January 2018

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Trump and Caligula.

Trump and Caligula.

If there is one Roman emperor that that makes me laugh, it was Caligula. His real name was Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus. He succeeded Tiberius in AD 37. He ruled for only four years and was assassinated in AD 41 at the young age of 28.

He got his moniker “Caligula” (meaning “little soldier’s boot,” the diminutive form of “caliga”), which he hated, from the Roman soldiers who served under his father Germanicus, a popular general and Tiberius’ nephew and adoptive son. His mother was Agrippina the Elder, granddaughter of Tiberius.

Upon the death of Germanicus, Agrippina returned to Rome with her six children where she became entangled in a bitter feud with Tiberius. It resulted in the destruction of her family. Caligula was the sole male survivor. Tiberius adopted him. Following the death of Tiberius, Caligula succeeded him in AD 37.

Caligula enjoyed a brief period of popularity and admiration. He was described as a noble and moderate emperor during the first six months of his rule. But it didn’t take too long before he earned the wrath of the people. For the brief time that he ruled Rome, Caligula exhibited cruelty, lunacy, sadism, extravagance, and sexual perversion. Many believed he was crazy.

Caligula and his horse Incitatus.

Caligula and his horse Incitatus.

Among those that Caligula was known to have insanely done were: He terrorized Rome with his unbridled madness; talked to the moon; ordered arbitrary executions; and planned to make his horse Incitatus a consul. For one thing, his fellow lawmakers would likely have whisked him out of power for such conduct. But assuming the much-maligned emperor was the loon his chroniclers describe, some scholars have suggested that an illness made him come unhinged—possibly temporal lobe epilepsy, hyperthyroidism or Wilson’s disease, an inherited disorder that can cause mental instability. [Source: http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-caligula]

Caligula and Trump

Caligula and Trump.

Caligula and Trump.

Two millennia later, history seems to have repeated itself – in America. The 2016 presidential election in the United States has brought to fore an eerie similarity between the presidential winner, Donald J. Trump, and Caligula. For his first year in office, President Trump demonstrated a character and idiosyncrasy that mimics Caligula. One wonders if Trump has some form of mental disorder?

In an opinion piece in May 2017 in The Washington Post titled, “Trump has a dangerous disability,” George F. Will wrote: “It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.”

“He has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson’s death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward’s 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was ‘an irrepressible conflict,’ Trump says: ‘People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?’ “

It’s obvious that Trump has a cockeyed view of American history. Or worse, could it be that he’s insane?

“This guy is insane!”

"This guy iis insane!"

“This guy iis insane!”

Not too long ago, Trump attended a dinner with several Latin American leaders. They discussed the political and economic problems in Venezuela. Critical of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the leaders expressed apprehension over how Maduro was handling the crisis. And out of the blue, Trump expressed surprise that they did not want a war with Venezuela. For his part, Trump proposed a “military option” to ensure Maduro leaves office. According to a Politico news report, many of the gathered officials thought, “This guy is insane!” They were in shock.

Trump has been the subject in discussion among well-known psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health experts. A new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” has concluded, “Trump’s mental state presents a clear and present danger to our nation and individual well-being.” The media chatterati seems to be of one mind: “Donald Trump is mentally incompetent and may have to be removed from office before he blows us all to hell.” [Source: TheAmericanConservative.com]

In the book, twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts argue that, in Mr. Trump’s case, their moral and civic “duty to warn” America supersedes professional neutrality. They then explore Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man. The solution, to their minds, lies in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which creates a mechanism outside of impeachment to remove an “incapacitated” president. Trump’s mental state, some believe, qualifies him. Is there a case? [Ibid]

Nuclear Button

Trump and Kim Jong-un with their nuclear buttons.

Trump and Kim Jong-un with their nuclear buttons.

Many believe there is a case. And this scares a lot of Americans. They don’t know when Trump would have another episode of threatening to push the “nuclear button” like what happened between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-un had stated in one of his commentaries that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Trump responded on Twitter, “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

His tweet sent jitters around the world’s capitals. American lawmakers, diplomats, and national security experts were particularly alarmed. They called it “juvenile” and frightening for “a president handling a foreign policy challenge with world-wrecking consequences.” The language was reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s boast during the 2016 presidential campaign that his hands, and by extension his genitals, were in fact big enough.” [Source: New York Times]

Rulers by accident

Trump, accidental ruler.

Trump, accidental ruler.

Caligula and Trump were born a world apart: different cultures, different upbringing, and different eras. But in so many ways, their minds worked alike. They both became rulers by accident, not by pedigree or design.

In a new book Quid Pro Quo, author Valerie Block says of Caligula: “An arrogant, narcissistic, blond serial rapist attains the highest office in the land, abuses his power, and offends everyone personally: this is the subject of my newest novel, Quid Pro Quo, a behind-the-scenes look at the assassination of Caligula, the third Emperor of ancient Rome. It is impossible to ignore the many echoes of Caligula’s story that played out in the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump, a man whom the 2nd century historian Suetonius might have been describing when he wrote of Caligula, “there was nothing in his own character which he admired and approved more highly than…his shameless impudence.”

