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06-12-2012, 11:54 PM
Mahathir questions Filipino-style democracy

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 06/11/2012 4:06 PM | Updated as of 06/11/2012 5:22 PM

'Unbridled democracy yields mediocre leaders,' says ex-Malaysian PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysia’s Prime Minister of 22 years, Mahathir Mohamad today questioned Filipino-style democracy and raised the spectre of mediocre political leadership as the Philippines marks its 114th Independence Day.

Mahathir was conferred an Honorary Professor Title by the University of Santo Tomas this morning.

In his conferment speech, Mahathir said, “No doubt democracy is being practised by this country. But is it really what democracy is all about? Is democracy the end or the means? If we think that democracy is the end, then well and good. But why did we change from autocracy to democracy? Wasn’t it because autocracy had failed to deliver the good life that we wanted? We believed that since it is the people who disapproved of autocracy, then if the people were to rule the country, then surely they would rule themselves well.”

Mahathir reminded his Filipinos audience that one pitfall of unbridled democracy is a poor leadership. “The leader in particular must be incorruptible. His being so will lessen the level of corruption among those under him. There will still be corruption but the degree would be less…In every country there are great people who should lead, but seeing the filth in politics ad the fears of those who come into power they are unwilling to take the risk. And so very often the leaders are mediocre people at best, present company accepted.”

Mahathir later on added, “We cannot assume majority of the people must be intelligent. In many instances, majority is not intelligent and minority refuses to be Involved because they think politics is dirty. If you don’t manage democracy well it is not going to pay dividends.“

Later on in the open forum, Mahathir was told that his contemporary, former President Ferdiand Marcos was a dictator. His response, “Marcos was elected, he was elected after he was elected, power corrupts that’s what happens to him. your choosing him was still a democratic procedure, look what happens when you make a wrong choice.”

Unstable democracies, technological advances

Mahathir likewise pointed out that as seen in other countries, unbridled democracy is bad since it makes countries unstable.

“We are living in a tumultuous world, in a world of political turmoil, in a world of economic turmoil, in a world of social turmoil. We are seeing the collapse of moral values and of beliefs. All the things that we used to value are being questioned, scrutinised and in many cases rejected, to be replaced by what is called freedom, freedom which is enjoyed by some at the expense of others, often at the expense of the community as a whole.”

Mahathir pointed out that technology has been abused to undermine governments. “ We are seeing advances in technology, advances which bring great benefits but which are also open to abuses, negating much of the benefits. Privacy is being invaded. Secrets, including sensitive military secrets are being leaked in the name of freedom of information.* The whistle-blowers are hailed as heroes.* Nothing is sacred any more.”

Mahathir added, “When you create a problem by revealing people's official secrets, something has to be done about it.”

Demoracy and poverty

Mahathir noted that democracy was supposed to be the answer to poverty under authoritarian regimes, yet in many cases, it failed to bring progress.

“Democracy works only when the people understand the limitations of democracy. When people think only of the freedoms of democracy and know nothing of the implied responsibilities, democracy will not bring the goodness that it promises. Instead it will result only in instability and instability will not permit development to take place and the people to enjoy the benefits of freedom and the rights that democracy promises. No sooner is a Government elected when the losers would hold demonstrations and general strikes accusing the Government of malpractices.“

Mahathir argued that people cannot govern themselves on their own, since not everyone will be competent to do so. “Why has democracy not delivered the good life we expected of it? Simply put, it is impossible for the people to rule themselves. There are too many of them and they cannot agree on anything. Government of the people, by the people and for the people would result in a stalemate, in no Government at all, in anarchy.”

Mahathir used this to justify his country’s brand of democracy. “So what do we do? Do we accept the failures of democracy or de we make some adjustments and sacrifice some of the liberalism of democracy so we may extract something from the system? I will admit freely that Malaysia is not a liberal democracy. We see democracy principally as providing an “easy way” to change Governments. No revolution, no civil wars, no Arab spring. Just vote and the Government will be brought down or re-elected according to the wishes of the people.”

Corruption and power

Mahathir pointed out that those who overstay in power do so to protect themselves from being haunted by their past in government.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a truism. But if one is frequently reminded that one day one will lose power and when that happens, others will hound you and make life miserable for you, that might help you overcome temptations. The more corrupt they are, the more they would want to hold the position for life.* They fear giving up power, because they know the people would rise and seek to punish them, even killing them.”

In the 2nd half of his speech, Mahathir shared lessons from his own term as Malaysia’s leader. One lesson is the need to minimize conflicts among its different races. ”This sharing and recognition of each others’ position reduced much of the tendency to friction between the races and ensured relative political stability - a necessity for economic development of the country.* Unfortunately, it makes national unity practically impossible.”

Need for industrialization, education

Mahathir also stressed the importance of industrializing.” Industrialisation became necessary because agriculture could not create enough jobs for the growing population. Jobless people threaten the stability of the country and undermine the very effort to create the jobs that they need.”

Mahathir said government must welcome more foreign direct investments, and help businesses. ”At a time when newly-independent countries were nationalising foreign-owned industries and businesses, we decided to invite foreigners, including the former colonial masters to come back and invest in industries in Malaysia.”

“Then we thought that Government must help businesses to succeed. The Japanese were condemned for doing this. But we saw no reason why Government should not help business to make profits. Twenty-eight per cent of the profits by businesses belong to the Government anyway through the corporate tax they had to pay. Basically the Government was working for its 28% of the profit. We were not just helping the businessmen to make profits.”

Mahathir said investments in education were made in this regard. “To increase the revenue of the people Government spent almost 25% of the national budget on education and training. Thus foreign as well as local investors were assured of a supply of educated and well trained staff.”

Successful ASEAN

Towards the end of his speech, Mahathir lauded the Association of SouthEast Asian nations for its help to its member-nations.

”I believe that ASEAN is the most successful of the groupings of developing countries, But in these troubled times, we need to come closer together, to cooperate more productively and to make use of our half a billion people as a market in order to gain more offsets for enlarging and diversifying our industries.* We also need to cooperate with the three dynamic Northeast Asian countries.*

" Malaysia had proposed an East Asian Economic Community to maximise the strength of our countries.* Things are finally moving in that direction.”

Mahathir added, “Really, the countries of Southeast Asia have great potentials for growth, prosperity and empowerment. All we need is people and leaders who love their country and people more than they love themselves.”

Doctors and lawyers

Mahathir also candidly answered questions from a panel of recators and the media after his speech.

Mahathir, a doctor by profession, was asked who between doctors and lawyers made better leaders. His reply: “Doctors do have certain advantage, we are methodical in the way we approach problems to cure a person … we look at the history doing physical exam and doing lab test before we conclude. He may be suffering from 3 different diseases and see which to experiment first. If the patient survives, good, If he dies, sorry. Lawyers argue too much.”

Nearly a decade after leaving office, Mahathir said he is far from retiring. “I'm still busy, I'm still much involved with the poltiics of the country.”

Asked about the one lesson he wants the next set of leaders to learn, Mahathir said, “If you want to be a leader, be a leader. If you want to think about yourself, there's no place for your own personal needs as a leader.”

09-13-2012, 11:00 AM
By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:00 am | Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Before it became wholly associated with the suicide terrorist attacks against the United States, Sept. 11 used to be remembered as the day Salvador Allende, Chile’s first elected Marxist president, was killed in the course of the military coup that installed the brutal dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. That tragic event started the reversal of democracy throughout Latin America.

By coincidence, Ferdinand Marcos was also born on that day. One wonders what could have crossed Marcos’ mind as he celebrated his 56th birthday, his first as dictator of his country, on that fateful day in 1973 when the socialist alternative was violently snuffed out in Latin America. Could it have confirmed his belief that dictatorship was the only way forward for developing nations?

Marcos imposed martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, purportedly to preempt a conspiracy between the communists and the oligarchic elite. He appealed to the middle and lower classes of Philippine society to help him build a “New Society” that would extirpate the virus of communism and free the country from the grip of the feudal elite. He called his project a “revolution from the center.”

It is easy to think the worst of any man if this frees us of any responsibility or guilt for what happened. Thus, we are not surprised that some of Marcos’ most ardent acolytes during martial law are today among his most vocal critics. But, to explain the rise of the Marcos dictatorship solely in terms of the overweening ambition and insatiable greed of one person is to strain the imagination.

The fact is, it was impossible for Marcos to put the entire country under martial rule without the armed forces who were willing to act as its executioners, without a public that was at least sympathetic to the plan, and without a US government that was willing to wink at the entire thing because it saw in Marcos a great ally and friend who would protect American interests. In short, Marcos could not have been the sole author of martial law.

His accomplices were not all generals or cronies. Some were otherwise thoughtful people—writers and academics, intellectuals and technocrats—who were dazzled by the prospect of being able to put their ideas in the hands of a president who had the will to realize them. They had no problem rationalizing their involvement with the dictatorship. Like many ordinary Filipinos at that time, they thought that what the country sorely lacked was a willful political leader that knew exactly what to do with power.

It is important to recognize this because the sooner we stop thinking of martial law as the deed of one man, the easier it may be for us to prevent its recurrence. Marcos’ evil genius lay in the fact that he knew what the Filipino people could accept, and what divided them against one another. He knew what America’s strategic goals were, and what it could abide as a global power. He knew what was happening in the rest of the world, particularly in the emerging economies.

He saw, for example, how the domestic capitalist classes in many Third World countries ended up being the junior partners of foreign capital because they were simply not big enough to compete. Thus, he was convinced that the state must nurture the local bourgeoisie and steer the economy in such a way as to give them the clout they needed to become pillars for sustained economic growth.

Marcos was particularly impressed by the progress attained by South Korea under the stern rule of Park Chung-hee. He wanted Park’s Asian model replicated in the Philippine setting. This was the same plan that Lee Kuan Yew had put in place in Singapore to compensate for that country’s smallness in size and lack of natural resources. On a much bigger scale, this was also the path that Deng Xiaoping chose for China from 1978 onward.

This model privileged the concept of social cohesion and stability over individual rights. Wherever it was adopted, it entailed a great sacrifice in human rights and political liberties, leaving in its wake the killing, torture, and forced disappearance of thousands of dissenters in the hands of death squads.

By the time Marcos declared martial law, Philippine society was besieged by political instability, endless investigations in Congress, a rise in criminality, restiveness in Mindanao, and a communist movement that was attracting the youth into its ranks. Marcos’ own people staged bombings in the city in order to simulate a general breakdown in public order. By the middle of 1972, everything appeared to confirm what was on everybody’s mind—that the existing political system had reached its limits.

Marcos failed for many reasons. Fluctuations in the world economy were not congenial to the Marcos experiment. But perhaps, more important, the sense of national purpose that guided the Korean and Singaporean transformation proved to be weak in our case. The Marcos cronies became the corrupted version of the chaebols that spearheaded Korean industrialization. The frugality, simplicity, and austere ways that Park and Lee personified were sadly missing in our own leaders. Instead, “Imeldific” excess and pomp became the principal markers of the New Society.

It took almost 14 years for the Filipino people to dislodge the Marcoses from power. The patriarch is dead but members of his family are back in power. No one has been jailed for crimes committed in the name of martial law. The bulk of the money stolen from the Filipino people has not been recovered. This is not just a question of failed memory; this is the result of a flawed social system that remains vulnerable to the temptations of authoritarianism.

09-13-2012, 11:05 AM
By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:57 am | Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Today, I’m going to list a few snippets that have been sitting around on my desk in something of a cleanup that might amuse you.

Why are senators referred to as “the gentleman (or lady) from XXX” when they are elected nationally to represent the public in its entirety, and not just one locale? And why are they called “Honorable”?

A member of the House is a representative of the people—it’s why he/she is called “the representative from YYY.” So why don’t they vote to uphold the people’s wishes? Isn’t this their mandate? Some 70 percent of the people they represent are in favor of the Reproductive Health bill, yet for 13 years now some of the “representatives of the people” have defied the people’s wishes. Do they know better than the people? Didn’t the people vote for them because they believed they’d get them what they want?

During then Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment, I said I was horrified to see the Supreme Court looking like a political campaign headquarters. And I was disgusted at the actions of the high court’s employees actively supporting the then chief justice. They are supposed to be COMPLETELY NEUTRAL. If they take sides for someone on trial because they believe in him, how can we, in the future, be assured that they won’t take sides in other cases and maneuver to manipulate the case to the judgment they want? There can be no personal loyalties in a court of law. They have no right to hold a position where impartiality, neutrality, and an apolitical stand are essential if justice is to be administered fairly. They should work for politicians who’ll be running in 2013. They’d be ideal for the job.

As to the justices themselves, I have embraced this society (after 37 years, how can I not), but I grew up in a different society. And in that society, it is unthinkable to accept an appointment by an outgoing leader in an obvious political move. NO gentleman will accept it. That alone made Mr. Corona unfit to hold the post that requires the highest standards of morality. In Australia, the Speaker of the House of Representatives stepped down over allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of taxi payment vouchers. Here you can get away with plunder.

You can’t shoot someone if you don’t have a gun. The President may wish to set the example by giving up his fascination with guns and shift to the crossbow. The modern ones are marvels of technology and ingenuity, and really test your marksmanship skills. You can’t carry one on the back of a motorcycle. In the United States, 30 people per million are killed every year by guns. In Australia, where gun ownership regulations are highly restrictive, the number is two. The correlation is obvious.

It’s time people threw out the power-hungry madmen who dictate on a nation, as is happening in many places today. These dictators should learn from what has happened to every other dictator in history: They eventually die. Often violently. It’s time to live together, peacefully. I’m all for an international SWAT team that, upon a UN vote, assassinates murderous dictators. They can start with Bashar Assad. One man should not be allowed to slaughter thousands. If there’s an occasional mistake, it’s only one man. Human life is more precious than national integrity.

When my wife and I travel, our bags are invariably overweight and generally (Philippine Airlines has always made a kind exception) we have to pay a premium. That’s OK. The heavier the plane, the more the fuel that is used—or at least that’s the argument they put forward—so the more it costs to fly it. I agree, it’s very fair. BUT my wife weighs 50 kg, I weigh 70, and the person in the seat next to us often weighs that in total. Why should he get free flying for his obesity? When you take small propeller-driven planes, they weigh the passenger and luggage because the weight when just getting off the ground must be controlled. Well, I want it that way in the big, bad commercial world. Set a fair weight value for passenger AND luggage. If you’re within that limit, no charge. If you’re not, regardless of whether the avoirdupois is you or your bags, you pay more. It’s only fair. Can I get support for this eminently sensible and fair idea? I think pretty much all Filipinos, given their build, will support fairness in air fares.

Antimining lobbyists should walk naked in the world. It is duplicitous to use products you want banned. Those opposed to the RH bill should adopt a poor family of 12, and the Church should educate them for free. All of them, not just a chosen few. Illegal loggers should be required to build their houses on the slopes they’ve denuded.

Why do we change the international name of a typhoon to a local name when it enters Philippine space? Are we so proud of typhoons that we want to adopt them? Typhoons know no borders. Why confuse the world for no good reason?

Why do people write figures in words and in numbers, thus: “sixteen (16)”? What’s wrong with “16”? And why “one” to “nine,” but “10” to infinity? Is there a logic to that I miss?

If lawyers think you need both to ensure no misinterpretation, then may I suggest they add English to the ancient, unused Latin language they continue to introduce into their briefs (the paper documents, not the cotton two-legged things)? Why not drop Latin altogether? Everyone else has.

Can someone explain to me why bingo is legal, lotto is legal, casinos are legal, but jueteng isn’t? Wouldn’t all the crime and scandals of jueteng disappear if it were legal? Removing Prohibition in the United States shows the way. Or are local officials making so much money from “protecting” it?

09-13-2012, 11:11 AM
By Benjamin Pimentel

3:04 pm | Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — You’ve been hearing a lot about the date – September 21, 1972 — and the event — the day martial law was imposed on our country, the day the Marcos dictatorship was born.

That was 40 years ago.

This may not mean much to you who grew up after the nightmare finally ended, after Filipinos rallied to oust one of the most despicable leaders in world history.

You’ve probably heard about him. If you travel north, you might even see his corpse in a glass case. You might also see remnants of a giant bust carved on the side of a mountain.

You know how shameless Filipino politicians show off by putting up big posters with their photos in public places? Well, try to imagine living under a leader who actually thought that he was so great he should have his face carved on a gigantic rock for all to see.

Think about it.

Someone blew up that bust many years ago — which is really a shame. It was hideous, but still, it could have served as a reminder of what we went through. What your parents and grandparents went through under Ferdinand Marcos.

You probably heard about the debates on whether he should be buried with our other heroes at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. You probably heard his son, now a senator, defending his record, claiming that had Marcos not been overthrown, the country would have turned into another Singapore.

It’s a bizarre claim. And I never get tired of pointing this out: Bongbong is essentially arguing that the Philippines would have become another Singapore, known as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, under a president considered one of the most corrupt leaders in history. (Google “most corrupt leaders” and you’ll understand why Bongbong is bonkers.)

You’ve probably also heard the dictator’s supporters remember those years as the good ‘ol days. The country was more peaceful, and people were happier, they’d say.

You know what, in some ways, they were right.

I was eight years old when martial law was declared, and I remember being so happy that day. Classes were suspended, and there was nothing to watch on TV but cartoons.

Our neighbors and even my parents were glad to see an end to the student demonstrations. People were lining up to ride a jeepney. To some, it certainly looked like an entirely different country.

And it was.

But these were not the changes that most people, especially the middle class, thought were actually taking place.

For in those early months and years, middle class and upper class families welcomed Marcos’s version of “peace and order,” the orderly queues and the empty streets where activists once voiced their opposition to corruption and injustice. But behind the scenes, unknown to many, the stealing, the torture, the killing had begun.

It had grown quiet all of sudden, because those who had the guts to speak out had been silenced. Imprisoned. Tortured. Co-opted. Murdered.

Actually, back then, the term Marcos’s goons used was “salvage.” Yes, salvage, as in “to save” or “to rescue.” For that was how Marcos and his allies imposed “peace and order.” They saved the regime’s critics and opponents – by killing them.

Later on, even the phrase “peace and order” morphed into a sick joke. My father enjoyed telling it.

“Peace and order? Ah, that actually means, ‘I want a piece of this. I want a piece of that. And that’s an order.’”

Remember that the next time you hear of Imelda’s jewels or shoes, of news about some mansion or bank account linked to the Marcoses.

Then there’s the argument that goes like this: ‘What was the point of getting rid of Marcos? Look at how there’s still so much corruption and injustice in Philippine society after all these years.’

Good point.

But one thing you need to remember, and perhaps we need to remind ourselves about this too, those of us who joined the uprising to get rid of Marcos — We didn’t march thinking we would suddenly live in paradise. We didn’t face riot police and the security forces thinking that the country’s problems– the corruption, the poverty, the abuse of power — would suddenly disappear.

We joined the fight to get rid of a tyrant. And guess what – we won. And you won.

I know it’s hard to believe, especially given all the news of corruption and abuse and of people dying and disappearing.

But trust me: it was much, much worse back then. It was a much scarier, more violent time, when even the mildest criticism of government, of Marcos, of Imelda, could land you in jail or even get you killed.

Look at it this way. Some of you don’t like the current president. And you probably even joined the fad of Noynoying, making fun of the guy, calling him all sorts of names. You know what would have happened to you if you had tried a stunt like that during the Marcos years?

Marcos’s allies want you to forget that. They want you to see the long struggle against dictatorship, and the uprising that finally brought it down as wasted effort.

Which is really an absurd view if you think about it. It’s like telling our heroes and those who waged past struggles in our history that everything that happened, everything they did was a waste.

It’s like telling Jose Rizal, “You know those novels and essays and poems you wrote, including that last one you composed shortly before you were shot to death by the Spaniards, all that was a waste of time. For look at how messed up the country is right now.”

It’s like telling my own father, “Papa, joining the guerrillas was a stupid idea, given how the country whose freedom you defended against the Japanese has turned out.”

Fighting Marcos was worth it. For we took on a bully and we won.

This is not to downplay or dismiss the problems the country faces today.

And you should speak out about them. You should complain and protest. You should demand that things should be better, and you should go out there to try to make them better. It is perfectly all right for you to march, to picket and even to go Noynoying.

Just don’t believe those who say it was much better before.

You’ll hear it from Marcos’s old allies.

You’ll hear it from those who simply don’t like democracy, who find it inconvenient because it keeps them from acquiring more wealth and more power.

You’ll hear from those who just can’t stand ideas they don’t agree with, who arrogantly think they have all the answers and must therefore have all the power.

They’ll present themselves as the nation’s saviors based on twisted claims. Some would point to their military discipline and experience. Others would claim to have the correct political line base on historical truths. Some would claim to have god on their side.

Don’t trust the liars and the bullies. Democracy can be messy and chaotic. But the alternatives are even messier. They create a false, deceptive sense of “peace and order.”

A delusion.

Like the cartoon shows I watched the day Marcos’s dictatorship began its reign of destruction.

Sam Miguel
09-19-2012, 10:54 AM
By Benjamin Pimentel


1:11 pm | Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – The impact of martial law was felt beyond the Philippines. It was felt even here in America.

For in the United States, the rise of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos also marked the emergence of Filipino Americans as a force against tyranny.

Shortly after the regime unleashed its reign of terror on Sept. 21, 1972, a US-based movement began gearing up for the long fight.

It was led by expats and by the American-born children of Filipino immigrants, many of them farm workers, known as the “manongs.” It was a time when young people in the US and throughout the world were speaking out against injustice of all forms.

Students were protesting the Vietnam War. The Civil Rights movement was in full swing. Young Americans of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino descent were demanding more rights on campuses and in society at large.

In the wake of these battles, young FilAms were drawn to disturbing events in their parents’ homeland.

Melinda Paras, an anti-Vietnam War protester from Wisconsin, traveled to the Philippines in the late ‘60s to find out more about her father’s native country. When martial law was declared, she quickly joined the resistance.

She was later captured in Manila and detained. As the granddaughter of a former Philippine supreme court chief justice, and a US citizen, she was spared the harsh forms of torture the military used against dissidents jailed under martial law.

“If I had been arrested in Zambales, I’m not sure I would have lived,” she told me in a 2009 interview. “Back then, if you are arrested in the province, they don’t care who you are related to, and they don’t care if you’re an American.”

Paras was eventually deported. Back in the US, she rejoined the movement against the dictatorship.

By then, it was growing.

Within the movement’s ranks were young FilAms many of whom could not speak Tagalog or other Philippine languages, who had never visited the country, but who became full-time activists committed to ending the Marcos tyranny.

Expatriates also became part of the movement. Edwin Batongbacal moved to the US in 1980 and became a member of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino, or KDP, one of the best known opposition groups, a broad network of activists in major US cities from San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, to New York and Washington D.C.

“Martial Law was significant because it was the first time the community united around a higher aspiration for the country,” Edwin recalled recently.

One of the democracy movement’s main goals was to make the US government stop sending military aid to a regime that was quickly becoming notorious for brutality and gross violations of human rights.

American support for Marcos was underscored in 1981 when then Vice President George H.W. Bush visited Manila and praised Marcos’s “adherence to democratic principles.” The following year, President Ronald Reagan welcomed Marcos during the dictator’s US state visit, declaring at a White House ceremony, “Yours Mr. President is a respected voice for reason and moderation.”

Such endorsement apparently made Marcos and his allies feel invincible, believing that they could get away with anything.

One June 1, 1981, assassins gunned down labor leaders and anti-Marcos activists Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes in Seattle.

(After the dictatorship’s downfall, a US federal court found the Marcoses liable for the murders. In her decision, US District Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote, as quoted in the Seattle Times: “The court concludes that the plaintiffs have provided clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the Marcoses created and controlled an intelligence operation which plotted the murders of Domingo and Viernes.”)

Despite the acts of intimidation and the violence, the FilAms kept on fighting.

In 1986, when the dictatorship was finally defeated, FilAms throughout the US joined the celebration. In fact, in San Francisco, activists threw an impromptu party on Union Square, playing a popular Kool and the Gang tune. The song was called “Celebration.” They played it over and over again.

On Friday, the 40th anniversary of Martial Law, Filipino Americans will gather again in San Francisco, to remember the Marcos years. The two-day event called “Make Your Own Revolution” and sponsored by Kularts, will feature dances, poetry and dramatic readings to recall the Filipino “people’s strength in resistance to Martial Law.”

Alleluia Panis, one of the event’s organizers, says the goal is to “remember the strength, the values” that helped Filipinos “come out of the darkness of martial law.”

Those who did not survive the darkness have also been honored in the US and the Philippines.

Last year, Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes became the first Filipino Americans to have their names included on the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani’s “Wall of Remembrance” honoring those who fought the regime.

Other former activists of the Filipino American movement have moved on to other meaningful roles.

Many formed and led groups for civil rights and immigration rights. Melinda Paras went on to lead the influential National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In Seattle, KDP veteran Velma Veloria was elected to Washington State legislature where she served for 12 years.

In San Francisco, former activist Bill Tamayo is now a leading attorney of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Many of those who were part of that struggle remember those years a time of collective courage in the Filipino American community.

“Suddenly, apathy and sense of powerlessness were lifted, and Filipinos actively opposed the regime,” Edwin Batongbacal told me.

“There was all this positive energy, and Filipinos were articulating their higher aspirations for their homeland. … It was moving to see Filipinos desiring a better Philippines rid of the dictator.”

(For more information on the Kularts event, check out the “Making Your Own Revolution” Web site.)

Sam Miguel
09-19-2012, 10:56 AM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:57 pm | Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

(I made these remarks last Friday at the launch of “Not On Our Watch,” a book about the experiences of members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines during martial law. I wrote the introduction to the book. Something to reflect on the 40th anniversary of martial law by. That falls on Sept. 21.)

Can the Marcoses “Ilocanize” history?

That’s a good question to ask on the eve of the 40th anniversary of martial law.

I say “Ilocanize” because Ilocos Norte in particular has been an entire republic unto itself history-wise. It has its own version of the past that differs from the rest of the nation’s. One that says Ferdinand Marcos was the best thing to have happened to this country.

I got some insight into this when a cameraman from a TV station told me once that bilib ka rin kay Marcos, he was the only president who could deliver a Sona without script or teleprompter, everything came from memory. I was astonished and asked him where he got that idea. He said, from school in Ilocos Norte. Marcos was brilliant, he had a photographic memory. But doesn’t everyone know that? he asked me in turn, astonished.

Truly a separate republic, if only of the mind.

Can the Marcoses do the same thing to the rest of the country? Can they completely rewrite history?

I say “completely” because they’ve already done so in part. The attempt to bury Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani testifies to it. The entries in YouTube, portraying Marcos if not as a benign ruler at least as a visionary one, testify to it. It’s not that these things have sold well, it’s that they can now be pitched without fear of stoking public outrage.

And of course that Imelda is a representative, Imee is a governor, and Bongbong is a senator testifies to it.

Two things they can bank on for a revision of history.

The first is time.

For us in particular, yesterday is a century ago, 40 years are a previous lifetime. The gap alone between Edsa and today, which is 26 years, is the gap between 1945 and 1971. That is the gap between the so-called “Liberation” and the bombing of Plaza Miranda, between Glenn Miller and Led Zeppelin, between the veterans of World War II and the activists. In our case, that is the gap between national liberation and globalization, “Xerox journalism” and Facebook, fighting against imperialism or communism and fighting to save the planet from global warming.

That is not a gap, that is a chasm.

If that’s so with Edsa, it’s worse with martial law. If you were four or five years old in 1986, you’d have a bare recollection of martial law. That means we now have a whole generation of Filipinos, 30 and below, who either have no direct experience of martial law or do not have a good impression of it. I’ve heard young people ask, “Were things really that bad during martial law?” It reminds me of what we used to ask, “Were things really that bad during the Japanese times?” And we didn’t have sushi then.

The second is our lack of capacity for collective remembering.

Other countries have a wealth of history books, art and literature, and museums to preserve the past. And they have a popular culture where the heroes of the past continue to live, even if in grotesque forms like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” That is how they make up for a lack of a direct experience of the past. We do not have that.

Our capacity to forget, and not just our utang in the sari-sari store, is legendary. I’ve always said we are the one country in the world that has been lobotomized. We live in a perpetual present, having no past, and therefore having no future.

There are many theories for this, but I’ll leave them for another day. Suffice it to say here that that makes fallow ground for revisionism.

To say that the viciousness of a rule alone guarantees that it will never be able to reinvent itself is to delude ourselves. It is to forget history, thereby repeating it.

American rule was vicious, at least when it began. You can’t have anything more vicious than an occupation born of deceit and betrayal, which Admiral George Dewey committed. You can’t have anything more vicious than the turning of Samar into a howling wilderness. You can’t have anything more vicious than a pacification campaign that proposed to civilize the monkeys with a Krag, a campaign that obliterated the leaders of the Katipunan whose only crime was to fight for their country.

Not unlike martial law. Yet today, American rule is widely regarded as the best thing to have happened to us.

Happily, history shows us another lesson. Which is that where there is another storyline, or narrative, these propositions can be crowded out. Fallow grounds do not naturally assure that there will be a harvest of revisionism. They can always only assure that more robust seeds will kill them.

The Japanese Occupation shows so. It was of course too short—three years—for its proposition of the Asian countries coming together to resist Western imperialism to take root in by then very pro-American Filipino minds. But even then, the Americans made sure after the War to obliterate it by the narrative, or myth, of the “Liberation.”

That myth said the Americans never abandoned the Philippines. Douglas MacArthur vowed, “I shall return,” and did. Instead of the Japanese coming to liberate us from our Western yoke, the story became that the Americans came back to liberate us from our fascist yoke. Into “I shall return” went images of Bataan and Corregidor, of Filipinos and Americans fighting side by side, sharing the same past and the same future. How powerful that story was we see in how we continue to see the end of Japanese rule as the “Liberation.” How powerful it was we see in the so-called “special relations” it spawned, which has sealed our fate, or doom, in the postwar world.

The same is true of martial law.

To be concluded

Sam Miguel
09-19-2012, 10:59 AM
By Ambeth R. Ocampo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:52 pm | Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Four decades have passed since the official declaration of martial law by Ferdinand Marcos. For good feng shui Marcos tried to time significant things on dates that had his lucky number “7” or its multiples. Thus, Proclamation 1081, the declaration of martial law, was signed and dated Sept. 21, 1972, but its actual implementation took place two days later, on Sept. 23.

Now is a time to look back on those dark days, and we are fortunate that Marcos actually kept a diary, portions of which have been posted on “The Philippine Diary Project” (philippinediaryproject.wordpress.com) that contains first-person accounts of significant events in Philippine history.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, 1972, Marcos spent the night in the old Goldenberg mansion down the street from Malacañang. The mansion had been restored by Leandro V. Locsin, a future National Artist, and was designated as “Ang Maharlika” or the State Guest House. Marcos referred to this place as “The Big Antique” and it was here, at 10 p.m., that he wrote this diary entry:

“We escaped the loneliness of the palace for this old Antillan house now known as Ang Maharlika, the State Guest House several blocks from the palace. It has been restored beautifully by Imelda and is a symbol of Philippine culture in the last century. Almost all our antique valuables have been transferred here.

“The departure of our children has made the palace a ghostly unbearable place. I took a long nap (4:30-7:30 pm) in the room of Bongbong which has the worst bed [illegible] and the lumpiest mattress. And after an early simple dinner of sardines and pancit, I was able to browse in the library where to my delight I discovered the books I have been wanting to read for some time including: Fitzimmons, The Kennedy Doctrine, Sorensen’s The Kennedy Legacy, The Dirty Wars edited by Donald Johnson (some of the principles and lessons are outmoded), Days of Fire by Samuel Katz (The Secret History of the Irguny Zrai Sanmi and The Making of Israel), Chou-enlai by Kai-Yu, Room 39 by Donald Macfaddan (The role of the British Intelligence in WWII), the History of the World in the 20th Century by Watt, Spencer and Brown.

“I have invited the Liberal Party leaders (at least ten of their hierarchy) to come to the palace on Sept. 19th to be informed of what we have on the negotiations and agreements between the Maoists and the Liberals. The Liberal head, Sen. G[erardo] Roxas, issued a demand for us to point out the Liberal negotiating with the Communists, knowing full well that I refer to Sen. Aquino, his opponent for leadership in the party and wanting to disqualify Aquino by his own action. But the Liberals should not get out that easily. For some of the other leaders have been dealing with the Communists—Mitra, Yap, Felipe, Dy, Pendatun, Lucman, etc.

“Antonio Zumel, news editor of the Bulletin had an explanation of his Trade Asia activities in today’s papers. He adopts an aggressive stance of hurt innocence!

“I received the report on the 7,400 case of dynamite apprehended in the del Pan bridge by the OOSAC under Maj. Cruz, son of Maj. Gen. Pelagio Cruz, the ASAC chief. I ordered the dynamite impounded notwithstanding the claim of [illegible] for it.

“The Air Manila plane was apparently bombed at 4:40 am yesterday by a grenade in a valise with incendiary bombs over Romblon, prepared to ditch because of the right engine being out of commission from the grenade blast but was able to limp up to Roxas City where it landed at about 5:00 am in the dark with nothing but its landing lights to guide it. Capt. Samonte, the captain of the plane did a good job and was lucky.

“I have checked on the plans of the delegations I am sending to the IMF, the UN and other international conferences.”

Then we have something more significant than a list of books Marcos wanted to read and what he had for dinner. This diary entry for Sept. 18, 1972, was written after lunch:

“We finalized the plans for the proclamation of martial law at 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm with the SND, the Chief of Staff, major service commanders, J-2, Gen. Paz, 1st PC Zone Commander, Gen. Diaz and Metrocom commander, Col. Montoya, with Gen. Ver in attendance. They all agreed the earlier we do it the better because the media is waging a propaganda campaign that distorts and twists the facts. So after the bombing of the Concon, we agreed on the 21st without any postponement.

“We finalized the target personalities, the assignments, and the procedures.”

On Sept. 19, 1972, Marcos wrote:

“Released the report of Sec. Ponce Enrile of Sept. 8, 1972 where he reported that Sen. Aquino had met with Jose Maria Sison of the Communist Party and had talked about a link-up of the Liberal Party and the Communist Party. So since I invited Sen. Pres. Puyat, Speaker Villareal I explained to the media which was covering us that when I invited the leaders of the Liberal Party I had wanted a private conference where we could, as Filipinos and for the welfare of our people, agree that neither party (Nacionalista or Liberal) would ‘link-up’ with the Communist Party but their refusal to attend indicated that the Liberals were in on the deal to ‘link-up’ with the Communists through Sen. Aquino.”

Diaries are self-serving and often published after the fact to explain how history was made. The diaries of Ferdinand E. Marcos form a primary source for the historian.

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 08:30 AM
By Maila Ager


1:06 am | Friday, September 21st, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—When people say that life was better during martial law than today and that Marcos was right in imposing authoritarian rule, it suggests that something is shockingly wrong with the country’s key institutions, political analysts told INQUIRER.net.

They say the academe, media and the government have all failed to educate the public well about the evils of military dictatorship.

INQUIRER.net interviewed two respected political analysts and academicians Ramon Casiple and Clarita Carlos to understand the results of the survey conducted among students, street vendors and workers two weeks before the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the martial law declaration.

Why do you think the people today, especially students, have little or no knowledge of martial law?

Ramon Casiple: Unang-una, talagang ipinanganak sila after martial law. That’s a given. Pero yung malaki ritong kasalanan, yung pagtuturo sa ating formal education system kaugnay ng martial law period. Nakabase ito sa mga libro na either napaka bland nung handling ng panahon…Yung nakikita mo lang usually sa description nila, yung mga bagong infrastructures na itinayo, yung CCP. Hindi yung social impact ng martial law.

(First and foremost, they were born after martial law. That’s a given. But the big mistake here is the teaching in our formal education system about martial law.

The text books are bland. What you can usually see is the description of new infrastructures built during that time, like the Cultural Center of the Philippines not the social impact of martial law.)

Before martial law kasi or before Marcos in 1965, isa tayo sa mga better off economies sa buong Asia. By the time nag-end ang martial law, nasa bottom na tayo. Ang tagal mag-recover, in fact nagrere-rekober pa rin tayo hanggang ngayon. So yung mga ganun, hindi mo makikita kasi intangible yun e. Ang nakikita ng mga bata ngayon, mas mahirap ang buhay, mas magulo.

(Before martial law or before Marcos in 1965, we were one of the better off economies in the entire Asia. By the time martial law ended, we hit the bottom. It took us years to recover. In fact, we’re still recovering until now. You don’t see those things like that because they are intangible. What the young people see now is the hardship – that we are more chaotic now.)

May similar na kakulangan ang media kasi very strong ang impact ng media sa ating kabataan. Ni hindi nila dini-discuss ang martial law, only if there’s a celebration halimbawa, anniversary ng people power. But then wala naman in depth discussion.

(The media has its shortcomings, too. They have a very strong impact on the youth, but news organizations did not fully discuss martial law, only a token mention if there’s a celebration like people power anniversary. But then, there is no in-depth discussion.)

Clarita Carlos: Not surprising [people have little or no knowledge of martial law because] that’s a whole new generation after martial law. If you ask me about Japanese occupation, of course I will not have memory of something which I did not experience…And that’s 40 years ago.

But you know, in Philippine history, in Philippine government, depende sa teacher kung pahapyaw lang nyang iti-treat yun e…

(It depends on the teacher if he or she would just treat the topic in passing).

There’s a variety of exposure to this particular topic.

Should there be a need to remember martial law each year?

Carlos: But why it is important that one should remember this part of history? What about the other part of our history, equally important if not more important? In fact that you’re zeroing in on that particular part of our history, already tells you something that created a selection.

Selective yung memory mo kung ano yung tatanungin mo sa mga bata. Bakit hindi mo tatanungin yung Japanese occupation (You have a selective memory of what you will ask to kids. Why not also ask about the Japanese occupation?)

It also happened long before their time. Why don’t you ask about the Vietnam War, which also happens long before their time? Why don’t you ask the rice crises, the oil prices, equally important, di ba?

Casiple: Hindi remembrance ang usapin dito. Ang usapin din yung ma-internalize noong mga tao yung lessons ng martial law at hindi mo makukuha sa selebrasyon lamang ’yan. Dapat ’andun 'yung partisipasyon ng tao sa actual democracy para makita nila yung actual benefits.

(The issue here is not about the commemoration. The issue here is that the people should internalize the lessons of martial law and you can’t just get it through a simple celebration. The people should participate in actual democracy to be able to see and experience the actual benefits of it.)

Why do some people say they prefer the martial law period than the present?

Casiple: Well unang-una, ang tingin ko malaking usapin dyan ang poverty. Kasi nandun yung expectation na right after martial law, bubuti na ang buhay ng mga tao. Of course, alam natin na complex ang poverty. Hindi naman martial law lamang ang pinag-uugatan nito.

(First and foremost, I think the bigger issue is poverty. Because there is big expectation that after martial law, the people’s lives will get better. Of course, we know that poverty is a complex issue. Martial law is not the only the root of it.)

Ang malaki talagang na-address, yung question ng demokrasya and to a large extent, 'yung accountability.

(What was really addressed was the question of democracy and to a large extent, the question of accountability.)

Sa pagbagsak ni Marcos, hindi automatic na gaganda ang buhay nila. Ang ginawa lang sa tingin ko ng pagbagsak ni Marcos, tinanggal mo yung isang tinik na nagpapahirap sa tao na harapin ang problema sa buhay…Hindi mismo yung ugat ng kahirapan ang na-address.

(With the downfall of Marcos, there was no guarantee that life will get better. What his downfall did to us, I think, was that the thorn that was causing all our miseries disappeared. But it did not really address the root of poverty.)

Carlos: Yeah because for me, siguro ’pag tinanong mo rin ako, ako din yung martial law period [is my preference] except yung one instance na nag-intrude sila (military) sa academic freedom namin. Kasi minsan nagtatanim sila ng estudyante tapos merong isang professor dyan ng history na nagsabi ng against Imelda Marcos, e na-preso din sya dahil hindi nya alam may nakatanim pala sa klase nya.

(If you’d also ask me I also vote for the martial law period except that one instance when they intruded into our academic freedom. Because they sometimes planted students in schools. There was a history professor who said something against Imelda Marcos and soon found himself in jail because he did not know that there was a spy in his class.)

Bukod dun, siguro all the rest was all right. Yun nga ang mahirap, nag-husga na agad tayo kay Marcos hindi pa natin sinasaliksik bakit nya ginawa yun . E talagang ang gulo-gulo ng bansa natin and only a martial law regime can people be really disciplined.

Like yung maliliit na bagay, hindi sila nagji-jay walking, maliliit na bagay but bigger things for the discipline of the nation, di ba?

(That’s the problem, we were quick to judge Marcos without digging deeper why he did it. The country was really in chaos and it was martial law regime that made people practice discipline. Those little things like pedestrians finally using designated crossing lanes; it’s a small thing but bigger things for the discipline of the nation, right?)

For Carlos, “Marcos really is our best President.”

“Because it was very peaceful, it was very orderly,” she said, noting it was during under martial that the country’s crime rate made a dramatic drop.

It was also only during the Marcos administration that bureaucratic reforms, she said, went in full swing.

In 1965, Carlos said, Marcos started reforms in the bureaucracy but department heads opposed the move.

“Ten years later, saka n’ya (Marcos) nabalasa yung gobyerno. It really takes a martial law regime to do bureaucratic reform,” she said.

She said that the Edsa1 revolt in 1986 that ended the 14-year-old dictatorship was triggered only by the collective sentiments of the people in Metro Manila.

Stressing that the people power is basically a Manila event, Carlos asked: “What about the rest of the country?”

Carlos, however, acknowledged that people may view martial law differently based on how it affected them or their loved ones.

For those who suffered during that period –either because their loved ones were killed, jailed or became victims of human rights abuses –they would fight moves to impose martial rule again.

“Definitely kasi kasama kami dun sa lumaban sa martial law at marami kaming kasamang namatay, na pinahirapan na na-torture (because we were part of those who fought martial law. Many of our companions were killed or tortured),” Casiple said.

“Alam mo yung epekto sa mamamayan, kaya talagang hindi ka na babalik sa period na yun. Kaya nag-people power (You know the effect to the people that’s why you will never return to that period. That’s why we had people power),” he said.

Casiple said corruption in the government during the Marcos regime was systematic, the peace and order was in shambles but unreported in the media because the press was censored.

This was the reason, he said, some people think that the country was more peaceful during martial law than today.

“Kung may nangyayaring mga krimen at that time ay hindi naman talagang nababalita kasi sinong magbabalita e yung nagbabalita nasa loob ng kulungan? (If there are crimes being committed, they were not really reported because who will report them when the true journalists are in jail?)”

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 08:47 AM
^^^ Pseudo-intellectual Clarita Carlos should shut the hell up. Why the DND-AFP Establishment has kept here around all this time truly insults the intellect.

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 08:50 AM
By Susan F. Quimpo

1:48 am | Friday, September 21st, 2012

(First of a series)

(Editor’s Note: The following is a chapter from the book “Subversive Lives: A Family Memoir of the Marcos Years,” put out by Anvil Publishing Inc. in 2012, written by Susan F. Quimpo, an art therapist who provides counseling for human rights defenders and victims, and by Nathan Gilbert Quimpo.)

December 1981

I had to go to school. I clutched thick folders to my chest, wrapping both arms around them. There was no need for my notes that day, but I felt I had to hold on to something, even if it was only folders stuffed with notes for a test I had taken days ago.

It was the last day of school before the three-week Christmas break. A few exams were scheduled, but these were the exception. Even the faculty were lenient, for they too were excited about the biggest university event of the year, the evening’s Lantern Parade.

The college theater group I belonged to had a good shot at winning first prize. Ramonlito, the group’s artist, had designed a 6-foot lantern; its thick cardboard frame was to take the shape of a pyramid or in keeping with the season, a Christmas tree. But as always, the group was bent on making a statement, and the well-attended Lantern Parade was the perfect venue.

The lantern’s black frame would be scored into a template of cutout human forms, and red cellophane would be stretched underneath this cardboard scaffold. It was to be mounted on bamboo poles and lit from within, casting crimson shadows of quivering human forms. From top to bottom, the lantern would be covered with faces of society’s underprivileged as though they were trapped in the pyramid cage. The overall effect was meant to be disturbing— weary creases on a farmer’s face, gaping mouths uttering silent screams, hate clenched in fists, and eyes gawking, questioning the morality of Yuletide celebrations void of Christian charity. Ramonlito’s Christmas tree was to be wrapped in blood and garnished with rebellion.

It was the season for reconciliation, however temporary. Employers gave gifts of fruit and honey-laced ham to workers they exploited all year. Seasoned protest marchers refrained from converging at Malacañang, the presidential palace, to burn the American flag and Marcos effigies. And members of the communist militia, the New People’s Army, came down from the hills to visit kin while the government troops pretended not to notice. Even at the university, differences were dismissed as moneyed sorority girls joined the most militant activists for the Lantern Parade.

I should have been excited, wanting to help piece together Ramonlito’s lantern for the competition. But joining the day’s festivities was hardly the reason I left for school that day.

My sister-in-law Tina had visited the family residence the night before. The fact that she came was a surprise. After two raids, it was safe to assume that our apartment was under military surveillance. It was deemed “too hot,” taboo to anyone even remotely suspected of having links to the communists, forbidden to Tina, so recently released from prison.

“Visiting too soon?” I chided, partly reminding her of the risk she was taking. Tina did not smile. It was unlike her not to exchange the usual greetings. Her voice was calm but her face was pale with anxiety.

Death in Nueva Ecija

There was news that her husband, my brother Jun, had been killed in a barrio called Kalisitan in Nueva Ecija, a province three hours by car north of Manila. That was all that the “courier” said. Even he did not know the details.

Jun had often alluded to his death, and half-jokingly requested that his wake be held at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines. UP was his refuge, and it had become mine, too. It offered an asylum to those weary of the statutes of martial law. Within its walls was freedom—freedom to organize, discuss and protest, at least for a few hours a day. UP became the breeding ground for activists and soon-to-be revolutionaries. Jun had thrived here; Jun had changed here. And if he were to die, it was only fitting that he come “home” here.

Early the next day, my sisters made the trip to Nueva Ecija. I stayed in Manila, assigned to go to school and arrange a wake for a brother I wasn’t even sure was dead.

The Catholic chapel at UP had always been modest. Even at Christmas, the star lanterns and paper cutout trimmings hardly changed its homely appearance. The prayer pamphlets from the morning Mass lay uncollected on empty pews. I made my way to the chapel’s administrative office, not really knowing what to say.

A wake

“I’d like to arrange for a wake.”

“When will you bring the body?” the clerk asked, her voice crisp, almost uncaring. Secretly, I thanked her; I could not have dealt with mock sympathy.

“I don’t know. You see, I’m not even sure he’s dead.” I took a deep breath and fumbled for an explanation. The clerk’s reaction was one of blunt realism. She turned to a colleague and remarked that it was yet “another student killed by the military.” Only a couple of weeks before, this same chapel had played host to the body of a slain student activist.

I walked to Palma Hall Annex where I knew my friend would be. It was cool, the skies were clear, and the weather was perfect for the night’s festivities. I stared at the road, pacing slowly, as though counting the spots where asphalt caved in, where gravel and dirt basins caught the monsoon rains. In me, there was no room for reconciliation.

The night before, the family had tried piecing together a description of Jun—scars, moles, birthmarks, anything that would be distinguishable should his corpse be badly bruised or mutilated. It was hard to remember how he looked, and even harder to remember who he really was.

Passive observer

For the last seven years, I saw little of Jun and my other siblings. It would be simple to blame their absence on their avoidance of military raids, imminent arrests and detention. But I knew that my family had drifted apart long before the political persecution began. I was the passive observer who for 10 years witnessed the heated exchanges at the dinner table. My parents could not understand why their children would want to organize and join street demonstrations and risk losing scholarships. What was remotely wrong with acquiring a good college education to ensure for oneself a comfortable future?

My siblings reasoned that the dictates of the times were different. The protest marches were indicative of a national movement demanding significant change. The hopelessness of the common man’s poverty, the corruption in government, the monopoly of power by the oligarchy, the effects of neocolonialism, and the age-old conflict over land ownership—these problems had now come to a head. And though to some the debates were little more than youthful rhetoric, my siblings spent evenings poring over Marx, Lenin and Mao in search for answers. For them, to ponder self, family and material comfort amid pressing times was an indulgence they couldn’t afford.

The Palma Hall Annex was bustling with activity. Even the stairwells were teeming with students piecing together oddly shaped lanterns. My friends blocked one of the corridors, littering the floor with sheets of cellophane and craft paper. Our lantern was far from done.

I managed to pull Ramonlito and a few others away from the crowd. Calmly, I excused myself from helping with the lantern and briefly explained my predicament.

“My family received word that my brother was killed. I still do not know the circumstances.” I pretended not to notice their baffled faces and retreated for a solitary lunch. I did not want to be consoled.

“Hello, Lulu? It’s Susan.” Lulu was our devoted housekeeper. Constantly aware that our phone may be bugged, she had the good sense to keep conversations short.

“No news, Ate Susan. In fact, no one has called.”

Neighborhood a garrison

Martial law. No two words had a greater impact on my life. I grew up on a street called Concepción Aguila, a fifteen-minute walk from Malacañang. With the onset of martial law, our neighborhood turned into a garrison. First came the 24-hour shift of palace guards manning wooden road blocks. Soon the roadblocks were replaced with heavy iron barricades densely warped with barbed wire. Then the rickety wooden police outpost at our street corner was torn down, and solid concrete stations, complete with toilets and telephones, were built. During curfew hours, the army trucks would often come and empty their hulls of soldiers. Police cars with squawk boxes joined the party. Residents needed special car passes to enter the area. Soldiers randomly checked pedestrians for IDs certifying they lived in the district. Like prisoners, we needed the military’s permission to enter our own homes.

Then the military raids began, at first to ensure that the homes around the palace were stripped of civilian-owned firearms. But as years passed, our apartment was singled out, and this time the raiding teams were bent on making arrests.

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 08:51 AM
^^^ (Cont'd from above)

‘No detention camps’

Ferdinand Marcos adamantly denied the existence of detention camps. “We have no political prisoners,” he often repeated to the foreign press. Yet, while my high school peers spent their weekends attending family picnics, I spent mine packing cooked rice in foil and powdered milk into empty tins, and helping Dad deliver these rations to siblings in three cramped “rehabilitation centers.” On Monday mornings, my classmates would ask what I did for the weekend. “I stayed home” was my usual reply.

It was nearly dusk and the students now hauled their lanterns of various shapes and sizes into the street facing Palma Hall. Masked by nervous giggles, they spied their neighbors’ lanterns. In hushed tones, comments of awe and ridicule were exchanged. A few sang Christmas jingles, many to the tune of popular TV soap commercials. I decided to momentarily join the crowd to satisfy my curiosity.

“Susan, we’re here!” a member of the theater group called above the growing throng. I watched and smiled; in jest, my friends swore as they took turns trying to suspend the lantern from bamboo poles. “It’s far too heavy, I warned you this would never work. Watch the lamp; it’ll set the cellophane on fire!” The lantern wasn’t perfect, but it was done.

I wove my way into the group and took my turn at badgering the lantern bearers. It wasn’t long before a few friends called me aside. To my horror, they said in all sincerity, “We heard about your brother, our condolences.”

“No, no one said he was dead!” I snapped, more upset than angry. I turned away and again retreated.


Martial law forced the open opposition movement underground. When military repression ensued, the call for armed rebellion was justified. Almost overnight, the label “student activist” was no longer apt. The newspapers were quick to christen the members of the underground movement with new names: subversives, communist insurgents, terrorists, guerrillas, rebels. Yet my personal lexicon remained unchanged; in my mind, they were simply family.

Though I was baffled by my siblings’ continued loyalty to the “revolution,” their courage had won my respect. What I could not accept was that this movement, the revolution, had the power to draw its members away from their lives and their families, yet could not care for its own.

Where were the kasama, their comrade-in-arms, when my brothers Jan, Nathan and Norman were arrested and maltreated by their military captors? Where were the kasama when Jan’s head was repeatedly immersed in a commode filled with urine, when water was injected into his testicles, when his feet were doused, then jabbed with live wire? Our family did not hear from the kasama when Nathan was stripped naked and clubbed until he was nearly unconscious. No assistance was offered when my sister Lillian was missing for weeks and Dad made the rounds of prisons in search of her. Does one cease to be a comrade upon his or her capture? This revolution had stripped my family of any semblance of normalcy. It had promised victory, yet it brought only separation, torture and now possibly Jun’s death.

First prize

“Lulu, I’ll be home in an hour.” It was my nth call to Lulu; she still had not heard from my sisters who had ventured to Nueva Ecija. I refused to worry about their safety; to do so would only add to the day’s futility.

It was nearly 10 o’clock when I arrived home. I was exhausted, though I had spent most of the day idly walking around the UP campus. As usual, Lulu had dinner waiting for me. She said my sisters were not back, nor had they called with news.

“Did anyone bother to call?” I asked in total resignation.

“Ay, Ate, someone did call. I can’t recall his name, but he said your group won first prize at the Lantern Parade.”

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 09:05 AM
By Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:29 pm | Thursday, September 20th, 2012

WHY DO those who are old enough to remember martial law make great effort today to mark its 40th anniversary? Because many of us are worried that the next generation seems blasé about a return to dictatorship and some even sound like they would relish it.

I have in the past looked at the pedagogical challenges to remembering that era. The kids’ minds today are wired differently. They are more attuned to specific issues (think environment), not grand causes (think liberalism). We tell them about the systemic roots of a problem but they are more moved by the human drama. And yes, they want the rawness of that drama because they suspect anything edited to have been scripted or manipulated. Finally, they are impatient for real solutions in the here and now. Preach to them “protracted struggle,” and they say, “You mean it will take more than one sem?”

