July 2017

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Imee Marcos vs. Rudy Fariñas.

Imee Marcos vs. Rudy Fariñas.

In Philippine politics, it’s hard to determine who the real enemies are. Their enemies today could be their allies tomorrow or vice versa. Which reminds me of Benjamin Disraeli’s popular mantra: “We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests.” But the Ilocano psyche goes beyond that mantra. To Ilocanos, blood is thicker than water, but politics transcend blood relationships. So don’t be misled when brothers face each other in an election. The truth is: no matter who wins, power remains within the family. And that’s to keep others from getting into their “exclusive” domain.

Ortega political clan’s centennial, 1901 - 2001.

Ortega political clan’s centennial, 1901 – 2001.

Take the Ortega political clan for example. They’ve dominated politics in La Union for the past century. They have occupied the governor’s office, won congressional seats and provincial board seats, served as city and town mayors, and sat on city and town councils. They may be running against each other in these elections, but they remain “family.”

The Marcoses of Ilocos Norte are now in the same situation. After three generations in politics since World War II, they control the political pendulum in the province. Their patriarch, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, occupied the presidency for more than 20 years. When the People Power Revolution of 1986 deposed him, the family went into exile in Hawaii. But in the 1990’s they were able to come back and eventually, one by one, run for office. Daughter Imee Marcos is now the governor of Ilocos Norte while son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Jr. won a Senate seat; however, he lost in his vice presidential bid last year. The matriarch Imelda Marcos won the 2nd District congressional seat where her late husband began his political career.

Third generation Marcoses

Third generation of Marcoses:Bongbong Marcos, sons, and wife.

Third generation of Marcoses:Bongbong Marcos, sons, and wife.

In May 2015, Imee officially notified the Commission of Elections that she was a resident of Laoag. In September that same year, the three sons of Bongbong – Ferdinand “Sandro” Alexander III, 23, Joseph Simon, 22, and Vincent, 20 – registered as voters of Laoag City, claiming their dad’s house in Barangay Suba as their residence. Imee’s youngest son, Matthew Joseph Manotoc, 27, ran for the Ilocos Norte provincial board in 2016 and won.

Three generations of Marcoses: Imelda Marcos, Matthew Joseph Manotoc, and Imee Marcos.

Three generations of Marcoses: Imelda Marcos, Matthew Joseph Manotoc, and Imee Marcos.

It’s interesting to note that Manotoc topped the race edging Ria Christina Fariñas into second place. Ria Christina is Rudy Fariñas’ daughter. Manotoc’s lead over Ria Christina was of significant importance, which has raised a political red flag in the province. Rudy Fariñas is the patriarch of the powerful Fariñas family that had dominated politics in the 1st District for over half a century.

With the province split into two districts, one controlled by the Fariñas clan and the other by the Marcos clan, the two clans managed to coexist peacefully since the 1980s when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos ruled the country.

In 1980, Rudy Fariñas, whose family owns and operates Fariñas Trans, one of the oldest fleets of northern Luzon buses, was elected mayor of Laoag, making him one the youngest mayors during his time. In 1988, Fariñas ran for Ilocos Norte governor and won in a landslide. He was reelected in 1992 and 1995. He served as governor for 10 years. After that, he ran and won in 1998 as the 1st District’s representative. He served for only one three-year term.

Fariñas’ alliance with the Marcoses lasted until 2007 when Fariñas was defeated by a political neophyte, Michael Marcos Keon. Keon was backed by the Marcoses, after all Keon was a first cousin of Imee. But three years later, in 2010, Fariñas and Imee resumed their alliance. Imee tried to stop Keon from running for reelection but Keon wouldn’t withdraw. It was then that Imee decided to run against Keon. She won and it prevented the Marcos-Fariñas alliance from disintegrating. However, the alliance didn’t last too long.

Ilocos Six

Ilocos Six refuse to answer questions from House committee.

Ilocos Six refuse to answer questions from House committee.

Last year, a scandal erupted in Laoag City over the missing P85 million from the city treasury. The rift between the erstwhile allies, Imee Marcos and Rudy Fariñas, came to a head when the House committee on good government and public accountability started to investigate the alleged misuse of province’s tobacco funds in 2012. It was alleged that that P66.4 million worth of buses and multi-cabs were purchased without public bidding.

The House committee summoned six Ilocos Norte officials – called the “Ilocos Six” — to answer questions concerning the missing funds. The officials showed up but they refused to answer questions. This prompted the House committee to order them detained. If they continue to refuse to answer questions, they could be detained until the end of the current Congress in June 2019.

Their boss, Governor Imee Marcos was furious! She lambasted House Majority Floor Leader Fariñas and dared him to bring the fight back to Ilocos Norte. She also sought relief from the Supreme Court. At a press conference, Imee blamed her political rivalry with Fariñas for triggering the House investigation.

Marcos vs. Fariñas

ALLIES TURNED RIVALS. In this photo taken on May 11, 2012, Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas joins Governor Imee Marcos in distributing red mini-cabs to barangay captains. (Photo from Governor Imee Marcos)

ALLIES TURNED RIVALS. In this photo taken on May 11, 2012, Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas joins Governor Imee Marcos in distributing red mini-cabs to barangay captains. (Photo from Governor Imee Marcos)

It’s interesting to note that both Imee and Fariñas will be termed out in 2019. Which makes one wonder what their political plans are in the 2019 midterm election? Imee could run for Fariñas’ 1st District seat, after all she’s now officially a resident of Laoag City, which is in the 1st District. Bongbong’s eldest son Sandro is now primed to run for office in the province. Why not the governorship that Imee would be vacating? Bongbong’s second son, Joseph Simon would be in a position to run for mayor of Laoag City against incumbent Chevylle Fariñas. And Bongbong’s youngest son Vincent would qualify to run against Laoag City’s incumbent vice-mayor and Chevylle’s husband, Michael Fariñas. That would certainly stack up the cards against the Fariñas clan right in their own backyard.

Meanwhile, Bongbong’s electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo is now before the Supreme Court convened as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). If Bongbong wins and takes over the vice presidency, it would certainly make the Marcos clan the preeminent political body in Ilocos Norte. And this could cause the downfall of the Fariñas clan.

Ria Christina Fariñas.

Ria Christina Fariñas.

Rudy is rumored to be vying to be the next Ombudsman after the retirement of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales in 2018. Rudy also wants his daughter Ria Christina Fariñas to succeed him in the 1st District in 2019. Ria Christina is currently serving as a Member of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Board. However, she gained some national recognition when she was elected as the new president of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines (PBMLP) last February 28.

