Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: April 2018

BULUAN, MAGUINDANAO — Once peace in Mindanao is achieved, President Duterte will declare the whole island a land reform area and distribute government land, including military reservations, to the people.

“I’ll give it all to you. You find public land, including those where military camps are situated, that’s yours,” he said on Wednesday during the turnover of some 900 surrendered firearms from various Maguindanao towns.

Large tracts of government lands, he said, have remained idle and have not contributed to the economy. “Nothing will happen to it,” he said. “I will give it all. You plant rubber. You plant palm.”

The President said that in order to achieve peace, the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) had to be accelerated.

“Let us fast-track the [passage of the] BBL. The BBL does not mean all of Mindanao will be Moro. (BBL) would be like the Liberal or (Nacionalista) Party. It will amplify the voice of the Moro for the national government to listen to,” he said.

Before May ends

President Duterte said he was trying his best to have the BBL passed. “I am promising you, it will pass before May [ends]. If not, I will resign from the presidency,” he said.

Congress will resume sessions on May 14.

The chief executive said he would be a “useless President” if his administration could not solve the country’s problems, particularly the Moro problem.

“I want you to be established. I will talk to Nur (Moro National Liberation Front founding chair Misuari) on what the arrangement would be,” he said. “But you will have a definite Moro territory. All the government land, that’s yours.”

President Duterte also asked all Moro people to seek peace.

“Let’s continue to talk because if you shoot a policeman or a soldier, they will take up revenge. It will never end and nobody will win. Believe me,” he said.

Trouble will only further drag the country down if such incidents persisted, he added.

“We will end up a poor country forever, fighting each other,” he said. “And neither will firearms do any good for the Moro people.”

‘No one like me’

“What can it provide your family? Can you educate your family with it? Can you plant your livelihood with it?” he said.

Mr. Duterte said the Moro people should believe him because he was one of them and “because no one like me would probably come again.”

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, said the surrender of the firearms was a manifestation of the people’s support for the Duterte administration’s campaign against loose weapons.

Mangudadatu, who lost his wife and several loved ones in the so-called Maguindanao Massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, agreed that guns would not do good to Moro families.

“It will only cause trouble and we have seen that for many years now,” he said.

Mangudadatu said the provincial government would continue to convince people to surrender their guns in exchange for livelihood and the education of their children.

“We have started sponsoring students from families who do not have guns under the Maguindanao scholarship program,” he said.

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The Bureau of Immigration (BI)  has ordered an elderly Australian nun who has angered President Rodrigo Duterte to leave the country in 30 days.

In a one-page order issued on Monday, the BI revoked Sister Patricia Fox’s missionary visa before it was to expire on Sept. 5. It also directed the deactivation of her alien certificate of registration.

“She was found to have engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said on Wednesday.

Fox, a 71-year-old missionary belonging to the Our Lady of Sion congregation, was detained for a day last week after Mr. Duterte ordered her investigated for “disorderly conduct.”

The President harshly criticized the nun for having a “shameful mouth” and warned that he would not tolerate foreign visitors insulting the Philippines, which he said was a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

“You come here and insult us, you trample with our sovereignty. That will never happen,” he said. “I assure you, if you begin to malign, defame [the] government in any of those rallies there, I will order your arrest.”

Fox’s lawyer, Jobert Pahilga, said he would ask immigration authorities to reconsider their decision although it appeared to have been made upon the President’s orders.

“The President has spoken. We take it as his marching order for the BI to deport Sister Pat,” Pahilga said.

He said he had not expected the BI move, as Fox was given until May 4 to file a counteraffidavit answering complaints that she violated immigration rules.

Pahilga said BI documents supposedly showed Fox had openly and actively participated in activities such as rallies, press conferences and fact-finding missions, which are alleged violations of her missionary visa, making her an undesirable alien.

“The charge that Sister Pat is an undesirable alien has no basis in fact and in law,” Pahilga said.

He said she was not engaged in antigovernment activities and all her actions had been “consistent with her missionary work of promoting peace, social justice and human rights.”


In a statement, Fox said she was surprised at the order to expel her.

“I am very sad that the decision at present is that I leave the Philippines,” she said. “I may lose my right to be in the Philippines but I can never lose the learnings and beautiful memories.”

She said she had worked in the Philippines since 1990 with poor farmers and tribal people in the rural areas, and with workers in urban centers where she had learned how they were impoverished.

As a Christian, she said, she had to get involved in projects to uplift their livelihood and also to push for their rights to land, peace, justice, security and human rights.

“It seems this is what has brought me into conflict with the Philippine government. I am still hoping for a chance to explain how I see my mission as a religious sister and maybe the decision can be reconsidered,” she said. (See Fox’s full statement on this page)

Opposition solons

Opposition lawmakers condemned the BI order.