But even for us oldies, there is actually a fundamental problem. We downplay the role of ideology in the proclamation of martial law, and portray it as nothing more than a power grab by Ferdinand Marcos and his cohorts—Marcos for love of power, the cohorts for love of money—and aided by the United States.

The result is that, until the present, we disregard the place of the Left in the martial law story. Remember that martial law was Marcos’ response to the communist threat, that he blamed the communists for the Plaza Miranda bombing (and he was telling the truth, ex-communists now tell us!), that his human rights victims were mostly leftists, and that until the death of Ninoy Aquino, the campus and religious Left (and of course the armed underground component) were the only ones who dared oppose Marcos. Finally, the whole Bagong Lipunan ideology and the Marcos trilogy of books on his “revolution from the center” were needed to counter the Left’s comprehensive vision.

In the foreword to the book “Subversive Lives” (on the saga of the Quimpo family of activists), Filipino-American historian Vicente Rafael asks why “there are no monuments to communism in the Philippines” and why, for instance, even the Bantayog ng mga Bayani dedicated to martial law victims honors them as “nationalist martyrs” rather than as communist cadres.

He replies: “[It means] that there is something about [communism] that defies commemoration and mourning [that the role of the Left] remains unassimilated into the dominant narrative [and] seems peripheral to nationalist consciousness.” He explains: “Monuments act as tombs that bury and so keep in place the ghosts of the past. They allow those in the present to commemorate the dead and thereby overcome their absence. [Communism] haunts the nation in ways that cannot be fully accounted for, much less entombed by the historical narrative of nationalism.”

Just consider the weeklong homage to the martyred youth leader, Lean Alejandro, who was assassinated 25 years ago as a prelude to a coup attempt against Cory Aquino. How many of the published tributes openly acknowledge that he was leftist? Why is it that, long after RA 1700 (Anti-Subversion Law) had been repealed, we continue to sanitize his leftist roots and highlight instead the altruism and spirit of self-sacrifice that indeed the Left embodied then?

My answer is that, once upon a time, it made good strategy to downplay ideology and find common cause with all groups. Indeed if Ninoy’s death was the beginning of the end for Marcos, it was because it mainstreamed the anti-Marcos opposition, from the underground Left to the parliament of the streets. Until then, the opposition to martial law came from the periphery, but with Ninoy’s murder, it arrived literally at Ayala Avenue’s confetti-strewn marches.

But if it made sense to hush the Marxist jargon then, why does it persist to the present? There are several possibilities. One, maybe we should confront the obvious. Cold War propaganda is so effective that, long after the USSR has crumbled and Communist China has become capitalist, Filipinos still look askance at communism. Do leftist party-list groups openly declare themselves communist, I wonder?

Two, maybe that isn’t just the fault of the running dogs of US imperialism. After all, the communists had their own killing fields and their revolution had begun to devour its own proverbial children. They have also degenerated into brigands who extort revolutionary taxes from legitimate businesses. For instance, they sabotage cell sites and cause the delayed transmission of our text messages. That certainly can’t endear them to the Filipino public. And contrast that to the Marcos children today: bright, sophisticated and articulate. Even without the Marcos mystique, they can give any politician a run for his money.

It is time to discard the notion that the communist threat was merely a convenient excuse for martial law. Perhaps the threat was bloated but it was there, and it was just a matter of time. Martial law thrived for the first few years because Marcos offered a vision of a New Society that Filipinos craved then and still seek today, and our hope is that we can find it without the pain and agony that the martial law nightmare wrought upon countless innocent lives.

* * *

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 09:27 AM
By Ambeth R. Ocampo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:28 pm | Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Research requires a critical attitude. Whether the source is a 16th-century manuscript, a physical book, or Google, the researcher must cross-check with other sources and validate the information at hand. I remind my students that there is a lot to be found on the Internet besides porn, and that not all things that come to the top of a Google search are to be trusted without verification. Why do some people find it difficult to research when the first step is to simply punch in a keyword and potential answers to a question flood in within seconds?

Entries from the diaries of Ferdinand Marcos are to be found online in philippinediaryproject.wordpress.com, and if you have time you can browse through other first-hand accounts of Philippine history from the hands of: Antonio de las Alas, Apolinario Mabini, Edgardo J. Angara, Francis Burton Harrison, Salvador H. Laurel, Teodoro M. Locsin, and many more. There are also the sleek websites of the Malacañang Museum and the Official Gazette, managed by young people in the Presidential Communications Office that bring history closer to a wired generation.

It is fascinating to see martial law unfold through Marcos’ eyes. After Ninoy Aquino exposed “Oplan Sagittarius” on the floor of the Senate in 1972, people went to Malacañang to confirm the rumors and Marcos denied any plan for martial law. But in his diary entry written in the wee hours of Sept, 22, 1972, he described the previous day, Sept. 21, as follows:

“Delayed by the hurried visit of Joe Aspiras and Nating Barbers who came from the Northern bloc of congressmen and senators who want to know if there is going to be martial law in 48 hours as predicted by Ninoy Aquino. Of course Imelda and I denied it. But Johnny Ponce Enrile, Gen. Paz, Gen. Nanadiego, Kit Tatad and I with Piciong Tagmani doing the typing finished all the papers (the proclamation and the orders) today at 8:00 pm.

“[US] Amb. Byroade came to see me at 11:15 pm and was apparently interested to know whether there would be martial law. He seemed to favor it when I explained it is intended to primarily reform our society and eliminate the communist threat. But he suggested that a proclamation before the American elections may be used by MacGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate, as proof of the failure of the foreign policy of the present president.”

At 9:55 p.m. on Sept. 22, 1972, Marcos wrote: “Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed near Wack-Wack at about 8:00 pm tonight. It was a good thing he was riding in his security car as a protective measure. This makes the martial law proclamation a necessity.” In the heady days of Edsa 1986, Enrile was quoted as saying that this “ambush” was actually staged to give Marcos a compelling reason to declare martial law. That night, as the nation slept, martial law crept over the land.

The next day, Sept. 23, Marcos wrote in his diary:

“Things moved according to plan although out of the total 200 target personalities in the plan only 52 have been arrested, including the three senators, Aquino, Diokno and Mitra and Chino Roces and Teddy Locsin. At 7:15 pm I finally appeared on a nationwide TV and Radio broadcast to announce the proclamation of martial law, the general orders and instruction. I was supposed to broadcast at 12:00 p.m. but technical difficulties prevented it. We had closed all TV stations. We have to clear KBS which broadcast it live. VOP and PBS broadcast it by radio nationwide.”

By Sept. 25, almost everything was in place. Among many things, Marcos records his instructions to the military and a consultation with two justices of the Supreme Court on the legality of martial law:

“Met Justices Fred Ruiz Castro and Salvador Esguerra on a consulta. I told them frankly that I needed their help and counsel because we must keep all the actuations within constitutional limits. Justice Castro asked permission to ask a blunt question, ‘Is this a coup d’etat?’ and I told him that it is not but it is the exercise of an extraordinary power by the president for a situation anticipated by the constitution. Justice Esguerra said immediately that he feels that it is a legitimate exercise of martial law. And apparently reading my mind, he said, in the Merriman case, Justice Tanney had issued a writ of habeas corpus for a man who was detained on orders of President Lincoln. And President Lincoln just disregarded the judicial order. And Justice Tanney said, ‘What can we do, we are confronted by a superior authority?’ I then concluded that there must be no conflict between the two separate departments of Justice and Executive for it would be embarrassing to both. I believe that they are both of this persuasion.

“The public reaction throughout the Philippines is a welcome to martial law because of the smooth, peaceful reestablishment of peace and order and the hope of a reformed society. In fact most everyone now says this should have been done earlier. I attach the report of Boni Isip about the same result of a survey conducted by Liberal Party Leader Gerry Roxas. It is indeed gratifying that everyone now finds or discovers I am some kind of a hero! There is nothing as successful as success!”

Now that all the primary sources on the period are creeping out of the woodwork can we hope for a lucid and objective history of the Marcos years?

* * *

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 09:30 AM
By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:27 pm | Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Last week I was going through my files to look for materials from the martial law era to lend to my college at the University of the Philippines Diliman for an exhibit. I came across an issue of The Manila Chronicle dated Sept. 22, 1972, and was startled, thinking that the newspaper was shut down on Sept. 21.

Then I remembered that although Proclamation 1081 was indeed dated Sept. 21, it was not until Sept. 23 that Ferdinand Marcos announced on radio and TV that martial law had been declared.

That last issue of the Chronicle gives us glimpses into life on the eve of the imposition of martial law. Costing all of 25 centavos, the newspaper was already printing in color. On top of the front page were two photographs captioned “Demonstrators led by the Movement of Concerned Liberties pack Plaza Miranda in a rally against the threat of martial law.” Red flags provided a dramatic backdrop to the demonstrators. The men had long hair and the women were in miniskirts, and I wondered what happened to them after martial law authorities enforced a ban on both fashions.

The front page’s main story had the headline “Senate junks Aquino probe,” referring to the Senate turning down a proposal to inquire into alleged links between Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the Communist Party of the Philippines. Smaller headlines read: “Tolentino proposes national ‘summit,’” referring to Senate Majority Leader Arturo Tolentino proposing a meeting between the administration and opposition to resolve the growing political conflict, and “Marcos, military aides in huddle,” about Marcos meeting with Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Romeo Espino.

Ominously, the second article read in part: “The possible imposition of martial law was not discounted.” The other front-page articles were “Hernandez, unionist, dies,” “7 generals confirmed,” “Cancer kills one Filipino per hour” and “House OKs warning on tobacco” (the warnings said to be stricter than those required in the United States).

Inside that issue of the Chronicle, on the editorial page, were columns by Ernesto Granada and Alejandro Roces belittling Marcos’ allegations of Ninoy Aquino’s communist links. Granada criticized the press for giving so much space to Marcos’ “irresponsible revelations” when there were more important news stories, including the oil companies’ petitions for a 2-centavo increase in oil products. (If I remember right, gasoline was around 30 centavos a liter at that time.)

Also in the inside pages was an article on Marcos signing a new anti-car theft act with stiffer penalties. It was next to another photograph of the Plaza Miranda rally, this time focusing on “young Maryknoll coeds” heading to Plaza Miranda, all in uniform. Next to that photograph was an article on the education department being instructed by the military to report student activists, and proposals to include subjects in “civics and democracy” in the elementary curriculum. That proposal was opposed by Waldo Perfecto of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines, who said that the education department might become “party to a witch-hunt” and that the subjects “are almost tantamount to brainwashing.”

The back page of the main section had a photograph of Ninoy Aquino addressing long-haired students from Ateneo de Manila and UP to “resist and fight the campaign of fear” of Marcos, which he said was paving the way for the imposition of martial law. Next to his photograph was an article describing a proposal from an ongoing Constitutional Convention to extend Marcos’ presidential term to June 1976.

In the business and finance section were articles like “No cause for alarm, bank depositors told.” One article was on a power struggle in the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and one on the declining textile industry.

Parity rights

Also in the business section was an article titled “American firms with properties covered by parity ruling,” about a list from the Securities and Exchange Commission naming 312 corporations with more than 40-percent US participation (equity). The amount of US equity involved totaled P961 million. The SEC released the report because of a Supreme Court decision that ruled an end to parity rights given to Americans by July 3, 1974. After that date, corporations engaged in the exploitation of natural resources, owning public lands or operating public utilities in the Philippines would have to have at least 60-percent Filipino equity.

In a 1984 article in the Philippine Law Journal, “The Legal Framework of Alien Interests in Land and Other Natural Resources in the Philippines,” Prof. Perfecto Fernandez provided a history of these parity rights. Americans had complete access to our natural resources when they occupied the Philippines in 1898. When we moved to commonwealth status in 1935, we passed a constitution that provided “parity rights,” meaning the Americans could exploit our natural resources and we could exploit theirs (sure, sure). In 1946, as we moved toward independence, we again extended parity rights, with nationalist historians like Renato Constantino pointing out that we were practically blackmailed here, the parity rights being tied to war rehabilitation assistance.

Fernandez wrote that after martial law was declared, a new constitution was put in place still upholding the expiration of parity rights on July 3, 1974, but recognizing individual land titles of Americans who had acquired their properties before that date. Moreover, the Marcos constitution allowed the government to grant foreigners access to our natural resources through service contracts and international treaties or agreements entered into by the Chief Executive.

The Chronicle article on parity rights reminds us of a broader context to martial law, beyond Marcos the individual. Marcos knew he would need Washington’s support if he declared martial law, and issues like parity rights and US bases were important. America knew Marcos would protect its interests and therefore allowed him to impose martial law and backed his dictatorship almost to the very end. During a state visit to the Philippines in 1981, then Vice President George Bush praised Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principles and to the democratic processes.”

* * *

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 09:52 AM
By Jose Rodel Clapano

(The Philippine Star)

Updated September 21, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay said that Filipinos should not forget the lessons of martial law as the country marks the 40th anniversary of its declaration today.

Binay yesterday said the people must cherish the freedom that they are now enjoying, restored after the historic EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986.

“Countless Filipinos offered their lives fighting for the freedom that we enjoy today. While we relish these freedoms, we should never forget what it was like during martial law,” Binay, who served as human rights lawyer at the time, said.

“For those who went through the dark night of martial law, regaining freedom is manna from heaven,” he added.

Binay said the young generation should be reminded of the dark days that the people went through while the country was under martial law.

“That is something the current generation and the next ones ought to be reminded of again and again. They owe what blessings they enjoy now to the blood, sweat and tears of the past,” he said.

The Vice President said it’s about time for people who experienced the pains of martial law to tell their stories to the young generation.

“As I told the participants of the roundtable conference on the proposed Memory Museum, it’s about time we tell our story to the younger generation, not out of vanity or a need for recognition, but out of a shared responsibility to keep the memory of our fight for democracy alive, and to remind them of the price we will pay if we lose our vigilance,” he said. Martial law was declared on Sept. 21, 1972 by former President Ferdinand Marcos through Proclamation 1081. Marcos loyalists claimed the declaration stabilized the country and upheld the rule of law.

However, critics said it sparked various incidents of human rights violations and other abusive practices committed by the military.

Fight vs impunity continues

Meanwhile, the militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) yesterday called on the people to continue the fight against martial rule, saying it has persisted 40 years after its declaration.

The KMU said martial rule remains as far as the workers’ and people’s rights to form unions and launch strikes are concerned. “As far as the right of farmers to struggle to own the lands that they have been tilling for decades, if not centuries, martial law persists in the country,” the labor group said. According to KMU, the declaration of martial law marked the escalation of grave crimes against the Filipino people, including workers.

“Martial law resulted in the wanton violation of the workers’ and people’s civil and political rights, severe exploitation and oppression of the country’s workers, farmers and toiling masses, plunder of the country’s resources by big foreign and local capitalists, plunder of the people’s money by the dictator and his cronies, and increase in usurious debts entered into by the dictator with international financial institutions,” the KMU said in a statement.

KMU chair Elmer Labog said the 1986 People Power Revolution failed to bring about genuine social change, and merely brought back the economic, social and political order that existed before martial law.

The group said the US and the exploiting class that supported martial law remain in power and are ready to unleash wholesale fascist repression against the workers and people. “Martial law has persisted in various forms. The Marcos ruling clique was merely replaced by different factions of the ruling classes that it displaced,” the KMU said.

“We have every reason and right to continue to fight for our immediate interests and for a Philippines that is truly free and democratic under a government of the people,” it said.

Cause-oriented groups led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) will hold protest actions today to mark the anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

Earlier, the group laid a wreath and lit candles at the Chino Roces monument as they called for justice for all victims of state repression.

“We have not forgotten and we continue to struggle for justice which has eluded the martial law victims and many other victims of human rights violations, past and present. Even the indemnification of the Marcos victims is to be passed under the Aquino regime. The culture of impunity within the military that martial law gave rise to has not been stamped out,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes.

“We pay tribute to the heroic struggle of the Filipino people in resisting the US-backed fascist dictatorship of Marcos. But 40 years since the declaration of martial law, the people’s aspirations for genuine freedom and democracy remain unfulfilled, thus we struggle on,” he added.

Martial Law veterans will join young activists in a march from España Boulevard to Mendiola. Human-rights victims of the post-Marcos regimes are also expected to join. Bayan was founded in 1985 at the height of the struggle to topple the US-Marcos regime.

Its first chair was Sen. Lorenzo Tañada and its secretary-general was Lean Alejandro, whose 25th death anniversary was observed yesterday.

“We offer our Sept. 21 march to the memory of all martyrs who fought for genuine freedom and democracy. We dedicate our march to Lean, to the recently departed people’s lawyer Romeo Capulong and to the many fighters for national and social liberation. We continue to be inspired by their courage,” Reyes said.

Bayan also lamented the continuing incarceration of more than 350 political prisoners under the Aquino regime. Many of them were arrested during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even as quite a number were jailed during the time of Aquino.

ML years to be included in curriculum

On the 40th anniversary today of the declaration of martial law, educators are being asked to allot more time in teaching students the events that transpired during those dark years.

Edsa People Power Commission (EPPC) head Emily Abrera said sufficient knowledge about the martial law years would enable the youth to appreciate the rights and liberties they are enjoying now.

“I think those (events) that particularly impact on how we actively participate in this democracy should be (given more time). The end result we want to achieve is every citizen, young and old, can do something to help build this nation,” Abrera told The STAR in a recent interview.

Abrera said martial law is not usually discussed thoroughly in the classrooms due to the numerous lessons that the students take up.

“I think there is an attempt to present it (martial law) with some amount of balance, but I don’t think it is being given enough time, perhaps because of the number of things being taken up,” she said.

Abrera said not all the items in the curriculum are tackled due to lack of time.

“(Martial law) is recent history. There are many students, especially in the public schools and the school year is not long enough to cover the entire curriculum,” she said. National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) chair Maria Serena Diokno said there have been concerns about martial law not being taught properly.

“There have been complaints that martial law is not taught in textbooks and is misrepresented,” Diokno said during the Edsa ’86 Memory Museum roundtable conference in Manila last week.

“The K to 12 will revise this and there is a component that would include the martial law period,” she added.

Earlier, members of the Akbayan party-list filed Resolution 2608 asking state agencies to form a task force that would draft guidelines for teaching martial law at all levels in schools.

Abrera said students should be allowed to examine the information and events surrounding martial law so they would be able to make their own analyses and conclusions.

“That’s why they are rewriting it (curriculum) so that the young would have a sense already of their country, how we are governed, what is the essence of democratic rule and come to a national sense,” she said.

Abrera believes the young generation still understands the spirit of Edsa 1 but needs to appreciate it deeper.

“I think they are moved by it. But the question is how deeply this impacts on them. Let’s not forget they were born into an era where nothing was removed from them. Their rights are intact,” she said.

Abrera said the need to educate the youth is one of the reasons why the government plans to construct an Edsa ’86 memory museum. – Rhodina Villanueva, Mayen Jaymalin, Alexis Romero

Sam Miguel
09-21-2012, 09:55 AM
EDITORIAL (The Philippine Star)

Updated September 21, 2012 12:00 AM

Forty years is a long time to hold on to memories. Among Filipinos, a generation has reached adulthood with no personal memories of living with basic rights curtailed. And yet the story of martial law bears constant retelling, as a reminder of what happens when the lust for power is allowed to go unchecked.

The story of martial law also needs to be retold, 40 years after the official date of its declaration, because the abuses of the dictatorship have not been eradicated. To this day, the Philippines remains in a list of nearly 90 countries where cases of enforced disappearances have been recorded in recent years and remain unsolved.

Human rights abuses, although no longer systematic as in the martial law regime, continue to be attributed to state forces by victims or their relatives. Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, dubbed “The Butcher” by rights advocates and wanted for the torture and disappearances of two University of the Philippines coeds, is believed to be enjoying the protection of certain military elements.

The restoration of democracy did not put an end to the use of torture as a tool of law enforcement and counterinsurgency. Filipinos sick of lawlessness have also shown readiness to look away when the military and police employ extrajudicial methods against terrorism and rampant criminality.

Forty years after martial law was imposed, too few people have paid for the atrocities and large-scale corruption during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. His heirs are enjoying their wealth and are again wielding political power. His biggest cronies remain among the country’s richest and most influential individuals. The architects of martial law breezed back into politics and continue to influence policy-making.

Corruption - whether large-scale or penny ante - did not go away with the collapse of the Marcos regime. The problem was serious enough for Filipinos to send to Malacañang in 2010 the candidate whose battle cry was “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

The lust for power - the desire to hang on to it for life - persists in certain individuals. Only eternal vigilance can stop them. And vigilance starts with remembering. Even after 40 years.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 10:07 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:47 am | Monday, September 24th, 2012

Many Filipinos watching the riveting exchange of words on the Senate floor last Wednesday between Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile must have thought that the chamber’s oldest member had gotten the better of the youngest. He certainly did, in both parliamentary and public-opinion terms, but in fact it was not only Trillanes who suffered a hubristic meltdown; Enrile, too, displayed an arrogance that was all the more stunning for its lack of subtlety.

All of us have reason to be outraged by their conduct.

Trillanes did not do himself any favors when he walked out of the Senate. While he must have thought he was doing the right thing by not participating in the reading aloud of a document he at that time considered classified (the so-called Brady notes, which he now questions, and which at that moment in their confrontation Enrile was about to read into the record), he forgot that the Senate, if nothing else, is a debating forum, an arena where words are the weapons of choice. So when he left the floor, Enrile lunged at him for running away, using the sharp blade of sarcasm: “He can’t take the heat. He’s a coward.”

And while the subject of his privilege speech, which provoked Enrile’s ferocious counterattack, was important, the series of events immediately before Trillanes read his speech and immediately after he walked out of the Senate suggests that he was reaching for something more than the undivided integrity of Camarines Sur. He now says he was in fact hoping to help unseat Enrile as Senate president.

The utter fecklessness of his attempt reminds us not only that, as it is often said, hope is not a strategy; it also reminds us of the inept adventurism he displayed during the Oakwood caper of 2003. Does one seize state power by taking over a serviced-apartments hotel? Trillanes does not seem to understand where the real sources of power lie, whether in society or in the Senate.

His backdoor diplomacy is marked by the same confusion; he thinks that because China is large the Philippines’ only viable negotiating stance is appeasement, and because Chinese officials are talking to him they are necessarily sincere.

Enrile, the master political survivor of our time, whose political influence and legal acumen have helped shape Philippine society for the last half-century—he was already a person of authority in the 1960s—suffers from a kind of confusion too. He thinks that, when he is sufficiently engaged, he can do no wrong.

During the impeachment trial of Renato Corona and especially during its immediate aftermath, Enrile’s disposition impressed many as the ideal combination of institutional dignity and personal humility. He spoke tellingly of his advice to Corona after Corona’s own attempted walkout, that it just so happened each of them had roles to play in the impeachment process—possibly one of the most important civic lessons we can draw out of the entire experience. He also spoke of doing the necessary homework to prepare for the trial, and of his readiness to step down from the Senate presidency if someone else could muster a majority.

But no political career could be as lengthy or as consequential as Enrile’s if it were based on humility or meek role-playing alone. The post-impeachment aura he now enjoys can obscure the fact that Enrile is a man of extraordinary ambition, with a sense of self to match.

The exchange with Trillanes is a timely reminder. Judging from the admiring press Enrile has received after “dusting off” the junior senator, in the words of one newspaper article, it is also a much-needed one.

Enrile responded to Trillanes’ repeated attempts to stop him from reading the Brady notes into the record with a flash of imperious anger. “Do not teach me about parliamentary proceedings. I’m not answerable to anybody about what I say in this hall.”

In fact, Trillanes was not teaching him an unfamiliar rule; he was, however inadequately, merely reminding Enrile of a procedural safeguard. If senators debating with Enrile cannot refer to parliamentary procedures, then who can?

And in fact Enrile is answerable for what he says in the Senate hall—to his colleagues (who could, if they had not been too intimidated or entertained by his counterattack, censure him for unparliamentary behavior) and above all to the public he is supposed to serve. If he is truly not answerable for what he says, he needs a title bigger than senator.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 10:09 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:09 am | Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The new Cybercrime Prevention Act, signed into law by President Aquino on Sept. 12, takes the dangerously outmoded provisions on libel in the Revised Penal Code—and dumps them online. Without any legislative debate, without any public hearing, indeed with hardly anyone looking, these libel provisions have been unthinkingly extended to all online content. While the extension itself is only a small part of the new law, it now threatens every citizen who has access to a computer device with unconscionable restrictions on our hard-earned right to free speech.

We believe the new provision is deeply, radically, unconstitutional.

Coupled with the continuing inaction of the Aquino administration and its coalition allies in Congress on the long-sought, much-promised Freedom of Information Act, the new law makes us question the depth of the administration’s commitment to free speech, a free press and the free exchange of information.

It is possible that the Aquino administration and its partners in Congress were merely asleep at the switch, and did not realize the true implications of the extension. The sequence of events, as first pieced together by blogger and South China Morning Post correspondent Raissa Robles, certainly suggests that the introduction of the inserted passage, by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, was hurried and did not benefit from in-depth discussion. The law’s major sponsor, Sen. Edgardo Angara, merely acquiesced to Sotto’s proposal to extend the reach of the existing libel provisions to cyberspace.

Whatever the case, the burden of responsibility—and it is a heavy one, with historical consequences—remains with the legislators who voted for the new law, and with the President who enacted it.

The language of the extension seems innocuous enough. We find it under Chapter II, “Punishable Acts,” together with other “Content-related Offenses,” namely cybersex, child pornography and unsolicited commercial communications or spam.

Under Section 4, subsection C, paragraph 4, we read: “Libel.—The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

And that’s it. There’s nothing else, no distinctions made, no qualifications offered. When we said “unthinking,” we meant our legislators did not think the matter through.

The Revised Penal Code was enacted into law some 80 years ago. While the provisions on libel have since been amended, to include the broadcast media, the assumptions behind them remain very much bound both to the print format and to the Code’s restrictive theories.

But the reality of online interaction, the networking that is made possible in cyberspace, is very different. There is certainly a need for greater responsibility in online conduct, to tame cyber-bullying, for instance, or to keep flaming wars from raging out of control. Dumping the Code’s provisions online and then hoping it will all work out, however, is not the way to meet this need.

Consider the following:

When a newspaper reader e-mails a possibly libelous article to a friend, is that reader now liable for libel, too? The unthinking extension suggests that the answer is yes.

When an online viewer tweets a link of a possibly libelous video to a friend, is that first viewer now liable for libel, too? The unthinking extension suggests that the answer is yes.

When a friend “likes” or shares or comments on a possibly libelous post on Facebook, is that friend now liable for libel, too? The unthinking extension suggests that the answer is yes.

When the subject of a possibly libelous article written by a city-based reporter reads it in online form in a remote area, can the subject file a case against the reporter in that place? The unthinking extension suggests that the answer, again, is yes.

We note that, in the penalties section, no sanctions are imposed on cyber-libel. Did our legislators think that was enough of a safeguard? But the journalism profession’s sorry experience with libel law in the Philippines has never been about conviction; it has always been about prosecution.

In other words, and even though libel suits are difficult to win because the presence of malice, a requirement of the law, is hard to prove, libel cases are filed against journalists anyway—because these cases are a form of harassment. They tie up a reporter’s time, they run up an editor’s legal fees, they discombobulate a newsroom.

And now, courtesy of our legislators, the same form of harassment is available to torment those who produce online content. That means, literally, tens of millions of Filipinos, made vulnerable in one fell swoop.

Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the Philippine libel law, which penalizes those convicted with imprisonment, violates human rights protocols. All of a sudden, it now runs afoul of Internet protocols, too.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 10:12 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:31 pm | Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Forty years after Proclamation 1081 plunged the country into the abyss of military rule, a new legacy of the dictatorship has come into focus: the startling reality that a new generation of “martial law babies” was born many years after the fall of Ferdinand Marcos.

The original martial law babies were children who grew up in the 1970s, unaware of the true nature of the dictatorship but accustomed over time to certain arrangements—the new normal—of the so-called New Society.

The members of the new generation were likely born in the last two decades, well after democracy was restored in 1986 or after Marcos died in 1989. But they share the same characteristics as the members of the old: a general lack of awareness of the true nature of the Marcos years, and an acceptance of martial law legacies as part of the norm.

It may be useful, then, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of martial law—the proclamation was dated Sept. 21, 1972, but it took effect, swiftly, staggeringly, on Sept. 23—by pointing out the continuing effects of Marcos misrule to the new generation.

The most pernicious of these legacies is the politicization of the Philippine military. Through martial law, the armed services were transformed from a complement of the government to a co-governor; graduates of the Philippine Military Academy began to see national leadership positions as a natural stop on their career path; the overarching principle of national security started to dictate all sorts of government policy. To an extent perhaps unimaginable by today’s generation, the military was in charge.

That was precisely what was at stake during the coup attempts of the 1980s, after the Marcoses fled the country; a newly restored democracy was struggling for its very existence against elements of the military who felt entitled to run government itself.

While the Armed Forces has since “returned to barracks,” as the phrase goes, the effects of Marcos-era politicization continue to linger: the bloated ranks of generals, the dizzying use of the revolving door to turn ex-generals into civilian officials or elected politicians, the still-wide lifestyle divide between officers and the rank and file, the repeated invocation of national security to cover a multitude of sins and, not least, the continuing prominence of military-police-security issues in the national agenda.

There are many other martial law legacies that the new martial law babies may take for granted. The notion, for example, of an exceptionally powerful presidency. While this understanding has a long history, beginning with the special powers enjoyed by Spanish governors-general and including the experiments in executive expansion conducted by Manuel Quezon, it was Marcos who centralized all available power in the presidency. To an extent perhaps unimaginable by today’s generation, the Marcos presidency was the be-all and end-all of Philippine politics.

But even today, even under a Constitution that has curtailed the powers of the presidency, raised the office of the Ombudsman to a new level of power and independence, and empowered local governments, Malacañang continues to dominate the policy agenda.

Still another legacy is the economy. While GDP growth has been continuous for about a dozen years, and the Philippines’ debt-paying capacity has increased dramatically, the country is still playing catch up with its potential—a promise that 20 years of Marcos rule had blithely thrown away. Incurring billions of dollars in foreign debt, indulging cronies as they divided the spoils of business among themselves, spending lavish amounts of money on unnecessary projects: To an extent perhaps unimaginable by today’s generation, the government then was breathtakingly irresponsible.

But we must confess: It isn’t just the new generation of martial law babies who have come to accept these and other martial law legacies as the new normal. Even those who survived the trauma of those tragic years can sometimes forget that things didn’t have to be this way—that the proper role for the military in a democracy is subsidiary, that real power may be exercised away from Malacañang.

It may be the role of the members of the new generation to help turn things around. They can take heart from the example of many of their counterparts, who grew up to fight the dictator.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 10:18 AM
^^^ It is an indictment on the part of the generation that lived through Martial Law, my self included, that the succeeding generations of "EDSA Babies" no longer have a full grasp of the atrocity that was Martial Law in our country. Yes, there was semblance of order, but this was brought about by fear, not by an abiding of acceptable social norms for the common good and respected by all citizens. And of course there were our version of the "desaparacidos", all those who were taken by government agents and never seen again. As much as I personally feel that almost all of those taken had indeed been Communists (I have no sympathy for the Reds at all) there was surely a number taken who really were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is a hallmark of any dictatorship. Strong-arm tactics more so.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 10:21 AM
By Juan L. Mercado

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:17 pm | Friday, September 21st, 2012

The dog-eared papers, on our computer, dealt with Ferdinand Marcos padlocking the press. This September is the 40th anniversary of Marcos’ imposition of batas militar in 1972.

One document is an “asso,” or arrest-and-seizure order. Signed by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, these papers were used by raiding teams to arrest 22 Manila-based journalists.

“Here is mine,” we told The Associated Press’ Carl Zimmerman, who had hitched a ride to Camp Crame. “Foreign correspondent?” snapped the colonel who snatched the asso. “You’re not to see these.”

“Assos” were also served on the Free Press’ Teodoro Locsin and Napoleon G. Rama, the Daily Mirror’s Amando Doronila, and others. We had fractured something called “Proclamation 1081.”

Our file has letters of protest. Jaime Zobel de Ayala, then the Philippines’ ambassador to London, received one from Financial Times editor JDF Jones saying, “I express concern at the detention by your government of our correspondent, Mr. Juan L. Mercado.” A cable from the Bulletin in Sydney says: “Our editor Donald Horne cabled President Marcos today requesting release…”

“Senator [Daniel] Inouye interceded with the Philippine Embassy in Washington,” Honolulu Star Bulletin editor A.A. Smyster wrote. The Associated Press’ managing editors and other US groups adopted resolutions on behalf of imprisoned journalists. The late cartoonist Corky Trinidad sparked these protests.

Memory anchors three essential elements for healing in a post-dictatorial regime, Inquirer columnist Randy David writes. “Truth, justice and reparation… Today’s young people hardly have an idea of what happened during 14 years of dictatorship.” The idea of establishing a “museum of memories” is being floated.

Consider the Marcos museum in Ilocos Norte. It houses the mausoleum that displays the embalmed remains of Marcos, a la Lenin and Mao. The memorabilia include books, the bed he was born in, even questioned World War II medals.

The Marcos medals were bogus, asserted a New York Times series by Seymour Hersh in 1986. The Times used US National Archives research done by University of South Wales professor Alfred McCoy. (His book “Closer Than Brothers” compares 1940 Philippine Military Academy graduates with those of Class 1972, who provided “the mailed fist for martial law”: Ping Lacson, Gringo Honasan et al.)

The services given by Marcos and 23 others to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1945 were “of limited military value,” Times reports by Jeff Gerth and Joel Brminkley added. “At no time did the Army recognize that any unit, designating itself as Maharlika, ever existed as a guerrilla force in the years of Japanese occupation…”

Yet, Marcos remains a hero to some. “Ilocos Norte has been an entire republic unto itself history-wise,” Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros notes. Its version of history differs from the rest of the country. Does that upset anybody?

In 2007, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines opened a Martial Law Memorial Wall in Quezon City. A year earlier, Manila inaugurated its Memorial Wall of the Victims of Martial Law. Etched into the black marble are the names of over 800 victims of the dictatorship, including Jose Diokno and activist Lean Alejandro. “I die just when I see the dawn break,” from Jose Rizal’s poem “Mi Ultimo Adios,” is carved into the plaque.

What will go into the “museum of memories”? Among other items, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s prison diaries. When military rebels were poised to overrun Malacañang in 1989, President Corazon Aquino entrusted the diaries to the Benedictine rector, Fr. Bernardo Perez.

Include also the Marcos diaries. People Power crowds discovered them in cardboard boxes, stashed in an obscure corner of Malacañang. Ambeth Ocampo has run excerpts in his Inquirer column, focusing on the days that ushered in the rule-by-bayonet. “The diaries are a primary source for the historian.”

Handwritten in English on Palace stationery, the penmanship unusually neat, the Marcos diaries offer “a compelling story of a complex man who sought to document his place among the world’s great leaders,” writes Los Angeles Times correspondent William C. Rempel in his book “Delusions of a Dictator.”

Instead, they show “a deceiver who lied to his allies, to his nation, to his wife, and, at times, even to his own diary… It documents fears and fantasies that drove a paranoid, messianic leader to depths of deceit and to the heights of authoritarian power.”

The Marcos diaries provide an answer to a puzzle that has bugged journalists: a second pooled editorial that never was.

The first ever pooled editorial here skewered the “Compartmentalized justice” of a decaying “New Society.” Upon the request of Chino Roces, the Manila Times’ Alfredo Roces wrote the draft. All dailies ran it on the same day. President Marcos went ballistic.

Malacañang phoned publishers with less grit. When a follow-up pooled editorial was proposed, the now defunct Evening News hastily bailed out, Viewpoint recalls. Others waffled. Thus, a second pooled editorial never materialized. Why?

In his Jan. 12, 1971, diary entry, Marcos wrote: “[Evening News publisher] Freddie Elizalde showed me a copy of an editorial which Chino Roces wanted to be pooled by all the newspapers castigating me and asking for my resignation and that of the cabinet. For good measure the editorial included the Vice President. It was opposed by Freddie and [Philippines Herald’s] Sebastian Ugarte… What a ridiculous spectacle Chino Roces is making of himself.”

“Journalists must remind people of what they prefer to forget,” columnist Simeon Dumdum wrote in “Speak Memory.” Battling amnesia, in the end, is “the struggle of man against tyranny.”

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 11:09 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:19 pm | Friday, September 21st, 2012

It is significant that human rights lawyer Romeo T. Capulong died at 77 just as the nation was preparing to mark the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. He will be laid to rest today, with the nation still in the throes of remembering that dark era in our history which he so vigorously resisted and helped end, working hard later so that it would not be repeated. Like Paul the Apostle, it can well be said of him: “He fought the good fight.”

Capulong was the pioneer of public interest law in the Philippines. According to his colleagues and admirers, he was that “rare gem,” a good lawyer who did not put his skills at the service of moneyed clients but, instead, employed them to win justice for the poor and the oppressed. Starting as a young legal adviser in the Nueva Ecija government in 1969, he became sufficiently well-known in the province to seek, and win, a seat in the Constitutional Convention. In the ConCon, his dedication to the plight of landless farmers became evident; he introduced provisions addressing the monopoly of land ownership. But perhaps the highlight of his legal career was as lawyer in a class suit by close to 10,000 victims of human rights abuse during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.

He himself was hounded by the Marcos regime in the late 1970s, forcing him to flee to the United States where he sought and was granted political asylum—one of the first of such approvals by the American government that later set a precedent for leaders exiled by the dictatorship. In the United States, he continued his human rights law practice, founding and heading the Philippine Center for Immigrant Rights as well as the Filipino Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. The latter documented human rights violations committed under martial law and established collaboration between human rights groups in the Philippines and the United States. As a result of his exile, he became a member of the New York Bar Association; he kept his membership up to his death.

With the downfall of Marcos, Capulong contributed to deepening the quality of the restored democracy by running for the Senate (he lost) and becoming the legal counsel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace negotiations with the government. Although the talks foundered, Capulong remained committed to the peace process and continued to sit as legal counsel of the NDFP. Meanwhile, he continued his public-interest law practice, offering legal services to the victims of abuse and injustice. He handled the case of Singapore-based overseas Filipino worker Flor Contemplacion, as well as the case of “comfort women” forced into sex slavery by Japanese forces during World War II. He became the counsel of the victims of the Payatas garbage crash in 2000 that killed more than 200 people. During the Arroyo administration, he handled the rebellion charges against six party-list lawmakers and the criminal charges against 72 Southern Tagalog activists. He institutionalized alternative law by founding the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and the Public Interest Law Center, which provide legal services to the poor.

Perhaps the peak of Capulong’s legal career would be his election as judge of the International Criminal Tribunal. He was elected at a particularly difficult time as the court was holding the prosecution and trial of, as its minutes said, “persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991.” In short, he became a member of the tribunal that looked into the appalling incidents of ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Upon his election to the court, the United Nations secretary general called Capulong “the Philippines’ leading human rights lawyer” and “the nation’s pioneer in international humanitarian and public interest law, developmental legal aid, class action litigation, and criminal defense.”

His election to the UN court reaffirmed his standing as a legal pundit. But he will be best remembered as the people’s lawyer, the counsel of victims scarred by martial law, the lawyer of scavengers of the garbage dump, the defender of social pariahs. A legal giant and social reformer, Romeo T. Capulong has left a shining legacy of justice for the poor and the oppressed. Truly, he was the champion of the people.

Sam Miguel
09-24-2012, 11:36 AM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:43 am | Monday, September 24th, 2012

The ironies in the war between Juan Ponce Enrile and Antonio Trillanes are so rich and plentiful I don’t know where to begin to appreciate them. They are, in no particular order of importance, these:

One, that Trillanes should accuse Enrile of being the tuta of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the eve of the 40th anniversary of martial law. The context of it of course is the division of Camarines Sur. Enrile says he isn’t even aware that Arroyo is interested in CamSur, which is about as true as saying he’s not aware his son is running for senator.

But surely if you want to accuse Enrile of being tuta at this time there’s someone to point to more readily as his master? Before Enrile reinvented himself as the country’s savior from martial law, he was an architect of martial law. In fact, he triggered it by faking an ambush on himself in Wack Wack, which was what Ferdinand Marcos specifically cited to declare it. He would admit his sin after Edsa, but recant it after he had a falling out with Cory. And he calls Trillanes a liar.

Two, that Trillanes should be P-Noy’s backdoor diplomat to China. P-Noy explains that the initiative came from Trillanes himself—Trillanes was approached by Chinese officials while he was in China. But you still have to wonder why P-Noy thought it a good idea.

At the very least Trillanes’ ability to read a situation well you see in the Oakwood mutiny. At the time he mounted it, Arroyo was a legitimate president, made so by an act of People Power. At the time he mounted it, elections were round the corner, which was the perfectly legitimate way to get rid of her. At the time he mounted it, the public couldn’t care less about his cause he hadn’t bothered to inform them of it. It was as though Trillanes believed that by the sheer force of his personality, he would rally the nation around him spontaneously. In fact, all it showed was someone who was impulsive and reckless, if not indeed egotistical and deluded.

At the very most, why Trillanes and not any one of the China experts, or those who have actually lived in China, worked in China, and spent a lifetime studying China? Such as Chito Sta.

Romana, Jimmy Florcruz, and Ericson Baculinao? They not only know China very well, they are friends with some members of the Chinese politburo. And their patriotism is beyond question. If P-Noy cannot turn them into backdoor negotiators, two of them being journalists working for international news agencies, he can at least rely on their expertise. Whom does Trillanes know that can affect Chinese policy?

Three, that Trillanes should announce he is the backdoor diplomat to China. The point of doing things backdoor is secrecy. Trillanes’ lips are about as sealed as Maurice Arcache’s. It was not Enrile who first revealed Trillanes’ dealings with China, it was Trillanes himself in response to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s apparent provocations. And the point of diplomacy is to keep a united front. You have differences with the official stand, thresh it out first. But you do not carry out an official function with a different agenda. You speak with one voice.

You see the importance of that in the way Mitt Romney tried to politicize the anti-American riots in Libya and elsewhere, saying Barack Obama was supporting the rioters more than America. The humongous backlash against him from friend and foe alike has probably cost him the elections. The point is simple: Foreign policy may not be held hostage to partisan politics. You’ve got differences in how to face the world, resolve it internally. But at the end of the day, you take one stand, you speak with one voice.

Four, Enrile says the danger of Trillanes getting reelected is that “China might have a senator in this chamber.” Well, if Trillanes is a Chinese agent, he hasn’t learned very much from Mao who proposed that creating too many enemies at the same time is suicidal, you should take them one at a time. Trillanes has just managed to piss off Enrile, Del Rosario and Manny Pangilinan. The last he accused of being hostile to China for his own interests and who in turn has called him a barefaced liar. Which is also what Enrile and Erap call him. He has also just managed to piss off Malacañang. Little wonder he keeps losing his wars.

But what’s this, we should worry about having a Chinese agent—by Enrile’s definition—in the Senate but not worry about having American agents in it? Who are most of the senators? Indeed, at the very heart of Foreign Affairs? Who are Del Rosario and company?

In the end, what’s so wrong about Trillanes’ conduct is that he himself subverts his own disagreements with Del Rosario’s confrontational approach to China. Or his antics make people forget about them. You don’t have to be a Chinese sympathizer, or agent, to see that Del Rosario has been dangerously saber-rattling with China—a “war freak” as Trillanes calls him—while dragging the United States into the fray on the insane assumption it will take our side in any open confrontation with China. “Hu’s your daddy?” Barbara Bachman asks Americans, in reference to China owning the biggest amount of US dollars outside the United States. Alas, Trillanes cannot now be the best advancer of these criticisms.

Finally, China must be laughing its head off. I used to say it doesn’t need to attack us, all it has to do is get its more than 1 billion citizens to piss into the China Sea at the same time and we will be engulfed by a tsunami. As it turns out, even that is unnecessary. All it has to do is leave us to ourselves. It can always expect an Enrile and Trillanes to get into a pissing contest and get all of us very wet and desperately needing a bath. Why should anyone want to declare war on us?

We do a good job of it by ourselves to ourselves.

09-25-2012, 01:23 PM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:29 pm | Monday, September 24th, 2012

P-Noy said some very interesting things on the 40th anniversary of martial law last Friday. Visiting Fort Magsaysay where his father, Ninoy, and Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno were detained during martial law, he said (translated into English from Tagalog): “You can probably imagine how much I wanted to take revenge on those who oppressed my father and our nation.”

In time, however, his anger ebbed at the thought of the beacon of light his father and Ka Pepe became “in that dark chapter of our history when our freedom was taken, our rights were trampled on, and we were thrown into the pit of misery.” Through their efforts and those of countless Filipinos whose sacrifices contributed to the dawning of a new day, we have put a distance between us and those times. He himself, P-Noy said, was giving special importance to human rights, the better to transform the military, then an instrument of torture and terror, into a true protector of the people. In the end, our destiny lies in our hands. “Together, we can shape the course of our history by directing our efforts toward the right path.”

When I heard this, I remembered a song sung by Jackson Browne called “My Personal Revenge.” The following gives you an idea of how it goes:

“My personal revenge will be the right /Of our children in the schools and in the gardens /My personal revenge will be to give you /This song which has flourished without panic /My personal revenge will be to show you

“The kindness in the eyes of my people /Who have always fought relentlessly in battle /And been generous and firm in victory.

“My personal revenge will be to tell you good morning /On a street without beggars or homeless…” And so on.

This is in fact the translation of a poem by Tomas Borge, one of the founders of the Sandinistas, and who held various positions in government, among them minister of the interior, after the Sandinistas swept into power in Nicaragua.

I’ve always loved this poem/song because of the tremendous insight it gives, from the perspective of one who has suffered grievously, on how to wreak the completest revenge on one’s oppressor. That is not by doing to him what he did to you but by doing to him just the opposite. Or more to the point, by building a world that is the opposite of what he made. Instead of fetters, freedom. Instead of terror, peace of mind. Instead of lying, cheating, stealing and killing, an order dedicated to realizing the national, and human, potential. And making the world—and him—see it.

That is the complete refutation of an oppressive rule. Borge’s concept of “personal revenge” is richly ironic. In one sense it is personally gratifying, in another it is also collectively satisfying: It is not just one person’s revenge, it is all of the people’s too. In one sense it is getting back at someone who has done a colossal wrong, in another it goes beyond it to righting colossal wrongs. It gives whole new windows to personal revenges.

Without articulating it that way, P-Noy seems to share in its spirit.

Doing the opposite of what the oppressor did does not of course mean letting him and his co-conspirators get away scot-free in the name of spurious reconciliation. It means punishing them in the name of true reconciliation, which is reconciling with the oppressed, who are the people. P-Noy came a little too late to do something about the Marcoses but he didn’t come too late to do something about the oppressor that came immediately before him. His resolve in making her and her cabal pay for their sins is impressive, and you wonder how he would have done had he been the one to come after Marcos. Well, he can still do something about them. Better late than never.

But more than this, what he has done, or at least begun to do, in terms of building a world that is the opposite of what his immediate predecessor did is far more impressive. It’s the direct refutation of it, and an indirect one of a more distant tyranny, which is martial law. We caught a glimpse of it in his Sona, which is one of the reasons he has soared in the public esteem. That Sona conjured a vision if not exactly of hordes of children occupying the schools and gardens as a matter of right, of streets devoid of beggars and homeless, of song bursting in the hearts of a victorious people, at least an echo of it.

We caught a glimpse of it in global perceptions about a recovering economy, which is a slap in the face of a regime that kept crowing about its economic deeds without them ever being felt by the people. As well indeed as that of a more distant regime that kept claiming the same thing while marching the country backwards to become the doormat of Asia. Which advances the view that truly there are no mahirap where there are no corrupt, that truly there are no limits to what you can do with a decent government.

Indeed, we’re catching a glimpse of it in a new mood, buoyed by an emerging culture of honesty, a burgeoning sense of capability, a spreading belief that a government can actually strike up a bargain with the people. Which is an indictment of a regime that extolled the vice of rottenness, that punished the good and rewarded the wicked, that made government something to want to avoid rather than go to. And a more distant regime which did the same thing but worse. Far far worse.

Of course the reason we’re only seeing glimpses of the changes is that they’ve just begun. There’s a long way to go, in a road full of uncertainties. But P-Noy hews closely to it, the road hitherto not taken, and he may yet have the satisfaction of finally getting back at his family’s oppressors, at his country’s tormentors. He may yet find the satisfaction of wreaking on them his complete revenge, his ultimate revenge:

09-26-2012, 08:24 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:29 pm | Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

How should we teach young Filipinos about martial law?

Elsewhere in the world, countries who went through a national trauma have tried to come to grips with their experience in a two-pronged way: with the truth, and with dispatch.

As soon as it could, Cambodia set up a Khmer Rouge Tribunal to exact accountability from those most responsible for the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime. A notorious prison, the site of the torture and death of countless ordinary Cambodians, was also turned into a genocide museum, its most haunting exhibit a collection of skulls and bones as a reminder of the unspeakable brutality that had occurred.

In South Africa, as soon as apartheid was dismantled, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed, where both victims of the former repressive white regime and its enablers and perpetrators were invited to testify to help in the healing of the deeply divided land. And in Argentina, a National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons sought to probe the abuses of a succession of military juntas—specifically, to help shed light on the fate of some 30,000 Argentines that disappeared during the country’s long night of state repression, called the “Dirty War.”

Meanwhile, in our part of the world, 26 years after the fall of the dictatorship and 40 years after the declaration of martial law, not only is the notorious Marcos family ensconced in power but an alternative history of the Marcos years also holds sway over a significant portion of the population (mostly in the north, where Ferdinand Marcos is seen as a hero or at least a misunderstood statesman).

His widow Imelda’s antics, such as designing tacky jewelry to make light of the enduring public disgust at her excessive ways, are seen as harmless, even endearing, gestures. And the strongman’s son and namesake, a senator of the realm, boldly twits victims of human rights abuse for their supposed temerity to demand justice and compensation for the violations they suffered under martial law.

President Aquino’s recent directive to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines to form a committee to compile the experiences and stories of those who suffered under martial law is a laudable move, if one that also begs the question: Why only now?

A full generation of Filipinos has grown up after the 1986 Edsa People Power revolt, and with each succeeding year, that singular achievement—the “grandfather” of people power revolutions, as Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Kim Komenich called it—has steadily lost its luster. Anecdotal evidence suggests the depths of ignorance and incuriosity many young people today hold about the Marcos years; it can only come from the paucity of truthful and complete information on that period in their history classes and, as well, from the larger sense of indifference and forgetfulness that afflicts the nation.

An anonymous axiom says “Happy is the country that has no history”—the happiness, of course, being the blithe simplemindedness of the fool with no memory of the actions and motivations that define his character and place in the world. This must be why Filipinos are invariably rated as the happiest people on earth; the dark side of our culture of levity is the tendency to let bygones be bygones too quickly, indiscriminately, the hard work of exacting justice given up for the soothing balm of forgiveness.

Or, if not outright absolution, a fuzzy “objectivity” that would let children decide on their own whether martial law was good or bad, if Education Secretary Armin Luistro would have his way. “If you already teach judgment or interpretation, I don’t think that’s education,” he said, adding that this approach would prevent a situation where students “imbibe the biases” of the historian who authored the book.

Let’s see. Under martial law there was indeed peace and order in the streets, the petty gangs were gone, long hair on men was abolished, calm came with the nightly curfew. But that peace came at a horrific price: 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture incidents and 70,000 incarcerations, among other things.

Would students on their own be able to make the connection? Shouldn’t a historian’s role, and a teacher’s, for that matter, be to extract insight from the facts? “History does not only consist of documents,” said historian John Lukacs. And “after the collection of facts, the search for causes,” reminded another, Hippolyte Taine.

Let truth, and nothing but, be the guide in teaching our kids the lessons of martial law. And none too soon, for we have a lot of catching up to do.

09-26-2012, 08:28 AM
^ Perhaps our parents who are old enough and grandparents who went through World War II wonder why those of us in this and succeeding generations even buy Japanese products such as cars and appliances. In Korea, even young Koreans in their teenage years were taught all about the torment suffered by their country under what was then Imperial Japan. And even though the world is now a different place, Koreans in general supposedly still have a mistrust for the Japanese. I've always said we should have just pulled a Ceacescu in 1986.

09-26-2012, 08:34 AM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:28 pm | Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

That was quite a mouthful Manny Pangilinan spat out last week. “Kung ako lang,” he was quoted as saying, “I’d pack up and go back to Hong Kong. Ang gulo-gulo n’yo.” He said that after Antonio Trillanes blind-sided him, depicting him as whipping up anti-China sentiment in this country to protect his business interests.

Before that he had just broken ties with Ateneo de Manila, citing irreconcilable differences. He was particularly unhappy about three things. One was Ateneo opposing the Reproductive Health bill. Two was Ateneo opposing mining. And three was Ateneo opposing plagiarism: Its professors in particular took a dim view of his plagiarizing Oprah and others in his graduation speech, which they made known in a position paper.

Oh, but please don’t leave us, begged House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II. Specifically, Gonzales said: “While I understand his frustration and disappointment, I want to appeal to him to take pause and rethink this repatriation to Hong Kong. The steady performance of our economy today is the result of a confluence of factors that a daring investor in the like of him has greatly contributed to.”

What arrant nonsense.

Pangilinan wants to dissociate with Ateneo, fine. That’s his business, in more ways than one, even if some of the reasons he advances for it must give rise to questions about the quality of his character, if not his mind. The part about parting ways because of Ateneo’s decision to buck RH is not just fine, it’s laudable. The part about Ateneo opposing mining, that’s a lot more debatable. And debate is probably the best way to resolve the extremes of mining being an evil unto itself and mining being this country’s savior from poverty.

