Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: June 2018
Wednesday, 27 June 2018 14:38

Nazi pogrom – Trump’s version

LAST week, my two grandchildren visited us in Davao for a few days at the start of their school summer break. Sylvie just turned 4 and Oliver is 21 months. I think of them in light of what’s happening in the land of their birth, America. They are of the same age as those South American children, from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, who were forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border and “locked up in cages for processing before they are sequestered to at least three ‘tender age’ shelters” (Associated Press/ Inquirer.net, June 21, 2018).

Trump last April proclaimed his “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigrants, chiefly from South American countries. Since the first week of May, close to 2,300 children, some as young as eight months, were taken into US government custody. As children are separated from their families, law enforcement agents reclassify them as “unaccompanied alien children.” Videoclips showing images of children in cages inside US Border Patrol processing stations, and of crying kids looking for their parents, barely able to talk much less speak English went viral in social media. I can’t separate the images of Sylvie and Oliver in the shoes of those young South American waifs. And I cringe at the cruelty of it all.

Trump promulgated an executive order interpreted by the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the US government would criminally prosecute migrants crossing the US-Mexican border illegally. But the separation and detention of their children, dispersing them to 13 states is unprecedented; causing the breakup of families, traumatizing the children is downright inhumane.

What is inconceivable is that Trump’s decree was precipitate. His bureaucracy was unprepared for the influx of migrants with children and the three centers holding the children were repurposed hastily. “The shelters aren’t the problem; it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem,” said Dr. Marsha Griffin, a South Texas pediatrician who has visited many. To add to this tragedy, US officials from the Border Patrol and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) “at a press briefing were repeatedly asked by reporters for an age breakdown of the children who have been taken. Officials from both law enforcement said they didn’t know how many children were under age 5, under age 2, or even so little they’re non-verbal” (Associated Press). In short, these inept and incompetent bureaucrats don’t have working data on which separated child belongs to which illegal immigrant.

This inhuman and insane policy, which Trump has instituted, has the whole world in uproar. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the American Association of Pediatrics has called it a cruel practice of “government-sanctioned child abuse” which may cause “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences.” (The Island/Asia News Network, June 21, 2018.)

What the American President did was not far off from Nazi Germany’s abomination during World War 2 where countless numbers of Jews were packed into cattle cars and transported to Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau, etc. Parents with children did not know where they were being taken. Similarly, at the processing center, the kids were cruelly separated from their parents and were led to the gas chambers for “showers and cleaning.” It was at the processing centers were parents saw their kids for the last time.

Trump may not have ordered the South American children to be separated from their families for “showers and cleaning” but there is a real possibility that these distressed kids – especially those babies and toddlers who can barely speak and are now interned in the “tender age shelter,” a euphemism for a children’s internment camp – will not see their parents soon, if at all.

It is bad enough that Trump has brought America to a new nadir by instituting such a policy but he had to lie to the American people that “he can’t do anything about it, as this is the fault of the Democrats and needs US Congress reversal, not an EO.” (Last June 21, Trump amid mounting world pressure, issued another EO reversing himself.)

Apparently, he was holding these children hostage merely for political reasons: to force Congress, especially the Democrats, to fund his Mexican wall as part of a deal to fulfill his election promise to his “electoral base.” What is even more unconscionable was the depraved and incompetent handling of the situation by those responsible on the ground, Kirstjen Nielsen of Homeland Security and especially Alex Azar head of the HHS who are actually clueless on the magnitude of this crisis.

This shameless act by an American president was in total contrast with cherished American values and the obvious fact that America is a land of migrants. America’s greatness and true genius lie in its diversity, glorified by a famous 1883 sonnet by Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…”

Despite Trump’s late executive order to reverse himself (six weeks after), this crisis of his own making is far from over, and a great harm has been inflicted on the reputation of America. But the bigger damage is to the Latin-American children cruelly wrenched from parents.

In retrospect and looking at the current Philippine situation, DU30’s pivoting the country away from the US may have been a serendipitous move. Trump’s imprimatur on this immigration fiasco, his comportment on the world stage, unilateral retraction of agreements and whimsical withdrawal from international partnerships and boorish demeanor has marked him as an ugly American gone rogue.