“Harassing human rights advocates and faith-based organizations and individuals may succeed in the short run but it will eventually fail,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said in a statement, adding that the Duterte administration was acting like Hitler’s Gestapo.

Tolerance lost

Sen. Bam Aquino said he would seek a Senate probe of the order, which he said was a clear harassment of people who fight abuses.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the BI action showed the Philippines “had lost the tolerance” for the missionary’s exercise of her freedom.

“What was the government afraid of?” he asked.

Reacting to the BI decision, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said, “Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh, but it is the law).”

“If that’s the law, no one is above the law,” Sotto said.

Equal protection clause

Sen. Francis Escudero called the BI order “unfortunate”

but said the grant, denial or withdrawal of a visa was “discretionary on the part of any country.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the equal protection clause in the Constitution did not distinguish between foreigners and citizens of the Philippines.


The executive branch, however, could impose limitations on certain activities of foreigners that are against the interest of the state “and that is what the government has applied in the case of Sister Patricia Fox,” he said.

Lacson said Filipinos should back the BI move if allegations against Fox were proven true.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the expulsion order gave no consideration to the nun’s nearly three decades of service to the Filipino people, especially the poor.

“This is very sad. All the good Sister Pat has done to help the underprivileged, which the government has not been able to serve, is glossed over and not even appreciated while the insecurity of the present government is given weight,” Pabillo said. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Maila Ager, Allan Nawal and the wires

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/166099/sister-patricia-fox-challenges-expulsion-order#ixzz5DlPxapvB 
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Published in News
Thursday, 26 April 2018 13:48

House toughens rules for media

Journalists who “besmirch the reputation of the House of Representatives, its officials or members” may lose their credentials to cover the chamber, according to new ground rules for the media set by the House leadership.

The tough rules for Philippine media formulated by the House came as media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said that hostility toward journalists was growing worldwide, often encouraged by political leaders — even in democratic countries.

The group’s annual global index of press freedom released on Wednesday found an overall rise in animosity toward reporters and a drop in freedoms, notably in former Soviet states but also in countries from the United States to the Philippines.

The House Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PPAB) released this week “institutional codified rules for media coverage” of the House in an apparent move to toughen policies on news reporting and limit access by reporters to lawmakers.

Congress is in recess, but will resume session on May 15. The House is expected to tackle the impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and pass urgent measures, including the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the federalism bill.

In formulating the new rules, the House media office cited “a need to give more teeth to the House’s efforts of ensuring a systematic and orderly media coverage that will be beneficial to both the House and the media, and ultimately to the citizenry.”


PPAB said the press card of a House-accredited reporter may be revoked “if the bearer besmirches the reputation of the House of Representatives, its officials or members.”

Reporters Without Borders said many democratically elected leaders “no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning,” singling out US President Donald Trump for his media-bashing.

The group also noted the recent killings of reporters in European Union members Slovakia and Malta.

Authoritarian regimes are trying to “export their vision” that the media should be compliant, according to the watchdog.

Other revocation grounds

It said hate speech targeting journalists was amplified on social networks by government-friendly trolls in India, Russia and elsewhere.

In the House of Representatives, other grounds for revocation of media credentials are the following:


  • If applicant/bearer is found to have made false claims
  • If applicant/bearer is involved in activities that run counter to or violate the policies of the House
  • If bearer abuses the privileges and entitlements extended to House-accredited media
  • If bearer is found guilty of gross misconduct
  • If the bearer commits any other similar acts or misdeed


The new media code includes guidelines on which gate news vehicles may enter the Batasang Pambansa compound (where lawmakers hold sessions) in Quezon City, the areas that accredited reporters and photographers may access, and rules governing live TV recording of plenary sessions and committee meetings, and interviews with House members, including the Speaker.

Ambush interviews

For instance, on-the-spot interviews of House members and guests and stand-up or live reporting may be conducted at the left and right sides of the main lobby, according to the new rules.

Interviews and TV stand-up live reporting will be disallowed at the main lobby area “to avoid obstructing the entry to and exit from the plenary hall of House members.”

There will be no stand-up or live reporting and ambush interviews of House members, resource persons, invited guests, or any other personage in the corridors or hallways of the House buildings, the rules state.

It likewise sets rules for the accreditation of news journalists as well as their relievers.

Most of these rules had been in effect since the 17th Congress began session in 2016. —With a report from AP

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/985481/house-toughens-rules-for-media#ixzz5Dl7rwlFV 
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Published in News
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 16:04

The imperial presidency redux

LAST week’s column, “SC co-equal branch?” (TMT, April 18) discussed the “independence” of the judiciary visualized from the angle of the Sereno quo warranto petition, and the President’s purported non-involvement in this affair. Today’s column will touch on the role of the third co-equal branch of government, the Congress, with respect to the clear admonition of DU30 that Chief Justice Sereno is now his enemy and needs to be booted out.