Block also said that Caligula and Trump share a lot of characteristics, to wit: (1) Narcissism [“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected,” he boasted]; (2) Grandiosity [“I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.”]; (3) Cruelty [Trump once said, “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”]; (4) Comfort with negative attention [“Bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.”]; (5) Sexual misconduct, promiscuity, and violence [“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women, I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. You know when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” — Trump talking to the host of Access Hollywood in 2005.]; (6) Motivated by revenge [“My motto is: Always get even. When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”]; and (7) Delusion [“I alone can fix it.”].

With all these similarities, Trump might as well be called Caligula Trumpus Americanus. Could it be that Trump is Caligula reincarnated?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Chinese survey ship at Benham Rise.

Chinese survey ship at Benham Rise.

Recently, Mgdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano exposed a “secret deal” worked out between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Chinese that would allow the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences to conduct a marine scientific research in the Benhan Rise (also known as Philippine Rise).

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), this 13-million-hectare area off the coast of Aurora province is potentially rich in mineral, natural gas deposits, and manganese nodules that are vital in the production of steel. Studies conducted by DENR have also shown large deposits of methane in solid form (methane hydrate or methane ice). Further studies also showed that natural gas deposits in the area would enable the Philippines to achieve energy sufficiency. Benham Rise is larger than the island of Luzon.

Map of Benham Rise region.

Map of Benham Rise region.

It did not then come as a surprise that energy-hungry China was anxious to explore Benham Rise the moment the United Nations approved the Philippines’ claim that Benham Rise was an extension of her continental shelf. In December 2013, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) informed the DENR – with finality — that Benham Rise is part of the country’s continental shelf and territory. As such, it is not subject to any maritime boundary disputes and claims.

After Alejano’s exposé was reported in the news, critics questioned the palace’s approval of the project and demanded that Malacañang withdraw the approval, which they said would be a threat to the country’s maritime security. However, in an attempt to blunt the criticisms, presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that it was President Rodrigo Duterte who personally made the decision to let China conduct scientific research in the Benham Rise.

Foremost of those who criticized Duterte’s decision was Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who commented: “”If a bully has squatted on your front yard, and requests to look at your backyard, would you grant the request of the bully?” He noted that China has squatted on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and refuses to leave despite the ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) tribunal. “The Philippines would be dumb (bugok) to grant China’s request,” Carpio said in an e-mail statement to CNN Philippines. He explained that by refusing to accept the award of the UNCLOS arbitral, China is not accepting its obligation under UCLOS (China is a signatory of UNCLOS). [Source: REUTERS January 15, 2018]

Déjà vu

Map of Recto Bank (Reed Bank).

Map of Recto Bank (Reed Bank).

China’s attempt to explore Benham Rise is nothing new. In 2005-2008, China, in partnership with the Philippines and Vietnam explored the oil-rich Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea near the Spratly Islands. Known as the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JSMU), China started claiming Recto Bank as part of her territory the moment the JSMU was signed.

Many believe that then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had sold out the country to China, giving the Chinese total access to information on oil and natural gas deposits in the Rector Bank. As one lawmaker had said, “Our bad experience with the JMSU, where our country was placed in a very disadvantageous position… is bound to happen again in the case of Benham Rise.” Indeed, it’s déjà vu all over again.

In my column, “China sets eyes on Benham Rise” (September 30, 2016), I wrote: [In July 2016] “China Daily published a report about China’s ‘secret undersea exploration’ in the Benham Rise area. The report said that China discovered massive mineral deposits. It also said that the volume of natural gas deposits in the area was at par with what was discovered in the Spratly Islands.

“With China’s goal of controlling the vast Western Pacific, which includes the East China Sea (ECS), South China Sea (SCS), and the Philippine Sea, the entire Western Pacific would be transformed into ‘Lake Beijing.’ The Philippines would be right in the middle of the lake, isolated from the rest of the world. ‘Lake Beijing’ would also encompass the mineral-rich Benham Rise as well.”

Grand Plan

First and Second Island Chains.

First and Second Island Chains.

In June 2013, an intriguing article appeared in the Want China Times titled, “China to take the Second Island Chain by 2020.” It says: “Within seven years [only two years from now], China will be able to control the Second Island Chain — a series of island groups that runs north to south from the Japanese archipelago to the Bonin and Marshall islands.

Chinese Admiral Liu Hoaqing.

Chinese Admiral Liu Hoaqing.

“The article also 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.”

With China’s attempt to explore – and eventually claim – Benham Rise, Admiral Liu’s “grand plan” to dominate the Second Island Chain and establish Chinese hegemony over the entire Western Pacific, would come to fruition.

Currently, China has two aircraft carriers and a third to be completed pretty soon. With several more in the works, China would be able to extend air power throughout the entire Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Chinese floating nuclear power plant.

Chinese floating nuclear power plant.

China also has plans to build floating nuclear power plants and position them throughout the entire region. She can also build artificial islands in the Benham Rise just like she did in the South China Sea. She can then build processing plants to extract methane gas from methane hydrate. This was once an expensive process; however, China has since developed less costly method. All that she needs now are vast deposits of methane hydrate and Benham Rise has plenty of them.

