January 2017

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

President Rodrigo Duterte and his generals.

President Rodrigo Duterte and his generals.

President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte won the presidency hands down by 39% plurality and 16.6 million votes. His closest rival, Mar Roxas, got 23.4%, which is only 9.9 million votes. Not only did Duterte win the presidency, he also took control of the House of Representatives when a vast majority of congressmen from other parties – there were only three from Digong’s party – abandoned their parties and joined Digong’s party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (Philippine Democratic Party-Power of the People) or PDP–Laban for short.

Duterte gives his State of the Nation address before Congress.

Duterte gives his State of the Nation address before Congress.

Known in the local parlance as “balimbings” (political turncoats), Duterte’s followers in the House provide him with an ironclad defense from any attempt to impeach him. In the Senate, while there are only three (out of the 24 senators) who are affiliated with PDP-Laban, Digong’s personal influence over the senators is unquestionable. Except for two or three senators, most of the senators wouldn’t dare oppose Digong. They respect and fear him.

Duterte and the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Duterte and the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.

In essence, one can say that Digong is a “strongman” like Russian President Vladimir Putin; but he is not a “dictator” like the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos who had absolute power over everything. And this begs the question: Why would Digong want to declare martial law, when his grip to power is strong? Would it be fair to presume that he might have been thinking of the day when his grip weakens and loses control of Congress? And the specter of that happening could give him sleepless nights, insecurity, and paranoia. Could this be the reason why he is not comfortable sleeping in Malacañang Palace protected by the elite Presidential Security Group?

Indeed, he’d rather commute by plane everyday working between Malacañang and his modest home in Davao City, which consumes several hours thus shortening his productive time in running the country. But his long commute time doesn’t seem to bother him. He probably feels safer sleeping in his private home secured by his personal Praetorian Guard, and surrounded by his “loyal” constituents… and the safety of his mosquito net, which protects him from dengue-carrying mosquitoes while he sleeps.

Insecurity

Duterte appears to be in pain.

Duterte appears to be in pain.

It’s probably this feeling of insecurity — compounded by paranoidal mood swings –that has driven him to consider declaring martial law. But there are two impediments: the 1987 Constitution and the Supreme Court. Declaring martial law is not as easy as in 1972 when Marcos with the support of the powerful “Rolex 12,” a group of the most influential military generals and defense officials including a rich business tycoon, imposed martial law and ruled by decree.

Martial law

Duterte and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Duterte and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

It all began last August when Digong included several judges – he called them “narco-judges” – on a “narco list” of alleged drug lords and users. He threatened to have them arrested to which Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno reacted by issuing a statement, saying that “law enforcers must first secure warrants of arrest from judges before judges allow themselves to be ‘physically accountable to any police officer’ as she warned of a constitutional crisis.” This did not bode well with Digong who responded angrily, “I’m giving you a warning. Don’t create a crisis because I will order everybody in the executive department not to honor you,” he said referring to Sereno. He added, “Please, don’t order me. I’m not a fool. If this continues, (that) you’re tying to stop me, I might lose my cool. Or would you rather I declare martial law?”

Martial Law under the 1987 Constitution.

Martial Law under the 1987 Constitution.

But there is one obstacle: the Constitution. Section 18, Article VII says that the President, as commander-in-chief, may “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it” suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the country under martial law.” However, the martial law period or suspension of the writ of habeas corpus should not exceed 60 days. The writ safeguards individual freedom against arbitrary state action. It also specifies “that a state of martial law cannot override the function of both the judiciary and legislative branches of the government.” It also doesn’t “authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.”

But his allies quickly defended him. Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said, “The imminent danger brought about by the proliferation of illegal drugs is enough basis for Duterte to place the Philippines under martial law.” The question is: Can Digong declare martial law like Marcos, abolish the Constitution, and rule by decree? Can he abolish the civilian government all the way down to the local executive levels? And who would help him administer martial law? Would it be the 160,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) under the leadership of the controversial General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa? With the PNP’s record of killing suspected drug pushers and allegations of “kidnapping for ransom” operations using the PNP’s Oplan Tokhang anti-drug campaign, the PNP is now suspected of extrajudicial killings (EJK) or “salvaging.” This is reminiscent of the dark martial law days of the Marcos era.

