Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: December 2023
THE year ends as expected on a sordid note and continuing tragedies. The Ukraine war, now in a stalemate, may go the way of Putin. But the killing continues. In Palestine, Israel has introduced a new phase in this conflict — the starvation of the people of Gaza as an instrument of war. And the killing continues. It benefits Hamas. They are winning the global hearts and minds hiding behind the wretched citizens of Gaza, in plain sight — the sacrificial lambs in the altar of geopolitics — underpinned by religious beliefs.

And in Southeast Asia, there will be no war this year, although the two great powers are still on a collision course over Taiwan and the ultimate prize is who among the hegemons has the bigger balls. America will not invade Taiwan. This is to China's advantage. It can bide its time as the Chinese are wont to look at things from generational perspectives. China has existed for a thousand years. It can wait another decade until it reaches parity with America and then supersedes it.

And where goes the Philippines, with BBM's arrogance on "not surrendering an inch of our territory." No, Boy! China will not take an inch. It has already taken chunks off our heritage, hectares of what we claim our own but can't keep. We can wither in the vine — and China will let us. And our sponsor, America, can't do anything! We are on our own. Let's negotiate!

God is under the gun

I close a year of column-writing with my series of hypotheses on man-made God and religion that disturb the equanimity of adherents and cynics. But locally, it's a different story. Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, God's appointed son, is in trouble. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) recently imposed a 30-day suspension against Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) for violating its legislative franchise. It is not even the executive branch, from whence the NTC is lodged, but the House of Representatives that called for its revocation. Quoting The Manila Times report: "...Rep. Francisca "France" Castro said SMNI is a threat to press freedom because it advocates violence, disinformation and intolerance.

"We hope that the measures for accountability of SMNI, its hosts, executives and owners, including Pastor Quiboloy himself, will continue because they have abused the network as an anti-people tool and mouthpiece of the Dutertes and the NTF-Elcac (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict)." (The Manila Times, Dec. 22, 2023)

On top of this, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) suspended two SMNI shows, "Laban Para sa Bayan" and Duterte's show, "Gikan sa Masa, Para Sa Masa." SMNI said it is appealing the decision as a "brazen attack" on the freedom of the press.

Press freedom, my eye! This is a vulgar display of presidential politics. In some oblique way, this signals House Speaker Martin Romualdez throwing his hat into the presidential ring against the daughter of the Deegong, still popular among the masses, while Sara loses clout, influence, and power as vice president and education secretary. The House that holds the power of the purse has just defanged Sara with the acquiescence of

Romualdez's Senate allies by stripping her of confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) — a metaphor for this corruption-ridden source of campaign logistics.

What is perhaps more glaring is the attempt to castrate the powerful Davao-based SMNI media conglomerate, which has been an ally of the Dutertes on their journey toward national politics. This is the arm of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) broadcast media owned by the televangelist Pastor Apollo Quiboloy. It's a religious money machine competing with the traditional Catholic Church. Its broadcasting tentacles have reached nationwide through cable, satellite and online streaming worldwide. Its network of radio stations is a formidable message delivery system reaching barrios all over. With the appointed son of God indicted in the US for sex trafficking of children, fraud and rape, SMNI is vulnerable. And in presidential politics, dirt is shoveled both ways.

Billionaire House speaker

It may be noted that the billionaire Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, a Marcos cousin and ally, may be ramping up for a political confrontasi. In June of this year, Nikkei Asia (by Cliff Venzon, June 8, 2023) reported that a little-known privately held company of the Romualdez family, RYM Business Management, has been eyeing the media sector, too. Prime Media Holdings, a subsidiary of RYM, and ABS-CBN announced the formation of a joint venture to produce news and entertainment shows for distribution on radio and cable broadcast platforms.

Both "Romualdez and his wife, Yedda Marie, were among the 70 Duterte-allied lawmakers who voted to reject ABS-CBN's bid to renew its 25-year broadcasting license ... in 2020," Nikkei said.