Philippines’ crucial role

Bashi Channel between in Luzon and Taiwan.

Bashi Channel between in Luzon and Taiwan.

The Philippines plays a crucial role in China’s grand plan. Whoever controls the Philippines would also control passage to the Western Pacific through the Bashi Channel, which separates Luzon from Taiwan. The other passageway is the Miyako Strait between Okinawa and Taiwan. But Japan has the capability to stop China from passing through Miyako Strait, while the Philippines doesn’t have any military force at the Bashi Channel. In the event that China took possession of Luzon, the geostrategic significance of Luzon is removed; thus, allowing China unrestricted access to the Philippine Sea.

China had coveted Luzon ever since she gave up possession of Luzon in the 15th century. In 1405, during the reign of the Ming Dynasty in China, Emperor Yung Lo 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.

Chinese President Xi Jinping must be ruing the day Emperor Hongxi left Luzon. Xi’s “China Dream” of extending power and influence beyond her shores, which the Ming Dynasty had six centuries ago, is now within reach. It’s no longer a dream; it’s more real than ever before. With the South China Sea under China’s virtual de facto control now, it won’t be long before she gains control over Benham Rise.

The Philippines lost the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal because President Duterte abandoned the country’s claim after winning the arbitration case against China in 2016. It’s evident now that China had played Duterte for a sucker then; is he being played for a sucker again?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Anti-Charter Change protest rally.

Anti-Charter Change protest rally.

Ever since the Constitution was drawn in 1987 in the aftermath of the EDSA People Power Revolution, several attempts have been made to revise or change the Constitution. The most common reason for a charter change was the extension of the president’s term, which was originally set for a single six-year term. For some reason those elected were bitten by a “presidential bug” that afflicted them with a desire to stay in the office longer than six years.

The idea of extending the president’s term began with the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who declared martial law in 1972 prior to the expiration of his second term. He remained in office until 1986 when the people who became fed up with his corrupt and brutal regime ousted him.

The late President Cory Aquino was the first to serve under the single six-year term. Close to the end of her term, many of her supporters encouraged her to run for a second term arguing that she was not covered by the single six-year term imposed by the 1987 Constitution. She refused to run. She also opposed attempts to amend the Constitution to do away with term limits; thus, allowing the reelection of incumbent presidents. Her successor, Fidel V. Ramos tried to amend the Constitution by pushing for an initiative. The initiative failed and never went beyond first base.

Gloria’s game plan

President Gloria Arroyo takes oath of office before Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

President Gloria Arroyo takes oath of office before Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.

In my column, “Betrayal of EDSA” (June 9, 2009), I wrote: “In 2001, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power by way of a sham People Power revolution that deposed president Joseph Estrada. The people unwillingly relented hoping that Gloria would turn the country around. But within a few days after she took over the presidency, a major corruption scandal occurred involving Gloria’s Secretary of Justice. Evidently, corruption was seeded into her administration the day she took over the presidency. EDSA was betrayed. They used her to gain power for themselves.

“With one year left in her term of office, many people are convinced that Gloria would do whatever it takes to remain in power beyond 2010. [In 2006] she almost succeeded in getting a Charter change approved through a people’s initiative. However, the Supreme Court rejected the legality of the people’s initiative. [Had the Supreme Court voted in favor of the ‘people’s initiative,’ Gloria would have been the country’s Prime Minister by now with an open-ended term of office. That is, as long as her political allies in Parliament would support her, she’d remain in power… indefinitely].

“On May 28, 2009, Gloria merged the Lakas-CMD and Kampi parties into one under her leadership. Right after the ceremonies merging the two largest political parties, the word was that Gloria talked to the congressmen behind closed doors. According to leaks from insiders, her marching orders to them were to pass House Resolution 1109 as soon as possible. HR 1109 would convene the House as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for the purpose of amending the 1987 constitution… without the Senate. According to news reports, Gloria supposedly promised each congressman P20 million for his or her ‘yes’ vote on HR 1109.

“On June 2, the House of Representatives passed — nay, railroaded — HR 1109 by voice vote. The debate was cut short denying the few oppositionists an opportunity to speak out against HR 1109. But what could the handful of oppositionists have done? Tyranny of the majority prevailed. Once again, EDSA was betrayed.”

New Constitution

Anti-Charter Change protest rally against then President Gloria Arroyo’s attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution to allow her to run for another term.

Anti-Charter Change protest rally against then President Gloria Arroyo’s attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution to allow her to run for another term.

HR 1109 triggered massive protest rallies against the attempt to rewrite the Constitution, which was perceived to be a move by Gloria’s allies in the House of Representatives to extend her term beyond June 2010.

With cha-cha stopped on its track, Gloria’s allies pursued another avenue — they pushed her to run for Congress. She did and has been member of Congress since then. Now she is posed to take another shot for a national office in conjunction with Duterte’s push for a charter change to replace the form of government to that of a federal system before the 2019 elections.

According to news reports, a draft of the new constitution is in the works. There are also plans to call for a joint session of Congress, which would be converted into a constituent assembly (con-ass) to revise the1987 Constitution. The body would then produce a draft of the proposed federal constitution, which would then be submitted in a plebiscite during the May barangay elections.

