Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: January 2020
Manila, Philippines — Lawmakers yesterday rejected a proposal of the executive branch to include the ban on political dynasties in the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

The congressmen, all members of the House committee on constitutional amendments, raised their strong objection to the suggestion during the first hearing on the proposals submitted by the inter-agency task force on federalism and constitutional reform led by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Panel vice chair and Isabela Rep. Antonio Albano, deputy speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and North Cotabato Rep. Jose Tejada warned of repercussions in pursuing the proposal to ban spouses or relatives with second-degree consanguinity of incumbent officials from running in the election for the same position in the immediate succeeding election.

Albano branded it as anti-democratic as he argued that families in politics are elected under a democratic process.

“In a democracy, it is an inherent right of a person – be it relative of incumbent official or not – to run for public office. If you bar a certain person from running that is unfair and anti-democratic,” he stressed.

He further argued that families of politicians perceived to be political dynasties were duly elected by voters. His brother Rodito is the incumbent governor of Isabela province.

“Even if you’re a family serving for decades, if you don’t perform right you will lose in the election. We saw those in power that were ejected by the people,” he pointed out, citing the local elections last year as an example.

The lawmaker believed that the term “political dynasty” should only apply to appointed positions and monarchy – a position that he shares with Pimentel and Tejada.

“We are curtailing already the right of the ordinary citizen to vote. It’s the right of the people to vote, to put in place who would be their congressman, their governor,” Pimentel said.

Tejada, for his part, asked the panel to defer finalizing the anti-political dynasty provision as it is “a very contentious and very controversial issue.”

During the hearing, panel chair and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said DILG officials would appear in the Lower House on Feb. 4 to brief lawmakers on their proposals, which were a result of months of dialogue in 62 provinces.

“We will ask them to explain their proposals. For the meantime, we will defer the submission of our committee report for signature of the Speaker so we can incorporate these proposals from the task force of DILG,” he explained.

Apart from the anti-political dynasty provision, the task force has also proposed the inclusion of an “anti-turncoatism” provision in the proposed amendments and the amendment of the constitutional provision on Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the local government units (LGUs) to follow the Supreme Court decision that expanded its coverage and included government’s collections from customs duties.

It also proposed the creation of the Regional Development Authority to replace the Regional Development Council “to establish effective regional governance mechanisms that empower both elective officials and managers and career officers of national government agencies at the regional level.”

While the House panel proposed only nine regions and the election of 27 senators by region, the task force is pushing for the creation of 17 regions with two senators per region or a total of 34 senators.

The task force also supported the proposal for election of the president and vice president as one ticket to ensure a united leadership in the executive branch.

It likewise agreed with proposals to change the term of office of House members, local officials and senators to five years but with only one reelection – unlike the proposal of the House panel of two reelections.

The task force also proposed the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses, including mass media, public utilities and schools.
Published in News
Wednesday, 29 January 2020 13:36

The pandemic of 2020

WE are facing one of the biggest threats in the world today: the possibility of the annihilation of our species, the human race, no less, and only one country so far has understood the magnitude of the impending disaster and has responded accordingly. This is the spread of coronavirus. The disease first detected in the central China city of Wuhan in December 2019. Examining those infected, doctors determined the virus to share a genetic code with the dreaded one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). This killed hundreds of people in China in 2003. During the outbreak that year, China was not transparent and attempted a cover-up to the extent that it spread to 29 countries with disastrous results. Now they know better and has shared laboratory findings with disease centers all over the world.

Investigations and deep research have revealed that the original source of this disease was through the consumption by humans of snakes, particularly the Chinese Krait and Cobra. Apparently this delicacy was pinpointed to have come from the Wuhan Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market that “…sold processed meats and live consumable animals, including poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs and reptiles…”

Further analysis classified this new SARS strain as “…zoonotic viral disease meaning the first patients who were infected acquired these viruses directly from animals.” This was traced from bats eaten by snakes, mutated within the host animals and subsequently consumed by humans, from which the virus is transmitted exponentially to human populations. As of this writing, there is no known cure.

If not arrested, this will become a pandemic.

At this point, let me reprint an abridged version of a blog post that I wrote in 2014 upon the outbreak of the Ebola virus, a contagion that claimed thousands of lives in the African continent, one that could be similar to the current coronavirus in its deadly spread:

‘Ebola virus: Is this the end of our world?’
“Quite recently, we woke up to the screaming headlines of newspapers alerting us about the outbreak of the Ebola virus from central and west Africa infecting people from several countries. The spread of this disease is now made easier due to plane travel that whisk people from continent to continent in a few hours. And this disease has an incubation period of from two days to three weeks. This means that a person will not display any symptom after being infected within those days. By that time too, the carrier would have flown to another destination, perhaps home — infecting a family member, a loved one without each knowing the danger they are in. And we have thousands of our [overseas Filipino workers] in these affected areas coming home!

“There is no known cure and it has a fatality rate of 90 percent. (The fatality rate of the coronavirus is still unknown)

“I have never been more scared in my life!

“So, I googled ‘pandemics’ and came up with some frightening literature. Pandemic is the worldwide spread of infectious disease across human population.