On top of this, RYM has been securing deals in the banking and construction sectors that stand to benefit from the Marcos Jr. administration's massive 194 NEDA-approved flagship infrastructure projects amounting to $145.4 billion (P8.17 trillion) for the years 2024-2028.

In April, RYM arranged for a 20 percent stake in EEI, a publicly listed construction company engaged in government-endorsed infrastructure projects from the House of Investments of the Yuchengcos.

RYM has also infused P1.8 billion capital in the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB), a government depository bank owned by World War 2 veterans and their heirs. The bank charter was later amended in 2021 to expand the shareholder base beyond the original shareholders — sons and daughters of World War 2 veterans. Former finance secretary Roberto de Ocampo, president of PVB, described RYM absurdly as "...an entity with sons and daughters of World War II as members...." The lawmakers proposing the amendment include the Romualdez couple.

RYM's latest regulatory filing does not show any seat held by the couple, but their son sits on mining company boards, Benguet Mining and Marcventures Holdings, where RYM holds stakes.

Conflict of interest

Melinda Quintos-de Jesus, executive director at the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, minced no words on the move of Prime Media and ABS-CBN, saying that "this deal sharpens the capture of the media ... and the business landscape by the ruling political elite..." adding that "...this joining of forces with a presidential relative and ally is simply not a good sign of the flourishing of independent and critical media.".

De Jesus was just being kind. In my book, this is a possible conflict of interest when an individual, much less an elected and powerful official of government, has competing interests or loyalties that could potentially compromise their impartiality, objectivity, or duty to act in the best interest of the country. These are public servants allowing their companies to enter into lucrative contracts with government, with the most powerful position in Congress making decisions and setting agendas on legislative issues that may impact the companies they own.

What is not clear at this point is if this is an all-out confrontation between the Marcoses and the Dutertes — a fight between political dynasties. Currently, the President's sister Imee is clearly in the camp of Sara.

But for the poor Filipino voters, if you have not learned your lesson, fie on you!
Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 21 December 2023 03:41

Our own pivot to China

FROM the start of his regime, I have not written about how BBM runs government. Instead, I wrote several columns on foreign affairs and genocides in Ukraine and Palestine, a much more compelling take. Consequently, I started a series on religion as the root cause of these conflicts and segued into debunking religious myths and narratives. I suspend these series upon the insistence of my Catholic family and friends to allow them to celebrate Christmas in a fashion that the three Abrahamic religions traditionally do, except that Christianity has so commercialized the season — the birth of a messiah. I also shied away from writing about the West Philippine Seas and the heightened tension there. But for the recent screaming headlines about China's using water cannons and laser beams against our fisherfolks, Chinese coast guard vessels preventing resupply to our pathetic outpost in the Ayungin Shoal, the derelict BRP Sierra Madre, BBM's inability to at least do something, or anything against this bullying; and topping his otherwise remarkable speech at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii with distorted narratives; I needed to wade into the fray and get some facts straight.

West Philippine Sea (WPS)

This Philippine debacle started during PNoy's presidency. This tragedy has been recounted time and again ad nauseam by a colleague at the TMT, reminding us of the transgressions of the Aquino family, the debauchery of the "yellow army," along with the righteousness of the Chinese communist causes, and the wickedness of the American system of governance.

So, if we may direct BBM's government to review the facts, he may fashion a foreign policy that could extricate the country from this mess and perhaps elevate the country among the developed economies in Southeast Asia for the remainder of his term.

But first, a recitation of facts on the WPS from the voluminous published research by the above TMT colleague, who I agree with most of the time, were it not for his inelegant ad hominems. These timelines are augmented from the easily accessible Google.


April 8, 2012: A standoff began when a Philippine Navy vessel tried to arrest Chinese fishermen for illegal fishing within Panatag Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc). Chinese Maritime vessels came to their rescue, aborting the arrest. The next day, PNoy ordered a Philippine warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to confront the Chinese. Big mistake! This allowed China to capture the high ground, portraying the Philippines as the aggressor — militarizing the confrontation.