With Imee terming out in 2019, she might run for a Senate seat. Where else is she going to go? And with Rudy Fariñas terming out too, he might run for a Senate seat. It would certainly be an interesting face-off between the two former allies, now bitter adversaries. Or, Rudy could instead run for governor, which might be easier to win than a Senate seat if Sandro Marcos wouldn’t run against him. But there will always be someone from the Marcos camp who would challenge him. Matthew Joseph Manotoc comes to mind. And if he runs, he could give Fariñas a good run for his money.

Which makes one wonder: Is the “Ilocos Six” scandal being used to achieve a political end? Or is it to punish the corrupt?

Machiavelli lives!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

By Erick San Juan

Malampaya

Malampaya

First year in power of the Duterte administration and one year after The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines’ claim in the disputed area in the South China Sea, where are we now? Whether we like it or not, the bottomline here is still economics.

We are nearing the ten-year life of productivity of the Malampaya natural gas and we must look into other sources of energy to supply the growing need of the country’s populace. Economic managers and those in the energy department should have considered such important factor to make the Dutertenomics work. Although the president himself said that in time, he will talk to China’s Xi Jinping when it comes to our claim in the South China Sea which the PCA granted us. But Mr. President, we are being overtaken by events and after a year, China’s massive building of military structures are now in place in the SCS where most of our claim is located.

Unfortunately, China’s aggressiveness was based from its “systematic campaign to delegitimize the tribunal and its judges, adopting a “three-nos” policy of non-participation, non-recognition, and non-compliance with the final verdict. At the time, Beijing dismissed the award as a “null and void” decision and “nothing more than a piece of paper.”

Still, Duterte faces growing domestic pressure to adopt a tougher line with Beijing, which many believe has used cordial ties (translation-soft touch op) as cover to consolidate its control over key features. Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a prominent supporter of the arbitration strategy, lambasted the president’s supposed lack of “discernible direction, coherence, or vision” in foreign policy.

He has heavily criticized some of Duterte’s remarks, particularly his announcement that he “will set aside the arbitral ruling” in the interest of better relations with China. “This incident [Dutetre’s remark] graphically explains Philippine foreign policy on the South China Sea dispute after the arbitral ruling,” exclaimed Carpio during a high-profile event marking the arbitration award’s first anniversary.

He reiterated the importance of the ruling, since it secured “the Philippines vast maritime zone larger than the total land area of the Philippines.” Instead of setting aside the arbitration award, the magistrate called upon the government to consider filing additional arbitration cases against Beijing if the latter continues its non-compliance with the award.

Senior former government officials, including former Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, who played a key role in the arbitration proceedings, have echoed similar sentiments against the president. Others have openly accused the Duterte administration of soft-pedaling territorial issues in short-sighted exchange for Chinese economic incentives.” (Source: Has Duterte’s China engagement backfired? By Richard Javad Heydarian @ Asia Times online)

We have to move fast and firm to our claim which is included in our EEZ in order to survive the years ahead for the generations to come. What is at stake to claim what is rightfully ours?

According to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford, one concession – SC 72 – contains 2.6-8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That would be as much as triple the amount discovered at the Malampaya project, an offshore field that powers 40 percent of the main island of Luzon, home to the capital Manila.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration believes that beneath the South China Sea could be 11 billion barrels of oil, more than Mexico’s reserves, and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Most foreign firms with capital and technology needed to develop those reserves, however, don’t want to risk being caught up in spats over jurisdiction and have avoided concessions offered in disputed waters.

Manila’s state-run Philex Petroleum (PXP.PS) has the controlling stakes in two stalled concessions, the 880,000-hectare SC-72 at the Reed Bank and the 616,000-hectare SC-75 off the island of Palawan.

The court verdict on July 12 sparked a surge in energy stocks the next day, with Philex shares up as much as 21 percent.

Philex says it is seeking a meeting with Philippine energy officials regarding the potential to lift a suspension order on drilling activities in the Reed Bank, in place since December 2014.

“It’s a matter of national importance. We don’t want to move on our own without guidance from the government,” Philex Chairman Manuel Pangilinan told reporters.

“We will need a partner … no local company has the expertise that we need.”

Department of Energy spokesman Felix William Fuentebella said there were no immediate plans to lift the suspension as the department awaited guidance from new President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The moratorium stays. We are exploring ways to resolve the conflict peacefully and we follow the lead of the President,” he said.

Manila and Beijing have both expressed a desire to resume talks, but the Philippines says it could not accept China’s pre-condition of not discussing the ruling. (Source: Philippines’ oil still in troubled waters after South China Sea ruling by Enrico Dela Cruz)

Now that President Rodrigo Duterte considers resuming energy exploration in the tension-laden South China Sea before the year ends, let us wait and see for China’s leader’s reaction. If the reason for delaying the talk with China on the arbitral ruling is economics then let it be the reason. It is still economics to assert our rights to our claim in order to develop and make Dutertenomics work.

It’s our nation’s prosperity on the line Mr. President. Your living legacy.

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano 

“When we do not care, when we who have something or are somebody, do not care, neither will government.”

GRACESI was first alerted to the existence of a DSWD Center for the Aged in QC a month ago through a Facebook post by Dra. Lorraine Badoy who now serves as Assistant Secretary in the DSWD. This Center for the Aged is named GRACES. I do not know why I find it so grotesque for a center to be called GRACES yet be so criminally uncaring. I wish I could share the pictures of that center, especially of the old and sickly that they host, so a better representation of an ugly truth can be appreciated. Best, though, is for the believers and the unbelieving to visit GRACES.

As I write this article, I will be using phrases from the first post of Dra. Badoy – without her permission. But I will take the chance anyway. The story she has been sharing is a haunting one that may seem inconsequential in national scene. It is not, though. It strikes at the center of what eats away at our national soul. It hits directly how the poor are devalued, and all the more the sick and neglected among them. By government. By us.

Quoting Dra. Badoy, “Then I went to GRACES – a DSWD Center for the Aged here in QC. And suddenly Jose Fabella Center seemed like a center for excellence. I exaggerate..but not by much.

See this photo? I am so sorry to have to show it to you but in the spirit of TRUTH AS POWER and not turning a blind eye on the tragedies of our fellow human beings, let me tell you what it is.

It is a room in GRACES where one of our senior citizens with a mental disorder has had to live in for years. And if you went there, you’d see cockroaches crawling all over the place—on the walls, on her pile of clothes, on the rotting food. When she is there, cockroaches crawl on her.

That red pail is where she collects her urine. And in that small room is where she defecates. The smell, as you can very well imagine, hits you in the face as soon as you get to striking distance.