However, many believe that with a tight timetable, there might be attempts to cancel the 2019 elections for senators, congressmen, and thousands of local officials. Known as No-El (No Election), it is expected to entice holdover national and local officials to go along with it. But if Duterte fails to pursue No-El, well…. Duterte could always declare a revolutionary government (rev-gov). With members of Congress on his side and the military could be “bought,” only the Supreme Court could stop him, unless he makes a move to abolish the Supreme Court.

Incidentally, recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) polls show that a large number of Filipinos disagree with Duterte’s plan to declare rev-gov. They found that 39% disagreed, 31% agreed, and 30% were undecided on declaring Duterte’s anti-‘destabilization’ provision over the country. But regardless whether the people agreed or disagreed, Duterte is believed to be bent on declaring a rev-gov if that would achieve his agenda, which many believe was taken from a page out of Marcos’ playbook.

Federal system

President Rodrigo Duterte and Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo.

It is interesting to note that Gloria would seem to play an important role in Duterte’s plan. It’s been often mentioned that the federal system that what Duterte had in mind would be a parliamentary form of government. If such is the case, then more than likely a prime minister would serve as the head of government while the president would remain head of state. Or it could be similar to the French template, which has a strong president that sets policy and a prime minister that runs the state bureaucracy.

Gloria is a trusted confidant of Duterte, which would ensure strong working relationship between the two should they share power as president and prime minister.

But what is unusual in their seemingly strange relationship is that Duterte is a hard-nosed anti-corruption crusader while Gloria had presided over one of the most – if not the most – corrupt administrations in the Philippines. It would be hard to imagine how they could work together in that kind of environment.

With Duterte and Gloria working in tandem, it would be hard for the opposition – if any — to “fiscalize” them. There would be no checks and balances since it is expected that the legislature would be stacked up with Duterte’s political allies who would do Duterte’s bidding. Do you remember Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Bayan (New Society Movement) where he got 98% of the parliament’s vote all the time?

But the real danger in Duterte’s attempt to shift to federalism is not the system itself but the people who would run the system. Then the danger of autocratic rule seeps in, which could lead to repression of the people’s rights. Then what?

At this point in the country’s history where relative peace and economic progress is taking quantum leap, it is best to maintain the status quo and not to disturb the social equilibrium of the nation and derail its prosperity.

At the end of the day, dancing cha-cha to Duterte’s tune could lead to missteps to the detriment of the people.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Defend-Press-FreedomThe closure of the highly regarded Rappler news website establishes a clear pattern of harassment and repression under President Duterte’s increasingly repressive regime. Although the closure order was made by the Securities and Exchange Commission through the revocation of the website’s certificates of incorporation and registration, it was obvious that the SEC acted under pressure from the administration.

The SEC order came after repeated allegations by the President that Rappler is a purveyor of fake news and that the news organization was foreign-owned and is, therefore, in violation of the Constitution that mandates media companies to be wholly owned by Filipinos.

Obviously stung by Rappler’s critical articles and its continued defiance of Duterte’s bloggers and trolls, Duterte in his State of the Nation Address in July 2017 accused Rappler of being owned by Americans and claimed that it was being funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, a wild accusation that critics and the opposition are used to hearing from the President. Remember that he has also accused the Liberal Party of plotting to oust him with the help of the CIA and some prominent Filipino-Americans.

It was during the same SONA that Duterte also made allegations against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN, which he claimed were putting out fake news and were biased against him. He accused the owners of the Inquirer of non-payment of taxes and holding on to government land beyond the terms of the contract. The Inquirer owners eventually gave in to pressure and sold the company to a tycoon known to be close to the President. They also gave up the lease on the questioned land. In fairness, the Inquirer editorial staff has continued to defy Duterte in its commitment to truth.

Duterte, on the other hand, accused ABS-CBN of pocketing his money during the 2016 elections without airing his campaign advertisement, a preposterous claim for which he never presented any evidence. He said Congress is certain to remember these when it decides whether or not to renew the network’s franchise, which expires in 2020.

With Rappler continuing to publish critical stories on Duterte and his administration, the government started moves to silence the news website.

Solicitor General Jose Calida requested SEC to determine whether Rappler complied with constitutional and statutory requirements, citing various claims made by Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, a former spokesman of Duterte ally former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, regarding the Philippine depositary receipts (PDRs) granted to a foreign investor, Omifyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The haste with which the SEC acted on the request seem to belie SEC Chair Tessie Herbosa’s claim that it acted without influence from Malacanang. Instead of penalizing Rappler with a fine and giving the news site time to correct technical defects, as it had done with the case of PLDT and other major companies, the SEC immediately cancelled Rappler’s certificates of incorporation and registration, which basically shut down the news organization, despite manifestations by Rappler CEO Maria Ressa that they have waived the questioned clause in the PDR.

Not to be outdone, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III, the same official who was responsible for the imprisonment of Duterte critic Sen. Leila de Lima on obviously trumped-up drug charges, immediately ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate possible criminal liability of Ressa and two other Rappler officers. The NBI wasted no time and summoned the Rappler execs the next day. At the rate this administration is going after its fiercest critics, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of these days Ressa and company would join De Lima in detention.