April 10 – May 31: In the ensuing days, the Philippine government sought US intervention, invoking the 1950 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). The US refused as there was no cause. Here, the events were entangled with the US and Philippine governments playing the game of "he said, she said," exacerbated by a shady Philippine senator authorized by PNoy for a backdoor channel to China's similarly shady characters. A resolution was purportedly arrived at for a simultaneous withdrawal of Chinese and Philippine vessels from Panatag — saving face for all parties. PNoy was further assured by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario that US negotiators got the Chinese to agree on a simultaneous withdrawal.

June 15, 2012: The Philippines withdrew its vessels from Panatag Shoal. The Chinese did not. China now controls Scarborough (Panatag), establishing de facto sovereignty.

Jan. 22, 2013: The US government persuaded PNoy to file a case against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, challenging China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

June 30, 2016: President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the Philippine presidency, and those party to the WPS debacle, PNoy and del Rosario, were out of jobs, washing their hands of this dastardly act.

Arbitral ruling

July 12, 2016: The arbitral tribunal at The Hague issues its ruling in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China's "nine-dash line" claim and affirming the Philippines' rights in its EEZ. It recognized that the Philippines has sovereign rights to exploit the resources in these areas.

The ruling also declares that China's activities at Panatag (interfering with Philippine fishing activities) violated these rights. And China's claims based on historic rights were inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

On the other hand, none of the features in the Spratly Islands are capable of generating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and none of these are islands under Unclos, meaning human habitation or economic life of their own cannot be sustained. But more importantly, on maritime entitlements, the tribunal determined that certain areas in the South China Sea, including Scarborough Shoal and certain parts of the Spratly Islands, fall within the Philippines' EEZ.

China never did participate in the arbitration process, rejecting the ruling as "nothing more than a piece of useless paper." It was universally understood too that the ruling is unenforceable.

Duterte govt (2016-2022)

Duterte from the very start of his regime showed preferential treatment for China, veering away from America. He didn't want to rub China's nose in the arbitral ruling award and promptly paid obeisance to Beijing with his famous "I love Xi Jinping" on one of his visits to Beijing. And the country was amply rewarded with baskets of goodies. Acknowledging the arbitral ruling, he never used this as a negotiating instrument with China, except for his braggadocio of a statement that Philippine sovereignty over the WPS was non-negotiable but with a limp addendum: "China has the big guns — I don't have. I can't let my soldiers die," signaling his helplessness — incapable of looking for alternatives. And the bullying continued to the present regime.

Marcos govt — the proposal (2022...)

More than a hundred diplomatic protests filed against China fell on deaf ears. Inane Senate resolutions elevating these problems to the UN General Assembly were passed. And always, the demand for budget increases — the traditional source of corruption — to bolster Philippine defense capabilities. All are off-tangent to the realities vis-à-vis China.

China is the rising hegemon in the East, and in this multipolar world, we are the ants amidst the dancing elephants. China has demonstrated time and again that it can ignore with impunity the diminishing importance of dispute resolution and America's cherished ideals of the rule of law. China will not make the mistake of creating an excuse for America to intervene on our behalf under the 1950 MDT agreement. And America will not go to war over pieces of real estate in the WPS. What if China, our biggest economic partner in the East, decides to take over Ayungin Shoal by attrition? So, what now?

The best course of action before this happens is for BBM to put the arbitral ruling in our back pockets and go mano-a-mano on a charm offensive with China, which China has been doing with other countries in the SCS. Look at Vietnam, now similarly situated with its own claims to the Paracels. Start a dialogue and negotiate. Vietnam's FDI from China has gone through the roof compared to the Philippines. BBM's enemies would consider this a surrender. So, what?! Let's fight another day.

Start a bilateral dialogue with Xi Jinping.
Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 14 December 2023 22:44

Man-made God

Fourth of a series

OUR second hypothesis demonstrated that the stories depicted in the Abrahamic religions are not originals, plagiarized from even more ancient epics, man-made, not deity-inspired, implying that religion itself is man-made. Which brings the consequential conclusion that man created God — not the other way around (The Manila Times, Nov. 22 and 29, Dec. 6, 2023).