– Plague of Athens, 43 BC. Suspected typhoid fever killed a quarter of Athenian troops and eventually a quarter of Athens’ population

– Plague of Justinian, 541 AD. The first recorded outbreak of bubonic plague killing 40 percent of Constantinople. It eventually eliminated one-half of the human population — in Europe — between the years 550 and 700. This is known as the first pandemic (of six to eight recorded up to the present time)

– Black Death, 1347 to 1453. It killed 75 million, 30 to 70 percent of the population of the known world at the time — principally Europe. This was the second pandemic

– Spanish Flu, 1918. 75 million deaths worldwide

– Asian Flu, 1957 to 1958. Two million deaths worldwide

– Hong Kong Flu, 1968 to 1969. One million deaths

– HIV/AIDS, 1981 ongoing, with 30 million deaths recorded.

“These are just samples of the literature on plagues and pandemics. I couldn’t picture in my mind’s eye the extent of the devastation these diseases can bring upon on the human race.

“So, I reviewed some of the movies in my DVD collection:

– ‘Outbreak’ (1995). Ebola-like virus from Zaire spreading through a small town in the United States. Were it not for Dustin Hoffman, the US military would have used a nuclear bomb to arrest the spreading infection, level the town and all its inhabitants

– ‘The Omega Man’ (1971). Charlton Heston, the only human survivor of a major Eastern US city (always New York) had to create a cure for a plague that wiped out most of the human race and reduced humans to scavenging and deformed monsters

– ‘Contagion’ (2011). The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta had to investigate infected people from several countries getting at the source of the deadly virus and race against time to develop a vaccine or the spread of the virus would be catastrophic

– ‘World War Z’ (2013). Brad Pitt, a top United Nations disease investigator had to travel to Korea, Israel and Russia to seek a cure for a virus that turns humans into zombies

– ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1969). From the book by Michael Crichton, a favorite of mine, which was first serialized in Playboy magazine. Crichton’s first blockbuster where a group of scientists investigates a deadly alien virus that killed humans by curdling their blood — making some commit suicide.

“Hollywood has a way of explaining current dilemmas and entertains at the same time. But what is scary is yesterday’s headlines could come true and there is no director who can shout ‘cut’ — or a Dustin Hoffman or Brad Pitt to come to the rescue at the right moment.

“Human extinction is unthinkable. So true but this might not be Mother Nature’s intention to wipe out the entire human race. We are his best creation, the predator on top of the food chain. She will not destroy her ‘obra maestra’ but perhaps just intermittently warn us humans that we are responsible for ourselves —for each other and our environment.

“Take the Ebola virus first identified in Zaire in Africa only in 1976. It jumped from animals to man. Scientists, environmentalists and conservationists surmised that man’s encroachment into the habitats of these species is the cause for this transference of this deadly disease.

“Over the millennia or maybe eons more, Mother Nature was there to ride herd on us; just to let us be until like a child we go outside the limits of our discretion. Then she steps in to discipline us.

“More than a hundred plagues have been recorded in human history, in continental Europe and around the Mediterranean and even in China, centers of civilization and population explosion for thousands of years.

“It might be her warning us that indeed we are taxing her resources and her patience.

“In July of this year, the Philippine population has reached 100 million, the 12th most populous nation — one of the fastest growing populations on earth. And for decades poverty and hunger stalked our land.

“Would Mother Nature intervene and tell us ‘enough is enough?’”
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 22 January 2020 12:49

Pedophiles in sutana

“JESUS said: ‘Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mathew 19:14) This beautiful biblical passage was meant to allow the lambs into the fold of the shepherd, the Christian Church. But many Catholic priests took this passage too literally, enticing the innocents into their toxic predatory embrace. Thus, the presence of a morally deviant underclass and an evil adjunct to the Holy Mother Church. Diabolically, the Bible’s guidance became the conceptual defense of many pedophile priests who may have assuaged their conscience, as a pretext for this aberration.

It pains me to write about this subject matter, having been born in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), though not a fanatically practicing one, and an ex-seminarian and tutored for years by the Jesuits. The magnitude of the problem is simply too egregious that it requires public exposure for it to wither and eventually be purged against the light of truth. To many Filipinos, 70 to 80 percent reared in the Catholic faith, discussions on this subject is still taboo, which exacerbates the dastardly deeds. But the greater tragedy is that the RCC hierarchy itself has one eye closed — “pa-dedma” in the vernacular — on this despicable abnormality. It is through this culture of silence and denial where evil proliferates.

The Australian Church
To put this in perspective, this is not a local problem. The pedophile priests have been a running scandal in the Church for generations. It has come into public consciousness lately with the incarceration of the third most powerful cardinal in Christendom, Australian George Cardinal Pell. Prior to his conviction, he served as head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and was a respected member of the Council for Cardinal Advisers. His crimes of child sexual assault on two 13-year-old boys was taken to court in early 1990 while he was still Archbishop of Melbourne. It was only in March last year that Pell was sentenced to prison. He denied his crimes and maintained his innocence, but his appeal was denied by proper Australian courts. The Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently conducting its own investigation of the charges against the Cardinal, which could lead to his being defrocked as a priest. But these sexual predatory acts by Catholic priests are just the tip of the iceberg.

Horror stories abound in all the major archdioceses of the Australian RCC. Hundreds of priests were brought to court and many convicted of sexual assault against underage boys and girls even in orphanages run by the Church. As an example, in the Archdiocese of Sydney a pedophile priest, Fr. Roger Flaherty had been molesting three altar boys since the 1970s and 1980s. He pleaded guilty in 2016 and was sentenced to prison. It turned out that two princes of the Church, James Cardinal Freeman, while Sydney Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Kelly were shielding Flaherty from prosecution when these sex acts were committed. It is reported too that the Australian hierarchy secretly paid $276 million to thousands of children sexually abused by pedophile priests.

