August 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

The accuser and the accused.

The accuser and the accused.

In what could arguably be the “mother of all scandals,” President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte dropped a bombshell in front of Sen. Leila de Lima’s face. Calling it a “drugs matrix” — known as the “Muntinglupa Connection” — Duterte released a document showing links between De Lima and several others allegedly involved in illegal drug activities at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) during the previous Aquino administration. The NBP is colloquially called “Munti,” short for Muntinglupa City where the NBP is located. De Lima at that time was the country’s Justice Secretary. Wouldn’t that be like Don Vito Corleone – “Godfather” of La Cosa Nostra fame — being appointed Attorney General of the United States?

Drugs matrix

Drugs-Matrix.2The matrix shows the following: Senator De Lima; De Lima’s former driver Ronnie Palisoc Dayan; former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III; Pangasinan Board Member Raul Sison; Pangasinan provincial administrator Rafael Baraan (Francisco’s brother); former Pangasinan Governor and now Rep. Amado Espino Jr.; retired general and former Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) Chief Franklin Bucayo; and a certain “Ms. Cardenosa.”

Duterte said that the matrix explains the dynamics of the illegal drug network at the NBP. While he did not disclose the source of the matrix, it shows De Lima at the top with three lines connecting her to former Undersecretary Baraan, Bucayo, and Dayan. The matrix also shows that Dayan was De Lima’s boyfriend since her days in the Commission on Human Rights.

Duterte accused Dayan of being De Lima’s link to convicted drug lords, who were supposedly allowed to run their illegal operations at the NBP when she was Justice Secretary. In the government’s pecking order, the NBP is under the Department of Justice. The matrix also shows that Dayan is “a known drug user in Urbiztondo,” and that De Lima gave him a house and lot, money, and vehicles.

Wiretaps

Sen. Leila de Lima and alleged lover Ronnie Dayan

Sen. Leila de Lima and alleged lover Ronnie Dayan

But what is intriguing is a Manila Times news report, dated August 21, saying: “President Rodrigo Duterte is in possession of wiretaps and ATM records showing that the former driver-bodyguard of Sen. Leila de Lima transacted with drug syndicates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa when she was Justice Secretary.” Further, the report said: “The two were intimate, he said, based on recordings of their ‘lovers’ talk’ over the phone.” Duterte claimed that a foreign country, which he did not name, provided the wiretaps.

The matrix also shows that with the help of De Lima, Bucayo was designated as Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Director of Police Regional Office 1. It also shows that Bucayo was a go-between of De Lima and Espino. It is noteworthy that after his retirement from the military, De Lima appointed Bucayo as BUCOR Chief. However, he resigned because of alleged involvement in illegal drugs after contraband was found inside the NBP.

The line that connects De Lima to former Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III leads to Espino through Francisco’s brother Rafael Baraan, whom Espino allegedly used to cover for his illegal activities. The matrix describes Espino as the “richest politician in Northern Luzon.” Both Espino and Baraan were involved in black sand mining in Pangasinan. Recently, Espino has been charged with plunder for an illegal mining case.

Organized crime

Ronnie Dayan's house allegedly given to him by Sen. Leila de Lima.

Ronnie Dayan’s house allegedly given to him by Sen. Leila de Lima.

With all these linkages in the “Muntinglupa Connection,” it shows a network that is not unlike the “organized crime” in the U.S. where various layers are used to insulate the boss at the top of the criminal hierarchy. Could Dayan have been De Lima’s conduit — or “consigliere,” as the Mafia calls it – to the drug lords at NBP?

But De Lima, as expected, denied the allegations. She also denied the existence of the illegal drug “shabu” inside the NBP compound when she was Justice Secretary. She also denied allegations that she bought Dayan a house in Pangasinan. However, according to the Urbiztondo Municipal Assessor’s Office, Dayan’s sister owns the land where Dayan’s house was built. But this is a typical modus operandi of corrupt government officials: the titles to their properties are in the names of “dummies” – relatives, friends or associates. Interestingly, the matrix shows that a certain “Ms. Cardenosa” is connected to and serving as Dayan’s “dummy” of his properties. The matrix also shows that she is connected to Espino and Sison.

Congressional investigations

New Bilibid Prison.

New Bilibid Prison.