I don’t need to have this spelled out to me. I know what this is. What this is is NEGLiGENCE. I’m no lawyer, but something tells me we are skating on the thin ice of criminal negligence here— if this were a paying client. But she’s poor and all alone so fuck it all. That’s the horrific mindset I see here.

I am FULLY cognizant that I am part of government now and that it is the job of government to right this wrong. And we in DSWD are up to it. That we will do all we can—to the best of our abilities—to make sure this injustice is corrected. I burn in shame and pain that it has come to this point.”

The pictures she shared tell a worse story than our imagination. I hope she took videos as well. If only to remind us about man’s inhumanity to man.

Yes, government is at fault, has been at fault all these decades. And especially government that can waste money on non-essentials like streamers or posters or give-aways when lives are wasted and lost in exchange. And I am not even talking about corruption because I do not want to distract our attention from the painful truth about the value system that we cater to in our society. Yes, government has been at fault; but the greater fault is ours, we who could have done something, not to poor, old, sick and neglected at GRACES, but to all the poor, old, sickly and neglected of our society.

It only begins with caring; or, in this case, it only begins with not caring. When we do not care, when we who have something or are somebody, do not care, neither will government. Because government caters first to those it fears, to those it wants something from. With what is left, government can then consider the poor, the marginalized, who it sees as simple problems that have to be solved or shoved aside. The poor have their great numbers to work with, but they hardly ever count. Except on elections when they are not only problems but serious expenses, too. For numbers to count, the numbers must be together, counted as one – or numbers can be in the tens of millions individually and as powerless individually as well.

Before GRACES, my number one proof of this great collective uncaring by all those who matter in terms of resources and influence was the perpetual hunger of our poor. I had been following the quarterly SWS survey results for more than 15 years and the hunger of 15-20% of Filipinos was being reported faithfully. But for sure, hardly anyone even read, or cared. If we did, that hunger would have disappeared a long time ago. Because there is food, more than enough food – if we cared.

Thankfully, pockets of feeding programs are coming on stream. Somehow, there is a growing realization and concern. This pattern has started and it will continue. It may be starting in poor public schools but it will flow to the streets and under the bridges and the canals. Because more are beginning to care. And hunger will end where caring begins.

It is time to go deeper into the shadows of our uncaring past and let the sunshine through. I know that in GRACES, the first work of cleaning, not just the dilapidated facilities but the bodies of the elderly and sick inside, has started, repairs are being done, and volunteers are responding to the appeal of Dra. Badoy. I know, too, that DSWD is demolishing its old attitude and beginning a fresh initiative from the heart.

Let us join this journey. There is neglect everywhere that hurts and kills our elderly. Let this be the simple change, from uncaring to caring, trigger the great change we have longed for.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/105708/graces-mans-inhumanity-man#ixzz4nP1QPdWx
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Reflections
Fr. Shay Cullen
PREDA Foundation

PREDA-home-for-childrenIt was the Preda hotline for reporting sexual abuse that saved the four children from sexual and physical abuse. The message came in from an anonymous reporter saying that Geraldine, 13 years old, was being sexually abused by her grandfather. The Preda Foundation social worker contacted her counterpart in the local government and she, trained by Preda, knew exactly what to do. She went to find the child in her school and had a heart to heart chat in a private room.

The 13-year-old child had someone she could trust and revealed all that happened to her and confirmed the sexual abuse by the grandfather and her uncle who was still a teenager. She said her elder sister was also abused. The cruel grandfather had continually beaten her younger sister and brother. Their mother knew of the abuse but did nothing. She had separated from the father, who disappeared, and she left them with the grandfather. She was too poor to support them. This was the cost of a broken home and the abandonment of children by their parents.

The municipal social worker immediately took the four children into her custody as allowed by law and entrusted them to the Preda Home for Girls. The mother was found and she signed a custody agreement to leave the children in the care of the Preda Home. The girls were taken to the clinic for a legal-medical examination and the wounds revealed sexual abuse of two of the girls.

A case of rape and abusive acts were filed against the grandfather and teenage uncle. Last 17 July the court issued an arrest warrant and it was served by the police with the help of the Preda senior staff. The grandfather was jailed to await trial. The teenager has been ordered by the court to be sent for rehabilitation.

The rescue and the recovery and pursuit of justice for the three girls and their small brother is just one more successful service to help abused children. What if there was no such intervention? The children would continue to be victims and not survivors.

There are as many as 40 children presently in the Preda Home for Girls, happily freed from the power of their abusers and are having therapy and education and a childhood so long denied them. The early reporting of child abuse is very important. The child in care and with proper therapy, counseling and a caring community will recover quickly then justice will be done when the child is empowered and supported to testify.

Otherwise they just grow up holding on to the buried pain of the terrible fearful memories of what they cruelly experienced. I wrote about that last week and the therapy that releases them from the pain and empowers the children to testify. Getting justice is the final closure for the survivor of child sexual abuse.

We can see that there is a culture of concealment, denial, cover-up. Even society tries to deny the survivors justice by statutes of limitation. This denies the victim or survivor the right to get justice. In Germany recently, hundreds of former members of a famous boys choir have come forward after many years of silence to voice their complaints of physical and sexual abuse. But according to German law, it is too late to bring legal complaints.

Children have been abused by individuals, institutions and by the culture of silence in society that forbades such complaints to be aired in public. People in positions of power, influence, and authority were not to be accused, challenged and confronted. They enjoyed impunity and they made the laws. It is the same in all countries. Only now there is the encouragement and support for victims to complain and a shameful history of abuse is being exposed to a horrified public.

German law allows for criminal prosecution only within 10 years of the alleged victim turning 18. The statute of limitations for pursuing financial compensation through a civil suit is only three years. After that period there is no recourse. There is a move in Germany to extend the time from when one can take legal action against alleged abusers. Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick, claims that he is for a limit of 30 years where in a victim could bring a legal action. Bavarian Justice Minister Beate Merk has also called for change. “If it were up to me, Germany wouldn’t have any statute of limitations at all, like in Switzerland.”

Having no statute of limitation is a deterrent too for abusers when they know they could be charged at anytime. They should live with that possibility. In the Philippines a complaint of sexual abuse can be made up to twenty years after the abuse happened.