This column dwells on Christian dogmas as the author is Catholic by accident of birth. Spain brought the sword and the faith to the Philippines, and therefore, Ang Panginoon is revered — the one true God! This conversation will unavoidably touch the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam. If this columnist had been born to parents in Jolo, Sulu, chances are that I would be of the Islamic faith and submit myself to Allah (SWT), the one true God! And if born of Jewish parents, I would profess the Jewish faith and worship Yahweh, the one true God!

Part 4 of this series is a scrutiny of scriptures, particularly the Gospels. It may be noted that the New Testament is a derivative of the Old Testament from the Tanakh, comprising revelations through the laws of Moses and the life of Jesus. In the Islamic tradition, the revelations came later to Muhammad, claiming these to be final.

Offhand, this is not an intellectual dissertation on the First Cause or the Supreme Architect of the cosmos or the Maker of all things that are. Thomas Aquinas, who took First Cause as the fundamental premise of all his proofs, will not be dissected here. Cosmological arguments, an assertion that the existence of the universe implies the existence of a first cause, often referred to as God, Yahweh or Allah, require a longer and more focused essay beyond the scope of this column. The question, therefore, "Is there a Higher Power?" will be answered obliquely based on empirical evidence gleaned from these sacred biblical gospels and revelations.

The four canonical gospels

The Christian Bible is composed of several books. But the four gospels in the New Testament written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are its core. The first three are referred to as the "synoptic gospels"; they look at things in a similar way and how their stories are told. Often, these narratives are sequenced with identical syntax and wording. They were written from around AD 65-90, while John wrote his around AD 90-110 — after Jesus' death and resurrection in AD 33.

The Bible has two parts: the Old Testament, written before Christ was born, and the New Testament, all written after his birth. Altogether, there are 66 books. The four gospels, along with other writings, were later compiled into the New Testament. The specific process and individuals involved in its compilation are not fully documented, but it is generally believed to have been a gradual process over several centuries, with early church leaders and councils playing a significant role in determining which writings were included.

Process and politics of canonization

The canonization of the gospels was a complex process and involved formal and informal debates and discussions within the early Christian communities. If one examines the seven ecumenical councils over the centuries, from the first Council of Nicaea, convened by the Christian-converted Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 325, to the second Council of Nicaea in AD 787, four centuries later, hammering out Christian dogmas, one may appreciate the not so subtle politics permeating theological discussions by fallible early bishops of Christendom. As in any assembly of great minds but conflicting views, this first council resulted in the first consensus of Christian doctrine called the Nicene Creed. This resolved disagreements on the divinity of Jesus as "...the Son having been 'begotten' by the Father from his own being, and therefore having no beginning; or else created out of nothing, and therefore having a beginning..." The presbyter Arius, from whom the heretical term "Arianism" comes, lost his case; 250-318 bishops voted against Arius and two of his supporters. The three were banished.

The final form of the New Testament Canon, which includes the four gospels along with other books, was largely settled by the 4th century, with details varying somewhat between different Christian traditions.

Other scriptures

There were other written scriptures aside from the four canonical gospels. There were the scriptures of Judas and of Mary Magdalene which are part of a collection of ancient texts known as the Gnostic Gospels. These were excluded from the Bible for reasons of questionable provenance, authorship and authenticity. But more importantly, they present a different theological perspective compared to the canonical gospels. They contain teachings and beliefs that were considered unorthodox or heretical by the emerging mainstream Christian Church and early Christian communities. The developing orthodox Christian theology in the 3rd and 4th centuries was at odds with these Gnostic Gospels.