But De Lima, who isn’t taking the whole shebang without a fight, complicates the situation. Calling the accusations linking her to illegal drugs at the NBP “absolute lies,” De Lima who is the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, is leading the probe into the summary killings of suspected drug offenders. The House of Representatives is also set to investigate the alleged illegal drug operations at the NBP.

While it is commendable what Duterte is doing to rid the country of illegal drugs and stamp out corruption in government, some people doubt if he could accomplish all these within the framework of the law. Indeed, Duterte is getting a lot of flak from self-righteous people who believe that the law – in the strictest sense — should be applied in prosecuting those involved in the illegal drug trade. But that’s what had been done in the past and — guess what? — the illegal drug problem was getting worse, which is turning the country into a major hub in the international drug trade. And as shown in Duterte’s “drugs matrix,” production of “shabu” is being done inside the NBP under De Lima’s alleged protection. With 20 of the country’s major drug lords incarcerated at the NBP, they’ve transformed the prison — with the connivance of prison staff — into a government-owned “shabu” factory.

Narco-zombies

But while it’s sad that those who are sworn to uphold the law and protect the citizens are protecting the illegal drug trade in this country, it’s horrible to see a growing number of people suffering from addiction to “shabu” and other illicit drugs. What we’re seeing today are people turning into narco-zombies.

Can you blame Duterte then for trying his best to stop this “beast” that is gnawing at the fabric of our society? And can we blame him if he’s using unorthodox methods to fight an unorthodox enemy who victimizes the people – anybody — regardless of age or status in life?

I realize that some people are concerned with the collateral damage in the war against the drug menace. But like any other war, collateral damage cannot be avoided; it can only be minimized. And what would be considered minimal? In an attempt to put it on a positive note, the following statistics show some bright outlook in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

The PNP reported that 239 drug suspects were slain in police operations as of July 22. An average of 11 people we killed each day during the first 22 days of the Duterte presidency. In almost all the cases, the PNP claimed self-defense. The total number of drug pushers and users who surrendered to authorities is 120,038. Among them are 7,107 drug pushers and the rest are self-confessed drug users.

While all these police operations help in fighting this vicious plague, the bottom line is: “Cut off the head of the snake.” With an approval rating of 91%, is Duterte doing the right thing in going after De Lima, the alleged head of the Muntinglupa Connection? But the ultimate question is: Will he succeed?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and former President Fidel V. Ramos

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and former President Fidel V. Ramos

President Rodrigo Duterte sent his special envoy former President Fidel V. Ramos to China to “break the ice” in the country’s freezing relationship with China. Well, Ramos didn’t promise anything but he said he was going on a “fishing expedition” and to play golf. But if there was any semblance of success, Ramos made some “progress,” telling reporters: “It’s not really a breakthrough in a sense that there is no ice here in Hong Kong to break but the fish we eat… are cooked in delicious recipes.” The good news is: He brought home the Chinese bacon. But the bad news is: it isn’t worth a dime.

Ramos’ trip to Hong Kong opened the doors for further back channel contacts between the two countries. Although deemed “unofficial,” Ramos – in his personal and informal capacity — was able to communicate with two “old friends” from his presidential days in the early 1990s. One was Fu Ying, a former Chinese deputy foreign minister, and the second was Wu Shicun, the president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

In a joint statement, Ramos and Fu said: “Informal discussions focused on the need to engage in further talks to build trust and confidence to reduce tensions to pave the way for overall cooperation.” They also mentioned that China welcomed Ramos to visit Beijing as the “special envoy” of Duterte, who had indicated his willingness to engage with China. The only reaction to the Ramos-Fu-Wu meeting was issued by China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on the ministry’s website. She stated: “We hope this type of exchange can assist China and the Philippines in returning to dialogue and improving relations.”

Wait and see

Zhao Jianhua and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

Zhao Jianhua and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

But a few days after Ramos arrived home, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. issued the following statement: “Right now, let’s give everybody some space. Let’s give everybody the time to reflect. We are not pressured into talking with China. We will wait until China is prepared to talk to us.” Well, who went there in the first place?

While Yasay described Ramos’ trip “a good step forward to open up the possibility of bilateral engagement with China,” he said there seems to be a “hardline” position [by China]. However, he said that the important thing is for them to talk.