But prevention is the greatest and most important action we can take. Child abusers will always be lurking, preying and waiting. Human nature is corrupt and twisted. Child sexual abuse is mostly done by relatives, in the home, and then by neighbors and people in authority. We have to teach children to run and tell someone they trust and to overcome fear and get help. We need more hotlines and community education on the rights of the child and the need for adults to report and protect children. Dial or text to the Preda hotline 09175324453.

shaycullen@gmail.com
www.preda.org

Reflections
By Fr. Shay Cullen
PREDA Foundation

PREDA-Search-for-happinessSarah-Ann, 14 years old, walked with two police officers and two Preda Foundation social workers through the town in Pampanga to the traffic stand where the mini-buses line up to get passengers. She is a determined, courageous young girl and she is out to get justice for the rape that she endured several times from her abuser Rodolfo Sala (not his real name.) She saw him and pointed him out to the police and social workers. They moved in and grabbed him before he could run and they served the arrest warrant.

It was a traumatic moment for Sarah-Ann but one of grim satisfaction, a moment of happiness perhaps that justice might be done for her and many other victims of child rape and abuse. Sala will get a sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

The happiness seen in the faces and lives of the children recovering and overcoming the effects of sexual abuse in the home for abused children are inspiring. The resilience and strength of the 10- to 16-year old girls to work their way back to emotional and mental health is extraordinary. This is what Sarah-Ann experienced that gave her the strength to get her abuser to justice.

In the padded therapy room the emotional burden is released, the pain is screamed; the anger is expressed freely in a continuous expression of emotional cries. The children punch and pound the cushions as they imagine they are fighting back and beating the living daylights out of their abusers as they relive the memories of being abused.

Afterwards the relief is evident, the peace is clear, the clarity is there, and they are healing, recovering, and growing in emotional maturity and understanding. They are the lucky few. Many thousands of children are trafficked and abused for the pleasure of the sex tourists and local pedophiles. They get no help. Thousands of street children are jailed for no crime. The system fails them.

The therapy empowered, healed, and emboldened Sarah-Ann to speak out courageously and look for justice and testify in court. The Preda legal team will make it possible.

Government officials ignore much child abuse and village officials sometimes negotiate a settlement between the rapist and the parents of the victim for money. The official gets a cut of course and the abused child is ignored. The mayors give permits to the sex bars where the women and children are in bonded sex labor. It’s a cruel situation.

The Philippines is number 73 on the International Happiness Index. The Filipinos are living in a climate of fear due to the war-on-drugs. Police and paid vigilantes have allegedly killed as many as ten thousand in one year as the president promised he would. In fact the rate of mental illness has grown greater due to the stress and tension caused by the war-on-drugs where 73 percent of the population, according to survey, says they are living in fear that death squads could kill them or their relatives or neighbors at any time. The threat of a nationwide declaration of martial law is seriously unsettling to many and creates added stress. Yet the people will endure and overcome this challenge to their freedom. This is the strength of Filipinos- resilience and fortitude in the face of hardship and challenge just as Sarah-Ann has shown.

But in a country of 103 million Filipinos where a few hundred families control as much as 70 percent of the wealth it is all too clear that extreme poverty will continue. The middle class will grow prosperous with economic growth at around 6.4 percent and vast loans to build infrastructure to benefit the rich oligarchies put the nation in debt to be paid for by more taxes.

Yet the poor get poorer even though the Filipinos work hard and strive to make a decent living, find a job, get a living wage, support their family and solve their problems. It is a blessing to have a job. According to the figures released by the People’s National Summit last June 2017, there are 11.5 million Filipinos either jobless or looking for more work and 24.4 million in low-paying and insecure jobs. Twenty-one million Filipinos live in extreme poverty, earning less than P56/day, (US$1.10) while 66 million live on a mere P125/day (US $2.47) As workers saw their real wages drop by .1 percent, the wealth of the 40 richest Filipinos grew by 13.8 percent.

The chance of Sarah-Ann getting a good job is slim. She says she dreams of having a small business one day but she will be taxed at 32 percent and pay as high as 12% or more VAT on all consumer goods. The ruling elite have stacked the economy in their favor and deliver few quality services to improve the well-being of people.

Thousands of Filipinos continue to stream abroad in search of prosperity and happiness. They head for Scandinavian countries and Canada that top the happiness index and the United States that is number 15 and from there, they will work hard and support their families in the Philippines and find a measure of happiness in an ocean of sadness.

www.preda.org
shaycullen@gmail.com

By REY O. ARCILLA 
MALAYA

(‘I told my friend that my considered view is that there is nothing to worry about North Korea or the US launching a nuclear strike against each other any time soon.’)

Duterte visits Marawi

Duterte visits Marawi

My God… I hate corruption! – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong.

Now, if only the heads of the other branches of government, the legislative and the judiciary, could also utter the same words with gritted teeth and determination, this country could easily pick itself up from the morass it is in.

Digong has already set the example by giving substance and meaning to his assertion. He has, for instance, fired the DILG secretary and the NIA Administrator, both old friends, and some 90 other government officials for corruption.

Senate President Koko Pimentel, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should do their part in ridding their respective turf of corruption.

Everyone who cares knows that many honorable members of Congress are still merrily indulging themselves and spending people’s money in the process.

Honorable senators and congressmen, for instance, have been going on junkets lately. (Senators going to Paris to “study” climate change?! Congressmen and House staff members, reportedly to be accompanied by Department of Tourism officials, going to Iceland and Norway, perhaps to witness and marvel at the sun that “never” sets in those two countries at this time of the year?!)

Early this year, Senator Panfilo Lacson also insisted that pork barrel, declared illegal by the Supreme Court, has been included in the 2017 national budget.

As to the judiciary, it is common knowledge that some of its members are not immune to corrupt practices.

When will the heads of these agencies begin to follow Digong’s example? Needless to say, his efforts to get rid of, if not minimize, corruption also depends significantly on the 7cooperation of these two branches of government.

We can only hope that the officials concerned have as much love for the country and have the same desire as Digong to serve the Filipino people.

SPECIAL ENVOY TO US

An American friend asked me what Digong’s appointment of a Special Envoy to the US means.

“Why not a full-fledged ambassador with residence in Washington? Does it mean a downgrading of Philippine relations with the US?” he asked.

I told my friend I could only guess what Digong’s reasons might be.

First, he has not found one with the same mindset that he has regarding the form and substance of PH-US relations that are consistent with his decision to pursue a foreign policy that, before his time, was anchored mainly on dependence on the US.

I think he is also waiting for the Trump administration to lay bare its eventual and ultimate policy towards PH-US relations. Right now, Trump is still preoccupied with issues involving Europe, the European Union, Russia, Syria, North Korea and China. These issues, like it or not, are far more pressing and important to Washington at this time.

In the meantime, Trump has decided to adopt a friendly and supportive stance towards Digong by expressing support for what the latter is doing about the drug menace. I suspect though that Trump is simply trying to keep Digong, for the time being, from straying too far from the US fold and falling into the Chinese and Russian embrace.