Bongbong

Marcos and son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Marcos and son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

And this brings to mind Digong’s ardent desire to have Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s only son and namesake, succeed him as president. Duterte is presumably indebted to the Marcoses who contributed large amounts to Duterte’s presidential campaign. But the problem is that Bongbong lost the vice presidential election to Leni Robredo who took over the vice presidency at the same time as Digong. Bongbong protested Leni’s election, which was by a small margin, by submitting a 20,000-page document before Supreme Court (SC), which sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). According to former SC Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, it would take more than three years before the PET reaches a decision.

Well, for some reason, Digong couldn’t wait that long to turn over the presidency by way of a “resignation due to poor health.” He said that he could be stepping down sooner, in which case he’d like Bongbong to persistently pursue his electoral protest. Which makes one wonder: How can Bongbong’s electoral protest be expedited?

My crystal ball shows that there is one Associate Justice who is actively “lobbying” the other justices to rule in favor of Bongbong. Not three years, not one year, but very soon! The word is that majority of the PET has already been convinced to rule favorably for Bongbong by abbreviating the process and calling for a vote immediately. How did the “lobbying” work? Is it by friendly persuasion or gentle pressure… or bribery? But if it works one way or the other, then we’re looking at a decision very soon. However, it also rumored that a group has been formed to resist martial law and stop Bongbong from taking over the presidency.

Sanctions

Sanctions.jpgUltimately, a Bongbong presidency could attract a hostile consortium of foreign governments who would impose economic sanctions against Bongbong and his government, just like the way the U.S. and her allies sanctioned Russia after she invaded Crimea. But Russia is barely surviving the sanctions only because she has a sovereign reserve currency of $500 billion dollars; the Philippines doesn’t have that kind of wealth.

But if for some reason, the Supreme Court justices come to their senses and for once demonstrate their loyalty to the Constitution that they were sworn to defend and uphold, then Digong might just do what he had threatened to do.

Sad to say, all the gains that have brought the Philippines out of the economic doldrums during the Marcos era may be wasted by Digong’s irresponsible and disgraceful act of destroying the collective efforts of the Filipino people in the past three decades. And this brings to fore the question: Is martial law just a matter of time?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Duterte-and-Abe-shake-handsJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official visit to the Philippines on January 12-13, 2017, came at a crucial moment in Philippine Rodrigo Duterte’s quest for a place on the table of world politics. Last November, Duterte declared his “separation” from the U.S. in front of his Chinese hosts in Beijing. Then a week later, on his way to Lima, Peru to attend the annual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, he issued a statement saying, “If China and Russia would decide to create a new order, I would be the first to join.” He added that he’d quit the United Nations. Indeed, with an “alliance” that consists of China, Russia, and the Philippines, who needs the United Nations?

 Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Duterte shake hands at their meeting in Lima, Peru.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Duterte shake hands at their meeting in Lima, Peru.

When Duterte finally met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Lima, Duterte ranted a litany of gripes against the United States, to which Putin replied that he shared Duterte’s sentiments about the United States and other Western countries. “Our assessments coincide in many respects,” Putin said. Putin promised to sell Duterte weapons at half price including missiles and submarines. Wow! What a deal!

President Duterte visits Russian warship on a good will visit to Manila.

President Duterte visits Russian warship on a good will visit to Manila.

When Putin sent a Russian warship on a goodwill visit to Manila, Duterte visited the warship and told the ship’s captain that he hoped Russia would become his country’s ally and “protector.”

Meanwhile, details are being worked out for Duterte’s visit to Moscow in April. It was reported in the news that Duterte and Putin will sign a Russia-Philippines military agreement during his visit.

Alliance with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing, China.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing, China.

And not to be outdone by Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered to give – free! — $14 million worth of weapons plus $500 million low-interest loan that Duterte repays at his own time. All Duterte had to do is send someone to pick up the arms which are ready for shipment.

With all the anticipation of Duterte’s blossoming military alliance with China and Russia, one wonders how would he use such alliance to defend the Philippines from invaders? And who would these invaders be? U.S.? Japan? South Korea? Vietnam? Right now, the only conceivable country that would invade the Philippines is China. Russia doesn’t have any core interests in the South China Sea that would give her any reason to attack the Philippines.

