn a decent keep. If we hit the poorest in terms of agriculture and infrastructure, we hit the poor provinces of the country. If we connect them to the center, we build corridors and break paths in ecotourism. Then with moral suasion, PRRD should ask the 40 families controlling the PH economy to settle in one of the poorest provinces and revitalize the local economy, even just being a spoke in the wheel.

Change should be focused on the economy, that growth is inclusive. Change should be grassroots-centric so that Filipinos feel the change. Strengthen further frontline services because that is what defines a Duterte-brand service. One does not need a revolutionary government. One needs to think in revolutionary ways to change the status quo but that would need a lot of patience and reaching out because you cannot shock the system all at the same time.

How would Duterte want to be remembered is how it should refocus and re-engineer a year after being in office. The social welfare/poverty cluster should be the face of a Duterte administration while the economic cluster should be the engine. The rest stabilizes the ship of state. Don’t look at destabilization as paralysis. Make it the reason to move faster, the people are still with you.Politicians must remember, “where there is no shame, there is no honor” and “men and women of genius are admired, men and women of wealth are envied, men and women of power are feared; but only men and women of character are trusted.”
Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 09:16

LP booted out of Senate majority

LIBERAL Party senators were kicked out of the pro-Duterte Senate majority coalition on Monday in a surprise knockout instigated by neophyte Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

The majority bloc led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd stripped the Liberal senators of their positions, with Sen. Franklin Drilon losing the Senate president pro-tempore post to Sen. Ralph Recto, who switched to the majority from being the minority leader.

For months, Drilon’s Liberal bloc managed to remain in the majority while being critical of the Duterte government’s moves such as the push for the death penalty bill, the war on drugs and the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Liberal Party interim president Francis Pangilinan said their expulsion from the majority was not unexpected, adding: “We saw the writing on the wall.”

Senators Drilon, Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Risa Hontiveros joined Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th in the minority.

In Monday’s plenary session, Pacquiao moved to declare vacant Drilon’s Senate president pro tempore post, the second highest perch in the chamber.

Drilon did not object. “I will not interpellate Senator Pacquiao. I second the motion,” he said.

Pacquiao, after a brief suspension of the session, nominated Recto to replace Drilon, which was supported by a majority of senators.

Those who voted for Recto as the new Senate president pro tempore were Pimentel, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, Nancy Binay, Alan Peter Cayetano, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Recto said his position as minority leader would be given to Trillanes.

Pacquiao then moved to declare as vacant the chairmanships of the committees on health and demography; agriculture and food; and education, arts and culture.

The Senate committee on health was chaired by Hontiveros, the agriculture committee by Pangilinan, and the committee on education by Aquino.

They were replaced by Ejercito, Villar and Escudero, respectively.

‘Price to pay’

Pangilinan said the Liberal bloc discussed a looming Senate revamp over the weekend, believing the Duterte administration would not tolerate anyone who opposed it on issues such as the death penalty and the drug war.

Aquino agreed, describing the incident as a political move. The Liberals, he noted, were also adamant on other issues like the lowering of the age on criminal liability and support for their party mate Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading critic of the drug war who was jailed last Friday on drug trafficking charges.

“If this is the price to pay for my independence, then so be it,” Aquino said.

Hontiveros said that if staying with the majority meant supporting a regime that does not respect human rights, then she would willingly join the minority.

“This new development will not hinder me from pushing for universal healthcare for our people or intimidate me from defending democracy and human rights,” she added.

‘Obsessed with power’

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Monday deplored the Senate revamp and said the Duterte administration was obsessed with power.

Robredo, the interim chairwoman of the Liberal Party who was herself stripped of her Cabinet post in December after opposing the Marcos burial, said the Duterte administration was incapable of tolerating dissent, “no matter how constructive.”

“What happened in the Senate today is characteristic of an administration obsessed with monopolizing power and intent on marginalizing those who have opposing views. This has happened before. In the past, this paved the way for a one-man rule,” Robredo said, referring to the Marcos regime.

“Democracy demands dissent. We will not be silenced. Our nation deserves no less,” she added.
Published in News
THE biggest opportunity we missed because of the EDSA uprising, and Corazon Aquino’s assumption to power because of that political upheaval, was our failure to shift toward a parliamentary system. (Its most important feature is that the head of government is elected not through people’s direct votes, but through their representatives, i.e. the Parliament to which the head is accountable.)

Cory, I had learned years after the 1987 drafting and adoption of the Constitution, told those most loyal to her in the Constitutional Commission—all of whom she appointed—that of all proposals, it was the one proposing a change to a parliamentary system that she hated.