The American Church
Which brings us to the despicable practice that reached its apex in the Archdiocese of Boston in the United States, which brought the downfall of the powerful and feared Bernard Cardinal Law. He had knowledge of the extent of pedophile priests in his domain sexually abusing thousands of children over several decades. The pedophile priests were simply transferred to other parishes where they were left free to reprise their deeds.

Had it not been for the exposé of the Boston Globe, the city’s leading newspaper, which was the subject of the movie “Spotlight,” an Oscar-winning film in 2015, the extent of the scandal within the RCC would have been buried in the archives and forever lost to memory. The cardinal was the central dramatis personae in this criminal abuse and cover-up that encompassed the Boston archdiocese. It is estimated that the archdiocese and the Catholic Church in America spent $4 billion in settlements and payouts for sex abuse cases. Skeptics now look with jaundiced eye upon their Sunday Mass contributions to the collection plates of local parishes.

It is perhaps a measure of the Vatican’s conceit that the Cardinal, upon his resignation from his position in Boston, was instead appointed by Pope John Paul 2nd to a sinecure in Rome in 2004 as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where he remained influential in the Vatican. He died in 2017 and never paid with corporal punishment for his acts.

The Philippine Church
It is now established that the RCC in many countries has reluctantly kept pace with the demands of modern concepts of justice and the rule of law. It is not so in the Philippines. Arrests much less prosecution of pedophile priests are rarely initiated. According to Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of San Pablo, interviewed by the Catholic newspaper La Croix, no priest in the Philippines had ever been convicted of child sexual abuse. (Though there may have been one or two in recent years.) In contrast, the Australian and American Catholic Churches have convicted hundreds of pedophile priests within the past two decades.

This disparity could be attributed to the special role of the RCC in the country. Going back to the Spanish colonial period, the RCC has always held a pre-eminent position. It is the richest conglomerate in the country, constitutionally exempted from paying most taxes. It is a divine oligarchy unto itself, despotic in its internal governance and has always comfortably worked hand in glove with its counterpart among the “chosen few” in the civilian world — the oligarchy and the elite.

This unholy alliance between these conservative groups has a huge impact in the political environment. And thus, the RCC hierarchy’s political clout and its influence and implicit intimidating control over the faithful allow it certain liberties unique to the Philippine Church. It is perceived to operate beyond the ambit of the law. It is no surprise, then, that it has the effrontery to protect its own, preventing conviction and incarceration of pedophile priests.

These crimes are kept in the shadows; the miscreants are simply reassigned to other parishes where the cycle of sexual predatory acts continue. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the archbishop of Manila until his recent appointment to high office in the Vatican, declared to Catholic site UCAN that “…it is often better for such cases to be handled quietly, inside the Church.” Until about 2013, the Church’s own guidelines insisted that bishops need not report sexually abusive priests to police and civil authorities, saying they had “a relationship of trust analogous to that between father and son.” No, Your Excellency, this aggravates this travesty. It is high time you reverse your position.

President Rodrigo Duterte, himself a victim of a pedophile priest as a student, has derided the Catholic bishops, calling them “sons of b*****s.” His attacks have been gaining traction, eroding the patina of piety and invincibility of the Church hierarchy. If there is anything good to come out of this barrage, Duterte is succeeding in making the Church less intimidating to the hordes of its faithful. On this, many support this populist president.
Published in LML Polettiques
Friday, 17 January 2020 11:36

Building a just and lasting peace



(Remarks at the UPF Asia Pacific Summit 2019, November 18-20, 2019; Phnom Penh, Cambodia “Peace, Reconciliation, Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values”)

Our UPF conference here in this great capital by the banks of Mekong River is a fitting tribute to the Cambodian people whose indomitable spirit surmounted decades of armed, violent conflict, and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime which murdered more than two million Cambodians.

Despite the past tragedies and the current challenges being faced by the Cambodian people –- which in a sense are also besetting some other countries in our region –- Cambodia, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been enjoying sustained economic growth and infrastructure development.

May we also pay homage to late great King Norodom Sihanouk, whose leadership and sacrifices gained independence for Cambodia and created the beginnings of the country’s modernization; and whose son, our colleague in the earlier Asian conferences, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was Hun Sen’s co-prime minister, and later, president of the National Assembly.

Community is the wave of the future

Over this last decade, the Asia-Pacific groupings clustered around ASEAN have contributed to reducing tensions in our home regions. But, looking forward to the next 15 to 20 years, the Asia-Pacific still seems the hemisphere with the greatest risk of major armed conflict.

The only real solution –- the only lasting solution –- to these tensions is to embed all our countries in a network of economic, political, and moral relationships –- in an Asia-Pacific community of consent and through a sustained dialogue among the great religions and great civilizations of Asia and the world. This is perhaps the formula for building regional and global peace that will endure.

Community, then, seems the wave of the future –- not only for ASEAN but for the whole of East Asia and the Asia-Pacific.

