January 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

US-flag-and-eagleFor more than a quarter of a century, the United States enjoyed the distinction of being the sole superpower in a unipolar world order after the Soviet Union imploded in a day.   This was when then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned on December 25, 1991 and dissolved the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). What followed was a period that came to be known as “Pax Americana” – American Peace – or “New World Order” as the U.S.’s critics called it. Indeed, it was a world order that was built upon America’s military, economic, and diplomatic power, which provides geopolitical stability in a globalized economic system. As a consequence, America became the world’s peacekeeper – or policeman.

But one thing was sure then: the specter of nuclear war was gone. But not anymore. Today, with the emergence of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping who are challenging America’s geopolitical preeminence and military supremacy, the “Doomsday Clock” is once again ticking closer to midnight. Yes, never before had our small troubled planet been closer to nuclear annihilation than today.

Vladimir-Putin-and-Xi-Jinping-toast-May-2014In my article, “New World Disorder” (March 26, 2013), I wrote: “Upon his ascension to the presidency, Xi’s first venture outside China was to visit his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. At their summit in Kremlin last March 22, the two leaders agreed to form a ‘strategic partnership’ to advance their countries’ interests. They affirmed their mutual support for each country’s geostrategic and territorial interests, which include territorial disputes.

“At a joint press conference, Xi told the media: ‘China’s friendship with Russia guarantees strategic balance and peace in the world.’ But what he presumably meant to say was that the new China-Russia military-economic alliance would be so formidable that it would establish a new world order never seen before. In Xi’s mind, only a China-Russia military-economic alliance could stop the United States’ ‘Pivot to Asia’ strategy.”

Russia-China axis

Russia-China-mapThree years after the ascendancy of Putin and Xi in their respective countries, the world is indeed in disorder. Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. And recently, Putin deployed Russian fighter jets to Syria to defend the regime of Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels in a bloody civil war.

Meanwhile, Xi didn’t waste any time in taking possession of the Scarborough Shoal and reclaiming seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea and building artificial islands on them. Satellite photos show runways and harbors that could be used to deploy military aircraft and warships; thus, militarizing the South China Sea, which China is claiming as having “indisputable sovereignty” over it. China could then impose an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around those artificial islands. If China gets away with this, she’d be in a position to project power in the South China Sea and turn it into “Lake Beijing.”

Djibouti-to-Suez-CanalBut China isn’t limiting her military reach to the South China Sea. She is also setting her sight towards the Indian Ocean… and beyond. Recently, China signed an agreement with Djibouti, which would give China her first offshore military base. With Djibouti strategically located at the mouth of Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a narrow chokepoint that connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal, China would be able to safeguard her maritime interests in the African continent and the Middle East.

Wake-up call

Carrier-battle-group.6A report prepared by the think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said: “Challenges like the U.S.’s deteriorating ties with Russia, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and North Korea’s continued belligerence were shifting US military calculations.” It also said the U.S. needs to expand her military presence in the Asia-Pacific “to balance the shift in military power there.” The report, which was commissioned by the U.S. Congress, calls on the Obama administration “to station more nuclear attack submarines and littoral combat ships, bolster regional missile defense systems and negotiate for the US air force to be deployed at more airfields in the region.”

The report concluded: “If China’s economic, military and geopolitical influence continues to rise at even a modest pace… the world will witness the largest shift in the global distribution of power since the rise of the US in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

China is indeed rising and as she continues to rise, her appetite to gobble up territories has become more voracious. And for a good reason: With a burgeoning population – she just adopted a two-child policy (from a one-child policy) — she needs more food to feed them and more oil to keep the state machinery going. Thus, she has to go beyond her present domain to look for food and oil to replenish what she lacks at home.

Pax Pacifica

Barack Obama towers over Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.

Barack Obama towers over Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.

It is apparent that the Indo-Asia-Pacific region would be the arena for the coming geopolitical battleground with a Russia-China axis vying for dominance. The U.S.’s Pax Americana is certainly on the decline but this doesn’t mean that the U.S. would disintegrate just like the Soviet Union 25 years ago. What we’re seeing is the emergence of a multipolar world order, where power is distributed among the three “great powers” today: U.S., Russia, and China. But like anything else in global politics, there is always one dominant player over the others, which begs the question: Who would be the dominant power of this new world order?