True, the Deegong and the Donald have some unnerving similarities conferred solely upon political leaders of their caliber. Both possess oversized egos and are beguiled by world autocrats, possessing dictatorial tendencies themselves. They have the same proclivity and appetite for women and do not countenance being upstaged by subalterns. They come unprepared for important public addresses, preferring to wing it. Both elicit utter blind loyalty from their base – the DDS and fist pumpers for the Deegong, and the red necks at the fringes for the Donald. Both apply unorthodox communications and message delivery mode, the Donald through his tweets and the Deegong through his spasmodic TV addresses. The similarities end here.

The Donald tells lies; it is second nature to him. And when caught in a lie, will lie some more. His threats are implausible and he is tentative in sacking people; he lets others do the firing for him.

The Deegong is too transparent to lie. He will shame personally a miscreant underling while firing him. He rarely threatens; but if the same is not taken seriously, he will kill. Or so he claims!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 13 June 2018 12:17

Lips to lips

I SPENT some of my best years growing up in a place called Calinan. It was not exactly a barrio but a city district of Davao. Before the Davao-Bukidnon road was constructed in the 1970s, opening up Northern Mindanao, Calinan was literally the end of the road. It was a small sleepy logging town then and a farming community where rice, corn, coffee and various fruits – and the famous durian—were cultivated. I was not born in Calinan but I grew up there. It was a melting pot of migrants from other provinces in Luzon and the Visayas. Tagalog, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Kapampangan, Leyteño languages and dialects were spoken. The Cebuano and Tagalog vernaculars were largely dominant.

I retain and cherish the remembrance of the quintessential image of a village regularly depicted in bucolic paintings of the Philippine Masters – rolling hills, fat farm animals, swaying golden rice stalks and virgin maidens clad in patadyong frolicking by a singing brook. This vista has long ceased to exist.

This was an era (1950s-1960s) where the town’s solitary juke box at Pacing’s Carinderia epitomized the apex of technological breakthrough. The chap who can afford to incessantly plunk in 10 centavos per 45 rpm record of Frank Sinatra or Elvis songs could be deemed a promising member of the cultural literati. TV sets were unheard of and the lone movie house, Aragon’s Cinema, attracted a diverse audience of bagobos and the indigenous tribes of nearby hills, tree cutters and logging equipment operators, assorted farmers and the hoi polloi. They all paid 20 centavos each for general patronage. For 30 centavos, you get seated at the balcony and 40 centavos in the loge section, favored by lovers, where cockroaches, rats and assorted crawling creatures were not as obtrusive as those in the orchestra. Non-poisonous snakes, of the constrictor variety, usually kept the rat population low at the balcony.

At least once a year, during the two-day fiesta celebration, in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our lone cinema would host a bodabil, where actors and actresses coming from faraway Manila came to town for a personal appearance. They stayed and performed for the eve and the night of the fiesta, the first Friday in August.

Never on the lips
This type of entertainment featured a mixture of specialty acts, magician shows and new dance steps from the city, but the culmination of the bodabil was the burlesk show with scantily dressed women prancing around onstage teasing the men in a slow striptease. And the audience participation, especially the male audience, was fantastically loud and lecherous “…hubad! hubad! (Take it off! Take it off!). The girls, master of timing, would indeed take them off at the exact moment when the stage lights went off, and just the silhouette of the naked ladies are seen running to stage left.

The curtain opens for the next acts and the screen idols perform scenes of popular movies, most especially love stories depicted by onscreen lovers in the flesh. In the mixed variety show, the cinema reverberates with swoons of the teenyboppers when their current male idol requests for volunteers to the stage. And the house falls down when he either sings and flirts and does monologues pregnant with inuendo to the lucky girl volunteer; culminating in the idol asking the audience for permission to kiss the lucky lass. The mob lustily eggs them on and the cinema goes wild when a kiss is proffered. But never, never on the lips!

Thus, the famous presidential kiss bestowed on a certain married Filipina OFW in Korea this week was in stark contrast to the cultural phenom of the Filipino audience and a study of the comportment of a powerful man. We have the macho idol, the eager lady from the audience and the egging on of the licentious rabble. It was a vulgar, garish display of presidential machismo of which DU30 has become a master. He understands the psychology of the crowd and knows how to manipulate it and squeeze the last ounce of indiscretion. This was “in-your-face braggadocio!”