And it will be our generation’s burden –- and glory –- to lay the foundations on which these communal and moral structures are to be erected, so that those who come after us can then turn without distraction to the work of delivering our people from their bondage to poverty, ignorance, ill-health; to the ever-increasing threats of conflict, war, terrorism and extremism; and the new frightening challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.

A new economic ideology for developing countries

We live in a world where every aspect of ordinary life is being contested: our security by extremist terrorism; our accustomed politics by a great wave of populist rebellion; and conventional economics by the unintended consequences of globalization.

Thus, our globalizing world needs to develop a system of ideas and ideals that will make globalization work for all our peoples.

Particularly the nations and states just joining the global economy need practical lessons in “late industrialization” which is achieved by learning from earlier modernizers.

In my view, the East Asian idea of the market and the state not as competing but as complementary operating systems can become the basis of a new economic model — particularly for the poor countries entering the global economy for the first time. And I believe such a model should combine the best elements of both capitalism and socialism.

It has been my belief that the individual initiative that capitalism stimulates — combined with socialism’s compassion for those whom development leaves behind — should become the basic element of a new economic model for our globalizing world.

Obviously, building this new economic model won’t be easy. All we now know — from recent experience — is that the market by itself is not enough.

Capitalism’s natural drive is to maximize returns on capital. It has no internal governor to check its social behavior. Left to itself, the market remains indifferent to the ethical dimensions of what its workings do to vulnerable people.

Obviously, government must reassert its powers to regulate markets and protect the rights of people from runaway capitalism. Of course, government cannot solve all our problems. But government should do the things people cannot do for ourselves.

Before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC in 2009, at the United Nations University in Barcelona in 2011, and at the earlier conferences of ICAPP, UPF, and other international organizations, I proposed a review of the global political and economic system in the aftermath of the Wall Street meltdown at the time. I suggested then that there might be merit in bringing together the best elements of capitalism and socialism.

Best elements of capitalism and socialism

Today I propose once again that the concept could integrate the finer features of Germany’s “social market” economy and should operate under the aegis of a liberal constitutional democracy committed to free elections, free markets, and a free press.

In Beijing, the great Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping advocated — and started off — something similar: a Chinese “system neither Marxian socialism nor (Adam) Smithian capitalism but something in between and better — which can be called Confucian synergism.”

I do not know in detail what specific ideas and ideals will shape this new economic ideology. I only know we need to find today a way out of our seemingly endless cycles of boom-and-bust.

I also know we should respond to the needs, wants, and hopes of ordinary people the world over — whether those in the emerging countries or in the failed states or those peoples in advanced countries suffering from grave financial crisis — who desire no more than secure employments, adequate incomes, and decent livelihoods.

Institutionalizing/reviving the inter-faith Dialogue

We in the UPF and ICAPP campaigned in the UN General Assembly, in the UN Security Council, in the halls of the UN for an interfaith, intercultural, and inter-civilizational dialogue with our proposal to create an Interfaith Council in the UN at a time when it was still taboo to introduce religious issues into the UN system.

We pointed out that if creating a new council is overly difficult — as some legalists have warned — then, perhaps, we could write an interfaith mandate in the mission order of the Trusteeship Council of the UN which has anyway run out of trust territories to supervise.

We proposed as an interim concession that at least a focal point in the Office of the UN Secretary General be created and indeed it was approved by the UN.

From these “interfaith dialogues,” we should expect no miracles — except those epiphanies that result from open hearts, the willingness to see the other side’s viewpoint, and a multitude of patience.

Sunni-Shi’ite dialogue

On the raging Sunni-Shiite issues, wecannot discount the magnitude of the barriers that intense doctrinal separation has raised between these two great schools of Islam.

In my much earlier letters to Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah and Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, I said it would be of great relief to our region and the world, if the two leaders of Islam, representing the Sunnis and Shiites, respectively, of the Muslim world, could perhaps meet in Mecca and bring about the beginnings of reconciliation and the end of violence in the lands of Islam.

It is most difficult but more than ever this urgent, absolutely necessary meeting between the two leaders of Islam must be set and undertaken and we pray that to some extent if it ever happens, it will succeed for the peace of the region and the world.

No to Cold War in the Asia Pacific

As the balance of global power shifts from West to East, we’ll also strive to help prevent the outbreak of a new Cold War in the Asia Pacific — by encouraging the peaceful rise of every emerging great power in the nations of the G-20 and in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); and supporting popular movements that advocate peaceful co-existence among the East Asian states.

Between Moscow and Washington — and between Washington and Beijing — mutual accommodation must be found, that gives the parties strategic reassurance and respect for their “core interests.”

Ironically, the hard peace between the earlier Cold War principals — the United States and the Soviet Union — enabled the smaller countries to enjoy well over a generation of political stability and economic growth.

For us in Asia, at least for a long while, the age of ideological conflict is and should be over. We declare we want no new Cold War in the Asia Pacific. It has been said that the Pacific Ocean is large enough for the great powers. And we see no reason the relationships between the great powers should be adversarial. We see no differences between them that sustained diplomacy and understanding and realpolitik cannot resolve.

One human family under God

With the multiple violent conflicts and outbursts of extremism in some of the areas of the Middle East and Africa, South Asia, Eurasia, and the terrible tolls on human life, more than ever, I say, we in the UPF, ICAPP, governments, parliaments, political parties, civil society organizations, and indeed all sectors must get our act together and work to promote peace and reconciliation, cooperation and dialogue, urge tolerance among our nations and peoples, understand the diversity of our cultures and religious beliefs, for indeed, in the last analysis, we all belong to “one great human family under God.”