If the current geopolitical games were making any sense, the U.S. would clearly be the preeminent power in a multipolar world order. With the 28-member country North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) still serving as the structural backbone of the American superpower, the U.S. is forming other alliances around the world. In the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. is forging a quadrilateral strategic alliance with Japan, Australia, and India.

The Japan-India-Australia-Hawaii "security diamond"

The Japan-India-Australia-Hawaii “security diamond”

In 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrote a piece titled “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond,” saying: “I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. state of Hawaii form a ‘diamond’ to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.”

With a U.S.-Japan alliance and a U.S.-Australia alliance already in place, the U.S. is working closely with India to form a strategic alliance that would protect India’s underbelly – the Indian Ocean, which India considers her “lake” – from Chinese intrusion. In addition, the U.S. has also defense treaties with South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Singapore. And together with her alliances with Japan and Australia, an impenetrable line of defense along the First Island Chain is formed; thus, containing China to the confines of the South China Sea.

Indeed, it’s just a matter of time before the Indo-Asia-Pacific region becomes the hegemony of that “security diamond.” And while China has gained some foothold in the South China Sea, it would remain open to international navigation.

At the end of the day, while Pax Americana might be coming to an end, Pax Pacifica would replace it, an era of relative peace in a multipolar world order.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

US-Philippines bilateral meeting in Washington DC on January 12, 2016, the day the Philippine Supreme Court ruled the EDCA constitutional.

US-Philippines bilateral meeting in Washington DC on January 12, 2016, the day the Philippine Supreme Court ruled the EDCA constitutional.

Twenty-four years after the Philippine Senate rejected the extension of the American bases, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). EDCA is an “executive agreement” between the U.S. and the Philippines that would allow the American military to once again set foot on Philippine soil. It didn’t take long for the Philippines to act; she immediately offered eight strategic locations throughout the country where the U.S. could position equipment and personnel on a rotational basis.

A local marching band welcomes the arrival of sailors aboard the USS Topeka (SSN-754), a Los Angeles-class submarine, as it prepares to be docked at the Alava pier off Subic port.

A local marching band welcomes the arrival of sailors aboard the USS Topeka (SSN-754), a Los Angeles-class submarine, as it prepares to be docked at the Alava pier off Subic port.

It’s interesting to note that prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, every time American warships docked at the Subic port (formerly Subic Naval Base), they were met by protesting leftist groups displaying anti-American signs. This time around, when the USS Topeka, a nuclear attack submarine, docked at Subic a few hours before the high court decision was announced, it was welcomed by a marching band composed of local students.

Changing times

The "Magnificent 12" of the Philippine Senate in 1991.

The “Magnificent 12” of the Philippine Senate in 1991.

Indeed, times have changed since the Philippine Senate, by a narrow 12-11 vote, decided not to renew the U.S. bases agreement in 1991. A year later, after then President Cory Aquino’s administration tried vainly to work out an extension, the U.S. flag was lowered in Subic for the last time. Since then, leftist and nationalist groups have vigilantly opposed any presence of American forces on Philippine soil. It was a period when the nationalists proudly declared the Philippines as “truly independent.” However, it was also a dark period when China started grabbing Philippine territories including the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Scarborough Shoal, and six other islands where she built artificial islands that could be used for military purposes. China has been trying to expel a contingent of Philippine Marines guarding the Ayungin Shoal in a grounded and rusty naval vessel, the BRP Sierra Madre.

Reclaimed Fiery Cross Reef.

Reclaimed Fiery Cross Reef.

But it was when China started building the artificial islands that the nationalist legislators began to worry. They turned to the U.S. for help but Uncle Sam stayed out of the disputed islands, claiming neutrality. Some of them even tried to invoke the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which makes one wonder: Did they expect the Americans to come to the aid of the Philippines after they were booted out of the country? And these “patriotic” legislators know that with a navy without warships and an air force without warplanes, the country is helplessly — and hopelessly — at the mercy of China.

It did not then come as a surprise when President Benigno Aquino III opened the doors for the U.S. to station troops and equipment on a rotational basis. And that’s when EDCA came to fruition. But it wasn’t easy. As soon as the EDCA was signed in April 2014, several leftist and nationalist personalities petitioned the Supreme Court to declare EDCA unconstitutional. Among them were former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada who were among the “Magnificent 12” — as their supporters called them – who voted to kick the U.S. bases out of the Philippines 24 years ago. Today, these 12 senators are now referred to as the “Dirty Dozen.” Indeed, times are changing.