It’s interesting to note that during the meeting between Ramos and China’s “unofficial” representatives, one of them emphasized that before joint explorations could materialize, “the Philippines should first acknowledge Beijing’s dominion over the [Scarborough] Shoal.” Huh? Here we go again, folks, China is playing again the sovereignty card that she’s been playing for years.

Indisputable sovereignty

China's nine-dash line.

China’s nine-dash line.

But to acknowledge China’s “dominion” over Scarborough Shoal would be tantamount to waiving the Philippines’ claims over the disputed territories. That would also render the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling null and void, which would effectively put an end to the Philippines’ territorial claims. It would also be considered an abandonment of her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) had granted the Philippines when she signed UNCLOS in 1984, which China also signed in 1996. Since both countries are signatories to UNCLOS, all its provisions including respecting the other’s EEZ bind them. Yet, China is ignoring UNCLOS’ provisions. She’s sticking to her “nine-dash line” claim, which the PCA deemed invalid.

Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang Party drew the “eleven-dash line” in 1947 as it was then originally known. When Mao Zedong took over Mainland China and drove Chiang to Taiwan, the “eleven-dash line” was redrawn to the “nine-dash line,” which China recently changed to the “ten-dash line.” However, the “nine-dash line” term is the one that’s being used today. Currently, six countries – Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and China – have overlapping claims over a 3.5-million square kilometers across the South China Sea (SCS). The “nine-dash line” encompasses the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and Scarborough Shoal.

Psychological warfare

Chinese soldiers plant Chinese flag on Scarborough Shoal.

Chinese soldiers plant Chinese flag on Scarborough Shoal.

Recently, when it was rumored that China was planning to reclaim Scarborough Shoal, the U.S. sent two aircraft carrier battle groups into the area. The Chinese reacted by telling the Americans to “be careful.” When a U.S. admiral suggested that a “red line” be drawn at the Spratlys, an editorial in the Chinese Communist Party’s publication Global Times warned that the U.S. actions have “raised the risk of physical confrontation with China.” Bluntly, it said: “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea.” Interestingly, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said China should prepare for a “people’s war at sea.”

Indeed, the psychological war between the U.S. and China has reached a point where it could either lead to a “negotiated stalemate” – that is, status quo – or war! While the next American president, Clinton or Trump, would avoid war with China simply because the American people are tired of it, China’s president Xi Jinping would avoid war because he knows China couldn’t defeat America… not yet.

Power play

Xi Jinping's power play.

Xi Jinping’s power play.

But Chinese nationalism is boiling to a point where Xi won’t be able to control it, while the military would be itching to square off with the Americans. And in China’s communist political system — where there is no place for a weak leader — the only way for Xi to survive until the end of his ten-year presidential term in 2022 is to placate the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from taking unilateral and unsanctioned actions, such as invading Taiwan or the Senkakus… or reclaiming Scarborough Shoal.

But Xi, who is also the General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), has amassed so much power – absolute power — that he might not be inclined to give it all up at the end of his term. Indeed, rumor has it that Xi is positioning himself to stay beyond 2022. The fact that Xi is now ruling as a “de facto” dictator has made many party leaders uneasy and disgruntled. And Xi’s handling of the economy and his anti-corruption crusade that has irked a lot of high-ranking military officials has weakened his standing within the CCP and the military establishment.

Recently, the People’s Daily, the CCP’s official mouthpiece, has been openly discussing “the possibilities of Xi’s life term issues.” With several high-ranking politburo leaders jockeying to succeed him, Xi has work cut out for him if he desires to stay on as “Emperor” of a New Imperial China. And one sure way to keep his throne is to kick the Americans out of the Indo-Asian-Pacific Region, in particular, East and South China Seas. And this is where a new game on the geopolitical chessboard is being played. It starts with Scarborough Shoal, where China is positioning her bigger pieces to move into the Western Pacific… and beyond.

Is the Philippines willing to acknowledge China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the Scarborough Shoal in exchange for China allowing Filipino fishermen to fish in the shoal? But isn’t it rather a stiff price for the Philippines to pay for the fishing rights to her own territory? Indeed, it’s a new game with the same old rule that China has been playing against us: If we win, we lose.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Senkaku Islands

Senkaku Islands

The conventional wisdom in geopolitical circles is that a war between the United States and China is not going to happen — not now, not tomorrow – simply because their economies are intricately intertwined with one another like the fabled Gordian Knot. Destroying each other would be like committing a suicide pact. And why would they do that? Are they out of their minds? No, but like other nations or kingdoms before them – and I’m talking at least 5,000 years of civilization – the “inevitability of war” was the conventional thinking of those who were in power.