We from Davao and the Bisaya call this disconcerting spectacle “Kahilas oy!” There is no appropriate translation but the gist is that “it is cringe-inducing” behavior. Malacañang’s defense that this was part of “Bisaya culture and Bisaya humor” is not only demeaning to us but downright stupid.

The Deegong from the very start of his candidacy was always transparent. He bares his soul to the public; one who utters p****g i** to whoever strikes his bad side and utters vulgar phrases like “…pusila sa bisong.” Our President never minces words and tell it like it is, except that like a tape recording, it goes on and on; rewind and play, rewind and play. And we all just cringe at these antics as some members of cabinet were seen to do during that infamous Korean kissing incident. The highbrow in the audience and in social media, where “the kiss” became viral, found this to be ‘nakakahiya’ ‘nakakasuka’ but none among his close coterie really had the balls to confront him directly. And the general attitude is simply to let it go, until the next loutish antic.

Still their SOB
His avid supporters, the DDS and the fist pumpers who have always allowed him a very wide latitude, look on it as “joke lang” and somewhat endearing. But some social media postings in defense of DU30 showing a photo of Ninoy Aquino being kissed by a female passenger before he disembarked to a heroic death, juxtaposed with that of the Korean kissing incident, was simply in bad taste, crossing the line of decency. This government bureaucrat’s posting was not even in the right context and was nothing more than a grand “sipsip” showing a puppy dog’s loyalty to the President.

Having said all that, let me offer my 10 cents. Many of us who come from Davao and have been subjected to such exhibitions by our mayor through the years, have always tolerated such improper display. We may have become callused but generally, we Davaoeños are not like him. The Deegong is one of a kind. Many of us will not act inappropriately whether in public or private. On the other hand, warts and all, DU30 is loved by the masses, and by many of the middle class and even some of Davao’s elite. This uncouth leader’s stint as our mayor has caused the resolution of major social and economic problems brought about by criminality, illegal drugs and a communist insurgency. He eliminated in his two decades of governance the climate of fear and instilled a glimmer of hope. For us Davaoenos, these are more important considerations, with long-lasting effects, and trump the crudeness and the indelicacy of the man.

Today, the greater majority of people in the country, though they flinch in embarrassment, still gives him their full support – a full 80 percent.

If I might use the presidential lingo: “True, he is a sonnnofabitch, but he is OUR sonnofabitch!”
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 06 June 2018 11:55

Resistance Coalition vs Calida

LAST week, I wrote about the emerging Resistance Coalition, a reinvention of the Yellow Army, led by their generals in Congress, Senators Pangilinan and Hontiveros and several talking heads at the House of Representatives. Apparently, they see Solicitor General Jose Calida as an appropriate and easy target, after the shellacking they got at the Supreme Court. The high-profile quo warranto case projected Calida as the “second most powerful man” in government after The Deegong. And I thought that this honorific belongs properly to the “little president,” Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea.

Calida was a marked man from the time he assumed the role of presidential avatar in a series of legal battles, winning cases and accumulating enemies—the drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima, handmaiden to PNoy and the yellow mob; booting out the Prietos from Mile Long; the decision to bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos among Filipino heroes. And the biggest prize was the quo warranto petition that took out CJ Sereno. The last was particularly bad for PNoy as Sereno had been purportedly placed there to protect him from the coming deluge of plunder cases that could very well condemn him to play digital and video games for years within the confines of a prison cell.

To recaptulate, the SolGen is facing a complaint filed by a certain Jocelyn Acosta accusing him of graft and corruption for owning a security agency company that did business with several government departments and bureaucracies. Apparently the SolGen retained his 60 percent ownership although he resigned from the company prior to his government appointment. Totaling P260 millions, the contracts are not exactly peanuts; although the SolGen admitted most of these go to the salaries and wages of security guards, staffing and other costs.

Calida has denied violating any existing laws, explaining that “…the law only prohibits a government official from owning or having shares in a private firm with any transaction that requires the approval of his government office or a company that is regulated or licensed by the same office”. The contracts are not with his office, nor does he have any say in the awarding of those contracts.

The first salvo of attacks came from the opposition in the Senate, now more emboldened since Koko Pimentel, the President’s loyal and trusted but meek lieutenant, gave up his cushy seat.