Supreme Court ruling

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

When the Supreme Court circulated the draft of the ponencia penned by Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno last November, the Senate immediately passed Resolution 1414 introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, which says that any treaty should be concurred in by the Senate otherwise it becomes “invalid and ineffective.” However, the U.S. and Philippine governments have always insisted that EDCA is an executive agreement, not a treaty.

Fourteen senators voted to adopt the resolution. Only Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV voted against it while Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile abstained. It’s ironic that Enrile, who was one of the “Magnificent 12,” had abstained this time around, which makes one wonder: Did he finally realize the folly of his action in 1991? Indeed, had he voted for retention of the U.S. bases then – a notion that might have swirled in his mind today — China would have stayed out of the Spratly Islands.

Nevertheless, in spite of the “invalid and ineffective” language of Resolution 1414, the Supreme Court went ahead and voted 10-4 on Sereno’s ponencia. Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Marvic Leonen dissented while Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited.

In his concurring opinion to the court’s ruling, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that EDCA’s provisions that allow the prepositioning of U.S. war materiel and equipment in Philippine military bases would “give teeth” to the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). “With the EDCA, China will think twice before attacking Philippine military resupply ships to Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys. With the EDCA, the Philippines will have a fighting chance to hold on to Philippine-occupied islands in the Spratlys,” he said.

Containing China

First and Second Island Chains.

First and Second Island Chains.

With EDCA in place, the Philippines can now play an important role in preventing Chinese expansionism in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region that spans more than 12,000 miles across the globe – from the coast of East Africa to the shores of California. The Philippines, which was the weakest link in the First Island Chain that forms the first line of defense against Chinese intrusion into the Pacific Ocean, is now going to be a fortified 1,100-mile “retaining wall” against China’s “nine-dash line” — which U.S. Admiral Harry Harris calls the “Berlin Wall of the Sea” — that runs parallel to the Philippines’ 12-mile territorial boundary and the First Island Chain. And at both ends of that retaining wall are the Bashi Channel in the Batanes Islands in the north and the Tawi-Tawi Strait in the Sulu archipelago in the south. It’s no surprise then that the U.S. has requested access to Batanes Island and the Laoag Airport in Ilocos Norte where movements in the Bashi Channel could be monitored, and blocked if a conflict with China occurs.

Whoever controls the Bashi Channel, Tawi-Tawi Strait, and the Miyako Channel – a major choke point that connects the East China Sea to the Pacific Ocean – would control the First Island Chain; thus, containing China to the confines of the South and East China Seas.

It’s also been reported in the news that the existing Philippine naval facility at Oyster Bay, Palawan is being developed into a “mini Subic.” Oyster Bay, which is only 100 miles from the Spratly Islands, is the Philippine Navy’s sole base facing the South China Sea and the staging point to the Kalayaan Islands that includes the populated Pag-Asa Island.

In the previous week, three important events happened that gave the U.S. a geopolitical victory over China in Asia-Pacific, to wit: (1) The resolution of the “comfort women” issue between Japan and South Korea; (2) The election of pro-independence Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s next president; and (3) The Philippine Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of EDCA.

With America’s military alliances with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia, and Singapore secured, President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy is finally paying off, which solidified the position of the U.S. as a Pacific power. And with EDSA in place, a new strategic partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines is created; thus, providing a safety net for the Philippines to protect her sovereignty and territorial integrity.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Comfort women protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

Comfort women protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

Seventy years after the end of World War II, the shameful act of sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army has finally come to a “negotiated” end between Japan and South Korea in what many believe was driven by the geopolitical realities in the volatile East Asia.

A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

The Japan-South Korea détente began when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 29, 2015. Although he did not address the issue of “comfort women” in his speech, he expressed “deep remorse” for Japan’s wartime conduct, saying that armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most. He said that he upholds previous Japanese apologies, including a 1995 landmark statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama who said on the occasion of the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund: “The problem of the so-called wartime comfort women is one such scar, which, with the involvement of the Japanese military forces of the time, seriously stained the honor and dignity of many women. This is entirely inexcusable. I offer my profound apology to all those who, as wartime comfort women, suffered emotional and physical wounds that can never be closed.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks before the U.S. Congress.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks before the U.S. Congress.