Reefs China is building into artificial islands.

Reefs China is building into artificial islands.

With China getting more assertive with her claim of ownership of virtually the entire South China Sea and by building artificial islands on reefs and atolls in the Spratly archipelago — and militarizing them — China is in a position to invade the Philippines. However, a Chinese invasion could be averted if the Philippine government invoked the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). But if the Philippines were governed by a president – Duterte — who is beholden to China and wouldn’t invoke the MDT, then China would be in a position to take over the country… without firing a shot.

Abe’s visit changed all that. With Abe and Duterte signing various memoranda of agreement on economic and defense assistance including agriculture, transportation, small and medium enterprise, infrastructure, counter-terrorism, drug-rehabilitation projects, and security cooperation, it begs the question: Are these “goodies” enough to entice Duterte into taking a detour from his misadventure into the Sino-Russo orbit? The answer is no. So there must be something more promising than what the public is aware of.

Golden opportunity

President Duterte shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe his bedroom in his private residence in Davao City.

President Duterte shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe his bedroom in his private residence in Davao City.

It’s interesting to note that Abe included in his Philippine itinerary a visit to Duterte’s home in Davao City, which is extraordinarily unusual. But the significance of his visit to Duterte’s residence could be to privately discuss sensitive geopolitical issues that involve their countries in a changing world dynamics, particularly security issues and alliances. Perhaps, a “golden opportunity” has been discussed for which both countries could benefit from. Hmm… My crystal ball is showing a blurred image of what could be the Yamashita Gold. Have they finally found it? Eureka!

On a more serious note, Abe’s ulterior motive might have been to sway Duterte away from the Sino-Russo axis and bring him back into the fold of the U.S. and her Asian-Pacific treaty allies that includes Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

While the Philippines has been a treaty ally of the U.S. since 1951 when the MDT was signed, Duterte has been distancing the Philippines away from the U.S. and seeking defense alliance with China and Russia. Thus far, with the U.S. doing nothing to mend her differences with Duterte, it would seem that Duterte is just waiting for the right moment to declare a revolutionary government allied with China and Russia.

Dangerous game

Japanese President Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Japanese President Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But Duterte seems to be playing a dangerous geopolitical game by courting Japan while he is kowtowing to Xi Jinping. Right after his China state visit, Duterte visited Japan. Abe welcomed him warmly and offered economic and military assistance including $300 million in loans for patrol boats.

Abe’s reciprocal visit to the Philippines changed Duterte’s attitude towards the U.S. During their meeting, Abe reportedly told Duterte that Japan would offer security and economic support for the Philippines. However, he emphasized the significance of enhancing cooperation between Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines, to which Duterte acknowledged the importance of the Philippines’ alliance with the U.S. He also assured Abe that he did not enter into a military alliance with China and that he would insist on the rule of law in the South China Sea. Abe agreed that the role of the U.S. remains vital for stability in the region and that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved under the rule of law.

New allies: Abe and Duterte

New allies: Abe and Duterte

Clearly, Duterte’s stance was a 180-degree turnaround from his previous position of “separation” from the U.S., abrogation of the defense agreements with the U.S., and military alliance with China and Russia.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. also assured Abe, saying: “In one of the significant things I heard from the prime minister’s visit, he pointed out that the strong relationship and friendship between Japan and the Philippines will also open the door for us to engage in other areas of joint cooperation. These include how to deal with the United States and let them understand the geopolitical situation and realities on the ground,” he added.

Is a new “alliance” in the offing?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Old map of the Philippines. Illustration at top left shows Chinese traders during the pre-Hispanic era.

Old map of the Philippines. Illustration at top left shows Chinese traders during the pre-Hispanic era.

Since the early 15th century, before Spain took possession of an archipelago in what is now the Philippines, China had claimed the entire island of Luzon as her territory. However, China’s presence in Luzon was limited to what is now the province of Pangasinan. But now — 592 years later — recent events are raising the specter of Chinese colonization of the Philippines for the second time in history.