Indeed, “war mentality” is still prevalent and those in power are perpetually preparing their armies for war. Some countries in the Middle East are already at war and others are on the threshold of hostilities. In particular, several countries in the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) are embroiled in territorial disputes with China over the “ownership” of a number of islets, reefs, rocks, and shoals.

Flashpoints in Asia-Pacific

East and South China Seas

East and South China Seas

In the ECS, Japan and China have laid claim to a small group of uninhabited islands and islets known as the Senkaku (Diaoyu to China) Islands. Administered by Japan, China claims that the islands belong to her. Right now, the two countries are at a standoff. While both are showing some restraint, the situation is teetering and all it takes is for someone to fire the first shot.

The SCS, however, is a different situation. With China aggressively moving to take full control of the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal, a ruling made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that was favorable to the Philippines hit China with a triple whammy. It deemed illegal China’s territorial claims over an area greater than 80% of the SCS, demarcated by an arbitrary “nine-dash line” that China drew up in 1947. The PCA ruled that the “nine-dash line” is illegal. It also ruled that China has no “historic rights” to these waters and couldn’t prevent the Philippines, Vietnam, and other claimant countries from fishing and drilling for oil in their own Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). But China, as expected, doesn’t recognize the PCA’s ruling.

Vietnam plays “wild card”

Mobile EXTRA missile system

Mobile EXTRA missile system

And just as China’s leaders are trying so hard to get the international community’s support for her territorial claims — including the use of economic blackmail and political arm-twisting — Vietnam was silently preparing for war. Recently, she installed mobile rocket launchers in five of the 21 islands she controls in the Spratly archipelago. The state-of-the-art Israeli-made weapon system, known as Extended Range Artillery Rocket (EXTRA), can hit targets of up to 130 kilometers, which would put all of China’s military structures in the Spratlys within its range, including the trade route that passes through the Strait of Malacca.

With five of Vietnam’s fleet of six Russian-built Kilo-class submarines already operational and based in the Cam Ranh Bay Naval Base (built by the U.S. during the Vietnam War), China has a vulnerable spot in her maritime underbelly; thus, making her warships easy targets.

But Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry denied the report, saying the information was “inaccurate.” However, the Ministry also said that the Vietnamese military has the right to move equipment on Vietnam’s own sovereign soil, which was also echoed by Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Chi Vinh, who told reporters: “It is within our legitimate right to self-defense to move any of our weapons to any area at any time within our sovereign territory.” With both China and Vietnam claiming all the islands as their own, it would seem that military confrontation couldn’t be avoided. The question is: How far would a confrontation go? Will it drag the U.S. and Russia into the conflict?

Old enemies, new friends

Presidents Barack Obama and Tran Dai Quang

Presidents Barack Obama and Tran Dai Quang

Although Vietnam – unlike the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia – doesn’t have any defense treaty with the U.S., the relationship between the two old enemies has been warming up in the past few years.

Last May 2016, President Barack Obama announced during his visit to Hanoi that the U.S. would fully lift an embargo of lethal arms sales to Vietnam. “This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War,” Obama told reporters.

While Russia has been Vietnam’s major arms suppliers for more than three decades, the U.S. arms sales to Vietnam would increase her ability to defend her territories in the event China invades them. And with the EXTRA missile system deployed within striking distance of China’s artificial islands in the Spratlys, China would think twice before attempting to invade the Vietnamese-controlled islands. The price would be too high.

Sinking the unsinkable carrier

Fiery Cross Reef: Unsinkable aircraft carrier

Fiery Cross Reef: Unsinkable aircraft carrier

Vietnam is also negotiating the purchase of India’s advanced supersonic BrahMos missiles, reputedly the world’s fastest and deadliest cruise missiles. It will give the Vietnamese military a huge asymmetric advantage over China. They can easily be installed in small missile boats to take out large targets such as China’s newly built airbases in the Spratlys, which have been recently reinforced with hangars designed to house and shield fighter aircraft. The intelligence reports stated that each airbase would be capable of housing 24 fighter jets along with three or four larger aircraft; thus, allowing China to deploy a force of at least 70 combat aircraft in the airbases built on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs. That would be the equivalent of the number of aircraft on an American aircraft carrier. It would be an unsinkable aircraft carrier. However, if Vietnam acquired the BrahMos cruise missiles, she would be able to “sink” them.