Why? Simply because a parliamentary system, would seem like her recognition as correct Marcos’ move to create a single-chamber legislative body called the Batasan Pambansa, which was ordered set up under Marcos’ 1973 Constitution. (She misunderstood it; it was actually still a presidential system, with a unicameral legislature and a “Prime Minister,” but with little powers.)

It is such a tragedy that our present political system wasn’t really a consensus among members of the commission that drafted the Constitution. The 1987 Constitution was approved only by a very slim margin of two votes.

There were several reports that Cory was more interested in having a new Constitution as soon as possible, whatever its content was, since her revolutionary government under a “Freedom Constitution” (which she alone decreed) was, almost by nature, a legally and politically fragile one.

The four-month period for the information campaign was not only too short, but because at the time, the media was a Cory media, there was actually little national discussions on the provisions of the proposed Constitution. With her popularity and power then, most political leaders backed what Cory wanted.

Debate endless

While a debate on which system is better, presidential or parliament, would be endless, I submit we simply look at what has worked in the world.

We are one of the very few countries in Asia, which maintain a system in which the people directly choose the President, who is both head of state and government. Our system hasn’t even been “debugged” in the way that of the US had been, with such refinements and checks as the system of electoral colleges, primaries, a strong party system, and one-on-debates among presidential contenders. Yet, even in the US, Donald Trump’s victory, based on his skill in demagoguery and appeal to American working class’ frustrations, is another proof of the fatal weaknesses of a presidential system.

Because of the presidential system that was restored, the dictator’s widow, Imelda Marcos could even have become Philippine President, if her husband’s crony Eduardo Cojuangco, who insisted he was Marcos’ legitimate heir, had not split the pro-Marcos votes. (Imelda’s and Cojuangco’s votes in the 1992 election totaled 28 percent of the ballots, more than Fidel Ramos’ 24 percent.)

We’ve had a presidential system since the nation’s birth, with the 14-year dictatorship as a hiatus, and we are in a mess. It was the presidential system in fact which led to the quagmire of the late 1960s that encouraged Marcos to impose martial law. On the other hand, our neighbors with parliamentary systems—such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand—have had parliamentary systems, and have overtaken us in terms of economic development.

Direct voting sounds so democratic. In reality, it has been one of the biggest hoaxes of modern society. It is usually the political and economic elites and the mass media which determine whom the masses will vote, without such a leader going through the rigorous process of being tested and judged by his peers. Such pure democracy really works only in a community of a few thousand voters, without any mass media to mediate reality for them.

Movie persona

Thus, the masses voted for a President Joseph Estrada whose movie persona as a working-class hero the people thought they were voting to office. In reality, they voted for a drunkard and a libertine who saw nothing wrong in amassing billions from jueteng, rigging the stock market, and skimming off tobacco taxes.

But at least Estrada had two decades of experience as a town mayor and then senator. But because of the presidential system, and the features of a mass media- dominated modern society in which reality and illusion are mixed, the country nearly had as President Fernando Poe Jr., an aging actor with zero experience in government, whose fairy-tale persona as a hero brandishing a magic sword in a never-never land Filipinos quite foolishly thought they were voting for.

Last elections, if a phenomenon called Duterte had not emerged and there wasn’t a phenomenon as computerized voting, a Balikbayan that swore allegiance to the US, and totally without any experience in government would have become President—merely because she was Poe’s daughter.

It is the same presidential system which made a President out of a spoiled unico hijo who practically had not worked a single day in his life, whose performance in Congress had been mediocre that he was largely ignored by his peers, but whom the masses voted for in sympathy with the death of his mother. A superstitious people also foolishly thought the spirits of the anti-dictatorship martyr and his widow, the heroine of democracy, would be possessing B.S. Aquino, or from the beyond would be whispering to him how to run government.

Of course, an argument that has only recently emerged would be that Rodrigo Duterte would never have become the country’s chief executive if not through a presidential system. He touched a raw nerve among Filipinos, who directly voted for him, and allowed him to win by a landslide. Duterte, without the skills of a horse-trading politician and really an outsider from the national political class, would not have been voted as primus inter pares, i.e. prime minister, by a parliament.

But Duterte is a fluke, a sui generis (one of its kind), a lucky break for our unlucky country, in that he has mass charisma, a populist, while he seems–so far–to be committed to, and having the balls for, radically changing our society.

The other proposal for a different political system, federalism would worsen our weak sense of nationalism, and would even eventually lead to the extinction of the notion of a “Filipino”. Under that system, Ilokanos would deepen their identification as “Ilokanos” rather than Filipinos; Cebuanos as Cebuanos; Warays as Warays; Mindanaoans as Mindanaoans; with Metro Manilans most probably developing a crazy identification as “citizens of the world.”