But it’s the part about plagiarism that’s especially revealing. What, he’s had it with Ateneo because it caught him copying? Or because its teachers chose to rap him on the knuckles for it? Portions of his speech were lifted from Oprah, J.K. Rowlings and Barack Obama, the eagle-eyed netizens who discovered it showing exactly which parts were so. As I said then, I don’t know which is worse, being caught plagiarizing or being caught plagiarizing Oprah. Surely he did not lack for people with a deeper insight into life to plagiarize? Or maybe he did lack them: He did not know them.

But like I said, he wants to split with Ateneo, that’s his business. But he starts throwing a tantrum because a loose cannon of a senator throws a volley his way and threatening to pull out his business because of it, it ceases to be his business. It becomes everybody’s business.

What sucks about it is several things. Not least is that he does not lack for the means to respond to these accusations. He has a TV channel, he has shares in several newspapers, he has the assurance his side will always find air or print. When he called Trillanes a liar, it was aired and printed. What more does he want? That people like Trillanes be gagged? That media do not publish his accusations? For someone who owns a great deal of the media, he hasn’t yet grasped the concept of freedom of the press.

What sucks even more is his monumental presumption that this country needs him more than he needs it. Or that this country has profited more from him than he has profited from it. Gonzales’ reaction in fact is just a shameless exercise in licking his master’s not particularly savory body part. Our economy is improving because of daring entrepreneurs like him? Well, Gonzales may call using foreign money to build an empire, gobbling up telecommunications and communications companies, and pretty much trying to own the country daring, but the rest of us will only call it tapang ng apog. And Gonzales may call the sudden spike in Meralco prices a sign of an improving economy, but the rest of us will only call it things that are not fit to print.

Frankly, I don’t know why he hasn’t yet been summoned by the Senate to answer questions about the provenance of his money while it’s on anti-treason mode, and culpable violation of this country’s antitrust laws, such as they are. Of course he may threaten even more loudly that he will pull out of this country, but I will bet Gonzales and anyone else is in deathly fear of it that the day he does it is the day I stop writing columns.

But what sucks even most is his posturing that he is outside of us, above us, and entitled to judge us. “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo”: The pronoun is dazzling. It’s not “Ang gulo-gulo natin, we’re messing things up, we should get our act together.” It’s “Ang gulo-gulo n’yo, you’re a bunch of anarchists, you don’t shape up, I’m outta here.” That’s not the attitude of a Filipino businessman, that’s the attitude of a foreign investor. Hell, that is not the attitude of a Filipino, that is the attitude of a foreigner.

Which is really what he is. He is a foreign investor who used Indonesian money to raise the pillars of his business empire. Anthoni Salim, son of Salim patriarch Soedono, is president and CEO of the Salim Group which put up through him the First Pacific Corp., the parent company of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. And he is a foreigner who keeps complaining about the very things that have allowed him to prosper, chiefly that this country is so gulo-gulo it has allowed him to slip through the tangle. And who gets flustered when it stops being so he can’t get to first base with P-Noy the way he could with the more, well, gulo-gulo, former fake president.

“Kung ako lang, I’d pack up and go to Hong Kong?” What’s stopping you? But why Hong Kong? Might as well go to Singapore. No one will criticize you there. But it’s so not gulo-gulo I doubt you’ll get to have a crack at a shadow of a chance to even try to contemplate owning Lee Kuan Yew’s favorite country.

Some things are just plain alien to them.

09-26-2012, 08:39 AM
By Marlon Ramos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

6:39 am | Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Trust us, we will not spy on journalists or try to curtail press freedom.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) made this assurance on Tuesday to allay fears that members of the media and bloggers would be harassed by the government under the newly enacted anti-cybercrime law passed by Congress.

Speaking in a news briefing, CIDG chief Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. maintained that the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, or Republic Act 10175, did not authorize law enforcement agencies to spy on journalists and critics of the government.

“There will be no surveillance of journalists or other individuals,” Pagdilao told reporters at Camp Crame.

“If there is no complainant, we will not initiate investigation on our own. When someone comes to us for grievance, rest assured (that we will observe) fairness,” he said.

“Trust us. We are CIDG,” he added, noting that the agency had not been accused of any wrongdoing since his office started its crackdown on Internet-related crimes two years ago.

Pagdilao, a lawyer, said the “batting average” of libel cases that resulted in a conviction of accused journalists was not significant anyway.

“If you look at libel cases filed (against) members of the media, they hardly prosper (in courts). I think that would also be the case under this law,” he said.

Senior Inspector Roberto Reyes, CIDG computer forensic investigator, said the police would need to secure a court-issued warrant first before accessing the email address, computer and other electronic devices of an individual accused of violating the law.

Reyes said the CIDG and other law enforcement offices tasked to implement the law did not have the equipment to monitor all the exchanges of information in the Internet.

“Our actions will be complaint-based. If there is no complaint, there’s no reason for us to monitor,” he said.

“What we will monitor are the hackers who are involve in computer intrusion and systems intrusion,” Reyes added.

While he acknowledged that the provision on libel has been the most contentious portion of the law, Pagdilao said the measure would greatly help the government in going after syndicates involved in scams, cyber pornography and other computer crimes.

“This is a step forward as far as we are concerned… This is a positive act and this is going to give us an arm or tool by which the law enforcement sector can prevent and fight cybercrimes that are already in our midst,” he said.

09-26-2012, 08:52 AM
By Roberto S. Verzola

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

As a UP freshman on the Diliman campus, I was relatively unperturbed by the student activism that had begun to draw other members of my batch. Pampered as an honor student and government scholar, my future seemed secure.

The consecutive national elections of 1969, 1970 and 1971 were unique in Philippine political history. This string of highly political election years kept the nation in ferment, heightened the political awareness of the public, especially youth like us, and gradually brought the cauldron to a boil.

Things were coming to a head. As the specter of military rule started to become real, the Communist Party of the Philippines launched an ambitious effort to recruit from among radicalized activists. I was one of them.

On Aug. 21, 1971, the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda was bombed, killing several people and almost decimating the LP leadership. Immediately, President Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus. The suspension basically allowed the military to detain anyone indefinitely. What seemed a theoretical possibility was now becoming real. Marcos was, indeed, hell-bent on extending his rule, regardless of constitutional prohibitions.

After the writ suspension, the movement, to me, became the Movement, and eventually the Revolution. My distaste for government corruption, my desire to do good for the poor, and my early commitment to stand by my country rather than adopt a new more prosperous one—values I had picked up at the family dinner table which led me to activism in the first place—were giving way to class consciousness, revolutionary fervor and communist ideology.

Life in the underground

The declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, swept my niggling questions under the rug. As we entered this dark period of recent Philippine history, my life in the underground began. I turned 20 in November 1972.

I was part of a group that consisted mostly of journalists and writers. I was assigned to a team that worked on an underground newspaper in Filipino, which we called Taliba ng Bayan. For almost two years, I was part of the group that published Taliba ng Bayan.

On Oct. 4, 1974, I was in a meeting with members of the Manila-Rizal Committee in a UG house in Valenzuela, Bulacan, when armed men broke into the door and I found myself face to face with a gun.

Body blows

I felt myself freeze and blanch before the muzzles pointed at my face. Shouts of “Down! Down!” brought me to my senses and I lay face down on the floor, as the raiding team settled down to identify the captives. I was one month short of my 22nd birthday.

Of all the body blows, I found it hardest to deal with those to the solar plexus. Exhale all the air in your lungs. Then force more air out—twice, three times—until you can squeeze nothing more out of your lungs. Hold your breath as long as you can. Now try to breathe in. If you somehow cannot, that’s how it feels to get well-placed blows to the solar plexus.

It leaves you gasping for breath, for air that won’t come because of the cramp on your diaphragm. The physical pain of fists hitting skin, muscles and bones recedes to the background, until it’s just you and the air that won’t come. (I wonder if Sisa’s Basilio in Rizal’s Noli felt the same, hung upside down and dunked into a well?)

At one point, when I felt I was about give in (the bone of contention was my uncle’s home address), I told myself to last a little longer. A few seconds more, a few minutes more. No, not yet. Then they would pause for the questions. And we’d go one more round.

Subconsciously, I felt that giving away my uncle’s address would be giving away nothing at all. It would, on the other hand, inform my relatives and subsequently my parents that I was in military hands.

But then I didn’t want to impose on my uncle and my aunt the terror of getting raided in their home. My frustrated interrogators probably did not realize it, but they were testing not my loyalty to the Movement, but my filial love for Auntie Orang, a cousin of my father, and her husband Uncle Domeng, who gave me sanctuary in the earliest days of martial law when I had nowhere to go.

Electric shock

After my Isafp ordeal, I was “borrowed” by another intelligence unit for further interrogation. Lieutenant Garcia of the Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group took me to Camp Panopio along Edsa near the PC headquarters.

I told them the same story. They didn’t believe me. So they brought in the machine. Two lengths of wire extended from it, both ending with bare wire, the insulation stripped. One end was tied around the handle of a spoon.

The machine is a field generator, with a wheel with a handle. It probably generates 40-60 volts and, if turned really fast, may give as high as ninety volts or even more.

My interrogators tied the end of one wire around my right index finger and inserted the spoon into my pants, on my right waist, until it rested where the leg meets the lower abdomen, near the crotch. My body would complete the circuit.

When I was young, I used to watch my uncles and older cousins as they slaughtered a pig. As soon as the pig realized something bad was going to happen, it would shriek for dear life.

[I]Shriek of terror

It was a grating shriek of helplessness, desperation, and terror, one that rang in your mind long after the pig was dead.

It was that kind of scream that issued from my throat every time my torturers spun the wheel around. It was totally involuntary, the automatic response of a body invaded by an alien current of a thousand spikes snaking through one’s cells and nerves. I could stifle it no more than I could stop my hand from jerking away when shocked briefly by live house wiring.

Across the aisle were two civilian Metrocom employees. They were women, apparently on overtime. They went on with their work, as if they heard or saw nothing. Business as usual.

No sign of surprise or concern. Metrocom apparently used the electric shock treatment often enough to make its civilian employees inured to screams.

Soft drink bottle

After less than a week at the Ipil detention center, I was called to the office, told to pack my things, and taken to another intelligence unit, the dreaded 5th Constabulary Security Unit, for further interrogation.

Until then, I had no idea that a soft drink bottle could be used for torture. I was made to squat inside a room with the air conditioner fully turned on, and the session began.

What I got were not the hard body blows that I had endured in Isafp, but sharp taps on my limbs with a soft drink bottle.

These taps were unlike the jarring shock of a chest blow or the asphyxiating cramp of an upper cut to the solar plexus. They brought instead a gradually growing numbness that became an ache that grew sharper as muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone began to get sore and the nerves on the skin became even more sensitive to pain.

The taps weren’t done in a hurry. In fact, they came at a deliberate pace. Starting with the left upper arm, gradually going down to the elbow and the forearm. And then the right upper arm.

Then the legs, one at a time. The knees, and the shins, finally. Have you ever bumped your knee or shin into a hard object? Remember, that was a single bump.

When they finally gave up on me, I was so sore I could hardly move. Reddish blotches had started to erupt all over my limbs, which soon turned bluish-violet and then almost black. Parts of my arms and legs had literally turned black and blue from the beating.

Dark blotches would remain visible almost two months later. When the blotches became unnoticeable, I was allowed to have visitors.

09-26-2012, 08:52 AM
(Cont'd from above)

Plaza Miranda bombing

It was in the 5th CSU where I first heard it told and confirmed that the Party chairman had secretly ordered the Plaza Miranda bombing.

This information was not forcibly extracted but freely volunteered to us by conscience-stricken Party leaders in prison who were in the midst of their own soul-searching, perhaps suffering from pangs of guilt that the confessions helped ease.

Kumander Dante (Bernabe Buscayno, then commander in chief of the New People’s Army), supposedly shed tears when he learned about the Party’s role. I did too.

The Plaza Miranda revelations were a watershed for me. So, the Party had been telling us lies. And I had echoed the lies too, recalling the pieces on the Plaza Miranda bombing I had written in the Philippine Collegian, Taliba ng Bayan, and elsewhere. I was wracked with questions and doubts.

I didn’t realize then how much worse it could get. But, in fact, it did. Purges had happened in the Soviet Union under Stalin, in China under Mao, in Cambodia under Pol Pot, and possibly elsewhere too, when communists were already in power.

In the late 1980s, before they had even won power, those who professed belief in national democracy and wanted a dictatorship of the proletariat in the Philippines prefaced their mission with an internal purge. This purge left nearly a thousand or so of their own members and followers dead—after a horrible ordeal of interrogation, torture, and eventually, execution in the hands of their own comrades.


Although I would not immediately renounce my commitment to the national democratic movement, fundamental questions would flood back and I would replay in my mind all the internal debates many times.

It would take not months but years of self-cleansing, guided by nothing but my own conscience, before I could again face the world with confidence in my own system of beliefs.

For our generation, the horrors of martial law were common knowledge, especially because the postdictatorship President, Cory Aquino, was herself the wife of one of its victims.

But when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, following Marcos’ footsteps, was on the verge of imposing full military rule to cover up her own brand of corruption, yet not enough crowds formed to kick her out, I realized that subsequent generations never really knew what it meant to live under a dictatorship.

They have no memories of dictatorship. Unlike me, they don’t have marks on their bodies, bad dreams at night, or friends who died in the prime of youth to remind them.

When we of this generation go, our memories should not leave the world with us. No, we must never forget.

09-27-2012, 09:34 AM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:11 am | Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I remembered something from my childhood in light of the debate that has arisen on how best to teach martial law to the kids.

The debate goes like this: Armin Luistro, the education secretary, favors just giving the kids the facts and letting them judge by themselves. That will have the virtue of honing their skills at discernment. Groups like Akbayan want a more value-laden approach, the way South Africa teaches apartheid to the kids. That will have the virtue of preventing a rewriting, or indeed falsification, of history.

I was reminded of this: I was born six years after the end of World War II and grew up in the 1950s not far removed from it. A lot of the older folk were still bitter at the Japanese Occupation, but they little imparted to us the source of it. What we knew about the War we got not from school, which didn’t bother to teach it to us—our (very) parochial school was more concerned with teaching religion than history—but from the movies.

Not the least of them Fernando Poe Jr.’s. He was the epic hero of many war movies along with many Filipinized westerns. Larger than life, he would mow down hordes of Japanese soldiers in battles, ambushes, and sneak attacks on their fortresses. All of which little drove home the grimness of that period in our national life. In fact, they turned it into something of a comedy, the “dead” Japanese in the movies getting up before the camera had panned away from them to get to the next scene where they would “die” again. And Vic Diaz hamming it up as a sadistic Japanese commander.

But more than that, there were the movies of John Wayne. Larger than life, he single-handedly won the war at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima with the “Halls of Montezuma” playing in the background. He didn’t get to drive home the Japanese atrocity either, turning it into caricature. But he did get to ram home something to us, which was the storyline, or narrative, or myth of “I shall return.” When we were kids, what we knew of the Japanese Occupation was that it ended not because the guerrillas fought off the invaders but because the Americans came back to liberate us.

Try telling the French that they owe their freedom to the American landing in Normandy. That was how MacArthur wading in the waters of Leyte became for us.

What all this suggests is that if we want to remember martial law, we may have to go beyond the groves of academe. I’m not knocking the teaching of history in schools, particularly the elementary grades, and I’m glad that the 40th anniversary of martial law drew out loud calls for it. How important it is we see in the emphasis given to the teaching of history in the 1960s, through no small effort from the activists, especially with Teodoro Agoncillo’s “The History of the Filipino People” and later Renato Constantino’s “A Past Revisited” replacing old history books that pressed the American viewpoint.

Which shows how interpretation is crucial. There is really no such thing as “just giving the facts,” in history more than anything else. The storyline is important, the narrative is important, the viewpoint is important. That is how facts are remembered. Hell, that is how facts become facts.

But there are limits to a school-oriented way of remembering the past. Particularly for a country such as ours where few people reach college, let alone high school, where reading has become a virtual thing of the past, where the past is constantly being pushed back by the allures, or pressing realities, of the present. The problem is not that we are not given to sudden awakenings, or burning needs to remember the past. The problem is that we cannot sustain it. The problem, like the 100th anniversary of independence in 1998, is that we feel the past like a fresh wound one day only to be lulled into a comforting numbness afterward.

We need something more powerful than classroom lessons to remember and keep remembering. That something is culture, popular or otherwise.

That is how other societies get to remember their past, or indeed treat it like a living present. That is how the past lodges in the national consciousness, the poor’s as much as the rich: through novels, movies, plays, TV fare, popular art, even comics. If that is true for others, who go to school more, who read more, and engage the present more, that is even truer for us. Which in fact was how it was for us then. We learned about the Japanese Occupation not from school but from the movies.

But which again shows the importance of interpretation. You have nothing but John Wayne movies to give you a window into a grim period in your life, you will believe in “I shall return.” Popular doesn’t have to mean trashy. You can always have movies like “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” that tells of love in a time of war, which was the Japanese Occupation, and “Sister Stella L,” which tells of difficult choices, or sangangdaan, in a time of cholera, which was martial law. But we have so few of these, you can count them by the fingers of your hand.

By all means let us teach martial law being sparing about its atrocities and even more without being unstinting in the praise of those who fought it, Christian and communist alike, Yellow and Red alike, the better to make the schooled truly educated. But beyond that let us strive to spark a burst of creativity in the arts and entertainment, in producing novels (yes, even them, they can always be turned into scripts if not directly read), movies, plays, TV fare, popular art, comics to widen the pool of remembrance, to deepen the well of resolve. Stories are the most powerful way to reach out to the past. Stories are the most powerful way to make the past present.

Stories are the only way to make the dead live again.

09-27-2012, 11:00 AM
By Marvin Sy

(The Philippine Star)

Updated September 27, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Much as Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his family would like to leave behind the dark period in their lives and move forward with some peace of mind, they believe there would always be something said by their critics to revive old grudges.

The latest issue is related to some of the possessions left behind by the Marcoses, including shoes and clothes now at the National Museum.

It was recently reported that these items were neglected and were in various stages of damage from rains and even termite infestation.

Communications Group Undersecretary Manolo Quezon was quoted as saying recently that most of the collections related to the Marcoses “have no historical significance.”

Asked by reporters about his thoughts on the matter yesterday, the son and namesake of the late strongman could not hide his disappointment over how that 20-year period in Philippine history where his father was the country’s chief executive was being downplayed as insignificant by the current administration.

It does not help that the President is the son of the late former President Corazon Aquino who unseated the elder Marcos, forcing the dictator and his family into exile.

“So that part of our history is not important? I’m just astounded by them dismissing years of our national history as insignificant. Again, we’re back to talking about politics here. These are people who cannot move away from 1986,” Marcos said.

A revolution was staged that year to drive out the Marcoses and Mrs. Aquino was installed as the first female President of the Republic.

“I think that’s what it’s all about, to discount everything that happened. C’mon, the 20 years of my father’s presidency and say that it is not historically significant, that’s already rewriting history,” Marcos said.

“But that’s something that we have been seeing many, many times over the years, unfortunately we have become accustomed to that continuous attempt at rewriting history,” he added.

Marcos said the situation has not changed since 1986 when the various possessions, including the properties and business interests of his family, had been “confiscated.”

While his family had long gotten over the loss of their possessions with the thought that those were all just material things that could easily be replaced, Marcos lamented the confiscation was done without any clear purpose.

“They confiscated them and let them fall to ruin, they were never utilized. They just said it belongs to the government. Nothing happened,” Marcos said.

“It’s just the continuation of that confiscatory policy that followed 1986. Get everything even though you have no intention of utilizing them and for no reason. Anyway, it’s still part of the whole policy that was implemented after ’86,” he added.

The Marcos’ relationship with the Aquinos appeared to be headed towards some form of reconciliation when discussions were initiated about the possible grant of state burial honors for the former president, something that the family has been yearning for since he died in Hawaii in 1989.

However, in spite of a recommendation from a commission led by Vice President Jejomar Binay to grant the wishes of the Marcoses, President Aquino decided against this, saying this would not happen under his watch.

09-27-2012, 11:04 AM
^ Jesus H Christ... Really, Bongbong? If your friggin' family had just returned everything then there would not have been need to take anything back. CAlling those actions "confiscatory" should chill you to the bone, if of course you or any of your family have anything remotely resembling a conscience left in you. If what the government did to "your" possessions was confiscatory, what pray tell would be the appropriate term when your family and its cabal took away private property during Martial Law? I'm sure the Lopezes and Jacintos and Sorianos might have something to say about that.

09-27-2012, 01:15 PM
By Ryan D. Rosauro

Inquirer Mindanao

1:13 pm | Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines — Let us not forget the onerous debts.

This is what the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said as it reminded Filipinos on the “crimes and legacies of the Martial Law era and that of the strongman rule of Ferdinand Marcos that continue to hound and harm our nation and people.”

“One of these criminal legacies is the regime’s fraudulent and illegitimate debts that were riddled with corruption and hardly benefited the people,” the FDC, a non-government organization opposing the payment of debts incurred by the Marcos regime, said in a statement.

When Marcos fled in 1986 in the wake of the popular uprising, the country was saddled with $28 billion in foreign debt.

The FDC noted that at the start of Marcos’ presidency in 1965, the country’s foreign debt stood only at $1 billion.

The group echoed the widespread suspicion among anti-dictatorship forces then that Marcos and his cronies profited from the fraudulent loans contracted by government, which could be the source of his ill-gotten wealth estimated to be at least $5 billion.

“The plunder of our economy plunged the people into mass poverty. In 1975, 57 percent of the Filipino families reportedly lived below the poverty line, while Marcos, his wife and their cronies indulged in extravagance and opulence,” the FDC said.

“Today, Filipino taxpayers continue to bear the cost of the regime’s foreign debts, until 2025,” it added.

The FDC said the government’s policy to honor the Marcos debts compromised important spending for health, education and basic social services “that the government is duty-bound to provide for the people.”

“This policy contributed to a perennial and seemingly vicious cycle of budget shortfalls and fiscal crises, continued debt and interest payments, increased tax burdens, increased debt burdens and severe reduction , if not criminal neglect of the welfare needs, economic and social services for the people,” FDC explained.

“The Aquino regime and successive governments often used the budget and the debt crisis they inherited from Marcos as reasons to allow… privatization and deregulation of essential public services like water and power, cheap sale of government assets and properties, and imposition of regressive tax measures such as the 10% value-added tax (VAT) which was later increased and expanded to the detriment of the majority poor consumers,” it added.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, former FDC president, said the government’s “stubborn policy of debt repayments, and its inability to spend and invest have consigned our country not only to debt burden and debt trap, but also economic stagnation.”

FDC said that between 1986 and 1991, “the country reportedly averaged a negative $1.5 billion transfer of resources to the creditor countries each year.”

Today, the country’s foreign debt stands at $62.9 billion, the FDC noted.

It added that as of end 2011, each Filipino owes P79,885.18 in public debt and is forced to pay P7,544 annually to service the said debt.

“For this year, the Philippine government spends P1.4 million per minute of the people’s money for debt servicing,” FDC said.

“The continuing failure of the government to prioritize the people’s needs and welfare over debt servicing is… a failure to rectify the Marcos misdeeds,” the group stressed.

09-28-2012, 09:21 AM
By Jerome C. Aning, Michael Lim Ubac, Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:12 am | Friday, September 28th, 2012

Senator Teofisto Guingona III on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking the tribunal to declare null and void libel penalty provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 that he said violated basic constitutional rights and threw the nation back to the dark ages.

Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano also announced Thursday they would file bills that would amend the harsh jail terms under Republic Act No. 10175, which President Aquino signed on Sept. 12. A hacker group, Anonymous Philippines, defaced websites of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and other government agencies in protest.

While saying it was necessary, Guingona said that the law contained “confusing and vague provisions that suppresses the citizens’ right to freedom of speech and expression.”

“Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually, any person can now be charged with a crime—even if you just like, retweet or comment on an online update or blog post containing criticisms,” he said.

RA 10175 also “demonizes technology and sends the message that the computer user is more evil than those who write on traditional media,” Guingona said.

He said its provisions were “an assault against our fundamental constitutional rights and throw us back to the dark ages.”

Law defended

But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended the new law.

“We already have responsibilities attached to print, TV and radio. So what the cybercrime act does is to also attach responsibilities in cyberspace,” he said. The law concerns “people who are not familiar with being responsible about what they write,” he said.

Asked about hackers defacing government websites, Lacierda said: “It won’t win them brownie points … The better venue for them is to really show their protests in a proper forum.”

Somebody pulled a fast one

Noting strong opposition to the measure after it was signed into law by the President, Cayetano said he planned to file a bill to address the penal provisions on online libel.

He said that while there must be some accountability on the use of the Internet, liability should be civil, not criminal.

Escudero admitted that he was surprised by the public reaction to the penalties.

“That slipped past us. I didn’t see that when we voted and signed the committee report but my position has been clear as regards that matter. I’m one of the principal authors, if not the first, who filed a bill to decriminalize libel in our statute books,” he said.

Escudero in a news forum discounted negligence as a reason for the mistake of criminal online libel finding its way into the law.

“I don’t want to ascribe any reason or motive. I would just personally admit my own shortcoming as regards that matter,” he said “It wouldn’t have passed if nobody pushed for it.”

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III earlier admitted having a hand in the inclusion of libel as a crime punishable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act. “Libel is a crime. What do you think it is?” he told reporters.

Restraining order sought

In a 39-page petition for certiorari and prohibition with application for temporary restraining order, Guingona asked the high court to stop the implementation of Sections 4 (c), 6, 7 and 19 of the law and declare them unconstitutional.

Section 4 (c) of the law criminalizes libel, not only on the Internet, but also on “any other similar means which may be devised in the future” while Section 6 raises by one degree higher the penalties provided for by the Revised Penal Code for all crimes committed through and with the use of information and communications.

Section 7 provides that apart from prosecution under the RA 10175, a person charged may still be sued for other violations of the penal code and other special laws.

Section 19 authorizes the Department of Justice to restrict or block access to computer data when such data are “prima facie found to be in violation” of the law.

Named as respondents in the Guingona petition were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome and National Bureau of Investigation Director Nonnatus Rojas.

“It can be reasonably expected that the general public would now be under the impression that expression of public opinion with the use of information communication technology is now already a criminal offense under the law. Our people, especially those in social media, should not be forbidden from expressing their thoughts and opinions in cyberspace whether critical or not for fear of being labeled as cyber criminals,” Guingona said.

Equal protection clause

The senator pointed out that under the Revised Penal Code, libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition and other similar means would only be punished by six months and one day up to four years in jail. However, under Section 6 of the RA 10175, libel committed “through a computer system or any other similar means under the Cybercrime [Prevention] Act would be the higher penalty of imprisonment of six years and one day up to 12 years, Guingona said.

“This is clear a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It unduly discriminates persons of the same class, as it penalized the act of publishing libelous materials through Internet more heavily than those which are committed by means of writing, printing, etc.,” he said.

Section 7 exposes an individual to punishment twice—contrary to the rule on double jeopardy, which means that “if an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act,” he said.

Guingona also criticized Section 19 for giving the justice department “unbridled authority” to issue an order restricting or blocking access to one’s computer data based merely on prima facie evidence. This, he said, was a “blatant” violation of an individual’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

RA 10175’s definition of a cybersex crime is also too broad, the senator said, pointing out that under the new law, an act would be punishable simply because there was an exhibition online of sexual organs or sexual activity.

This, he said, would cover nude materials that are classified as artistic works.

09-28-2012, 09:26 AM
By Cynthia Balana

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:45 am | Friday, September 28th, 2012

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday ordered the filing of criminal charges against 22 former officers and executives of state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and three private individuals, including businessman Roberto Ongpin, in connection with two loans amounting to P660 million granted to his firm in 2009.

Deltaventures Resources Inc. (DVRI) used the loan to acquire Philex Mining Corp. shares owned by DBP and sold these to businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan months later, allowing him to gain control of the country’s biggest gold producer.

The case stemmed from a complaint against the 25 respondents for violations of the antigraft law and other banking regulations. It was filed in August 2011 by DBP represented by its chair, Jose Nuñez, and its president and chief executive officer, Francisco del Rosario Jr.

The new DBP management said the accused allegedly participated in the grant under relaxed concessions of P660 million in “behest” loans used in the purchase of DBP-owned shares in Philex Mining Corp., all orchestrated in a span of less than a year.

The Senate also investigated the transactions.

In a review resolution signed on Sept. 25, Morales found probable cause to indict Patricia Sto. Tomas, former DBP chair; Reynaldo David, former president and vice chair; Alexander Magno, Floro Oliveros, Miguel Romero, Franklin Velarde, Renato Velasco and Joseph Donato Pangilinan all former board directors; and Edgardo Garcia, former senior executive vice president (SEVP) and chief operating officer.

Armando Samia, former SEVP and head of marketing sector; Rolando Geronimo, former SEVP; Perla Soleta, former senior assistant vice president; Jesus Guevarra II, former SEVP and marketing head of the branch banking sector (BBS); Crescencia Bundoc, former vice president and head of Regional Marketing Center-Metro Manila (RMC-MM); Arturo Baliton, BBS manager for RMC-Western Luzon; Nelson Macatlang, RMC-WL chief accounts management specialist; Marissa Cayetano, RMC-MM assistant manager.

They were charged with violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in relation with the grant of a P150-million credit line to DVRI.

Aside from Ongpin, who is DVRI general manager, the two private individuals charged were Josephine Manalo, DVRI president; and Ma. Lourdes Torres, treasurer of Goldenmedia Corp. (GMC).

Morales also found probable cause to indict Sto. Tomas, David, Magno, Oliveros, Romero, Velarde, Velasco, Garcia, Samia, Geronimo, Soleta, Guevarra, Bundoc, Baliton, Ongpin, Manalo, Torres along with Ramon Durano IV, former DBP director; Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr., former EVP and head of finance sector; Teresita Tolentino, former AVP; Rodolfo Cerezo, RMC-MM assistant manager; and Warren de Guzman, RMC-MM assistant manager, for another count of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, in relation with the grant of a P510-million loan to DVRI.

The charges against Benilda Tejada, Josephine Jaurique and Justice Lady Flores were dismissed for insufficient evidence.


Contacted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Ongpin, who is in Europe, said he had yet to read the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman.

“All I can say now is it is incomprehensible how a transaction in which the DBP earned some P1.4 billion, when the loans to my companies were fully secured and in fact paid ahead of schedule, can ever be adjudged by anyone as being unfavorable or having caused injury to the government,” Ongpin said.

“I have instructed my lawyers to oppose this judgment vigorously.”

‘Pure harassment’

David said the filing of the charges was “pure harassment and I am innocent of the charges.”

He said the transactions were done completely “in good faith.”

“In fact, if you look at it, you’ll see that the profits of the bank for these deals constituted almost a third of its income for that year,” he said.

David said the filing of only two charges among the many complaints filed by the present DBP management reflected how weak the issues being raised against him are.

Nonetheless, the former DBP president said he would “respect the process” and take remedies available to him under the legal system.”

GAME Equities

The review resolution pointed out that a majority of DVRI shares were registered in the name of Manalo and the firm’s paid-up capital amounted to only P625,000, while most of GMC’s equity was owned by Boerstar Corp. whose shares are, in turn, held in majority by GAME Equities Inc.

The resolution added that Manalo and Torres were GMC’s president and treasurer, respectively, but Ongpin was the chair and shareholder of GAME.

Philex directors

The resolution noted that in November and December 2009, Ongpin and David were directors of Philex. Ongpin was a former DBP director and is a known associate of then DBP president David.

The resolution further stated that DBP extended two loans, P150 million and P510 million, in April 2009 and November 2009, respectively, to DVRI, even though DVRI was undercapitalized.

Insider trading

It also noted the following:

■The values of DVRI securities did not comply with the collateral-to-loan ratio prescribed by the Central Bank and DBP’s credit-policy memoranda.

■There were indications that corporate layering was resorted to.

■Proceeds of the second loan were used to purchase DBP-owned mining shares, although the private company was not licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a securities dealer.

■There were indications of insider trading.

■The resolution said that DBP sold to DVRI in November 2009 about 50 million shares in Philex at only P12.75 per share.

■DVRI used the proceeds of the loan to purchase from DBP the Philex shares, which were subsequently registered in the name of GMC.

■In just a span of one month or in December 2009, the Philex shares were sold at P21 per share, or at almost double the value.

Morales directed that copies of the review resolution be furnished the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission and Anti-Money Laundering Council for their immediate action on the possible violations of the National Internal Revenue Code, Securities Regulation Code and the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

09-28-2012, 09:36 AM
By Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:15 pm | Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Recent debates on mining allow us to go beyond the usual skirmishes over minutiae and draw us into the war over bigger ideas. It’s about time, the better to confront the tyranny of political correctness and expose our underlying attitudes and philosophies.

It used to be that man’s dominion over the earth was seen as a license to exploit nature with abandon. Today the environmentalists have made their point: We are merely temporary stewards of the earth that we will bequeath to those who will come after us. They call it the principle of intergenerational equity. They are correct.

What is wrong is when they think it’s a one-way street. I’ve got news for you, guys. Intergenerational equity actually works the other way, too. You can’t call it equity, and expect only one group to pay the price and the other to reap the benefits. Equity means that costs and benefits are allocated fairly among the different stakeholders. “Intergenerational” only adds one very important stakeholder to the formula: the next generation. It doesn’t discard the formula altogether. It doesn’t relieve them of any share in the costs, especially if they would share in the benefits.

This current generation must decide how much it is willing to sacrifice for the next, how many children today will go unsheltered, uneducated and unclothed, so that the children of tomorrow will be sheltered, educated and clothed. If we call for delayed gratification, let’s discuss how long we should delay whose gratification. Some say, Let’s wait until science invents more nature-friendly technologies of extraction. But that’s like foregoing the Model T in the hope that the Prius will be invented one century later.

It’s easy for others to say that what we face is not an “either-or” question, not a zero-sum dilemma, and that it’s possible for us to enjoy just enough today and leave well enough for the morrow. Maybe so, especially with sound economic planning and good governance. But exactly how to calibrate today’s sacrifices in exchange for tomorrow’s gains—that is a choice that today’s parents are called upon to decide. It is not as if they must sacrifice everything just so the next generation can live better. Their own kids deserve the good life today, right here, right now.

A few years ago, I brought the family to go white-water rafting on Chico River. During quiet moments, my wife and I would tell the kids the noble story of Macli-ing Dulag and the Kalinga struggle against the Chico River Dam project. (Parents lecturing politics on a boat ride? A real bummer of a way to soak in nature’s grandeur.)

Something happened along the way. I saw smoke coming from up the hillsides, and learned from the boatmen that small villages lived in tiny pockets of upland settlements. I asked: Do the kids have schools? No, they don’t. Are there any roads leading to their settlements? No, their homes are accessible only by boat. If they get seriously sick during the rainy season, is there a way to get medical care? No, they just die.

And then the clincher: Someone mentioned a possible mining project upriver and that, just maybe, they can have more support—a school perhaps, a functioning hospital, or roads—when that happens.

It was a stunned but reflective silence the rest of the way, mercifully alleviated by the surf hitting our faces later as we careened downstream.

Frankly, I don’t know if that mining project has pushed through. I don’t know if, even without the mining corporation, the local governments have since providentially built what their constituents needed. One thing I’m sure of, though. Given the odds, those schools, hospitals and roads would have been built better and faster by the miners rather than by the government. Bizarre as it may sound, the miners need to win the hearts and minds of the locals, while the government needs only their votes.

When it comes to the environment, we must discard the stereotypes. There is a leading case in constitutional law where our Bureau of Forestry granted a logging permit to a Filipino to cut down the forest reserves at the US Naval Base in Subic. The American base commander refused to honor the permit, saying that the base perimeter was within his military jurisdiction. The Philippine Supreme Court, in a lovely case of political incorrectness, upheld him. I delight in telling my students that had the nationalists prevailed, today the tree-huggers will have no trees to hug in Subic. Thank god the imperialists won in this particular case, and the paper tigers loved the forests and cut no trees.

Let’s face it: Economic development always bears a carbon footprint. Today people love the convenient catchwords “responsible mining.” Why? Because antimining activists can merely fix environmental standards that are commercially nonviable and that amount to a de facto ban on mining.

Rather, it must mean responsibly pro-environment, so that if the world needs our mineral deposits to build new technologies, then they must be judged by world-class standards for mineral extraction. It must mean responsibly pro-IP, so that the indigenous peoples burdened and displaced by mining are consulted and benefited. It must mean responsibly pro-Filipino, so that the nation is given its due share in the bounties of its natural patrimony. It must mean responsibly pro-poor, so that those bounties are enjoyed not just by the elite but by the plebeian folk as well.

Responsible mining, you say? Responsible to whom, I ask. And I answer, responsible not just to the future but likewise to the present generation, who is equally entitled to live life in all its fullness.

* * *

09-28-2012, 09:43 AM
By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:09 pm | Thursday, September 27th, 2012

How can we help the poor when we do not feel for them? How can we feel for them when we have no relationship? How can we relate to them when they have no names, no faces, no parents, no brothers and sisters, no children – they have all been lumped inside the word “poor.”

When I criticized the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) for the priority its decision-makers give to their regulatory powers than the urgent need of millions to have health care and medicine, I was grounded on the massiveness of poverty. For over 10 years, I have been following the quarterly hunger incidence report of SWS. I do so because there are many ways to manipulate the percentage of poverty. My definition of the very poor refers to those constantly threatened by hunger with many of them actually experiencing it.

For many years, including the two and a half years of the Noynoy Aquino presidency, hunger incidence has hovered in the 20 percent range. A good, but rare, quarter, can reduce it to 15 percent, and the new administration enjoyed this substantial reduction only once as I remember it. That made me conclude that in eight quarters, the Conditional Cash Transfer is not effective as an anti-hunger intervention, maybe because that is not its purpose.

I know I speak of great numbers, but these are individuals, families, and often, colonies of the very poor. To me, they have names, faces, parents, siblings and children. They are very much like you and me, or they were created to be such. Yet, the intent of creation is grossly mis-applied in real life in the Philippines. It matters little that we are Catholic, Christian or Muslim – we are all in default of the most important tenets of our great religions. Our poor in their great numbers and even greater suffering tell us of our religious hypocrisy, of our convoluted economic values.

An apparent apologist for the PRC, and maybe partly for the DOH whom I have not even started to take to task, recently told me that my figures were obsolete. Her claim was so ridiculous or irrelevant, as though a few percentage points, more or less, really make a great difference when we consider that the very poor are about 20 million. But her actuation simply amplified what I feared most – that the poor are not people but numbers to some of our bureaucrats. All the more, using a provincial health officer of Northern Samar to respond, not only to my articles and pointed accusations but to the universal resentment of Filipino – American medical missioners, displays all the more how narrow, even arrogant, bureaucrats can be.

The PRC can also take credit for single-handedly negating the promotion efforts targeting Filipino-Americans by the DOT and economic agencies. Medical and surgical missions have been cancelled or deferred with ill-will against a government that mostly did not know how it’s carefully developed credibility and good will was carelessly thrown out of the window. Fil-Am doctors are not only capable of being the extra helping hands that can augment the efforts of the DOH and local doctors to help the un-served, they can also be the largest sectoral investors in our motherland.

Still, I needed to review the possibility of obsolete statistics as the apologist of PRC (why PRC when she is from the health office of Northern Samar, I do not know yet). But before I could get to the archives of SWS, I was gifted by a front page report from a major daily on very related statistics covering “food poverty.” The latest (August 2012) figures from SWS say that food poverty dropped from 39 percent to 35 percent, or from 39 million to 35 million Filipinos. While there is a slight improvement, SWS says that poor families have been lowering their living standards by further belt-tightening.

I never even used food poverty statistics because I keep monitoring actual hunger incidence which are only in the 20 percent range. But I again suggest to PRC, and DOH if it is interested, to check the hunger statistics and realize hunger is everywhere, including Metro Manila. In other words, if people actually experience hunger, they cannot afford medicine, what more doctors’ fees. Yet, I was greeted by this apologist with a counter claim that my statistics were obsolete. In a way she was right – the food poverty statistics tell me that the figures I used were too low.

I was referred to DSWD-NHTS statistics which I am not familiar about. Anyway, the apologist said these figures refer to where the poor are and how many have been given Philhealth insurance. I went into the DSWD site but the figures I found ARE obsolete, maybe because the report was made when the DSWD-NHTS was just recently launched in 2010. Anyway, I moved to other articles posted in the DSWD website and, lo and behold, relevant SWS statistics were there! The last was as of July 2012 and the hunger incidence had lowered to 18.4 percent. Okay, I concede, it is not 20 percent, only 18.4 percent. But a quarter before, in May of 2012, it was 23.8 percent. But does it really matter when it is 23.4 percent, 20 percent or 18.48. PRC, DSWD, DOH, please naman, inculcate a more national sense of view in your apologist.

Figures can be deceiving, so friends and I have made initial contact with officers of the League of Barangays. When we meet, we will ask them to identify the medically un-served in their areas and bring these to the doorsteps of PRC, or DOH. These can be 20 million, or 18 million, but there will be faces, then there will be names. The poor will not be invisible anymore, not to the bureaucrats we will introduce them to. They will be people again, not mere numbers.

Once again, to Filipino doctors and medical professionals who have felt humiliated and discriminated against, I have monitored that several mission groups have been cancelled, or diverted to other countries. Many more have been held in abeyance, waiting for a more considerate and appreciative official attitude. Please, our people must not suffer all the more because you allowed narrow-mindedness or arrogance to overwhelm your concern and generosity.

Prepare your missions, prepare your surgeries, prepare your medicines, prepare your donations of hospital equipment. The power of the people is on your side.

09-28-2012, 09:44 AM
By Ambeth R. Ocampo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:13 pm | Thursday, September 27th, 2012

During martial law, then Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose Diokno were detained in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Friends and relatives knew the senators by their nicknames “Ninoy” and “Pepe,” but here the Marcos-era military gave them code names, Greek letters based on the first letter of their surnames. Thus, Aquino was referred to as “Alpha” and Diokno as “Delta.” The original structure, I was told, was torn down but was rebuilt and spruced up many decades later for a visit by Corazon C. Aquino. It was spruced up again last week for the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, and renamed the Aquino-Diokno Memorial and Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for Human Rights Dialogue. This memorial reminds us of the dark side of martial law because our textbooks highlight its sunny side. The memorial is erected not to instill hatred but to ensure that what happened to Aquino and Diokno and countless others does not happen again to anyone.

Imprisonment affects people in different ways. The loss of freedom can embitter, bore, and depress one, while another can use the solitude for study and reflection. The Aquino-Diokno Memorial reminded me of the Rizal Shrine in far-off Zamboanga del Norte, a memorial to Jose Rizal’s exile in 1892-1896. Writing today’s column brought out different words used for this period in Rizal’s life and the different meanings they carry: exile means being away from one’s home or country; deportation means the expulsion of foreign nationals from a country; while banishment means the expulsion of nationals. By today’s usage then, Rizal was exiled or banished to Dapitan.

Ninoy Aquino was a changed man after solitary detention in Nueva Ecija; he lost weight and became wiser. One can only speculate how the same experience would have affected Rizal, who was not put behind bars but was banished to a place so different from the European capitals he knew so well. Rizal used his exile to make Dapitan a better place. When he arrived in July 1892, he wrote his mother saying that nobody went there because only one mail boat docked every 27 days. He described the climate as good and healthful. He wrote: “Don’t send me anything, absolutely nothing, for I need nothing more than a pair of good shoes, and these are hard to send by mail.” Even then, things got lost in the mail!

By January 1893, Rizal had become busy. In a letter to his brother-in-law Maneng, he narrated: “I have formed a partnership with a Spaniard to supply the town with fish of which it lacks. In Dapitan alone there are 6,000 inhabitants, and in the interior some 2,000 or 3,000 more, and for so many people there is nothing but small sakag that catches little fish of the size of the talaisá. Aquilino told me that with one pukútan alone like yours, the whole town could be supplied with fish, because here, there is a good beach and fish abound a little distance away from the shore. If you wish to sell me your pukútan at an agreed price, and if it is still in good condition, I would buy it. If not, I would appreciate it if you would buy me a pukútan in the same condition, good, strong, etc.

“Nobody here knows how to weave mesh for a net. I would appreciate also very much if you would look for me for two men or families in the beach of Kalamba who understand fishing. If they come, I will pay their fare. They take passage for Cebú on the mail boat that comes here without saying from where they are or whether they are going to Dapitan, and when the boat passes here, the governor will disembark with them. The fare from Manila to Cebú costs less than one-half of the fare from Manila to Dapitan, and a curious thing, the boat touches at Dapitan before Cebú. I would appreciate it also if you would tell me your arrangement with the fishermen, so that we would know how to deal with them. They will have a house and all they may need for their subsistence. I believe this would be a good business. For the payment of the net, please ask our Father who holds for me some money.

“Do me also the favor of telling our father or Antonino (anyone of the two) that if my money is not yet invested, to please send me P500, delivering it to the Professor Superior of the Jesuits of the Manila, for I intend to engage here in the buying of abaca. If there is no money, paciencialo.”

Rizal’s letters brim with excitement over business opportunities. Land was cheap and fertile. He acquired land with fruit trees and he cleared a portion to sow rice and corn. He studied the return on investment in abaca and, as can be seen above, he planned to teach the people of Dapitan how to pull in more fish from the sea than they were used to. The added bonus to all this was that there were no friars to meddle in his affairs.

In one letter Rizal wrote: “Thank God that my banishment can bring something useful to Dapitan.” Well, Dapitan today boasts of a beach resort and an amusement center, but it remains very much as Rizal left it over a century ago. Compared to Manila and other urbanized cities, Dapitan is still a sleepy hick town. But it is a city not just because Rizal lived there but also, and more importantly, because he made it better than it was before he was exiled there.

* * *

09-28-2012, 10:00 AM
By Rodel Rodis

3:00 pm | Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The notes taken by Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady of her meeting with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in Beijing last June included his boast that he was able to “make 40 Chinese ships leave Panatag Shoal.” While Trillanes now claims in media interviews that China had “80 to 100 ships” in the Shoal last May, the headline story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 24 reported that while there were a total of 92 Chinese vessels in the Scarborough Shoal, according to the monitoring of the Philippine Coast Guard, they basically consisted of “16 fishing vessels and 76 utility boats.” They were not “ships” but “boats.”

Chinese “fishing vessels”, along with the unmanned “utility boats” attached to them, usually return back to their home ports after filling their cargo holds with their catch, so the departure of Chinese fishing boats, and their subsequent replacement by new ones, was not the result of any high level “back door diplomacy” by Trillanes.

But if you accept Trillanes’ claim that there were “80 to 100 ships” from China in the Scarborough Shoal last May, how could reducing it by 40 ships ease the tension in the Shoal when the Philippines only had two ships?

Was Trillanes’ “boast” merely the product of his hubris and inexperience in high stakes diplomacy or was he duped by China? Was he the Philippines’ “back door channel” to China as he claims or was it the other way around as many now suspect?

On September 14, 2012, the New York Times disclosed that “in May, the Obama administration quietly negotiated a deal that called for Filipino and Chinese vessels to leave the shoal. But the Chinese left behind a rope that still blocks the entrance to the lagoon, said two Asian diplomats familiar with the situation, who declined to be named per diplomatic protocol. Three Chinese vessels have apparently been left behind to ensure that no Filipino vessels attempt to cut the rope and enter the lagoon. According to a statement in August by the Philippines Defense Minister, it is “a long rope held by buoys at both ends of the entrance to the lagoon of the horseshoe-shaped reef.”

When the two Philippine ships left the Shoal, as part of an agreement negotiated by the US government in order to diffuse tensions, China’s three military ships remained and now effectively occupy the Scarborough Shoal.

Trillanes brags that he was chiefly responsible for “easing tensions with China,” tensions which were caused by the Philippine government’s assertion of ownership over the Scarborough Shoal, located just 125 miles from Masinloc, Zambales (within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines) and more than 550 miles from the nearest China port in Huanyin.

“Right now, there is no more crisis involving Scarborough but we were nearly brought to war,” Trillanes declared to the media last week. The crisis with China began on April 10 when a Philippine Navy frigate intercepted Chinese fishing vessels in the Scarborough Shoal which were poaching endangered marine species and corals. Chinese government vessels then appeared and “rescued” the Chinese fishing vessels and their cargo from the Philippine Navy.

With Philippine and Chinese ships locked in a “standoff” at the Scarborough Shoal, tensions soared. The tensions eased only after China duped the Philippines into believing that both sides would withdraw from the Shoal and only one side did. How is it that there is “no more crisis” in the Scarborough as Trillanes now claims credit for? Well, when a bully gets what he wants, tensions have been known to disappear.

Will this surrender to China pose a problem for Trillanes? Not according to him, because, as he assured Ambassador Brady in their Beijing meeting in June, “nobody in the Philippines cares about Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.”

But in fact, a poll survey – conducted by Laylo Research Strategies from August 7 to 17 – of 1,500 Filipinos across 77 provinces “revealed that 7 in 10 or 69% are concerned about the issue, 24% are undecided and 7% do not consider it worth their while. Among those polled, Visayans expressed the highest level of anxiety with 77% of them articulating their fears.”

While Mitt Romney may not care about the “47%” of Americans who do not pay taxes, Trillanes similarly may not care for the “69%” of Filipinos who are concerned about the Panatag Shoal.

Trillanes first claimed that it was President Aquino who requested him to be the “backdoor negotiator” with China. President Aquino disputed this claim and told the press at the opening of the Aquino-Diokno Memorial: “What I remember is that Senator Trillanes contacted us and it seems he was in China at that time and someone approached him. He was asked about the possibility of acting as a backdoor negotiator.”

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, who accused Trillanes of being a “fifth columnist” for China, disclosed that a military attaché at the China Embassy in Manila had befriended Trillanes and that Trillanes, as ABS-CBN News reported on September 24, was thereafter “in frequent communication with Chinese Ambassador to Manila Ma Keqing, even as the Philippine government was sending her diplomatic notes to express its dismay at the height of tensions over the Scarborough Shoal dispute.”

Trillanes also admitted, in the same ABS-CBN interview, that he was “approached and assisted by the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. in his back-channel negotiations with China from May to July.” It was also reported that Chinese-Filipino Taipan Lucio Tan, as then owner of Philippine Airlines, had arranged for Trillanes to obtain free first-class PAL tickets to China.

Without notifying Senate President Enrile, as protocol required, Trillanes engaged in at least 16 negotiations with “top Chinese officials” in Beijing. When he later met with Ambassador Brady in June, he told the Ambassador, according to her August 17 notes, that he agreed with his Beijing hosts that the United States was involved in “creating tension in Panatag Shoal”, that DFA Secretary Del Rosario was “committing treason,” that Del Rosario was “creating a war event,” that the Philippines “cannot enforce coastal protection since fishermen subsist only on fishing and cannot venture far out.”

Why has Trillanes engaged in a destructive word war with Enrile whom he now seeks to depose as Senate president? Why did he accuse Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario of committing treason for standing up to China? Why has he refused all requests from President Aquino to shut up and not to further inflame the situation and undermine the Philippine government’s dealings with China?

Perhaps because Trillanes suffers from what psychiatrists call a “psycho-pathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, or omnipotence.”

After all, let us not forget that Trillanes is the graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) who led a group of 321 armed rebels (“Bagong Katipuneros”) to seize control of the Oakwood Premier Ayala Center in Makati on July 27, 2003 after disarming the security guards, planting claymore mines around the building and posting snipers at the Oakwood roof deck.

A fact-finding commission later determined that the Trillanes rebellion was “not a spontaneous phenomenon as extensive preparations and mobilization activities were undertaken prior to the occupation and control of the Oakwood Apartments” and that it was part of “an overarching plot to overthrow the government.”

Trillanes’ dreams of leading a revolutionary junta that would rule the Philippines ended unsuccessfully within 18 hours when the Filipino masses did not rally to support his cause as he had expected. Trillanes and his men were forced to surrender peacefully and they were all charged in a general court martial and incarcerated.

But Trillanes’ messianic dreams were revived when he won election to the Philippine Senate in 2007 despite his incarceration, perhaps because the Filipino people somehow saw in his seeming idealism their hopes for a government free of corruption. Or perhaps because it was a highly visible way for the people to express their disgust with the corruption of the president who had incarcerated Trillanes.

Other countries may label Trillanes a “terrorist” for planting claymore mines in a hotel filled with innocent civilians and may lock up the perpetrator in solitary confinement for life. But in the Philippines, that “terrorist” is a senator of the Republic and, who knows, with the backing of China, may yet someday see his messianic dream fulfilled.

09-28-2012, 10:26 AM
By Aurea Calica

(The Philippine Star)

Updated September 28, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday defended the Cybercrime Prevention Act, saying that freedom of expression in social media must come with responsibility and libel law for journalists must likewise apply to bloggers and other people posting articles or comments online.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also appealed to various groups opposing the law to wait for the implementing rules and regulations, but stressed they would respect their decision to question it before the Supreme Court.

“Number one, what is the position of government? The position of government is, look, we already have responsibilities attached to print, TV, and radio, so what the Cybercrime Act does is to also attach responsibilities in cyberspace. You’ve got freedom to report – the freedom of expression is always recognized but freedom of expression is not absolute. We know that for a fact,” Lacierda said in a press briefing.

“And I think, more than anybody else, the journalists are very responsible when it comes to writing articles, they know the parameters,” he said.

Lacierda said writing some “very negative” articles or comments about a person could impinge his or her freedom and “therefore, we recognize that there should be responsibilities attached.”

“Now, having said that, if you have any concerns about some provisions of the law, then discuss it. The IRR is still being drafted so there is still no IRR,” he said.

Lacierda said it was the prerogative of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III and other senators who would seek to question some provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Meanwhile, Sen. Loren Legarda called on the public to give the Cybercrime Prevention Act a chance to be implemented.