“I will ask Speaker Alvarez now, kindly fast-track the impeachment…do it now. Cut the drama or else I will do it for you.”

“It will be done once we resume sessions,” Speaker Alvarez meekly replied. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 10, 2018)

I have yet to parse what the President meant exactly by his statement except for its clear element of a threat by the executive against half of the legislature.

Sereno’s goose is cooked, thanks to the House of Representative (HoR) which will now have to do the President’s bidding, reducing itself into an institutional doormat. By passing on to the Senate the bill of particulars, this act will be equivalent to a messy self-castration by the honorable congressmen. The Chief Justice will now seek justice from the Senate sitting as judges in an impeachment court. If the Corona scenario will be replayed, we are going to have senators making a lot of moolah from the endeavor. The irony is simply overwhelming.

This column will not dwell on the mechanics of the impeachment of the Chief Justice, if ever there is one. I am looking at this sordid affair from another angle: the imperial presidency and its impact on the bureaucracy and the body politic. In a three-part series on “the imperial presidency” (TMT, June 22 and 29; July 6, 2017), I used as reference an excellent book by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. published in 1974. I will cite the same reference to examine an angle on the actuations of the Deegong that encroaches upon the principle of the co-equality of the three branches of government. This is not a treatise on the principle of checks and balance enshrined in our Constitution. This is simply a depiction of how the executive branch bullies the judiciary and the legislature – and gets away with it.

The imperial presidency hypothesis in Schlesinger’s book is buttressed by the long history of the American presidency. I wrote then: “My take on this book is the that the evolution of the American presidency has been impacted and eventually distorted by a combination of the acts of the respective occupant himself, the non-vigilance of the American Congress and the realities and exigencies of geopolitics; thus, giving rise to the imperial presidency.”

Schlesinger wrote: “During time of emergencies, US Presidents unilaterally assumed enormous powers but ceased control once the emergency is gone. Congress thereby reasserting itself.” (Lincoln during the American civil war and Roosevelt in World War 2)

In the Philippine context, the best example of the imperial presidency was that of Ferdinand Marcos. His was the fruit of a series of perversions and weakening of democratic institutions, bits and pieces at first, then castration of the Congress and the judiciary, culminating in a purported crisis, one of his own making, and then the declaration of martial law, establishing his regime as a full-fledged dictatorship.

Unlike the counterpart American Presidents who unilaterally ceased control and power once the emergency was over, in the case of Marcos, his powers were not unilaterally ceded and lasted for a good part of two decades ending in political upheaval in 1986.

In the present context, the Philippines with its weak democratic institutions is ripe for the emergence of a strong-willed leader. I wrote then that the Deegong was inevitable, that what was needed was a strongman President in “a weak state populated by weak leaders.”

This is what we have now, an imperial presidency, courtesy of weak institutions, especially the co-equal branches riven by conflicts of personal and political self-interest. We may soon see the total taming and acquiescence of a lame judiciary and the surrender of congressional prerogatives and subsequent dismantling of the principle of checks and balance.

And in the dominant executive branch the exercise of arbitrary decisions by the imperial president will be the norm. We already have inklings of that when the DU30 proclaimed what could be the Duterte Doctrine on corruption: He said he will “…not tolerate any corruption in his administration and he will dismiss from office any of his men (women) who are tainted even by a ‘whiff of corruption’; and he is ready to sack any public officials even on the basis of false allegations of corruption.” (Inquirer.net, March 30, 2017, emphasis mine)

This is a dangerous attribute of an imperial presidency, and I wrote then: “There is no question that the president has the power to terminate from government anyone who fails to serve at his pleasure. But the President must be subject to the minimums of fairness and the etiquette of dismissal, for no apparent reason than that the process is widely regarded as civilized behavior. But more importantly, there is a greater overarching principle that covers the conduct of the mighty, the powerful and the humble – the rule of law.”

The seasoning of the imperial presidency will continue as PRRD indulges in the capricious usurpation of decisions which by the principle of subsidiarity should have been lodged with his alter-egos – cabinet members and their departments and the regulatory agencies. The closure of Boracay upon the President’s pronouncement that it was a cesspool and his declaration to turn it into a land reform area have elicited contradictory responses from his own bureaucracy.

Similar presidential outbursts meant to shock and dramatize have been the style of the president from the very beginning, when he threatened to fatten Manila Bay with the bodies of illegal drug pushers and the enforcement of his dreaded tokhang. All these, plus his intimidating demeanor is erroneously equated as the quintessence of political will.

These anomalies are just symptoms of decades-long history of systemic discordance in our practice of governance; one that is grounded in a unitary presidential government with a highly centralized authority. The resultant weakness of democratic institutions has inevitably augured the creeping evils and abusive measures which are manifested in an imperial presidency.