We should move first towards a parliamentary system, and if that doesn’t work either, it would be parliament that could be in a better position to decide on moving towards a federalist nation, and implement it with the least disruption.

With his immense popularity and huge political capital, Duterte can, if he moves fast enough, move us towards a parliamentary system. That could be his greatest legacy, a hundred times more important than his war against illegal drugs.
Published in Commentaries
Monday, 27 February 2017 09:43

Resume drug war

SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano has called on President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to relaunch the war on illegal drugs, warning that drug traders have gone back to the streets since the suspension of the campaign in January.

Speaking before the crowd that attended the pro-Duterte vigil-rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila last Saturday night, Cayetano said he had received complaints of drug pushers resuming their business.

Cayatano, a staunch supporter of Duterte, said the resurfacing of drug pushers poses a serious threat because illegal drugs come with murder, rape and other crimes.

“Kaya ngayong gabi ako’y nakikisauap sa ating pangulo at PNP i-re-launch ninyo ang ating anti-drug drive (So tonight I’m appealing to our President and the PNP to re-launch our anti-drug drive),” Cayetano said before the cheering Duterte supporters.

Saturday’s pro-Duterte rally drew an estimated 215,000 at its peak at 9 p.m., the PNP said. The rally ended before noon on Sunday, still with a large crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 according to the police.

In contrast, the rally at the EDSA People Power Monument commemorating the 31st anniversary of the 1986 popular revolt that toppled the Marcos regime, drew an estimated 1,200 at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the government-run Philippine News Agency reported.

‘People’s war’

Cayetano said the drug campaign would no longer be called Duterte’s war on drugs, but “the people’s war on drugs.”

“Because we are part of the campaign against drugs and not only drugs but also corruption,” the senator said.

Duterte last month ordered the suspension of the anti-drug campaign nationwide following the kidnap-slay case of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo, who was killed last October inside the PNP national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Members of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other individuals were among those charged.

The President ordered the PNP and the NBI to stop all anti-drug operations and directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead while national police undergoes internal cleansing.

Cayetano also defended the President against those who have been criticizing his administration over the spate of alleged extrajudicial killings of suspected drug pushers and criminals, insisting that such killings were more rampant in the previous administration.

The senator claimed that during the time of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, summary killings ranged from 10,000 to 14,000 yearly or an average of 1,000 per month.

To hide the alarming situation, Aquino issued an executive order prepared by then Justice secretary Leila de Lima, stating that killings that do not involve labor leaders, priests, nuns and activists won’t be considered extrajudicial.

“And when the Duterte administration came in, all killings were considered [extrajudicial killings]and Duterte is the one to blame,” Cayetano added.

PDEA vows ‘relentless’ campaign

PDEA on Sunday said its campaign against illegal drugs would be “relentless” and “sustained.”

Derrick Arnold Carreon, PDEA public information office director, however, told The Manila Times the campaign won’t be bloody.

Carreon said PDEA’s campaign would also lead to killing suspected drug personalities if they attempt to put up a fight against the agency’s operatives.

He said PDEA is “guided by the president’s marching order…‘that the drug problem must be stopped by all means that the law allows. The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained.’ Thus, we follow the legal bounds governing the ‘use of force continuum and lawful self-defense.’”
Published in News
THERE are several factors that explain our people’s weak sense of nationalism, among them: a foreign-descended ruling class that doesn’t identify with the mostly ethnic Malay masses; the US colonizers’ successful brainwashing of the elite and the middle class that they are America’s little brown brothers, resulting in massive migration to America; and the ideological hegemony of neoliberal dogma that modern man is, and must be, global citizens and no longer citizens of a nation.

However, the toppling of Marcos in 1986, glorified as a People Power Revolution, accentuated these factors, and may even in fact have killed Filipinos’ sense of nationalism.

Nationalism is essentially the belief (and intellectual conclusion) that in this day and age, the most important organization a human is a member of is not the family and clan, not the corporation, not the party, not even the church. Rather it is this modern association we call the nation. Whether we and our descendants (who stay here) live in misery or happiness, depends on how well that organization–the nation–is run.

In turn, how well it is run to a great extent depends on its unity, the strength of its members’ feeling of “togetherness”.

Much of the strength of nationalism in Asian countries that led to their economic prosperity in the post-war era was ironically the result of the Cold War, the real or perceived threat by the Soviets and China to take over countries using the communist party proxies: South Korea against the then USSR- and then China-controlled North; Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia against the threat of a communist takeover in the 1960s; Kuomintang-controlled Taiwan against the communist victors in the mainland. There was a reverse phenomenon though: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos steeled their nationalism in their heroic fight against the US imperialists.

We didn’t have in the modern era such episodes on the same scale—the Soviet-backed Huk rebellion the 1950s lasted only a few years—when we had to unite or perish.