Legarda told newsmen in Dagupan City last Wednesday that she will be the first senator to move for the law’s amendment if it does not work well.

“There has to be regulation sometimes because there are syndicates that use the Internet for their criminal activities,” Legarda said.

Guingona has joined the growing clamor for the Supreme Court (SC) to stop implementation of some provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which he said violate constitutional freedom of citizens in cyberspace.

In a 43-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, Guingona asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining concerned government agencies from implementing sections in the law penalizing online offenses, including libel.

He particularly questioned sections 4, 6, 7 and 19 for being “too vague” and for violating the constitutional guarantee to free speech and expression.

In a press conference before filing the petition in the SC, Guingona clarified that he is not against the spirit of the cybercrime law.

He agreed that there is need to prevent online hacking, but also believes this could be done without jeopardizing fundamental rights in the Constitution.

It was the fourth petition filed before the SC seeking to stop and annul certain provisions of the cybercrime law.

The first three were filed earlier this week by businessman Louis Biraogo, a group of journalists belonging to Alab ng Mamamahayag (ALAM) and a group of bloggers and Internet law experts led by lawyer Jose Jesus Disini Jr. of the UP College of Law.

Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, yesterday said while petitions have been filed before the SC to nullify certain provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Law, specifically the inclusion of libel as a punishable crime, the Senate could still correct this supposed mistake on its own while waiting for the ruling of the court. – With Eva Visperas, Edu Punay, Marvin Sy

09-28-2012, 10:27 AM
Internet freedom: Phl ranks 6th

(The Philippine Star)

Updated September 28, 2012 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Internet use in the Philippines is among the freest in the world, according to a report of independent rights watchdog Freedom House.

An article posted on Yahoo! News yesterday said that in Freedom House’s report titled “Freedom on the Net 2012,” the Philippines was rated free, scoring 23 points.

A score of zero in the report means “most free” and 100 “least free.”

The Philippines and Italy placed sixth out of the 47 countries in the list, Yahoo! News said.

Leading the pack of the freest countries were Estonia, with a score of 10 points; US, 12 points; Germany, 15 points; Australia, 18 points; and Hungary, 19 points.

Yahoo! News said the Freedom House report also indicated that in Asia, the Philippines is the only country deemed “free.”

Considered “partly free” were South Korea and India, with 34 points and 39 points, respectively; along with Indonesia, 42 points; and Malaysia, 43 points.

The Yahoo! News article further said that according to Freedom House, the Philippine government, to date, has steered clear of blocking access to any type of online content.

But Freedom House noted that during the survey period from January 2011 to May 2012, there were eight proposed measures on the “regulation of online content,” raising concerns that the government is seeking to institute a “filtering structure which could be potentially used for political and social censorship.”

10-02-2012, 08:45 AM
By Cathy C. Yamsuan, TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:01 am | Saturday, September 29th, 2012

It was one party that would have been unthinkable in 1972, 1983, 1986 or even 2001.

But it only took an invitation from the now wildly popular Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to bring together an odd assortment of colorful characters whose careers and personalities have crossed, intersected and clashed on the very public stage of Philippine politics.

Just as unthinkable was how the usually flamboyant former first lady Imelda Marcos failed to be the center of attention during the book launch of “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir” in a Makati hotel on Thursday night.

But Mrs. Marcos gamely traded niceties with President Aquino whose mother, the late President Cory Aquino, ousted her husband, former President Ferdinand Marcos, in a bloodless People Power Revolution in 1986.

Marcos, who declared martial law in 1972 that saw the arrest and detention of Mr. Aquino’s father, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., is still widely believed to be behind the senator’s death in 1983.

Coup attempts

President Aquino also shook hands with Enrile who, together with his loyal squire Sen. Gregorio Honasan, remains associated with several coup attempts against his mother.

Also at the book launch were former President Joseph Estrada and his son, Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada, who were seen hobnobbing with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the head of the prosecution team that tried to convict the impeached president for plunder 11 years earlier.

Former President Fidel Ramos, the implementor of martial law, was among the guests, as was President Aquino’s uncle, former Sen. Agapito “Butz” Aquino, a prominent opposition figure during the Marcos years.

Also present were Vice President Jejomar Binay and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa of Malacañang’s so-called “Samar” bloc, which was rumored to be behind the Noy-Bi ticket that led to the junking of President Aquino’s vice presidential mate, Mar Roxas.

This led guests to wonder in hushed tones why members of that other Malacañang faction, the ubiquitous “Balay” posse—said to be backing Roxas—were not around. Were they not invited? people asked.

UNA stalwarts

Logical explanation: Enrile, Binay and Estrada are stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) whose candidates are expected to run head-to-head with Liberal Party contenders led by LP president and incoming Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Wags also cheekily noted the absence of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had recently engaged Enrile in a word war that began with the Camarines Sur bill and traveled all the way to Scarborough Shoal.

Not surprising, since Trillanes and his Magdalo cohorts destroyed the façade of The Manila Peninsula’s entrance in a siege in November 2007. The book launch was held in the hotel.

In fact, many of the personalities mentioned in Enrile’s memoirs were seated in the enormous Rigodon Ballroom of the Manila Pen, where the furniture was arranged in the style of a grand salon facing a giant screen set above a stage.

Guests watched a short film that highlighted Enrile’s role and influence in the military and his key participation in the 1986 Edsa revolt that ousted the Marcoses. Imelda Marcos, whose husband’s 23rd death anniversary was observed on Friday, Sept. 28, remained composed as she stared ahead.

Of his 772-page autobiography, Enrile said: “The people I mention and the events I depict here were those that I had personally encountered and witnessed along my journey. I have no intention to make myself look good at the expense of others, or to settle old scores with anyone.”

Alfie Anido suicide

Interestingly, the book mentioned the suicide of actor Alfie Anido in 1981.

“My enemies in the Marcos regime,” including Marcos chief of staff Fabian Ver, spread the rumor that his son Jack was behind the actor’s death, Enrile said.

The younger Enrile recalled that it was in 2008 when his father bared his plan to write his memoirs.

“Even you, my son, do not know who I am and I have to tell the Filipino people who I am,” he quoted his father as saying then.

The congressman said that with his father’s memoirs being publicly available, “a number of history books would have to be rewritten” as the book contains “revelations that intend to separate myth from legend” about “some of the more controversial periods of our history.”

Enrile spent four years writing the book that journalist Nelson Navarro trimmed down from the original 2,000-page “collection of manuscripts” to its present form.

The Senate President thanked President Aquino’s “graciousness” for showing up “despite the rather colorful political encounters I had with the martyred Ninoy Aquino and the much-admired icon of democracy, President Cory.”

Errors of the past

Mr. Aquino said Enrile’s memoirs “(would) allow future generations not just to explore other perspectives; it empowers (them) to avoid the errors of the past.”

Enrile’s book, the President said, “will hopefully give us an opportunity to hear insights from the side of those who decided, for instance, to experiment with strongman rule. What went through their minds back then? How do they choose to remember it now?

Enrile was believed to be the chief architect of martial law. The launch of his memoirs came a week after the country marked the 40th anniversary of President Marcos’ declaration of martial law in September 1972.

Mr. Aquino said it would be healthy for the young generation to read Enrile’s memoirs.

Common ground

“Any book aspires to outlive its author and the milieu from which it sprang. How we bear witness may lead to our making opposite conclusions … For younger readers, let me assure you this is a healthy thing. Being exposed to opposing views is the hallmark of a true democracy,” the President said.

“Who would have thought Manong Johnny and I could find common ground, and vote the same way on some, though maybe not all, measures? We could agree to disagree on the past, but we also discovered we could agree on many things in the here and now—and contribute to the future betterment of our people,” Mr. Aquino said.

At the end of the day, he added, everyone would be confronted with the challenge of the Epistle of John: “So then if we do not do the good we should do, we are guilty of sin.”

Said the President: “We will be held accountable to our Maker for this. But we will also be held accountable to human history, and here the often-misquoted words of Edmund Burke come to mind. We are familiar with the saying, ‘For evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ What he really wrote, I understand, was this, ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.’

“May all of us hope to live as long, and as vivid a life as Manong Johnny; and may all of us seek, in this book, the lessons that will allow us to advance as a people,” he added.

10-02-2012, 08:52 AM
By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:39 am | Sunday, September 30th, 2012 Call it luck, but then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile’s decision to ride in the security vehicle behind his car one fateful night in September 1972 saved his life in an ambush that President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. used to justify martial law.

Then again, his life was probably never in danger that night, as he himself suggested 14 years later as he and his fellow putschists faced real danger, that of an attack by Marcos’ troops on their stronghold at Camp Aguinaldo.

In his newly released memoir, Enrile insists the ambush was real and took place in Wack Wack Subdivision where “a speeding car rushed and passed the escort car where I was riding. Suddenly, it opened several bursts of gunfire toward my car and sped away.”

Normally, Enrile’s car was driven between two security vehicles. On that night, however, he decided to ride in the security vehicle following his car.

“The attack was sudden that it caught everyone by surprise. No one in the convoy was able to fire back,” Enrile writes.

His car was “ditched on the right side of the road. Its left rear door was riddled with bullet holes and its left back tire was punctured and disabled.”

His driver and military aide, both of whom were in the car, were unhurt.

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Enrile says his political opponents spread word that the ambush was faked to justify the imposition of martial law.

He dismisses it as “ridiculous and preposterous,” saying Marcos had postponed the declaration of martial rule several times.

“Whether I was ambushed or not, martial law in the country was already an irreversible fact. So what was the need to fake my own ambush?” Enrile writes.

Enrile, now the Senate President, says he was surprised that time when Marcos used the incident to justify the imposition of martial law.

He still wonders if those behind the ambush carried it out “to achieve whatever purpose they had.”

But didn’t he himself tell the public on Feb. 22, 1986, as he and Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police chief Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos barricaded themselves at Camp Aguinaldo after the discovery of their coup plot against Marcos, that the ambush was fake?

Together with Ramos and military troops that formed the Reform the AFP Movement (RAM), Enrile, speaking on radio, confessed, among other things, that Marcos ordered the staging of the ambush to contrive a final act by his opponents that forced him to place the country under martial law.

The Filipinos forgave him, and trooped to Edsa by the millions to shield him and Ramos and their troops against an assault by Marcos’ military.

Martial law blueprint

Looking back, Enrile says Marcos “spelled out the blueprint” for martial law in his inaugural speech on December 30, 1965.

Marcos “decried the prevalence of venality in government” and called for a genuine return to the rule of law, Enrile writes.

“And [Marcos] pledged to execute the law, preserve the Constitution, and, if need be, to direct ‘the forcible if legal elimination of all lawless elements,’” says Enrile, who joined Marcos’ administration as undersecretary of justice early in the would-be dictator’s presidency.

The speech was met with thunderous applause and people were so carried away with Marcos’ delivery that not many noticed or realized what he meant.

“Many took for granted what he really said. They did not bother to analyze it,” Enrile says.

The research

He recalls that it was in early December 1969 when he was summoned to Malacañang and ordered to study “discreetly and confidentially” the President’s powers under the commander in chief provisions of the Constitution.

“[Marcos] said he was foreseeing an escalation of violence and disorder in the country…He stressed that whoever would participate in the study must be cautioned not to talk about it to others,” Enrile writes.

Enrile chose two young legal staffers at the Department of Justice—Efren Plana and Minerva Gonzaga Reyes—to help him in the study. They helped him “ransack” law libraries for material on martial law. (President Corazon Aquino later appointed Gonzaga Reyes justice of the Supreme Court.)

“We read and reviewed the cases decided here and abroad on the subject. We ended up with a large volume of legal literature and jurisprudence on the nature and extent of the commander in chief powers of the President,” Enrile says.

Marcos received the voluminous study in late January 1970. Enrile says that only one copy was made and that he “never saw or heard of it again.”

Martial law architect

A week later, Enrile was again called to the Palace. Marcos instructed him to prepare the documents for the imposition of martial law.

“I was faced with the problem of how or where to start. There was no model to begin with. I had to literally start from scratch. I had to improvise everything,” Enrile writes.

He visualized in his mind the process from start to end. “I began with a description of the national security situation which became the basis of the proclamation,” he recalls.

“Then, I went on with the problems to be addressed and the government agencies to be involved. These became the subjects later on of the general orders and letters of instruction that were issued,” he writes.

When Enrile was appointed defense minister, it was a time of growing unrest. In 1971, he resigned after Marcos and wife Imelda pressured him to run for senator under the Nacionalista Party.

Then, two things happened: the Plaza Miranda bombing in August and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Enrile was campaigning in Bulacan when a supporter pulled him aside and directed him to the nearest black and white TV where he watched pictures of the carnage.

On the ride to Caloocan, where another rally awaited, Enrile says he “ominously felt the full weight of the…bombing fall on my shoulders.”

The opposition trained its guns on Marcos and wife Imelda. The Nacionalista senatorial candidates, by association, also suffered the public’s wrath.

Malacañang ‘puppy’

It did not help at all that Marcos gave Enrile the job of publicly defending the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus.

Worse, the signature of Enrile as defense secretary was required on all arrest warrants for Malacañang’s perceived enemies.

Enrile recalls a rally in Palawan where a young girl gave him a puppy, an obvious reference to accusations that he was a “tuta” (puppy) of Malacañang.

It did not come as a surprise to Enrile that he and most other Nacionalistas lost the election.

Enrile says that weeks before martial law was declared, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. talked to him about a meeting with communist leader Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison in Dasmariñas Village.

Aquino, whom Enrile describes as “a glib talker,” said the meeting was supposed to explore a possible alliance between the senator’s Liberal Party and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Alliance with Reds

Aquino told Enrile that the CPP believed Marcos would place the country under martial law. Forging an alliance between the LP and the CPP would mean “a common effort in funding, propaganda, logistics and an armed struggle” against Marcos, according to Aquino.

Enrile told Aquino that as defense secretary, he would be forced out of duty to tell Marcos what he told him. The senator protested, saying he wanted him to keep to himself everything he had said.

Enrile eventually filed a written report about his discussion with Aquino. It was not clear how the information found its way to the press.

Aquino’s Liberal allies moved to protect him. Enrile writes that Aquino later admitted meeting him “but he twisted the facts.”

“His version was that he saw me in Urdaneta Village on September 7 ‘at his initiative to bring to [my] attention a request by Governor Faustino Dy of Isabela for government protection against what he feared was [a New People’s Army] plot aimed at him,’” Enrile says.

The defense secretary fumed at the story, branding it “completely false.” Since both Enrile and Dy were from Cagayan, wouldn’t it have been easier if Dy approached Enrile at the outset instead of seeking Aquino’s intervention?

10-02-2012, 08:53 AM
^ Continued from above ___

Illegal loan

Enrile theorizes that the animosity between Aquino and Marcos began when Aquino attacked Imelda’s pet project, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Aquino delivered a privilege speech in 1969, claiming the CCP was constructed using P35 million from war damage payments and a P50-million loan from the National Investment and Development Corp. (NIDP).

Aquino said the loan was “illegal” because the NIDP could lend money only for “agricultural, commercial and industrial” ventures.

Marcos immediately came to Imelda’s defense, calling Aquino a “congenital liar.” Somehow, Aquino scored points with the public when he asked why Marcos was pulling his mother into the fray with that statement.

Enrile volunteers this insight: “Every time I see the Cultural Center, I [cannot] help but [think of] the edifice as a memorial to the mutual hatred between Marcos and Ninoy [Aquino’s nickname], a reminder of a political controversy that inexorably led to a series of events that rocked this nation.”

Enrile says even he was not spared from Imelda’s penchant for intervening in her husband’s business or assuming his power as hers, too.

Campaign film

Imelda was not even first lady yet when the Macapagal administration’s Board of Censors banned Marcos’ campaign movie “Iginuhit ng Tadhana” for historical inaccuracies.

Imelda called Enrile, who had been persuaded to join the Marcos campaign team by close friend Rafael Salas, and instructed him to file a suit against the board in the Pasig Court of First Instance specifically and make sure that it was raffled off to a judge who was Marcos’ classmate in the University of the Philippines law school.

Imelda also told Enrile to talk to the judge and convince him to hand down a decision that would allow the film to be shown immediately.

Enrile said yes but did nothing. Complying with Imelda’s wishes “was a disgrace for a lawyer to do,” he writes.

Public pressure eventually forced the censors board to allow the movie to be shown.

Enrile says Imelda always insisted that people obey her will.

Dancing generals

One month into martial law, guests at an otherwise solemn banquet at Heroes Hall in Malacañang were shocked when six military generals, including Ramos, then head of the Philippine Constabulary, and Gen. Fabian Ver, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, appeared on the stage in Hawaiian drag.

“The six generals were all attired in artificial straw skirts and high-heeled shoes. They had garlands around their necks and they were wearing bras to complete their costumes. Their lips were painted with red lipstick,” Enrile writes.

The generals danced the hula as Imelda and her Blue Ladies clapped delightedly. But other guests, among whom were diplomats, bankers, businessmen and their wives, remained quiet.

“I felt they were neither amused nor comfortable with what was going on,” Enrile says.

Even the defense secretary squirmed in his seat and his wife Cristina noticed it. “She held my arm and cautioned me to just keep my cool and not to say anything,” he says.

Once, Imelda called Enrile and told him to allow the pregnant daughter-in-law of Raul Manglapus to return from Japan, give birth in Manila and leave the country afterward despite travel restrictions that accompanied martial rule.

Imelda’s ire

When she learned that Enrile told the woman’s family that only the President could grant an exemption to the “no travel policy” outside those clearly exempted from the martial law edict, Imelda was livid.

“You’re arrogant. You have become a swellhead,” Imelda berated Enrile on the phone. But she asked Enrile not to tell her husband that she ranted at him.

He did, but Marcos brushed aside Enrile’s report on the matter.

“She does not understand what we are doing,” Marcos said.

Enrile says that his refusal to cooperate with Imelda led to “intrigues against me in the Cabinet,” especially from the “Imelda Boys” and the Blue Ladies.

“My wife, Cristina, and my children Jack and Katrina were seldom, if at all, invited to functions in Malacañang after that incident. Not that they hankered to be invited. But such was the fact,” Enrile says.

Ver, however, was more solicitous when it came to Imelda’s whims, he adds.

Ninoy’s assassination

And while Enrile was apparently willing to forgive Ver for fawning over Imelda, he could not let go of the disgraced military chief’s “incoherent account” of how Aquino was assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

Enrile recalls that right after Aquino was shot, Ver called him at home to report what happened.

Enrile recounts the conversation in his book, saying Ver told him that a man “disguised as airport [employee]” shot Aquino on the tarmac. Soldiers, in turn, shot the gunman.

“After I finished my telephone conversation with General Ver, I was seized by a strong feeling of alarm. The story…was too hard to believe. It created so much doubt in my mind. The story of General Ver on its face was patently ridiculous,” Enrile writes.


“How could a lone and ordinary assassin [have known] that Ninoy would arrive [on] that particular day, at that particular time, and [on] that particular airplane?” Enrile asks.

“How [could] the assassin [have known] that the plane that would bring Ninoy to the country would park at that particular place at the airport tarmac for him to go there and wait to shoot Ninoy?” he goes on.

“And, if indeed there was an active threat to Ninoy’s life, why was he brought down from the plane to the airport tarmac ‘for security reasons,’ in the words of General Ver, without any preparatory effort done to first sanitize or clear the place of persons?”

10-02-2012, 08:56 AM
By Christian V. Esguerra

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:01 pm | Friday, September 28th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Can former president Joseph Estrada’s feuding sons co-exist in the Senate?

If all goes according to plan, San Juan Representative Jose Victor Ejercito will join his half-brother, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, in a chamber that has a history of relatives simultaneously holding positions.

Ejercito, the former president’s son with former actress and now San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, is set to file his certificate of candidacy next week as part of the senatorial ticket of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Should he win, he would share three years with his brother Jinggoy, who will end his six-year term in 2016, at the Senate. Jinggoy, Senate president pro tempore, is Estrada’s son with his wife, ex-Senator Luisa “Loi” Ejercito.

Their father downplayed Friday the idea that his two sons might end up taking their reported rivalry to the Senate floor. He said he had gotten their “commitment” to work together and set aside personal differences.

“Isa lang sinabi ko. Sige, mag-away kayo kung gusto n’yong mapadali ang buhay ng tatay n’yo,” the 75-year-old Estrada said.

Estrada described as “petty” the issues often dividing JV and Jinggoy. He said most of them concerned local issues in the political bailiwick of San Juan, like when the two opt to support rival candidates.

Estrada noted that it would not look good in public if his two sons could not work together, especially with the expectation that politicians were supposed to serve as a unifying force for the country.

“I told them not to destroy my name,” he said in Filipino, to which both sons purportedly “listened.” “I brought them up well. They listen to me.”

Who’s more good-looking is also a non-issue, Estrada said in jest, for they both know that they were no match to their father. “They know that for sure. Their eyesight is not poor,” he said.

In a press conference more than a week ago, JV Ejercito was asked about his rivalry with the older Jinggoy. He said the relationship had improved.

“The relationship is much better now than it was before,” he had said. “Probably, we’re both mature. We’ve both matured already.”

In previous interviews with the Inquirer, Jinggoy was evasive about his relationship with JV Ejercito.

Having siblings in the same chamber would not be a first in the case of Estrada’s two sons. At present, there is Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano and his older sister, Sen. Pia Cayatano. Jinggoy also served in the Senate while his mother Loi was also a senator.

10-02-2012, 09:07 AM
By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:57 am | Monday, October 1st, 2012

Juan Ponce Enrile is indisputably the only Filipino politician who has held power at its apex for 46 years, bridging six presidential regimes since the 1960s.

Enrile’s grip of power shuttled two extreme systems of government—the dictatorship installed by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 and the restoration of the democratic regime by the Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986. These two pivotal events bracketed the most tumultuous period of political and social change that ever visited this country after World War II.

In both upheavals, Enrile was never far from the center of power, whoever was in charge, either as a front man of the existing regime, a conspirator of coup plots lurking behind the scenes, or as a catalyst of political change.

He assisted Marcos in planning the legal nomenclature of the clampdown of martial law in Proclamation No. 1081, acted as Marcos’ martial law administrator for nearly 14 years, and leader of a military coup that sparked the 1986 civil-military rising that toppled the dictatorship.

On Thursday, Enrile launched at the grand ballroom of the Manila Peninsula Hotel his autobiography, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir,” the first authoritative account of what went on behind the inner sanctum of Marcos’ secretive establishment and Enrile’s own key role in the events of the darkest 20 years of Philippine democracy, in the words of Enrile, a first-hand story of an insider, not hearsay.

This is what makes the book tremendously important and gripping as a historical document.

The massive volume of 754 pages, which was trimmed to size and edited by journalist Nelson Navarro, was launched significantly just six days after the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of martial law, officially signed on Sept. 21, 1972, but announced on national television only two days later.

The book should be read less as a story of the life of Enrile but more as a chronicle of the travails of the nation in the transition between authoritarian rule and open, plural government.

It presents Enrile’s perspective of the events in which he had been a central player—a circumstance that makes his account more credible and that gives it life and a human dimension.

Revision of history

Make no mistake that in the book, Enrile justifies Marcos’ decision to impose martial law. This book is, therefore, a serious attempt of revision of the history of the dictatorship and the libertarian people power movement that followed it.

In his speech at the launching of the book, Enrile said, revealing his agenda:

“I have been judged and condemned many times. But I fear only the ultimate judgment of God and history. My survival over the vicissitudes of my difficult life, over injustice, cruelty and betrayal, and my successes, great or small, I can only attribute to God or guts.

“I have seen how poverty, squalor stalked the land, and how injustice and discord divided our people. … I have been privileged to have known and worked with some of the best and the brightest minds and leaders of the nation who earnestly endeavored to unshackle the people from the grip of poverty and foreign domination. We tried to reverse the national backwardness and to make it more humane and prosperous so that the lot of the downtrodden could be alleviated.

“But we failed miserably, not for lack of good intentions but for lack of a strong will to resist the temptations and corruptive influences of power, money and privilege. I have witnessed how the selfish and avarice of some have incessantly obstructed the road to meaningful change and reform.

“Since many of the events in this book are events that not only I but the whole nation witnessed and experienced, I lay no claim to a monopoly of the truth. This book is simply my own rendition for what I know to be true because I was there, and I lived through and survived these events.”

Story of survival

How Enrile survived these dangerous events is what this book is all about—his resiliency, his longevity in power while coming through on top of the heap of tortured victims of the martial law regime, to which he is now spreading the blame for its excesses.

The text of this book promises to reveal the details of this narrative.

Let Enrile’s tale of this oral history speak for him for us to determine whether he exercised these delegated powers to soften the rigors and abuses of the martial law dictatorship in the manner that the wartime government of President Jose P. Laurel during the Japanese occupation claimed that he shielded the population from the cruelty and atrocities of the occupation forces. For what is martial law but an exercise of arbitrary rule unrestrained by constitutional safeguards suspended by decrees of a native ruling elite.

In his introduction, the book’s editor, Navarro, gives a preview of some of the intense power struggle between Enrile, Marcos’ defense secretary, and a faction identified with the then First Lady Imelda Marcos and Gen. Fabian Ver, then chief of staff of the Armed Forces, and Enrile’s disagreement with Ver over the latter’s version of the assassination of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.

These episodes suggested the undercutting of the powers of Enrile. Navarro also revealed the cleavages in the people power movement between the civilian segment and the military leaders (Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos), after their breakaway from Marcos.

Navarro wrote: “Enrile’s very detailed minute-by-minute account of the four days of Edsa presents another view of history that sharply differs with the yellow school of history, which understandably casts Enrile in a most unfavorable light.”

On the issue of whether he is trying to revise history to tilt it in his favor, Enrile says, “Let them read it first. If there is a revision, they can write their own version. I don’t have a monopoly of truth.”

But he speaks from the standpoint of rewriting history with the muzzle of the gun. The memoir seeks to depict him not as a lackey of either Jaime Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino, or his mentor in power, Marcos, but as the sorcerer’s apprentice.

10-02-2012, 09:09 AM
By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:55 am | Monday, October 1st, 2012

I said it before: Juan Ponce Enrile has got to be one of the luckiest persons on earth. In at least two life-changing, or history-altering, situations, he was there at the right place at the right time.

The first was Edsa. Ferdinand Marcos uncovered his plot and sent him and his rebel group fleeing in fear of their lives to Camp Aguinaldo. Fortunately for him, the people massed at the camps to protect them. Overnight, he turned from a chief architect of martial law to a chief destroyer of martial law. Overnight, he turned from oppressor to liberator.

The second was Renato Corona’s impeachment. What are the odds that the first chief justice of this country to be impeached would be so at the very time Enrile was the Senate President thereby making him its presiding officer? A role to which he was as eminently suited to as presiding officer of martial law. A role indeed that he performed magnificently, earning rave reviews from the public itself.

With these things, he has managed to make the country forget his unsavory role at a time when a great many of the best and brightest disappeared from the face of the earth. But he wants more: He wants us in fact to remember martial law and his role in it—but so in ways removed from our experience of it. He wants us to remember him no longer as the Hermann Goering of martial law (Goering used the Reichstag fire, which the Nazis lit off themselves, to round up the communists; Marcos used Enrile’s fake ambush to round up his critics) but as the Oskar Schindler of it.

Will his luck hold?

What makes his gamble particularly stupendous is that he did it just one week after the 40th anniversary of martial law. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Edsa People Power Commission held a two-day conference on how to build a memory museum, with guests from Argentina, Chile and Peru coming over to help us find ways to help ourselves remember. Only a week ago, P-Noy was in Fort Magsaysay talking about once wanting to exact revenge on the people who oppressed his family and the nation but finding comfort instead in the struggle that ended their rule. Only a week ago, the Department of Education was locked in a debate with other groups on how best to teach martial law so that the youth would know about it and make sure it never happens again.

And now, suddenly, mind-bogglingly, depressingly, this.

I saw the photographs of Enrile’s book launching in the newspapers and found myself despairing. The only one who wasn’t there was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but give it a year or two and she’ll be there too. Indeed, the only ones who were not there, who will never be there whether it takes a year or 10, were those who were imprisoned and tortured during martial law, and the kin of those who died in the hills.

Two things rile about that event.

One is the book itself. The only thing worse than forgetting is remembering the wrong things, or recalling only an implanted memory. Enrile’s propositions, which he had been floating around months before he launched his book, were long debunked by the Nuremberg trials. Those contentions are: one, that if he hadn’t been there, martial law would have been worse; and, two, that he was a victim of martial law—if he had tried to walk away from it his life would have been forfeited.

The “what could have been” is never provable, the “what was” is, and Enrile was Marcos’ right hand in an iron-fisted rule. That was how he got rich and (in)famous, not least by razing this country’s forests. The second is easily refuted. Rafael “Rocky” Ileto never fell in league with Marcos, not even from the start when the generals of all the military branches gathered full force to prop up martial law. Marcos never jailed him or killed him, though he cast him aside and impoverished him. That was all Enrile needed to do if he violently disagreed with Marcos—endure poverty and obscurity for principle. He did neither.

While at that, he could always have done a Ninoy. Instead, he did, well, an Enrile.

But what riles even more about that affair is the horrendous message it beams to the public. Marcos used to joke in his time that he was going to let history be his judge, but just to be sure he would write history. Enrile has just turned joke into reality, with the blessings of friend and foe alike. Which makes you wonder how much of our history is really biography, or worse, PR.

But more than this, there’s the sheer injustice of it all. A couple of weeks ago, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines launched “Not In Our Watch,” which told of its members’ ordeals during martial law. Some months ago, Susan and Nathan Quimpo launched “Subversive Lives,” which told of the humongous sacrifices a family made to fight off the oppression. None of these launchings drew the crowd Enrile did, and the books told a far more truthful story of what happened.

What does all this say, particularly to the youth we are exhorting to remember?

That it doesn’t really pay to make those sacrifices, if you’re lucky your version of life will just be ignored, if you’re not, no one will even know you existed at all? That it pays instead to become rich and famous, however you become so by screwing the world, by oppressing your countrymen, if you’re lucky you can be at the right place and time, and later on make people forget, if you’re not you can always hire someone to write an alternate version of reality? Or preferably both? That at the end of all those exhortations for people to remember the horrors of the past and the heroism of the people who pushed it back, many of them perishing in the effort, nothing really happens, the bang will just go with the buck, fortune will just favor the brazen, history will just reward those who get to stay around to (re)write it?

It does rile, en or otherwise.

10-02-2012, 09:28 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:57 am | Monday, October 1st, 2012

The two principal political coalitions labored mightily over their senatorial slates and produced… a mouse. Or, rather, a pair of very familiar mice. Can we blame anyone for responding to the sight with indifference or even contempt?

After all the brave talk about pursuing the agenda of reform or offering a genuine alternative, both the administration coalition led by President Aquino’s Liberal Party and the United Nationalist Alliance led by Vice President Jejomar Binay are presenting lineups forged in the basest smithy of them all: political convenience.

Perhaps the inclusion of former senator Jamby Madrigal in the LP slate and that of President Aquino’s aunt, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, in the UNA lineup are generating the most outcry, but with a few exceptions, both sets of candidates are cast from the same old mold used in all previous nationwide elections. The diligent Filipino voter may well ask: Is there no one else?

Politicians who have outlived their once-formidable political reputations, like former senator Ernesto Maceda. Wives of politicians who have run into the brick wall of term limits, like former congresswoman Cynthia Villar. Siblings of incumbent senators, like congressman JV Ejercito and reelectionist senator Alan Peter Cayetano. Children of other incumbent senators, like congressmen Juan Edgardo Angara and Jackie Ponce Enrile. Heirs of a political family, like reelectionist senator Aquilino Pimentel III or previous senatorial candidate Jose de Venecia III or President Aquino’s cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV. Even former leaders of failed coup attempts, like reelectionist senators Gregorio Honasan and Antonio Trillanes IV. These and other candidates for the Senate may all be running out of a sincere desire to continue serving the public—but they are not the only ones who are driven by that desire. So it isn’t commitment to some cause, however defined, or even performance in public office, however measured, that served as the main criterion of selection. It was, it must have been, electability.

Consider the special case of what we can call the Fernando Poe Jr. bloc: the three candidates who will be fielded in common by both the LP coalition and UNA. Grace Poe Llamanzares, chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, is of course the daughter of the late movie actor and presidential candidate. Sen. Loren Legarda was his running mate in 2004, and Sen. Francis Escudero served as his campaign spokesman. All three, and especially the last two, enjoy the privilege of being common candidates because of their wide popularity.

The rival Senate slates remind us of the first attempt in the post-Marcos era to form an alliance based on the politics of cynicism. In 1995, the first midterm election conducted under the 1987 Constitution, the administration’s Lakas-NUCD party brokered an alliance with the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino—it was, in President Fidel Ramos’ infamous joke, a marriage of political non-virgins. That merged slate did win eight of 12 seats at stake—but it also gave rise to the first “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) election fraud cases, involving its own members.

Its ghost continues to haunt Philippine politics. One of only three LP members in the current LP slate was part of that so-called marriage: former senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. But other names in the two slates are a throwback to that time: Pimentel and Enrile, whose fathers ran (uneasily) together. Today, Enrile’s father, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, is one of the three masterminds behind UNA. Other non-virgins from the 1995 race are back in the Senate—Franklin Drilon and Sergio Osmeña III—while the most successful, the one who topped the Senate contest, is now facing charges after nine controversial years as president: Gloria Arroyo.

Last April, reviewing the list of prospective Senate candidates being floated by UNA, we wrote in this same space: “The only thing that animates this grandly touted alliance is naked political expediency. No honest principle or policy belief appears to bind these politicians to one another except the need to further game an already corrupted system …”

The truly sad thing is that, today, as the Commission on Elections begins receiving certificates of candidacy, those lines can also apply, by and large, to the administration coalition. That Madrigal was floated as an UNA candidate in April, and now finds a home in the LP, just about says it all.

Sam Miguel
10-02-2012, 02:56 PM
From the Brookings Institution ___

Editor's Note: This post is part of the Harvard International Law Journal Volume 53(2) symposium. Other posts in this series can be found on the Opinio Juris website.

"The Democratic Coup d’Etat" is an important article. First, and most obviously, this Article carries significant policy implications. The political transformations sweeping the Middle East and North Africa – known as the “Arab Spring” – have presented a wide range of conceptual challenges to policymakers and political scientists. Varol’s counter-intuitive argument that self-interested militaries might facilitate democratic transition in order to preserve their own position within the political system provides an important perspective on Egypt’s transformation. Although it is far too early to tell if the Egyptian military will remain an agent of democracy, Varol’s article puts the military’s actions in sharp focus.

Recent developments have also added additional texture to Varol’s concept of the “democratic coup d’état.” Most relevant is the alliance between the military and judiciary that was on show in June when the Supreme Constitutional Court disbanded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament. Reporting from this event suggests that the military was not simply using legal institutions to pursue its own interests. Instead, key members of the Supreme Constitutional Court had been in close contact with the Egyptian military from the very beginning of Egypt’s political transformation to address how they will handle the risk that the broad popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood will allow it to unilaterally shape the Egyptian state. Tahani el-Gebal, Egypt’s deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, justified this alliance with the military based on the argument that “[d]emocracy isn’t only about casting votes; it’s about building a democratic infrastructure.” This burgeoning relationship helps us better understand the dynamics behind what Varol calls “institutional entrenchment.” In particular, it might suggest that institutional entrenchment is the product of a shared counter-majoritarian interest in curbing any rising electoral tide of political Islam.

Second, Varol’s article represents an important academic contribution: It is part of a growing body of legal scholarship that addresses the “poorly understood” relationship between constitution-making process and constitutional democracy. Tom Ginsburg, Zachary Elkins, & Justin Blount, Does the Process of Constitution-Making Matter? 5 Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci. 201, 210 (2009). Varol’s approach focuses not on the theoretical implications of institutional participation in democratic constitutional change but on the tangible interests and effects of these institutions. This switch from a priori theoretical judgment to context-dependent empirical evaluation helps him jettison unhelpful theoretical typologies (“all military coup d’états are undemocratic because militaries are not elected”) and show how an unlikely institution is actually serving as a critical catalyst of democratic and constitutional change.

And, at first glance, Varol’s story of the democratic coup d’état seems as unlikely as it gets – particularly for those of us whose vision of a military coup is of armed soldiers replacing civilian dictatorship with military dictatorship. But Varol convincingly describes how militaries in certain contexts enjoy high levels of public trust (particularly in comparison with the police) and will seize power only to transfer that power to civilian leadership through free and fair elections. This is not a story of civic-minded altruism but instead one where the military transfers power to elected civilian leaders in return for preserving their privileged position as one of the most trusted institutions in society.

Varol’s story of democracy-promoting militaries fits into a larger story of democratic constitutional change. In the recent tidal “wave” of constitutional foundation (over 180 new constitutions have been adopted in the last 30 years), successful constitutional foundations have frequently involved reformist old regime institutions that helped supervise a negotiated process of democratic change. Ulrich Preuss, Constitutional Revolution: The Link Between Constitutionalism and Progress (1995). In many of these negotiated revolutions, these undemocratic institutions bargained away power in round table talks that led to stable “legal” procedures for a transition to free and fair elections. This approach has been called the “Spanish model”, a nod to how the Franco regime chose to negotiate its own power away legally during constitution-making in the late 1970s. Luis Lopez Guerra, The Application of the Spanish Model in the Constitutional Transitions in Central and Eastern Europe, 19 Cardozo L. Rev. 1937; 1997-1998. This approach spread to the former communist Eastern Europe during the 1990s, where communist-dominated Parliaments became agents of democratic change in order to preserve their privileged position within society. Varol’s democratic coup d’état represents another chapter in this story.

The success of this kind of negotiated or legal revolution can be traced in part to a neglected risk of constitution-making. Constitution-making is not just a moment of constitutional possibility; it is also a period in which the entire institutional apparatus of the state hangs in the balance. See William Partlett, Making Constitutions Matter: The Dangers of Constitutional Politics in Current Post-Authoritarian Constitution-Making, Brooklyn J. Int’l Law (Forthcoming 2012); David Landau, Constitution-Making Gone Wrong, Alabama L. Rev. (Forthcoming 2012). In this period, a charismatic individual or political party can reassert dictatorship by turning a popular mandate into a reason for unilaterally reshaping the institutional landscape of the state. Perhaps the two best examples of this kind of plebiscitary constitution-making are Russia and Venezuela, where President Yeltsin and President Chavez were able to seize control of the constitution-making process and unilaterally reshape the institutional apparatus in the process by exploiting temporary popular mandates. Old regime institutions solve this problem by maintaining legality and therefore holding unilateralism in check during this transitional phase.

But what does the involvement of old regime institutions mean for lasting democratic constitutionalism? Although the involvement of these institutions might ensure against the risk of plebiscitary dictatorship, are these “Faustian bargains” – as Varol calls them – ultimately creating weak foundations for long-lasting constitutionalism? Varol chooses to leave this question to future projects.

In addressing this issue, Varol will face another highly theoretical literature which is highly suspicious of negotiated revolutions. In fact, the orthodox approach in this literature maintains that the best way to build a stable foundation for constitutionalism is to draft a constitution in a process that maximizes the democratic or popular legitimacy of a new constitution (one of the most influential examples of this orthodox literature is Bruce Ackerman’s Future of Liberal Revolution (1992)). By giving undemocratic institutions a role in constitution-making, the approach goes, these countries are sacrificing key constitutional legitimacy. In essence, this orthodoxy asks: How can a new constitution survive as the new democratic charter when it is also riddled with provisions that are meant to ensure the survival of old regime players?

Sam Miguel
10-02-2012, 02:57 PM
(Cont'd from above)

Varol’s examples of democratic coup d’états hint at one possible response to this question: We are too focused on the significance of the founding moment as a source of legitimacy for constitutional law. Take Varol’s Portuguese example. Although the Portuguese military successfully entrenched itself in the constitution after overthrowing the dictatorship, it created a sunset clause allowing a two-thirds majority of the Parliament to remove this constitutional entrenchment six years later. And this is exactly what happened: The democratically elected parliament later dislodged this military entrenchment. A similar process of gradual democratization happened in Turkey: Over time, elected officials have weakened military control over one of the chief institutions created by the Turkish military to protect its interests: the National Security Council.

Portugal and Turkey are not alone. Two of the countries most successful in building constitutional democracy during the 1990s – South Africa and Poland – did not draft new comprehensive democratic constitutions at their founding. Andrew Arato, Civil Society, Constitution, and Legitimacy 142 (2000). Instead, they both adopted compromise constitutional texts, which served as a bridge between the authoritarian past and the democratic future. These interim constitutions helped preserve legality and institutions, avoiding any dangers of unilateralism that could emerge during periods of constitution-making period. Comprehensive democratic constitutions were only passed later when the vicissitudes of political and economic change had settled down.

In this strategy of staged constitutionalism, the concern about the presence of an undemocratic “taint” during the period of foundation is less pressing: As long as key provisions of the constitution are temporary, the democratic process can allow for a more comprehensive democratic constitution later on. This suggests that a constitutional order does not have to draw its full legitimacy from the moment of founding.

Although a full explanation of staged constitutionalism lies outside the scope of this short response, Varol’s insightful article encourages us to revisit our assumptions about the importance of democratic constitutional foundation at the moment of founding. Although this empirical story of staged constitutionalism conveys a less heroic vision of democratic constitutional foundation, it might present a more realistic one. And this more empirical view might also be one that helps us better understand the relationship between constitution-making process and constitutional democracy in the real world.

10-03-2012, 10:37 AM
Sotto libel provision is now in effect

By Jerome Aning, Leila B. Salaverria, Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:16 am | Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Netizens beware. Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which among other things provides for blocking certain computer data and for longer prison terms for those found to have committed libel, is now in effect.

The cybercrime law becomes effective starting Wednesday because the Supreme Court has not issued a temporary restraining order sought by various individuals and groups opposed to the new law.

“The Supreme Court did not issue a TRO in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 petitions which are up for further study,” said Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra, acting chief of the high tribunal’s public information office.

The justices held their regular full court session Tuesday with 10 justices in attendance. Guerra said four justices were absent—Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Mariano del Castillo were attending a conference in Croatia, while Roberto Abad was on personal leave.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said RA 10175 would take effect even if it did not have implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

“Effectivity of that law is not conditioned upon the adoption of the IRR and the setting up of the Office of Cybercrime. No legal impediment for the law’s implementation, given the absence of a TRO or injunction,” she said in a text message to reporters.

Seven petitions have been filed in the high court questioning the constitutionality of several provisions of the new law and asking it to issue a TRO.

The law raises to more than 14 years in prison the cumulative penalties for a single act of online libel. It also guarantees imprisonment as the accused is ineligible for probation.

Most disturbing

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a lawyer, described as “most disturbing to many” Section 19, which says: “When computer data [are] prima facie is found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ [Department of Justice] shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data.”

The petitions were filed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Alab ng Mamamahayag party-list group, businessman Louis Biraogo, a group led by lawyer Harry Roque and columnist Ellen Tordesillas, cyberlaw experts led by lawyer Jose Jesus Disini, a group led by Representatives Raymond Palatino of Kabataan and Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, and another group led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

Guingona said he was disappointed that the Supreme Court deferred the hearing of the petitions.

“I respectfully ask the high tribunal to resolve the issues and act on the petitions immediately to prevent further harm to our cyberusers. The implementation of the law will take back our citizens to the Dark Ages where freedom of speech and expression was not recognized,” he said.

Guingona said he would continue to be with the citizens and Internet users in “this fight to ask the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order and to finally repeal some vague and oppressive provisions of the newly enacted law.”

“Let me say this once again, the state has no right to gag its citizens and convict them for expressing their thoughts. The Philippines is a democratic country,” Guingona said.

“The Filipinos should never be left to cower on the sidelines—their thoughts and voices should not be shackled by fear and intimidation. The people should not be afraid of its own government,” he added.

Palatino also decried the Supreme Court’s inaction on the petitions. “To that we say, absence makes the Internet grow darker,” he said.

He was referring to online protests against the law, which consisted of blacking out websites and profile pictures in social networking sites.

Black placards

As the justices met, about 100 members of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (Pifa), composed of different organizations of netizens and bloggers, staged a “silent protest” in front of the Supreme Court building on Padre Faura Street in Manila to show their opposition to the law and to call on the justices to issue a TRO.

With their mouths covered with black electrical tapes, the protesters carried plain black placards and a huge streamer printed with the words, “Stop Cyber Martial Law.”

“The cybercrime law is undemocratic and has negative implications on the right to free speech and privacy. The cybercrime law is testing our country—whether we’re truly a democracy or just a democracy on paper,” said Red Tani, president of Filipino Thinkers, a member of Pifa.

Ayeen Karunungan, council member of Dakila-Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, said it was ironic that while the country was commemorating the 40th year after the declaration of martial law and crying “Never again!” the cybercrime law was signed.

“Real democracy allows the right to free speech as it is fundamental in people’s participation in governance. Enacting the law is the death of that right,” Karunungan said.

Pifa has called on people who could not attend street protests to do “an online blackout” of their websites and social media pages.

On Facebook, some members have replaced their profile pictures with black screens and logos protesting the cybercrime law. Others posted “shaded” comments to demonstrate their fears of possible government censorship of online activities.

Seeking amendments

As online protests intensified, lawmakers moved to amend the cybercrime law on the eve of its implementation.

Sen. Francis Escudero, who earlier admitted to missing the inclusion of libel in the new law when he voted in its favor, on Tuesday filed a bill seeking to repeal the provision.

“[With] today’s modern technology, the crime of libel does not only prove antiquated but to the contrary even overarching as a state tool to restrain freedom of speech,” Escudero said in his explanatory note in Senate Bill No. 3288.

Escudero said this was evident in the passage of the cybercrime law which broadened the coverage of the crime of libel to include even those with the use of “computer system or other similar means that may be devised in the future.”

“This must never be countenanced if only to remain consistent with the constitutionally prescribed freedom of the press,” Escudero said.

Online petitions

The delay in the high court’s decision on the petitions will give other groups an opportunity to file a similar suit.

Pifa said it would file its petition against RA 10175 on Monday.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it would file a separate case. It posted its petition online (http://www.nujp.org/no-to-ra10175/) to solicit signatures from individuals and organizations.

Kabataan party-list group set up an online petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/junk-the-cybercrime-prevention-law) calling on President Aquino, Congress and the Supreme Court to junk the law. It had gathered 36,000 signatures as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

In the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño and Palatino filed a bill also seeking to repeal several provisions of the cybercrime law.

One degree higher

Casiño said one of the threats in the new law came from Section 6, which says that all offenses defined under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and special laws, such as libel, committed through information and communication technologies, shall be charged with a penalty one degree higher than that provided in the code.

“By imposing a penalty one degree higher than what had been stated in the RPC on libel, longer prison terms are guaranteed for persons found to have published or posted material containing libelous remarks online,” Casiño and Palatino said in the explanatory note.

The lawmakers also assailed the provision that allowed government agencies to disclose, preserve, search, seize and destroy computer data.

The law, they further said, would have a “chilling impact” on bloggers, online journalists and other Internet users because websites could be taken down without due process.

Casiño said amending the law would bring it back to its original intention of combating websites on child pornography, data and identity theft, and other Internet scams.

One of the House authors of the law, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, said he was open to discussions about amending the measure. He said he was amenable to making penalties for libel civil rather than criminal.

10-03-2012, 10:39 AM
SC defers action on petitions vs cybercrime law

By Tetch Torres


12:46 pm | Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court wants to further study the various petitions questioning Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, Public Information Office Chief Gleo Guerra said Tuesday.

“The SC did not issue a TRO in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 [and] petitions are up for further study,” Guerra said in a statement.

The high court deferred the deliberation on the controversial law to next Tuesday.

Guerra said the high court en banc (full court) has a quorum with 10 Justices present.

Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta and Mariano Del Castillo are on official business attending the Justice Sector Peer-Assisted Network Community of Practice Meetings for Information Systems Professionals in the Justice Sector and for Public Prosecutors in Croatia on Sept. 27 and 28 and Oct. 1 and 2 while Justice Roberto Abad is on official leave. Justice Martin Villarama is back from official business trip abroad.

So far, seven petitions from various organizations have been filed with the high court, all claiming that several provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act violates the 1987Constitution specifically those on freedom of speech, equal protection of the law, right to privacy, illegal searches and seizures, double jeopardy, and libel.

10-03-2012, 10:55 AM
Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:36 pm | Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Termites, mold and typhoons have been blamed for the rot that reportedly damaged some 150 boxes of clothes, shoes and other personal effects of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos that were recently rediscovered at the National Museum. The stuff was left behind by the Marcoses when they hastily fled Malacañang in February 1986 at the height of the Edsa People Power Revolt, transferred two years ago to an unused, padlocked hall in the museum, and left there untouched. Not until the room was flooded by recent monsoon rains through a leak in the ceiling was the stash brought to light by shocked, apparently clueless employees.

The news, first reported on the wires, has been bannered by international media such as the BBC, the Guardian and the Los Angeles Times. The world has always been fascinated by Imelda Marcos’ legendary collection of shoes, which “became a symbol of excess in a nation where many still walked around barefoot in abject poverty,” as the report put it. At least 1,220 pairs of shoes, along with gowns, designer bags and scores of the late strongman’s signature barong, are among those found to have suffered extensive, perhaps irreparable, damage.

Who to blame for this? Some curators and employees of the National Museum have pointed to museum director Jeremy Barns and his deputy, Ana Labrador, as the culprits for their failure to follow “basic, standard museum best practice and procedure” when they initiated the transfer of the Marcos belongings to the museum. The transfer, said the employees, was done “without their knowledge,” and thus, no proper inspection and conservation measures were performed before the collection was stashed away.

Malacañang has tried to downplay the incident by saying the clothes had “no historical significance,” except perhaps some of the former first lady’s gowns made by prominent Filipino designers such as Pitoy Moreno and Joe Salazar. This is deeply disingenuous, and symptomatic of the culture of neglect for history and memory that continues to afflict not only officialdom but also the citizenry.

What was Malacañang’s basis, after all, for the hasty dismissal of the historical value of the Marcoses’ personal effects? No proper inventory has been made, let alone any cursory attempt to determine how these figured in the day-to-day goings-on of the conjugal dictatorship.

Extravagance has become the catch-all explanation for the staggering volume of possessions that the couple, especially Imelda, had accumulated. But that is only half of the picture. In their time, the Marcoses were determined to use optics and imagery to burnish the myth of the New Society and the Filipino “royal family” that ruled over it. Imelda famously said she needed to be dressed in all those fancy gowns and jewelry because: “I am my little people’s star and slave. When I go out into the barrios, I get dressed because I know my little people want to see a star. Other presidents’ wives have gone to the barrios wearing house dresses and slippers. That’s not what people want to see. People want someone they can love, someone to set an example.”

And Marcos? He junked the Western formal attire in favor of the indigenous barong, sometimes modified with a Mao collar, not only to appeal to nationalist sentiment but also, and more crucial to his authoritarian designs, to affirm the self-made legend of himself as the simple boy from Batac, Ilocos Norte, who rose to become the quintessential Filipino—bemedalled soldier, lifelong patriot and world statesman.

Might the fine ternos and gowns Imelda brought on her many international travels—to meet with Muammar Gadhafi, say—be among those decaying clothes at the National Museum? Or any of the barong that Marcos was invariably seen in—when he went on a state visit to the Reagan White House, for example, or when he appeared on TV a couple of days after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination, sick and bloated, to peddle the story that it was the communists who did it to embarrass his administration?

With the likes of Juan Ponce Enrile revising history with his newly released memoir—and President Aquino and other personages attending the launch—losing more physical evidence of the Marcos years is a sure way to further rob us of memory. “If we lose our memory, we lose ourselves,” the author Ivan Klima warns. Termites and typhoons are getting the blame, but the fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves.

10-03-2012, 10:59 AM
By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:33 pm | Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Juan Ponce Enrile’s memoir dismantles one of the enduring myths of the declaration of martial law 40 years ago—that he staged an ambush on his own convoy at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in the evening of Sept. 22, 1972, at the behest of President Ferdinand Marcos to justify the clampdown of emergency rule.

Enrile writes in the memoir released last week that the ambush was not faked, but that although it did take place, he and his driver and military aide survived the attack unscathed. This new version of that ambush stood on its head a public statement he made on radio and television on Feb. 22, 1986, in Camp Aguinaldo, when he and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police, staged a revolt against the Marcos dictatorship, culminating in its overthrow four days later. Fourteen years later, Enrile ate his own words.

In his memoir, which refurbishes his controversial and central role as Marcos’ administrator of martial law for 14 years (three years longer than Hitler’s dictatorship in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945), Enrile recalls: “[A] speeding car rushed and passed the escort car where I was riding [inside Wack Wack]. Suddenly, it opened several bursts of gunfire toward my car and sped away.”

According to the autobiography, normally Enrile’s car was driven between two security vehicles but that on that night, he decided to ride in the vehicle following his car. “The attack was sudden that it caught everyone by surprise. No one in the convoy was able to fire back,” he writes. His car was “ditched on the right side of the road. Its left rear door was riddled with bullet holes and its left back tire was punctured and disabled.” Enrile’s driver and military aide, who were in the car, were unhurt. To whom he attributes the multiple good luck, he does not say. It took 14 years after the attack for Enrile to find words to explain the ambush. When he and Ramos were under a life-and-death siege at Camp Aguinaldo after withdrawing their loyalty to their Commander in Chief, Enrile says, his political opponents spread word that the ambush was faked to justify the declaration of martial law.

But Enrile dismisses this as “ridiculous and preposterous,” saying that Marcos had “postponed the declaration of martial law several times” (a claim I verified as true in records). “Whether I was ambushed or not, martial law in the country was already an irreversible fact,” Enrile says. “So what was the need to fake my own ambush?”