There is no denying that Digong’s independent foreign policy has already borne fruit.

Witness, for instance, the US’ more forthcoming and supportive attitude towards us, e.g., her unexpected and sudden delivery of previously withheld arms and ammunition for use by the AFP in ridding Marawi of Muslim terrorists, followed by the USAID announcement that it was delivering aid to the victims of the ongoing conflict.

Note, however, that the US action came in the wake of China’s delivery not only of weapons needed by the AFP, but also her immediate contribution of P15 million towards the rehabilitation of the battered city.

Russia, Japan, South Korea and Australia, among others, have also pledged to help in the rehabilitation of Marawi. I have not read or heard of any rich Islamic country pledge assistance.

Here, I would like to quote and thank one “Jaundiced Yellowista” for his/her very succinct comments in one local daily on Digong’s foreign policy , to wit:

“Not to put too fine a point on it, both US and China are vying to be on the good graces of Duterte. Even Japan is not far behind. There’s just too much geopolitical interest at stake for these countries. They know it, Duterte knows it, and they know that Duterte has the full measure of our country’s geostrategic importance to them all. No other president in our nation’s history understood geopolitics so well as Duterte does. And no other president played the superpowers with such acumen as Duterte has done. That’s also because we now have more choices as opposed to the bipolar world order of the Cold War or the subsequent unipolar world order of Pax Americana. In this day and age of the mutli-polar world order, we got more choices to choose from.”

PHOENIX PETROLEUM

A word of thanks is in order to certain private sector companies and businessmen for their ready response to help the people of Marawi.

The latest among these civic-minded entrepreneurs is a friend, Dennis Uy who is president and chief executive officer of Phoenix Petroleum.

Uy announced during the celebration of the tenth anniversary of his company’s listing in the PSEI the creation of a P100 million fund he called LIFE, to help soldiers and policemen who were and are fighting in Marawi “secure sustainable livelihood, achieve independence, sustain their families and provide education for their children”.

He said businesses should “recognize and assist security forces as they are the ones who make celebrations of milestones of companies possible”.

“These times call for a decisive action and a community spirit,” he added.

NORTH KOREA

Another American friend asked me what I thought of the North Korean issue.

I gather that many Americans are worried about the issue, principally because of Trump’s warning that North Korea could face “some pretty severe” consequences after its defiant test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. They think Trump is “reckless” enough to take such action.

I told my friend that my considered view is that there is nothing to worry about North Korea or the US launching a nuclear strike against each other any time soon.

To begin with, I do not think Trump is that “reckless”, especially given the problems he faces at the moment with, among others, China and Russia which are friends of North Korea.

North Korea, on the other hand, will do no such thing without clearance from China. And such clearance is not forthcoming.

I also believe Kim Jung Un knows his country will be obliterated from the face of the earth should he, in a moment of madness perhaps, decide to attack US territory or overseas military facilities.

If that happens, China will be faced with the dilemma of either standing idly by while the US takes retaliatory action against North Korea, or resorting to a military confrontation with the US. In case of the latter scenario, Armageddon would very likely ensue.

I don’t think anybody would want that.

Then again, I could be wrong.

MANNY PACQUIAO

Digong was right when he told boxing icon Manny Pacquiao who lost his welterweight crown to Australian Jeff Horn that “weather-weather lang ‘yan”, which means in Tagalog “pana-panahon lang ‘yan”.

What Digong meant was that the defeat to Horn was merely a temporary setback.

I take a different view. Pacquiao’s “weather” or “panahon” is over. He is already past his prime. He doesn’t have the killer punch anymore, as seen in his last few fights, because of Father Time. He should heed the plea of his wife and mother, and the advice of his trainer Freddie Roach to quit now. We do not want to see him end up like Muhammad “The Greatest” Ali, for instance, or some other pugilists who suffered a similar fate.

***

Today is the 81st day of the eleventh year of the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, son of the late press icon and founder of this newspaper.

The family and friends of Jonas hope that the Duterte administration will exert serious efforts to find and haul the perpetrators of Jonas’ disappearance to justice.

***

From an internet friend:

Welcome to the Golden Years —

They weren’t in my pockets. Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the parking lot.

My husband has scolded me many times for leaving my keys in the car’s ignition.

He’s afraid that the car could be stolen. As I looked around the parking lot,

I realized he was right. The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police.

I gave them my location, confessed that I had left my keys in the car, and that it had been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all to my husband: “I left my keys in the car and it’s been stolen.”

There was a moment of silence. I thought the call had been disconnected, but then I heard his voice. “Are you kidding me?” he barked, “I dropped off!”

Now it was my turn to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, come and get me.”

He retorted, “I will, as soon as I convince this cop that I didn’t steal your car!”

***

FB: https://www.facebook.com/reynaldo.arcilla.9847

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano

(Credit: Gel Lagasca)

(Credit: Gel Lagasca)

I have written a few articles about my views of the dying city and the gates of hell called Metro Manila. I have as my backdrop not only the stories from my parents who, as probinsyanos, studied in Manila before WWII but my own personal experience as a first-time visitor in 1960 and later a college student in 1965 who never left. That’s a long 57 years from my first time, and the image that jumps out in my memory bank is a wooden, two-way bridge over the Pasig River known as Guadalupe. I was not very observant then, more out as a young man who grew up in the province to discover and enjoy what must have been the dream of millions of probinsyanos then. But I have made up for that lack of concerned curiosity for the more mundane, brick-and-mortar environment by a memory that knows how to grow as a woven fabric rather than just a collage of images and experiences.

Today, I write again on the same subject matter. I know that the horrible traffic last week prompted my consciousness towards a situation that seems endless, a torture that seems unavoidable, a challenge that seems impossible. I remember the long line of Metro Manila governors, now chairmen, and their shared inability to manage the physical growth of the population, the furious expansion of buildings and malls along major streets, the unchangeable habit of throwing garbage anywhere at one’s convenience to the collective detriment, and the terrible zoning laws that allowed more residential and commercial structures than roads and parking space. Of course, there is that sporadic introduction of mass transit as though it were a trophy of a political personality rather than a basic public need. Will I need to mention the corruption? I don’t think so, and least of all the corruption of politicians. After 57 years from my first 1960 visit to my fulltime life here since 1965, that’s 52 years of politicians if they are to be blamed and there have just been too many to remember.