Worse, the EDSA uprising worsened our divisions, thereby weakening our people’s nationalism.

Despite the lip service to the power of the people as the force behind EDSA, the brainwashing was really that it was due to the heroism of a few individuals and the anti-Marcos clans: Ninoy and Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and Juan Ponce Enrile (maybe even Gregorio Honasan who lost his heroic shine though when he went against Cory) as well as the heroic Lopez and Osmeña oligarchs.

Message drummed

The message had been drummed into Filipinos’ minds that without the heroism of these individuals, there wouldn’t have been an EDSA.

Such glorification of these “heroes” obviously isn’t too convincing. So, an additional, even more important, explanation was necessary, easily believed by a superstitious Catholic nation: It was Mama Mary who mobilized Cardinal Sin and the hundreds of nuns carrying Virgin Mary statuettes.

She was responsible for the liberation of the Philippines from dictatorship. Indeed, we are so blessed that while the Mother of God wouldn’t intervene in the killing of seven million Jews in the Holocaust, the genocide of one million Indonesians by Suharto’s forces, the hundreds of millions killed in the wars and famines in Asia and Africa in the modern era, she made sure the EDSA uprising was almost bloodless.

The monument to the EDSA revolt is not that one near Camp Aguinaldo built in 1993 by renowned sculptor the late Eduardo Castrillo, which shows anonymous demonstrators of the uprising, led by Lady Freedom.

It is the ”EDSA Shrine” fronting the Robinson’s mall, with its huge statue of the Virgin Mary, which Cardinal Sin ordered built in 1989.

This of course propagates in modern form the mammoth deception our Spanish colonizers promoted, which made the natives docile, allowing them to rule the country for four centuries.

This is the fiction that our togetherness as a people is because of our membership in a Kingdom of God, with His proxy in this temporal world, the Catholic Church. The lie has even been smuggled into our language: “sambayanan” which is a word for “the whole nation. It originally was the “Samba ng Bayan,” meaning “Worship by the People,” which is what the Spanish friars called the weekly assembly of the natives to hear mass in the town (bayan), which grew around the church, constructed through the natives’ unpaid labor and materials. (The church also functioned as a fortification, impenetrable to raiding Moros or rebelling indios.)

EDSA thus propagates the fiction that our togetherness as a people is not because we have created a nation-state, but because we are members of a Church, and its Goddess was even responsible for toppling the dictator. Any religious fiction requires a Devil since without a Satan it is really difficult for people to believe in a God. In the EDSA case, the Devil is Marcos.

Denial of the nation

The denial of the nation by EDSA and its believers is very well demonstrated by its symbol: the Yellow Ribbon, the idea of Cory’s PR advisers from the US and derived from an American folk song about a convict returning to his hometown.

Under Cory, Ramos, and Noynoy Aquino, the Philippine flag—which is the symbol of our nation—has been relegated as a secondary banner: the nation has been dismissed as unimportant.

EDSA rulers and proponents have rejected the necessity of uniting the nation, and healing the wounds of the past. They even refuse to accept the indisputable fact, proven by Bongbong Marcos’ victory—that is, if he had not been cheated in the 2016 vice-presidential race–that vast swathes of the country, especially the Ilocano-speaking provinces, believe that while he may have had his mistakes, even major ones, with his biggest error his refusal to step down when he became terminally ill, Marcos was in the main a good President.

With the country ruled by three Yellow Presidents — Cory, Ramos, and Aquino III in 18 of the past 30 years, who have all propagated the false EDSA spirit, our country remains divided, and Filipinos’ nationalism on the brink of extinction.

This is in contrast to what happened in many nationalistic nations that toppled strongmen.

Park Chung-hee ruled South Korea for 17 years until his assassination in 1979. Suharto, after ruling Indonesia for 33 years, fell in 1998 in the wake of massive student demonstrations. Lech Walesa during a visit to the Philippines told Corazon Aquino that the movement that overthrew the communists in Poland in 1989 was “inspired” by the People Power uprising she led in 1986. Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled Romania with an iron fist for 42 years, fell in 1989 and was even executed, together with his wife.

No EDSA monuments

Do any of these countries have their versions of an EDSA monument and a holiday in which they celebrate the downfall of their strongmen, who are demonized? No.

Even the US doesn’t celebrate the Union’s victory in the Civil War, and Americans do not demonize heroes of the Confederacy such as President Jefferson Davies and its famous generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam refers to its victory over the US-backed regime in the South simply as “National Reunification Day.”

Why don’t these very nationalistic countries have celebrations such as our EDSA?

