December 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

World-War-IIn 1914, more than a century ago, the German Army was advancing into French territory along a 27-mile stretch of land known as the “Western Front.” The French and the British armies were fiercely defending French territory in trenches along a 200-foot narrow strip called “No Man’s Land” that separates them from the Germans who were dug in on the other side. Firing at each other incessantly, they seemed to be oblivious of what was going on in their countries: people were celebrating Christmas.

Then on Christmas Eve the firing stopped and one of the most incredible events in history took place: the Germans started placing candles on “No Man’s Land.” Suddenly in those dark hours, “No Man’s Land” became a beautiful landscape full of “Christmas” trees.

The Germans began singing Christmas songs and the French and British responded by singing too, which then turned the entire “No Man’s Land” into a symphonic Christmas celebration. Then the Germans proposed a “Christmas Truce,” which the French and British troops gladly accepted.

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.In his book, “Silent Night,” Stanley Weintraub narrated that memorable event: “Signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or — from the Germans — in fractured English. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units impoverished ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”

The following Christmas morning, soldiers from both sides filled the “No Man’s Land” and started fraternizing with one another, sharing rations, exchanging gifts, singing together, playing soccer, and… solemnly buried their dead.

When the generals heard about the “Christmas Truce,” they ordered their soldiers to start shooting at each other. The soldiers resumed shooting but most of them — for several days — aimed their rifles at the sky. But in some sectors, the truce continued until New Year’s Day.

On November 21, 2005, Alfred Anderson, aged 109, the last veteran of that “Christmas Truce,” died at his home in Angus, Scotland. Anderson was decorated with France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur. He never forgot that moment in his life when he celebrated Christmas with his enemies. Indeed, it was a singular moment in history that has yet to be repeated.

World at war

Cruise-missileThis year, the world is at war again but on a scale much bigger than the battle along the “Western Front.” Instead of warring soldiers firing their rifles at each other, weapons of mass destruction – deadly cruise missiles fired from ships and submarines, bombs dropped from supersonic bombers, and suicide bombers targeting civilians including women and children – are used. The “No Man’s Land” along the “Western Front” doesn’t exist anymore. But today, the entire world is a “No Man’s Land.”

Vladimir-Putin-and-generals-3-3-14With rogue states like Russia, China, and North Korea threatening to use their nuclear ballistic missiles against their enemies, no one is safe anymore and there are no safe havens. With mad men having the ability to launch their nuclear ballistic missiles at will, the world is at risk of total annihilation. Yes, Dr. Strangelove is alive and the “Doomsday Clock” is just a minute away to midnight, which makes one wonder: When will there ever be peace on Earth?

In 1955, in the midst of the Cold War, Jill Jackson Miller, an American singer and actress, and her husband Sy Miller, wrote a song that has captured the hearts of many people. It’s all about peace. Titled “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” this classic song is popularly sung during the Christmas holidays.

The song begins: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.

“Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow. To take each moment and live each moment with peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Christmas truce

Indeed, peace begins with each of us. And only then can harmony be achieved. The “Christmas Truce” during the Great War in 1914 was a manifestation of what the song suggests. All it took was for a German soldier to put up a sign that said, “YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT,” and everybody took the cue and stopped firing. It’s the power of persuasion of one man that did it.

But it was the generals who forced their soldiers to break the truce, but only after the “brothers” – Germans, French, and British soldiers – walked in perfect harmony in “No Man’s Land,” without fear of shooting at each other. And to this day, we remember how easy it was to make peace… even for just a day.

Perhaps if the generals gave the truce a chance to keep the peace for a longer time, they probably would come to the realization that peace can hold while the warring powers negotiate a permanent peace, which they eventually did on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. Known as “Armistice Day,” the date is commemorated in my allied countries that also coincide with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day.

Give peace a chance

John-Lennon-Give-Peace-A-ChanceIn 1969, John Lennon, of Beatles fame, wrote a song titled, “Give Peace a Chance.” The song became the “anthem” of the American anti-war movement during the 1970s. On January 27 1973, the U.S., North Vietnam, and South Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accord, which ended direct U.S. military combat, and temporarily stopped the fighting between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. But it took another two years before the war actually ended with the fall of Saigon.