“Senator Risa Hontiveros said Section 3(i) of Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, spelled out conflict of interest as a situation where a public official ‘is a member of a board, an officer or a substantial stockholder of a private corporation or owner or has a substantial interest in a business, and the interest of such corporation or business, or his rights or duties therein, may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty.’”

“By saying that he has not divested himself of his majority shares from a family business that has snared millions of pesos worth of government contracts, Mr. Calida has virtually admitted to allegations of corrupt practices and conflict of interest. Case closed. Game over,” Hontiveros said. (Philippine Star, May 31, 2018)

I don’t think so. The game has just begun. Hontiveros who is not a lawyer decidedly is at a disadvantage pitted against a sharp legal mind like the SolGen. But she is not a spring chicken in political infighting. Together with her allies in the Senate, she will bring the issue to a not exactly level playing field– the Senate hearing. Here the SolGen will be out of his element, thrown into a den of wolves whose primary purpose even among DU30’s allies are to preen before the TV cameras. The campaign for re-election indeed has begun.

Another somewhat irrelevant issue is the allegation that Calida is having an extramarital affair with a 22-year-old law student. So, what! On this he will have the grudging but jealous support of the “macho” Filipino male who sees nothing wrong with public servants having extra-marital affairs: witness the House speaker and even the pronouncements of our President.

But the Resistance Coalition’s primary target in such hearings is not Calida. He will be used as a political sandpaper, merely an abrasive tool to eat away at the enormous prestige of the presidency. Even now, other attacks are coming from within the bureaucracy: “COA flags P10-M excess allowances paid to OSG,” screamed a Philippine Star headline (June 2, 2018).

And the Deegong, ever loyal to his chosen people took the bait and jumped into the fray:

“Calida, his security firm has been around for a long time. Why should I fire him? He is good, he is also from Davao but he is an Ilocano…Why? Don’t we have the right to own a business?” he added, referring to the Calida family’s Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc. (VISAI).”

“Duterte said it’s all right for officials to be owners of businesses with contracts with government “as long as you do not participate” directly. “The fact that you have divested, you have retired… So why do you have to impute or attribute malice there?”

“The president claimed that Calida is just lucky and that being in government service does not mean one cannot make money on the side.” (Philippine Star, May 31, 2018)

Yes indeed, money can be made on the side as bureaucrat or even as Cabinet member. On the same day, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said at a confirmation hearing: “Nobody has come up with allegations, now that there’s sort of questions about the validity (of the contract), the DOJ will take a look now that it’s brought to the fore already. To satisfy everyone, we’ll just take a look,” he said. (Philippine Star, May 31,2018)

The President virtually cleared Calida, who is yet to be investigated by the justice secretary. This nuance apparently escaped the President who as always, commits faux pas when he does things off-the-cuff.

We will know in the next few days what other worms will come out of the woodwork, but one thing is clear. The Resistance Coalition of the yellow cohorts are now in full play, flexing their muscles to engage the Deegong. In a blog from John Rana, an avid supporter of DU30, he revealed a similar group, Silent No More Movement. From its name, this could be composed of the allies of the old regime still occupying government positions, the holdovers ensconced in the cracks and crannies of this administration. Now, the yellows have activated their own quislings within.

The swords on both sides are drawn. The muckraking has begun. SolGen Calida’s carcass is conveniently thrown in. I hope my Davao friend will survive this.
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 06 June 2018 11:46

The birth of the resistance

IN a real war, organized resistance after a defeat takes a little while. During World War 2, when Hitler overrun Poland, France and the low countries in Europe, only Britain was left standing. The British isles, protected by the English Channel, became the lone European country to withstand continuous pummeling by Hitler. With the sea route from America, the Atlantic, eventually controlled by the Allied forces, Britain became the springboard from whence Europe was eventually liberated.

But what was really heroic was the home-grown resistance by the people in German-occupied Europe, particularly in France. La Resistance was in the early years of the occupation a motley group of Frenchmen who fought not only the German forces but also their own collaborationist Vichy regime in the “unoccupied” part of Southern France. The French resistance played a significant role in the eventual liberation not only of France but the whole European continent and eventually the defeat of the Nazi forces.