But it was Abe’s statement on August 14, 2015, during the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in 1945, that he directly addressed what the “comfort women” had suffered, saying: “On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, I bow my head deeply before the souls of all those who perished both at home and abroad. I express my feelings of profound grief and my eternal, sincere condolences.” And he promised: “We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honor of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s injured hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”

Unthinkable event

President Barack Obama meets with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at The Hague to discuss the issue of the comfort women.

President Barack Obama meets with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at The Hague to discuss the issue of the comfort women.

Since then, things began to move… fast. And on December 28, 2015, an “unthinkable” event — as an expert on Japan-South Korea relations calls it –- happened: South Korea and Japan signed a bilateral agreement to end the issue of “comfort women,” once and for all. Yes, nobody would have imagined that the wedge that had divided Japan and South Korea for 70 years would be removed at the strike of a lighting bolt, which makes one wonder: How did it happen?

As it turned out, it did not happen overnight. Work had been going on – quietly — for sometime. And while China was preoccupied with building artificial islands in the South China Sea, U.S. President Barack Obama was involved in a trilateral dialogue with Prime Minister Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the past two years. Obama had been trying to bring the U.S.’s two Asian allies together and forge a counterbalance to an increasingly aggressive China and a trigger-happy North Korea. And the only way to keep the two communist allies in check is to establish a strong defensive line along the First Island Chain, which would prevent China from breaking out into the Western Pacific and beyond. And with the newly constructed Jeju Naval Base on South Korea’s southernmost island group, which is as close as it could get to China, its geostrategic location in the East China Sea couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

Two Koreas at war

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un shocks the world with the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un shocks the world with the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

On January 6, 2016, North Korea announced that she detonated a hydrogen bomb. However, international experts on thermonuclear devices have doubts that it was indeed a hydrogen bomb. But regardless whether an H-bomb was tested or not, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un’s propensity for threatening to nuke the U.S., South Korea and Japan could be unnerving, only because nobody knows what goes on in his mind.

Two days later, North Korea released a video showing a successful test of a ballistic missile launched from a submarine.

With more than five million troops, including reserves, North Korea could easily invade South Korea. Defending South Korea are 600,000 active frontline personnel, 2.9 million reserves, and 28,000 American troops. And since the U.S. and Japan have a military defense treaty, Japan would most likely go to war against North Korea, too. But war in the Korean peninsula wouldn’t probably be limited to conventional warfare. North Korea might use nuclear bombs if she already has them.

Japan’s nuclear stockpile

Japan's Rokkasho Nuclear Reprocessing Plant.

Japan’s Rokkasho Nuclear Reprocessing Plant.

But what is interesting to note is that Japan, who doesn’t possess nuclear weapons at this time, could produce them if she wanted to. She has 47 metric tons of weapons-usable plutonium, which is enough to make nearly 6,000 warheads like the one the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki. This huge cache was the by-product from reprocessing of spent uranium and plutonium used in Japan’s nuclear plants, which makes one wonder: Would Japan make nuclear warheads and use them if she were threatened with nuclear extinction by North Korea? Well, your guess is as good as mine. But I think your guess is: Yes, she would. Who wouldn’t?

Geopolitical game

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014.

And this begs the question: Where would China be in this fracas? In my opinion, China wouldn’t come to the assistance of North Korea if war broke out between the two Koreas. North Korea has been causing China a lot of headaches for her adventurism against the U.S., South Korea and Japan. And Chinese President Xi Jinping knows that going to war with the U.S. is a no-win situation or, worse, a lose-lose situation. There is so much future for China to become the number one economic superpower within a decade. But Xi knows that China is not yet at par with the U.S. militarily… and, probably, never will be. And if China goes to war, all the economic progress she made in the past three decades would be wasted and turn the country into a nuclear wasteland.

So, what would happen if South Korea beats North Korea with the help of the U.S. and Japan, and without interference from China? In all likelihood, the two Koreas would be reunited under a South Korean democratic regime. And if China plays her cards well, she could pull a reunited Korea away from America’s security shield and follow an independent course with strong economic ties to China. As a consequence, the U.S. influence over a reunited Korea could diminish drastically. But would the U.S. allow that to happen? Not if she has to have it her way.