Today, with all the wars going on in several flashpoints around the world, one wonders if peace would ever be achieved in our lifetime. With the war in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and the specter of war looming Asia, the world is in the brink of World War III. But this time around, the scope and magnitude of World War III would cause the end of civilization and the extinction of the human species.

Change the world

Change-the-worldPerhaps it’s time to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: How can I change the world to achieve peace? And we see ourselves in the mirror looking back at us, reminding us of what Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

This reminds me of a Chinese monk who lived 1,000 years ago. He said: “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

One shouldn’t give up because he’s old. It’s never too late to change. Change is not the exclusive domain of the young; it is the covenant of every human being who occupies a space on planet Earth.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you all and may there be peace on earth.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

 Last November 17, 2015, Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares had a reason to be jubilant! By a 5-4 vote of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), the disqualification complaint against her was thrown out. With the vote of five senators, Grace beat three Supreme Court justices in a “contest” that should have delved into the legality of Grace’s citizenship and residency. Instead the five senators ignored the facts and waded into the murky waters of political expediency.

Grace must have felt like she was on top of the world… and indeed she was… until her world turned upside down two weeks later. With five disqualification complaints against her before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Second Division disqualified her. The division’s three members unanimously ruled that she is not a natural-born Filipino citizen and lacks the 10-year residency for candidates running for president.

Double-whammy

Grace-Poe-disqualifiedThen two weeks later, the Comelec’s First Division, on a 2-1 vote, approved the petitions of former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad, De La Salle University Prof. Antonio Contreras and former University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez to disqualify Grace from the presidential race for the same reason as the Second Division’s ruling against her.

However, the double-whammy did not deter the former Montessori schoolteacher from pursuing the unfulfilled dream of her father whose stunning election loss and abbreviated life has become one of the most grieved political tragedies of our time. Now that she’s just one election away from achieving what some of her supporters believe was an act of providence, common sense stopped her just five months away from capturing Malacanang.

But she questioned the Comelec’s rulings and insisted that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she meets the residency requirements. But the First Division said that Grace’s inconsistent statements on her residency indicate that she intended to deliberately misrepresent a material fact in her Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for president. The fact is: Grace stated that she has been a resident in the country since April 2006, which is contrary to her claims that she was residing in the country since May 2005. “It is indeed incredible to think that Respondent, a well-educated woman and already then a public servant with full staff support, including a legal team, would not know how to correctly declare the facts material to her candidacy for the 13 May 2013 Elections,” the Comelec disqualification ruling said.

Beleaguered but not out of the game, Grace said that she would appeal to the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court to “uphold the truth, and the spirit and aims of our Constitution.” Meanwhile, she insisted that she is still a candidate for president, which begs the question: How is she going to convince the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court to declare her a “natural-born” citizen and has met the minimum residency requirements of the Constitution?

Freefall

Grace-Poe-and-Bongbong-MarcosIt’s interesting to note that Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. had offered to undergo a DNA test to see if it matches Grace’s DNA. If their DNAs matched, then it could prove that Grace was the illegitimate daughter of Bongbong’s father, the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. who had been rumored to have fathered a child by Rosemarie Sonora, the sister of Grace’s adoptive mother Susan Roces. But Grace refused Bongbong’s offer saying that it wouldn’t prove anything. But what has she got to lose by going through with the DNA testing? She has everything to gain and nothing to lose except the fulfillment of her dreams.

Rodrigo-Duterte-assault-rifleWith the disqualification of Grace, the presidential battle has changed direction with the entry of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte into the race. The latest surveys show that Duterte is now the frontrunner in the race with Grace going on a freefall.

The other major presidential candidates – Vice President Jejomar Binay, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago – haven’t been affected by the Poe fallout. But Binay, who had been the frontrunner for the longest time before Grace entered the presidential derby, is now stagnating in second or third place. And Roxas, who had been the stuck in the “5% club” for a long time, has improved in his popularity ratings. However, the three of them are hovering below Duterte who seems to have solidified his position in the race. With Poe hoping for a “miraculous” ruling from the Comelec and the Supreme Court, she would have a difficult time dislodging Duterte from the top of the ladder.

In my humble opinion, Grace should abandon her presidential candidacy. If she loses in her appeal to the Comelec en banc and the Supreme Court, she would be consigned to the dustbin of history. However, if she wins a “miraculous” ruling by the Comelec and the Supreme Court, there is no guarantee that she could beat Duterte, whom the people dubbed the Lee Kuan Yew of the Philippines.