Of course, corruption will seep in. It is inevitable when there is a lack of order, when there is unhealthy density, when there is poverty, and when 1% own and control more than 99%. Many think this is just a repeat criticism of a global phenomenon that has yet to be broken. It is, in a way, but the greater reason for mentioning it at all is because we point to the less guilty as we vent our ire while the bigger culprits guarantee it will be more of the same. In a dictatorship, it is easy to lay credit or blame at the doorstep of the sole power and authority. In a democracy, however, such as we have today or the federalism that is being sold for our future, the credit or blame has many blurred lines and camouflages. But we can be sure of one thing – power and wealth are behind it all. And we can be sure of the other thing – those who mean little to the powers-that-be will always suffer the most.

In the time of the conjugal dictatorship, everything about governance, the good and the bad, cannot escape Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Oh, yes, they employed or used or abused the human and material assets of the government, and even those they took away by force, and so it will look as though it had not been just them but their cronies, their military instruments, the Communists, the Muslim separatists – and this is true as well. However, these are collateral factors. The central accountability lies on the shoulders of those who choose to rule as dictators instead of making democracy grow and mature. History shows that some adjusted well to dictatorship and even profited from it. But somehow, a helpless and hapless people ultimately said enough and rode on the promise of new leaders from the civilian and military sectors.

Democracy as we knew it before martial law, and as we know it today, is in place for better or for worse. While it is like a journey in its initial stages, democracy has its pros and cons, and Metro Manila the way it is now is one of the collective consequences of our choice of governance. In other words, we all have a shared responsibility, authority, and accountability. Obviously, we all have not done our part well, and we all suffer the consequences. Except maybe the 1%. Because if the 99% loses, then there must be a winner that sees to it the same profitable pattern for them, no matter how bad for the rest, continues. And if we, the residents and the people of the Philippines do not want to understand this simple reality, we must continue to lower the bar of expectations in proportion to a bad situation going worse.

The cry of political reformers, including political hypocrites who only want to remove those in power so they can themselves enjoy the perks when they assume office, is good governance. Never have I heard a triter refrain than good governance. It has become trite not because it is wrong but because those who pushed it mostly failed, including in making the people outside of themselves understand just how important good governance is. And people, the majority or enough of them to represent the majority, must be the most active players of good governance if democracy has to work as an efficient and beneficial political system.

Good governance can work only on the back of good citizenship. Good governance, therefore, means making the people understand their own responsibilities and accountabilities and then motivating them to contribute these to the collective governance. In teaching our people, the best among those who govern, as living examples, are perhaps the best and primary motivation for success – and laws the least effective without leadership following them before everybody else.

Well, what has Metro Manila got to do with democracy, good governance and good citizenship? Everything. It is the mirror on the wall.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/105218/metro-manila-better-worse#ixzz4lS2wN58W
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

By Richard North Patterson
Boston Globe

Xi-Jinping-Davos-2017China’s global aspirations should be no surprise. For centuries, it has seen itself as a civilization apart. Inevitably, Western encroachment bred an indelible resentment of nations which, in China’s view, had usurped its rightful place.

Animated by this sense of destiny thwarted, China’s president, Xi Jinping, means to restore Chinese dominance in Asia — exemplified by its construction of artificial islands as military bases in the South China Sea — the better to supplant America as the world’s leading geopolitical power. The hope that globalization would create a more benign and democratic China overlooked these deeper impulses.

They are hardly subtle. As the regime’s authoritarianism deepens, China undercuts democracy in Hong Kong, rebuilds its military, moves to control the future of Asia, and expands Chinese economic leverage around the globe.

Enter President Trump.

While Trump’s campaign rhetoric targeting China was simplistic, it played economic hardball — requiring American companies to transfer intellectual property in return for access to Chinese markets, acquiring American know-how while limiting our ability to do business. But on meeting Xi as president, Trump melted.

Xi’s lever was North Korea. Jettisoning all other concerns, Trump imagined that China, reversing established policy, would help divest its client of nuclear weapons. As China played him with hints and half measures, Trump mortgaged our overall China policy to a pipe dream based on nothing but his self-concept as a dealmaker.

Trump’s approach was transactional and narcissistic, reflecting the fatal convergence of ignorance and a short attention span. Abruptly, he tweeted that his feckless plan “has not worked out” but that “at least I know China tried!”

What China tried was to leave Trump without a viable plan for curtailing a nuclear program which, too soon, will imperil San Francisco.

Nettled, Trump sold arms to Taiwan, sanctioned two Chinese companies that finance North Korea, and dispatched ships for a drive-by in the South China Sea.

But spasms are not policy.

Trump has yet to grasp that China, like Russia, is our strategic adversary. This is the classic case of a rising power challenging a dominant one — economically, militarily, and ideologically — starting with Asia. That mandates a China policy that is comprehensive, farsighted, and clear.

Yet Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have not even assembled a team competent to formulate a vision that reflects American interests and values. Worse, Trump shuns the belief in free trade and democratic institutions, which cement our alliances with countries such as Australia, Japan, and South Korea, and provide an alternative to an economic order dominated by China.

A crucial blunder is his rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which benefited US economic interests, advanced labor, environmental and human rights, and engaged Asian countries in a trading alliance that could limit China’s sway. Another is abandoning the Paris climate accord, abdicating American leadership in combating climate change while allowing China to pose as the world’s environmental leader.

Swiftly, China’s calculating regime castigated America for its selfishness and irresponsibility, cloaking its own economic self-interest in altruism. In Trump’s diplomatic vacuum, China — ironically, a principal consumer and exporter of coal power — is poised to become the world’s leader in advancing clean energy technology.

As Trump looks backward — trumpeting tariffs and promising to resurrect coal — China moves forward. As Trump shuns the European Union, China courts it. China is now Germany’s principal trading power, a leader in developing cutting-edge automobiles, the mobile Internet, and safer nuclear power. According to US News & World Report, China’s top engineering school has surpassed MIT. Despite setbacks, China is the world’s largest economy and its biggest export market.

A centerpiece of China’s geopolitical strategy is the “Belt and Road” initiative , an ambitious plan to finance and develop infrastructure and connectivity linking all of Asia to Europe and the Middle East — including an infrastructure bank intended to cement China’s economic leadership throughout the region. Its goal is to supplant the world’s existing economic order with one that serves Chinese prosperity and power.

This program, Xi asserts, embodies “economic globalization that is open, inclusive, balanced, and beneficial to all” — including antipoverty programs. In stark contrast, Trump grouses that “alliances have not always worked out very well for us,” signaling our economic and diplomatic retreat.

Whatever America’s faults, by tradition we espouse humane and democratic values. A Chinese-led world order would be morally impoverished. Yet, soon enough, China’s economic power may cause our traditional allies — in Asia and Europe — to turn away. Thus will Donald Trump help make China great again.