But there is one problem: BrahMos is a joint venture between an Indian company and a Russian conglomerate through an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed between the Republic of India and the Russian Federation. In other words, India cannot sell BrahMos missiles to third party countries – like Vietnam – if Russia objects to the sale. It’s all up to one man, Vladimir Putin.

China-Russia Axis

Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin

Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin

With Chinese President Xi Jinping cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin after holding war games in the South China Sea, a strategic relationship is being established between China and Russia. Recently, Xi told the Daily Star, “I believe that Russia and China could create an alliance toward which NATO will be powerless and which will put an end to the imperialist desires of the West.”

If a China-Russia Axis is formed for the sole purpose of fighting the U.S., Vietnam might be pressured by Russia to take the side of China. But my take is that Vietnam wouldn’t give up her sovereignty over the islands she controls and occupies. Instead, she might turn to the U.S. for help. It would not then come as a surprise if Vietnam and the U.S. would sign a Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) for the use of the Cam Ranh Bay Naval Base by U.S. forces. As someone once said, “There are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.”

Regardless of what’s going to happen next, I believe that China has provoked and finally awakened the sleeping Vietnamese tiger, which has been in deep slumber since 1975 after the American forces left Saigon. But now that she’s awake, is war in the South China Sea inevitable?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

 (CREDIT: KIWI BULACLAC/PPD)

(CREDIT: KIWI BULACLAC/PPD)

Five weeks after former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte was sworn in as President of the Philippines, his promise to rid the country of criminality and illegal drugs is paying off.

To date, more than 400 people – drug lords, drug pushers, drug addicts, house thieves, and other kinds of criminals — have been killed and more than 4,000 captured. But here’s the stinger: police say that 565,806 have turned themselves in since the crackdown began. And by the looks of it, the purge had just started. What we’re seeing is just the tip of a bloody iceberg that’s sending chills down the spine of those who are involved in the country’s illegal drug trade. Yes! Finally, the government is coming down on them with vengeful fury.

Are we expecting this to happen? Yes, because that’s precisely what Duterte promised he’d do if he were elected president. He vowed that he would get rid of criminality and illegal drugs in the country in three to six months. And the people said, yesss! He said he’d kill 100,000 criminals and dump their bodies in the Manila Bay to fatten the fishes, and the people loved it!

He went on to ride the crest of a popular movement to fight crime and corruption that has laid the country in a dysfunctional state and emotional ruins where life is the cost of a meal. Digong knew these problems because those were the same problems he fought in the 22 years that he was mayor of Davao City. He fixed Davao’s crime problems and he promised the voters he’d fix the country’s crime problems if they elect him to the presidency. Not only did they give him what he wanted, the people gave him a mandate… a bloody mandate!

Some say his victory was sweet and romantic. Nay, it was an earthshaking revolution. It was no different from any other revolution where blood is necessarily spilled to cleanse the foundation for a new social order to be built upon.

Digong and Bato

Bato (L) and Digong (R) during the early years of their association.

Bato (L) and Digong (R) during the early years of their association.

And leading Duterte’s “enforcers” is his most trusted police commander, Gen. Ronald Dela Rosa, whom he appointed as the Director General of the Philippine National Police (PNP). “Bato,” as Dela Rosa is called, is charged with the daunting task of cleaning up the 160,000-strong police force of erring officers involved in the illegal drug trade and getting rid of the drug lords they were protecting, including corrupt politicians who were in cahoots with the drug traders.

At midnight last Sunday, August 7, Duterte dropped a bombshell when he named a long list of mayors, congressmen, judges, policemen, and soldiers whom he accused of involvement in the drug trade. One-by-one he read the names in a nationally televised speech. He said that the police and military had validated the names, but he added: “I am the one reading it and I am the sole person responsible for this one.” He also stripped the accused government officials of their police escorts and relieved the policemen who were on the list as well. To drive his point across, Duterte issued shoot-to-kill orders against those who resisted arrest.

Shoot-to-kill

Rolando Espinosa surrenders to PNP Chief Bato Dela Rosa.

Rolando Espinosa surrenders to PNP Chief Bato Dela Rosa.