Ressa vows to “hold the line” while it makes its appeal to the Supreme Court, which in the past has upheld many times the primacy of freedom of the press.

The Center for International Law (CenterLaw), which was founded ironically by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque who now defends this administration’s numerous affronts on democracy, human rights and press freedom, slammed the SEC order as tantamount to “prior restraint” or a government-imposed censorship.

“The same constitution that prescribes restrictions on ownership of Philippine mass media is also the very constitution that has placed free expression at the topmost rungs of constitutional freedoms,” CenterLaw said in a statement.

“That this move to cancel its corporate registration is linked to the President’s public statements disparaging Rappler is proven by the fact that it was no less than the Office of the Solicitor General that so moved,” it said.

The government action on Rappler is just the last of a series of threats and intimidation made by Duterte and his minions on persons and institutions critical of his administration. The first and foremost victim of government harassment is, of course, De Lima who remains in jail without being given the opportunity to defend herself in court.

Last year, the House of Turncoats under minion Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez threatened to reduce the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to zero after CHR Chair Jose Gascon criticized human rights abuses under the Duterte administration. Last week, Alvarez threatened to give local governments zero budget if they did not support the shift to federalism. The same House of Bullies is also threatening to impeach Vice President Leni Robredo, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, the three other prominent women highly critical of the administration. And then, there are the threats made to opposition Liberal Party officials, who he said were plotting to oust him, not to mention the threats to feisty critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

The President is obviously allergic to criticisms. He has exploded into expletives and threats after hearing criticisms from the European Union, the United Nations Human Righst Commission, the Human Rights Watch, US President Barack Obama, and several members of both the Philippine and international media, including the prestigious New York Times and the Washington Post, which, by the way, wrote stinging editorials rebuking the SEC closure order on Rappler.

After the controversial order on Rappler, Duterte stepped up his attacks against media agencies, claiming that those critical of his administration were being used by their “elite” owners to protect their own interests. He insisted that the recent government order to revoke its license to operate was not about curtailing the freedom of the press.

“It’s not a question of press freedom,” Duterte told reporters. “It’s a question of abuse and protection by the elite of this country who hold the power. It’s about time you, the rich. Son of a bitch, stop your abuses. You are using the media.”

Taking a cue from their leader, leading members of the House of Turncoats are now proposing that only the “responsible exercise” of freedom of speech be protected under an envisioned federal Constitution, possibly laying the groundwork for sanctions against journalists critical of the government.

The congressmen, who are busy assaulting the Constitution through its self-proclaimed “constituent assembly” (con-ass) are proposing the inclusion of a qualifier to the freedom of speech provision under Article III, which would read: “No law shall be passed abridging the responsible exercise of the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” The proposal is just as stinky as the name of the body (con-ass) that now proposes it.

Press freedom and democracy are under siege. The silencing of Rappler is one major step in this repressive regime’s march to authoritarianism. We need to stand together to stop further assault on press freedom, dissent and democracy.

(valabelgas@aol.com)

Reflections
Fr. Shay Cullen
PREDA Foundation

Journalist-killedJournalists, writers, reporters, commentators will just have to curb their passion for speaking and exposing the truth if they want to continue to live. Too many end up a corpse in a cold dark morgue, silence their only companion. That is just the way it is in the Philippines and elsewhere. More than a 146 journalists, have been assassinated since 1986.

Last November 23 was the 8th anniversary of the mass murder of 58 Filipinos 32 of them journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in 2009. This was the worse of all violent assaults on the freedom of the press anywhere in one single blow. A powerful political family allegedly carried out the killings against their opponents and killed the 32 journalists covering the elections. No one has been convicted for the brutal heinous killings.

The sheer audacity of politicians or corrupt business personalities to quell the truth and the blind power behind the greed and personal vanity that orders killings of journalists is outrageous and there is little that can be done to stop it.

Journalists are just ordinary people with a story to tell; yet to tell the truth is to risk one’s life in many cases. Exposing what is corrupt and damaging to the public, is to challenge the seat of political power and it has dire consequences. No vengeance is as fierce as that of a corrupt politician exposed, a shady business corporation laid bare, no ignorance as painful as an uninformed and uncaring public.

The killings go on to this day and the freedom of the press is at stake as some politicians try to control the message and cover up the truth about their inadequacies and wrong doings. The task of the media is to report the facts, bring to the people the truth about the achievements, success and the failure and wrongdoings of government and the corporate world. That is at the heart of a democracy. Tyranny is the alternative, and it descends like a dark cold cloud of threats and intimidation.

Media practitioners can be compliant, cowardly or courageous and brave. The powerful make accusations against some journalists claiming what they publish is”Fake News, when in fact it is the truth. The supporters of the politicians through blogs or biased columnists spread the Fake News, or propaganda.

Government officials have accountability for the billions of taxpayers,money that too often end up in their personal bank accounts as we have seen so many times in the past. It was the media who exposed the politicians who used fake NGOs to steal billions of pesos of government funds for their personal use. The Ombudsman is presently trying their cases.

That is the duty and role of the media and they need the constitutional freedom to tell the truth, which is essential to praise or question the policies and power of government. Without this freedom there is no institution or individual or group, to reveal corruption and plunder.