There are other versions of this episode from other sources. Since we are now in a mode to get to the truth of that incident—which served to trigger the proclamation of martial law—it is well worth our time to hear these other versions. One of these is the speech of Oscar Lopez, head of the politically influential Lopez family, at the book launch. Lopez is not exactly a hero worshipper of Enrile, as his family was among the first victims of the crackdown unleashed by the then defense minister to crush the enemies tagged by the dictator as the greedy “oligarchy”—and yet the Lopez media network ABS-CBN published the memoir and celebrated the launch of Enrile’s apologia. How the Lopez family members came to terms with their erstwhile tormentor is one of the intriguing paradoxes of the launch. It is also an astonishing demonstration of the capacity for cohabitation of members of the Philippine political elite contending for power even after a member had been murdered (i.e., the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr.) and another imprisoned (the detention of Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr., Oscar’s brother, in Fort Bonifacio) and held hostage by Marcos to leverage the seizure of the Lopez assets.

Lopez noted in his speech at the book launch that Enrile wrote that “even he was a victim of the Marcos dictatorship, having been used as the pretense for the issuance of Proclamation 1081, as his car was supposedly ambushed in front of my house in Wack Wack Village. Enrile also wrote about how his life was placed in danger as a military clique under General [Fabian] Ver who plotted to assassinate him weeks before People Power finally erupted.” In the eyes of Oscar Lopez, who is a serious history scholar, Enrile is perceived as sending a message that like a revolution, a dictatorship devours its own children, except that the latter is more vicious and treacherous. Thus, Enrile appears to have no qualms in betraying his benefactor and patron, as if to rationalize his own coup and desertion as part of the territory of the struggle for power.

Marcos has his own version of the Wack Wack ambush. On Sept. 22, 1972, Marcos wrote this entry in his diary at 9:55 p.m.: “Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed near Wack Wack at 8 p.m. tonight. It’s a good thing that he was riding in his security car as a protective measure. His first car, which he usually uses, was riddled by bullets from a car parked in ambush. He is now at the DND office and have advised him to stay there. This makes martial law a necessity.”

“Imelda arrived at 11:35 p.m. in my Electra bulletproof car to be told ‘It’s all over the radio. The reports didn’t say who were responsible for the attack.’”

Close to midnight on Sept. 22, I got a call at home in Blue Ridge, Quezon City, from a close friend, after I had put the Manila Chronicle (as editor in chief) to bed. “Secretary Enrile was ambushed,” he said. “That’s it,” I said. I immediately rang up the graveyard shift of the Chronicle. No one answered. I switched on the radio and TV. They were all dead. That was the beginning of the long night after the Wack Wack ambush.

10-03-2012, 11:52 AM
Online persecution

Cebu Daily News

8:24 am | Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Even before the anti-cyber crime law took effect at midnight a few hours ago, questions arose about the enforcement of that law’s online libel provision after a post made on the Facebook page of the Philippine National Police last Monday.

In an article posted on the Yahoo! Philippines website, the alleged PNP posts were sparked by a comment from one Facebook user who claimed that English-speaking police officers of being more adept at extortion.

Almost immediately after that post, there were posts which warned users that any “foul words against the police officers can be used as evidence” to be filed in a court of law.

“Watchout the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Anti-Transnational Crime is now conducting background investigation against you (sic),” read one of three posts in a Facebook thread.

It followed up the warning with the claim that the CIDG has facilities comparable to and even more sophisticated than most found in the world courtesy of a donation from the US government that would help them locate Facebook users posting what they considered malicious and libelous comments against the organization.

The Facebook warning posts were immediately disowned by the PNP, which said that official statements are posted only through the PNP website www.pnp.gov.ph, on Facebook under the account name pnp.pio, or issued to each media outlet.

“We shall have this incident investigated ASAP. You will be updated on the developments,” the PNP was quoted as saying in the Yahoo! article which stated that the thread was removed from the PNP’s Facebook page. A screenshot of the alleged PNP posts was taken by some netizens.

A group called the Filipino Freethinkers admitted in their blog that while the posts may not have been made by the PNP, it was still a chilling reminder to all Facebook users who rant about the police.

Despite days of vocal and online protests against the online libel provision of the anti-cybercrime law—one has to emphasize that it’s the online libel provision and not the entire law that’s questionable—only Sen. Francis Escudero managed to issue a response and a feeble one at that by saying that he will push for a repeal of the provision.

The others who approved the law lock, stock and barrel, notably Sen. Loren Legarda, a former media practitioner, have yet to issue their statements for or against the online libel provision.

With the law now in effect, a Damocles sword hangs heavy over the heads of Filipino netizens who will have to deal with that provision which constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas said is more severe than the libel law found in the Revised Penal Code.

With the law in effect, it’s only the Supreme Court that can knock out or take down that criminal provision by telling both Congress and the President that it’s unconstitutional and violates the inherent freedom of expression enjoyed by Filipinos.

10-08-2012, 10:34 AM
By Inquirer Research

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:24 am | Monday, October 8th, 2012

Did he or did he not fake his ambush 40 years ago?

In response to numerous requests from our readers, the Inquirer did a fact-check on a controversial claim that the Senate president made in his newly published book, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir.”

Enrile, the martial law administrator of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, said in his book that the ambush on his convoy on the night of Sept. 22, 1972, was not staged—a turnaround from what the then defense secretary disclosed during a historic press conference on Feb. 23, 1986, when he and then Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos announced their revolt against Marcos.

In other interviews with certain foreign correspondents, Enrile was also reported as saying that the ambush—one of the reasons cited by then President Marcos to justify his imposition of martial law—was faked.

So, which is which?

In his book, Enrile said that on Sept. 22, 1972, his three-vehicle convoy was driving through Wack Wack subdivision on his way home to Dasmariñas Village from Camp Aguinaldo where he had just briefed top military officers on the implementation of martial law.

“A speeding car rushed and passed the escort car where I was riding. Suddenly, it opened several bursts of gunfire toward my car and sped away. The attack was so sudden that it caught everyone by surprise. No one in the convoy was able to fire back,” Enrile said in the book.

Enrile’s convoy left the bullet-riddled car and returned to Camp Aquinaldo where he reported the incident to Marcos. The soon-to-be-dictator, according to Enrile’s account, uttered some expletives: “Lintik ang mga ’yan!” (Damn those fools!).

In his book, Enrile said his political opponents were the ones who spread the word after the 1986 People Power Revolution that the ambush was faked to justify the imposition of martial law.

“This is a lie that has gone around for far too long such that it has acquired acceptance as the truth … . This accusation is ridiculous and preposterous,” Enrile said in his book. “Whether I was ambushed or not, martial law in the country was already an irreversible fact. So what was the need to fake my own ambush?”

Conflicting accounts

The banner headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s front page published on Feb. 23, 1986 read: “Enrile, Ramos lead ‘revolt’ against FM.” One of the dropheads accompanying the headline read: “1972 ambush fake—Enrile.”

In its research, the Inquirer also came upon several journalists who said that Enrile himself had admitted not only during the Feb. 22, 1986, press conference but also in several interviews that the ambush was fake.

In his 1988 book, “Waltzing with a Dictator,” New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner wrote that while Enrile’s wife, Cristina, said that God had saved her husband, “God had had nothing to do with it. Marcos and Enrile had staged the ‘ambush,’ as the final justification for martial law.”

Bonner said he had two long interviews with Enrile in December 1985. “He was emphatic that the attack on him had not been staged, but in February 1986, after he had broken with Marcos and led the revolt that ousted the Philippine president, Enrile admitted that the attack on his car had been faked,” Bonner wrote.

“Several American intelligence officers told me that the car attack was phony. ‘Flimflam,’ said one,” Bonner added.

In her 1989 book, “Impossible Dream,” Time correspondent Sandra Burton wrote: “Seasoned observers believed from the start that the attack had been staged. Years later, as he was in the midst of his own revolt from the Marcos regime, Enrile would confirm those suspicions.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Ellison also said that Enrile himself admitted that the ambush was fake.

In her 1988 book, “Imelda,” Ellison wrote: “(Enrile) revealed that he had narrowly escaped injury in a spectacular ambush of his car—an event he conceded in 1986 had been staged.”

In his 1986 book, “The Quartet of the Tiger Moon,” National Artist Nick Joaquin wrote about the people’s reaction to the “confession” of a certain Capt. Ricardo Morales about an alleged plot to attack Malacañang and kill Marcos:

“The ‘confession’ sounded hollow to people who had just heard Enrile reveal that the 1972 attempt on his life was staged to give Mr. Marcos an excuse to declare martial law. People sneered that Marcos was so used to faking (fake feats, fake medals, fake literary works, fake health) that he would fake even his own assassination and death.”

Lopez remembers

Oscar Lopez, who lived in Wack Wack where the ambush supposedly took place, narrated his memory of that fateful night in the 2000 book, “Phoenix: The Saga of the Lopez Family.”

“After the shooting died down, I went out. I took a peek at what was happening outside my fence, and I saw this car riddled with bullets. Nobody was hurt; there was no blood. The car was empty,” Lopez said in the book.

The car was Enrile’s. At the time, Lopez did not know who owned the car, but he did know “it had been no ambush.”

“Our driver happened to be bringing our car into our driveway at around that time, so he saw the whole thing. He told me that there was this car that came by and stopped beside a Meralco post. Some people started riddling it with bullets to make it look like it was ambushed. But nobody got killed or anything like that. My driver saw this. He was describing it to me,” Lopez said.

Lopez said he decided to call the Manila Chronicle, which was owned then by his family. “My first move was to call up the Chronicle. I told the people that there had been some shooting here in Wack Wack. They sent somebody over, but he was told that Enrile was supposedly ambushed. But I knew even then that the attack had been staged. Enrile admitted that it was all staged afterwards. But Marcos used this incident as a pretext to declare martial law.”

In his column posted on the Sun.Star Cebu website, lawyer Pachico Seares recalled: “In February 1986, while barricading with then PC chief Fidel Ramos in Camp Aguinaldo, after President Ferdinand Marcos learned they were plotting against him, JPE told the nation the ambush was staged. On radio, he confessed that Marcos ordered the bogus attack and called it the ‘final act’ by his enemies and, as the President said 14 years earlier, the ‘last straw’ that made him declare martial law.”

Sam Miguel
10-09-2012, 09:42 AM
By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Monday, October 8th, 2012

The peace agreement reached on Sunday was preliminary and even incomplete; nevertheless, and despite the jadedness of some of the initial reaction on Twitter, it represents a genuine breakthrough. A lasting political settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front seems truly within reach; as a son of Mindanao, I too am thrilled to breathe the air of possibility.

The “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” is self-evidently informed by the lessons the Aquino administration learned from the debacle of 2008, involving the ill-conceived Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). But it is more than mere reaction; I think the framework the government and the MILF peace panels put together creatively exploits what chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen called, in his closing statement at the most recent negotiation in Kuala Lumpur, the “flexibilities within [the Constitution’s] provisions.”

The agreement (the third such attempt at constructing a “framework” in 15 years of on-again, off-again negotiations) is a work in progress; it lacks at least four major attachments: the Annexes on Power Sharing, on Wealth Sharing, on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities; and on Normalization. But as a road map it is specific enough that we can already make reasonable estimates about distances and hours of travel remaining.

Here is one possible way to timetable the work of the next four years:

1. The negotiating panels will “complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year” (according to Part IX, Number 2 of the Framework Agreement). I take this to mean the panels will finalize the four important annexes in at least two more “exploratory talks,” ending in December.

2. President Aquino will then issue an Executive Order creating a Transition Commission, “supported by Congressional Resolutions” (VII, 3). This may (or should?) happen between Jan. 21 and Feb. 9 next year, in the last legislative session before the May elections, to allow for the passage of the necessary resolutions.

3. The national government will budget sufficient funds for the work of the Transition Commission (VII, 6).

4. The Transition Commission will draft a proposed Basic Law (VII, 4), on which the entire future of an autonomous Bangsamoro rests. If the plan is to introduce the draft law as soon as the 16th Congress convenes in July, the commission will have about four months to do its work.

5. At the same time, the Transition Commission will study the need for amendments to the Constitution, if required “for the purpose of accommodating and entrenching” provisions of the comprehensive agreement (VII, 4). One of the primary lessons of the MOA-AD fiasco was, as the Supreme Court noted in its Oct. 14, 2008 decision, the attempt of the government peace panel then to commit to constitutional amendments. This particular provision is worded more modestly: the commission will “work on proposals to amend” the Constitution.

6. Once the draft of the Basic Law is ready, the government will introduce it in Congress and President Aquino will certify it as urgent (VII, 7). Assuming it will take the entire first session of the 16th Congress to hammer out the promised details and inevitable compromises of the Basic Law, the earliest we can expect passage may be Feb. 2014—a year or so after the President’s EO.

7. This Basic Law will be subjected to a “process of popular ratification among all the Bangsamoro” (V, 2)—a plebiscite in the proposed Bangsamoro territory, which is essentially ARMM plus six municipalities, two cities and six barangays.

8. Assuming that ratification will take effect in the middle of 2014, the new Bangsamoro territory will then rush through a two-year transition period, to meet the framework agreement’s 2016 deadline.

9. “Upon promulgation and ratification of the Basic Law,” the ARMM will be abolished (VII, 8 ); in its place the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will govern the new territory.

10. By the agreement’s terms, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be dissolved in 2016, when the new Bangsamoro government, including its centerpiece parliament, is formed (VII, 10).

Many other transition tasks are indicated in the framework agreement, including: inclusion of additional barangays (“at least two months prior to the ratification” of the Basic Law;” establishment of a Trust Fund “through which urgent support, recurrent and investment budget cost will be released with efficiency, transparency and accountability;” the possible creation of “its own accounting body” to work in parallel with the Commission on Audit; the convening of an “intergovernmental fiscal policy board composed of representatives of the Bangsamoro and the Central Government;” the creation of “an independent commission … to recommend appropriate policing within the area;” the conduct of a “graduated program of decommissioning” of MILF forces; and the transfer of the Armed Forces’ law enforcement functions to the new Bangsamoro police.

After the new Bangsamoro government is in place, its legislative assembly will create an “intergovernmental body composed of representatives of the Bangsamoro and the Central Government” to “ensure the harmonization of environmental and developmental plans.” (IV, 8 ); it will organize together with the national government a Joint Normalization Committee (VIII, 7); and, at the end of the transition period, convene a meeting and draft (VII, 12) an “Exit Document.”

Sam Miguel
10-10-2012, 09:49 AM
PNoy’s Reforms Credited For PH’s ‘New Tiger’


October 9, 2012, 6:42pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines now shares the “the new tigers” tag with Indonesia, an indicator the two countries are now “poised to drive future growth and grab more economic power.”

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay disclosed this yesterday at the opening ceremony of the three-day 38th Philippine Business Conference at the historic landmark Manila Hotel, citing business news site Market Watch.

Binay said the Aquino administration’s political will has erased the stigma of graft and corruption in government fueling the positive outlook on the Philippine economy.

He said the “new tiger” tag given by Market Watch to the Philippines is “already a recognition that we are having a lot of investors these days, and our economy is sound and stable.”

The Vice President also noted that the Philippines has been registering a significant increase in credit ratings and confidence levels in the leading development bodies, particularly Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s.

“There is widespread confidence that an investment grade status is already within reach and already, in the first half of 2012, the Philippines recorded an increase in real GDP by 6.1 percent,” he pointed out.

Binay attributed all of these positive developments to the political reforms espoused by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“The Aquino administration has done much to plot a socially equitable course of governance, and the strong multi-stakeholder approach that typifies its work ensures that the country stays on an even keel,” the Vice President said in a speech.

“This focused and uncompromising approach in tackling the hard issues that the Philippines faces is our bond with countries who seek to be our partners in economic development,” he added.

He said that issues such as corruption, human rights abuses, and electoral fraud “have been cast out through the political will exerted by the current leadership.”

He added that it was the government’s philosophy in minimizing government intervention in the business sector while maximizing the gains of economic growth “by translating the influx of resources to socially beneficial goods and services such as health, education, and mass housing.”

“Here today, it is my distinct honor and pride to say that the Philippines is a sound investment destination and it is my hope that our businessmen and yours can forge strong prosperous ties in the coming days,” he said.

On the same occasion, Binay said the housing sector and the World Bank are currently formulating the National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy (NISUS) that will be used to create a comprehensive shelter plan for informal settler families in the country.

“The shelter plan will ensure that informal settler families will have access to basic social services such as schools, public markets, health care centers, and livelihood opportunities at the resettlement areas,” said Binay, concurrent chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

Binay said the government is optimistic that resolving the 3.6 million housing gap in the country as of 2010 is a “tangible reality.”

This is through “efficient, transparent, and multi-sectoral way,” the housing czar stressed.

“To be able to complete this goal, nothing less than a nationwide collaboration between all the stakeholders is necessary to succeed,” he said

10-11-2012, 09:00 AM
Gov’t allays fears of Bangsamoro becoming an Islamic state

By Michael Lim Ubac, Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:10 am | Thursday, October 11th, 2012

The chief government negotiator on Tuesday sought to ease fears that the creation of a new autonomous Muslim homeland in Mindanao could lead to the rise of an Islamic state within the Philippines.

Marvic Leonen, head of the government panel negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said at a briefing for Philippine Daily Inquirer editors and reporters that the creation of Bangsamoro would respect the “separation of Church and State.”

President Benigno Aquino on Sunday announced a preliminary agreement between the government and the MILF to end a decades-long Muslim insurgency in Mindanao with the establishment of Bangsamoro, which would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The establishment of Bangsamoro would also mean recognition of the Moro identity, said the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles.

Following the announcement of the preliminary agreement on Sunday, she said, a group of Bangsamoro proposed a campaign called “Bangsamoro Ako, Filipino.”

“It is a way to promote the Moro identity as part of the Filipino,” Deles said, adding that she had told the group to proceed with the campaign.

Bangsamoro identity

The framework agreement will be signed in Malacañang on Oct. 15. Once the agreement is signed, Leonen said, the Moros begin to win recognition of their identity as Bangsamoro.

Under the agreement, considered Bangsamoro are “those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands, including Palawan, and their descendants, whether of mixed or of full blood.”

“To the Philippine government, these are symbolisms, befitting their history. The history of their forebears,” Leonen said.

The announcement did not sit well with Nur Misuari, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

Misuari, the first governor of ARMM, said the government’s deal with the MILF was illegal, as there was already the 1996 accord.

He said the MNLF could sue the government in the International Court of Justice. And he issued a veiled threat against the government, saying the MNLF was “still alive and kicking.”

At a briefing for the Inquirer, Deles said the MNLF would not be left out in the establishment of Bangsamoro.

The government and the MILF will give the MNLF seats in the Transition Commission on the creation of the new autonomous region, Deles said.

The MILF, Deles added, is willing to work with the MNLF in bringing peace to war-torn Mindanao.

SC still supreme

The Transition Commission will draft the basic law that would create Bangsamoro. The commission will submit the draft of the basic law to Congress for legislation.

Leonen said that while Sharia, or Islamic law, would cover Muslims in Bangsamoro, any law or regulation to be adopted by the region would respect the basic rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

Leonen said any attempt to impose controversial practices—like stoning to death for adultery or forcing women to wear burkas—similar to those in conservative Islamic countries, could be challenged in the Supreme Court in Manila.

“There is separation of Church and State … Based on the Constitution of the Republic, it is the Supreme Court [that] will have the final say if a punishment is cruel or unusual, or if [a rule or policy] violates equal protection under the law, freedom of expression, or the nonestablishment clause,” Leonen said.

“There are rights guaranteed by the Constitution and we would be among the first to object if these are violated,” he added.

Leonen said the Office of the President and constitutional bodies like the Commission on Audit (COA) would also retain their oversight functions in the running of Bangsamoro.

“That was not bargained away … the Supreme Court, COA, the Commission on Elections will have their say,” he said.


When asked what role Sharia would play in Bangsamoro, Leonen replied: “Shariah will govern Muslims … If you’re a Muslim and you marry another Muslim, you’re not under the Civil Code but under Muslim law. That’s already the existing system.”

He went on: “They can expand (the coverage of) Sharia, maybe the dowry system, but it should be consistent with the Constitution. There are so many pieces of legislation that are applicable to Sharia and are consistent with the Constitution, like those on personal and family relations, inheritance, succession.”

Leonen emphasized that Filipino Muslims are “moderates” and do not follow harsh and ultraconservative interpretations of Sharia.

“I have talked to ustadzes and [learned that] there are many ways that Islam is interpreted. So, the Muslim world is very broad, but [Muslims] also believe in one book,” Leonen said.

He also said that the government would leave it up to the private sector to fund Islamic religious schools, or madaris.

“There is separation of Church and State and the state regulates education. But [the Department of Education] will have to be culturally sensitive on what they will allow [these schools] to teach,” Leonen said.

[I]Tripoli agreement not treaty

The government peace panel appeared to be avoiding a controversy with Misuari.

Deles refrained from commenting on Misuari’s charge that the MILF deal is illegal.

Leonen, however, disagreed with Misuari’s view that the MNLF deal was “internationally recognized.”

“It is not a treaty,” Leonen said.

The MNLF was “not a state” when it negotiated with the government, he said.

“We know they’re alive,” Deles said, referring to Misuari’s veiled threat. “I am the one talking with them. It is our intention to fix the problems and ensure that [they will be in the new political entity].”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Deles said the government panel consulted the MNLF through Indonesia, the facilitator of the talks with Misuari’s group.

“We have sent the message that we intend the process of making the new law inclusive, that they will have representation in the Transition Commission, an intent that we have communicated to the MILF as well,” Deles said.

Help from OIC

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), where the MNLF has observer status, had convened MNLF and MILF leaders to “push for unity and coordination.”

He did not say, however, when and where the meeting took place.

Deles said Misuari and the faction of the MNLF led by Muslimin Sema had long wanted to amend Republic Act No. 9054, the law that fleshed out the peace deal with the MNLF.

The government had agreed to amend the law, Deles added.

The Aquino administration and the MNLF have been conducting an “implementation review” of the 1996 accord, “but the MILF process has caught up with it,” Deles said.

As for the Tripoli Agreement that the MNLF signed with the Marcos administration in 1976, Deles said all of its provisions had already been implemented through the 1996 peace accord.

Once the Bangsamoro basic law is passed, the ARMM will be abolished and the new law will supersede the 1996 peace agreement, Deles said. With a report from Nikko Dizon

10-11-2012, 09:01 AM
Communists tag Enrile ‘delusional’ on martial law

By Joey Gabieta

Inquirer Visayas

8:46 pm | Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

TACLOBAN CITY—An underground rebel group that waged an armed struggle against the Marcos dictatorship slammed what it said was a delusional image of martial law that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile tried to paint in his now controversial memoir.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which continues to wage a protracted war against the government, said the people should reject Enrile’s account of martial law, which the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared 40 years ago to keep a solid grip on power.

“Enrile’s revision of history is an extremely execrable act meant to delude the Filipino people, especially the present generation of young Filipinos, who have been fed with false or incomplete information about martial law,” said the communist group in a statement sent by e-mail last Oct. 8 and carrying the pseudonym Roy Santos, CPP spokesperson in Eastern Visayas.

In his memoir, in the form of a book recently launched in a party attended by President Aquino and former first lady Imelda Marcos, the Senate president portrayed himself as a critic of Imelda, as an outsider in Malacañang under the dictator and a reluctant enforcer of martial law.

CPP said it was a “vain attempt” to elude historical judgment on the part of Enrile.

“Enrile’s memoir seek to polish his image as a statesman, assuming the role of the political baton wielder,” said the CPP statement.

Contrary to his claim that he was a reluctant enforcer of martial law, CPP said Enrile was Marcos’ hatchet man and the one who signed countless arrest warrants that led to the capture and detention of thousands of farmer leaders, workers, students, activists in the Church and other critics and opponents of martial law.

“Enrile’s hands are forever stained with the blood of close to 4,000 people ‘salvaged’ during Marcos’ reign of terror,” CPP said. Salvage is a term referring to summary executions.

Enrile, the communist rebels said, was equally responsible with Marcos and military officials, including former President Fidel Ramos and the dead general, Fabian Ver, for grave abuses of human rights during martial law and the reign of the Marcoses.

Enrile, CPP said, also benefited financially from his loyalty to the Marcoses and martial law. The communist group said the Senate president had been awarded vast logging concessions that he used to destroy hundreds of hectares of timberland.

Enrile, CPP charged, also accumulated hundreds of millions of pesos when he served as an official of the Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed), which controlled the coconut levy fund.

CPP also noted that in his biography, Enrile had exposed himself as a liar when he said there was no reason to stage a fake ambush in 1972 in Mandaluyong.

10-11-2012, 09:02 AM
^ But didn't the CPP / NPA itself also admit after the fact many years later that they really were the ones behind the infamous Plaza Miranda bombing that was also used as an excuse to foist Martial Law upon our country?

Sam Miguel
10-15-2012, 12:01 PM
The RP-MILF framework agreement (1)

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:25 am | Monday, October 15th, 2012

There is much rejoicing over the framework agreement reached between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front about achieving peace in Muslim Mindanao. There is justification for the rejoicing mainly because we have overcome the stalemate that resulted from the rejection of the 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by the Supreme Court, and the parties have agreed to stop fighting for now.

The central issue of that 2008 failed process was the extent of the president’s power in pursuing the peace process. That issue is still alive. If the framework, like the MOA-AD, is challenged before the Supreme Court, once again the Court will have a big task to perform. As the prefatory statement of the Court in 2008 said, “It must uncompromisingly delineate the bounds within which the President may lawfully exercise her discretion, but it must do so in strict adherence to the Constitution, lest its ruling unduly restricts the freedom of action vested by that same Constitution in the Chief Executive precisely to enable her to pursue the peace process effectively.” Some of the issues that arose from the 2008 MOA-AD may also be found in whatever final form the new peace agreement will take.

The framework agreement is not yet the peace agreement. It is an agreement to work toward the formulation of the peace agreement. The very first section of the framework already announces the enormity of the challenge: “The Parties agree that the status quo is unacceptable and that the Bangsamoro shall be established to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Bangsamoro is the new autonomous political entity (NPE) referred to in the Decision Points of Principles as of April 2012.”

The rejected status quo has its root in Article X of the 1987 Constitution, and in the organic act giving life to the current ARMM, a work of Congress. And as the organic act itself says: “Any amendment to or revision of this Organic Act shall become effective only when approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose, which shall be held not earlier than sixty (60) days or later than ninety (90) days after the approval of such amendment or revision.”

It is therefore clear that Congress—both as a statutory body and, if necessary, as a constituent assembly—will be needed in the formulation of the final form of the peace agreement.

The framework is an unfinished document. As the final provision says: “The Parties commit to work further on the details of the Framework Agreement in the context of this document and complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.” What will be achieved by the end of the year, that is, by the end of next December, if at all, cannot yet be the peace agreement itself but the guidelines to be followed in formulating the substance of the peace agreement.

The framework itself in its present form, notwithstanding widespread jubilation, already poses some procedural challenges and hints at the constitutional issues that may arise. A major procedural part of the framework itself will be the formation of the powerful Transition Commission. The composition of its membership can be a delicate issue. Will the Moro National Liberation Front have a role? The Transition Commission will make the preliminary draft of the substantive changes that the agreement proposes to achieve.

What are the substantive issues already reflected even from the current framework which the government may have to defend or clarify? First, the framework says that the form of government shall be “ministerial.” The parties still have to clarify what this means.

The framework says that the relation between the Bangsamoro and the central government shall be “asymmetric.” What does this mean? Is it different from the “associative” relation rejected by the Court in 2008 as having no place in the Constitution?

The framework recognizes the Bangsamoro identity of those “who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood” together with their “spouses and descendants.” But the “freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall be respected.” Will those who are not indigenous Moros be happy to be identified as Moros?

The framework says that the “provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall be consistent with all agreements of the Parties.” Does this mean that Congress, in the formulation of the Basic Law, may not reject any agreement of the parties? And what about the Constitution?

The framework says that the “Bangsamoro shall have a just and equitable share in the revenues generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural resources obtaining in all the areas/territories, land or water, covered by and within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, in accordance with the formula agreed upon by the Parties.” Does this mean the curtailment of the power of Congress, contained in the Constitution, to determine the local government share in the proceeds of natural resources in the area?

The determination of the components of the Bangsamoro territory will surely be a contentious issue as it was in 2008.

These are some of the potential issues already reflected in the framework today. Will this administration succeed before Mr. Aquino steps down at the end of his presidency?

Sam Miguel
10-15-2012, 12:35 PM
Enrile ready for face-off with nonbelievers

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:33 am | Monday, October 15th, 2012

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile still finds it hard to believe that some quarters continue to claim his ambush on Sept. 22, 1972, had been faked.

Enrile said he was ready to appear before an independent commission that would gather the testimonies of martial law survivors so he could confront his detractors and “set things straight once and for all.”

Enrile, the defense minister of President Ferdinand Marcos at the time of the ambush, said he looked forward to going face-to-face with known leftist leaders of the time, including Jose Maria Sison, Luis Jalandoni and Satur Ocampo, so he could confront them about the Plaza Miranda bombing, the Karagatan arms shipment seized by the Philippine Constabulary, and the violence that erupted in the so-called Diliman commune—incidents that are believed to have led to the declaration of martial law.

In a radio interview, Enrile acknowledged that some critics found the contents of his newly released memoir incredulous, particularly his insistence that he was really ambushed at Wack Wack subdivision that night, but added that he would volunteer to put everything on record before the commission planned by Malacañang.

Aquino ordered interviews

Earlier reports said President Aquino had directed the National Historical Institute (NHI) to interview survivors of atrocities committed during the Marcos regime and present the collected stories to the people.

Enrile said he welcomed the fact that the commission has “full powers to subpoena persons and documents” and “to punish persons with contempt” if they refuse to cooperate with efforts to investigate the wrongdoings during that period, especially during the 10 years of martial rule.

“I think it becomes necessary that members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) come (‘humarap sila’) and I will also do so (‘ako haharap din’),” the Senate President said.

Enrile envisions a “confrontasi” where he and the leftist leaders would be given the right to cross examine each other about issues hurled against him and their respective organizations.

“They can cross examine me, they can confront me so all the (involuntary) disappearances they allege, those incidents of torture, could be discussed one by one, hindi puwedeng (there should be no) generalization. I’m ready because I have all records with me, year by year,” he said.

Asked why he had made the challenge, Enrile said it was about time the issues surrounding martial law were given closure.

“All of us have our own versions of martial law. It is best if everyone puts theirs on record. Let’s get the testimonies of all who will speak,” he said.

Enrile singled out Sison, Jalandoni and Ocampo, as well as Jalandoni’s wife Juliet de Lima, Rodolfo Salas and Commanders Bilog and Dante “if they are still alive.”

Stop endless debates

The Senate President said putting all their stories on record would put a stop to the endless debates about Marcos, martial rule and, apparently, Enrile’s own role in its birth.

“Mabuti nang ganoon, eh (It is for the best) … Let us establish the national documentation of this whole thing,” he said.

Asked if he would discuss his ambush, Enrile gave a resounding “Yes!”

“My God! I did not… how can I stage my ambush? And that it was a military operation? Oh, my goodness,” he said.

The Senate President dared his critics to bring back to the country Raymond Bonner, a reporter of The New York Times who wrote the book “Waltzing With The Dictator” wherein his wife Cristina was quoted as saying that Marcos and Enrile “had staged the ‘ambush’ as the final justification for martial law.”

Enrile said his memoir pointed out that even Jesuit priest Fr. James Reuter, at some point “twisted” his words in the book “People Power–The Philippine Revolution of 1986”

Ready for probe

The Senate President maintained he was “ready to be investigated” about the incidents surrounding martial law.

“My God! Hindi ako nagsisinungaling, eh (I am not lying). I have the records about all of these things. If I made mistakes, I will admit them,” he said.

Enrile, however, wants his detractors to also be made to explain some incidents that preceded the declaration of martial law, such as the bombing of the Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda that was blamed mainly on Marcos; the cache of imitation M14 rifles found on the fishing vessel MV Karagatan that was believed intended for leftist rebels that the Philippine Constabulary chanced upon off the coast of Palanan, Isabela, on July 4, 1972; and the violence on the UP campus in Quezon City allegedly instigated by radical activists during the days of the Diliman commune in 1971.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 08:38 AM
‘Desaparecidos’ bill OK’d

1st law in Asia vs enforced disappearance

By Leila B. Salaverria, Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:03 am | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

After a campaign over two decades by human rights activists, Congress finally passed a bill principally directed against state agencies that would outlaw acts that result in disappearances, allow the prosecution of perpetrators even though their victims remain missing and impose a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Once signed, the measure will become the first national law in Asia that makes enforced disappearance a distinct criminal offense, according to Representative Edcel Lagman of Albay who described the bill as “a culmination of more than 20 years of militant advocacy for the desaparecidos.”

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved on Tuesday night the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill earlier crafted by a bicameral conference committee. It will now go to President Aquino for his signature.

“Enforced disappearance was an atrocious tool of the martial law regime to silence protesters and human rights advocates and continues to be employed by subsequent administrations after the end of the martial law regime,” Lagman said.

Lagman’s brother Hermon, an activist lawyer, went missing in 1977 and has not been found to this day. His mother, Cecilia, was the first chairperson of the group Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND).

Enforced or involuntary disappearance is defined in the reconciled bill as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared.”

Life imprisonment

The maximum penalty for violation of the law is reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment, equivalent to 20 years and one day to 40 years in prison. Victims of enforced disappearance and their kin would also be entitled to compensation, restitution and rehabilitation.

The measure also outlaws secret detention facilities, and requires detention centers to provide a periodically updated registry of all detained persons in the country, a signatory to international conventions against enforced disappearances.

There is no prescription period for the crime, unless the victim has surfaced. This means that the perpetrators of involuntary disappearance could be prosecuted no matter how much time has passed since the incident.

The bill recognizes command responsibility, which means a superior officer would also be culpable for the actions of his subordinates. Subordinates, on the other hand, could defy unlawful orders if they were ordered to commit enforced disappearance.

The bill also states that it could not be suspended, even in times of war or public emergency. Violators could not be offered amnesty.

Human rights groups have been asked to join in drafting implementing rules and regulations.

No need to produce body

Senator Francis Escudero, author of the Senate bill, differentiates the new law from that of abduction or kidnapping.

“In abduction or kidnapping, there has to be a body. That’s the basic difference. In kidnapping, there’s either a body recovered or someone is known as being held hostage. In this case, the person is still missing,” Escudero said.

“If they can prove the disappearance and the participation of certain agents of the state in the disappearance, you don’t need to produce the body. That is a crime by itself,” he told the Inquirer.

“The act of involuntary disappearance is not yet considered a crime under our existing laws,” Escudero said. “We bear witness to cases of forced disappearances, and more often, these cases are left in oblivion without putting those persons responsible for the commission of the disappearances accountable.”

He said there would be separate charges against the perpetrators if the victim of enforced disappearance was found to have been tortured or killed.

“If he was mauled, the Anti-Torture Law would be used. If he’s killed, the Revised Penal Code,” Escudero said referring to the code’s provision on murder.

Detention facilities

Escudero said that one unique feature of the bill was the requirement for all government agencies to submit to the Commission on Human Rights within six months of the law’s enactment an updated inventory of all officially recognized and controlled detention facilities and the list of detainees under their respective jurisdictions.

It would be unlawful for a government agency to maintain a detention facility outside of those on the list, Escudero said.

The law also provides that all proceedings pertaining to the issuance of writs of habeas corpus, amparo and habeas data “shall be dispensed with expeditiously.”

“As such, all courts and other concerned agencies of the government shall give priority to such proceedings,” the bill read.

Escudero said the measure would also prohibit the issuances of orders of battle—official or otherwise—by the military, police or any law enforcement agency to justify an enforced or involuntary disappearance.

“There must be no compromise on strong legislation with effective corrective penal measures, even if it would mean tilting the balance much more in favor of individual rights and human dignity,” he said.

“There should be enough of desaparecidos, because enforced disappearances have emotionally, mentally and physically displaced mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, children. These disappearances have caused us to be put under the tight watch of local and international rights groups and even foreign governments.”

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 08:40 AM
What went before: 1,838 desaparecidos since Marcos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:16 am | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As of June 2012, the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) had documented 1,838 cases of enforced disappearances since the Marcos regime. Of this number, 1,147 are still missing, 435 have surfaced alive, and 256 were found dead.

Established in November 1985, FIND is a nongovernment organization in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is a nationwide mass organization of families, relatives, friends and colleagues of the disappeared victims and surfaced desaparecidos that advocates human rights and participative empowerment.

The Marcos regime registered the highest number of “desaparecidos” with 878 documented victims from 1971 to 1986, followed by the Corazon Aquino administration with 614 cases. FIND documented 182 victims during the Arroyo administration, 94 victims during the Ramos administration, and 58 victims during the Estrada administration.

Under the current administration of President Aquino, FIND has documented 12 victims since 2010. Of the 12, seven are still missing, four have surfaced alive, and one was found dead.

The human rights group Karapatan has registered 11 cases of enforced disappearances since 2010—three from Southern Tagalog, four from Western Visayas, three from Caraga Region, and one from Southern Mindanao.— Compiled by Marielle Medina, Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 08:42 AM
From ‘Recto-Morris’ to ‘Purisima-San Mig’

By Cathy Yamsuan, Ronnel Domingo

Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:14 am | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Still smarting from what he believed was an abandonment by Palace allies, Senator Ralph Recto on Wednesday lashed out at the Department of Finance (DOF), saying the version of the sin tax bill passed by the House of Representatives could be the product of a “Purisima-San Miguel” alliance that allowed lower taxes for fermented liquor such as beer.

Recto was referring to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and San Miguel Corp., producer of the world-famous San Miguel beer, whose former chairman is an uncle of President Aquino.

“If (DOF officials) claim that they had a compromise in the House that’s why they came at P30 billion, that means they gave in to alcohol,” Recto said in an interview with the Inquirer.

“That’s how it went and then they’ll blame me? Is that a Purisima-San Miguel alliance? … What does that mean? I don’t know,” he said.

Recto noted that Malacañang preferred the House version that was expected to raise an additional P30 billion in revenue from tobacco and alcohol products.

A ways and means committee report that Recto presented last week would result in only P15 billion in additional revenue from sin products.

Recto drew brickbats for proposing lower tax rates, with a Palace legislative liaison officer hinting that the committee report reflected lobby money that the senator may have received from a major cigarette firm.

Recto’s critics voiced their preference for the sin tax bill filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago that adhered to the sin tax scheme originally proposed by the DOF. The scheme sought to raise an additional P60 billion annually from tobacco and alcohol products.

Recto resigned as chairman of the Senate ways and means committee on Monday and alluded to Purisima, Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares as the executive officials who refused to support his efforts.

Not believable

Reacting to Recto’s allegations, Purisima said: “I don’t think that’s believable. Our original bill is P60 billion, but this goes through a process, and in Congress they only agreed to P33 billion with a big reduction on alcohol.”

“It’s still in the Senate, and we will continue to work with the Senate on this. We will still push for P60 billion and we would try to get the best deal that they could give us, hopefully an amount that would allow us to fund public healthcare and discourage the consumption of sin products,” Purisima said.

“If there is a minimum that would enable us to accomplish the objectives of the (administration) bill, that would be P40 billion. Of course, the bigger the better,” he added. “We also do not support name calling. This is not a productive way of discussing very important bills, especially taxes.”

For her part, Henares said Malacañang had consistently been pushing for reforms in the excise tax regime for alcohol and tobacco products.

“We submitted our proposal to the House, which provided for incremental revenue of P60 billion—P30 billion each for tobacco and alcohol. The House made amendments to the version advocated by the executive, especially on the portions related to alcohol. We are not members of the House; our role is to provide technical support and assistance to our legislative champions,” she said.

Henares said that during the Senate hearings, the DOF pushed for improvements in the provisions of the House version related to alcohol.

“As transcripts from the Senate hearings would attest, we have urged the Senate to increase revenue collected from alcohol and, at the same time, maintain the revenue from tobacco provided for in the House version so that the incremental increase in revenue would be greater than the P30 billion to be raised by the House version and closer to the P60 billion advocated by the DOF,” she said.

She said the DOF would be at the forefront of measures to increase revenue to fund the government’s priorities.

What burden sharing?

Before last night’s caucus, Recto held an impromptu news conference in his Senate office where he noted that the DOF proposal detailed a balanced “burden sharing” of revenue collections between cigarettes and alcohol products.

What happened eventually in the House version was that the P30 billion supposed to be collected from both distilled spirits and fermented liquor was reduced to P5.2 billion, Recto said.

The House sin tax version also trimmed down sin taxes on tobacco from P30 billion to P27 billion, he added.

“Under the House version, they reduced to the minimum (sin taxes) on alcohol. Is that now the position of the Palace?” Recto asked.

“The original (DOF sin tax) version was P30 billion (in additional revenue from) tobacco and P30 billion from alcohol. Have (DOF officials) reached a deal with alcohol companies?” he added.

Recto said his report trimmed down the additional revenue from tobacco from P30 billion in the original proposal to P10 billion.

“Under the House version, for every additional P1 tax on alcohol, P5 to P6 would be collected from tobacco. In my report, for every P1 additional from alcohol, the government collects P2 from cigarettes. That was the burden-sharing I was looking at since some insist cigarettes are more lethal,” Recto explained.

“If you sum it up, they would be paying virtually the same rates. I am not favoring anyone,” he said.

Recto said Sen. Franklin Drilon, acting chairman of the ways and means committee, should not use his report because it was already shot down by the DOF and the Department of Health.

Report can’t be used

Recto’s statement came after Drilon announced that he was mulling two options: either let the Recto report remain as the basis for future debates and amendments or recommit it to the ways and means committee.

Drilon and other members of the committee were supposed to meet on Wednesday to discuss what to do with the Recto report. However, previous commitments prevented them from doing so.

“As of now, the report is still on the floor and remains in the calendar for special orders because it has already been sponsored by Senator Recto,” Drilon told the Inquirer.

“It remains there and unless the committee moves to recommit it, it stays there,” he added.

Recto, however, rejected proposals to continue discussions on his report.

“Why would they want to plagiarize my report unless they are confident it can raise the P60 billion they wanted in the first place? Why not use (the House) or the Miriam version as template,” he said.

The senator warned of “severe displacement” of workers in sin industries if the government immediately imposed high additional tax rates.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 08:43 AM
Ilocos farmers, leader speak up on Recto’s sin tax bill: Acceptable

Inquirer Northern Luzon

1:14 am | Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

CANDON CITY—To a leader of tobacco farmers in northern Luzon, Senator Ralph Recto’s version of the tax measure on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages is acceptable because it will benefit tobacco growers in Ilocos Sur and other tobacco-growing provinces.

Ernesto Calindas, president of the National Federation of Tobacco Growers and Cooperatives Inc., said his group was supporting Recto’s proposal of a lower revised tax rate on tobacco products.

But Recto, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, withdrew the committee report on the sin tax bill on Monday following heavy criticisms, especially from finance and health officials who said his version of the bill slashed the projected revenue that would be collected from the tax measure.

He presented the Senate with what he described as a “reasonable, realistic and responsible” version of a reformed sin tax measure.

Under Recto’s report, the measure would raise only P15 billion in additional tax revenues, way below the government’s projection of P60 billion.

Calindas said Recto’s proposal was acceptable because this would not impact much on the selling price of tobacco leaves and disrupt their livelihood.

Ilocos Sur produces at least 40 percent of the Virginia tobacco supply in the country.

“That’s what we wanted. We just need to be assured that we would not be shortchanged because it would affect our families,” said Calindas.

Former Deputy Speaker Eric Singson, who represented Ilocos Sur’s second district, said he was proposing a compromise version, based on the measure’s House version, to raise P30 billion.

Singson, also a former senior vice chairman of the House ways and means committee, wanted to collect P15 billion each from the sale of cigarettes and liquor.

“It will ensure that the government will attain its objective in raising taxes for its health-care program,” he said.

He said cigarette and tobacco products should not carry the burden of the tax increase because tobacco growers, most of them based in northern Luzon, would suffer.—Leoncio Balbin Jr.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 08:44 AM
Biazon, Honasan to Misuari: Shut up, give peace a chance

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:05 am | Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

“Shut up.”

Two military officers-turned-lawmakers on Tuesday gave this advice to Nur Misuari after the Moro leader lashed at a peace framework accord between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that would lead to the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous setup in Mindanao.

“I think he (Misuari) should shut up first and wait for the final peace agreement. It’s just a framework agreement. It will go through a transition committee, through Congress and a plebiscite so Nur will have plenty of time to study it and criticize it then. But not now,” said Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a former senator and Armed Forces chief of staff.

Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, who had fought insurgents in Mindanao during his Army years, said: “As a fellow advocate for reforms and good government, let’s give peace a chance and not give up on the peace framework this early.”

Misuari, who led the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when it signed a peace accord with the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996, has been the most vocal and distrustful of the framework agreement, which was signed in Malacañang on Monday and witnessed by MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim.

Misuari claimed that Murad was “unpopular” in Mindanao and that the agreement would be a “recipe for a big, big war” on the island.

‘Warlordism culture’

Biazon said Misuari should do away with his “warlordism culture,” which, he added, had no place on the negotiating table.

“The Muslim community has many leaders and he is not the only one. In fact, he was even expelled by his group (MNLF) from its central committee at one point in the late ’90s. I believe that we should heed the voice of other enlightened Muslim leaders as well,” the congressman said.

Aside from Misuari and his faction, Honasan said peace advocates should also ensure that not only Muslims but also Christians and indigenous peoples would be involved in the Bangsamoro process.

“Peace is an inclusive and not exclusive process as eloquently shown by the late Haydee Yorac, who was our peace negotiator in the National Unification Commission in 1993,” he said.

While he did not agree with Misuari’s knee-jerk opposition to the framework deal, the senator said there was no point in blaming the Moro leader for the failure of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

‘Tres Marias’

In Mindanao, two of the so-called triumvirate of women lawmakers who had vigorously opposed efforts to realign provinces into a Moro territory are now singing a different song.

Former South Cotabato Rep. Luwalhati Antonino, now the head of the Mindanao Development Authority, said that with the signing of the framework agreement, President Aquino “has taken the great effort of achieving just and lasting peace in Mindanao, for the good of the entire nation.”

Antonino, Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes and the late Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Ma. Clara Lobregat had formed the “Tres Marias,” which fought the establishment of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) following the MNLF peace agreement. The SPCPD covered 16 provinces, including Palawan.

Antonino said her support for the government-MILF accord was brought about by transparency on the side of the negotiators, unlike the 1996 agreement.

“With unity and understanding, we can achieve our shared vision for Bangsamoro and for Mindanao,” she said.

Fuentes said that in 1996 and 2008, she had joined calls to block the implementation of previous deals because these would not have solved the peace and security issues in Mindanao.

“To be fair, the Aquino administration consulted us before the framework agreement was signed,” Fuentes said.—With reports from Allan Nawal and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 09:09 AM
More sticky issues in Bangsamoro talks

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:39 pm | Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

What they signed in Malacañang last Monday was not yet the agreement that will finally bring peace to Mindanao after four decades of war. But it is a good start in the long and winding road to peace.

What they signed was only the agreement to a framework, or agenda, or points of discussion, for future negotiations until a final peace accord is reached. It may be a long rough road, or a short paved one, depending on the sincerity of each side, but the deadline they set for themselves is three years—before President Aquino bows out of office. P-Noy obviously wants to present to the Filipino people the final peace agreement as the crowning glory of his administration.

But such a deadline, and such a motive, may put P-Noy’s negotiators at a slight disadvantage. As the deadline approaches, MILF negotiators may become more stubborn and push their more sticky proposals. And P-Noy’s negotiators may be forced to bend backward too far in their desire to present their boss with a trophy as a going-away gift.

There are many difficult issues yet to be discussed. Ex-Ambassador to Egypt Macabangit Lanto, also former representative of Lanao del Norte and Speaker of the ARMM Regional Assembly, as well as Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, explained these difficult issues last Monday at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel.

Among the most difficult is the question of the possession of guns. The members of the MILF want to retain their high-powered firearms with which they have killed many government soldiers; the government wants the national law on the possession of firearms to also apply to the proposed Bangsamoro. This is very difficult because it is said that Muslims would rather give up their wives but not their guns.

Another problematic issue is the desire of the MILF warriors to be integrated into the Philippine National Police. The government is agreeable provided the warriors attend and graduate from the police academy. The question is: What if they have a hard time at the academy and don’t graduate? Will the PNP lower its standards just to accommodate them? If weeded out, won’t the disgruntled flunkers go back to being rebels?

Still another is the plight of the Christians and lumad in the proposed Bangsamoro. The negotiators seem to have forgotten them. Not only does the name, Bangsamoro, give the impression that the region is exclusively for the Muslims (there are about the same number of Christians and lumad as Muslims in the proposed Bangsamoro), its administrative and judicial systems, and especially its police force, will be predominantly Muslim. The Christians and lumad have expressed fears that they may be persecuted by their Muslim “masters.” If the Christians and lumad are persecuted by their Muslim neighbors, who do they run to for help when the police force, the courts and the regional administration are predominantly Muslim?

Then there is the issue of territory. The proposed Bangsamoro will be expanded from the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with the addition of more barangays and municipalities. I understand that the final peace agreement, including the Basic Law—which is another name for a constitution—and the new territory will be submitted to the people of the region in a plebiscite. It is not known whether the plebiscite on the new territories will be submitted only to the people of these new territories or to the whole Bangsamoro region.

If it is the latter, then the votes of the people of the new territories, where there are many Christians and lumad, will be buried by the votes of the old ARMM. Christians ask: Shouldn’t this issue of the new territories be voted upon only by us who are directly affected, while the whole issue of the peace agreement is submitted to the whole Bangsamoro region in a plebiscite?

And what is the purpose of submitting that issue to the whole Bangsamoro instead of only to them? they add. If the people in the new territories vote “No,” then it is assumed that they will be excluded from the Bangsamoro homeland. But what about the areas already included in the ARMM? If they vote “No,” will they be allowed to secede from the ARMM or the Bangsamoro?

Then there is the issue of the judicial system. Will the Christians be governed by the Shariah (or Muslim) law, or by Christian laws?

Ambassador Lanto and Congressman Tañada tried to explain these contentious issues but they confessed that they do not have all the answers and that future talks would thresh that out.

On the controversial P80-billion coco levy fund, Tañada said it lost P24 billion when the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which holds the sequestered shares in some private corporations, agreed to the downgrading of the fund shares in San Miguel Corp. from common shares to preferred shares. Common shares generally have higher value than preferred shares, but the PCGG said it wanted to avoid losing more if the value of the common shares drop.

What to do with what is left of the coco levy fund is another sticky issue. (The coconut levy was imposed during the Marcos administration and collected from coconut farmers for every kilo of copra they sold. The levy funds were invested in shares of SMC when the latter was headed by Eduardo Cojuangco, a crony of Marcos.)

Some coconut farmers’ groups want the money to be refunded to them. But some sectors fear that the farmers may only squander the money on nonproductive things. They prefer that the fund be used to improve the ailing coconut industry so that the farmers will earn more, Tañada said. Tañada comes from Quezon province, where the biggest coconut plantations are situated and from where come the biggest number of coconut farmers.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 09:10 AM
Knives, guns on campus

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:42 pm | Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

How should a student respond when he or she becomes the object of bullying?

Philippine Psychiatric Association spokesperson Dr. Babes Arcenas, in an interview with another paper, said that those who are bullied should stand their ground the first time the act of intimidation or harassment occurs: “The first time it is done, show that you can fight back. You have to show that you are in control because if they see you crying, they will think they have power over you. You should be able to tell them to leave you alone or you will report them to the authorities.”

Sound advice, except: How do you fight back when there is more than one bully before you? Or when you are in unfamiliar territory, without friends you can run to for help or teachers and persons of authority who can lend you protection? Worse, when the bullies, not content with the might of their numbers, are able to brandish arms right on campus—pepper spray, for instance, or knives and even guns?

Certainly, there was no way Joan Lourdes Reyes, 20, an information technology student of the University of Santo Tomas, could fight back against the sudden attack against her early this month. She had gone to the Far Eastern University campus to watch a film on a friend’s invitation. Later, in a corridor, she was approached by five coeds who first asked what she was doing there (she was wearing a UST Engineering shirt). “The next thing I knew, someone sprayed something at me,” Reyes said. “It stung my skin and eyes so much that I could not see and breathe. [Then] someone stabbed me in the stomach and another stabbed me in the back.”

Reyes suffered five stab wounds and had to undergo surgery to repair her small intestine. While FEU announced that it had identified and suspended one of the attackers, a nursing student who now also faces frustrated homicide charges, Reyes herself remains clueless about the motive for the assault. One theory being offered, which would be laughable if not for the gravity of the crime committed: UST and FEU are basketball rivals, with UST elbowing out FEU this year for a spot in the UAAP finals. If true, this represents a new and chilling low—collegiate sports rivalry gone homicidal (and not even among players, but crazed fans).

Two weeks after the FEU incident, Kevin Roy Castro, 21, another IT student, was wounded in a knife attack, this time at Adamson University. The culprits: at least four fellow Adamson students who, reports said, started bullying Castro while he was with a group of students waiting for their professor. One mundane minute instantly led to blood, terror and mayhem. Castro ended up with two stab wounds on his left arm. Again, the motive is yet unclear.

If college students can be victims of random violence, imagine how it must be for high school kids—someone like Cedric Ronquillo, 17, of Las Piñas East High School, who found himself being poked with a 9mm pistol last month by one Leandro Sarno Jr. and his companion, Justine Mejia, 18. The incident happened inside the school premises, where Sarno and Mejia should not have been allowed entry, at the very least, because they were not students of the school. That they managed to sneak in a gun on top of that speaks volumes about the state of security in the high school.