Richard North Patterson’s column appears regularly in the Globe. His latest book is “Fever Swamp.” Follow him on Twitter @RicPatterson.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/07/17/china-eating-trump-lunch/zxE8GkcH2yUonhJ8u48BeL/story.html

 

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Abu Sayyaf militants show ISIS flag.

Abu Sayyaf militants show ISIS flag.

Like most rebellions, the Marawi rebellion couldn’t have happened without the financial support of someone who has the wherewithal to sustain a long siege. More than six weeks after the attack, the militants are still entrenched in Marawi City. No amount of ground assault by the Philippine Marines or bombing by Philippine Air Force warplanes could dislodge the militants consisting of members of the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Two faces of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon.

Two faces of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon.

The Philippine military had been after the ASG terrorists for several years now. Yet, most of the leaders of the ASG managed to evade capture. The most recent one was Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini. He is believed to be linked to ISIS. He was formerly leader of ASG before its battalions pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. An April 2016 issue of ISIS’ weekly newsletter Al Naba said that Hapilon had been appointed as “emir of all Islamic State forces in the Philippines.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Maute leaders (top, left to right): Cayamora Maute, Ominta “Farhana” Romano-Maute, mother of the Maute founders Omar and Abdullah. (Bottom left to right): Maute group members.

Maute leaders (top, left to right): Cayamora Maute, Ominta “Farhana” Romano-Maute, mother of the Maute founders Omar and Abdullah. (Bottom left to right): Maute group members.

What is interesting to note is the role of the Maute matriarch, Ominta “Farhana” Romato-Maute, mother of the Maute founders Omar and Abdullah. Last June 7, she was arrested in Masiu, a town about 34 kilometers from Marawi City, as she and two wounded men and seven women were trying to escape the government troops. She is believed to be the “heart of the Islamic State-inspired Maute group,” directing its movement and operations and taking care of finances and international networking. She and her husband Cayamora are said to be the “masterminds” behind the Maute attack. Farhana is reputed to be a “fiercely astute” businesswoman and politician. She manages several business interests including several rental houses in Quezon City, Iligan, Catabato City, and Davao City. She once served as assemblywoman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Before her capture, Farhana tried calling President Rodrigo Duterte to talk about peace and negotiate a ceasefire after the heavy bombing and fighting in Marawi City. Duterte turned her offer down, saying the government forces have lost too many soldiers in the Marawi attack. The question is: Is Farhana really the mastermind of the Maute group or is someone much higher in the food chain calling the shots?

Farhana’s niece Monaliza “Monay” Solaiman Romato.

Farhana’s niece Monaliza “Monay” Solaiman Romato.

Last July 5, government forces foiled a possible bombing in Cagayan de Oro when they arrested Farhana’s niece Monaliza “Monay” Solaiman Romato. Monay reportedly replaced Farhana as the Maute’s matriarch. However, it didn’t take too long for the government forces to capture Monay, which begs the question: With Farhana and Monay in detention, who would take over the Maute’s financial operations? Or could it be that Farhana and Monay were just figureheads? Is the matriarch’s role to shield the real power behind the group? Meanwhile, the real power can lead a normal life conducting his business empire – probably illegal drug trade — out in the open without any fear of scrutiny from the government.

Back-channel talks

 President Rodrigo Duterte flanked by AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año (L) and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (R).

President Rodrigo Duterte flanked by AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año (L) and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (R).

Recently, Reuters reported that President Duterte initiated a move to negotiate an end to the conflict with the Maute group. However, Malacañang said that it has no information on Duterte’s reported attempt to hold back-channel talks with the Maute terrorists. The Reuters report said a senior Duterte aide approached Agakhan Sharief, a prominent Muslim leader, to use his connections with the Maute group’s leaders to start back-channel talks. The report said the talks failed as the Maute leaders “did not show sincerity and continued to attacks on government forces.” Two other sources familiar with the matter confirmed that Duterte had worked behind the scenes to hold talks with the Maute brothers, Omarkhayam and Abdullah. Marawi City Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra also confirmed that back-channel talks were started but said he was not privy to details.

The back-channel talks did not push through when Cayamora was caught on June 6 in Davao City, three days before Farhana’s arrest in Lanao del Sur.

Chinese financier

Authorities recovers P10-million worth of shabu from the house of a former Marawi City mayor Omar Solitario Ali last June 23. June 23. Ali is on the list of 125 alleged Maute members ordered arrested by the government. (Credit: SunStar)

Authorities recovers P10-million worth of shabu from the house of a former Marawi City mayor Omar Solitario Ali last June 23. June 23. Ali is on the list of 125 alleged Maute members ordered arrested by the government. (Credit: SunStar)

A few days ago, I received an interesting – and intriguing – information from one of my sources in Manila. He said, “How can you crush the ASG (Abu Sayyaf aka Abu Shabu) when it’s an open secret that the Chinese financier of these bandits is close to so many powerful people? He’s believed to instigate the Mautes to create a situation in Marawi to divert the attention of the AFP who are almost done in apprehending all of them to put closure to ASG. This Chinese who uses his being a converted Muslim to lord it over basically owning all big businesses Sulu and Mindanao wide, wants to protect his puppet Hapilon by floating the disinfo that he escaped the military cordon in Marawi.

“If the concerned people of Marawi is serious in finishing this tragedy, they should act asap like the Boholanos helping the PNP and AFP in getting all the remnants of ASG. Huwag na tayo maglokohan, kawawa mga sundalo at peaceful Muslims na nadadamay sa kalokohan ng iilan na may hidden agenda. Sobra na. (Let’s not fool with ourselves. It’s a pity the soldiers and peaceful Muslims are dragged into this foolishness of a few people with hidden agenda. It’s too much).”

Link to drug lords

During a recent media briefing, PNP Chief Ronald ”Bato” dela Rosa confirmed the Maute group’s link to drug lords. He said that the Maute group is known to have “protected” the drug lords as early as last year.

During a recent media briefing, PNP Chief Ronald ”Bato” dela Rosa confirmed the Maute group’s link to drug lords. He said that the Maute group is known to have “protected” the drug lords as early as last year.

My source also said that some of these militants have business relationships with some government officials, which makes one wonder: Are the Maute militants working as mercenaries for those behind the Marawi attack and are paid through the “matriarch”?

During a recent media briefing, PNP Chief Ronald ”Bato” dela Rosa confirmed the Maute group’s link to drug lords. He said that the Maute group is known to have “protected” the drug lords as early as last year. He said that he received information that majority of the drug lords in Metro Manila, Luzon and Visayas went to Marawi City a year ago to hold a “drug summit.” He added that the drug lords were protected by the Maute group and narco-politicians. Surmise it to say, Marawi appears to be the “Vatican” of the illegal drug cartel in the country.