Geopolitics could always come into play again in the future, just like how it was played up in dealing with the issue of comfort women. Or shouldn’t it be the other way around; that is, how the comfort women were played up in dealing with geopolitical issues?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-sad-face.3Recently, the Philippine presidential campaign has degenerated into name-calling with each candidate accusing the others of skullduggery, thievery, thuggery, and, worst… lying.   But strangely, nobody seems to mind if the candidate were a trickster, a thief or a thug. Perhaps it’s so common that it has become the norm rather than the exception to be one. But to accuse a candidate of lying? Holy goat! That’s outside the box, pal! You can accuse anybody of corruption, election cheating or violence, but you can’t accuse anyone of lying simply because nobody would admit to lying, which is a disgraceful act – a sin — in our pious culture! The fact that Filipinos keep on electing corrupt politicians is a testimony to voters’ nonchalance towards the candidates’ lack of integrity. Yes, you can get away with murder but not lying.

Grace Poe's questionable 2013 certificate of candidacy.

Grace Poe’s questionable 2013 certificate of candidacy.

And “lying” is the gist of the disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares whose certificate of candidacy (COC) for president is in the midst of a controversy challenging the accuracy of the information she provided to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to qualify her to run for president, which begs the question: Did she lie? And to be more specific: Did she lie when she claimed in her COC that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen?

Double whammy

Grace-Poe-disqualified.2With two Comelec decisions that disqualified Grace from running for president in 2016 due to questions about her American citizenship and Philippine residency shorter than the ten-year constitutional requirement, Poe petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec decisions; thus, allowing her to run in the May 2016 elections. Poe also asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Comelec’s cancellation of he COC, which means that her name will be printed on the ballot regardless of the high court’s decision.

Justices Brion, Carpio, and De Castro.

Justices Brion, Carpio, and De Castro.

In another move, Poe submitted a motion that Justices Antonio Carpio, Arturo Brion, and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro recuse themselves in hearing Poe’s petition. But recusal is a voluntary act and it doesn’t seem that the three justices would inhibit themselves since they had no part in the Comelec decisions. However, they were part of SET when it ruled in favor of Poe in the David vs. Poe disqualification case. Although Poe won in the SET decision, the three justices voted for her disqualification. But Poe is seemingly confident that she can convince eight of the 15 magistrates to vote in her favor when the Supreme Court meets en banc on January 12, 2016.

After getting the high court’s TRO, Poe reportedly slammed the Comelec for “supposedly insinuating that she was a liar,” saying: “Pinaka ayoko sa lahat ‘yung sinasabing sinungaling ako.” (What I don’t like most is calling me a liar.) She claimed that the “Comelec did not even take a look at the evidence that her camp presented.” But what “evidence” was she talking about? Did she have any proof that she is a natural-born citizen?

Two birth certificates

Atty. Manuelito Luna, the counsel of Rizalito David, shows to the media the discrepancies in the birth certificates of Sen. Grace Poe. (Photo by Aries Joseph Hegina/INQUIRER.net)

Atty. Manuelito Luna, the counsel of Rizalito David, shows to the media the discrepancies in the birth certificates of Sen. Grace Poe. (Photo by Aries Joseph Hegina/INQUIRER.net)

The only evidence that had been made public thus far was the documents Poe herself submitted with her COC when she ran for senator in 2013. Rizalito David presented these documents as evidence before the SET hearing. According to David’s counsel, Poe submitted two birth certificates: One was issued on November 27, 1968 specifically showing that she is a “foundling.” The other one was a Certificate of Live Birth date May 4, 2006 showing that she is a Filipino and the first-born in the family. She claimed that Jesusa Sonora Poe (Susan Roces) is Grace’s biological mother and Ronald Allan Kelley Poe (Fernando Poe Jr.) is her biological father. Now, how could that be when it is a fact that Susan Roces and Fernando Poe Jr. adopted Grace? Something doesn’t compute here. Is this why Grace believed that Comelec had “insinuated” that she was a liar? But whether Grace lied or not, one of the Comelec commissioners, Rowena Guanzon, said that Grace “intended and attempted to mislead the electorate.”

Guanzon also said, “The respondent [Poe] knew that she was adopted and not natural-born and yet, being a legislator, a lawmaker, she is expected to know the law and to follow it. In residency, the resolution states that she could not have started her domicile in the Philippines in May 2005 because at the time, she was just a foreign visitor temporarily staying in the country.”