If evil persists unchecked human rights will continued to be abused, and the national economy will be damaged as it was during the Marcos regime. President Ferdinand Marcos closed newspapers and radio stations and controlled all the media and he plundered at will. Those who opposed him paid with their lives.

In the Philippines violence against journalists is frequently the response to media exposés of wrongdoing and corrupt practices. As many as 42 journalists have been assassinated since 2007 and no one has been convicted. The killers act with impunity and get away with murder. However in the 2017 Global Impunity Index of the New York-based watchdog Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) the Philippines dropped from 4th to 5Th.placeon the index.

Turkey is the jailer of the most journalists. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrested many journalists, and charged them with crimes to silence their critical voices. The Stockholm Center for Freedom, says that Erdogan has jailed 240 journalists who languish behind bars since May 12, 2017, more have been jailed since then.

So why do powerful government officials and politicians fear and ry to silence journalists as happened to the dedicated Maltese writer Caruana Galizia. She was killed by a bomb blast under her car. The Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was suing the journalist over her allegations of corruption in that EU country. Three suspects have been arrested but the mastermind behind it has not been named.

The state, corrupt tycoons or mafia have the power to silence the journalists. They can use bombs, bullets, incarceration, threats, false charges, and accusations. Yet the power of the word, with one well-placed out-spoken journalist, armed with the truth, and evidence of corruption, can be a bomb-shell.

The truth can bring down the corrupt politician, expose the movie mogul, or business tycoon, as seen in the “#Metoo” movement. That is why the investigative journalists of integrity are a dangerous threat to the wrong doers in society. They need protection and the freedom to speak and write the truth and tell it as it is.

www.preda.org

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Gold-bullions.4On August 29, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte said that members of the Marcos family were “willing to open” and “return” to the government the questionable wealth, including a “few gold bars.” “The Marcoses, I will not name the spokesman, sabi nila (they said), ‘we’ll open everything and hopefully return yung mga nakita na talaga (those that had been discovered),” he added.

Recently, rumor was circulating in the news that the Marcos family and the Philippine government had agreed on a compromise agreement – which would include immunity from prosecution — for the return of a “portion” of their allegedly ill-gotten wealth. But former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and President Duterte debunked the rumor and said that no agreement had been reached. However, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo had confirmed that lawyer Oliver Lozano, a supporter of the Marcos family had submitted to Malacañang a draft proposal for the return of a part of the Marcoses’ wealth to the government.

According to Lozano, his proposal was based on the April 9, 1973 notes of then president Ferdinand E. Marcos “bequeathing his earthly goods to the Marcos foundation for the benefit of the people.” Duterte should then issue an executive order lifting the freeze so that the government would have a share although Lozano did not say by how much.

It’s interesting to note that Lozano’s proposal did not say how much the Marcoses were willing to return. If he was referring to what the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) – created by then president Cory Aquino after Marcos was ousted from power in 1986 – had estimated to be $10 billion, of which $4 billion the PCGG had recovered, that it can be presumed that the remaining “wealth” in question is only $6 billion. And what would be the “portion” of that wealth the Marcoses were willing to return?

What Lozano did not take into consideration was the amount of loot that Marcos recovered from Japanese treasure sites all over the Philippines during his dictatorship. The recovered gold is now referred to as the “Marcos Loot.”

In my column “Brouhaha over the Marcos Loot” (January 11, 2013), I wrote: “The hunt for the fabled ‘Marcos Loot’ is beginning to look like an Indiana Jones sequel. The only difference is that this one is for real with real life characters, tons of real gold bullions, and a 2,000-pound solid gold Buddha filled with real diamonds, emeralds, and other precious stones that would make the Queen of England look like a pauper.

“And after three decades of hunting for the Marcos Loot that began the day the late President Cory Aquino kicked the Marcoses out of power, the hunt is finally coming to an end during the presidency of her only son, Benigno Aquino III. Not that the Marcos Loot has been recovered but that the government had seemingly lost the will to continue the hunt.

“Soon after Cory took over power and established a revolutionary government in 1986, she formed the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and mandated it to hunt for the Marcos Loot. Twenty-six years later, the PCGG claimed that it had recovered $5 billion of the estimated $10 billion loot in the form of hard cash, artwork, jewelry, secret bank deposits, and corporate assets. But where is the gold?

“But nobody really knows how much the Marcos Loot is valued at. Some experts estimate it to be more than $60 billion. Some say at least $100 billion. But here is the stinger: Imelda Marcos showed evidence that her husband deposited a very large sum in a bank in Brussels, Belgium that would make the loot PCGG was trying to recover look like loose change.

 Imelda shows a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars.

Imelda shows a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars.

“In February 2009, a BBC reporter interviewed Imelda Marcos. Imelda showed the British reporter several paintings by masters hanging on her living room walls. When the reporter asked where she got her wealth, she said that her husband was a very rich lawyer who worked for gold mining companies and also traded in gold. She then showed the reporter a piece of paper, which the reporter read. It was a Treasury Certificate for a deposit made by Ferdinand E. Marcos in a bank in Brussels, Belgium for the amount of… are you ready for this? Nine Hundred Eighty Seven Billion United States Dollars. That’s the equivalent of 41.5 trillion Philippine Pesos!