With deep thanks to one and all and a good day.
Published in News
I’D like to start my year with a bang! After a wonderful skiing vacation with my grandkids and frolicking in the snow in Lake Tahoe, enjoying the seafood and amenities of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, something’s gotta give. And indeed, Presidents Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte obliged. The year 2020 began with a war on two fronts. The former could expand further the decades-old conflicts between America and Iran although a “hot shooting war” is unlikely; the latter — an expansion of the “cold war” between Duterte and the oligarchy.

US vs Iran
Trump’s order to assassinate the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani could start a war — not a world war, not even in the genre of the Vietnam War but more along the lines of heightened regional conflicts. This will of course involve the spilling of blood — not President Trump’s but those of his soldiers, American boys and girls, and Iranians and those caught in between — Iraqis, Syrians and civilians, and maybe our overseas Filipino workers who will have to suffer through a prolonged “low intensity conflict”, the preferred method of the underdog. This conflict is going to be played out in a non-traditional asymmetrical battlefield, cyberwar or even by proxy; using terrorist groups already lusting principally for American blood — Hezbollah, Islamic State or IS, Taliban, Boko Haram, the remnants of al-Qaida, and even our homegrown Abu Sayyaf. And the frontline could be everywhere. And we are all possible collaterals.

Thanks to Trump who has gone berserk. This unfolding scenario is like watching in slow motion a runaway train hurtling toward an impending disaster, having lost its brakes — only one doesn’t know the extent of the damage yet.

Retaliation from Iran came five days later with missiles raining on Iraqi air bases housing United States military forces. A few more rockets struck a US base at Camp Taji in Syria on the Jordanian border. Reports on casualties were sketchy. My take here is that these retaliatory acts perhaps were instigated more for the benefit of the Iranian domestic audience for an appearance of revenge. Pitted against a behemoth — a mosquito against an elephant — it’s a foregone conclusion that America could wipe Iran off the map, if ever.

But there will be no nuclear bombs. This is no Armageddon in the making but hostilities will spill over the region and beyond, perhaps even over American soil. And of course, a counter retaliation from this madman in Washington targeting Iranian cultural sites that could constitute war crimes under international law, although prevented from doing so by cooler heads at the Pentagon. But for how long will they hold the leash on this president gone rogue.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.” Thus spoke the world’s number one terrorist, propounding in simplistic terms his future terrorist acts.

Soleimani no doubt had it coming. He caused the deaths of American servicemen although he also helped saved American soldiers’ lives by supporting Iraqi and Syrian militia defeat the IS. There is, however, a precedent when Obama ordered the assassination of Osama bin Laden. The Middle East conflicts have become too Byzantine to comprehend. And Trump’s precipitate acts may have been motivated by his unsophisticated worldview seen “…through the prism of whether an action advances his own narrow interests, his own distorted desires, his own twisted impulses….” (Peter Wehner, contributing editor, The Atlantic, Sept. 9, 2019).

But what the hell? Trump too is under siege and fighting for his political life. He is an impeached president; and he is playing to the American audience too, whose votes he will need for his reelection. No American in his right mind will contradict a president leading a country on the verge of war, real or concocted. This arouses in them a sense of patriotism, even a false one; but this is embedded in their DNA. They will rally to the flag no matter who is at fault. Since 1776, President Jimmy Carter said, “…the US… has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country ‘the most warlike nation in the history of the world.’” Perhaps America is just reverting to its nature, enjoying the bloodlust that has been part of its national character. And American business loves a war. It really is good for the bottom line.

Duterte vs water oligarchs
Meantime, on the local front and the ongoing fight between the Deegong and the Philippine oligarchy, the President has just given an ultimatum for “Manila Water Co. Inc. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. to accept a new draft of water contracts or the government will terminate their concession deals and take over their water distribution services.” (Catherine S. Valente, The Manila Times, Jan. 8, 2020) He denies this is an ultimatum, but with a Damocles sword hanging over their heads —“non-bailable” offenses of syndicated estafa or plunder, saying he would love to see billionaires in jail, naming Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala for Manila Water and Manuel V. Pangilinan for Maynilad.

Duterte has directed the Justice department and the Office of the Solicitor General to prepare a draft of a new contract without the “onerous provisions.” Further, “[the] Chief Executive is giving the water concessionaires the option of accepting the new contracts without any guarantee of [them] not being criminally prosecuted together with those who conspired to craft the very onerous contracts, which are void ab initio for violating the Constitution and the laws of the land.” (Catherine S. Valente, Manila Times, Jan. 8, 2020)

Left unsaid are that these one-sided contracts were crafted principally during President Fidel V. Ramos’ (FVR) watch and must have been immersed in corruption. All these “onerous provisions” surfacing only now, tacitly acknowledged by the concessionaires with their profound silence and unilaterally giving up the Singapore arbitration awards already in their favor — implicate the FVR and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) administrations. The Manila Water contract expiring in 2022 but extended to 2037 by President GMA during her last year as president in 2009, was likewise questionable. Duterte has just implicitly lumped FVR and GMA as allies of the Philippine oligarchy; and for good measure, he included his immediate predecessor, President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

Duterte vs ABS-CBN
The Deegong has the sympathy of multitudes in this fight. The Lopez family has been notorious in using their political clout over the decades to advance and protect their family and business interests. For a time, the dictator Marcos got them out, but Aquino-Cojuangco, their allies, reinstated their pre-martial law status and their holdings. The ABS-CBN was their crown jewel — one that can make or break any politician. And many elective officials, congressmen and senators are in their pockets with some willingly kissing the family’s ass. But the Deegong has them by the balls. And God forbid, if they employ the same harebrained adventurism during martial law that got Geny Lopez in prison.