Paradoxically, with an inherent rotten system; with the dismantling of the concept of “co-equal branch of government for check and balance”; and absent the traditional moral voice of the formal churches—Duterte’s imperial presidency could be what the doctor prescribed.

Except, if allowed unchecked, we might just find ourselves one day ruled by another full dictatorship!
Published in LML Polettiques

As the purchasing power of their wages gets eroded by a jump in prices of basic goods over the past few months, Filipinos across all socioeconomic classes have identified raising workers’ pay and curbing inflation as their most urgent concerns, according to a recent Pulse Asia survey.

Changing the Constitution, a priority of the Duterte administration, which is pushing for a federal form of government, is the least of their concerns, the poll showed.

The Pulse Asia survey of 1,200 respondents nationwide, conducted from March 23 to 28, also found that reducing poverty and creating more jobs — two issues related to low pay and rising cost of living — were the other urgent concerns.

The survey also showed that, at this time, Filipinos were least concerned about population growth, national territorial defense and terrorism.

Rising prices

A majority of those belonging to Socioeconomic Class ABC — the rich and the middle class — considered inflation their top concern, followed by criminality and workers’ pay.

The top concern of Class D respondents was workers’ pay. For those belonging to Class E (the poorest), it was inflation.

Prices of consumer goods have surged and the country’s finance managers have attributed this to the faster price increases of so-called sin products.

The inflation rate in March rose to 4.3 percent, the highest since 2013 and faster than the government target of 2 to 4 percent.

The jump in prices came in the wake of the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which lowered the personal income tax of salary earners but raised the excise tax on a host of goods and services.

Insufficient safety nets

A labor group said wages and high prices remained top concerns of the people because of inadequate protection against profiteers, insufficient safety nets and government failure to curb contractualization work arrangements, like “endo” contracts.

Endo workers are contractual employees who get fired after five months so companies will not pay them benefits.

“If these endo workers are directly hired and become regular workers, at least they would be able to cope with inflation because they would be paid with lawfully mandated wages and benefits,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson for the Associated Labor Unions–Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

The daily minimum wage in Metro Manila ranges from P475 to P512. The floor pay ranges from P243 to P380 in Luzon outside the metropolis; P245 to P366 in the Visayas; and P255 to P340 in Mindanao.

“Wages have been devalued for the past decade,” Julius Cainglet of Federation of Free Workers said.

“The insignificant increase in the regional minimum wages and the small increase in the take-home pay from the reduced personal income tax would not be enough to cover the increase in prices of basic commodities, especially as a direct or indirect result of the TRAIN law,” he added.

A Filipino needed at least P1,813 while a family of five needed at least P9,064 monthly to meet basic food and nonfood needs in 2015.

Malacañang said on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte shared the Filipinos’ most urgent concerns.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President wanted to give Filipinos a more comfortable life and was working toward this.

Cut poverty, more jobs

Poverty incidence and unemployment rates have declined, but these are not enough for Filipinos, who still see the need to reduce poverty and to create more jobs.

One in five Filipinos was poor in 2015—a poverty incidence of 21.6 percent, down from 25.2 percent in 2012, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Despite the decrease, the poverty incidence translated to 21.93 million Filipinos who couldn’t afford to buy basic food and nonfood items.


Unemployment rate in January fell to a decade-low 5.3 percent (2.3 million people) from last year’s 6.6 percent (2.8 million).

The underemployment rate, however, rose to 18 percent (7.4 million) in January from 16.3 percent (6.4 million) last year.

Because of low pay and lack of jobs in the country, many Filipinos still leave to work abroad.

Results of the Pulse Asia survey also indicated that the Duterte administration scored majority approval ratings, ranging from 53 percent to 86 percent, in handling 11 of 12 selected national issues.

The administration, however, got a 39-percent approval rating in controlling inflation.

It got 86 percent in responding to the needs of those affected by calamities and 84 percent in protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. —REPORTS FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH, TINA G. SANTOS AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/985131/wages-prices-jobs-top-filipino-concerns-says-poll#ixzz5DeQsV7Ug 
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Published in News
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 11:18

PDP-Laban, ‘anyare’?

In 1978, at the zenith of the Marcos dictatorship, the Lakas ng Bayan or Laban political party was formed, to contest the Interim Batasang Pambansa elections.

Its founders included opposition leaders Benigno Aquino Jr. and Lorenzo Tañada. Its candidates, aside from Aquino, included Neptali Gonzales, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. — and Alex Boncayao.

Pimentel, together with other political activists from Mindanao and the Visayas, including Samuel Oceña of Davao and Antonio Cuenca of Cebu, founded the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) in 1982.

Tañada was elected, by acclamation, as honorary chair at the founding convention.