Realpolitik

Credit: INQUIRER PHOTO/ Romy Homillada

Credit: INQUIRER PHOTO/ Romy Homillada

 But a miracle might just be what Grace – who loves to wear white just like Joan of Arc — needs to convince her followers that she was anointed by divine providence to deliver them from a sinful and corrupt political system, which makes one wonder: Is she convinced that she has the power to stop Duterte just like when Joan of Arc stopped the siege of the superior English forces at Orleans, France in 1429? Or is this all fantasy that would not happen in today’s realpolitik?

And if there’s anything that would come close to being a “miracle,” it’s the ease of how fast she lost all her political allies and unmasked her enemies when things got rough. Indeed, it’s a rude awakening for her to realize that in politics, there are no such things as friends, only those who’d use her to pursue their own interests. And in the short time that Grace was every presidential or vice presidential wannabe’s desired running mate, she must have felt an inner strength that defied the political detractors who were bent on destroying her. But that’s all behind her now. And just like Joan of Arc, Grace found out that there were more powerful forces out there that are masters of realpolitik.

And now it’s time to ask: Quo vadis, Grace?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Katipunan "Supremo" Andres Bonifacio

Katipunan “Supremo” Andres Bonifacio

On July 7, 1892, Andres Bonifacio, together with Deodato Arellano, Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Ladislao Diwa, and Jose Dizon, upon learning of Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s deportation, convened secretly and agreed to form a secret society. The founders called the secret society the Kataastaasang Kagalang-Kagalang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or Katipunan for short. It was also referred to as KKK.

Bonifacio, born on November 30, 1863, is considered the Father of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonization. He became the Katipunan’s military leader or “Supremo.” The Katipunan grew into a large organization and became a potent revolutionary force against the Spaniards.

The country honors Bonifacio by declaring November 30 as “Bonifacio Day,” a national public holiday. But there is one question that remains unanswered today and that is: Was Bonifacio the First President and why was he murdered?

Was Bonifacio the First President?

By Perry Diaz
January 21, 2005

Original Katipunan flag

Original Katipunan flag

On July 7, 1892, Andres Bonifacio — upon hearing the news that Dr. Jose Rizal was arrested and deported to Dapitan the day before — called for a meeting with five of his friends, to wit: Jose Dizon, Valentin Diaz, Deodato Arellano, Ladislao Diwa, and Teodoro Plata. That night, they organized a secret society called Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangan na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Respected Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Nation) — in short, Katipunan. Bonifacio was named their “Supremo.”

They recruited people to join and by 1896, on the eve of the revolution, the Katipunan had more than 400,000 members. During the revolution, two dominant leaders emerged — Bonifacio and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. By 1897, to the detriment of the revolution, their rivalry had divided the revolutionary forces into Bonifacio’s Magdiwang faction and Aguinaldo’s Magdalo faction.

General Emilio Aguinaldo

General Emilio Aguinaldo

Attempts were made to reconcile the two leaders. On March 22, 1897, the two factions held a convention in Tejeros, a barrio of San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite, Aguinaldo’s bailiwick. Aguinaldo did not attend the gathering. Jacinto Lumbreras, a Magdiwang, presided over the assembly. The agenda of the convention was to adopt a plan for the defense of Cavite. However, the subject was not even discussed as the meeting became tumultuous. Instead, those in attendance decided to elect the officers of the revolutionary government. In essence, the participants threw out the Supreme Council of the Katipunan under which all the revolutionary forces had been fighting for. Bonifacio reluctantly agreed to preside over the election. Aguinaldo was elected President; Mariano Trias as Vice President; Artemio Ricarte as Captain-General; Emiliano Riego de Dios as Director of War; and Bonifacio as Director of the Interior. The following day, March 23, Aguinaldo and the other elected officials, with the exception of Bonifacio, took their oath of office in the new revolutionary government.

Meanwhile, on the same day that Aguinaldo took his oath of office, Bonifacio and his followers — numbering forty-five — met again at the same venue of the convention held the day before. They were furious. They felt bad about the results of the election. They believed that the Magdalo faction committed anomalies during the balloting. Consequently, they decided to invalidate the election. They drew up a document — Acta de Tejeros — giving their reasons for nullifying the results of the convention.