Because they know that for a country to be strong, it has to be united, and it can only be united if it moves on, and puts aside what divided it in the past. These nations have learned to just let the historians judge their fallen strongmen, and not to demonize them, as the Yellow Cult continues to do so. The leaders of Russia and China today have let historians write books about their ruthless strongmen Stalin and Mao Zedong, rather than demonizing them in state events—because doing so would only be divisive of their nations.

Such a stance is necessary for building the nation since these dictators, precisely because they managed to rule as strongmen for years, represented major sections of the nation.

It is time, and it is necessary for us to develop our nationalism and stop these divisive EDSA celebrations.
Published in Commentaries
Friday, 24 February 2017 09:38

De Lima arrives at Camp Crame after arrest

The police convoy carrying Senator Leila de Lima has arrived at Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police’s headquarters, where a space inside the PNP Custodial Center is reserved for her.

De Lima, escorted by arresting officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group led by director Chief Supt. Roel Obusan, arrived in a coaster in Crame shortly before 9 a.m.

The PNP said De Lima will undergo booking procedures inside the police camp.

While waiting for the court’s commitment order, De Lima will be temporarily detained in the Custodial Center. She will share the same detention facility as former Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada who were charged with Plunder in 2014 over their alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

De Lima’s allies and fellow Liberal Party members Senator Kiko Pangilinan and Quezon City district Rep. Kit Belmonte and activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes went to Crame to show support for De Lima.

More than a dozen CIDG members, armed and in bulletproof vests, went to De Lima’s Parañaque’s residence on Thursday night but failed to arrest her.

The arresting team then proceeded to the Senate compound in Pasay City and coordinated with the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia.

They eventually agreed that the arrest be made 10 a.m. Friday but the CIDG asked to serve the warrant two hours earlier. CDG
Published in News
Thursday, 23 February 2017 13:23

"Thou Shall Not Die"

Davao- Yesterday, the Ateneo de Davao University hosted a forum on Death Penalty in the Philippines in collaboration with APILA, Law School, Amnesty International-Philippines, SAMAPULA, and SS-SEC at the Finster Auditorium of Ateneo de Davao University. The forum was participated by representatives from different organizations, sectors, and the university faculty and students.

With its theme, “Thou Shall Not Die”, the forum was opened by Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr. through reiterating the values of the university as a Jesuit and Catholic school. He said that there may be conflicting ideas between the values held by the university and that of the present administration but this essentially opens up for constructive discussions and informed presentation of ideas.

The forum was headed by the first speaker and followed up by three reactors coming from different organizations and sectors.

The main presenter, Atty. Ray Paolo D. Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center of Ateneo de Manila University, presented the following propositions against the re-imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines: first,the move to re-impose the bill is unconstitutional; second, it violates the international law; third, Death Penalty does not deter criminality; fourth, Death Penalty is subject to judicial power, and lastly, it targets those who live below the poverty line. Atty. Santigao showed compelling recent statistics to substantiate the following propositions.

Atty. Arnold C. Abejaron from the legal sector was the first reactor. He said that the re-imposition of the Death Penalty will eventually carry economic repercussions not just legal once because of the binding agreement we had with other countries through signed international treaties. Basically, the congress cannot pass the law without violating the international commitment.

“Can you restore the life of the victim by killing the criminal?” said Fr. Orlando A. Angela, a Theologian, presented the church’s take on the re-imposition of the Death Penalty which according to him is morally wrong in virtue of the sanctity of life and will only inspire vengeance among the victims’ families.

The last reactor was Mister Rey Andrew Villafuerte from the Amnesty International-Philippines. According to Mister Villafuerte, the greatest danger posited by the re-imposition of the bill is that it can be subject to erroneous interpretations and vulnerable to discrimination. Ultimately, the Death Penalty is a denial of the criminal’s right to rehabilitation and restorative justice.
Published in News
Thursday, 23 February 2017 10:32

I remember

Today, as the Duterte government has decided to “tone down” the celebration of what was once a glorious part of contemporary Philippine history, I am reprinting an essay which I wrote in 2009, 23 years after the events of February 1986 when we toppled the Marcos regime and tried to usher in a new democratic paradigm. Before the forces that now want to make the EDSA Revolution irrelevant could succeed, I am recounting those four days of February, hoping to in some way rekindle the fires of passion now deeply buried in the recesses of the collective memories of our people; preventing perhaps the muting of its significance and relegating these legitimate struggles against a dictatorship as mere historical footnote.

Today therefore, 31 years after, I am again putting on paper my thoughts, a little bit more appreciative and perhaps a little bit more dispassionate on the events that transpired – given the distance of years and the dissipation of emotions and passion that propelled us then to bring about this “revolution”. This will appear in Part 2 of this series. Meantime…

Davao City, January 2009

I WAS not at EDSA. There was no EDSA in Davao City. But I was part of the decades-long political struggle that eventually brought about the upheaval during those heady four days in February 1986, now known worldwide as the EDSA People Power Revolution.