In 1986, the two parties, which had already formed a coalition, merged, to form PDP-Laban; it nominated Corazon Aquino as its candidate against Ferdinand Marcos in the snap presidential election; as part of a unification deal, she ran instead as the official nominee of the United Nationalist Democratic Organization, her running mate Salvador Laurel’s political party.

To this storied history of today’s ruling party, Pimentel’s son Aquilino III, the Senate president and the current president of PDP-Laban, would like to add the names of … Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, and folk musician Freddie Aguilar.

These are some of the 20 prospective candidates for the Senate that Pimentel said his party would choose its 12 senatorial nominees from.

The other prospects include six reelectionists (Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, and Pimentel himself), seven members of the House of Representatives (including former senator Pia Cayetano), a former interior secretary (Rafael Alunan), a former TV reporter (Jiggy Manicad), and a presidential adviser (Francis Tolentino).

Pimentel revealed the lack of principled vetting that marked his party’s process of shortlisting candidates when he explained Aguilar’s inclusion in underwhelming fashion.

He said the singer known internationally for his song “Anak” met all the qualifications of a senator: “He has all of them. And for sure, he has ideas on how legislation can solve some of our problems.”

The Constitution sets these minimum qualifications: natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old on election day, literate, registered voter, resident of the Philippines.

By Pimentel’s criteria, literally millions of other Filipinos can be considered candidates for the Senate, all with “ideas on how legislation can solve some of our problems.”

The difference is, Aguilar is a celebrity, a member of the party, and perceived as loyal to President Duterte.

Most of the others on the short list share that last criterion: Tolentino, once close to the previous president, is now close to the present one; Alunan remains allied with President Duterte, despite his vocal opposition to the Marcoses, whom the President is in the process of rehabilitating politically; Cayetano, the sister of the foreign secretary and a champion of feminism, continues to side with the President despite his antiwomen remarks; Go, whom the President declared to be a billionaire and is known as the “National Photobomber” because of his notorious selfies with the President and his famous guests or international counterparts, enjoys a fierce and reciprocal relationship of loyalty with Mr. Duterte; Roque is controversial for his astounding abandonment of former principles for present gain; and Uson, of course, is the President’s No. 1 cheerleader, bar none.

But loyalty to the President is no guarantee of electoral victory; the latest Pulse Asia survey of prospective senatorial candidates shows that even Uson, with her vaunted fan base of 5 million, is known to only 54 percent of the electorate; of that slice, only 1.4 percent said they would vote for her.

Go, with 60 percent awareness, has a 5.9 percent would-vote-for-him factor.

And Roque, despite his premature campaigning and island-hopping, is known to only 70 percent of voters, of which only 8.7 percent would vote for him.

So Pimentel, who is competing with his party secretary general, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, to fill the PDP-Laban slate with the 12 candidates President Duterte will choose, has managed to taint the party history with unbecoming prospective candidates and losing prospects. To use today’s language: PDP-Laban, anyare?

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/112714/pdp-laban-anyare#ixzz5DePdFeFs 
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Published in News

The Philippines must protest China’s landing of military aircraft on Panganiban Reef or its silence may be taken as implied consent, according to acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

“If we don’t protest, we acquiesce. We consent impliedly, [we lose],” Carpio said in an interview on Saturday.

[It’s] to preserve our rights: No, we don’t agree [to the landings]. That’s ours [Panganiban Reef]. It remains [disputed]. If we don’t protest, [for them] it’s no longer disputed,” he added.

The Inquirer published last week surveillance photos obtained from a source that showed two Xian Y-7 military transport planes on the tarmac of Panganiban Reef (internationally known as Mischief Reef), which is located within the Philipppines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea. The photos were taken on Jan. 6 this year.

Just note verbale
“We should be protesting. It doesn’t cost anything, just a note verbale on a piece of paper then we preserve our rights,” Carpio said, observing the government seemed to be avoiding displeasing China.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said last week that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was “taking all diplomatic actions” to protect the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea, but refused to say what the agency would do about the military landings on Panganiban Reef.

“China has been protesting every time we send survey ships to Recto Bank (Reed Bank) … . Vietnam always protests even up to now. China itself protests. [But we], why do we handicap ourselves?” Carpio asked.

“[Protest is] very peaceful. [We won the arbitration in] The Hague [because] we showed we protested. [We questioned many things]. Can you just imagine if we did not protest that?” he added.

Carpio was a member of the legal team that argued the Philippines’ case in challenging in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, including swaths of the Philippines’ EEZ known as West Philippine Sea.

The arbitral court handed down a ruling in July 2016, declaring China’s sweeping claim invalid and that it violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore for resources in the West Philippine Sea.

Panganiban belongs to PH
Part of the ruling says the Philippines has sovereign rights over Panganiban Reef, but China has refused to acknowledge the court’s decision.

President Duterte, who came to power shortly before the ruling, put the Philippine victory on the back burner, mended fences with China and went on to win aid and pledges of investment from Beijing.