Underground fortifications

One of the Maute group’s underground bunker/tunnels discovered by the Philippine forces when they breached the Maute’s defensive positions in Marawi.

One of the Maute group’s underground bunker/tunnels discovered by the Philippine forces when they breached the Maute’s defensive positions in Marawi.

When the government forces breached the Maute’s defensive positions, they discovered bombproof tunnels used by the militants as bunker and bomb shelters. The military spokesman said that the roughly 10 percent of Marawi held by the Maute militants has many tunnels and basements that can withstand 500-pound bombs.

Clearly, the underground fortifications couldn’t have been built in the short time since the “Marawi attack” commenced last May 23. They must already have been constructed long before that date, which is to suggest that the Maute’s presence in Marawi may have been a common knowledge to the city residents. The question is: Is the military aware of their presence long before the siege? I believe so. But for as long as the Maute group stays out of “trouble,” the military would stay out of their way. It was a de facto coexistence between the Maute group and government forces.

But on May 23, the military decided to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who was believed to be in Marawi City. Hapilon is on the FBI’s “most wanted terrorists list” with a $5 million bounty offered for his capture, which was a good enough reason to arrest him. It was then that the Maute group purportedly “entered” Marawi and clashed with government troops.

 Armed President Duterte was all set to visit the troops in Marawi City on July 7 but bad weather stood in the way. (MALACAÑANG PHOTO/ VIDEOGRAB)

Armed President Duterte was all set to visit the troops in Marawi City on July 7 but bad weather stood in the way. (MALACAÑANG PHOTO/ VIDEOGRAB)

The botched attempt to arrest Hapilon led to open warfare between government forces and the Maute group. With Hapilon out of sight — either dead or out of the country — and the Maute group leaderless and in disarray, it’s just a matter of time for the fighting to come to an end. But it would a devastated city and grieving people that would suffer for a long time from the atrocity of the “Marawi attack.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Supreme-Court-2With the Supreme Court basically showing reluctance to review President Duterte’s martial law declaration and ceding its power to the President to determine the territorial scope of martial law, it now seems that the country’s slide to tyranny is coming to near certainty. Congress has earlier given up its power to review the bases for the martial law declaration by refusing to call for a joint session for a debate on the issue and instead voting to endorse the President’s action without any discussion.

The high tribunal opted to ignore Duterte’s threats to jail those who criticize or oppose his martial law declaration and his earlier defiant statement that he would listen only to the military on whether or not martial law should be lifted, and not to Congress or the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court was oblivious to the authoritarian tendencies of the President as shown by his repeated warnings to the judiciary to stop issuing temporary restraining orders against government projects, his orders to policemen and the military to ignore the courts’ orders against arresting suspects or searching homes without the proper warrants, his encouragements to policemen that have led to thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings, his repeated threats to the judiciary, the legislative and critics not to block his so-called reforms, and many more.

The capitulation of the Supreme Court, the people’s last resort to uphold democracy and the rule of law, was evident in the martial law ruling. Instead of undertaking a thorough review of the factual bases of the martial law declaration over the entire Mindanao region, the Court, with the concurrence of 11 justices, ruled: “A review of the aforesaid facts similarly leads the Court to conclude that the President, in issuing Proclamation No. 216, had sufficient factual bases tending to show that actual rebellion exists.”

The tribunal is mandated by the 1987 Constitution to undertake an impartial and through review of the factual bases for the martial law declaration, but it instead said it was not equipped with facts to conduct such review and basically left it to the President to make the determination by simply showing probable cause – not incontrovertible facts – that rebellion or invasion exists. Thus, its ruling: “After all, what the President needs to satisfy is only the standard of probable cause for a valid declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”

The Supreme Court ruling also left the door open for the President to extend and expand his martial law declaration by saying: “Clearly, the power to determine the scope of territorial application belongs to the President… To reiterate, the Court is not equipped with the competence and logistical machinery to determine the strategical value of other places in the military’s efforts to quell the rebellion and restore peace. It would be engaging in an act of adventurism if it dares to embark on a mission of deciphering the territorial metes and bounds of martial law.”

This was also very evident when it said: “The Constitution grants him (the President) the prerogative whether to put the entire Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. There is no constitutional edict that martial law should be confined only in the particular place where the armed public uprising actually transpired. This is not only practical but also logical.”

With only four justices expressing dissent, the Court basically abdicated its review powers over the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. What will stop President Duterte now to declare martial law all over the country when the police or the military claim that the Maute Group or the Abu Sayyaf or any other insurgent group has launched a rebellion in Bohol or in Quiapo? Duterte can claim that probable cause exists to declare martial law beyond Mindanao.

Congress – that renegade body of politicians – has shown it is subservient to its otherwise co-equal branch by refusing to perform its constitutional duty of calling for a joint session to discuss and to vote whether or not there was factual bases for the martial law declaration. In fact, the leader of the Lower House – clearly the inferior part of Congress – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has not only avidly defended the martial law declaration in Mindanao, but also openly pushes a five-year martial law period to last until the end of Duterte’s term!

The same guy who has shown no respect for the Rule of Law when he threatened to jail and disbar three Court of Appeals justices for ordering the release of six Ilocos Norte officials being held hostage by the House of Representatives in its chambers, and who said he would tear up any Supreme Court ruling against martial law, now says the military needs five years to eliminate the threat of rebellion in Mindanao after his boss promised to remove the Maute Group from the bowels of the earth in 60 days.

Fortunately, the military leaders are not as kiss-ass as the country’s congressional leaders and said a five-year martial law would be too long and that any extension beyond the 60 days allowed by the Constitution should be based on an “intelligent basis,” meaning after a thorough examination of the actual field situation and its effects on the country and the population.

While I agree with the opinion of Associate Justice Antonio Carpio that martial law should have been declared only in Marawi City, where rebellion obviously exists, I must agree with the words of lone dissenter Justice Marvic Leonen when he warned against the Supreme Court repeating the same mistake when the tribunal legitimized President Marcos’ martial law declaration in 1972 with only Justice Claudio Teehankee dissenting.

“Never again should this Court allow itself to step aside when the powerful invoke vogue powers that feed on fear but could potentially undermine our most cherished rights. Never again should we fall victim to a false narrative that a vague declaration of martial law is good for us no matter the circumstances. We have the courage to never again clothe authoritarianism in any disguise with the mantle of constitutionality,” Leonen concluded in his 92-page dissenting opinion.

This was what the Supreme Court did in its favorable ruling – it clothed authoritarianism with the mantle of constitutionality.

(valabelgas@aol.com)