The analogy of a heroic World War 2 resistance in this article ends here. In the Philippines, we have today the formation of a so-called Resistance Coalition to the Duterte regime. This is ostensibly one that grew out of the traditional power alliance of the old political and economic elite, the oligarchy and the church. This group, mutant of the Yellow Army, is a permutation of the “same old, same old” led by remnants of the Liberal Party of the President PNoy faction.

This group has formed itself “…into an alliance of Liberal Party (LP), party-list groups, Akbayan and Magdalo, and Tindig Pilipinas…Sen Francis Pangilinan said (they) would highlight a number of issues against the administration” (DJ Yap, Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 22,2018).

Resistance to DU30 started when he precipitated a political blitzkrieg that trounced the Liberal Party, majority of whom shamelessly gravitated to the PDP Laban, and who were likewise brazenly accepted. This is nobody’s fault really as our dysfunctional political system allows “turncoats and butterflies” to float toward the winning brand every time there is a change in administration. This sordid feature of a unitary presidential system is one reason we want a parliamentary federal system.

From the very start, the elite and the political cognoscenti did accept this brash promdi mayor from the south. Howevr, the masses love his foul-mouthed lingo, his demeanor and his populism. One third of the voters, mostly the masa, was enough to propel him to power. The rest is history.

No, we were not attacked by any outside force though in effect Duterte did the attacking. But what is the Resistance Coalition (ResCoal) resisting? To be fair, we have two opposing points of view. Naturally, the allies of the Deegong, the DDS and the fist pumpers would generalize proclaiming that ResCoal is simply resisting change (pagbabago), the rallying cry of candidate DU30 that propelled him to power. But it is not that simple.

ResCoal’s pique and disgust have always been directed toward the personality of PRRD, an uncouth politician and an outsider. But both sides want a solution to the proliferation of illegal drugs that has threatened to make the Philippines a narco-state. But the past administrations, particularly the PNoy regime, was never serious about eliminating it. Duterte never did mince words on his intent: “You destroy my country, I will kill you. You destroy our children, I will kill you!” The Deegong reduced the problem and solution to their simplest form. The Yellows, now out of power, want a different route; one that inputs into the equation, the safeguarding of human rights implemented through the government’s justice system.

This is where DU30 differs. For him, the past governments were corrupt and inept; and they spilt over to his regime. He must use every tool available at his fingertips. “But like any reforming politician, he faces a great tautology. The tool at hand to reform a corrupt state is a corrupt state.” (The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell, May 22, 2018)

Foremost of these weak institutions is the corrupt police. Many are perceived to be partners of the drug lords and protectors of the dealers. But the Filipino masses, with their native wisdom perhaps understand this better than the elite, perforce handing PRRD 80 percent support. And the purging continues.

On another issue, ResCoal is crying out against “weaponizing” the Solicitor General, using the quo warranto case to smite CJ Sereno and quite possibly other DU30 enemies, instead of ousting her through impeachment. Here, the President understands the process only too well and will not go this course. It will be bloody expensive. The word in the street is that convicting the ousted chief justice would have cost billions of pesos, as PNoy showed in the Corona impeachment. The DAP funds paid to the jurist-senators bear witness to this.

Lastly, the ResCoal is condemning DU30 for kowtowing to China in the West Philippine Sea. This issue strikes close to the presidential psyche. His appreciation of China’s bullying act is seen through the prism of the Deegong as a bully too. His sees the encroachment of China on Philippine sovereignty as a “zero-sum-game” and blames, illogically, America: “…the moment to contest China’s occupation had been when it happened and that this was something only the Obama administration could have done. ‘At the time, who could have stopped it?’ (Duterte) asked. ‘Tell me. Philippine Navy? Marines? There would have been a massacre.’(Caldwell)

Right or wrong, the Deegong opted for a “build, build build” strategy. “His country needs train networks, roads, new factories, and mines for extracting its rich mineral resources… These are projects the United States has long been disinclined to pursue. Under the circumstances, it would be natural if the Philippines looked increasingly towards China, which has made ‘build, build, build’ the cornerstone of what it offers its allies, and less towards the United States, which in recent years has contented itself with ‘nag, nag, nag.’” (Caldwell)

The strategy by the Yellow Forces of re-inventing itself as the Resistance Coalition could yet become a legitimate tool to magnify the weaknesses of the regime, turn the masses around and arouse their passion against this interloper. Or they could all end up as a parody.

Vive la Resistance!
Published in LML Polettiques