Bonifacio and his supporters believed that Aguinaldo’s men were responsible for the chaos at the Tejeros convention. He believed that Aguinaldo’s men had maneuvered him out of power. Indeed, it was a rude awakening for him because even the Magdiwangs, his followers, did not vote for him either for President or Vice-President.

Tejeros Convention

Tejeros Convention

Adding insult to an injury, Daniel Tirona, a Magdalo, protested Bonifacio’s election as Director of the Interior saying that a person with a lawyer’s diploma should hold the post. Bonifacio, outraged by Tirona’s insult, angrily declared: “I, as chairman of this assembly and as President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, as all of you do not deny, declare this assembly dissolved, and I annul all that has been approved and resolved.”

At Naik, where Bonifacio subsequently moved his Magdiwang forces after the failed Tejeros convention, Bonifacio and his supporters drew up another document — known as the Naik Military Agreement — in which they resolved to establish a government independent and separate from the one established at Tejeros.

President Andres Bonifacio's signature and seal.

President Andres Bonifacio’s signature and seal.

Bonifacio and his supporters proceeded in forming a government. The government was called Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Country of the Tagalog Nation). They printed its Cartilla, a small handbook containing the rules, the 14-point code of ethics, and the recruitment process. In it, the Katipunan declared that the word “Tagalog” stood for “all who were born in this archipelago… hence Visayans, Ilocanos and Pampangos were all Tagalogs” (“Filipino” during the Spanish regime was a Spaniard born in the Philippines and the natives were called “indios”). The following were elected as officers of the de facto government of Haring Bayang Katagalugan: Andres Bonifacio – President; Emilio Jacinto – Minister of State; Teodoro Plata – Minister of War; Aguedo del Rosario – Minister of the Interior; Briccio Pantas – Minister of Justice; Enrique Pacheco – Minister Finance; Silvestre Baltazar – Treasurer General; Daniel Tirona – Secretary General. Unfortunately, the Bonifacio government was never recognized because they were all busy fighting the Spanish colonial forces.

Execution of Andres Bonifacio

Execution of Andres Bonifacio

Upon learning of the Naik Military Agreement, Aguinaldo sent a contingent of soldiers to arrest Bonifacio and his brothers Procopio and Ciriaco. The confrontation became deadly. Ciriaco was killed and Bonifacio and Procopio were wounded. They were brought to Naik to face a military tribunal. Albeit the absence of evidence, the Bonifacio brothers were found guilty of treason and sedition. They were recommended for execution. Aguinaldo commuted the sentence to deportation. However, Generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar, both former allies of Bonifacio, convinced Aguinaldo to withdraw his order and proceed with the execution. They believed that as long as Bonifacio were alive, there would be no unity. On May 10, 1897, Aguinaldo’s soldiers executed the Bonifacio brothers at the foot of Mt. Tala. They were buried in shallow graves without markers.

On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo proclaimed the independence of the Philippines and installed a “Dictatorial Government” that would be temporary in nature until peace is achieved at which time it may be “modified by the nation, in which rests the principle of authority.”

General Emilio Aguinaldo boarding the USS Vicksburg as a Prisoner of War (Photo credit: Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin).

General Emilio Aguinaldo boarding the USS Vicksburg as a Prisoner of War (Photo credit: Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin).

On March 23, 1901, exactly fours years after he took his first oath of office, American forces captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela. Thus ended the Philippine revolution started by Bonifacio.

Today, Andres Bonifacio’s admirers believe that he was the first president of the Philippines. He organized the Katipunan and led the revolution against Spain. They believed that not only was he the first president of the country, he should be accorded the title of “National Hero” of the Philippines.

Had the historians robbed Andres Bonifacio of his rightful place in Philippine history? Shouldn’t Bonifacio precede Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo as the acknowledged Father of the Philippines?

Postscript

It’s been more than a century since Bonifacio was betrayed and murdered by his enemies. Many believed that had he lived and ruled the First Philippine Republic, the country today would be different from the colonial past in so many ways.   It would have been different from the Las Islas Filipinas that Rizal had dreamed about. It would have been different from what Quezon wished the Philippine Islands were 50 years later. It would have been different from what our present-day political leaders have crafted the government of the Republic of the Philippines into. But one thing would have happened for sure: It would have been a free country governed by the people, of the people, and for the people.

(Perrydiaz@gmail.com)