This is not a tome or even an attempt at a thesis examining the actual events leading towards the culmination of decades of a seething political cauldron. This is a simple recounting from personal memory to answer an age-old conundrum “…where were you when it happened?” Perhaps this is also a way of situating one’s role in the great episodes of the times. We hanker to be part of the momentous movements of history and even begin to presume that we may indeed have been a major participant thereof—when in fact, we simply may have taken on a minor role—bit players in an unfolding drama on the world stage. But it is this trifling part, when multiplied by the thousands that makes the involvement of each of us anywhere within the stream of events singularly significant. In this way, our collective action becomes history-making. We need not have been (present physically) at EDSA—we were the spirit of EDSA.

A lapse of 23 years is a long time to overcome to rummage through one’s memories of those days. The haze and the cobwebs are layered through the years, locking some details perhaps never to resurface.

It was around the second week of February 1986 when I was called for a meeting at the Cojuangco building in Makati initiated by Peping Cojuangco to help plan out the sorties of Cory to the provinces. I was then working and living in Makati since 1983, after Ninoy’s assassination, and was an active functionary of the PDP-Laban. The sorties were designed to get Cory to major cities in the country to protest the massive cheating by Marcos at the February 7 snap presidential election.

In Davao, together with the late Zaf Respicio and Dodo Cagas (PDP-Laban members of the Batasang Pambansa), we helped coordinate Cory’s planned visit to the city on Sunday, February 23. She was to fly in from Cebu.

The late Chito Ayala, the leader of the Yellow Friday Movement in Davao, together with Paul Dominguez and the late Rey Teves, were the point men in this southern city. They handled all the details for the sortie, from the construction of the stage to providing local security for Cory and the multitudes we expected to attend. She was to stay at Chito’s house in Matina.

On Friday, February 20, the late Monching Mitra, Cory’s advance man, flew in to check the preparations. After a press interview in one of our radio stations, I drove him to the airport to catch a plane to Cebu where Cory was scheduled to attend a massive rally at Fuente Osmeña.

It was on February 22, Saturday, while we were all meeting at Chito’s house to finalize details of her visit, when word began to filter through about “some movement” going on in Manila. There was a vague rumor of a possible coup circulating among the members of the Manila press who were now in Davao to await Cory’s arrival. There was nothing yet on TV and radio hinting of a gathering cloud of a political tempest.

By early evening, Chito and Teddyboy Locsin, who accompanied the members of the Manila press, huddled with us to dissect the implications of the bizarre theater suddenly presented to a global audience, the first act of which was the press conference of Enrile and Ramos on their “breakaway” from Marcos.

Our gut feeling then was that we were in a maelstrom of a life-altering political convulsion, yet we were in a quandary as to what we local people could do. Our immediate concern was how to protect Cory (whom we thought was still flying in to Davao from Cebu) from the Marcos minions.

Somehow, an idea began to float about providing not only sanctuary to Cory in Davao but organizing an armed resistance against the Marcos regime. Mindanao was so vast an area that it was possible to create a revolutionary government headed by Cory. We looked upon Chito Ayala to bring this to the attention of Cory in Cebu, but by this time she was incommunicado.

The last detail of informal talks at Chito’s house before we broke off was where to get a private plane for Teddyboy and the media to fly to Cebu or Manila.

February 23. The streets of Davao were almost deserted as the residents were glued to their radios tuned in to either Radio Bombo or Radio Veritas. It was an emotional roller- coaster ride for us from hope to despair and back again, depending on how we perceived the rebels, under Ramos, were faring vis-a-vis Ver’s loyalists.

We, the opposition to the Marcos regime and identified with Cory, were by now used to marching in the streets and veterans at tweaking our noses at the dictator. But this development in the capital caught us unprepared for anything. We didn’t know what to do but wait for an outcome—any outcome. The waiting was excruciating.

Every bit of information, good or bad, helpful or not, filtering to us in Davao outside of what we heard on the radio, was instantly passed on to like-minded Davao residents. Oh, how we yearned to be in the center of things joining hands with the populace now gathering at EDSA.

The evening of this day was almost unbearable to us. The fear that our side was losing drained us of emotion. Our anguish was heightened by our inability to simply be there at EDSA.

February 24. The late June Keithley’s Radio Bandido appearing after midnight was as electrifying as any to lift up our spirits. We devoured every bit of news. The defection of Sotelo’s helicopters to Camp Crame later that morning stunned us to tears. A change in fortune was on our side.

But the declaration of Marcos later that morning that he would fight to the finish blunted our rising euphoria. The rest of the day was a cacophony of bits and pieces of news, hearsay and “intelligence reports”.