Pulse-Asia-survey-December-2015Meanwhile, the latest presidential preference surveys show that Poe’s numbers don’t look too good compared to Vice President Jejomar Binay who seems to have gained some support from the Poe fallout. The recent Pulse Asia survey showed Binay on top with 33% followed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (23%), Poe (21%), Mar Roxas (17%), and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago (4%).

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed Binay and Poe locked in a dead heat (26% each) followed by Roxas (22%), Duterte (20%), and Santiago (4%).

Make or break

With the presidential elections only four months away, there is a great deal of anticipation on the fate of Poe. Would the Supreme Court rule in her favor? With the three justices who voted against her in the SET ruling expected to vote against her in the Supreme Court case, it would only take one or two justices who could swing either way.

But like in past political cases, it’s not unusual for the high court to rule in favor of the respondent. They could give Poe some leniency and leave her fate to the voters. Or they could interpret the law – or the lack thereof — on what constitute a natural-born Filipino citizen? Is a “foundling” under certain circumstances – or consideration — be deemed a “natural born” citizen?

Article VII Section 2 of the Philippine Constitution says: “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.” It’s pretty cut and dry, isn’t?

Therefore, if I, a layman, predicate my opinion on what the Constitution says, then that wouldn’t give me any leeway to interpret it differently. On the other hand, the high court can find a “middle ground” within the purview of the Constitution to deal with the issue. Some call it “judicial fiat.” Others call it “political.”

At the end of the day, the justices would have to decide if they must adhere to what the Constitution demands of someone who is running for president. Unfortunately, lying does not disqualify someone from running. As someone once said: “A lie is a lie no matter how small.” But when is a lie a lie?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

UPCC-2015.7Last December 20, 2015, marked the day the world renown and award-winning University of the Philippines Concert Chorus (UPCC) – or simply, “Korus” – was in Sacramento, California on the first leg of its U.S. Winter Tour. As usual, Korus presented a repertoire of music that made the audience call for an encore. And for those who have seen them perform in Sacramento two decades ago, and two years ago, their recent performance brought back fond memories of their ability to awe the crowd with their vibrant musical form.

UPCC-2015.1I remember their first sojourn into Sacramento in 1996 when my wife Dolores – who was then the Chairman of the Filipiniana Foundation and UPCC’s Sacramento coordinator — and about 20 couples and I waited for their arrival at our home. They arrived in two buses, one containing the 40 performers and the other containing their luggage. In spite of the long travel from Washington State where they started their tour, the young U.P. college students looked refreshingly full of energy. After a welcome reception they were assigned to their host families during their stay in Sacramento.

Their performance at the Luther Burbank High School Auditorium was roundly applauded by the mostly Filipino-American crowd. A few days later, Dolores, who was then a member of the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Philharmonic Symphony, brought the UPCC performers for a joint performance of Korus and the Philharmonic Symphony and guest conductor, kabayan, Maestro Eugene Castillo.

Their maiden performance in Sacramento was a success due in part to the conductor, Prof. Reynaldo T. Paguio, whose adept orchestration of the performance was lauded resoundingly.

Two years later, UPCC was back in Sacramento for another outstanding performance. With their successful performance in Sacramento in 1996, the turnout grew bigger.

In 1999, Prof. Paguio passed away following a surgery and from complications of diabetes.

We didn’t know what happened to UPCC after Prof. Paguio’s death. But we heard that they continued to perform in some cities near Sacramento, to wit: Vallejo and Union City. In 2013, Dolores and I attended a conference of the Northern California Sister Cities of which Dolores is Chairman of the Sacramento-Manila/Pasay City Sister Cities. We met Dr. Rozzana Aliga, the UPCC coordinator for Vallejo, who mentioned that UPCC was going to perform in Vallejo. Their next performance was in Union City. Dolores found an opening in the UPCC’s schedule and suggested that they perform in Sacramento after their performance in Union City. Dolores linked with Vice Mayor Jim Navarro, the UPCC coordinator for Union City, and they worked out a schedule. They agreed that UPCC would come in and out of Sacramento on the day of the performance, which was December 29, 2013. However, there was no venue yet. Ant the event was only six weeks away!

Fortunately, Dolores was introduced to Fr. Phil Ganir, a Filipino priest at Saint Ignatius Parish Church. It didn’t take too long to get Fr. Ganir to agree, after all Dolores and I have been loyal supporters of the Saint Ignatius Parish School where our two daughters graduated and where our five grandchildren are now going to school. We got the church as the venue for the concert… at minimal cost!