In my article, “Who discovered the Philippines?” (April 13, 2007), I wrote: “Chinese traders — who were also involved in the Spice Trade — started coming to the Philippine archipelago in the 11th century. They went as far as Butuan and Sulu. However, most of their trade activities were in Luzon.

Emperor Yung Lo of the Ming Dynasty.

Emperor Yung Lo of the Ming Dynasty.

“In 1405, during the reign of the Ming Dynasty in China, Emperor Yung Lo [also Yong Le] claimed the island of Luzon and placed it under his empire. The Chinese called the island “Lusong” from the Chinese characters Lui Sung. The biggest settlement of Chinese was in Lingayen in Pangasinan. Lingayen also became the seat of the Chinese colonial government in Luzon. When Yung Lo died in 1424, the new Emperor Hongxi, Yung Lo’s son, lost interest in the colony and the colonial government was dissolved. However, the Chinese settlers in Lingayen — known as “sangleys” — remained and prospered. Our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal descended from the sangleys.”

It was during the reign of Yung Lo that Admiral Zheng He led several expeditions to many parts of the world. Hundreds of ships were built including large vessels called “treasure ships.” Yung Lo also built the Forbidden City; and went to war against his neighbors including Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. In 1424, he died after falling ill during a campaign in Mongolia.

Yung Lo’s son Hongxi inherited an empire that was almost bankrupt. He implemented drastic fiscal measures to stop inflation. His first edict was an order stopping Zheng’s expeditions. Zheng was then retired and his treasure ships were moved to Nanjing where they were left to rot. Hongxi’s reign lasted only a year. He died in May 1425. China then ceased to be a maritime power.

Two Chinas

Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong before the civil war.

Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek and Mao Zedong before the civil war.

Fast-forward five centuries. In 1949, Mao Zedong and his communist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came to power after defeating Chiang Kai Shek and his nationalist Kuomintang forces in a bloody civil war. Chiang and his forces fled to the island of Taiwan where he established a government-in-exile. Mao took control of mainland China and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He claimed Taiwan as part of China’s territory. But Chiang also claimed the mainland as part of the Republic of China (ROC) based in Taiwan.

Upon Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took power and instituted market-economy reforms, which is a combination of socialist and capitalist systems. For the next four decades China progressed into an economic power. Today, China’s economy is second only to the U.S.

Chinese Dream

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony held in Beijing, China October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, he immediately pursued his “Chinese Dream,” which is the revival of imperial China that had maintained Chinese hegemony in Asia during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. “The great revival of the Chinese nation is the greatest Chinese Dream,” Xi said before taking office.

Two years later, China started building seven artificial islands on top of reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago. Upon completion, the Chinese built airfields that could accommodate large aircraft and deep harbors where Chinese warships could dock.

With the militarization of these islands, which are less than 200 miles away from the province of Palawan, Chinese forces are now at the doorsteps of the Philippines ready to strike when the time is ripe.

Sleepers

People’s Liberation Army recruits training for war.

People’s Liberation Army recruits training for war.

According to a reliable source in Manila, most of the Chinoys (short for Chinese-Filipinos) are patriotic and loyal to the Philippine flag. However, some of them are believed to be pro-China “sleepers” ready to act when called upon by their PLA handlers. Some of them are sons of rich taipans who sent them to China to study. Allegedly, some of them took PLA officer’s training. It is also alleged that units of the PLA have already infiltrated the country posing as foreign workers.

It is interesting to note that prior to the outbreak of World War II, thousands of Japanese nationals were working in the Philippines. Many of them were sleepers and once war broke out, they put on their military uniforms and joined the invading Japanese forces.

Meanwhile, the anti-communist forces in the Philippines have organized themselves as the “Save Our Soldier” Movement. Interestingly, the acronym for “Save Our Soldier” is SOS, which is the international code signal of extreme distress and an urgent appeal for help. The question is: Is the SOS Movement poised and ready to act if Duterte forms a pro-communist revolutionary government? One can only surmise that the probability increased due to recent confluence of events.

China’s timetable

Admiral Liu Huaqinq, former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy.

Admiral Liu Huaqinq, former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy.