Surveillance photos published by the Inquirer in February showed China, while helping finance Mr. Duterte’s infrastructure program, was pursuing the completion of artificial islands on Panganiban and other reefs claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly archipelago.

The other Philippine-claimed reefs seized and transformed by China into artificial islands with military facilities are Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Zamora (Subi) and McKennan (Hughes).

China has also topped Kagitingan and Zamora with runways that can handle military planes.

“China is doing this incrementally so it won’t create a shock. It’s like water torture, you don’t know you’re being boiled,” Carpio said.

“[They are coming a few at a time – fighter jets, long-range bombers. It’s obvious that’s a military grade runway. There are hangars for fighter jets. [China’s doing it little by little] so people will get used to it. [That’s China’s strategy],” Carpio said.

‘Gateway’ to Recto Bank
He described Panganiban as a “gateway” to Recto (Reed) Bank, where the Philippines had started to explore for oil and gas, but suspended operations in 2014 to make way for the arbitration in The Hague.

“If the Philippines sends survey vessels to Recto Bank, the Chinese could act fast by sending blocking forces from Panganiban Reef,” he said.

“China calls Mischief Reef Pearl Harbor in the South China Sea. [Their] radar can monitor any aircraft that lands or takes off from Puerto Princesa. They can monitor our movements,” he added.

Carpio also criticized National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s statement that he would rather prioritize domestic security concerns like the communist insurgency and terrorism before tackling the territorial dispute with China.

“When I graduated [from] college in 1970 [the communist and Moro insurgencies were already there]. You mean to say we will wait for another 50 years when the West Philippine Sea has already been taken? This is more important because once we lose it, we lose it forever,” he said.

“If China invades Palawan, do we say domestic issue first?” he said.

War not an option
Carpio agreed that war was not an option, but he tried to explain it better than the government’s line that the Philippines did not have military muscle to take on China.

“[War is not an option, that’s the reason why we went to The Hague],” he said. “We relied on international law. It’s against the Constitution, against the human charter. You can’t settle the dispute by going to war. We will be isolated. We never considered war, that’s why we went to The Hague.”

On Friday, Carpio addressed graduating law students of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, telling them that every Filipino has a role to play in asserting the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea through “people-to-people conversation” to get China to comply with the arbitral court’s ruling.

“Let it not be said by future generations of Filipinos that today’s generation of Filipinos slept while China seized the West Philippine Sea,” he told the graduates.

Carpio said he wanted “to get people involved in talking to the rest of the world.”

“That’s my advocacy, that we Filipino people [take up] the defense of the West Philippine Sea. [They say] that’s too quixotic, but [we have no] alternative… [If the government doesn’t want to, let’s do it ourselves]. They can’t stop us. This is freedom of expression,” he said.

Carpio said he had published an e-book, and suggested the new lawyers use the arguments there.

“You talk to everybody. This is something we should’ve been doing with the government leading. If it doesn’t want to lead, then we do it ourselves. We have to bypass them and they can’t stop us,” he said.

Read more: https://globalnation.inquirer.net/165938/carpio-slams-dfa-stand-ph-reef-incident#ixzz5DTiLZgQE 
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Published in News
Friday, 20 April 2018 16:22

Whose foreign secretary?

To hear Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano talk about Philippine-Chinese relations is to hear the whiny sound of surrender and subservience. In Cayetano’s view, the landmark arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016 that gave the Philippines a sweeping legal victory over China over disputed parts of the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea is not a sign of strength but, rather, a source of weakness.

After all, what does the following statement, from the former senator with a reputation for articulate rhetoric, really mean, but that smoother relations with China are a higher priority than defending Philippine sovereign rights? “As of now, if we compare the Aquino administration strategy and the Duterte strategy, we simply are making do with a bad situation but we have stopped the bleeding.” Only someone who sees the strain in bilateral relations because of the filing and the winning of the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration as more important than the actual legal victory itself would think that the Philippines was in “a bad situation” post-July 12, 2016.

The exact opposite is true: Our side in the dispute with China was never stronger than on the day the arbitral tribunal issued an award that was an almost complete vindication of Philippine claims. Only someone who thinks that pleasing China meets a greater public interest than enforcing the legal victory so painstakingly won at The Hague would say that, today, “we have stopped the bleeding.” There is a term for this, and it is appeasement.

The foreign secretary makes the situation worse, undermines even further the Philippine position regarding its own rights to the West Philippine Sea and its jurisdiction over parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, by adopting the Chinese perspective hook, line, and sinker. “Yes, we want to fight for what is ours but we don’t want a war. And no one in our region wants a war because no one will win.” This is the Chinese view, that the only alternative to settling the disputes is through a war. This is simply not true; it is also, essentially, un-Filipino. Which makes us ask: Whose interests does the Honorable Alan Peter Cayetano, secretary of foreign affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, really represent?