In our growing despair, we prayed. My wife Sylvia and I fell on our knees, beside our children Lara and Carlo, who were asleep.

February 25. God must have heard our prayers and surely the pleadings of the hosts of Filipinos at EDSA and throughout the country and the world. In the capital city, priest, nuns, and seminarians had been storming the ramparts of heaven.

That evening, Rey Teves, Cesar Ledesma, the late Cesar Decena, and Cris Lanorias congregated at my house for dinner. Two Presidents had been inaugurated that day: Cory at the Club Filipino and Marcos in Malacañang.

When reports came out that Marcos had left the Palace, Davao residents ran out of their houses and flooded the streets. We were honking our cars in impromptu caravans all around the metropolis and met up at the San Pedro Park in front of the City Hall.

A new day had begun.

(Part 2 of this article will appear next Thursday, March 2.)
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 09:56

Martial law or revolutionary govt?

CONTRARY to what appeared on this page in my last piece, “Thou shall not kill” is the Fifth Commandment rather than the Sixth, according to the Roman Catholic (Augustinian) rendering of the Ten Commandments. It is the Sixth, according the Talmudic version of the same, as used by Hellenistic Jews, Greek Orthodox and Protestants except Lutherans. For this Catholic layman, therefore, it was a blooper pure and simple. My sincerest apologies.

But perhaps some unseen power was trying to tell us something. The degradation of human sexuality, which is the subject of the Sixth Commandment (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”), has become endemic to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. It is now globally asserted, beginning in Donald Trump’s US Christian constituency, that the destruction of the family and marriage is potentially more costly than the massive loss of lives in wars, terrorist attacks and insurgencies. This deserves a separate discussion though.

Quarreling with the press

For now, my concern is the intensity of self-inflicted problems that keep piling up against the seven-month-old Duterte regime. In the US, Donald Trump’s latest fight appears to be with the “dishonest media” which he accuses of not telling the public the truth about his accomplishments. Here, Malacañang seems determined to replicate Trump’s attack on the media with accusations of its own. On Monday, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar accused members of the Senate media of receiving a $1,000 payoff, apiece, to cover the press conference of SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, the latest self-confessed hitman after one Edgar Matobato to accuse President Rodrigo Duterte of having been involved in the killings and bombing of mosques in 1993 when he was still mayor of Davao City.

The implication is that the press conference was a criminal activity that did not deserve to see the light of day, and the Senate media had to be bribed to cover it. The Senate media group has denounced the accusation as completely baseless and slanderous, and Andanar has offered no “smoking gun” to support his charges. The Lascañas accusations are one thing, the conflict with the Senate media is another. Whatever the truth or untruth of the accusations, Andanar’s unsubstantiated accusation puts DU30 in deep sh***t with the press or at least part of the press. This is most unfortunate. Even in the worst adversarial situation between the government and the media, charges like this should be avoided. Mutual respect should be preserved.

With the summary drug killings, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s charges of hidden ill-gotten wealth against the President and his family, the move to railroad in Congress the death penalty, lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old, and limit the number of children per family to the outrage of the public, and questions about DU30’s state of health all piling up on Malacañang’s plate, it is easy to understand why Andanar would rather suppress any further accusations against the President.

But suppressing the news is not the best way of dealing with the problem. The best way to deal with it is to have a convincing response to every accusation hurled by one’s accusers or critics. It is a simple case of making sure one’s narrative is more believable than the accusations and is in fact believed. Since Congress cannot investigate a sitting President, unless and until he has been impeached, what matters is the public believes what the President says.

On the part of Andanar and his colleagues, all that is needed is for them not to try to talk the way DU30 talks, but to try to win the press to their side. If anything, they should try to persuade the President to moderate himself and be more open to his critics. He could learn a few tricks from some of his predecessors, like former President Fidel V. Ramos.

FVR’s critique

Earlier on Monday, Ramos, in an interview at the Samahang Plaridel at the Manila Hotel, gave a running commentary on DU30’s tepid performance on many fronts—his inability to initiate meaningful reform after seven months in office, his inability to sufficiently honor the memory of EDSA 1986, his inability to sustain the peace initiative with the CPP/NPA/NDF, his questionable handling of the nation’s historic ties with old allies in the name of new alliances, his unexplained prolonged disappearances from public view which have provoked speculations about his state of health.

Ramos is a known supporter whom DU30 publicly thanked during his inaugural address for “making him President.” He also served briefly as “special envoy” who facilitated DU30’s diplomatic contacts with China, preparatory to his state visit to Beijing, where he threatened to separate militarily and economically from the US and align himself with China and Russia “against the world.” He has tried to be moderate and gentle in his critique, but being an ally, his gentlest criticism has an impact on the President.