If these rumors are true and come to fruition, then China’s timetable for control of the First Island Chain could be achieved. In an article titled, “China to take Second Island Chain by 2020,” published in 2013 in the Want China Times, it said: “In 1982, Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, said that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020. The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. If China is able to dominate the Second Island Chain seven years from now, the East China Sea will become the backyard of the PLA Navy.”

If the South China Sea totally comes under Chinese control and the First Island Chain is broken with the occupation of the Philippines, China would then be in a position to challenge the U.S. for control of the Second Island Chain. If China prevails, it would bring China right into Uncle Sam’s doorsteps, Guam.

Triple whammy

President Duterte speaking with communist flag in the background.

President Duterte speaking with communist flag in the background.

Possession of the Philippines would be a triple victory for China and, conversely, a triple whammy for the Philippines – politically, militarily, and economically. Indeed, the economic value that China would gain is immeasurably humongous. Rich in oil, gas, minerals, and marine resources, the Philippines would make China far less dependent on oil and gas from the Middle East and Africa.

However, the price that China may have to pay could be very stiff. Predictions for 2017 – Year of the Fire Rooster – don’t bode well for China. Although the Fire Rooster is the sign of dawn and awakening, it is said, “The union of the Fire elements with the Rooster’s Metal during 2017 will create great tensions, this will create an electric atmosphere that will intensify the actions of the leaders of several nations and in the economies that will generate even more deterioration in the political climate. Further migration is thought to be caused by strong wars and climate change. It is predicted that some governments will take a tough line of mandate, there will be a lot of authoritarianism and there will be many threats of various kinds that could be the cause of more clashes between nations.”

Now that we have a glimpse of what the Year of the Fire Rooster would bring, perhaps China should take heed and get the hell out of the Philippines. Xi should concentrate in fixing China’s economic problems and clear the toxic air that is killing the Chinese people. Xi must remember that in this day and age, colonialism is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Duterte should lead the Filipino people within the legal framework of the Constitution. He must remember: What goes around comes around.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

duterte-and-leni-robredo-3For the past two months Manila was abound with rumors of plots to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. Among the first to hit the rumor mill was an allegation made by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr., who said on September 30, 2016 that there were plans by the “Yellow Group” – in reference to the Liberal Party and supporters of former president Benigno Aquino III — and some rich businessmen to oust Duterte and install Vice President Leni Robredo as president.

The “Dutertards,” as Duterte’s supporters are called, also circulated a text message, saying, “Magdalo group led by Trillanes and Alejano has started preparing a coup.” The Magdalo Group is now a party-list represented by Rep. Gary Alejano in the House of Representatives. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV – who led the Oakwood Mutiny against then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2003 — denied the allegations, saying: “I maintain my position that there is no need to oust President Duterte because he is already self-destructing.” Touché!

Evasco claimed that the plotters failed because they didn’t have an “armed component” to pursue their plans. He said that they then went “international.” That ‘s when then US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the European Union (EU) wanted to investigate Duterte on alleged human rights violations based on the drug-related extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, which is now 6,000… and counting.

Goldberg Plan

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg

It didn’t take long before another plot surfaced… a big one! According to an article, “US ex-envoy plotting Duterte fall,” written by The Manila Times’ editor-in-chief Dr. Dante A. Ang on December 27, 2016, The Manila Times received a document from a source saying that Philip Goldberg, former US Ambassador to the Philippines, had left behind a “blueprint to undermine Duterte.” The blueprint outlines a strategic recommendation to the US State Department for the ultimate removal of Duterte from office. It lists strategies to undermine and oust Duterte within a timetable of one-and-a-half years.

To bring down Duterte, the Goldberg plan “calls for stoking public dissatisfaction with the President over unfulfilled election promises, isolating the Philippines from the rest of the ASEAN by extending military assistance to member countries except the Philippines, and/or through economic ‘blackmail’ that aims to limit trade by some ASEAN member countries with the Philippines.” While the blueprint did not mention Duterte’s “war on drugs,” it stated: “Duterte’s political allies are privately concerned over his shift in foreign policy.” Further, it stated: “Central among these allies is former President Fidel Ramos, who was crucial to Duterte’s election victory, but has distanced himself from Duterte in the wake of tensions with Washington.”