“In his 2003 book, Gold Warrior, Sterling Seagrave told the story of the hunt for Yamashita’s Gold, which began when Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the Philippines in October 1944. A team of men, whom he personally selected, wasted no time searching for the treasure sites. They found several treasure sites. MacArthur used the recovered gold to establish a trust fund for Emperor Hirohito after Japan surrendered in August 1945. Known as Showa Trust, the fund’s trustees were Hirohito and MacArthur himself. Nobody knows the exact amount of Showa Trust but by 1982 it was paying nearly $1-billion interest per year! MacArthur also set up the M-Fund to back up the newly formed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which became the dominant political force in Japan to this day.

“So, what happened to the rest of Yamashita’s Gold?

Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito.

Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito.

“First of all, Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita had nothing to do with the loot. He was wrongly linked to the loot because he happened to be the top Japanese commander in the Philippines during the waning days of the war.

“The real person who was responsible for looting Asia was Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, younger brother of Emperor Hirohito. As head of the ‘Golden Lily’ campaign, Chichibu oversaw the plunder of conquered territories.

Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, first cousin of Prince Chichibu.

Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, first cousin of Prince Chichibu.

His first cousin, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, was in charge of hiding the loot at 175 secret vaults scattered around the Philippines. Takeda had a young Filipino valet named Ben Valmores. When Takeda sneaked out of northern Philippine when the Americans were closing in, he gave a copy of the maps to Valmores for safekeeping and to be given back to him upon his return. He never came back.

One of the treasure maps.

One of the treasure maps.

“But some of the treasure maps found their way to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. In 1968, he sent a team of military officers to Japan to make a deal for joint recovery of ‘Yamashita’s gold. They met with a prince, a cousin of the Emperor, who told them that Japan hid over $100 billion worth of loot in the Philippines that would take ‘more than a century’ to recover it all. It’s not known if an agreement had been reached. However, Marcos proceeded with the hunt.

Rogelio Roxas and the gold buddha.

Rogelio Roxas and the gold buddha.

“In January 1971, Rogelio Roxas, a Filipino locksmith and amateur treasure hunter found a tunnel behind the Baguio general hospital and crawled inside. He found a 28-inch tall solid gold Buddha that weighed one ton, and thousands of gold bars! This was the first treasure site discovered since the end of the war. Roxas, with the aid of 10 men, took the golden Buddha home.

“President Ferdinand E. Marcos heard about the discovery and sent his men to confiscate the golden Buddha. When Roxas protested, he was arrested and allegedly tortured.

“It is said that by the time Marcos was deposed from power during the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, his men had recovered tons of gold and precious stones from 12 treasure sites. Where did Marcos hide his loot?

Evelin Hegyesi, illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent.

Evelin Hegyesi, illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent.

“In 2004, an illegitimate daughter of Marcos by a German-born mother of Hungarian descent, Evelin Hegyesi, surfaced in the news in Australia. Her name is Analisa Josefa Hegyesi. Josefa is the name of Marcos’ mother.

“Investigations by The Sun-Herald revealed that Evelin’s Australian companies have financial links to Marcos’ secret accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The Sun-Herald provided a dossier of the Australian link to the Marcos loot to the PCGG. But the trail went cold.

“In 2011, Analisa was in the news. Now 40 years old and an interior designer, Analisa was reported by The Daily Telegraph that she was fired from a TV reality show ‘Renovators’ after she revealed to her producers that she was Marcos’ daughter.

“PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista heard about it when his staff showed him The Daily Telegraph news account. ‘We will look at the money trail and see if the amount to be recovered would be worth the lawyers’ fees we would be spending for it,’ Bautista told the media.

‘Recently, it was reported in the news that PCGG would be abolished. However, Bautista said that the hunt for the Marcos Loot would not end; the job will be continued by the Department of Justice. He said that the reason for closing the 200-man agency is that it is no longer cost effective to hunt for the $5-billion leftover from the Marcos Loot.

“But who says there is only $5 billion left in the loot? The original estimate was made 26 years ago, at which time the extent of the loot was not fully accounted for. And it may never be accounted for. But like an iceberg, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg… until you submerge into the water. It’s the same with treasure hunt; you never see the loot until you dig it.

“In September 2009, then presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III, made his first campaign promise: ‘I will recover the Marcos Loot.’”

With the news that the Marcoses had offered to return the “loot” to the Philippine government, the question remains: Where is the Marcos Loot hidden?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Duterte-New-Year-2018If I were President Rodrigo Duterte, this would be my New Year’s Resolution for 2018:

My fellow countrymen: First of all, I’d like to congratulate myself for surviving a tumultuous 2017. I feel that I have been blessed for being able to keep our country safe from the drug menace. Not that I have eradicated this social disease, but because there are now at least 12,000 hard-core drug users neutralized since I took office in 2016. Well, if my calculation is correct, there are still 3,988,000 drug users out there who need to be neutralized.