Then again, as in the most notorious case lately, even the upscale and exclusive Colegio San Agustin in Makati has been found wanting in the security department. Businessman Allan Bantiles was able to bring in a gun undetected right into the school’s receiving area, where he then pointed it at the head of high school student Jamie Garcia in retaliation for Garcia allegedly scuffling with Bantiles’ son. Garcia had earlier complained that Bantiles’ son Joshua had been bullying him endlessly (an allegation that seemed to make sense if one were to consider the father’s example).

What is going on? Students stabbing others in broad daylight, kids waving a pistol at other kids’ faces, or, more reprehensibly, a parent pulling a gun on a student, suggest a wider, graver, breakdown in the school environment. When the campus—that special social zone tasked to open the minds of the young and make them civil beings, where discourse and the back-and-forth of learning should operate unencumbered and free of the threat of violence for one’s own belief, personhood or, heck, sports affiliation—becomes lawless territory, we’re in bigger trouble than we think.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 09:12 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:11 pm | Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

My own experience, or ordeal, with smoking is this:

I began smoking when I was 17. I took my first puff of cigarettes a year earlier and went into a violent fit of coughing. A year later, I was inhaling the smoke, sucking it with a fury, and liking it.

Looking back, I’d put my inspiration for it not so much at peer pressure as at the images it conjured, courtesy of books, movies and ads. The ads proposed that you weren’t cool if you didn’t smoke. The books and movies suggested—by back covers that showed authors to be contemplating life with cigarettes tucked between fingers and noir movies where actors delivered their lines through a haze of smoke—that you weren’t a writer, artist, or thinker if you didn’t smoke.

I started off with a few sticks a day and graduated fairly rapidly to a pack. By the time I quit smoking in 1983, I was smoking two packs a day, alternating between regular and menthol. Three packs when I went out to drink at night, which was quite often. I had become what was called a “habitual smoker,” which really meant a cigarette addict.

It didn’t take long for the afflictions to come. I was asthmatic as a kid, outgrowing it only in grade school, and soon after I started smoking the respiratory ailments started coming back. I realized at the forefront of my mind that I was in trouble and needed to quit, but realized as well at the back of my mind that I couldn’t.

My greatest need for cigarettes, as I saw when I tried to quit, was when working. It was almost Pavlovian, or conditioned, reflex: I saw a typewriter—the manual kind, a thing kids today will now find only in the attic, or the museum—I needed to smoke. At one time in the mid-1970s, I had to write something and ran out of cigarettes. We had just moved into SSS Village in Marikina, and I didn’t know the ways of the place. It was around 10 p.m. and I went out to replenish. Alas, no stores were open in the neighborhood. I ended up walking all the way up to the bayan, but still found no stores open. I went home in a state of panic, little helped by being chased by a pack of dogs in one dark spot.

I didn’t get to write the thing at all. At the crack of dawn after a fairly sleepless night, I set out in search of the lost treasure.

As desperate goes, however, I’ve seen worse. I remember having a night out with friends in Pete Daroy’s place sometime in the early 1990s. Daroy, a UP professor and sometime Opinion Page editor of the revived Chronicle, was a heavy smoker and ran out of cigarettes before the night was over. It was around 1 a.m., we were in his unit in Pag-asa Bliss, and he sent his alalay out to buy a few packs. Alas, all the stores in the neighborhood up to the talipapa several blocks away were closed. Not to be denied, Pete picked up the stubs in the ashtray and relit them one after the other.

Pete had a stroke not long afterward and managed to stay clean for a few months before picking it up again. He had a second stroke, and went through the same cycle. He didn’t survive the third one. Neither quite incidentally did Rolando Tinio. He had a heart attack, quit smoking for a while, then went back to it. He didn’t survive the second one.

By the early 1980s, I was in a bad way and knew I had to quit. But it took five tries to do it, reminding me of Mark Twain’s quip, “It’s easy to quit smoking, I’ve done it hundreds of times.” That is, for me, five times cold turkey. Before that, I indulged in the fantasy that I could quit slowly by reducing my intake till I reached zero. It didn’t happen, of course, I just smoked more after I gave up the enforced (very) partial abstinence. Which makes me wonder how the authors of the sin taxes can possibly imagine high prices will discourage smoking among those already smoking. The choice is only between smoking more and not at all. There is no in-between.

Finally, I was able to quit at the fifth try, but not before going through one hell of a withdrawal. I couldn’t even think straight, let alone write, for several months, my head was roiling in fog. It took almost a year for me to get back in stride, and not without a curious tale to it. To get over my association of typewriters and smoking, I went back to longhand and wrote that way for a couple of years. By the time the PCs arrived, I had been a couple of years off cigarettes and had no association between keyboard and smoking.

As a parting shot, when you do manage to quit, you’ll get no small amount of discouragement. It’s not just that friends will keep blowing smoke in your face, it’s that you’ll get worse before you get better. I was in worse shape after I quit than before, becoming a suki of the Lung Center from various afflictions. The slightest thing—a drizzle, night air, smog—would give me breathing problems. It was that way for about half a year, until suddenly the ailments stopped and disappeared completely. But you’ll go through that phase of being worse before you get better, and you’ll keep asking yourself why you don’t just go back to smoking.

All this is merely to drive home the point that I’m one of those who truly want to see smoking stopped, or drastically curbed. I appreciate its immense health and social costs, having lost too many friends to it already. I leave others to debate the wisdom of the sin taxes, but where I’m coming from, I do think we need to go beyond that if we’re serious about stopping it. We need a far more aggressive campaign than even Juan Flavier’s “Yosi Kadiri” to get people who are already smoking to give it up and—for the kids especially—to not take it up at all. We need to employ ferocious counter-advertising to show the horrors of smoking, the more graphic the better, and all sorts of images to show how very cool it is not to smoke.

It’s a sin not to.

Sam Miguel
10-18-2012, 10:32 AM
Pact with MILF splits Nur, followers

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:09 pm | Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

GENERAL SANTOS CITY—The Moro leader who once presided over some of the bloodiest battles of a separatist movement in Mindanao is now finding himself separated from his followers over whether or not to support a revitalized effort to bring a peaceful end to the Moro rebellion.

Nur Misuari, who headed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the height of the bloodiest episode of the Moro rebellion, has been rebuffed by his followers after he warned of a bigger war over the signing of a peace pact framework by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

A group calling itself the National Security Command (Nascom), which belongs to Misuari’s MNLF faction, declared full support to the agreement between the government and the MILF.

Misuari called the agreement “illegal and a recipe for war.”

Abdulmanan Manalasal, brigade commander of a MNLF unit called Nascom 12, said his group’s only wish was for the government not to forget that it, too, has an agreement with the MNLF that was signed in 1996 under then President Fidel Ramos.

Manalasal, 46, said he wanted to remind the government that there are still provisions of the 1996 peace pact that remain unenforced until today.

These include wealth-sharing and the creation of a regional security force for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which was set up as an offshoot of the 1996 pact.

Manalasal said like many MNLF men supportive of the peace deal with the MILF, he and his men also long for lasting peace in Mindanao.

“My dream is to see just and long-lasting peace for Mindanao so we can go back to our land forcibly taken from us by the Ilaga paramilitary group during the time of Marcos,” he said. Ilaga is the Army-backed militia that became notorious for abuses against Moro communities.

“I just hope that the Philippine government will be sincere this time,” Manalasal said.

Abu Missry Mama, spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, said the group’s leader, Ameril Umra Kato, is keeping a wait-and-see attitude on the framework agreement.

“We are not opposing the peace deal but we will never be a part of it. We will continue our struggle for Bangsamoro self-rule,” Mama said.

Other Mindanaoans who are not Muslims expressed hope for the success of the agreement.

Bong Luterio, assistant principal at a private school in Cagayan de Oro City, said sincerity is key to the pact’s success.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy said while he supports the peace deal, “it would have been better if we were given a copy so we can study its provisions.” Aquiles Zonio, Cai Panlilio and Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao

Sam Miguel
10-19-2012, 08:59 AM
A distinct crime

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:56 pm | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

In 1977, Primitivo Mijares disappeared. A newsman who had ingratiated himself into Ferdinand Marcos’ inner circle, he was present at the creation of the murderous martial law regime. But sickened by what he had witnessed, he wrote a tell-all book, “The Conjugal Dictatorship,” and lived in exile in the United States. For some reason, however, he accepted an invitation to return to the Philippines. He has never been seen since.

Three and a half decades since Mijares vanished in the Marcos gulag, is it still possible for his heirs and friends to dream of legal redress? A new bill, the conference committee version of which was approved on Tuesday by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, suggests that the answer in the Mijares case and in hundreds or even thousands of similar forced disappearances during martial law and in the years since then, may be, could be, yes. The bill now awaits President Aquino’s signature.

The Anti-Enforced Disappearance bill defines a new, distinct crime: “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared.”

It is a two-stage crime: a deprivation of liberty, and then denial or concealment. It is committed by either agents of the state, or persons “acting with authorization or support from the state,” or both.

For the many Filipinos disturbed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s recent and much-publicized apologia for martial law, the bill’s most powerful aspect may be its provision on prescription; there is no statute of limitations on the crime if the “desaparecido” remains missing. Thus, the perpetrators of Mijares’ forced disappearance, if they are still alive, may still be haled to court.

For the many Filipinos disturbed by the high-profile and still unresolved disappearances of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006 and activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, the bill’s most compelling feature may be its provision on command responsibility. We have not yet read the reconciled version, but in the House bill, the provision is twice as long as, and much more specific than, that in the Senate bill. It begins: “The immediate commanding officer of the unit concerned of the AFP or the immediate senior official of the PNP and other law enforcement agencies shall be held liable as a principal to the crime of enforced disappearance for acts committed by him or her that shall have led to, assisted, abetted or allowed, whether directly or indirectly, the commission thereof by his or her subordinates.”

For the many Filipinos disturbed by news of forced disappearances continuing to this day, the bill’s most attractive quality may be what we can call its conscience clause. Again, the House bill has the longer and more specific version: “An ‘order of battle’ or any order from a superior officer or a public authority causing the commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance is unlawful and cannot be invoked as a justifying circumstance. Any person receiving such an order shall have the right to disobey it.”

If the President signs the bill—and we see no reason why he shouldn’t: the main author in the Senate, Sen. Francis Escudero, was the son of a Marcos Cabinet secretary; Marcos’ own son, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., voted for the committee report consolidating similar Senate bills—the Philippines will become the first country in Asia to specifically outlaw the crime of forced or involuntary disappearance.

The principal author of the bill, Rep. Edcel Lagman, spoke from deep personal experience when he sought to place the new measure in perspective. “There should be enough of desaparecidos, because enforced disappearances have emotionally, mentally and physically displaced mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, children. These disappearances have caused us to be put under the tight watch of local and international rights groups and even foreign governments.” We share the hope that, by finally giving the terrible deed a (legal) name, the country can begin exorcising the ghost of disappearances past.

Sam Miguel
10-19-2012, 09:00 AM
MILF tells Misuari framework is better than deal with Ramos gov’t

By Ryan Rosauro

Inquirer Mindanao

8:44 pm | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines – The chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front tried to assure Nur Misuari on Thursday that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is even better than the deal he signed in 1996 with the administration of then President Fidel Ramos.

Mohagher Iqbal said the preliminary agreement his group signed Monday with Philippine authorities has brought more political concessions for the Moro people than the deal that Misuari signed in 1996.

Under the Framework Agreement, the Bangsamoro will have exclusive powers as well as shared powers with the central government, details of which will be ironed out by the parties beginning next month.

As defined in the Framework Agreement, the Bangsamoro will have some powers on election administration and “authority to regulate on its own responsibility the affairs of the constituent units” of the region.

The Bangsamoro also has competence over the Sharia system of justice and can institute alternative systems to resolve disputes.

Although it is silent on control of strategic minerals, the framework refers to Bangsamoro territory as “the land mass as well as maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it,” the governance of which is subject to further negotiations.

In the 1996 agreement between the government and the MNLF led by Misuari, strategic minerals are under the sole control of the national government although the region enjoys 50 percent of the revenues derived from their exploitation and many functions remain in the central government.

In the handling of fiscal resources, the Bangsamoro is granted the powers of generating and budgeting its “own sources of revenues, its share of the internal revenue taxes and block grants and subsidies” remitted by the national government or donors.

In defining the competence of Bangsamoro, the framework pact carried over the powers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to enter into economic agreements.

It will also have a congressional representative of its own under the party-list system aside from those representing the districts of its provinces and a Senate representative.

An inhabitant of the Bangsamoro will also be appointed to the Cabinet with the rank of secretary and each national government office shall have at least one official from the new entity.

In the framework agreement, both government and MILF also agreed on the appointment of a competent resident of the region to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Judicial and Bar Council.

Iqbal said the framework agreement “does not diminish any bit the gains” of the Final Peace Agreement that Misuari concluded with the Ramos administration.

Before they rant against it, Iqbal urged critics of the Framework Agreement to read it in its entirety.

“We can task a neutral group to make a comparative study of both agreements. If they are true leaders, they should read first the documents,” he said.

Misuari, who has filed his candidacy for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has criticized the Framework Agreement as a recipe for more violence in Mindanao.

Chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen has sided with Iqbal, saying the “government’s commitment with the MILF includes complying with its commitment to the MNLF.”

“There are various ways that the MNLF can cooperate with the current peace process with the MILF,” Leonen said.

Apart from offering seats on the 15-member Transition Commission to its members, presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be an opportunity for the MNLF to help design the appropriate governance structure and processes for the new entity.

Sam Miguel
10-19-2012, 09:02 AM
‘A Framework with missing Agreements’

By Raul C. Pangalangan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:54 pm | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

One more not rise to a standing ovation for a trailer even before the movie is made, lest unrealistic expectations spoil the actual viewing. Similarly, the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is a milestone for sure, but unrestrained hype may well derail peace in the end. The Framework says little but the public has been conditioned to believe it says everything. What will happen when our people check under the hood and discover what’s not there?

Most importantly, the key Framework provisions each refer to an “Annex” that does not exist. This is not about missing footnotes but goes to the heart of a peace pact: What will be in the “Annex on Power Sharing,” “Annex on Wealth Sharing,” and “Annex on Transitional Arrangements”? How exactly will power and wealth be shared in the future? There can be no “just and lasting peace” unless we agree on these.

When the Framework was first published online, I thought the missing annexes would soon follow. After all, the Supreme Court struck down the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008 because, among other grounds, it lacked transparency. But the Framework signing has come and gone, and it is clear that those annexes still do not exist.

Even worse, each annex is declared to “form part of this Framework Agreement.” How can we consent in advance to terms that do not exist and retroactively write them into the Framework? This was the Supreme Court’s point exactly in 2008.

Analyzing what is in the Framework itself, I am concerned that the Bangsamoro’s relationship to our constitutional bodies remains unclear. For example, the Framework treats constitutional accountability for funds as a triviality. The government peacemakers’ website highlights that the porous auditing of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao funds has been a real pain. Of the “850 million pesos allocated for infrastructure projects in ARMM’s 2010 budget, not one construction budget (sic) was completed.” It adds that “90 percent of ARMM’s funding was allocated to ‘Personnel Services’ and until now, that money has not been accounted for,” suggesting an orgy of ghost employees. To say that the ARMM has little to show for these funds is to be too kind.

Then why does the Framework now virtually exempt the Bangsamoro from the Commission on Audit’s reach? It says that the Bangsamoro “may create its own auditing body [for] funds generated … from external sources.” We’re talking about a lot of funds here, given US, EU and Muslim countries’ exuberance. The Agreement then mentions the COA’s power but limited only to funds held by “any government instrumentality, including GOCCs.”

This language is so slippery. It purports to affirm COA jurisdiction but it furtively lays the basis for the Bangsamoro government to access foreign funds without independent audit, while limiting the COA to locally generated funds. Worse, the term “instrumentality” is actually limited by the Administrative Code merely to “regulatory agencies, chartered institutions [like state universities and colleges] and GOCCs,” and excludes all the Cabinet departments and their bureaucracies.

In sum, the Bangsamoro gets a free pass to the expected bonanza from gung-ho foreign sponsors and, if the negotiators have their way, without even having to amend the Philippine Constitution.

Yet the Constitution is explicit that the COA shall have the power “to examine, audit, and settle all accounts [of] the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities” and “[n]o law shall be passed exempting any entity of the Government or its subsidiaries in any guise whatever.” Surely that includes the “new autonomous political entity” called the Bangsamoro and its in-house “auditing body.”

Even more sinister, notice a strange clause that occurs not once but twice in the Framework: The Bangsamoro rulers may “block grants and subsidies from the Central Government.” Say that again, please? Spurn manna from heaven? Why not, if the manna from abroad is more bountiful, and along the way, the better to strengthen the Bangsamoro government’s hand versus its component units, and weaken Manila’s hold.

The COA exemption and the Bangsamoro veto over Manila’s funding are not the only mysteries in the Framework. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago insists that the Framework needs constitutional amendments because of the Bangsamoro shift to a “ministerial” and federal system of government. Sen. Panfilo Lacson asks whether the Bangsamoro will have a separate police force. Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza asks whether the Framework is even subject to the Constitution, which merits only one passing mention.

Last week, I pointed out the mischief in the term “asymmetric” to describe the relation between the Central and Bangsamoro governments. If they’re not equal, then who’s above and who’s below? The COA exemption demonstrates one ominous asymmetry: Foreign funds are COA-exempt, while local funds held by lowly “instrumentalities” are not.

Don’t get me wrong. We all want peace, and we must do right by our Muslim countrymen. But an overplayed agreement referring to nonexistent annexes is a shaky foundation for peace. Carving out a regional auditing body defies the historical record and is akin to setting the fox to guard the chicken coop.

After Edsa 1, the Filipino people thought hard and wrote down all their promises to future generations in our Constitution. In 2012, this covenant cannot be unraveled by unwritten promises. Let us instead be sure that all our vows for peace to Muslim and Christian alike are made crystal-clear before we place them alongside our Constitution.

Sam Miguel
10-22-2012, 08:40 AM
Enrile vs People of the Philippines

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:56 am | Monday, October 22nd, 2012

You may accuse Juan Ponce Enrile of being duplicitous, but you may not accuse him of being dumb. He is in fact exceedingly clever. His challenge to Satur Ocampo and Jose Ma. Sison to appear with him before the Truth Commission shows so.

To begin with, there is no Truth Commission, there is only a directive from President Aquino for the National Historical Commission to form a committee to look into the truth about martial law. His exact words were: “Nais nating tiyakin na katotohanan lamang ang bukal ng mga impormasyong nakalimbag sa mga aklat ng mga estudyante—hindi sa pinagtagpi-tagping kasinungalingan ng mga propagandista; hindi sa mga retaso ng panlilinlang ng mga rebisyonista.” (“We want to make sure that only the truth becomes the wellspring of the information that appears in the textbooks of students—not the tangle of lies of propagandists; not the throwaway deceptions of revisionists.”)

First off, by posing the challenge against Ocampo and Sison, Enrile tries to shift attention away from him to them, or specifically from his fake ambush to the Plaza Miranda bombing. He explicitly refers to Plaza Miranda: Let them try to explain that bombing, he says. The reason for it being that there is a version that says Ferdinand Marcos did not order that bombing, Sison did. Though debatable, that is attention-grabbing, and he can always escape scrutiny for his ambush by stoking its fires.

Who wreaked the Plaza Miranda bombing we truly ought to know. But that is for another day. It is not Ocampo and Sison who have just written a book claiming all sorts of things, it is Enrile. Specifically, it is Enrile who has claimed his ambush was real. It is Enrile who has claimed he was a victim of martial law. It is Enrile who has claimed he rescued us from Marcos. We want to make sure that only the truth flows into the minds of the kids, not the tangle of lies of self-propagandists and the throwaway deceptions of revisionists. It is Enrile’s claims we ought to examine, and debunk.

Second, by posing the challenge against Ocampo and Sison, Enrile reduces the equation to: “It’s just my word against that of the communists. Whom are you going to believe?” When in fact the people who are rebutting his claim that his ambush was real are the people themselves who went through the ordeal of martial law. Hell, when in fact the one who rebutted his claim that his ambush was real was he himself, as duly recorded by reputable journalists, as heard by the millions of Filipinos on radio when—the prospect of imminent death putting the fear of God in him, specifically his ninth commandment that said, “Thou shalt not lie”—he confessed to it. Clearly, he thinks stem cell has dispelled that imminence.

More subtly, he reduces the equation to the same one Marcos did when he declared martial law: “It’s just a choice between me and communists. Whom would you rather have?” That was explicitly how Marcos justified martial law—to quell anarchy and rebellion. Both of which were of his making. The anarchy drew in great part from the manufactured bombings, capped by Enrile’s ambush. And the rebellion grew not in spite of him but because of him. Marcos—with Enrile sitteth at the right hand of him—became the biggest recruiter for the New People’s Army, as the US State Department put it.

In fact, the choice throughout martial law was never between dictatorship and communism, it was between dictatorship and democracy, iron-fisted rule and freedom. How freely Enrile wants the truth known, we know from, among other events, his getting the Supreme Court to issue a TRO preventing the crew of “A Dangerous Life,” a TV movie about Edsa, from filming its ending here. That was when he was Cory Aquino’s defense secretary. They had to film the People Power scene in Sri Lanka, with the crowd shouting “Curry, Curry” in lieu of “Cory, Cory,” but which was still far closer to the truth than Enrile’s version of things.

Third, by demanding that we compare the NPA’s atrocities and his, Enrile puts both parties on the same plane, subject to the same norms of judgment. In fact they are different. It’s not merely that his atrocities as custodian of martial law are far more patent—we have only the records of the martial law military to say differently—it’s also, and far more so, that their situations are as stark a contrast as day and night. Rebellion by itself is a crime, and to be a rebel, whether you commit an atrocity or not, is to be punished by imprisonment or death. Governance by itself is a privilege, and to be a governor, whether you do good or not, is to be rewarded by taxes and the allegiance of the citizens. For a governor to commit an atrocity, or indeed to betray the public’s trust, that’s one of the most contemptible and condemnable things in this world.

The rebels paid for whatever they did by having to live the life of fugitives, quite apart from being tortured or killed when caught. Enrile made us pay for what he did with our forests and our ores, quite apart from our lives and our freedom, while living the life of a king. How can that be put on the same footing? How can that be subject to the same norms of judgment?

Finally, by bringing the fight to Ocampo and Sison, Enrile tries to remove the people from the picture. In fact, the fight is not between Marcos and the communists, between Enrile and Ocampo and Sison. The fight is between Marcos and Enrile and the country they devastated, between them and the people they oppressed. You know the joke about the man who says, “I just killed one man, why am I fighting the whole nation?” In this case, the legal phrasing is accurate, literally as well as figuratively. This is not case of Enrile vs. Ocampo and Sison, this is a case of Juan Ponce Enrile vs:

The people of the Philippines.

Sam Miguel
10-22-2012, 08:41 AM
The RP-MILF framework agreement (Part 2)

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:53 am | Monday, October 22nd, 2012

There was big hoopla at the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last week. I found that somewhat amusing because one of the clearest characteristics of the agreement is its lack of clarity. It leaves so much unsaid. As the agreement itself says, “The Parties commit to work further on the details of the Framework Agreement in the context of this document and complete a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.” So what did the parties really agree about beyond agreeing to continue working?

Moreover, what will be achieved by the end of the year—that is, a little over two months from now—will not yet be the peace agreement itself but the guidelines to be followed in formulating the substantive provisions of the peace agreement. The full peace agreement will be the Basic Law formulated by Congress and approved in a plebiscite by the constituent units. Year 2016 seems to be the target.

Let me now comment on some possible constitutional issues which need elaboration. The “ministerial” concept has been criticized. I have no problem with it even if I don’t know what is exactly meant by it. I guess it can mean either a Cabinet form or a parliamentary form of government. Whatever it is, it really makes no problem because, while the Constitution specifies a presidential form of national government, it does not have the same prescription for local governments. We might recall that Metro Manila had a “commission form” of government which was neither prescribed nor prohibited by the 1973 Constitution.

More crucial is the envisioned relationship between the central government and the Bangsamoro government. It is called “asymmetric.” Again I do not know what this is meant to hide. Could it be that the framework is just avoiding the term “associative” found in the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) of 2008? If this is the case, we have to recall what the Supreme Court said of that relationship. The Court rejected it as having no place in the Constitution.

Of course, the 2008 Court was referring to specific provisions of the MOA-AD containing the “associative” principle. We do not yet know what the current Court might say since we have not yet been told what the framework means by “asymmetric” relationship.

Central to the formulation of the Basic Law will be the role of Congress. It is Congress that will enact the Organic Act for the autonomous region. The shape of Congress that will enact the Basic Law will be affected by the coming national elections. The senatorial and congressional campaigns, especially in regions that will be affected by the desired Bangsamoro Basic Law, will have to take into consideration the sentiment of voters in those areas.

In framing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the main guide should be the Constitution. This is not clearly reflected in the framework. The framework says that the “provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law shall be consistent with all agreements of the Parties.” Similarly, it says that the “Bangsamoro shall have a just and equitable share in the revenues generated through the exploration, development or utilization of natural resources obtaining in all the areas/territories, land or water, covered by and within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro, in accordance with the formula agreed upon by the Parties.” This seems to mean that Congress, in the formulation of the Basic Law, must accept any agreement of the parties. This seems to make Congress a rubber stamp for whatever the agreement wants. Again, this needs clarification.

The framework recognizes as possessing the Bangsamoro identity those “who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood” together with their “spouses and descendants,” but adding that the “freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall be respected.” This is the same as the provision in the MOA-AD.

Will this satisfy those who are not indigenous Moros? Both the MOA-AD and the framework lump together the identities of the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples living in Mindanao, including Palawan. More acceptable is the provision of the current Organic Act which distinguishes the Bangsamoro people (that is, those who are believers in Islam and who have retained some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions) and other tribal peoples whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sectors of the national community.

Another contentious issue will be determination of the areas that will be part of the Bangsamoro territory. What the framework proposes is larger than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao territory today. This will require a plebiscite as prescribed by the Constitution.

Next there is the powerful Transition Commission. Will the Moro National Liberation Front be given a role?

These are some of the potential issues already reflected in the current shape of the framework agreement. Other issues will arise from the final form of the framework when it is completed at the end of next December. Everyone will be waiting for that final framework agreement. It can either increase or diminish the volume of the current chorus of jubilation.

Sam Miguel
10-22-2012, 08:42 AM
New Senate majority waiting for sign to oust Enrile—Santiago

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:37 am | Monday, October 22nd, 2012

While calling herself a “complete pariah” when it came to power plays in the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago nevertheless hinted that a new majority in the upper chamber could just be waiting for a signal before it ousts Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

“Sa tingin ko, may inaantay lang sila (The way I see it, they are just waiting for something).

“Wait for it,” she added in a radio interview.

Santiago said it was likely that Enrile would be replaced for his noncooperative stand on two administration measures—the reproductive health (RH) bill and the measure raising sin taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.

Enrile is staunchly against the RH bill. He also expressed concern over possible adverse effects of raising taxes on tobacco on farmers from northern Luzon where it is a principal crop.

“We cannot say exactly what goes on inside the mind of President Aquino but if the Senate President does not give his support to (administration) measures, the President might consider looking for someone who would be more supportive,” Santiago said in Filipino.

Santiago said politicians tended to accommodate a sitting President.

“That is the tendency, to always agree with the President even if they do not necessarily join his party,” she said.

Santiago, however, clarified that she was not being asked to join a new majority, in case one was being formed clandestinely at this point.

“I am not getting any calls. I’m a complete pariah when it comes to (Senate) reorganizations. My colleagues know I don’t care about intrigues,” she said.

But asked if noncooperation with regard to the two urgent bills could cost Enrile his coveted seat, Santiago said: “Oh, definitely. His time horizon will definitely grow shorter if the two bills are not passed.”

Santiago added that Enrile could not rely on his popularity rating as a deterrent against any effort to replace him since President Aquino, who might support efforts to remove him, is more popular based on the same surveys.

Santiago also dismissed repeated pronouncements made by Malacañang that the executive branch is not involved in any effort to replace Enrile.

“Well, they cannot announce ‘we are replacing him’ so they have to keep saying those clichés. Remember that Malacañang keeps score of how cooperative senators are. All administrations are like that,” she said.

“Assuming for the sake of argument that the Senate President is really as popular as the press releases say, in any event, there is no question President Aquino is much more popular. If (Enrile) contradicts the President, his popularity could go even lower than at present,” Santiago said.

She reminded Enrile that “all Senate Presidents hold their positions…at the discretion of their fellow senators and of the President who is in power at the time. They do not have permanent security of tenure.”

Rumors of a move to oust Enrile have been floating around since December 2011. At the time, Sen. Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party was being touted as his replacement.

Drilon has consistently denied these reports.

Only Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV of the Nacionalista Party has admitted working for Enrile’s ouster.

Sam Miguel
10-25-2012, 08:41 AM
Enrile ‘threatens’ to write 2 more books

By Cathy C. Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:37 am | Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 Share on facebook_likeShare 4Ecstatic over the public response to his memoir, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he is considering writing two more books—one on his law practice and another on his life as a senator.

He estimated 10,000 copies of his book, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir,” had so far been sold since its launch almost four weeks ago. Of this number, he has autographed 3,000, including 200 in one day, he added.

Some fans follow him to restaurants, or the 365 Club in a Makati hotel, where he hangs out regularly, and ask him to sign their copies.

Enrile, 88, who served as customs commissioner, finance undersecretary and defense minister under President Ferdinand Marcos, isn’t complaining.

“It feels good to sign your own book. It means the book is selling well and I would rather have that,” he told reporters on Monday.

“I don’t think it’s proper to simply put my initials. Sometimes I tell the reader, “this is my story, how I started with life, the struggles and frustrations and the risks that I encountered.’ Whatever I could think of at the moment like ‘Mabuhay,’ ‘Thank you,’ ‘God bless you,’ ‘Salamat,’” he said.

Some tell him what to write. One copy was a birthday gift to a loved one and he was made to write the greeting.

Third printing

According to Enrile, ABS-CBN Publishing plans a third printing to cope with the demand. An e-book or electronic copy of the memoir is also being planned. “E in e-book stands for Enrile,” he said.

He had originally planned to write his memoir and leave it to his only daughter Katrina to decide what to do with it when he is gone.

“Some people read the manuscript and they said, ‘It’s better for you to publish it while you are alive so they can ask you questions about the contents.’ I said, ‘sure.’”

Faked ambush

For some, the book was a letdown. Critics attacked his claim that his “ambush” in Wack Wack subdivision on Sept. 22, 1972, on the eve of Marcos’ declaration of martial law, was for real. They noted that Enrile confessed during the 1986 Edsa uprising that his ambush was staged to justify dictatorial rule.

In turn, Enrile challenged leftist leaders to face him so they can confront each other about the incidents that might have triggered the nation’s descent into dictatorship, specifically the Plaza Miranda bombing in August 1971, and the communist attempt to smuggle firearms into the country aboard the MV Karagatan the following year.

Communist leader Jose Maria Sison has dismissed the challenge and called Enrile the “cheapest shyster” whose “systematic lying” about martial law was meant to erase his direct link to it.

Enrile remains unperturbed. “There’s nothing that I cannot defend in that (book),” he says.

Life in court, the Senate

“There are many, many details about my life that I have not written (in my memoir). In my law practice alone, if I probably write a book … somebody else has already thought of the title ‘My Life In Court,’” he says.

“Before I joined the government, I was in extensive law practice and I handled many sensational cases in this country and I encountered a lot of bright, brilliant, capable, seasoned lawyers. But some people think of me as a shyster,” he notes with a guffaw.

A third book would be on his life in the Senate. He plans to start with his loss in his first bid for a Senate seat as a Nacionalista in 1971.
Enrile says public furor over the Plaza Miranda bombing then blamed on Marcos caused the Nacionalista debacle in that balloting. “No regrets. That’s life. (But) I won in 1987 although I was No. 24, which by itself is a story.”

Sam Miguel
10-25-2012, 08:53 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:29 am | Thursday, October 25th, 2012

That was a dazzling move Sting made, stinging SM by moving his concert from the Arena to the Araneta Center. Arena and SM Baguio are sister companies, SM Baguio in particular being the object of ire of environmentalists after it uprooted 182 very old trees, mostly pine, to make room for expansion. The environmentalists have called for a boycott.

Arena is aghast and says that although it is a corporate sibling of SM, having the same owner, Henry Sy, it had nothing to do with the removal of the pine trees. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for Sting, the Filipinos and the world, Sting hasn’t bought the technicality. Nature will have to fall in line, retribution has come a little swifter in human form. It’s one humungous loss for the Arena, the Sting concert, in more ways than have to do with money. I’m more determined to watch the concert, even if I have to brave the Araneta Center.

What can one say? As you sow, so shall you reap. Or in this case, as you uproot, so shall you plant.

Not a little ironically, the one song that hits the nail on the head on what SM Baguio has done is not anything Sting has composed but one Joni Mitchell has. It’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” which Counting Crows made famous a few years ago. It’s based on an experience Mitchell had. She used to vacation in a blissful spot in Hawaii until one day when she looked out of her hotel window and found the trees that used to dot her line of sight gone. In its place was a parking lot. One line instantly flew to her head. Minus the expletives, it was, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot?!”

That’s the first line of a song about the things we take for granted but find precious only after they’re gone. The first stanza goes: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot/ With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot/ They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum/ And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em/ Don’t it always seem to go/ That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone/ They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Look at SM Baguio and wonder if that’s not bull’s-eye. I hope Sting gets to slip that song in in his concert.

I’ve always liked Sting not just for his brilliant songs but for his brilliant causes. I thought he sang the best song in all the concerts that gushed forth after 9/11. Billy Joel of course sang the perfect one, “New York State of Mind,” 9/11 having devastated New York City not just physically but mentally. But it was Sting’s “Fragile” that gave the tragedy a more universal meaning, one that went beyond American hubris, or self-absorption, with its not very muted suggestion that when 3,000 Americans perish from a terrorists attack they are martyrs, when tens of thousands of Arabs, including children, perish from a terrorist invasion they are collateral damage.

Listen to the words: “If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one/ Drying in the color of the evening sun/ Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away/ But something in our minds will always stay/ Perhaps this final act was meant/ To clinch a lifetime’s argument/ That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could/ For all those born beneath an angry star/ Lest we forget how fragile we are.”

That’s as poignant as it comes. And true, for black or white, rich or poor, Arab or American. Thank God for people like Sting who can still make their music matter, who can still make themselves matter. Who can speak with a voice that pricks the conscience of the king.

That stings the conscience of the race.

* * *

It is poignant, it is heroic, it is inspiring. That’s the story of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai. In case you haven’t heard of her—what rock have you just crawled out of?—Malala is the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for championing women’s education in her blog. The assassins sought her out in a school bus and shot her in the head. Miraculously, she survived, and is now out of coma, though her doctors remain watchful for possible complications.

The odiousness of the deed shocked the world and drew swift and terrible condemnation. Not least from Muslims themselves who could not imagine how anyone could postulate a God deserving of worship that would demand, and command, such slaughter. Malala herself has become something of a modern-day Anne Frank, despite having met with a less grim fate, no thanks to the murderous intent of her assailants. By her plight, she has become a living indictment of the Taliban. By her courage, she has shown the hollowness of a seemingly formidable and terrifying group.

Completely insanely, the people who shot Malala—the bullet entering her eyebrow and exiting her jaw—are irate that they have not received a “fair hearing” in the Pakistani media, and have vowed to punish the erring. Their threats have been laughed at from Islamabad to Istanbul, the media themselves vowing to blot them out of human sight and hearing. Noting the monumental irony of it, someone observed that this was a group that, after trying to silence a child for speaking her mind, now has the gall to demand to be heard by the world.

When will they learn? When you try to still a voice by terror, it cries out even more loudly to the heavens. Not unlike trumpets shattering walls, though that is not a very Islamic metaphor. It was so with Ninoy Aquino, it is so with Malala Yousufzai. In the end, it was not the guns and drones of America that brought the Taliban low. It was not the thunder of governments or of the media that laid the Taliban low. It was a wisp of a girl telling the truth in her own small way. In a way that has pricked the conscience of the king.

In a way that has stung the conscience of the world.

Sam Miguel
10-25-2012, 09:13 AM
^^^ When a raghead has a gun, shoot him first. Period.

Sam Miguel
10-29-2012, 08:58 AM
Marcoses lose US appeal

Contempt case involves $354-M award to human rights victims

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:19 am | Monday, October 29th, 2012

Victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship have scored a victory in their long quest to get compensation from the Marcos estate.

A US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld on Oct. 24 a contempt judgment against Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., his mother Imelda and the estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos for violating an injunction that barred them from dissipating assets of the estate.

The judgment amounting to $353.6 million is believed to be the largest contempt award ever affirmed by an appellate court.

The judgment may be implemented against any US property owned by Imelda and Bongbong. However, the human rights victims need to ask the Philippine government for implementation of the judgment against the Marcoses’ personal property in the Philippines.

A Philippine law requires that all ill-gotten wealth recovered from the Marcoses should be spent on the government’s land reform program.

Robert Swift, lead counsel for the 10,000 Filipino human rights victims who obtained a judgment against the late dictator and his estate in 1995, said he was satisfied with the new judgment.

“The Marcoses have thumbed their noses at the United States court and Filipino human rights victims ever since the $2-billion judgment was entered in 1995,” Swift said in a statement.


The American lawyer said the Marcoses were caught trying to dissipate the estate’s assets to recapitalize the family’s political dynasty in the Philippines.

Bongbong began serving his six-year term as senator in 2010. Imelda is a representative of Ilocos Norte in Congress, while daughter Imee is the governor of the province. Both mother and daughter are running for reelection in midterm elections in May 2013.

Swift said the new judgment was against Imelda and her son personally for their misconduct.

“It broadens the possibilities for collection of money to the human rights victims. The victims can be assured they we will vigorously and aggressively seek to collect this sum,” the lawyer said.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales said Sunday night that the US court victory against the Marcoses was “payback” for the “shameless arrogance” of Bongbong and his mother, who have not apologized for the looting and the killings during the Marcos regime.

“If we can’t get their apology, at least we will force them to pay more and refresh the minds of a new generation of Filipinos on the atrocities committed by the family for close to two decades,” Rosales said in a phone interview.

“They (Bongbong and Imelda) are the face of their families and the Filipinos should continue to demand payment for the sins of their family.”

She said the $353.6 million awarded by the US court would be on top of the close to $2 billion awarded to martial law victims in 1995.

Barred in US

Rosales said she was told by lawyers that the contempt award meant that the Marcoses would not be allowed to set foot on any US territory.

“The contempt ruling means that the US courts are taking seriously the disrespect shown by the Marcoses. More than the heavy fines, this is a big embarrassment to the family who has shown no remorse for the deeds they made,” the CHR said.

Rosales said that the contempt charge was a “long shot” and that the US courts sided with the victims was a “pleasant surprise.”

“The senator’s refusal to apologize and own up to the sins of his father only shows the continuing arrogance of his family,” said Rosales, herself a victim of human rights violations during the Marcos regime.

The litigation against Marcos began in 1986 shortly after the dictator and his family fled to Hawaii following the people power revolution.

After Marcos died, Imelda fought the litigation. Following a historic trial, a Hawaiian jury awarded 9,539 Filipino human rights victims almost $2 billion.

The judgment was affirmed on appeal. While the jury was deliberating, the Marcoses entered into a secret deal with the Philippine government to make the Marcos estate judgment-proof.

When Swift learned of this, the human rights victims sought a contempt award against Imelda and her son, and the Marcos estate’s legal representatives, for violating the injunction that barred them from dissipating the estate’s assets.

Imelda and Bongbong were found to have agreed to the transfer from the United States to the Philippines artworks considered part of the estate, and to split the estate with the Philippine government, retaining 25 percent tax-free as their share.

After five hearings during which documents showing the Marcoses’ efforts to dissipate the assets were introduced, the court found the Marcoses in contempt and ordered them to pay the victims until they purged their contempt.

The Hawaii Court of First Instance imposed a daily fine of $100,000 from Feb. 3, 1995, to Feb. 3, 2005, when the contempt order expired, leaving a total fine of $353,600,000.

The appellate court last week wrote that the “$100,000 per day amount was necessary and appropriate because the Marcoses’ contumacious conduct” caused direct harm to the victims, by preventing them from collecting on their $2-billion judgment. With a report from Gil Cabacungan

Sam Miguel
10-29-2012, 09:02 AM
Arroyo refuses to enter plea on PCSO plunder case

By Tetch Torres


8:46 am | Monday, October 29th, 2012

Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is accompanied by husband Atty. Mike Arroyo when she arrives Monday at the Sandiganbayan for her plunder case. TETCH TORRES/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday refused to enter a plea on charges of plunder before the Sandiganbayan First Division.

Due to her refusal, following the Rules of Court, the Sandiganbayan First Division entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Arroyo is facing a case for plunder for allegedly funnelling P366-million from the confidential fund of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for over three years.

Mrs. Arroyo, now a Pampanga Representative is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) after the anti-graft court order her arrest.

On Oct. 24, Arroyo sought for a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from hearing the case.

She also asked the anti-graft court to dismiss the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan dated October 3, 2012, which was the basis for the issuance of the arrest warrant against her.

Sam Miguel
10-29-2012, 09:04 AM
No one blocking Padaca, Mendoza appointments—Sen. Estrada

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:19 am | Monday, October 29th, 2012

Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada on Sunday said neither he nor the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition would unnecessarily block the confirmation of Grace Padaca as election commissioner and Heidi Mendoza as deputy audit commissioner when they come up before the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Estrada, of the opposition UNA, chairs the CA constitutional commission, while Padaca is a member of the administration Liberal Party (LP).

As for Mendoza, she had launched an investigation into a deal Vice President Jejomar Binay, a top UNA leader, allegedly entered into when he was mayor of Makati City, which reportedly upset Binay.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has launched a probe of the P17.23-million purchase by the Makati government of buildings to house informal settlers but which were converted into hotels instead for visiting officials from Makati’s sister cities.

Mendoza has denied involvement in the probe, saying it was spurred by a complaint received by the COA’s citizens’ desk.

Estrada admitted during a taped radio interview that aired Sunday that some CA members opposed Mendoza’s appointment but did not elaborate.

He said he had advised Mendoza of the situation and that he wanted the issues against her settled before his CA committee discussed her appointment.

“She has already submitted all documentary requirements. I spoke to (Mendoza) a long time ago and I told her about the oppositors. Many want to oppose her confirmation,” Estrada said.

Asked if Binay was among those blocking Mendoza’s appointment, Estrada said: “The Vice President has nothing to do with this. I have not discussed (Mendoza’s appointment) with the Vice President. Besides he does not meddle in the affairs of the (CA).”

As for Padaca, Estrada said he would be ready to conduct a hearing on her appointment provided she fulfilled all the documentary requirements of the CA.

One issue hounding Padaca is the graft case filed against her as Isabela governor that is pending in the Sandiganbayan.

Sam Miguel
10-30-2012, 10:16 AM
ARMM to Bangsamoro: a ‘Golden Transition’?

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:01 pm | Monday, October 29th, 2012

“Recovering to original growth paths takes an average of 14 years of peace,” writes the World Bank in its 2011 World Development Report (WDR) that focused on development challenges facing conflict-affected areas. Findings from cross-country studies went into WDR 2011, and observations reflect experience across various countries that went through civil war and subnational violent conflict. The report further asserts: “Trade can take many years to recover as a result of investor perceptions of risk… it takes on average 20 years for trade to recover to pre-conflict levels.”

Will it take that long for Muslim Mindanao to reap the so-called peace dividend, as the recently signed framework peace agreement will have the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) give way to a new entity called Bangsamoro? Need it take that long? The people of these long strife-torn areas have waited for far too long. To have to wait for yet another 10-20 years before their local economies could keep in step with the rest of the Philippine economy is to court a return to violent conflict.

All Filipinos stand to benefit from lasting peace and development in Mindanao. We need to work together to make peace work in those areas where a whole generation has known nothing but persistent violent conflict. “Give peace a chance”—the timeless message of John Lennon’s 1969 ditty—has lately become a popular call. In practical terms, making peace work would entail normalizing the economy, attracting investments, and creating lasting and meaningful jobs especially for those who have known no other work but to carry arms and fight battles with fellow Filipinos. I have written enough on why it makes good sense to invest in Muslim Mindanao, and will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say that others, both foreign and local, have already done so and not only have they not regretted it; they have actually done good business. Their stories are told in a forthcoming booklet jointly published by the AusAID, ARMM Regional Board of Investments, ARMM Business Council and Management Association of the Philippines titled “Braving It and Making It: Insights from Successful Investors in Muslim Mindanao.”

The experiences of these firms—including multinational Unifrutti, Malaysian-owned Agumil Philippines Inc., and nearly century-old Matling Industrial and Commercial Corp.—prove that other investors need not wait 10 years to place their stakes in Muslim Mindanao. My conviction is that with the right legal framework and the support of all concerned working together and doing their part, we can all help Bangsamoro succeed. In so doing, we would help ourselves win sustained economic dynamism for the whole country in the years ahead.

The idea is to make investing in Muslim Mindanao especially attractive during the interim period leading to the agreed establishment of the new Bangsamoro government by 2016. That is, make it worthwhile for the daring “first movers” who could start the momentum of sustained new investments in the years ahead. This is a tall order, to be sure, given the uncertainty investors would have to deal with. But if the key parties involved—government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders, other Muslim leaders including those of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)—truly have the interests of the long-suffering residents of these conflict areas at heart, they can actually work together to minimize if not eliminate this uncertainty.

What might it take? How do we make it especially attractive to jump in now rather than later, thereby make the transition period one of golden opportunities (a “Golden Transition”) for those who would go right ahead to create jobs and raise incomes for residents of Muslim Mindanao? Prospective investors eye certain incentives and guarantees to even think seriously of putting money in an uncertain environment. The Board of Investments routinely extends such incentives. With its autonomy, the ARMM Regional Government can improve on these by enacting further enhancements, including culture-sensitive labor flexibilities, which the existing investors therein cite as important. Government banks and international financial institutions can make special financing windows available for first movers. All these may be provided on a “limited time only” basis to make the transition period an even more attractive window for coming in.

What’s needed is a creative legal framework, and firm and convincing assurances of all authorities concerned, so that special terms and conditions applying to these first movers would be guaranteed and protected against future changes in the rules of the game by the new Bangsamoro government or the national government. Creative ways of eliminating or minimizing such political risk are critical. International financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank are already studying investment insurance facilities tailored for investors in Bangsamoro. The Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency (PhilEXIM) may be called upon to do the same, especially for domestic investors. On the other side, big-name domestic investors may be challenged to place catalytic “missionary investments” in Bangsamoro. After all, “missionary” need not mean “unprofitable.” As such, Bangsamoro may yet defy the world experience.

Am I dreaming? Am I being naively idealistic? Maybe so. But all great achievements started with dreams. And like many Filipinos, I dream of a peaceful and progressive Mindanao, where much of the economic energy would come from Bangsamoro itself.

Sam Miguel
10-30-2012, 10:17 AM
Marcoses opt to keep mum on $353-M contempt judgment from US court

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:52 pm | Monday, October 29th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and his mother, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, have apparently chosen to keep mum on a record contempt judgment handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit against them

The court has required them to pay $353.6 million – the largest ever award for a contempt case — for violating a US court order not to dissipate their assets, which have been earmarked as compensation for victims of the martial law imposed by Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the 1970s.

Several calls were made to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Smart cellphone number but these were unanswered. The senator also did not leave clues about his reaction to the US court ruling when a check was made on his Twitter account @bongbongmarcos on Monday.

The judgment can be implemented against any US property owned by the Marcos family.

Sam Miguel
10-30-2012, 10:30 AM
Marcoses may lose more assets in PH, US, other countries, says Swift

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:03 pm | Monday, October 29th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his mother, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, are in danger of losing more of their assets stashed in the Philippines, the US and other countries after the US Court of Appeals upheld a $353-million contempt ruling against them and the Marcos estate.

In an e-mail relayed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by Commission on Human rights Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales, American lawyer Robert Swift said: “It means that we can pursue Imelda and Bongbong assets in the US and whatever countries where we can register the judgment. It means that if either travels to the US, we can take their depositions. And we can try and register the judgment in the Philippines and execute on their real estate.”

Swift is the lead counsel for the 10,000 Filipino human rights victims who are still fighting to get the $2-billion compensation awarded by the US Courts in 1995. According to Rosales, there are several forfeiture rulings on a number of civil cases against the Marcoses that the Philippine government could use to bolster its claims.

Sam Miguel
10-31-2012, 08:38 AM
Empty houses

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:17 pm | Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

THE NARRATIVE of informal settlers unfolds daily before our eyes. Most of them converge on the metropolis on the promise ever offered by greener pastures, put up temporary shelters of cardboard, tarpaulin, scrap wood and galvanized iron sheets that eventually become permanent, and proceed to set down roots. In time what were once vacant spaces in both residential and commercial blocks become peopled by them; slum communities are formed in areas completely unequipped for the necessities of living. Densely packed, the hovels’ cheek-by-jowl closeness and the sheer absence of sanitation facilities give rise to, and nurture, a collective defiance among the residents. The crude shelters become home, where they raise their (many) children and from where they sally forth to earn a living.

On occasions when their lives are disrupted, such as by fire or by demolition, the odds and ends of their existence are laid bare to “fortune and men’s eyes” in a scene truly Shakespearean, flung helter-skelter amid anguished cries and wild-eyed moves to get one step ahead of the inferno, or the government’s wrecking crew. (To be sure, a fire scene in a slum area will, courtesy of a TV camera’s intrusive eye, also expose stuff common in middle-class households, including refrigerators and the occasional plasma television, suggesting what are called “professional squatters.” But that’s another story.) At least a couple of demolition occasions—on North Avenue in Quezon City and in the Guadalupe area in Makati—stick in the mind’s eye: running battles between the residents and the local government units assisted by law enforcers, marked by stones, molotov cocktails, and other projectiles, water cannons and tear gas, blocked traffic, and a shocking break in civil behavior.

The Metro Manila Development Authority estimates that in the metropolis alone, more than 500,000 families live in slum areas, and more than 200,000 and around 175,000 occupy government lands and private lands, respectively, according to an Inquirer special report by Charles Buban published on Oct. 6 and 13. Subdivision and Housing Developers Association chair Manuel Crisostomo noted the value of these families: “We should recognize and help [them] because the majority of them work in Metro Manila, ensuring that the needs of the higher-income families are met. They work in factories, construction sites and even in dumpsites, do a variety of home-based enterprises, or work as domestic servants, security guards or street vendors.” He pointed out that helping these families acquire decent housing would assist the government in moving a step closer to reducing the housing backlog, which is pegged at 3.9 million.

But consider the dismaying development at Barangay Santiago in General Trias, Cavite, where, in another Inquirer special report that was run on Oct. 29, Maricar Cinco wrote of 180 studio-type houses that stand empty and are going to seed. (A photograph of a row of the houses shows doors on which the paint had faded and missing jalousie slats on a window, as well as—an eloquent touch—a cow and its calf lolling languidly by a door.) The housing project was intended for 2,100 informal settlers who would be displaced by the construction of the planned 11.7-kilometer extension of the Light Rail Transit Authority from Baclaran in Pasay City to Bacoor in Cavite. As early as 2008, the previous administration of Cavite embarked on the project with the LRTA and proceeded to build the housing units; 180 were completed although, as recently announced by President Aquino himself, the construction of the planned LRT extension will begin only in January 2014. Meanwhile, the housing project is embroiled in a financial mess, with each 22-square-meter unit found to have ultimately cost P2.8 million each! The scheme is not unfamiliar and has seen various shapes or forms in this country of year-round ghosts: The reported cost estimate of real estate developers who inspected the units was P240,000 each.

Details such as unoccupied housing units perilously close to ruin (no matter that, as in other relocation areas, they still lack electricity and water connections) acquire a hard-edged irony given the families that have fashioned dwelling places on the banks of waterways, under and in the interstices of bridges, and other unlikely nooks and crannies. These details show how slowly we have traveled on the road to progress where, as Manuel Crisostomo wistfully dreams it, “slums of despair” become “slums of hope.”

Sam Miguel
10-31-2012, 08:42 AM
^^^ Squatters should ALWAYS be evicted. ALWAYS. For godsakes, what message are we sending and what society are we building when we put the squatter ahead of the legitimate property owner? They don't own the damn land upon which they've built structures that surely did not pass muster through both local and national government construction regulations. And yet we are to "help" them. Their concept of "help" is to allow them to stay forever on land that does not belong to them, simply because "antagal na nila doon" and "wala silang malilipatan". What about the property owner? He actually paid for and pays taxes upon that property, and yet it is those who DO NOT OWN it who are making hay on his sunshine!

Sam Miguel
11-05-2012, 09:08 AM
Dynasties threat to democracy

By Jose V. Abueva

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:46 pm | Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

What is a political dynasty? A common meaning is the repeated election and reelection of close relatives with the same surname to offices in the local and national governments. The relatives appear to enjoy a monopoly of political power to the disadvantage of rival leaders. In this sense we can cite many provinces and cities with political dynasties.

Political dynasty members are seen to use their superior wealth, following and access to public resources to favor themselves. They attract their followers and keep them loyal with patronage.

Some of them even resort to unfair if not illegal means to keep their political rivals out of office: corruption, fraud, violence, vote-buying and intimidation. But other political dynasties do not. So we have “bad political dynasties” and “benevolent political dynasties.”

Over a century

For example, in one province, La Union, the Ortega clan has survived for over a century, or since the beginning of elections under American colonial rule. So there is some reference to an Ortega “political dynasty.”