Trump’s war may not help his cause — impeachment! But Deegong’s may succeed. With 87 percent of Filipinos backing him, he will!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 08 January 2020 12:39

Sharia law, Christmas, atbp.

THIS holiday season, Christendom celebrates Christmas, as the birth of baby Jesus, the savior, Son of God and Redeemer. Central to the festivities is the traditional Christmas narrative of Mary and Joseph arriving in the town of Bethlehem to register as belonging to the house of David, seeking decent shelter but couldn’t find one except for a stable where the messiah was born humbly in a manger amid farm animals. Then the angels in heaven proclaimed the good news to the shepherds and thus to the world. For 2,000 years this virgin birth was joyfully celebrated although the actual birthday of Jesus is unknown. It was by Church fiat in the fourth century that December 25 was designated as Jesus’ birth.

Multifaceted Christmases
But the “other Christmas” celebrated in a more boisterous and colorful manner is the Western civilization’s version with Santa Claus, the central figure, a jolly old fellow bringing gifts to the homes of well-behaved children. He goes by the name of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas or even Kris Kringle. This is the more exciting adaptation, spurring commercialization and debauching the original narrative.

The Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, but some festivities occur for a different reason. It is Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is also known as the Festival of Lights. These days of merriment are in no way a commemoration of the virgin birth, but cultural assimilation and traditional practices over the centuries coincidentally meld around the same time in December.

But in the Philippines, the yuletide season is observed for three months, beginning October when the air is filled with music, “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” and malls putting last year’s light bulbs on Christmas trees complete with faux snow while Santa Claus sits on his sleigh pulled by the prancing Donner, Blitzen and Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer. If there is anything that America has bequeathed and so influenced Filipino culture, aside from a legacy of a depraved concept of democracy and our system of government, it is the way Christmas is celebrated. And there is no way that the Christmas atmosphere is dampened in the country or in most of Christendom.

But in Brunei, the despot Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has “stolen Christmas,” not unlike the Grinch. He has reinforced the ban on Christmas with a punishment of a $20,000-fine and up to five years imprisonment or both. This was part of a decree promulgated in 2014 protecting the Muslim population of Brunei from going astray. “Local Islamic religious leaders have promoted the ban, warning that adopting the trappings of Christmas is tantamount to imitation of another faith, prohibited in some interpretations of Islam” (Alexander Sehmer, Independent.co.uk).

As a concession to the minority Christians and other religious groups, they are allowed to celebrate Christmas, but must do so in private and have to first alert the authorities and may not do this publicly or else.

Thus, Islam, the third great religion that sprouted from the Levant has allowed the banning of Christmas in Brunei, through a mere proclamation of a decree, on a country of half a million, two-thirds of whom are Muslims.

Sharia law
Which brings us to this disturbing arbitrary interpretation of Sharia law. As I have written in a past column “…I have been under the impression that Brunei, ranked by Forbes as the fifth richest out of 182 countries in the world, would be one of those liberal and progressive developed Muslim countries practicing a benevolent and tolerant kind of Islam” (“Sharia law, LGBTQ and BARMM,” The Manila Times, April 10, 2019). But by a stroke of the pen, incorporating the same into the Sharia law (in Brunei), and not satisfied with amputations and dismemberments for transgressions against the tenets of the Quran, it has not only reversed centuries-old tradition or at least tolerate the celebration of Christmas, but even criminalized the same. On top of this, Brunei becomes the first country in Southeast Asia to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. And all these emanating from a “religion of peace.” To quote its potentate, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah: “The decision to implement the [penal code] is not for fun but is to obey Allah’s command as written in the Quran.”

I am reprinting relevant portions of my column of “Sharia law, LGBTQ and BARMM” in the light of these developments in the capricious reinterpretation of what are haram by the authority of a despot’s whims:

“This is also the same enigma facing the Philippines today, as the country embarks on an experiment in an innovative type of governance. The unitary presidential system practiced in the country as a whole and that of the ‘parliamentary’ system or a version thereof practiced in parts of Mindanao through the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that governs the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“In the Philippines’ 1987 Constitution, Church and State are separate, following traditional Western influence and values. In Islamic tradition, religion and governance are intertwined; which could be a major irritant in the BARMM though technically, it operates under the sufferance of central government.

“True, the Sharia law in BARMM will cover and apply only to Muslims and only on matters affecting personal status and family. Although still based on the Quran and the Hadith and other scriptural sources, and interpreted by independent Islamic jurists, it is a modernized (not Westernized) set of legal jurisprudence compatible with Philippine laws with harsh and medieval punishments done away with. Still the ultimate arbiter is the country’s Supreme Court. But cynics abound gleaning from what is happening in Brunei, Aceh and Malaysia, where interpretations are reversed, and protocols are altered….”