I promised to eradicate illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption within three to six months. But as you know I’ve been so naïve to think that there were only 20,000 drug addicts, who could easily be neutralized within six months. Gen. Bato, my trusted and capable Chief of the Philippine National Police assured me that it could have been done. But as it turns out there are four million drug addicts, not to mention the hundreds of Chinese drug lords that have been smuggling the illegal drug shabu right under the noses of Bureau of Customs officials. And God knows how many drug pushers there are in the distribution of shabu. Heck, they even tried to implicate my son and son-in-law in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu. Well, I did the right: I fired the Commissioner right away!

I want to tell you my beloved Filipinos that I will protect you from the danger of illegal drugs. As you know I love the Philippines very much and I’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of drug addicts.

When an informant told the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) of the existence of a shabu laboratory operating inside a piggery and poultry farm, I sent PDEA agents to shut down the lab. The lab was concealed beneath a huge warehouse at the foot of Mt. Arayat and was just three kilometers from the regional police training center and the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center. The PDEA arrested seven Chinese nationals found in the compound, which makes me wonder: How many shabu laboratories Chinese drug lords in the country are operating?

Well, I don’t have the vaguest idea how many shabu labs exist but when I found out that there is a large shabu lab and distribution center in Marawi City, I ordered the Marines to arrest the drug kingpins in Marawi City who happen to be the leaders of the terrorist Maute group and Abu Sayyaf Group. But the terrorists have dug in the city in underground bunkers. I did the right thing when I declared martial law in Mindanao. It worked!

I ordered the Philippine Air Force to bomb the hell out of Marawi. After five months, the Marines killed the three leaders of the terrorists and hundreds of their followers. I was so proud of the Marines. To show my gratitude, I went to the frontline myself and pinned medals on them. I had to wear a combat helmet because I was so near the bombed out area. To tell you the truth, almost the entire city was obliterated from the aerial bombing. Somebody told me that it reminded him of when Intramuros was destroyed during World War II. I told him, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

There has been a lot of brouhaha from the international community lately because of the extrajudicial killings. The United Nations, the United States, and the European Union have no business poking their noses in the bloody business of neutralizing the drug pushers and users. As a sovereign nation, we have every right to chart our course and pursue an independent foreign policy. And as I promised you, there will be no let up in the war on drugs. That’s why I am authorizing Gen. Bato to get involved again in Oplan Tokhang, which is our main weapon in the war on drugs. I pray to God that the Supreme Court justices will not rule Olan Tokhang unconstitutional. If they do, I just might declare martial law and abolish the Supreme Court.

And believe me folks; we’re winning the war on drugs. Don’t believe the naysayers who are saying that there are now more drug users than when I started the campaign in July 2016. But if there’s any truth to what they’re saying, well, they should blame the Chinese drug lords for flooding the country with shabu from China.

Recently, I found out that smuggling shabu into the country is prevalent. Smuggling is so easy because the Philippines has one of the longest coastlines in the world. There is just no way that the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard could stop drug smuggling. Smugglers and shabu lab workers from China could come in and out easily by boat or airplane. The “chemists,” who are the key personnel in a shabu lab, usually travel first class.

I realized that the smuggling, manufacturing, and distribution of shabu can only be made possible with the collusion of corrupt politicians from the national level down to the barangays. Also playing a pivotal role in the drug trade are some elements of the military and police. I also heard that there are personnel in Malacanang – they might even be close to me — who provide protection to those involved in the drug trade. I still have to find out who these people are. But I will, I promise you that. I will not stop until I find them.

As you know, the drug network is like an octopus: there is the head and the tentacles. No matter how much you sever the tentacles, they’ll re-grow again for as long as the octopus’ head exists. It is indeed a challenge for me to find the head of the octopus. And I believe there are several of them. But believe me, I’ll find them.

Recently, I signed a proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terror organizations, following the collapse of the peace talks. I instructed the military to finish them off.

Putting all these into consideration, the following are my New Year’s resolutions for 2018:

1) I resolve to stop corruption because we cannot win the war on drugs unless we eradicate corruption.

2) I resolve to increase the size of the Philippine Navy and the Coast Guard to guard our coastline.

3) I resolve to hire more police officers to make sure that we’ll win the war on drugs.

4) I resolve to promote more generals and assign them to fight the communist rebels. My goal is to defeat them by the end of 2018.

5) I resolve to double the salary of military and police personnel to make them happy lest they might stage a coup against me.

6) I resolve to increase the pork barrel funds for congressmen and senators to insure their loyalty to me.

7) I resolve to support Sen. Manny Pacquiao for President in 2022 because in my opinion he is the only one who can beat Vice President Leni Robredo.

8) I resolve to keep Sen. Leila de Lima in detention at least through the end of my term.

9) I resolve to imprison Sen. Antonio Trillanes as punishment for opposing me.

10) I resolve that if I fail to achieve my new year’s resolutions, I’ll declare martial law nationwide and jail all my political enemies.

There is one thing that must tell you, though. I cannot stop the Chinese drug lords from their smuggling activity. They’re just too powerful and I believe high Chinese officials who are close to my idol, Xi Jinping, are protecting them. But Xi promised me that he’d look into it. Well, so much for that for now.

Happy New Year!