There is an alternative to war, and that is the process which the Philippines helped set up: a regime of international law governing maritime and territorial disputes. That is the process  which the Philippines won, despite China’s bullying and its demonization of the international law system. That is the process which allows smaller countries an almost equal footing with the great powers. And that is the process which, unaccountably, this administration’s lawyers shortchange, subvert, sell out.

Consider these words of wisdom from Cayetano: “China has not asked us, and I can tell you this very honestly whether closed door or in open, they have never asked us to give up our claims. They have simply asked us to put some order in how we will discuss these claims and where we should discuss these claims.” He speaks, not as a public servant of the Filipino people, but the servant of the Chinese government.

Assume for the sake of argument that what Cayetano said is in fact the case; why should we follow China’s proposed order in discussing our rights? Indeed, why should our foreign secretary mindlessly repeat the Chinese line that our claims are still in dispute—when the arbitral tribunal has already and convincingly ruled in our favor? (Let Beijing say these are mere claims; Manila should assert them as vindicated rights.) Even more to the point: Why privilege what China wants (“China has not asked us …”)? The real question is: What does the Philippines ask, when it meets with China?

If it’s only money, through expensive loans or dubious investments, then we really should all
worry that Beijing has landed military cargo aircraft on Mischief or Panganiban Reef. We are trading our sovereign rights, inch by inch, for the proverbial filthy lucre.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/112597/whose-foreign-secretary#ixzz5DCPGnXqo 
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Published in News
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 15:29

Pasha presidency

On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol capped his victory over Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr. by releasing photos of a Monday night Cabinet meeting in which the media was pointedly informed that Evasco did not attend. Some reports said that in the meeting, agencies previously under the Department of Agriculture — the National Food Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority — were declared returned to Agriculture, after having been previously placed under the purview of Evasco; but other reports said the NFA was going to be placed directly under the President. But it seems Evasco may end up having the last word — a memorandum he submitted to President Duterte on Monday, laying out his view that the NFA administrator has some explaining to do, is being reported on by the media.

The Piñol photos were peculiar. The President was perched on an armchair flanked by members of the Cabinet arranged on chairs, resembling a courtesy call more than a Cabinet meeting (you know the drill for those, everyone seated at a long table, more often than not in the State Dining Room, following the practice begun during the Marcos administration; this is perhaps the first time in over 80 years that a Cabinet meeting has been laid out in this manner). But it is perhaps a more truthful picture, representing, more authentically, the President’s executive style. Academics, including Randy David, have coined a term for this style — sultanic rule. As David once put it, the President’s “approach to the complex work of governance is founded upon the presumed futility of conventional methods. He has no qualms about short-circuiting the requirements of formal institutions, believing these to be, at best, superfluous, and, at worst, dysfunctional… Instead of figuring out for ourselves how to master the routines of democratic statecraft, we have sought refuge in the decisiveness of sultanic rule. No matter how dubious the premises of these unorthodox solutions are, we scramble to find a warrant for them, even portraying them as inspired and born of native wisdom and experience.”

Like a pasha on a cushion, the President thus appears in public to validate the latest intrigue. Here, a whisper at the right moment is immune to thick wads of memoranda: Evasco, like a good bureaucrat, has found all the early-term executive orders and memoranda he’d successfully signed made meaningless not just by subsequent issuances, but simply by means of verbal statements. In this manner, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Secretary Piñol have systematically demolished what Evasco had tried to systematically build up. The pages and pages of talking points and charts — the ideological apparatus of the Crude Society — have ended up discarded, read only by Evasco and neither studied nor believed in, by anyone else, the Great Eagle Father included.

It may be that this allergic reaction to Evasco and his ways will actually ensure the regime change program of the ruling coalition. If it won’t be so different, then change can be welcomed by the pros. It will merely be a new era of mergers and acquisitions. There will be more to share because two major groups that previously had to be shared with—nationally elected senators with their mandates rivaling presidents and their nationwide perspective, and Supreme Court justices whose institutional power of review is fated to be stripped away—won’t matter as much as they did. Mayors will remain more powerful than governors, and congressmen may still get the chance to hold Cabinet portfolios as they’ve dreamed of doing for a generation, and while presidents won’t be as limited in their powers as they used to be, future speakers won’t have to play second fiddle to the powerless Senate presidents of the future.

These are only slight modifications to the overall scheme of things — and perhaps tidier in the long run. The fate of Boracay — its entire economy and even the physical mobility of its residents and visitors alike — has been so easily decreed from on high, so completely decided by the pasha’s whims. It turns out Imperial Manila was only bad so long as it was held by someone who’d spent their career in Manila. Give it to someone from outside and it’s no problem at all, because now it’s simply known as political will.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/112533/pasha-presidency#ixzz5D0UoeZj3 
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Published in News
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 14:57

The Supreme Court a co-equal branch?