The fear that what happened in Brunei and other Muslim provinces in Southeast Asia could happen in Southern Philippines in the process of its politicocultural experimentation in creating the [BARMM], is real. Although there are mitigating factors that may preclude going the way of Brunei. “The BARMM is the country’s petri dish for federalism and harmonizing seemingly conflicting values of differing religious beliefs. But favoring both sides is the underlying deep-rooted bond as Filipinos. And this could be an effective prophylactic against initiatives by the likes of Brunei, Aceh and Terengganu against an Islamic revival agitating for full implementation of Sharia law, including the reinstatement of hudhud, the dreaded and medieval system of corporal punishments.”

For centuries, despite Christian and Muslim conflicts, we managed to iron out our differences and the tolerance for each other’s beliefs has held the nation together and not driven the country into perdition. It may also be a sign of a workable and bright future that even during this holiday season, citizens and friends of both religions, Christian and Islam, have warmly greeted each other a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Whether by convention, tradition or force of habit, it really doesn’t matter. What gives meaning to the salutation is perhaps the intention to bestow goodwill to one another.

So, a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe and Prosperous 2020 to all!
Published in LML Polettiques
Monday, 06 January 2020 13:32

House pursues shift to federal government

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is pursuing the shift to a federal form of government that was proposed by the consultative committee headed by retired chief justice Reynato Puno and earlier approved by President Duterte and the previous Congress.

The committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, has included in its report on proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution the shift to a federal form of government, which was already approved by the House plenary during the 17th Congress in 2018.

This is contrary to an earlier report that the panel would no longer pursue the proposed shift to a federal form of government because it is supposedly a “hotly contested and divisive issue.”

Rodriguez revealed that the committee report adopted with modification the proposal in the draft constitution of the Puno commission.

The House panel’s move to continue efforts to shift to a federal system was made despite the earlier pronouncement of Duterte that he is no longer pursuing his proposal to change the form of government that could further divide the country.

“We have considered the Puno draft in the committee deliberations and we will also consider it in the plenary debates in relation to the four sets of proposed amendments,” Rodriguez told The STAR.

He said their report is proposing the creation of federated regions and election of senators per region.

“The election of senators by region is a feature of federalism: the rule of subsidiarity. We adopted the proposal of the Puno draft to have federated regions. While it proposed 16 regions, our committee decided to have only nine regions,” he bared.

The House had approved on third and final reading in December 2018 the resolution that seeks to shift the Philippines to a federal system of government after a 224-22-3 vote that met the required three-fourths vote.

The House under then speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo swiftly approved the draft constitution of the Puno commission, with only a few changes.

The draft constitution, which was reportedly approved by the President in July 2018, sought to create 18 federated regions, including federated regions of the Bangsamoro and Cordillera.

But the Resolution of Both Houses (RHB) No. 15 removed the specific number of federal states and proposed that a federal state may instead be created upon a petition addressed to Congress by contiguous, compact and adjacent provinces, highly urbanized and component cities, and cities and municipalities in metropolitan areas through a “resolution of their respective bodies.”

The latest House proposals by the Rodriguez committee instead proposed only nine regions and the election of senators by region.

The report also adopted the proposal for election of the president and vice president as one ticket to ensure a united leadership in the executive branch.

The panel likewise kept the proposals to change the term of office of House members, local officials and senators to five years with two reelections.

Just like RBH 15, the latest committee report proposed the removal of restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses, including mass media, public utilities and schools.

But the panel dropped other proposed amendments in RHB 15, particularly the proposals to remove the anti-political dynasty provision in the 1987 Constitution and to cut the terms of the president and vice president to four years with eligibility for reelection for another term.

The committee report, which was approved by the panel in executive session last Dec. 11, is set for deliberations in the House plenary sitting as a constituent assembly (con-ass) next month.

“Our committee will push for discussions in the plenary sitting as a constituent assembly by first week of February on our four sets of proposed amendments. Every representative will be given the chance to interpellate on our committee report,” Rodriguez said.

“Our committee is open to receive individual amendments to the proposed four amendments. Our proposals are not final and will always be subject to the 3/4 votes of all members of the House,” he added.

Rodriguez explained that the House may initiate the amendments in the Charter as a con-ass without the need for a joint session with the Senate.

He said that under the current Constitution, the House would transmit the approved proposals to the Senate for their own deliberations.

After the two chambers have approved the proposals, the Commission on Elections would then be asked to schedule a plebiscite for the ratification of the recommended changes by the people.

Rodriguez reiterated his appeal to senators to consider supporting the measure, which he said was endorsed by the President.
Published in News
Friday, 03 January 2020 20:29

RevGov the final solution — ho hum!

HERE we go again. In this final half of DU30’s presidency, no topic is more compelling nor ubiquitous than that of a revolutionary government (RevGov). For why this is so, we need to revisit his accession to power in 2016. This maverick of a local politician from nowhere fired the imagination of fringe voters with his simple palatable agenda coated in colorful language never before heard in any political engagement, nor in polite society, much less in one crowded with monochromatic presidential aspirants.

It was therefore logical that cynical voters, already inured to candidates’ achromatic program of governance and corrupt officials’ broken promises gathered to him in droves.

These heightened expectations, some of which were surprisingly eventually fulfilled, were what sustained the high statistical 87 percent support by the masses for the Deegong; and fueling the fiction that the President, to accomplish what he promised his constituents, needs more time than that allotted to him constitutionally. Thus, the pretext of an idea of allowing him a continuation of his regime through perhaps an extra-constitutional pathway.