In his interview, Ramos was critical of the reported Malacañang decision to keep the 31st EDSA anniversary celebration (from February 22 to 25) subdued, giving no special recognition to the role of its defenders, both living and dead. For Ramos, who with then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile led the military mutiny against President Ferdinand Marcos, EDSA was one of the watershed moments in the Philippines’ struggle as a sovereign and self-respecting state, comparable to the first cry of revolution at Pugad Lawin in 1896 and the defense of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942, which halted the Japanese invasion of Australia and the islands of the South Pacific. For him it is unforgivable that the full meaning of EDSA should be withheld from the present and future generations of Filipinos—for reasons known only to those in charge at this point.

A lot of loose talk

Indeed, it is difficult to understand why while Malacañang is trying to discourage large crowds from the EDSA celebration, Cabinet Secretary and NDF Vice Chairman Leoncio Evasco Jr.’s “Kilusang Pagbabago”, the communist structure meant to become the principal organ of DU30’s bureaucracy, is said to be mobilizing a mammoth assembly to “Occupy Rizal Park” on February 25.

Some are inclined to speculate that DU30 fears certain elements could make use of the EDSA anniversary as an excuse to mount a massive destabilization effort against him. Some in fact go so far as suggest that a “coup” against DU30 could be attempted.

I view all this as irresponsible talk. The anti-DU30 voices (forces, if you like) are certainly increasing, but I think it is quite foolish to imagine that even if they succeed in forcing DU30 out of office, they have a ready and credible alternative whom the people would welcome and support. Certainly not a military successor, or a Vice President Leni Robredo, whose legitimacy is being questioned before the Supreme Court. I would like to believe that most anti-DU30 critics would like to see DU30 reform and ultimately succeed as a democratic President. But the greater danger, to my mind, is the hidden agenda of Secretary Jun Evasco and his Kilusang Pagbabago and Masa Masid. If their plan is to “Occupy Rizal Park,” while some “yellow groupings” march on EDSA against DU30, what are the chances that at some point the two forces would clash?

And what happens if and when that happens? Shall we have martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or a revolutionary government? Can DU30 afford it?
Published in Commentaries
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 09:43

NEDA rolls out new Phl Development Plan

MANILA, Philippines - The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has come up with a new medium-term economic blueprint for the country, targeting an upper-middle class economy status with a per capita income of $5,000 by 2022.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 is the first six-year plan to be anchored on a national long-term vision – the Ambisyon Natin 2040. It also takes off from the Duterte administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda.

The new PDP contains seven main parts, which include an overview of the economy, development challenges that lie ahead, and development strategies.

As identified in the 2017-2022 PDP, the Philippine economy is expected to grow seven to eight percent in the medium term to a more inclusive pace.

Poverty rate is targeted to decline from the present rate of 21.6 percent to 14 percent in 2022, while poverty incidence in rural areas is expected to decrease from 30 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2022.

Under the new economic blueprint, the government targets to reduce unemployment rate from the current 5.5 percent to between three to five percent by 2022.

Included among the targets are various socioeconomic goals such as attaining higher trust in government and society, having more resilient individuals and communities, and a greater drive for innovation among businesses.

“We want the Philippines to be an upper-middle income country by 2022. With the right policies and with mutual trust between government and the citizenry, this is very possible,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who is also director general of NEDA.

The new development plan in supported by three main pillars: Malasakit which aims to regain people’s trust in public institutions. Strategies under this pillar include promoting awareness of anti-corruption measures, improving the productivity of the public sector, implementing regulatory reforms, increasing access to legal aid, pursuing corrections reform, and promoting culture-sensitive governance and development.

The second pillar is Pagbabago, which aims to reduce inequality by increasing income opportunities.

Pernia said under this pillar, the government would be placing emphasis on creating more opportunities in the value chain of the agriculture sector.

“Opportunities in agriculture will be expanded. We will increase our presence in the global market, and we will streamline bureaucratic processes for both local and foreign businesses,” said NEDA deputy director general Rosemarie Edillon.

Also under this pillar, the government will pursue strategies such as achieving quality and accessible basic education for all, enhancing disaster risk reduction and management mechanisms and adopting universal social protection.

The third pillar, Patuloy na Pag-unlad concentrates on sustaining economic growth by maximixing the demographic dividend and advancing science, technology and innovation.

“Strategies under this pillar will ensure maintaining macroeconomic and financial stability, and observing fiscal prudence while the tax system is being reformed into a much simpler, fair and equitable one,” said NEDA, “A strategic trade policy will also be implemented alongside measures to promote competition and establish a level playing field.”
Published in News
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