The early Church leaders and councils responsible for compiling the New Testament had already made their decisions regarding which texts to include, reinforcing the prevailing theological leanings of the Church fathers. A premium was placed on association with Christ's disciples and apostles when considering inclusion in the canonical gospels. The Gnostic Gospels, save for Mary Magdalene, lacked this apostolic connection. On the other hand, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene presents Mary Magdalene in a prominent role and contains teachings attributed to Jesus; nonetheless, it was not included in the New Testament. Magdalene is a woman and could be the wife of Jesus, which would have been anathema to the male-dominated keepers of the emerging doctrines of Christendom.

The devil is in the details

Richard Dawkins, author of the book "The God Delusion" (Harper Collins Publishers, 2006), posits that "...strong evidence for human [rather than divine] creation can be found in the religious texts that do appear in the Bible. They are full of historical inaccuracies and self-contradictions and are based on faulty source material."

Luke says that Mary and Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth when Roman Emperor Augustus ordered a census. And while a census did indeed occur, it happened in AD 9, long after Jesus was born.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish flight from Egypt is a major biblical event, but there is nary a mention of it in any historical record at that time, suggesting that the Exodus did not happen at all.

The genealogies of Jesus differ. Jesus' lineage is traced through King David's son Solomon in Matthew's and through David's son Nathan in Luke's.

Jesus was crucified on the first day of the Jewish Passover, according to the synoptic gospels; John placed the crucifixion on the day before the Passover.

The four gospels contradict each other in the description of the resurrection, particularly the identity and number of women who visited the empty tomb.

All these seem minor faux pas, but not according to Christopher Hitchens, author of the controversial book "God Is Not Great" (Hachette Book Group USA, 2007): "...the canonical gospels were cherry-picked by the Church to reinforce their view of Jesus' teachings. Such selective inclusion of certain religious texts clearly demonstrates the Bible's man-made design. Far from God creating mankind, it is we who, in fact, created him."
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 06 December 2023 07:26

Torah, Bible, Quran — a case of plagiarism?

Third of a series

THE first two parts of this series were about our first hypothesis: Religion is a driving force for wars and conflicts. We looked no farther than Palestine as a microcosm where faith-based violence is inflicted by the descendants of Abraham for the furtherance of political and religious aims. Judaism and Islam both lay claim to their heritage grounded on contradicting dictates of their deity, Yahweh, and Allah, as revealed in their sacred books. Christianity is no less involved, as it has taken sides, compelled by its own religious and geopolitical self-interests.

America, a Christian nation, has taken Israel's viewpoint, but with the ongoing carnage in Gaza verging on genocide, militant dissenting voices are becoming louder, clamoring to terminate this insanity. But if the first hypothesis leads to its logical conclusion, violence, bloodshed and war will persist until the religious components are excreted from the equation. It will take real leaders to examine Palestine through the prism of the secular — a paradigm shift from the religious myopia of Jews, Muslims and Christians.

This third part of the series espouses a second postulate: that the Abrahamic religions are a plagiarism of ancient religious stories obscured by the mist of time, their provenance ambiguous. Parallel narratives accepted as religious doctrines by the Abrahamic religions are simply staggering. This is not to disparage the people of each faith, but to prod them to examine a different perspective beyond faith and on the basis of empirical evidence.

Noah and the great flood

Judaism dates back 3,800 years, when Abraham established a covenant with Yahweh and when the Ten Commandments were handed down to Moses. The Christian Bible (New Testament, circa 70 CE) affirms this narrative. One of the stories common to the three Abrahamic religions is worth examining: Noah's Ark and the great flood. In their respective traditions, a massive flood covered the earth to cleanse the world of its transgressions. Noah (Islamic Nuh) was directed by Yahweh to build an Ark, and load this with pairs of animals.

This narrative obviously was plagiarized from the older epic of Gilgamesh, where Utnapishtim (Noah) survived the Great Flood sent by the god Enlil to destroy humanity. But another god, Ea, instructed Utnapishtim to build a large boat to save himself and various animals. It was written circa 2,600 BCE, predating the Abrahamic religion by 1,000 years. The great flood is recounted in hundreds of religions in different epochs, with gods predating monotheism.