By now the masses are more than conversant with the riveting arguments in favor of a declaration of a RevGov: illusionary quick fixes to centuries-old problems of poverty and injustice; impunity and disdain for the rule of law; deficits of our democracy or what is left of it after it goes through the wringer of traditional politics. The Filipino has a culturally apt phrase for espousing desperation — “kapit sa patalim.”

THE e oligarchy’s folly

But lately, the seemingly innocuous arbitration award to the oligarchic-owned water monopolies accentuated the contracts’ onerous provisions projecting this class into the forefront of public consciousness and derision, with a little help from the President’s paroxysms, offering DU30 the opportunity to fuel up the brewing contrived fight between him and the oligarchy. The people’s incompetence to appreciate the complex role of the oligarchy in the politico-economic life of the country was further exacerbated by the President demonizing his adversaries.

To recall, just days into his administration, DU30 boldly declared: “The plan is to destroy the oligarchs embedded in the government.” The lines were drawn earlier in his regime. But RevGov is now again being forced into the forefront as a fight between the Deegong and the oligarchy — for all the wrong reasons!

DDS/Fist bumpers’ take

As the cacophony belongs primarily to those of DU30’s base, I will lend a substantial part of my column to a more circumspect colleague of the Deegong who was with him from the very start, John Raña. The guidelines for a successful declaration of a RevGov, though solely his own opinion, may reflect the position of the clear-headed members of the Duterte Diehard Supporters (DDS)/fist bumpers. Raña wrote:

“Public support imperative. A PR campaign must be in place… and the messaging must be clear about the objectives…the rules, the path to normalcy, etc. Expect vigorous and vicious objections and attacks from the opposition, certain religious groups, the left, libertarians, constitutionalists and some foreign governments…

“Rev-Gov short and necessary for real reforms. It must be long enough to institute reforms but short enough to preclude abuses from rearing its ugly head.

“Clear path to normalcy. The path to normalcy must include Charter change with federalism as its main feature. Consider a very strong anti-political dynasty provision that exempts no one including the incumbents’ families.

“Cleanse the bureaucracy. Change the systems that allowed and perpetrated corruption. Revamp the bureaucracy starting with the mass courtesy resignation of all presidential appointees. The President may form a presidential talent search committee to find the best and the brightest Filipinos.

“New constitution. Conduct a plebiscite on the new federal constitution. (Federalism proponents let’s get back to work!)”


The proponent is no doubt a patriot although conflicted as to the precise role of DU30 as a “strongman” in a weak state. That a quick fix can be delivered singularly by a charismatic leader is a fallacy. We have oftentimes erroneously equated a vulgar display of braggadocio that instills fear as a demonstration of political will. What DU30 needs is to develop a coterie of independent-minded professionals in a war footing who can “speak truth to power.” In this he has failed.

Once RevGov is unleashed, you can’t control the time within which to institute “good reforms” or prevent abuses of power. RevGov, by definition is the application of untrammeled power. It is a wild ride on a tiger’s back! But when and how to dismount is the conundrum.

Cleansing the bureaucracy is not a simple matter of just decapitating people. It is the substitution of the correct public values buttressed by the right workable system. And the path to normalcy is not assured if one must rely on Congress, albeit bloated with DU30’s allies to enact a new constitution, much less appending an ‘anti-dynasty’ provision. Unless RevGov does away with Congress altogether.

I am reprinting abridged versions of my past columns on RevGov. Duterte has always looked up to Marcos as an exemplar of a dictator; that which he will become in a revolutionary government. But Marcos had so many things going for him.

“Marcos…had the time to accomplish [what he wanted] …with the genius of foresight, he put in place the infrastructure for his eventual authoritarian rule. He dismantled decades-old political parties and established his ruling Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL). He clamped down on the press and the media. He emasculated the old oligarchy but replaced it with his own cronies. More importantly, he seeded the military with his handpicked men that allowed him to unleash his dogs of war from the barracks when he declared martial law.” (“To RevGov or not to RevGov,” The Manila Times, Nov 2, 2017.)

Just three years into his regime, DU30 does not have Marcos’ advantage of time or brilliance to pull this through. Thus, the RevGov option is dangerously double edged.

“This is the downside of the proposition. But to some, this may be preferable than the slow strangulation that the elite and the oligarchy has been applying to the body politic that has caused grave disparity between the ‘have and the have-nots’ and in the process has institutionalized poverty

“The upside to RevGov, if successful could unshackle the Filipino from the decades of stark poverty, deprivation and injustice. But the threat alone will put sense into the oligarchy as they can’t afford to lose all. The imminent danger could precipitate real concessions and negotiations as the oligarchy could be destroyed, and a new governance paradigm may emerge. The Deegong knows how to play the zero-sum game. And this is the ultimate!
“But would RevGov be sustained by the likes of the Deegong? Does he have the temperament and the moral spine to carry it through?… DU30 is 75 and tired. He is old, maybe narcissistic, a trait that will help him contemplate on his legacy. Nothing defeats a man’s biases better than a glimpse of the specter of his mortality.” (“RevGov — the endgame,” The Manila Times, Sept 26, 2018.)

But if he does declare RevGov, blood will flow!
Published in LML Polettiques