That was the time when Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit Tacloban City hard. Upon the recommendation of Dolores to the Board of Directors of Eskwela Natin (Our Filipino School), of which she was the President, the proceeds from the concert were donated to the typhoon victims through three non-profit relief organizations, to wit: Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Red Cross Sacramento Chapter, and the Catholic Relief Services.

The concert was well attended. After a short reception for the performers, they headed back to Union City. We wished they could have stayed longer and there were families who were willing to host them. But time was short.

UPCC-2015.2This year, they came back and stayed longer… one week! There were eighteen performers including the conductor, Professor Janet “Jai” Sabas -Aracama. There were five host families from Sacramento and another five from Davis. They’re part of the Davis Yolo Pinoy Group, which former mayor of Davis Ruth Asmundson organized.

To my knowledge this was the first time that Sacramento and Davis community groups had worked jointly in a project of this kind. The reception committee was delegated to the Davis Yolo Pinoy Group of which a member, Dr. Rich Naval, is owner of Bravante, a St. Helena winery that caters to a select number of high-end restaurants in the Bay Area.

In addition to their concert, the UPCC performed at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral and in several “Simbang Gabi” masses that included St. Paul, Divine Mercy and the St. Maria Gorretti Catholic Church, which was officiated by Bishop Jaime Sotto. They also participated in Maharlika Lions Club’s caroling project in several homes.

Simbang-Gabi-Bishop-SottoAfter the 5:30 AM “Simbang Gabi” at St. Maria Gorretti, the host families gave a despedida party for the performers at the beautiful country estate of Lito and Dr. Malu Bautista in Elk Grove. The others in attendance were hosts Pete and Vicki Lumbang, host Ludy Garrucho, Ludi Lapus, Joseph Stayner and Fely Villanueva, and Dolores and myself. Hosts Bert and Julie Melliza couldn’t make it due to prior commitment. We drove the performers to Vallejo where the Union City group was waiting to bring them to their next stop.

UPCC-2015.5And now it’s time to say goodbye to a wonderful group who dedicated themselves to sharing the rich culture of the Filipino people. And in recognition of their talents, they received awards from all over the world, including the Grand Prix at the 6th International Krakow Choir Festival in Poland on June 14, 2015. Indeed, they have represented the Philippines superbly as its ambassadors of goodwill.

The parting hugs and kisses evoked a poignant mixture of sweetness and sadness. As we savor the sweet success of the Korus performance, we also felt a tinge of sadness that they’re leaving. But we also know that they’d be back to Sacramento. And when they do, we’re ready to welcome them back to our homes. But for now, au revoir.

And to the Ad Hoc Committee who made it happen, kudos and more power to you!

Dolores V. Diaz (Chair), Ruth Uy Asmundson (Co-Chair), David Yolo Pinoy Group, Johnny Abilay, Myrna Agbunag, Fred Aquino, Mark and MaryAnn Bamba, Raul Bernaldez, Josie T. Canlas, Joe and Gladys Carrasco, Perry Diaz, Didi Loteyro, Pete and Vicki Lumbang, Bert and Julie Melliza, Ramon and Celsa Taraya, and Zenny Yagen.

And to the Host Families who lovingly cared for the Korus performers during their stay in Sacramento, a BIG THANK YOU.

Paul and Marisa Agnew, Ruth Asmundson, Lito and Malu Bautista, Ludy Garrucho, Dan and Ludi Lapus, Pete and Vicki Lumbang, Alita and David MacKill, Bert and Julie Melliza, Rich Naval, and Rebecca Neumann.

Last but not the least, SPECIAL THANK YOU goes to Joseph Stayner and Fely Villanueva for handling and transporting the luggage from the San Francisco Airport to Davis, and then from Davis to Sacramento, and finally to Vallejo.

SPECIAL THANK YOU goes to Raul Bernaldez for setting up the sound system and lighting. He was also the official photographer and responsible for updating the Facebook account of Eskwela Natin.

SPECIAL THANK YOU goes to Bing and Lynn Ventura for letting us use their 15-passenger van for transporting the performers.

Not only did the Korus make lovely music, they brought out the lovely music of togetherness amongst the members of the Filipino-American community in Sacramento and Davis. The concert was indeed an evening to remember.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)