The first on the list was Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. who surrendered to Dela Rosa after hearing that Duterte ordered to “shoot him on sight like a dog” because he was treating the people like dogs. Meanwhile, Espinosa’s son, Kerwin, who is alleged to be the drug lord responsible for the illicit drug trade in Eastern Visayas, is believed to be hiding somewhere in Malaysia. He had sent surrender feelers, saying that he’d only surrender personally to Bato. So far, no final arrangement has been made.

But it’s not just politicians and drug traders who are being hit by Bato’s “avengers” – as his special anti-drug police squads are called. It just seems that Bato is living up to a popular Filipino adage, which says: “Bato bato sa langit ang tamaan huwag magalit.” Loosely translated, it says: “When I throw a stone up in the air, don’t get mad if you’re hit on its way down.”

Nobody is exempt from this adage as what had happened to PNP Superintendent Victor Pagulayan — station commander of a barangay (village) in Quezon City — for his alleged failure to rid his area of rampant criminality and illegal drugs. He’s been “exiled” to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) where he joined about 44 other “exiled” police officers for their involvement in the illegal drug trade. Incidentally, this was the region where 44 members of PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) were massacred by Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.

“We are far from over,” declared Bato. “We still have five months to go. More lives will be lost along the way be they criminals or those of my own men,” he said.

Lone voice in the wilderness

Robredo and Duterte at the PNP turnover ceremony.

Robredo and Duterte at the PNP turnover ceremony.

But while the people were awed and shocked at the speed and intensity of Duterte’s anti-crime campaign, there was one person – Vice President Leni Robredo — who questioned the “extrajudicial killings.” She also deplored the absence of public outcry against the alarming increase in the number of drug traders killed by policemen or vigilante groups.

But could it be that the reason why there is lack of public outcry is because the people are fed up with the criminality that has engulfed their lives? Could it be that their lives’ security hinges on the elimination of society’s number one scourge? Could it be that people are so downtrodden and frustrated that what Digong and Bato achieve would justify the means they employ?

But where do you draw the line between right and wrong or between life and death? We don’t have the answers right now but there is always an opportunity to revisit this question at an appropriate time in the future.

Duterte’s revolution

Drug lord or collateral damage?

Drug lord or collateral damage?

And this reminds me of the French Revolution, which had put to an end the centuries of oppression and poverty in a society divided into two distinct classes: the haves and the have-nots. In the end, the people achieved what they wanted: liberty, equality, and fraternity. But it came with a stiff price: It was a bloody revolution and the collateral damage was high. But what was the alternative?

In Duterte’s revolution, there is not a shadow of a doubt that there would be collateral damage; that is, innocent people would be killed. Some people would use the situation to take revenge against people who had hurt them in the past. And this had happened a whole lot at times in wars where justice might sometime take a back seat or turn a blind eye. But what can one do to avoid collateral damage? Some people say that it comes with the territory. Could it then be rationalized by saying that killing nine criminals and one innocent person is better than letting these nine criminals live to harm a thousand innocent people? It might sound convoluted but that is the reality of life in this imperfect world.

So, when Bato throws a stone up in the air, don’t get mad if you’re hit on its way down.” Yep, “Bato bato sa langit ang tamaan huwag magalit.”

Caveat: The “bato” that hit you could be Bato Dela Rosa himself.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

South-China-Sea-doesnt-belong-to-ChinaNow that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has ruled strongly in favor of the Philippines’ maritime disputes against China in the South China Sea (SCS), people are wondering, “What’s going to happen next?”

Unless China accepts the arbitral tribunal’s ruling – in parts or in its entirety – nothing is going to happen in terms of enforcement. While the Philippines may have won a moral and legal victory, she cannot force China to dance “tango” with her, simply because China has refused from the get-go to participate in the arbitration case and made it crystal clear that she would not abide by the PCA’s ruling.

However, to avoid the appearance of losing face, China opened a little window for bilateral talks. But the question is: Is she going to impose the same old demand that the Philippines must first recognize China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea before talks could begin? And since the Philippines had refused to agree to it, bilateral negotiation was out of the question; hence, the Philippines went to the PCA to seek arbitration.