However, apparently, many people in La Union do not trace the exceptional political supremacy of the Ortega clan to the negative factors we have mentioned. In this sense we can speak of a benevolent and respected Ortega “political dynasty.”

In general, however, political dynasties rise and fall. A political dynasty can be challenged and defeated, then rise again; or fade away when the people are dissatisfied and turn to other leaders.

For a long time, the Osmeñas and the Cuencos dominated politics in Cebu. Now, the Garcias, Duranos and other families are dominant. In other places politics is keenly competitive and unpredictable, and there is a turnover of ruling families.

Dynasties in Senate

The issue of political dynasties has heated up in relation to the 2013 candidates for the Senate who come from one and the same family or clan and thus bear the same surname as another senator, or President Aquino himself.

In this sense, loud public criticism and some cynicism greeted the announcement of senatorial candidates for the 2013 elections. One set belongs to the majority coalition: Bam Aquino, the President’s cousin; Sen. Alan Peter, brother of Sen. Pia Cayetano, succeeding himself; Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara Jr. succeeding his father, Sen. Edgardo Angara, who is reaching his term limit and running to succeed his sister as governor of Aurora province; former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, wife of outgoing Sen. Manuel Villar; former senator Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, only son of the late and beloved President Ramon Magsaysay (1953-57); and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, son of former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Under the banner of the United Nationalist Alliance, led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, the senatorial candidates include his eldest daughter, Nancy; Rep. Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. who would be joining his father, the Senate President; Rep. J.V. Ejercito who would join his brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.

Prohibited but not defined

Certainly, the framers of our 1987 Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a level playing field in political competition as expressed in the following provision: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” (Art. II. Sec. 26)

Unfortunately, the framers left it entirely to Congress, many of whose members belong to political dynasties, to define political dynasties and prohibit them. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) can say that it has no clear basis to enforce the constitutional prohibition since the Constitution does not define political dynasties and Congress has not passed the implementing legislation on the subject.

If the framers had been more serious and discerning, they could have prohibited political dynasties effectively by a forthright constitutional prohibition such as this: “No outgoing elected official shall be succeeded to the same office by any person related to him/her to the third degree of consanguinity or affinity.”

This would prohibit the spouse, brother or sister, or in-laws, children, or first cousins of the outgoing elected official to succeed him/her in the same office.

Lack of implementing legislation would not prevent the enforcement of the specific constitutional prohibition. Indeed, the prohibition would make it mandatory for Congress to pass the implementing law. Or the courts would make the decision in a litigation and direct its implementation. The Comelec would be obligated to enforce the court’s decision.

Test case in SC

Businessman Luis Biraogo has asked the Supreme Court to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties in the 2013 elections. He alleges that the current batch of candidates is “the best testament to that political and constitutional mockery.” He cites not only the political dynasties in the Senate but also the Belmontes, Pacquiaos and Jalosjoses.

Biraogo asserts that the Comelec is vested with implied powers to make a definition of political dynasties and the “ministerial duty” to prohibit them. He argues that political dynasties are prohibited by the Constitution because they are inherently bad; it does not matter whether they are reform-oriented, or known for public service like Bam Aquino and the Vice President.

Symptom of problems

The rapid expansion of our electorate, consisting of more and more poor people, insecure and dependent voters, and increasing political competition have increased the cost of campaigning and incumbency for the political leaders acting as patrons of their constituents.

Our continuing semifeudal society and premodern political culture shape our dysfunctional elections, political parties, presidential form of government and unitary system of national-local government relations.

The cost of elections is rising in all democracies, except that in the industrialized democracies where many middle class citizens contribute to the campaign of their party candidates. Moreover, the state supports the political parties through subsidies.

In contrast, our middle class is not as broad and deep and effective as a countervailing force to the political establishment, although middle class members are becoming more assertive and our media are vigilant.

Again, many of our voters are poor dependents of their political patrons. These conditions put great pressure on our politicians to use their power and influence to raise funds for their political survival often through rent-seeking or private use of power, pork barrel politics and influence peddling.

Accountable politics

Political dynasties are thus the cause and consequence of our ineffective and unaccountable patron-client democracy, and personalized parties plagued by misuse of power, corruption and wastage of state resources, and of our rapid population growth and continuing underdevelopment.

We cannot begin to change our political system that breeds these ills without basic structural and institutional reforms, as we critics and Charter change advocates keep saying and writing about.

We need to organize nationwide and democratic political parties based on a defined ideology, and program of governance and reform, with regular dues paying members who continually engage the voters in discussing local and national issues and problems affecting them, and who choose their own leaders and candidates for public office.

In this way, the members own the political party and are not beholden to wealthy patrons. In time, this kind of political parties will help build an alternative to our traditional political parties which are loose and opportunistic alliances of politicians and political dynasties.

Without these various reforms, we cannot develop our economy to make it more productive, competitive, equitable and inclusive in its growth and benefits. We cannot control the excessive growth of our population and upgrade our environment.

Challenge to P-Noy

We do need a transforming President to unite our legislators, local government leaders, civil society and media to begin to change the political system, and gradually our political dynasties. This is the true challenge to leaders who say they are committed to change. This is the real direction of “daang matuwid (straight path).”

To be sustainable, fighting corruption and developing the country cannot depend on our President’s charisma alone, however well-meaning and popular and trusted he is. These require dynamic, functional institutions and a critical mass of transforming leaders gradually replacing our political dynasties.

We need inclusive economic growth, population control and a sustainable environment. In a word, we need good democratic governance that will enable us in the long run to “build a just and humane society.”

(Dr. Jose V. Abueva is UP professor emeritus of political science and public administration, and former UP president [1987-1993]. He is also professor and president of Kalayaan College in New Manila, Quezon City, and a member of the National Congress of the Centrist Democratic Party: Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya.)

Sam Miguel
11-05-2012, 09:08 AM
Marcoses in contempt

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:34 pm | Sunday, November 4th, 2012

About two weeks ago, human rights victims suing the Marcos dictatorship won another, important legal victory. Whether this will bring the victims closer to realizing the legal justice they have already received—in 1992, the United States District Court for Hawaii ordered the estate of Ferdinand Marcos to pay the victims nearly $2 billion in damages—remains to be seen. But the new judgment puts additional pressure on the Marcos family, undermines the estate’s legal strategy and allows the human rights claimants wider scope for collecting on the damages. For all these reasons, we join the many who hail the ruling as both just and necessary.

On October 24, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the 2011 decision of the Hawaii district court finding the estate of Ferdinand Marcos in contempt, for failure to pay a fine imposed by the Hawaii court. The fine was determined at $100,000 per day; because the Marcos estate failed to pay the fine for 10 years, from 1995 to 2005, by the end of the 10-year period the total amount had reached $353,600,000.

A three-person division of the Ninth Circuit court held that “the $353,600,000 contempt judgment is properly enforceable” by the human rights claimants led by Celsa Hilao.

The contempt judgment is separate from the original (and now two-decade-old) $2-billion award in damages, so the first consequence of the new ruling is that the Marcos estate finds itself obliged to pay the claimants a much higher sum. This is only right. The federal court upheld the district court’s reasoning that “the $100,000 per day amount was ‘necessary and appropriate’ because Marcos’s contumacious conduct was causing direct harm to Hilao, including $55,000 per day from lost interest and additional losses due to Marcos’s dilatory tactics.”

Another consequence is the heaping of judicial scorn on the Marcos estate’s legal strategy. To dilatory tactics, add absurd grasping at straws. We are glad to read in the unpublished “Memorandum” issued by the federal court, for example, the following passage—the legal equivalent of a smack-down:

“Marcos contends that it ‘obliquely’ made this argument [that the Hawaii court’s contempt judgment was unenforceable under federal law] in its December 2010 status report statement. We agree that this reference was oblique; it was, in fact, a single sentence of a single paragraph of a five-page memorandum to the district court. Moreover, the paragraph lacked legal citation and began with ‘Put another way,’ suggesting that Marcos was simply restating the state law argument in different terms. Thus, Marcos did not raise this argument ‘sufficiently for the trial court to rule on it.’”

A third consequence is eminently practical. “This new judgment is against Imelda Marcos and her son [Ferdinand Jr., an incumbent senator] personally for their misconduct,” said lead counsel Robert Swift in a statement released under his name and that of co-counsel Rodrigo Domingo. “It broadens the possibilities for collection of money to the human rights victims. The victims can be assured . . . we will vigorously and aggressively seek to collect this sum.”

The federal court’s judgment gives the human rights claimants additional legal firepower in running after remaining Marcos assets outside the Philippines, primarily in the United States. In the Philippines, however, legislative obstacles continue to bar the way; the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law mandates that all amounts recovered from Marcos’ hidden wealth must be redirected to agrarian reform, and a bill in Congress allowing the national government to award some P10 billion of the $540 million recovered from the Swiss government in 1998 remains pending. (This is a matter that should be investigated: Who is holding up the bill?)

Last year, checks amounting to $10 million were finally distributed to the human rights claimants, in partial fulfillment of the 1992 judgment. But that amount is minuscule—only about half a percent of the $2 billion award in damages.

We hope the Ninth Circuit court’s upholding of an additional $353.6 million in contempt fees will prod the Senate and the House of Representatives to do their part, and help the victims achieve justice. We share the regret expressed by some who say that all these judgments involve “only” money (and not prison terms and perpetual disqualification from office)—but considering the crassly materialistic character of the Marcos regime, these damages are not only just; they are also apt.

Sam Miguel
11-05-2012, 09:33 AM
Let’s have an ‘Anti-Political Dynasty Movement’

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:33 pm | Sunday, November 4th, 2012

“The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”—1986 Constitution

The Constitution is very clear. Only a little common sense is needed to understand it. The State shall prohibit political dynasties to allow others (those who do not belong to political dynasties) to become public servants. The trouble is the framers added the phrase “as may be defined by law.”

The constitutional provision needs an implementing law. The other trouble is, laws are written and passed by members of Congress many of whom are themselves members of political dynasties. Decades after the passage of the Constitution, we still have no defining law banning political dynasties.

The Senate committee on electoral reforms, chaired by Sen. Koko Pimentel, a member of the Pimentel political clan of Mindanao, is pussyfooting around the definition of “political dynasty” even if the ordinary Filipino already knows what it is. We have many, too many, political dynasties around us at present. And like a locust plague, they are multiplying rapidly. In almost all provinces, cities and municipalities, as well as in the national arena, political dynasties are fielding family members as candidates in next year’s elections. It is as if the political families are in a hurry to put relatives in political positions before a law is passed banning them.

Even boxer and neophyte congressman Manny Pacquiao is already starting his own political dynasty. He is fielding his wife, Jinkee, as candidate for vice governor of his adopted province of Sarangani. Very soon, we may have Mommy D as nominee of a party-list group of senior citizens or of ballroom dancers.

People thought that Pacquiao, not being a traditional politician, would bring reforms to the House of Representatives, or at least be different from most of the congressmen(women) there who think only of themselves. Alas, they were mistaken.

Pacquiao learned very quickly all the bad habits of his peers. He is absent from Congress for long periods most of the time while training for his upcoming boxing bouts from which he earns millions of US dollars. Yet he continues to collect his salaries and allowances, including his pork barrel, although he is not working for them. Lowly government employees, who live a hand-to-mouth existence, are subjected to the “no work, no pay” policy, but highly paid members of Congress like Pacquiao, although multimillionaires (but who pay very little income taxes unlike Pacquiao), collect their salaries and allowances although they are absent.

Pacquiao has not passed a single legislation; neither has he participated in congressional debates, but he already is building his own political dynasty. Manny (rhymes with “money”) probably thinks that, by virtue of being a multi-millionaire, he has the right to start his own political dynasty although he has not yet proven that he bears the seeds of good public servants.

With many members of Congress—both senators and congressmen(women)—belonging to political dynasties, it is not likely that Congress will pass an enabling law to the constitutional provision. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago—happily one of the few who don’t belong to political dynasties—has filed an anti-dynasty bill in the Senate but, as stated earlier, the committee on electoral reforms is nitpicking on it. And even if such a bill manages to squeak through, most likely it would be watered down by amendments and become toothless and worthless.

So what do we, the citizens, the “bosses” of our public servants, do to give meaning to the Constitution and to free ourselves from the clutches of long-entrenched political families? The Commission on Elections is cowardly shirking its duty. It claims it cannot implement the constitutional provision because there is no enabling law.

Yet the Comelec, as argued by businessman Luis Biraogo in a petition filed before the Supreme Court, “is vested with implied powers to make a definition of political dynasties and the ministerial duty to prohibit them.” A more courageous Comelec can do the above and let the politicians run to the Supreme Court, and leave the latter to settle the issue.

Biraogo argued that political dynasties are prohibited by the Constitution “because they are inherently bad.” Biraogo also asked the high tribunal to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties.

A more courageous Supreme Court can issue a decision banning political dynasties and let the politicians argue against it. But, alas, we have a Supreme Court and a Comelec that would rather run away and cover their balls than perform their duties.

So it is left to us ordinary citizens to enforce our Constitution. After all, we are the “bosses” of all the high and mighty in government. We should not vote for any member of political dynasties in next year’s polls and thereafter. Only when the political dynasties are wiped out will we achieve true freedom from the clutches of politicians.

For if we do not do anything to save ourselves, the Philippines will descend into the situation similar to the one that befell Medieval Europe when it was divided into fiefdoms ruled by royal families that enslaved their people and warred against one another, using the lives and blood of their people.

We already have the beginnings of it. Philippine provinces, cities and municipalities are now ruled by warlords and political dynasties and will likely remain so if we do not do something about it.

Like the Anti-Epal Movement, groups should form an Anti-Political Dynasty Movement around the country to educate the voters and persuade them to kick out members of political dynasties for the good of the nation.

Sam Miguel
11-05-2012, 10:22 AM
P-Noy, UNA’s Holy Trinity killing our Constitution

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:44 pm | Thursday, November 1st, 2012

WHILE WE remember our departed loved ones today, All Souls Day, let us not forget another thing that is also dead or dying, one we should all love with everything we have: our Constitution. Our basic law is dying, if it is not already dead. It has been killed, or is being killed, by politicians. The dirty politicians are violating the provisions of our Constitution, principally that against political dynasties.

Our Charter bans political dynasties to prevent the Philippines from descending into fiefdoms ruled by political families and to give others a chance to lead their communities. But politicians are making a mockery of this provision. Instead of political dynasties disappearing, or at least decreasing in obedience to the Constitution, they have increased tremendously for the 2013 elections. Almost every province, city or municipality has members of political dynasties running for next year’s polls. The Jalosjoses, Ecleos, Dutertes, Garcias (of Cebu and Bataan), etc. are fielding members of their families for positions from councilors to mayors to provincial board members to governors to congressmen and senators in a shameless race to expand their dynasties.

Even the two main political parties, the ruling Liberal Party and the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), are fielding members of political dynasties. UNA’s Holy Trinity—Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—each has offspring running for senator: Binay has his daughter Nancy, Erap has his son JV, and Enrile has his son Jackie. It is as if UNA was created simply to provide their offspring a vehicle to climb to the Senate.

President Aquino’s Liberal Party is no better. The LP has P-Noy’s cousin, Bam (Bum?) Aquino, in its senatorial ticket. Who is Bam (Bum?) Aquino? He came from nowhere wanting to be senator immediately just because he is an Aquino, a cousin of the President, and a Ninoy Aquino lookalike. He has not even served as barangay captain or barangay tanod in his community, and here he comes wanting to be senator of the country. Ninoy at least started as mayor of his town. UNA’s Jackie Enrile and JV Ejercito are representatives of their districts. But like Bum, Nancy Binay is coming from nowhere and immediately running for senator.

To be fair to Nancy, she did not want to run for senator but, according to reports, her father persuaded her to do so just because the two other members of the UNA Holy Trinity have their own sons running in its slate. Binay did not want to be left behind.

And at least Nancy is not trying to be her father’s lookalike (which would be difficult anyway as she does not have the same dark complexion of her father), unlike Bum who is shamelessly trying very hard to look like his departed uncle Ninoy. He sports the same hairdo and wears the same heavy horn-rimmed eyeglasses that Ninoy used to wear. And he wears clothes similar to what Ninoy wore. (What about brains? some people ask.) What shameless opportunism!

Another opportunist is Rep. JV Ejercito, who is changing his surname for election purposes from Ejercito to Estrada (why not go all the way and make it “JV Erap Estrada”?). Ejercito is the real surname of President Erap, and Estrada is his screen name. JV wants to adopt his father’s screen name, too, to take advantage of its popularity.

Jackie Enrile, on the other hand, is using the initials JPE, which stand for Juan Ponce Enrile. Jackie’s real name is Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. but for Filipinos, JPE stands for Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate President. When voters go to the polls next year, therefore, they will vote for JPE, thinking they are voting for the Senate President, but their votes will be counted for Jackie.

As the nation’s top leaders, P-Noy and the Holy Trinity should be the first to respect our Constitution. After all, they took an oath to defend and uphold it. But alas, they are among the first ones to violate it.

As President, P-Noy should lead by example, the same way he did with the “wang-wang.” You’ll remember that P-Noy, in his inaugural speech, prohibited the use of sirens better known as “wang-wang.” And to set an example, he was the first to have the sirens in his vehicles removed. The citizenry followed his example.

But in the matter of political dynasties,

P-Noy, the President of the nation, is among the first to disobey the Constitution instead of defending and upholding it as he had sworn to do. He is expanding the Aquino political dynasty. After Bum, P-Noy’s sister Kris (oh, no!) has signified that she would also enter politics, apparently, some people surmise, because her show biz career is waning.

P-Noy is also paddling two canoes. He has relatives both in the LP and UNA tickets. Bum is in the LP ticket while his aunt, Tingting Cojuangco, is running in the UNA senatorial slate.

There’s more: If JV Ejercito wins, he will join his half-brother, Jinggoy, in the Senate. Previously, Jinggoy joined his mother Loi in the Senate.

Then there’s reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. If he wins, he will rejoin his sister Pia in the Senate. And there’s former Rep. Cynthia Villar, the wife of outgoing Sen. Manny Villar, who is aiming to replace him in the Senate via the LP slate.

The excuse of political dynasties in violating the Constitution is that there is no enabling law. But it is not likely that a law against political dynasties will be passed soon. Most of our legislators, after all, are themselves members of political dynasties. So it is up to the people to implement the Constitution. Do not vote for all members of political dynasties.

11-06-2012, 11:04 AM
Dynasties threat to democracy

By Jose V. Abueva

Prohibited but not defined

Certainly, the framers of our 1987 Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a level playing field in political competition as expressed in the following provision: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” (Art. II. Sec. 26)

Unfortunately, the framers left it entirely to Congress, many of whose members belong to political dynasties, to define political dynasties and prohibit them. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) can say that it has no clear basis to enforce the constitutional prohibition since the Constitution does not define political dynasties and Congress has not passed the implementing legislation on the subject.

If the framers had been more serious and discerning, they could have prohibited political dynasties effectively by a forthright constitutional prohibition such as this: “No outgoing elected official shall be succeeded to the same office by any person related to him/her to the third degree of consanguinity or affinity.”

This would prohibit the spouse, brother or sister, or in-laws, children, or first cousins of the outgoing elected official to succeed him/her in the same office.

Lack of implementing legislation would not prevent the enforcement of the specific constitutional prohibition. Indeed, the prohibition would make it mandatory for Congress to pass the implementing law. Or the courts would make the decision in a litigation and direct its implementation. The Comelec would be obligated to enforce the court’s decision.

Don't we have conflict-of-interest and anti-nepotism rules and regulations in government? If so then there is already clear precedent for an anti-political dynasty law. Although again, personally I think we should let the voters decide who to vote for. Mahirap yatang mag-disqualify ng mga tao gawa lang ng pamilya nila, lalo kung sila mismo matitino naman.

11-08-2012, 11:05 AM
Graft raps vs Mrs. Binay had no COA sanction, Mendoza admits

12:38 am | Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza on Wednesday admitted that the filing of the graft complaint against former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay was not sanctioned by the Commission on Audit (COA) although it was authorized by its legal services division.

Mendoza testified for the second time as a government witness before the Sandiganbayan’s fifth division and was cross-examined by Binay’s lawyer, Sandra Marie Olaso-Coronel.

After extracting an admission from Mendoza, Coronel did not pursue the lead and did not ask why Mendoza did not secure an endorsement from the COA.

Coronel later declined questions by reporters to clarify Mendoza’s statement after the hearing.

Mendoza’s admission, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado said, proved the political motive behind the filing of the case.

“The statement elicited from Commissioner Mendoza seems to validate our long-held observation that she has been using the powers of the COA to pursue an unsanctioned, political demolition job against the Binays,” Salgado said in a press statement.

Binay, wife of the Vice President, was charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act along with city councilor Salvador Pangilinan, former city administrator Nicanor V. Santiago Jr., then city treasurer Ernesto A. Aspillaga and private defendant Bernadette Aquino.

In her first testimony, Mendoza linked the former mayor and several former city officials to alleged fraud in the public bidding for a P72.06-million supply contract awarded by the city government in 2001.

11-08-2012, 11:06 AM
Leonen, Diokno lead JBC short list for SC associate justice

By Christine O. Avendaño, Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:46 am | Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Wednesday agreed to submit to President Aquino a list of seven nominees for a seat on the 15-member Supreme Court left vacant following the elevation of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the post of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Nominated were government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen, De La Salle University law dean Jose Manuel Diokno, former Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Court of Appeals Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr., Noel Tijam and Rosemari Carandang.

The seven nominees were among the 15 candidates who were interviewed on Oct. 23 and 25 by the eight-member JBC led by Sereno, its chair.

The list was to be submitted Wednesday afternoon to Malacañang. Mr. Aquino has until Nov. 22 to appoint the new Supreme Court associate justice.

“The consensus is that it’s a good list. We are satisfied and confident that the President will be able to make a choice out of the seven,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, ex-officio member of the JBC, told reporters after an hourlong meeting that decided the final list.

According to Rep. Niel Tupas, also a JBC member, Leonen, Lotilla, Carandang and Andres Reyes got the nod of seven JBC members; Jose Reyes and Tijam, six; and Diokno, five.

The eight applicants who did not make the short list were Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Teresita Herbosa, former University of Perpetual Help System law dean Jose-Santos B. Bisquera, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Maria Cristina J. Cornejo, former Regional Trial Court Judge Adoracion P. Cruz-Avisado, former Ateneo law dean Cesar L. Villanueva and Court of Appeals Associate Justices Magdangal M. de Leon, Isaias P. Dicdican and Ramon Bato Jr.

At a news briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was asked if Leonen, a former University of the Philippines law dean and a member of the government panel that negotiated the framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had the edge over the other nominees.

Lacierda explained that as standard operating procedure in the appointments process, the President would have to meet with the nominees who would all be on equal footing.

“That negotiation for peace with the MILF is another matter. We’re now dealing with his views, for instance, a nominee’s views on the judiciary. So that’s something that the President has not discussed with Leonen. So he will give an even-steven chance to all the nominees.”

Lacierda expressed hope that Leonen would continue to oversee the peace process.

“Certainly, we would like the panel that forged the framework agreement to be there,” he said. “But then, we also recognize that nobody’s indispensable in the government. So it’s up to the President whether he has made a decision on who is going to be the next associate justice.”

Sam Miguel
11-15-2012, 08:59 AM
House leaders pressed on FOI bill

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:49 am | Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Advocates of the freedom of information (FOI) bill are calling on the House leadership to ensure that the measure is voted on in the next hearing by allowing the procedures to extend beyond the 4 p.m. deadline, if necessary.

This was after last Tuesday’s hearing of the public information committee was derailed by technical issues. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, the committee chairman, cut short the proceedings for lack of time as the House plenary session was about to begin.

Under House rules, committee hearings cannot go beyond 4 p.m. so lawmakers can attend plenary sessions, unless allowed by House leaders.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said advocates of the measure must see to it that enough lawmakers attend the next committee hearing so that they can oppose any dilatory tactics and ensure that the bill is finally voted on.

“We got blindsided in the last hearing. It’s inexcusable if it happens again in the next hearing… We must force the vote next time,” Baguilat said.

Party-list member Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna) said House leaders should make up their minds if they want the bill or not and prepare for the hearing, like getting the permission from the rules committee for an extension.

Another Bayan Muna member, Neri Colmenares, warned that if the next hearing turns out to be a farce, those in support of the bill may have to resort to drastic action.

Sam Miguel
11-15-2012, 09:00 AM
House minority bloc to support FOI bill with ‘right to reply’ provision

By Karen Boncocan


7:53 am | Thursday, November 15th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — The House minority bloc will only support a Freedom of Information Bill that has the right of reply provision.

This was according to House minority leader Danilo Suarez who said in an interview with reporters on Wednesday that although their members were divided on the FOI Bill, what they agreed on was the need for a right of reply provision.

“Right to reply must be included in the provision. Si Erin [Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III] is a very good friend…sabi ko sa kaniya nung tinanong niya ako, sa minority mixed tayo. Merong pabor merong hindi,” said Suarez.

“Ang hinihingi ko lang, be specific on the right to reply. That we should be given the right opportunity, right footage, right column on our right to reply and we will support it,” he added.

The FOI Bill remains in limbo after Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone adjourned the committee on public information without putting the consolidated version of the proposed measure to a vote.

This was despite urgings from many of the legislators present to just push through with the hearing even if it was past their schedule.

Tanada told reporters that he still hoped the FOI Bill would be brought up and tackled when the public information committee reconvenes on November 27.

He said that Evardone had placed the FOI Bill on ICU by delaying its hearings due to the lack of available conference rooms at the House.

Sam Miguel
11-15-2012, 09:00 AM
House hypocrites

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:00 pm | Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

On the proposal to enact the constitutional promise of freedom of information, the calculated incompetence of the House committee on public information has led to the outcome it wanted all along: deliberate inaction. The committee’s failure on Tuesday to even put the Freedom of Information bill to a vote, after an agonizing procedural detour, means there is very little chance that it will become law under the 15th Congress.

One FOI advocate, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, thinks there may still be time within the month for the committee to redeem itself and report out the bill to the plenary. Most other advocates, however, have looked into the eyes of the House leadership, and read there the bill’s obituary.

The statement issued by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition used the language of crime to describe Tuesday’s legislative maneuver.

“Battery, assault and murder—this was what happened to the FOI bill today at the hearing of the Committee on Public Information of the House of Representatives. The FOI bill is dead in the 15th Congress.”

Forceful, dramatic language, but entirely in the right. What happened the other day (or, rather, what did not happen) amounts to a crime against the people.

It is a crime in which the Aquino administration and the Liberal Party, which came to power in 2010, are complicit. Earlier this year, the administration proposed a substitute FOI bill, which its communication group described as “an integral element of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-2016, which the President has recently approved subject to further refinements. This plan contains reforms and initiatives that pursue greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation in governance.”

We are aware, of course, that not every administration measure becomes law, and that even priority bills can fail to pass through the legislative mill. But the FOI bill is different, for two distinctive reasons.

First, President Aquino himself campaigned for the presidency on the passage of the FOI bill, among other promises, precisely because he saw it as an integral part of the initiative against corruption. And second, the administration coalition that runs the House can function with enviable efficiency when it wants to; however, when the conduct of the committee on public information can be accurately described as a bitter comedy of procedural errors—failing to find a meeting room in the sprawling Batasan complex to host a committee hearing, for example, or using up the time in a rare committee hearing to discuss the minutiae of procedure that had already been discussed and resolved in a previous meeting—then the truth becomes obvious: The House leadership, and the administration it works closely with, do not want the FOI cause to advance.

The cause of the latest delay in the already extended legislative struggle over the FOI bill betrays the real issue at stake.

For some inexplicable reason, committee chair Rep. Ben Evardone (incredibly, a former journalist) allowed Rep. Rodolfo Antonino on Tuesday to complain interminably about the supposed failure of the Technical Working Group to consider Antonino’s right of reply bill. This was absurd on many levels. The procedural issue had already been taken up. The urgency surrounding the FOI bill could not be denied. Not least, the right of reply measure had nothing substantive in common with the FOI bill. The very concept of right of reply is philosophically antagonistic to freedom of information; it is a patently unconstitutional attempt to control the editorial content of the news media. That it managed to suck up all the remaining oxygen in Evardone’s rare, ridiculous hearing is telling.

It tells us that the real issue is not journalistic responsibility in the use of public records, or even the government transparency that FOI seeks to put in place, but political power. Or to be more precise: the power of the political class.

The right-of-reply feint is the political class’ attempt to level the playing field, as the politicians understand it, in their favor: They seek to exchange the privileges they would lose under an enacted FOI with the privileges they think they will enjoy once politicians get to dictate editorial content. Battery, assault—and murder.

Sam Miguel
11-15-2012, 09:08 AM
^^^ Get a grip. Even if something is factual, if it will ruin somebody then it must be exercised with utmost restraint. Once someone has been vilified, even if the vilification was fact-based, that's it, that guy's ruined.

A right to reply must be given. If you spent 10,000 words on the top half of the front page for a week that led to a person's ruination, and later on that person is exonerated, then you must spend 10,000 words on the top half of the front page for a week as well to make sure no one misses the exoneration, because sure as hell no one missed the vilification.

Isn't this common-sensical fair play?

Sam Miguel
11-20-2012, 08:39 AM
The third pillar

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:01 pm | Monday, November 19th, 2012

In any society, there is the state (visibly manifested by, but not equivalent to, the government) and there is business (the private enterprise sector). Both wield tremendous power, impacting directly on people’s lives and their environments, shaping their futures with what they do and how they do it. Often, both are accused of consolidating their power in an unholy alliance that corners society’s benefits for their leaders at the expense of the general public. For many, this view was reinforced by how western governments dealt with the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 (e.g., through massive bailouts of the very institutions whose misdeeds caused the crisis itself, using resources from the pockets of—who else?—citizen taxpayers, the primary victims of the crisis).

Harry Truman, later famously quoted by John F. Kennedy, once said that power resides in the people in the ideal democracy, and political leaders would wield the power of the people: “There are 14 or 15 million Americans [with] the resources to have representatives in Washington to protect their interests… The interests of the great mass of the other people—the 150 or 160 million—is [thus] the responsibility of the president of the United States….” More often than not, however, this ideal is simply not realized, and perceptions of an unholy alliance persist, especially under electoral systems where political campaigns draw funding support from entrenched business interests. And such has been the case in the Philippines, whose political structure was largely patterned after that of the United States.

I had to contend directly with this viewpoint in the early 1990s as ex-officio chair of the then newly established Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), as head of the National Economic and Development Authority. President Fidel V. Ramos, in one of his earliest official directives, created the PCSD—the first national institutional mechanism ever to include representatives from nongovernment organizations as full members alongside members of his Cabinet. In one of the PCSD’s first meetings, the suggestion came up that the business sector be represented in the council, on the argument that it is this sector that is primarily responsible for environmental degradation and unsustainability. But the idea found strong opposition from the NGO representatives in the PCSD. They argued that the government members already represented the interests of private business as well—an accusation that was not without basis in past experience, admittedly. Hence, direct representatives from the latter would be unnecessary, they said. It took years for the government members of the council to convince their NGO counterparts that they were not mouthpieces for business interests, and consensus was finally reached that business must be directly represented in PCSD as well.

It was in the 1990s when the term “civil society” came in vogue internationally, to represent what may be considered the third pillar in society. The sector had been known through various types of organizations termed as NGOs, PVOs (private volunteer organizations), POs (people’s organizations), CBOs (community-based organizations), civic organizations, cooperatives and many others. To this date, most people are not entirely clear what the term “civil society” exactly means. I find Wikipedia’s description culled from various sources useful, defining civil society as “the arena outside of the family, the state, and the market where people associate to advance common interests. [It has also been defined] as (1) the aggregate of nongovernmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens or (2) individuals and organizations in a society which are independent of the government.”

In the Philippines, modern civil society found its origins within the repressed years of the Marcos dictatorship, whose overthrow in 1986 and the consequent democratic space that was opened unleashed the energies of the sector. The administration of President Corazon Aquino provided a favorable legal environment and saw increased inflows of foreign assistance to the country, spurring the mushrooming of various types of civil society organizations (CSOs). But along with legitimate CSOs were born organizations of dubious integrity engaged in questionable practices. This spurred 10 of the largest NGO networks to form the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) in 1991 to promote a Code of Conduct and professionalism as well as to expand the reach and increase the effectiveness of CSOs.

Thus, when the PCSD came about, and subsequently President Ramos’ Social Reform Council that was later to become the National Anti-Poverty Commission, CODE-NGO was highly instrumental in helping organize civil society for representation in these important multi-stakeholder bodies. Civil society is now much better organized and more effective in the Philippines, thanks in large measure to CODE-NGO. With some 1,600 NGOs, POs and cooperatives nationwide now under its wing, CODE-NGO has remained the largest grouping of CSOs in the country.

Starting today through the next three days, CODE-NGO holds its 5th National Congress at the Ateneo de Manila University campus in Quezon City, culminating the network’s celebration of 20 years of social development work in the Philippines. The congress theme, “Breaking Barriers in Civil Society’s Constructive Engagement for Development,” asserts the value of active and principled partnership among the three pillars of society in seeking the future that we Filipinos want.

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 10:43 AM
Backhoe politics

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:12 pm | Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

The worst episode of election-related violence in our history, the deadliest single assault on the media recorded in the world, the most brutal display of impunity in memory—and yet three years after the horrific massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, the powerful family that ordered it has not only successfully delayed criminal conviction, it also remains very much a political force in the province.

Nothing prevents the Ampatuan family from contesting political office in the province they call their own, of course; that is within their right (even if the massacre’s immediate cause was the family’s attempt to prevent other candidates from exercising that same right). But should other politicians help entrench the Ampatuans in a position where they can escape full responsibility for the massacre?

The ruling Liberal Party sees itself as the party of reform. But what principle of reform politics allows the LP to field nine Ampatuans in six local races? According to the PCIJ, two clan members are running for mayor, one for vice mayor, and six for councilor—all under the LP flag. And according to Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, these Ampatuans are nothing like the leaders of the family who have been prosecuted for masterminding the massacre.

That may well be, but Mangudadatu, whose own wife and sister perished in the mass killings, is missing the point. The first step in ensuring that the shocking events of Nov. 23, 2009, will not happen again is to remove the Ampatuan family from political power—not to reward those members who failed to stop the massacre or (and this is a point often conveniently forgotten) who failed to stop other excesses committed by the family since at least 2001.

By following Mangudadatu’s lead, President Aquino’s own party has now allowed the Aquino and Ampatuan names to be linked under the damning label of political convenience. People will ask: What, really, is the difference between the President’s cousin, Bam Aquino, and, say, Sarip Kasan Ampatuan, who is running for mayor (against another Ampatuan!)? They are both running because they belong to the “right” family, and the time is opportune.

But if the LP is to be scorned, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance must be condemned. According to the same PCIJ report, UNA is fielding 34 Ampatuans for various offices in Maguindanao—including the wives of two of the principal suspects in the massacre: Zaldy, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Andal Jr., the former mayor of Datu Unsay.

UNA sees itself as the party of competence, because of Binay’s lengthy stint as mayor of Makati, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s lengthy resumé and deposed President Joseph Estrada’s lengthy, uh, acting career. In what possible universe can the Ampatuan family be considered avatars of competence?

That the ARMM is, in the words of President Aquino, a “failed experiment,” tells us all we need to know about Zaldy, the clan’s fair-haired boy. That Maguindanao was one of the worst-run provinces in the country during Andal Sr.’s long reign cannot be proof of competence. Unless, of course, UNA is interested in another kind of competence.

Without a doubt, the Ampatuans know how to manufacture election results, something ex-president Gloria Arroyo knows well. But then again UNA is fielding Juan Miguel Zubiri, one of the beneficiaries of Ampatuan competence, in its Senate slate; perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at UNA’s unprincipled pragmatism.

But the symbiotic relationship between local elites and national politicians is precisely one of the reasons why the witnesses, the victims’ families and the loyal lawyers prosecuting the case continue, not only to worry about the trial’s outcome, but also to fear for their safety. They know, because they have seen it for themselves, that political power breeds money, and money buys not only armies but time itself, and time is their enemy.

One does not need to be a lawyer to know that the Ampatuans’ best legal strategy is to wear out the prosecution: to see more witnesses fall to sudden illness or even more sudden death, to see the victims’ families consume themselves in endless worry and constant expense, to see political expediency slowly but surely trump evidence. How can the political parties not know that support for Ampatuan candidates feeds the very impunity that led to the massacre?

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 10:45 AM
Bounty hunters making search for 92 Maguindanao massacre suspects more difficult

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:59 am | Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Tipsters after a P250,000 bounty are making the hunt for 92 suspects in the Maguindanao massacre still at large much more difficult.

As a result, the Philippine National Police announced Thursday it would have to “shift its strategy” in the manhunt.

In a statement, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said the strategy would include a review of the identities and personal profiles of the suspects “and if necessary to purge the list in order to come up with a logical approach in accounting for the remaining suspects.”

Director Samuel Pagdilao noted that in several cases where people were mistakenly arrested because their names were similar to those on the list of wanted persons.

The CIDG chief directed the head of the Special Investigation Task Group Maguindanao, Senior Supt. Keith Ernald Singian, to conduct a research that would establish the identities of the real suspects.

Pagdilao admitted that the “arrest of the remaining suspects has hit a snag” because of the fictitious and similar names and aliases of the suspects.

The lack of identifying documents, birth certificates, and photos of the suspects has made it difficult for CIDG operatives to establish the identities of the suspects and implement the arrest warrants.

Senior Insp. Kimberly Gonzales, CIDG spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone the police would also have to confirm a seeming “pattern” that there were people “orchestrating” the arrests of alleged suspects, only for the authorities to find out that these people were not involved in the gruesome massacre.

The supposed tipsters are apparently only out to get the reward money of P250,000 for information leading to the arrest of each of the suspect, Gonzales said.

Pagdilao has ordered an investigation of the reports.

The CIDG chief also thanked the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghadzali Jaafar, for its assurance it would help law enforcers to locate suspects believed to be hiding in MILF areas. Nikko Dizon

Sam Miguel
11-23-2012, 11:42 AM
Three years after


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

(The Philippine Star) | Updated November 23, 2012 - 12:00am

Since the massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao in 2009, how much has changed?

Ampatuan clan patriarch Andal Sr. and his sons Andal Jr. and Zaldy are being held without bail, but Zaldy has not been arraigned. The Quezon City regional trial court is waiting for decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals on motions filed by several of the accused.

Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife, sister, other relatives and aides were among those killed in the massacre, has taken over part of the old Ampatuan fiefdom in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

But the dynasty is surviving: Andal Jr.’s wife Reshal is seeking re-election in 2013 as mayor of Datu Unsay where he used to be mayor, and Zaldy’s wife Johaira is seeking a second term as mayor of Datu Hoffer town. Both are candidates of the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay. Other Ampatuans are running under President Aquino’s Liberal Party.

Since the massacre, efforts to build political dynasties across the country have not diminished. In fact, for the 2013 elections, the efforts are reaching atrociously shameless levels, from the Senate race down to the lowest positions at stake. Don’t vote for them, the candidates say; you can’t shame the shameless.

In the ARMM and many other parts of the country, the Aquino administration has not made a significant dent so far in the poverty and lack of education that make people vote for whoever can give them regular dole-outs. The conditional cash transfer is threatening patronage politics, but not enough to affect voting patterns. Members of political dynasties know this.

Of 196 people implicated in the massacre, only 98 have been arrested and 81 arraigned, with 57 seeking bail including Andal Sr. and his sons. One of the accused, Police Officer 2 Hernanie Decipulo Jr., jumped to his death from the roof of the Quezon City jail annex at Camp Bagong Diwa.

The government failed to keep track of illegal wealth accumulation when the Ampatuans were in power. Now it is failing to keep track of the clan’s assets that the victims’ families want the state to confiscate.

According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Ampatuans own 500 hectares in Maguindanao and apparently managed to transfer ownership of eight of their properties to their lawyer, shortly before the government moved to freeze the assets.

After the massacre, the nation saw mansions and a large fleet of luxury vehicles owned by the clan in the ARMM, one of the poorest regions in the country, and in Dasmariñas Village in Makati.

But the wealth accumulation by public officials with modest salaries was hardly shocking. Elsewhere in the country, other political clans continue to enrich themselves, legally and illegally, with hardly anyone paying attention. The massacre did not end this.

* * *

Is the ARMM safer, three years after the massacre?

Witnesses, including potential ones, have been murdered. At least no one has again killed 58 people in a turkey shoot and tossed them with a backhoe, together with their cars, in a shallow grave. But the region is still awash with loose firearms, as in many other parts of the country, ready for use in the approaching elections.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is pursuing peace, although it must deal with its violent splinter group. The Ampatuans used to be the government’s SOBs; they were supposed to have been efficient in keeping the MILF in check, with Andal Jr.’s brutality in dealing with the secessionists the stuff of legend.

Supposedly because of this role of the clan, the Arroyo administration looked the other way as the Ampatuans built up their arsenal using government resources and turned police, military and militia members – the so-called force multipliers – into their private army. Up to 300 members of this army are believed to have participated in the massacre.

The force multipliers are still in place. President Aquino, apparently listening to his security officers, has said the militias are still needed in many areas where police and military presence is wanting.

The current administration also puts up with SOBs who tend to keep the peace in their respective jurisdictions. These SOBs may not be murdering troublemakers (including political rivals) and burying the corpses in bucolic sites, but they are involved in illegal activities including smuggling and gambling.

The other reason the Arroyo administration supposedly put up with the Ampatuans, although this has yet to be established in court, was that the clan always delivered the votes. Maguindanao is notorious not only for the massacre but also for vote-rigging.

Has our voting system improved since 2009? The 2010 automated vote was a great improvement, especially in the presidential race, although senators insisted on their right to conduct the longest vote canvassing in the world. That glacial pace is something even stem cell therapy can’t remedy.

With cases filed in connection with vote rigging and the massacre moving at their usual leisurely pace, the culture of impunity remains.

The circumstances that led to the nation’s worst case of election violence are still in place. This ensures that the mass killing can happen again, though perhaps in a less heinous degree.

* * *

GIVING THANKS: We’re not familiar with the story of America’s pilgrims and we prefer lechon manok to turkey, but leave it to Pinoys to start marketing American Thanksgiving as a special day for celebration in the Philippines. And the tradition just might take root, if we consider the way Halloween as well as Mother’s, Father’s and Grandparents’ Days have caught on.

11-26-2012, 02:04 PM
The good, the bad, and their lawyers

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Saturday, November 24th, 2012

In the wake of the shocking Nov. 23, 2009, massacre in Maguindanao, the Ampatuan patriarch and his sons, the principal suspects in this heinous crime, began a frantic search for sharp lawyers who would take up their case and defend them. One of those sounded out was my brother Dante, a litigation lawyer with many years of experience in criminal law. He did not know any of the Ampatuans, but he knew many of those who had been initially hired for this difficult case. A huge acceptance fee was hinted. My brother turned it down without hesitation, politely saying he already had a crowded schedule.

I was quite sure his refusal to lawyer for the Ampatuans had nothing to do with his workload at that time. I can only suppose it had everything to do with his moral intuition: The case offered nothing more than fat legal fees and the prospect of making a mark in the media championing the rights of high-profile clients. To him, there were no crucial issues of legal doctrine that were at stake. And, if there were any rights that needed the greatest protection at that moment, they would be the rights of the victims who were mostly poor journalists, not of the suspected perpetrators who could afford to pay for the best legal service available.

This is consistent with the way sociologists think of morality: not so much a set of rules defining what is right and what is wrong as a method for allocating social esteem. Accordingly, the public will recognize at once who the “good” lawyers are: They are the ones—like the tireless Harry Roque—who come to the aid of victims, usually on pro bono.

I heaved a sigh of relief when my brother told me he had turned down the Ampatuan case. But, at the same time, I wondered how I would have dissuaded him if, for any reason, he had agreed to be an Ampatuan counsel. Do we have any right to criticize lawyers who defend the constitutional rights of suspected criminal offenders? I suppose not. But the issue goes into the very heart of what the law is supposed to be and what lawyers are supposed to do.

Too often, the law seems to favor the rights of criminals rather than the rights of victims and ordinary law-abiding citizens. The situation this creates is what is called “impunity”—the inability of society to punish brazen assaults on the rights of citizens. Impunity takes many forms. Sometimes, the police are simply unable to find and arrest the offenders. Most of the time, however, the prosecution gets bogged down in countless procedural questions, motions, objections, and appeals that have to be resolved before the case can proceed to the next stage. Some of these appeals or petitions are filed before other bodies like the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. When this happens, “judicial courtesy” obliges the lower court that is hearing the case to patiently wait. In the meantime, important documents are lost, witnesses die or vanish, and complainants are intimidated, run out of money, or lose interest.

The Ampatuan massacre case is probably one of the most closely monitored cases ever to be filed in a Philippine court. The Supreme Court issues a regular update on the case. According to the high court’s latest bulletin, 264 hearings have been held since the start of the proceedings on Jan. 5, 2010. That seems frequent enough, but the number itself does not tell the full story.

In the same report, the high court notes: “Excluding oral motions, 307 motions and other matters have been filed or raised, of which 204 have been resolved. As a result of these motions, 447 comments, oppositions, rejoinders, surrejoinders and manifestations have been additionally filed. To date, the records of the case have reached 48 volumes.” Here, one gets a good glimpse of what astute lawyers can do for their high-paying clients. They can make use of all the countervailing rights to which their clients are entitled in order to further complicate an already cumbersome justice system. This, in the end, is what causes delays in the administration of justice.

There ought to be a limit to this. Something is wrong when the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims have to scrape from their meager savings to be able to stay indefinitely in Metro Manila for the hearings, even as the criminal defendants are able to sell properties to pay lawyers who will do everything to keep them from being convicted. The other day, Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported the timely “sale” or transfer of Ampatuan properties to two Ampatuan lawyers before the freeze on these assets could be effected. There is probably nothing illegal about this. But it certainly makes one wonder if criminal lawyers are just like the proverbial “bad men” they serve—responsive to incentives but generally without conscience.

The metaphor of the “bad man” comes from the great American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. In the controversial essay titled “The path of the law,” Holmes argued that “if you want to know the law and nothing else, you must look at it as a bad man, who cares only for the material consequences which such knowledge enables him to predict, not as a good one, who finds his reasons for conduct … in the vaguer sanctions of conscience.” The bad man who is not bound by ethics or morality, Holmes said, may nonetheless care about the law as much as the good man if only to avoid being fined or jailed.

The strength of the law ultimately does not lie in its moral backup, but in the will to enforce it. But the force of morality comes from the sentiments of people we care about.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 10:41 AM
Super body formed to probe extrajudicial killings

By Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:50 am | Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

President Benigno Aquino has created a super body that will investigate old and new cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations, with “greater priority” to be given to those committed under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday released to reporters Administrative Order No. 35 creating this body, which she said the President signed on Nov. 22, the eve of the third anniversary of the infamous massacre of 58 people allegedly by members of the Ampatuan clan and their followers in Maguindanao in 2009.

Under the AO, the President created a nine-member “Inter-agency committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.”

No room for political violence

“The present administration declares as a matter of paramount policy that there is no room for

all these forms of political violence and abuses of power by agents or elements of the state or nonstate forces,” the six-page order reads, noting that the committee aims to resolve unresolved cases.

Headed by the secretary of justice, the members of the committee include the chairman of

the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the secretaries of the interior and local government and national defense, the presidential adviser on the peace process, the presidential adviser for political affairs, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the director general of the Philippine National Police and the director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

Serving as observers and resource persons to the committee are the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman.

The committee is tasked to conduct an inventory of unsolved cases as well as those under investigation, under preliminary investigation and under trial in its first 30 days.

After the inventory, the committee will assign special teams to investigate the cases “for the possible identification of the perpetrators.” The order says priority will be given to “high profile” cases that were perpetrated under the Arroyo administration.

A special oversight team will monitor developments in cases under investigation, preliminary investigation and under trial.

A special team of investigators and prosecutors will also be created to look into “new cases.”

Committee updates

The committee is expected to submit a report to the President “after six months from its creation and every six months thereafter.”

The AO supersedes AO 211, dated Nov. 26, 2007, which created the Task Force on Political

Violence tasked to undertake the prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of political violence.

Former President Arroyo had armed the task force with the powers and funding to stem the tide of killings of leftist activists and all other cases related to “political violence.”

The task force initially handled the high-profile murders of the following: Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar on Nov. 13, 2007; Vice Mayor Zaldy Raga of Lumban, Laguna, on Oct. 4, 2007; former Mayor Rogelio Illustrisimo of Bantayan Island on May 2, 2007; Kalinga Vice Gov. Rommel Diasen on April 7, 2007; and Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin on Dec. 16, 2006.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 04:04 PM
Finding the Marcos loot

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:31 pm | Monday, November 26th, 2012

Twenty-six years after Edsa I, the fabled treasure hoard of the late Ferdinand Marcos continues to dazzle and intrigue. During his 20 years in power, the strongman and his wife Imelda, as well as a number of their cronies, were believed to have moved billions of dollars of public funds to bank accounts and investments in Switzerland, the United States and other countries. So much wealth was taken from the country that no precise amount of the loot has been given to this day. And very little has been recovered so far.

Last week, there was a tiny bit of good news concerning the recovery effort: Vilma Bautista, a personal secretary of Imelda Marcos, was indicted in a New York City court for “conspiring to possess and sell valuable works of art”—items that the former first lady had acquired while her husband was in power. US authorities referred in particular to a painting of water lilies by Monet sold to a London dealer in September 2010 for $32 million. It was one of the priceless masterpieces that disappeared in the mid-1980s, the whereabouts of many of which remains unknown. “This indictment sheds light on what happened to major works of art missing for more than 25 years,” said New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Favorable reports on the program to recover the Marcos hoard come few and far between. In June this year, the Supreme Court finally affirmed the government’s sovereign claim over the assets belonging to Arelma S.A. worth an estimated $40 million. Andres Bautista, the chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, described the high court’s unanimous decision, which affirmed the Sandiganbayan’s 2009 decision forfeiting the Arelma assets in favor of the government, as a long-awaited resolution necessary in finally recovering part of the Marcos loot. Arelma is a Panamanian entity created by then President Marcos to open a deposit account with Merrill Lynch in New York. In 2000, Switzerland turned over two Arelma stock certificates (representing its entire assets) to the Philippine government. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court had ruled that, like the other secret accounts and securities hidden in Swiss banks and turned over to the Philippine government in 1998, “there was little doubt about its criminal provenance.” But these assets remain the subject of a case pending before the New York Court of Appeals and involving Arelma, a group of victims of Marcos human rights violations, and Philippine National Bank, where the Arelma certificates are held in escrow.

Locally, government efforts to recover the Marcos loot also remain wanting. Early this year, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the P50-billion ill-gotten-wealth case against the Marcos and Ver families, former trade minister Roberto Ongpin, and the participants in the so-called Binondo central bank, which served as an underground dollar market in the 1980s. In its Jan. 20 decision dismissing the case, the Sandiganbayan ruled that government lawyers had failed to establish that the respondents conspired to steal and appropriate government resources for themselves.

Several cases against Imelda Marcos have likewise been junked by various courts. On March 10, 2008, Judge Silvino Pampilo of the Manila Regional Trial Court acquitted her of 32 counts of “dollar salting.” Many of the more than 900 civil and criminal cases against the Marcoses filed here and in the United States have similarly been dismissed.

Earlier, the PCGG’s Bautista noted that “the Philippines had the good fortune of recovering Marcos diaries and documents left behind in Malacañang when the Marcos family fled Manila.” He added: “These documents revealed the existence of secret bank deposits in Switzerland and other financial centers. In addition, the Philippine government recovered Marcos documents confiscated by the US Customs in Hawaii when Mr. Marcos arrived in Honolulu. These documents included reports of business transactions received by Mr. Marcos from his close associates.”

That was more than two decades ago. More than ever, the people need an accounting of what were actually stolen and what have actually been recovered since 1986. The PCGG’s Bautista, reacting to the Supreme Court’s favorable decision on the Arelma case, said the decision “underscores the message—as relevant today as it was 26 years ago at Edsa—that ‘crime does not pay’ and that eventually the long arm of the law will catch up with those who betray the people.” It’s time the people saw more proof of this.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2012, 04:05 PM
Brand of politics

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:30 pm | Monday, November 26th, 2012

It’s no easy matter, but I don’t know that we really have much choice in it. The Ampatuans have every right to run in the elections.

The objections to it are of course formidable. Where the Ampatuans are running in particular under the administration party, which is the Liberal Party—there are nine of them, out of 72—the public perception could be, and would be, that government is not stamping out the culture of impunity, it is helping perpetuate it. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) captured the widespread dismay in this way: “Even as the fear of reprisal continues to haunt witnesses and plaintiffs in the case, the government of Mr. Aquino and the other major political parties in the country have embraced the Ampatuan clan.”

The problem however is this: At the very least, there is this not very small matter of presumption of innocence. Zaldy Ampatuan and Andal Ampatuan have not been convicted yet. Arguably that is so for reasons that have little to do with lack of evidence. This case is not a matter of wit, or determination, it is a matter of will, or implementation. It is the very essence, embodiment and substantiation of the culture of impunity in that it was done with little effort to hide its authorship. Its authorship was plain for everyone to see, the intent of the deed being to put the fear of God or the devil on the Ampatuans’ enemies. I say it again: The point of presumption of innocence is to be fair, not to be blind. It is to be just, not to be idiotic.

But even if their guilt is patent, why should that extend to the rest of their clan? Why should the whole clan be judged on the basis of the crime of some of its members, even if those are its heads, even if those are its patriarch and son? Of course the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and often enough ought to, the stigma deservedly attaching to the family name for ages to come. But that may be enforced only culturally, not legally.