IN the Philippines, scandals, tsismis and fake news (STF for short) are part of the daily news diet. I have no idea how many of our citizens care to read the papers or how many are active in social media. For the majority, word of mouth is an effective carrier of STF, and travel faster and farther. There is that symbiotic relationship between word of mouth and media. Sourced from either platform, these raw morsels of STF are then either distorted, embellished and presented to the public as truth. In social media, internet trolls on both sides of the argument or advocacies are then engaged in a frenzy of spin, effectively taking over the political conversation.

More often than not, this job is assigned to favored stooges with government sinecures who have large social media following; talking heads and lawyers with the leash tightly held by Malacañang. They then proffer these fables to the public in double-speak.

Take the example of the quo warranto petition against beleaguered Chief Justice (on leave) Maria Lourdes Sereno brought by Solicitor General Jose Calida. Ordinary Filipinos take this simply as “lawyer’s mumbo-jumbo.” According to Calida’s suit, Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice is not valid “ab initio” (from the very beginning) and “…requires her to show by what authority she exercises her assumption to public office.”

Sereno opined: “If they succeed [in removing]an impeachable officer nearly six years after her appointment, then every sitting justice will no longer be independent.” (PDI, April 12, 2018)

True enough! Why only now, after six years? The ordinary Filipino would rather not participate in this “moro-moro” and with a mind of his own prefer a narrative which is simple, linear and honest.

President Duterte wants her ousted. She has provoked the anger of the President. Many believe this started when she clashed with the Deegong early in his administration in August 2016. Du30 made the mistake of naming judges allegedly involved in illegal drugs, some of whom had long been retired and one long dead. DU30 backed down from a confrontation with the feisty lady who insisted on her prerogatives and the independence of the judiciary. But she had drawn first blood. The President’s disdain for the chief justice could have started at this point.

Rubbing salt on the wound, she has consistently voted against Duterte’s policies that have been elevated to the high court: a hero’s burial for the dictator Marcos, and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao to contain the IS rebellion, among others.

And lately, Sereno lashed out at DU30’s perceived drift towards authoritarianism. “The current state of the nation is one where perceived enemies of the dominant order are considered fair game for harassment, intimidation and persecution, where shortcuts are preferred over adherence to constitutional guarantees of human rights, including the denial of due process,” Sereno said.

“Coarseness, including the denigration of women, rather than civility, mark the language of the podium,” she added. (Nikkei Asian Review, March 8, 2018)

This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Who is this

Lourdes Sereno who has the balls to stand up to the macho president?

Sereno had been chief justice for five years prior to DU30’s ascendancy. She took her position seriously as head of the judiciary, co-equal to the executive and legislative branches of government. She was installed as chief justice after the impeachment of CJ Corona and after having been scrutinized and recommended by the Judicial and Bar Council.

Corona himself earned the ire of the Aquinos on some high court decisions against the Aquino/Cojuangco interests. PNoy used his office to allegedly bribe the senators with DAP money to impeach Corona.

PNoy’s inexperienced niña bonita , appointed at a very young age (57 in 2012), will be sitting as CJ for the next several years (70 years old in 2030) outliving those in the current bench. This did not sit well with the other justices, all senior to her, drooling over the CJ post.

A quo warranto petition was filed by the Solicitor General. Knowing how the DU30 can be intimidating to his cabinet, no way will Calida act without the Deegong’s imprimatur. DU30’s assertions that he did not have a hand in this is simply not plausible.

Sereno took the bait, asking the Deegong publicly to show his hand. This allowed DU30 to accommodate her challenge, thus his declaration: “I am putting you on notice that I’m now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 10, 2018)

There is no mumbo-jumbo in the PRRD’s language. Sereno, the head of another co-equal branch, became an enemy once she stepped on the almighty’s toes and he wants her head.

What next? Sereno could be booted out by her peers on this quo warranto petition, but this would look funny. She has been a member of the bench for a good part of a decade. Would these good justices now “require her to show by what authority she exercises her assumption to public office”?

The success of this quo warranto petition will have a lasting effect. A precedent having been established, any SolGen in the future will have the ability to bring quo warranto petitions against any of them. This in fact is a hanging sword of Damocles of their own making.

The issues of Sereno’s alleged corruption, profligate lifestyle and imperial tendencies will not be taken up in this quo warranto petition. These are issues rightly lodged in an impeachment proceeding against impeachable officials.

If Chief Justice Sereno’s peers will shamelessly abide by the dictates of their personal agenda, they will boot her out on this quo warranto petition. But their reputation will be left in tatters as they shall have been reduced to mere lap dogs of the executive branch.

Impeach her, if you must! But go through the proper constitutional process.

Published in LML Polettiques
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