Duterte and Goldberg

Duterte and Goldberg

The blueprint also revealed that Goldberg called for Washington to launch a series of “socio-economic-political-diplomatic moves against Duterte to bring him to his knees and eventually remove him from office, while supporting and promoting the political opposition behind Vice President Leni Robredo, of the opposition Liberal Party of Aquino.”

In response to The Manila Times report, the US Embassy in Manila and US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel issued statements denying the news report. “These allegations of a blueprint are false. No such blueprint exists,” Russel said.

Vice President Leni Robredo also issued a statement, saying: “I am not aware of, much less am I involved in, any effort to ‘oust’ the President. Furthermore, I categorically deny joining rallies that called for the President’s ouster.” She continued: “Criticism is not conspiracy, and the administration is well advised to stop seeing ‘plots’ behind every unflattering news report, irate citizens’ assembly, or angry Facebook post.”

Robredo said that her criticisms of Duterte came about as a “reaction to Duterte’s own actions and statements.” Among her criticisms are: ongoing extrajudicial killings, proposed restoration of the death penalty, Marcos burial at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), and retreat from the West Philippine Sea claims.

Concessions to China

Duterte and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua

Duterte and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua

The following day, December 28, an interesting article appeared on the World Socialist Web Site, which said: “On December 19, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua made an unannounced visit to the presidential palace of Malacañang during which he extended an offer to Duterte of a soft-loan of $500 million in addition to $14 million worth of military equipment. Duterte declared that he would set aside the ruling against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague earlier this year, and was interested in pursuing joint oil exploration with China in the South China Sea.

“That afternoon, Duterte delivered a speech attended by the newly appointed US ambassador to Manila Sung Kim, responding to the US deferment of aid payment. He told the ambassador to “shut up, shut up. I do not need your assistance … China is going to release to me 50 billion, go home, I do not need your aid.”

Duterte speaking before a communist group

Duterte speaking before a communist group

Revolutionary change

But what I find quite intriguing is Carmen Pedrosa’s column, “My New Year’s wish for our country,” in The Philippine Star (January 1, 2017). She said that Congressman Roger Mercado, Chairman of the Committee of Constitutional Amendments, asked her whether it is necessary to amend or revise the Constitution?

Pedrosa said, “What bothers me is more fundamental. It is a misunderstanding if we draw up a Constitution before we fix the country’s elite dominance. We are being misled by thinking that drawing up a new Constitution will change that. That is putting the cart before the horse. The cart is the new Constitution but it can only move with a horse driving it. The horse is revolutionary change either as a government with revolutionary powers or, God forbid, a bloody revolution. The cart will not move if there is no horse.” Hmm…

It’s interesting that Pedrosa offered only two options: (1) Government with revolutionary powers, or (2) Bloody revolution, which I find akin to be too narrow a path to take. In both options, martial law is the necessary vehicle to achieve the desired outcome. In my opinion, the third option (3) is a Constitutional Convention that would draft a new constitution that will be approved by the people through a referendum, which begs the question: Would Duterte go along with this option?

Ides of January

Duterte and his generals

Duterte and his generals

Many people believe that Duterte is toying with the idea of declaring martial law to implement the first option or the second option if there is resistance. The only problem is that the 1987 Constitution doesn’t give the president a carte blanche authority to impose martial law. The Supreme Court or Congress can override him after 60 days, which Duterte had made it known that he doesn’t like it. But who is there to oppose him if he abolishes Congress and the Supreme Court?

At the end of the day, one wonders whether martial law would happen or not? And if it were going to happen, when would it be? Of the 12 months of 2017, in my opinion, the most likely month would be January. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s the first month. Secondly, like they say, “Strike while the iron is hot.” With all the plots and counter-plots going on, somebody would seize the opportunity. If not Duterte, somebody else might… or would. And thirdly, with China providing $14 million worth of weapons, it makes one wonder: What would the weapons be used for… or against whom? Nobody is invading the Philippines; but the weapons could come in handy if Duterte is going to declare martial law.

With all the coup rumors causing jitters in Manila, beware the ides of January.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)