In the Quranic and biblical accounts, an Egyptian pharaoh ordered the killing of all Hebrew male infants. Moses' mother placed him in a basket and set him adrift on the Nile River. He was retrieved by the pharaoh's daughter, who raised him as her own.

In the Christian tradition, Moses is seen as a predecessor to Jesus, foreshadowing Christ's own birth and mission. In Islam, Musa (Moses) is an important prophet and messenger.

As it turned out, this Mosaic tale was plagiarized from the life of Sargon of Mesopotamia, who, as a child, was placed in a basket and set adrift in the Euphrates River. Found and raised by a lowly gardener, he eventually becomes King Sargon, the Great of Akkad, who ruled over the first known empire between 2334 and 2279 BCE.

Egyptian ancient religion

Scholars believed that the ancient Egyptian religion, which predated Judaism by 1,200 years, provided the foundational basis for the Abrahamic religions. These pagan myths, shaped by the nuances of each unique culture, evolved over the millennia and eventually were incorporated as divine revelations. Certain concepts like final judgment, afterlife, virgin birth, crucifixion, death and resurrection, and even circumcision were attributes of Egyptian pagan beliefs, claimed by the Abrahamic religions as their own.

To illustrate. In the pantheon of Egyptian gods, Horus was dominant and could have evolved as the precursor and template of Abrahamic monotheism. He personified the life-giving sun; thus, he was Egypt's Sun-God. His enemy was Set, a personification of the night and all that it encompasses, fear of the dark and evil, which could be anthropomorphized as Satan (Shatan to Islam). The ubiquitous mythological dualities that pervaded in many cultures were always the fight between light versus dark, good against evil. From the ancient hieroglyphics, the life of Horus is well documented; his narrative was etched in stone around 3,000 BCE.

He was born of the virgin Isis on December 25. A star in the East signaled his birth, leading three kings to the newborn. At the age of 12, Horus was a precocious teacher, at 30, he was baptized by one called Unup and thus began his ministry. He recruited 12 disciples who traveled with him, performing miracles, healing the sick, and walking on water. He was known by many names, such as the truth, the light, lamb of god, god's anointed son and the good shepherd. Betrayed by Typhon, he was crucified, buried for three days and resurrected.

Similar myths

I am reprinting excerpts from my Times column of March 24, 2021:

"Mithra (1200 BC)

"Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25 in Persia. He performed miracles and had 12 disciples. He was dead for three days and was resurrected; referred to as the 'Truth, the Light,' etc. Sunday was his day of worship.

"Yeshua Hamashiach (Anno Domini)

"A Hebrew, he was born on December 25 of a virgin, Mary, wife of Joseph in Bethlehem. At the time of his birth, a star rose in the east where three kings came to adore him. Not much was known about this child's younger years, but at age 12, he was found at a temple, sitting, listening and debating among the teachers. He was baptized and later did his ministry at age 30 assisted by 12 disciples. He performed miracles, healing the sick, walking on water and raising the dead Lazarus. He was known as King of Kings, Son of God, Alpha and Omega, etc. He is known as Jesus Christ, the Messiah in the Christian tradition, not God.

"Common source of narratives

"These similarities in narratives and godly attributes permeated many of the world's cultures and religions spanning 3,000 years and perhaps further back to primordial times when early man began to understand his surroundings, the dangers of darkness and the uplifting warmth and security of light. These cannot be dismissed as mere coincidences. From the time writing was invented, these depictions have been preserved, some in cuneiform and hieroglyphs; no doubt passed on from oral traditions. This suggests that there was a common source embellished over the millennia in the retelling, appearing eventually as myths, strong primordial forces to explain natural phenomenon."

One can't help concluding that the second hypothesis lays bare the likelihood that these stories are man-made, and by extension, religion itself is man-made and not deity-driven.

This column has drawn heavily from "Zeitgeist the Movie" (the main source) and Timeline-World History documentaries. This columnist claims no profound scholarly work except to titillate the reader to do his own research — thus, no Church imprimatur is needed... or the devil's.
Published in LML Polettiques