With the PCA’s legally binding ruling, the Philippines is left with few options, none of which is easy to achieve. But with an alternative of going to war against China, a “peaceful” means of settling their disputes would be in everybody’s best interest, including the international community, which is keeping a keen eye on how China is dealing with the arbitral tribunal ruling. With 80% of global trade – that’s $5 trillion annually – passing through the SCS, there is just too much at stake. Any change in the status quo could upset the balance of power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, which would directly or indirectly affect the world’s leading economies. And that includes the Group of Seven (G7), which represents the top seven world economic powers.

International rule of law

Group of Seven

Group of Seven

At the G7 summit hosted by Japan on May 25-26, all the G7 members – Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. – displayed an impressive show of unity to “defend the international rule of law and jurisdictional status quo in both the South and East China Seas.” As reported in the news, the G7 leaders also “affirmed the freedom of navigation and overflight, international law, peaceful settlement of disputes and arbitration, and they condemned unilateral action and the use of force or coercion.”

“Rock the boat”

ASEAN-Nations-mapBut while the G7 is solidly in favor of abiding by the international law, the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), at their Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Vientiane, Laos, was divided over the PCA’s ruling. The members were deadlocked over the Philippines’ request to mention the PCA’s ruling in their joint statement.

The Philippines and Vietnam backed the PCA’s ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the SCS, including the nullification of the controversial “nine-dash line,” which delineates about 90% of the SCS as belonging to China. But Cambodia opposed the wordings in reference to the PCA’s ruling; thus, preventing ASEAN from arriving at a consensus. To break the impasse, the Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr. withdrew the Philippines’ request and agreed to a watered-down joint communiqué that avoided any reference to the PCA’s ruling. Yasay said, “The Philippines did not want to gloat over the win, or rock the boat with ASEAN.”

But excuse me Mr. Yasay, “rocking the boat” is not “gloating over the win.” On the contrary, it would have brought to the fore the importance of ASEAN unity in geopolitical issues that affect them collectively as a regional power bloc as well as individually as nations. Had ASEAN failed to gather unanimity among its member-nations, so be it. But it would have triggered a process to bring the maritime disputes to the center stage of international debate.

Enforcing the ruling

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio

In a commentary by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last July 21, he asked: “How can the Philippines enforce its exclusive right to the resources in its EEZ?

“If China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC) installs a gas platform on Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which is entirely within the Philippine EEZ, and extracts the gas there, the Philippines can sue CNOOC in Canada where CNOOC has assets.

“The Philippines can show the ruling to the court in Canada, which ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), that the gas on Recto Bank belongs to the Philippines and CNOOC pilfered it.

“The Philippines can ask the Canadian court to seize CNOOC’s assets to compensate the Philippines for the pilfered gas.

“The Philippines can also ask the International Seabed Authority (ISA), a creation of UNCLOS, to suspend the exploration permits it issued to China.

“The ISA has issued 27 permits to explore the seabed outside any national jurisdiction, and four permits have gone to China, the highest number for any state.

“UNCLOS is a “package deal”—any United Nations member that ratifies UNCLOS must accept all its provisions.

“If China refuses to comply with the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Philippines can ask the ISA to suspend the exploration permits of China because China is accepting only beneficial provisions of UNCLOS and rejecting its burdensome provisions.

“The Philippines must be creative in finding legal means of enforcing the ruling, and not be timid in exploring the frontiers of international law.

“To paraphrase Sun Tzu, you must defeat the enemy in the courtroom if you cannot defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

The primacy of UNCLOS

Judges of the Permanent Court of Arbitration

Judges of the Permanent Court of Arbitration

Indeed, the most potent weapon that the Philippines could employ to force China to comply with the PCA’s ruling is UNCLOS, which both China and the Philippines are signatories; thus, obligating them to adhere to its provisions. And should China refuse to abide by it, the Philippines could then avail of the legal means that Justice Carpio outlined in his commentary.

It is interesting to note that the U.S. has been pretty vocal and persistent in asserting freedom of navigation and overflight for her naval and air forces. Other countries might follow including Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and India, which begs the question: Is China prepared to go to war against her neighbors, five of which have mutual defense treaties with the U.S.?

While China would try to save face and cut her losses and keep as much territory that she could bargain for, she is vulnerable to global economic sanctions and condemnation. And if the negotiations fail, then there will only be one court left to settle their disputes; that is, the “international court of public opinion,” where judgment is final and there is no appeal. Can China afford to disregard global public opinion, just like what’s happened to another rogue state, North Korea? I doubt it.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)