If we extend the crime of one person to his clan, the Roxases would not be there, the Aquinos would not be there, the Laurels would not be there. As well indeed as the Aguinaldos, the Ramoses, the Madrigals, the Rectos, the Vargases, and the Yulos. The crime of their forebears, though a political one rather than a criminal one, was collaborating with the enemy during the Japanese occupation. An occupation that led to the massacre of Filipinos, done viciously, done atrociously.

Unless the argument is that the entire Ampatuan clan participated in the Maguindanao massacre, actively or tacitly, unless the argument is that the entire clan approved of the massacre, publicly or privately, how can you condemn it as a whole and impose all sorts of bans on its members? Two wrongs do not make a right.

Of course despite the LP’s and Una’s claims that they have recruited only the more respectable Ampatuans—the specific ones they took in, said Edwin Lacierda though he did not name them, did not share the “brand of politics” of Zaldy and Andal—there will always be the suspicion, or presumption, that they were recruited not for their respectability but for their “winnability.” The Ampatuans remain politically influential however that influence, with the continuing non-conviction of Andal and Zaldy, comes more from coercion than persuasion, from a capacity to harm than an ability to charm. The suspicion, or presumption, is not unjustified, given in particular the kind of political “pragmatism”—or so they call it, others would call it opportunism—Una and the LP have shown these past months.

In the end, there’s no better way to slice through this apparent Gordian knot than to speed up the trial of the Ampatuans. This is a case where delay constitutes a crime in and of itself. It is not merely a monumental injustice to those whose kin perished in one of the most savage and gruesome crimes anywhere in the world, it is a continuing crime. The more it drags, the more open the invitation to murder and mayhem becomes. We’ve already seen that in the murders of some of the witnesses. We’ve already seen that in the terror that has been sown in the hearts of the aggrieved themselves, who are torn between anger and fearfulness, between seeking retribution for the loss they have suffered and accepting settlement for fear of suffering more.

More delay is intolerable, more delay is unacceptable. That three years have passed without the case being nowhere near getting closure, with the victims being nowhere near getting restitution, is a disgrace to all of us. Government should bring its moral and legal authority to bear on it, we should bring our fury and reprehension to bear on it. We need to see the trial take place before the elections, we need to see the verdict made before the elections. The impeachment of Renato Corona took less time, the verdict on Corona took less time.

As the Corona trial itself showed, that is the only way to curb impunity. You cut off the head, the body dies. You stop the shenanigans of the chief justice, you stop the shenanigans of the courts.

If Zaldy and Andal are guilty, then punish them. If Zaldy and Andal are guilty, then send them to a place where the sun doesn’t shine, and keep them there forever. A place where they can do no more harm, a place where they can no longer induce others to do more harm, a place where they cannot embolden others to do more harm. You cut off Zaldy and Andal—if they are guilty—then their tribe, or their clan, or their band of cutthroats will stop cutting throats. You cut off Zaldy and Andal—if they are guilty—and even if their relatives, or followers, or admirers run for office, they have to abide by the rules. They have to turn a new leaf.

They have to practice a new “brand of politics.”

Sam Miguel
12-10-2012, 08:48 AM
CHR project files stories of martial law resistance

By Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:34 am | Monday, December 10th, 2012

No monument has been built in his honor and not even a footnote mentions him in most Philippine books on martial law.

Yet, the invaluable contribution of Jorge Lentejas Cabardo, a former student activist and political prisoner, to the campaign to win the country’s freedom from the deadly grip of martial law cannot be denied.

Finally, 24 years after he died on May 17, 1988, Filipinos will know more about what he and other freedom fighters sacrificed for their country with the launch of the Martial Law Files Project of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The launching is part of Monday’s celebration of International Human Rights Day.

The project involves uploading to a website the many “stories of resistance” lived by those who fought against repression, said project manager Myrna Jimenez.

Cabardo, a native of Catbalogan, Samar, and born on Feb. 1, 1950, was one of the many young men and women who did their part in resisting the Marcos regime.

He got involved in the struggle during his student days at the University of the Philippines, where he took up engineering and joined Kabataang Makabayan (KM), according to a profile written by his wife and fellow student activist, Charo Nabong.

Described as eloquent and articulate, Cabardo was tapped to speak at many rallies in 1969 against such issues as the Vietnam war, US imperialism and the increasingly oppressive Marcos administration.

When he transferred to the Cebu Institute of Technology (CIT) in Cebu City in 1970, because UP was taking a long time validating his credits from Feati University and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), he carried on and led student demonstrations against the growing militarization. (He was in the same PMA class as Senators Gregorio Honasan and Panfilo Lacson.)

Cabardo was expelled by CIT, prompting him to work full-time for KM. In 1971, he was elected to the KM national council during the group’s third congress, organized by KM and other groups in the Visayas and Mindanao.

His underground work did not go unnoticed for long. Cabardo, who was 22 at the time, with a wife and daughter, Kalayaan, was among the 51 youth activists who were arrested in simultaneous raids in Metro Manila on Sept. 18, 1972.

Fortunately, Cabardo and two of his women colleagues were able to post bail the day before martial law was declared on Sept. 21.

First escape

Two months later, he was arrested in Mandaue City on Nov. 9, 1972, and brought to Camp Osmeña. While being processed for fingerprinting, he requested to go to the bathroom. Left alone, he climbed out a window and escaped.

Cabardo went back to organizing students and professionals. Partly through his efforts, the antidictatorship movement gained strength in Samar, Leyte, Negros provinces, Cebu and Bohol.

The movement was able to publish a bimonthly newspaper called Peoples’ Resistance that became the only source of news in Cebu as media outlets were shut down by the regime, according to Charo.

Cabardo was again arrested on Oct. 4, 1973, and so was his wife. They were brought separately to the Military Security Detachment at Camp Lapu-Lapu.

After two weeks of torture, Cabardo fell ill and was confined at a hospital, from which he again escaped.

Fort Bonifacio

But he surrendered just a week later because he could not bear to leave his wife in detention. The Cabardos were moved from Cebu to Manila and brought to the Military Security Unit (MSU) at Fort Bonifacio.

The detention center housed high-profile political prisoners such as Senators Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose W. Diokno; Liberal Party secretary general Terry Adevoso and Lopez Group heir Eugenio Lopez Jr. and Serge Osmeña III, son of Sen. Sergio Osmeña.

Jorge and Charo were separated and placed in solitary confinement. Two months after their families’ frantic search, the Philippine Army admitted that it had the couple in custody.

Cabardo would recall those days of solitary confinement that lasted for years as “tests of sometimes unbearable storms of mental agony.” The confinement helped him cope with the days that passed at a glacial pace and allowed him to plan yet another escape, according to Charo.

Escape from Fort Bonifacio

That escape came one rainy and stormy night in June 1974, according to Charo. He crawled out of the window of his cell, the bars of which he had slowly pried open over many days, crawled under the barbed wires, waded through the rice fields of Pateros and got out of Fort Bonifacio.

He surrendered yet again to the military because of his wife. Charo, pregnant with their third child when they were thrown in jail, had given birth in July 1974 at a military hospital.

Cabardo had thought that the military would be humane enough to free his wife and child. He was wrong. Instead, mother and son, Michael, were locked up in a windowless room.

Cabardo surrendered to stay with them in solitary confinement until March 1977 when, finally, Charo and 3-year-old Michael were released after three years and five months in jail, practically the entire time in solitary confinement. Cabardo was released the year after.

But before he was released, Charo said her husband helped his fellow detainees Geny Lopez and Serge Osmeña plan their elaborate escape from the maximum-security prison using the same route he took in 1974.


Geny and Serge escaped in 1977 and Cabardo’s role was brought to life in the big screen in the 1995 movie “Eskapo.” Joel Torre portrayed him in the movie, detailing the escape of Geny and Serge from Fort Bonifacio.

After his release, Cabardo went back to school and finished his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. And only then were he and his wife able to get the entire family together under one roof.

According to his eldest son, Nicolas, the adjustment to family life was not easy. “I was such a brat because my grandparents doted on me. And then suddenly with Tatay, I could no longer get away with a lot of things. We had to get to know each other all over again,” Nicolas said.

Cabardo passed away 10 years after his release from prison, succumbing to liver cancer. He died on the day the family was busy preparing for the second birthday of the sixth and youngest child, Leah. Jorge, who was 38 at the time, died in Nicolas’ arms.

The younger Cabardo said that even though the family did not have a lot of time together, his father’s impact on their lives had been considerable.

“One of the last things he told me was ‘Ihuli mo ang porma (Handle form last),’ which for him meant that I should put more value on substance, not the fluff. That has served me well in my profession,” said Nicolas, a one-time keyboard player of Freestyle and now with groups such as Sinosikat?, Hard Hat Area and Wilderness.

As for Charo, who has continued to work in civil society and is now doing historical research and writing books on local history, environment and culture, she said that the sacrifice that they made had been worth it.

“When we left our studies, families and comfortable lives, we firmly believed it was for the country, saving our nation from political and military dictatorship to reclaim our freedom,” Charo said, “We were ready to offer our young lives for the cause.”

In his unfinished autobiography written just before he died, Jorge said, “I would live it [life] again as I have lived my previous life until the end of my retracing.”

Sam Miguel
12-11-2012, 10:52 AM
Philippines remains one of most corrupt countries—survey

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines is still perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, getting a score of 34 on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being very clean, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International.

But the Philippines has at least outranked its neighbors Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, which all fared better than the country in the previous CPI, said TI, a civil society organization that promotes transparency and accountability.

Indonesia scored 32, Vietnam 31 and Bangladesh 26.

The top five countries perceived to be very clean were Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden and Singapore, while the five viewed as very corrupt were Somalia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan and Myanmar.

TI-Philippines President Rosalinda Tirona said the 2012 CPI, which covered data gathered between December 2010 and September 2012, showed that the Philippines has to take more action to improve how things are done in the country.

One of these actions is the “immediate” passage of the freedom of information bill (FOI), Tirona said.

“This means we still have to do a lot more. TI-Philippines is here to show the Filipino people we can do many more things to fight corruption,” Tirona said in a briefing Wednesday.

“We must go beyond this ranking and think of what we can do,” she added.

Ranking 105th in the latest CPI, the Philippines belonged to two-thirds of the 176 countries with scores below 50, according to TI.

But TI-Philippines said the results of the 2012 CPI could not be compared with the results of the previous CPI because the latest index used a new methodology that changed the scoring system.

In the previous CPI, countries were scored 1 to 10, but in the latest survey, the scores ranged from 1 to 100. This has an effect on the ranking, TI-Philippines noted.

The new methodology also used a new formula that would allow for a more accurate comparison of the changes in the countries’ scores from year to year, but this would only begin with the 2012 CPI.

“Therefore, 2012 CPI cannot be compared with all the previous CPI including that of 2011,” TI-Philippines said.

In 2011, the Philippines was No. 129 on the list, which ranked 178 countries. In 2010, it was No. 134.

TI-Philippines founder Dolores Español said there were certain actions of the Aquino administration that helped change public perception in the country.

These were the impeachment trial, the declaration of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, the transparent process of replacing dismissed Chief Justice Renato Corona, the first year of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and the general openness of the administration in its quest for a transparent government, Español said.

“However, there is still much to be done for it not to remain purely in the change of perception but in societal transformation that is truly tangible,” she said in a statement.

In pushing for the FOI passage, TI-Philippines said the measure had been described in the Philippine Development Plan as the “cornerstone of transparent and accountable governance.”

The FOI has faced delays in Congress, however. In the House of Representatives, it has yet to be subjected to plenary debates because it still has to go through another round of approval at the committee level. But the House has only six remaining session days this year.

TI-Philippines said other actions that could be done include the speedy resolution of corruption cases, especially those involving the big fish; the enactment of a whistle-blower protection law and a law on campaign finance reform to regulate campaign contributions; and the adoption of a comprehensive anti-corruption program.

TI chairperson Huguette Labelle said in a statement that based on the 2012 CPI, corruption still continues to ravage many societies.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent, and making public bodies more accountable to people,” Labelle said.

TI Managing Director Cobus de Swardt said in the same statement that the leading economies must lead by example and that they should see to it that their institutions are fully transparent and their leaders held accountable, De Swardt said.

Sam Miguel
12-11-2012, 10:53 AM
Who put the bolo in Bonifacio’s hand?

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:57 pm | Monday, December 3rd, 2012

RIZAL CAREFULLY chose the last image his countrymen would see of him; he went to his execution dressed like a European, complete with derby hat—as if to say that he was a citizen of that free republic that knew no boundaries, and thus an equal of the Spaniards who had ordered his death. Bonifacio was not as lucky.

Nobody knows how Bonifacio looked or what he wore when he was killed by members of the revolutionary army he had founded, mere months after launching the revolution. We “see” him today mainly as the sculptor Ramon Martinez immortalized him: his 1911 Balintawak monument portrays a stylized Bonifacio in white camisa and rolled-up red pants, with a bolo in his raised right hand and the Katipunan flag in his left.

If Bonifacio had had a choice, what image would he have chosen?

The National Artist Virgilio Almario suggests what the Supremo would have done without. At Bonifacio’s 149th birthday rites last week, he said that it was “time not just to honor Bonifacio but to build him a new monument in our shrine of valor”—by which he meant recovering an image of Bonifacio that was closer to the truth, or at least shorn of embellishment. Almario zeroed in on the bolo wielding: “laging may hawak na tabak, hindi po siya humawak ng tabak. Meron siyang special na revolver na siyang dala-dala sa kanyang pakikipaglaban.” (Bonifacio is always [thought of as] holding a bolo, [but] he did not hold a bolo. He had a special revolver which he carried in battle.)

We get a glimpse or two of that revolver in the memoirs of a leading revolutionary general, Santiago Alvarez. Angered by the failure of a certain Buenaventura Domingo to keep a Spanish parish priest from escaping, for example, Bonifacio explodes. “‘Worthless brother! Traitorous son of the people!’—and suddenly aimed the revolver he was carrying at him. A good thing the local head Laureano Gonzales stopped him; he mediated and asked forgiveness for the sins of the Katipunero Buenaventura.”

But how did the bolo end up in Bonifacio’s hand?

It’s possible the trail begins at the turn of the 20th century with Isabelo de los Reyes, whose first-ever account of the revolution (based in large part on the recollections of the Katipuneros he met in prison) fatefully mischaracterized the revolutionary organization as wholly plebeian. (How could it have been, when Cavite gentry like Aguinaldo travelled to Tondo to be initiated into the Katipunan under Bonifacio’s eye?)

By the time Martinez worked on his monument, the conventional wisdom, of Bonifacio as a peasant leader, had in all probability gelled; I think of the simplified sculpture as a snapshot of the attitudes of the time.

In the 1920s, the labor movement that had come to embrace the working-class Bonifacio as its own finally succeeded in placing him side by side with Rizal in the national pantheon of heroes; the labor leader Hermenegildo Cruz, for instance, wrote a poignant primer on Bonifacio, “Kartilyang Makabayan,” which nicely captures this transition.

And in 1931, the poet Jose Corazon de Jesus honored Bonifacio with a 24-line ode that cements the revolutionary organizer’s reputation as “the father of arms”—but arms of a specific kind.

The poem, written less than a year before the poet died, and eventually published in Jose P. Santos’ “Si Andres Bonifacio at ang Himagsikan,” apostrophizes a bolo-wielding Supremo.

Kung kaya ba’t kung di namin matanaw ang kamay ng Dios,/ ang kamay mong tanga’y tabak, ang sa amin ay panubos

That is why when we cannot see the hand of God,/your hand holding its bolo is our redeemer

The last eight lines are addressed to the people:

Itaas mo ang kamay mo sa lawak nang kalangitan,/

at baka ang kanyang tabak, ilaglag sa iyong kamay

Raise your hand at the vastness of the heavens/

and perhaps his bolo will fall into your hand

The making of the bolo wielder was complete.

* * *

The excellent essay “Imprinting Andres Bonifacio: The Iconization from Portrait to Peso,” available on malacanang.gov.ph (and likely written by Manolo Quezon), suggests the beginning of an alternative image: the wonderful sculpture in Divisoria in Manila, which shows a primed, pistol-packing Supremo poring over a parchment: “here is the Bonifacio who wrote impassioned manifestos that rallied the masses.” Indeed.

* * *

Bonifacio’s short temper has been the subject of much discussion. Here is a recollection, from Santos’ “Si Apolinario Mabini Laban Kay General Antonio Luna,” which shows Bonifacio as a man of wise equanimity. The anecdote comes from the foreword written in October 1928, by his widow, Gregoria de Jesus; unfortunately, it is at the expense of Mabini, pre-paralysis.

“Naaalaala ko pa ng minsang dumalaw kami sa kaniya na ako, si Andres Bonifacio at Emilio Jacinto ang magkakasama at iba pa. Ng kami ay pauwi na ay narinig kong sinabi ni Emilio Jacinto kay Andres Bonifacio ang ganito: ‘Katwa palang tao iyang si Mabini pati si Rizal ay sinisiraan na di dapat sabihin sa harapan’ na sinagot ni Andres na ‘Siyanga, ngunit ang ibig sabihin ni Mabini ay ipakilala na higit siya kay Rizal’, kaya silang dalawa ay nagtawanan.”

My translation: I still remember that, once, we visited him; I, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto were together, and there were others. When we were on our way home, I heard Emilio Jacinto say to Andres Bonifacio the following: “That Mabini is an amusing man, he badmouthed even Rizal with things best not said in public,” to which Andres answered with: “That’s right, but what Mabini really means is to be recognized that he is better than Rizal,” then the two started laughing.

A laughing Bonifacio. Now that’s an image.

Sam Miguel
12-13-2012, 08:45 AM
My God, your god

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:34 pm | Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

THE DIFFERENCE in capitalization was intentional to reflect a different kind of boxing match that’s been running not just after Manny Pacquiao’s last bout but for several decades now, with its intensity picking up recently.

Poor Pacquiao is now being berated by Mommy Dionisia, his mother, and people in the streets, for having abandoned Catholicism in favor of “Protestantism” (quotation marks to be explained in a while), and that his losing to Juan Manuel Marquez was the catastrophic result.

The basis for calling Pacquiao Protestant was his not making a sign of the cross, and not flashing a rosary, as he did in previous boxing matches. Observers also use as “evidence” of his becoming Protestant his frequent citations of biblical passages, in speeches as well as in his congressional website (mannypacquiao.com), including one where he paraphrases Corinthians about being a new man.

Only Pacquiao can answer what his preferred religious affiliation is, but I’m more interested in how these public discussions reflect Filipino religious culture, which boils down to pitting my (true) God versus your (false) god, the “true” God.

In the case of Pacquiao, it has been my (Catholic) God versus your (Protestant) god, but we’ve seen many other variations, Catholics versus Philippine Independent Church (PIC), Catholics versus Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), INC versus Eli Soriano’s Ang Dating Daan. Language says it all, as when Catholics call the PIC Aglipayan, and the INC the Manalo church, as Christians called Muslims “Mohammedanism.” The shift to the founders of these religions is intentional, suggesting an inferior status to the one supreme, holy, Catholic Church.

But more than names and name-calling, it is each group’s claim to a monopoly on truth, usually around the interpretation of the Bible. Quoting and interpreting the Bible seem to be more a hallmark of non-Catholics, which is why Pacquiao becomes a “suspect” Protestant.

Natural, unnatural

Beyond scriptural interpretations though, religions like to claim they are upholding some kind of natural order or natural law, and that violation of that order brings about disaster. We’ve seen that argument repeated several times by Catholic bishops and lay leaders, who interpreted Tropical Storm “Ondoy” and the recent Typhoon “Pablo,” as well as the powerful habagat (western monsoon) a few months ago, as divine punishment for the country’s considering a reproductive health (RH) bill. RH is interpreted as unnatural, therefore bringing natural disasters.

Now that Pacquiao is under fire for violating some kind of natural order (true God versus false god), I am glad to hear Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Francis Luna, executive director of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications and Mass Media, declaring, “Our God is not a vengeful God but a God of love.” I hope the Catholic leaders can go a step further and counter the proposition of a wrathful God killing dirt-poor villagers in Compostela Village for reproductive health discussions in Manila.

The image of a wrathful God does exist in the Old Testament, from the punishment of Egyptians for enslaving Israelites, to Sodom and Gomorrha, and Pacquiao himself has had his share too of selective scriptural quoting to support his views. He has repeatedly attacked the RH bill and family planning, quoting the Bible as well as coming up with homespun wisdom to the effect that if his parents had practiced family planning, there would be no Pacman.

He also used the Bible in an interview last May with the American newspaper National Conservative Examiner to express his disagreement with same-sex marriage and with homosexuality. He was even quoted as citing a passage in Leviticus which prescribes death for same-sex relations. He later denied using that passage but still drew fire not just from lesbian and gay groups but other Filipinos who saw his statements as gross prejudice and intolerance.

After his anti-RH statements last year, including a speech in Congress, Pacquiao was for some time put up as a kind of poster boy by the conservative Catholic bishops, but he seems to have lost favor since then, perhaps because of this alleged conversion to Protestantism. Yet, whatever that shift might be called, it has, Pacquiao claims, made him a new man, claiming in an interview with ABS-CBN last January that he had given up his vices, including womanizing, drinking and gambling.

In claiming that he lost this latest boxing match because of divine intervention, people are suggesting a new life has no meaning because his new God is, well, a false god, and the true God is punishing him for his religious turncoatism.

There’s more. Pacquiao turned a new leaf shortly after a bout with Juan Manuel Marquez in 2011, when he dreamed he was in a forest and a bright light came out with a voice asking, “Son, why are you going away from me?” (See digitaljournal.com/article/317950 for a full account.) Are we saying then this true God was rewarding him all these years through victories, and then asking him to turn his back on sin, and then, after Pacquiao follows this divine voice, delivering him to defeat in the hands of Marquez?


The emphasis on the sign of the cross and the rosary as necessary for boxing victory is intriguing too, supposedly markers of one’s Catholicism, yet falling back on pagan animism, where objects are attributed with magical powers, backed by God.

But then again, we see so much of that animism even among the guardians of the Catholic faith, as was shown in that National Geographic exposé of an illegal ivory trade. That issue, which used the ivory trade as a cover story, should still be in the newsstands, together with photographs of elephants slaughtered for their tusks to make religious images. Filipino priests, including a monsignor, were interviewed, revealing a scandalous fetish for ivory. Note that here, there is no inter-faith competition; Protestants are scandalized by what is interpreted as idolatry in the use of Catholic images. Instead, the competition is among Catholics themselves: My ivory image is more powerful than your wooden image.

Let’s face it, local Catholicism has reduced religious objects into anting-anting or amulets. Yet, note that Pacquiao did have his rosary and sign of the cross when he fought Tim Bradley in June this year. . . and lost. (See a blog lifeandfever.com by Dr. Stef dela Cruz for an interesting exchange of views at that time.)

Of course, one could argue the Bradley fight was rigged. Or that maybe Pacquiao had already become a Protestant and so still drew gaba or divine retribution. Or maybe like Job in the Old Testament, he is being tested for his faith.

There will always be some kind of rationalization of the irrational since there’s no way of asking God or the gods if he (or she) takes sides, in times of wrath bringing floods and landslides and rains, or raining blows on boxers.

Meanwhile, the bookmakers are hoping for more Pacquiao fights. There were Filipinos who did bet on Marquez and, I hear, got P250 for every P100 they bet. Did these people read God’s mind, or were they just smart in recognizing that maybe it’s time for Pacquiao to retire and spend more productive and healthy years with his family and loved ones.

12-20-2012, 11:25 AM
We’ve lost our freedom

By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:58 pm | Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Christmas is upon us. A time, perhaps, to reflect on the past. Not the 2000 years past, although that’s an inevitability as we approach Christmas, but “in our lifetime” past.

I have long been disturbed by how law has been corrupted over time to make normal day-to-day living ever more difficult, how government bureaucracies have made it even worse, and, sadly, how little we are outraged by the ever-increasing restrictions on our freedom to act as intelligent (well, semi-intelligent in some cases, it must be admitted) individuals.

The freedom we enjoyed in the ’60s and the responsibility for our own actions have been eroded to what I consider an alarming degree. It’s time we, the people, started to object. Give us back the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to decide how we want to live our lives.

Someone sent me this lovely collection of anecdotes of how it used to be and, ever so sadly, how it is today in this “modern” world (modern in technology, certainly, but backward in sociology).

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1960—Crowd gathers. Johnny wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best mates for life.

2010—Police called, arrest Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Mark started it. Both children go to anger management programs for three months. School board holds meeting to implement bullying prevention programs

Scenario: Robbie won’t keep still in class, disrupts other students.

1960—Robbie sent to office and given six of the best by the headmaster. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.

2010—Robbie given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. Robbie’s parents get fortnightly disability payments and school gets extra funding from state because Robbie has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1960—Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2010—Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. Billy’s sister tells government psychologist that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin in school.

1960—Mark gets glass of water from teacher to take aspirin with.

2010—Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from Guy Fawkes, puts them in a model airfix paint bottle, blows up an ant nest.

1960—Ants die.

2010—Police, Armed Forces, and antiterrorism squad called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, MI5 investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated. Johnny’s dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during break and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

1960—In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2010—Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy.

Is this really what we want our world to be? We’ve gone backward in the last 50 years.

Even farther back, an extremely prescient forecaster, Buddha, forecast 2,800 years ago that in 5,000 years all mankind will look the same. That’s certainly what we need now. Ethnic and racial wars have no place in this world. Globalization, and the intermarriage it is creating, is moving us to one world, one race. It’s hard to fight your brother. But that’s still 2,200 years away, we’re not likely to be around to see if he’ll be right. But what may still divide us is the religious wars. Why can’t religions accept the existence of others in a tolerant fashion?

There’s an annual competition for the silliest way to kill yourself, unintentionally. It’s called the Darwin Awards.

One of the award contenders was a man who shot himself in the head when he answered the phone from his bed in the dark, picked up a pistol instead, and pulled the trigger as he put it to his ear. Or the man on death row in South Carolina due for the electric chair who electrocuted himself while sitting on a metal jail toilet trying to repair a radio. Or the angry man who grabbed a shotgun and smashed it into his girlfriend’s car windshield. The gun went off and shot him through the gut.

The winner was an exception (he didn’t die) because his case was so stupid it just had to be considered. A driver had a car headlight fuse blow while driving. Having no spare fuse, he used a .22-caliber bullet because it fitted the socket. It heated up with the current, exploded, and the bullet shot his testicles off.

The list goes on. Man’s ability to be stupid should never be underestimated. But don’t pass a law to stop his stupidity, let him be.

My best wishes to those lawmakers who voted to save lives this Christmas by passing the reproductive health and sin tax reform bills. They deserve our praise.

Our mixed-marriage family wishes you all a great Christmas! And we extend our sympathies to the ever so many families in Mindanao who lost loved ones at what should be a joyous time. We must all send a little something to them to ease their suffering at least a little. Let’s all have some joy at Christmas.

Don’t be stupid this Christmas, just have a great one.

12-21-2012, 09:06 AM
No Christmas furlough for Arroyo, 3 coaccused

By Cynthia D. Balana

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:11 am | Thursday, December 20th, 2012

The Sandiganbayan on Wednesday denied separate petitions of detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three others accused of plundering charity sweepstakes funds for a Christmas furlough.

A nine-page resolution of the antigraft court’s First Division said there was lack of merit in the motions of Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Chairman Sergio Valencia, former PCSO board member Manuel Morato and former PCSO Budget Officer Benigno Aguas to leave their hospital detention quarters and spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with their families.

Arroyo, currently on hospital arrest at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, had sought the court’s approval to celebrate the yuletide holidays in Lubao, Pampanga, from Dec. 21 to Jan. 7 next year.

The court rejected her petition, saying it would be a display of partiality if her request was granted. To do so would also negate the very reason why the court allowed her to stay at VMMC, “for if she could already travel to Lubao, Pampanga, and stay in her house there for three weeks, there is no reason for her to be confined in a hospital,” it added.

The court was also not convinced that there would be no therapists to attend to her at the military hospital.

The court cited the same reasons for rejecting the motions of Valencia, Aguas and Morato.

The court did not agree with Morato’s contention that his detention amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Morato’s detention is but a consequence of being charged with a nonbailable offense, it said.

“Besides, the arrest and temporary detention of accused persons, as well as their detention by reason of illness requiring their confinement in a hospital, is not considered a penalty,” the court said.

Arroyo and her coaccused at the PCSO are charged with plundering millions of pesos from the state charity fund during her term from 2001 to 2010.

Her allies deplored the Sandiganbayan’s decision, saying Arroyo was a former president and an incumbent lawmaker, and not a security flight risk.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said her allies in the House, some 23 lawmakers, visited the former president on Tuesday. He said Arroyo still looked thin and frail but was not wearing her neck brace during the get-together.

Arroyo reportedly gave out letters to her allies to thank them for continuing to stand by her. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria

12-21-2012, 09:07 AM
Aquino set to enact law giving hope to ‘desaparecidos’

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:28 am | Friday, December 21st, 2012

It will soon be a law. Abduction by the state or by its agents is a crime. The Philippines becomes the first country in Asia to define enforced disappearance as a separate criminal offense.

President Aquino is set to sign Republic Act No. 10350, or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act, in Malacañang, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and the author of the bill, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

Lagman’s brother, Hermon, a labor leader and human rights lawyer, disappeared 34 years ago, at the height of President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule.

Lagman said that under the new law, enforced disappearance would be a distinct crime separate from kidnapping, serious illegal detention, murder, or any other crime.

The law says that enforced disappearance is committed when a citizen is deprived of liberty by the state or agents of the state, and when information on the whereabouts of the missing is concealed or denied.

It would also goad security officers into being better public servants who respect human rights, according to Lagman.

“The law [would] end the impunity of offenders,” Lagman said. “t envisions a new or a better breed of military, police and civilian officials and employees who respect and defend the human rights and civil liberties of the people they are sworn to protect and serve and who observe the rule of law at all times.”

Lagman said the enforced disappearance law cannot be suspended even during periods of political instability, or when there is a threat of war, state of war, or any public emergency.

The families of “desaparecidos”—people seized by the state and never seen again—hailed the new law as a “timely and meaningful Christmas gift.”


Best known among the disappeared are University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were seized by gunmen believed to be military agents from their house in Hagonoy town, Bulacan province, on June 26, 2006, and agriculturist Jonas Joseph Burgos, seized by gunmen also believed to be soldiers from a restaurant inside a shopping mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

All three were involved with Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulacan (Alliance of Bulacan Farmers), a local chapter of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Farmers Movement of the Philippines).

Their parents have brought criminal charges against retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, former commander of the 7th Infantry Division based in Nueva Ecija province.

Palparan went into hiding after being ordered to stand trial by a court in Bulacan early this year.

It is not clear whether the new law could be applied to the prosecution of Palparan, who is accused of torture, rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats and coercion.

Right to truth

The law also upholds the right to truth, he said.

It requires public officers to give inquiring citizens full information about people under their custody.

It also requires investigating officials who learn that the people they are investigating are victims of enforced disappearance to relay the information to their families, lawyers and concerned human rights groups.

The law also provides free access to the updated register of detained or confined people to those who have a legitimate interest in the data.

All detention centers must have such a register.

The new law, Lagman said, “is a comprehensive legislation that does not only impose penal sanctions, but also provides restorative justice, pecuniary compensation to victims and their families, restitution of honor, and psychosocial rehabilitation for both victims and offenders.”

In a statement, the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) welcomed the new law and described it as “a timely and meaningful Christmas gift.”


But the group said it would remain vigilant and monitor the enforcement of the new law.

The group said greater challenges may be expected, but it would wait for the promulgation of the implementation rules for the new law.

FIND said it hoped the disappearance law would not go the way of the torture law, which it described as “more honored in the breach,” meaning the torture law is not enforced, not honorably ignored than followed—the meaning of the phrase.

FIND urged Congress to monitor the enforcement of the law.

12-24-2012, 09:47 AM
Order of battle

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:38 pm | Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Only a few hours separated President Aquino’s rousing, well-received speech at the 77th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last Friday and his signing into law of the landmark Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 later the same day. But the two events seemed worlds apart—not least because the President sought to keep them separate.

In Camp Aguinaldo, Mr. Aquino rightly gave high praise to the soldiers who have given their lives in the country’s defense. He also offered a definition of the symbolic import of the founding of the AFP that is worth quoting in full: “Binuo din ito bilang tanda ng kahandaan nating magsarili’t manindigan para sa ating kasarinlan, habang kinikilala ang kapangyarihan ng taumbayan bilang bukal ng lakas at siyang dapat na paglingkuran.”

The military, he said, was “also formed as a sign of our readiness to stand on our own and defend our sovereignty, while recognizing that the power of the people is the source of our strength and the object of our service.” We find this instructive, the way he threads the long military tradition of self-sacrifice with the ideal of people power (giving in the process a historical gloss to the constitutional precept of the military as “the protector of the people”).

But he did not say a word about the human rights abuses that even the military itself would admit has stained its record of service. It was this very background, of a military so politicized by the martial law years that it remains prone to abusive conduct, that made the so-called desaparecidos law both urgent and necessary. The first in all of Asia, the new law defines enforced disappearance as a new and distinct crime, and is based on the candid assumption that many of the incidents involving it were perpetrated by members of the various armed services.

To a President who sees it as part of his duty to educate the media on the principles and practices of ethical journalism, the opportunity to educate the military on another dimension of its history—a dimension which swept up his family not only once but several times—must have suggested itself. He could have devoted a paragraph to the new law he was planning to sign after the AFP anniversary rites, made a point of the need to cleanse the ranks of the military of the scourge of impunity, and impressed upon his audience the responsibility, now that new arms and equipment are in the pipeline, to restore the people’s untarnished faith in the military. That he didn’t do any of these, not even a short, swift reminder of the role of some officers and soldiers in the enforced disappearances of some 2,000 victims over the last 30 or so years, suggests to us that the new law will face even more challenges in implementation than we expected.

It doesn’t help that some confusion about some of the specific provisions of the new law remains. It may not exactly be accurate to say, for example, that all orders of battle have been declared illegal. The phrasing of Section 5 of the new law limits the scope of the declaration: “‘An order of battle’ or any order of similar nature, official or otherwise, from a superior officer or a public authority causing the commission of enforced or involuntary disappearance is unlawful and cannot be invoked as a justifying or exempting circumstance.”

One can read that to mean that any order of battle, or orbat, a strategic or tactical document that, among other tasks, lists so-called enemies of the state, may be deemed legal as long as it does not include instructions that will cause “the commission of enforced or voluntary disappearance.” We realize this is a gray area with black-or-white (that is, life-or-death) consequences, so perhaps the confusion is inherent in the concept.

But whatever the reading, the importance of this provision is that the old military practice of misusing the order of battle to target noncombatants, such as journalists and NGO activists, will no longer be condoned. Surely this is worth celebrating, together with other breakthrough provisions, even in the context of the military’s own founding anniversary? By keeping the two events separate last Friday, we all lost a teaching moment.

Sam Miguel
12-26-2012, 09:46 AM
Corruption linked to 'culture of expectations'

by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales

Posted on 12/10/2012 9:57 AM |

Updated 12/10/2012 3:55 PM

Remember the time when, decades ago, no one really bothered to think how come people smoked inside jeepneys, buses and even airplanes? When a passenger lit a smoke, no one cared - as if nothing happened. No one took notice… until someone dared to question the situation and confront the person.

Others got wind and started to realize that, all along, a number of people were similarly bothered by the habit. The number grew and reached that critical mass. Legislations were eventually passed. At present, persons grimace at the sight of a cigarette smoke inside a jeepney or bus. Nowadays, people call that person’s attention to the latter’s humiliation, at the very least, or to the penalties he needs to face, at the very most.

Do you know who that “someone” was? That “someone” who first questioned the situation and confronted the annoying smoker? That “someone” must have been bothered by the deeply-embedded practice of smoking with so much latitude as if with unbridled license… or with impunity, if you will.

No one knew who that “someone” was.

He or she must have attended a similar “march to righteousness” during a tobacco awareness day, for all we know.

The point is that you could be that someone who could do the same in terms of changing the social attitude towards corruption. You could be that someone who is bothered by all these shenanigans.

Shared dissatisfaction

Indeed, the call to reform can only take off, if there is a shared dissatisfaction with the status quo. Discontentment with the past allows us to improve on the present. This notion also prevents us from sitting on our laurels. The campaign against corruption is bound to win, in the sense that it disturbs us and moves us to action.

I heard one person talking about his friend’s dissatisfaction with the prevailing system: “tama na, nakakasawa nang lumaro sa ganitong kalakaran.” And with a more efficient system running in an agency, more and more employees will boldly tell their friends and relatives, “kumpletuhin mo lang ang requirements at pumila nang saglit, ganun din yun, mabilis rin lang.” We hope to lessen “sports-minded” people or “yung mahusay sa palakasan.”

The people are hoping to see the day where “diyes porsyento” reverts back to its antecedent term that instills fear of God in “Diyos por Santo.” They hope to see the day when solutions and orders are decided by considerations of what the senior officials know and not by who they know.

Indeed, more and more people are sending across the message that shady deals involving public funds need to stop. Corrupt practices will no longer be countenanced, definitely, not this time.

This gargantuan task, of course, cannot be done overnight. It cannot be accomplished with a single indignation rally. It is a continuous and concerted struggle. Indeed, there is a long way to go. And it is not a walk in the park.

The good thing, however, is that leadership by example counts and that everybody is expected to toe the line. The nation is starting to nourish a greener landscape. With everyone pitching in an effort or two, we can say that there is hope after all.

Just recently, Transparency International reported in its latest Corruption Perceptions Index that the Philippine has improved in the rankings, from 134 in 2010, to 129 in 2011, and to 105 in 2012.

Further, the Survey of Enterprises on Corruption recently conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) shows that a number of government agencies improved on their sincerity ratings. For one, the Office of the Ombudsman climbed 46 notches in the sincerity ratings from -8 in 2009 to + 38 in 2012.

Culture of expectations

This marked improvement goes to show that we must be doing something right. This occasional “pat-on-the back” helps in inspiring us to carry on the battle against corruption. As we do not rest on these laurels, expect us to continue rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done.

The incidence of corruption may also be partly attributed to a culture of societal expectations that condition or pressure the minds of professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers as well as government officials to exhibit a high level of status just to prove or satisfy the societal expectation or depiction of a successful professional or leader. "Kapag ang isang professional o pulitiko ay nagrerenta lang ng bahay at walang mansion o kaya ay namamasahe lang at walang magagarang sasakyan, sa halip na makita ang kanyang kababaang-loob, ang agad na naiisip ng tao ay 'mahina siguro siya' o 'hindi siya magaling.'”

The desire to get rich quick, no matter which way, has unfortunately become the top goal of today’s youth. Do not get me wrong. There is nothing in dreaming or achieving a comfortable way of life. Biblically, it is not money per se which is the root of evil. It is “[t]he love of money which is the root of all evil.” When you embezzle people’s money which should have been devoted to road infrastructure, medicine distribution or classroom construction, then you are taking away something from the poorest of the poor and depriving them of their rightful chance at life.

Parenthetically, the worldly standard of success no longer considers how you maintain your integrity and keep your humility.

Stamping out the forces of corruption is as imperative as granting the Filipino people the full measure of the blessings of a robust economy. Good governance leads us closer to achieving inclusive growth, generating employment, and reducing poverty… and eventually and ultimately creating greater prosperity for the greatest number of people in the country.

And we want that message to be heard -- to remain echoing as a continuing reminder for all and to resonate in the coming elections where we will be placing persons of integrity to positions in government.

I am positive that the entire nation can chart a unified and comprehensive reform agenda that can hit the mark in ridding this country of the corrosive element of corruption and rebuilding the foundation of good governance.

I thus implore all to join hands and extend that needed push in sustaining the momentum in the nationwide campaign to uphold integrity in all aspects of governance. - Rappler.com

(Ombudsman Morales delivered this speech on December 9 during the celebration of the International Anti-Corruption Day at the Quezon City Memorial Circle, Quezon City)

Sam Miguel
01-02-2013, 11:27 AM
PCGG: Hunt for Marcos loot to end

‘Widow, children back in power; cost of pursuit prohibitive’

Agence France-Presse

12:20 am | Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

The Philippine government is to wind down a near-30-year hunt for the embezzled wealth of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with more than half the supposed $10-billion fortune still missing, the man in charge of the search said.

With Marcos’ widow and children back in positions of political power, and the government tightening its belt, the cost of the pursuit has become prohibitive, said Andres Bautista, head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

The PCGG chair said he had recommended to President Aquino that the commission wind down its operations and transfer its work to the justice department.

If Mr. Aquino agrees he would have to get Congress to pass a law abolishing the agency.

“It has become a law of diminishing returns at this point,” Bautista said in an interview at the commission’s offices, a rundown building where Marcos’ oldest daughter Imee used to hold office.

“It’s been 26 years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, ‘We’ve done our best,’ and that’s that. It is really difficult.

“In order now to be able to get these monies back, you need to spend a lot,” the PCGG chair said.

Bautista, 48, left a high-paying corporate job two years ago to answer a call to help the administration of Mr. Aquino, who promised to end corruption and uplift the lives of millions of poor Filipinos.

He and like-minded young lawyers who joined the agency soon found out that reforming the underfunded commission—itself prone to corruption—while at the same time going after powerful people, was no easy task.

Despite numerous criminal and civil cases filed against them, none of the Marcos heirs or their cronies, who have been accused of plundering government coffers, have so far been successfully prosecuted, while high-powered lawyers have been used to tie up the judicial process for years on end.

Missing evidence

Long-term chronic mishandling of the PCGG led to an unmanageable paper trail and evidence went missing that led to bitter losses in litigation, Bautista said.

“These accusations (against the commission officials) are not without basis. They were the ones in charge of guarding the chicken coop and some of them helped themselves to the eggs,” he said, refusing to name names.

The President’s late mother and democracy icon, Corazon Aquino, replaced Marcos after a bloodless people power revolt ended his 20-year regime in 1986 and sent him and his family into US exile.

Cory’s priority

She made it her first priority to create the commission, tasked with recovering all of Marcos’ wealth. Conservative estimates put the worth of assets and funds looted from government coffers at $10 billion.

But before she left office she allowed Marcos’ flamboyant widow, Imelda—known for her thousands of pairs of shoes—and their son and two daughters to return home.

And over the past two decades the Marcoses have regained and consolidated their political base.

Still a lot of mystery

Marcos’ son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., is a senator who has hinted at contesting the presidency in the 2016 elections.

Imelda is expected to run for a second term in the House of Representatives in May, while her daughter Imee, governor of the family’s Ilocos Norte provincial bailiwick, is also widely thought to want a second term.

“There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the fabled wealth, and my sense is there is still much more out there,” Bautista said.

“Our problem now is that everyone is back in power. That does not in any way make our job any simpler.”

P164B recovered

Since its creation, the agency has recovered P164 billion (about $4 billion), some invested in prime New York real estate, jewelry, and about $600 million stashed in secret numbered Swiss bank accounts.

The jewelry, including a 150-carat giant Burmese ruby and diamond tiara, is locked in a vault at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, and at one point the international auction house Christie’s estimated it could fetch up to $8.5 million.

More recently Bautista worked closely with the New York district attorney’s office to charge a former personal secretary of Imelda and two others over a conspiracy to sell a Monet painting that had been bought by the family.

Marcos, an astute art buyer, distributed the priceless collection of at least 300 artworks to cronies when his regime was about to crumble. Only half have been recovered so far and the rest are missing, Bautista said.

Lonely job

“They (the Marcos family) have the resources to go head-to-head with us in respect to litigation. Why do you think forfeiture cases are still languishing 26 years after?” Bautista said.

The agency’s annual budget of less than P100 million was only enough to pay its staff of about 200, many of them young lawyers who turned down high-paying jobs elsewhere, he added.

“It’s a lonely job. It doesn’t win you any friends,” Bautista said.

01-05-2013, 08:03 AM

3 reasons why PCGG should continue its efforts

By Solita Collas-Monsod

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:10 pm | Friday, January 4th, 2013

I can think of at least three very good reasons why the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) should not be abolished. In fact, after looking at these reasons, the Reader will likely agree with me that not only should it not be abolished, but it should be strengthened.

The first reason: Rep. Sergio Apostol (please note, he represents Leyte, which is Romualdez territory—and the PCGG was formed basically to recover the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his cronies) and his coauthor, Rep. Pedro Romualdo, in their Explanatory Note to House Bill 4049, assert that: “More so, more than twenty years and four administrations have passed, and the PCGG has not produced significant accomplishments that would justify its continued existence. Through these years, the worked (sic) performed by the Commission is not commensurate to the annual expenses needed to maintain the office. The time is ripe to abolish PCGG in line with the cost-saving efforts of the government.”

That assertion is totally baseless. Certainly, the PCGG has had to contend with humongous problems: At various times, corrupt and/or incompetent commissioners and staff; pressures applied by powerful politicians attempting to influence the decisions of the commissioners; a judiciary, let us face it, whose decisions were reputedly for sale.

But take a look at the simple, incontrovertible data: From 2004 to 2009, the amounts recovered by the PCGG amounted to P63.338 billion. The total budget obligations (cost) of the PCGG for the same period amounted to P748.659 million. That means the cost-recovery ratio was 1.18 percent—that is to say, for every P100 that was recovered by the PCGG, it spent P1.18. By what stretch of the imagination can Apostol and Romualdo conclude that the expense was not worth it?

Well, that is only for six years. What about for the other 20? I can’t put my hands on the official figures, but a newspaper report puts the total amount recovered so far by the PCGG at P164 billion since its creation.

If one assumes (conservatively) that the expenses of the PCGG over the same period are on average about the same as 2004-2009 annualized, then one comes up with its total expenditures over its entire existence at P3.1 billion—for a cost-recovery ratio of 1.9 percent. The PCGG spent P1.90 for every P100 that it recovered, or, put another way, for every P1 that the PCGG has spent, it has recovered more than P52.

How can anybody complain about that? Of course, the PCGG could have gotten more, but that is another story.

Which is why it is difficult to understand where PCGG Chair Andres Bautista is coming from when he is reported as saying: “It has become a law of diminishing returns at this point.” He must mean that diminishing returns have set in, as far as the PCGG’s efforts are concerned—meaning that the additional returns for every peso spent are getting smaller and smaller. But the cardinal rule is that so long as every peso spent gets more than a peso in return, the PCGG should continue its efforts (where possible)—so what is Andy afraid of?

The second very good reason why the PCGG should not be abolished (and in fact given more resources) is that the present commission seems to be untouched by corruption (at least by reputation), and has excellent credentials (at least on paper)—which is a huge improvement from the previous one, at the very least. So at least one of the humongous problems listed above has been solved. Moreover, with the current Palace occupant, the PCGG is in a better position than its predecessors to withstand whatever political pressure is being attempted. That takes care of much of the second problem. And it is also arguable that the impeachment trial and conviction of Renato Corona has had a cautionary effect on members of the judiciary, and hopefully the Sandiganbayan. In other words, the set of conditions under which the PCGG operates augurs very well for its success. So why stop now?

The PCGG should stiffen its spine, stop whining, and start looking at the potential. The resources are not enough? How about considering Joey Yujuico’s suggestion that the PCGG look into the possibilities of public-private partnerships, where the private sector works on a contingent basis (a percentage of what is recovered goes to it for its efforts)? Or, go into some kind of triage decision-making process, and concentrate on the big-item cases—like that involving the Lucio Tan enterprises which allegedly are 60-percent Marcos-owned? That’s P200 billion right there. For all one knows, Tan and the Marcos heirs have already reached a private agreement that excludes the Philippine government and the Filipino people—and only the PCGG right now can block those arrangements.

Let not Malacañang, let not the Filipino people, kid ourselves: The moment the PCGG is abolished, its responsibilities parceled out to the Department of Justice or the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (as Apostol recommends), we can say goodbye to any more recoveries—particularly from Lucio Tan, from whom, up to this point, not a single centavo has been recovered.

The first executive act of President Corazon Aquino was to create the PCGG. She also refused Lucio Tan’s offer of P500 million (in 1986) as an out-of-court settlement.

Which brings us to the third reason why the PCGG should continue its efforts: The message to the Filipino people by its abolition is: Corruption pays. Just wait long enough. The hell with matuwid na daan.

01-05-2013, 08:15 AM
Maintaining momentum

By Edilberto C. de Jesus

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:10 pm | Friday, January 4th, 2013

The year 2012 was a good year, government officials, academics, and business executives, both foreign and Filipino, agreed. Objective indicators sustained the consensus view.

Merchandise exports of $48 billion last year appeared on the verge of breaching the $51.4-billion record of 2010. GDP grew 6.5 percent in the last nine months and could inch toward 7 percent for the full year; on the last trading day of the year, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index posted a 30-percent increase, its fourth year of sustained growth.

But 2012 was also a bad year, as the Philippines shared in Asia’s 83 natural disasters that affected 64.5 million people and cost the region $15.1 billion and 3,000 casualties. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimated that Asia accounted for 74 percent of affected people, a third of the economic toll, and over half the world’s disaster deaths.

In the first 10 months of the year, the Philippines endured 16 natural calamities, second to China, which weathered 18 disasters. Since the December typhoons, “Pablo” and “Quinta,” missed inclusion in the list, the Philippines may have tied China in the full-year tally. UNISDR’s Asia head Jerry Velasquez noted: “Risk is growing faster than wealth is being created” (Tarra Quismundo, Inquirer, 12/27/12, Page A13).

The risk-wealth calculus should be considered in context: The people who generally gain the most ground from record economic performance and the people who generally suffer the biggest losses from natural disasters belong to two different communities.

Calamities strike communities on the economic margins most severely; poverty forces them to live in the areas most vulnerable to disasters. When the economy booms, there are trickle-down benefits, but the biggest rewards would tend to flow toward those with the economic resources to begin with.

We are all hoping that the forward momentum can be maintained, and there are good reasons to encourage optimism. The Aquino administration and its campaign for good governance continue to enjoy the confidence of the people. The country’s financial managers expect that the new “sin taxes” will bring a credit upgrade, which will promote greater investments in the Philippines, apart from additional revenues averaging P44 billion a year over the first five years.

We are also hoping that nature will spare us from more costly calamities. But 2013 is also an election year. While campaign spending will infuse more cash to prime the economy, casualties from electoral violence have often turned elections into manmade disasters. Recall the partisan killings in the past, and, in particular, the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao in 2010.

Beyond the politically triggered violence that often accompanies electoral exercises, there is also the concern about their impact on governance. Recall the decision of then President Gloria Arroyo to abort the Department of Education’s Bridge Program in 2004, weeks before its implementation. Designed to add one year to the basic education cycle, the Bridge would have already four cohorts of secondary students and eased the transition to K to 12.

Election results can also lead to disasters. It’s not surprising that Aquino’s New Year wish is the election of the right leaders who will keep the economy on the path of growth. Analysts contend that the economy could have done even better in 2012 and can grow much faster in 2013 with more effective governance from committed leaders. But delays in addressing anticorruption and policy issues can stall economic growth.

Business has its own wish list of issues that require urgent attention: progress on upgrading the transport and communications infrastructure; assurances on the availability and reasonable cost of power; settling revenue-sharing disputes between government and investors; aligning national laws and local government regulations; completing the implementation of educational reforms.

In an election year, politicians tend to avoid the discussion of contentious policy issues or raise these for political points, not for their resolution. The electorate needs the information to keep politicians focused on, and accountable for, the work of governance and to give voters a basis for choosing among the contending candidates. Academic policy centers and the media can help provide this information.

Hopefully, talk shows will not simply give politicians more air time for their propaganda, but will compel them to disclose and defend their policy choices. Even negative political advertisements will help, if they are factually anchored on substantive policy issues and if those who pay for these ads are required to identify themselves and explicitly express approval for the personal attacks on rival candidates.

Unlike natural disasters, elections tend to provide a windfall to marginalized communities, which are easier targets for vote-buying. It is easy to condemn the poor who sell their votes. It is tougher to persuade them that their votes can make a difference: a difference, not just in GDP figures, but in the quality of their lives. This is the task for those who still believe in democracy and in elections.

Edilberto C. de Jesus is professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management. E-mail: edejesu@yahoo.com.

01-05-2013, 08:18 AM

By Butch Hernandez

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:07 pm | Friday, January 4th, 2013

In 2012, the education reform community made a couple of decisive steps in its drive toward quality education for all learners. First, the K to 12 Basic Education Cycle will now be powered by a full-blown enabling law. Equally important, through the same law, the bilingual education policy is now replaced by Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE).

These are welcome developments indeed even if last year, the public conversation on K to 12 mostly revolved around the economic and logistical implications that the added two years will bring. Many parents have voiced the apprehension that even if public education is free and compulsory, getting their children to school still entails expenses. At the same time, a number of education stakeholders were worried that the Department of Education might not be able to adequately respond to the added structural stress that the bureaucracy would face, given its endemic lack of resources, national budget priorities notwithstanding.

The K to 12 Law precisely opens up more access to funding and resources for both DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education. In fact, the K to 12 Law can actually pave the way for more investments in education from both the public and private sectors. As early as 2011, the Senate Economic Planning Office pointed out in its policy brief that “ultimately, the government’s ability to secure resources to implement the K to 12 program and at the same time address the unresolved shortages in educational inputs will determine the country’s quality of education in the future. As wisely stated in the Philippine EFA plan, ‘Good education is expensive but lack of education costs many times more.”’

However, we must point out that world-class competency is the overall reform agenda. Therefore, what makes K to 12 a critical piece of reform is not the added two years but the 12-year curriculum that all learners will go through. In a previous commentary, Dr. Ricky Nolasco said as much when he emphasized that “it is the NEW curriculum with mastery thereof as its focus that makes K to 12 a compelling necessity for our country.”

Mastering prescribed competencies is a dimension of quality that is explicitly stated by all education systems. To succeed in this goal, studies show that the learner has to be able to really read—with maximum comprehension—by the third grade. By affirming MTBMLE as a national education policy, the K to 12 Law actually makes going to school enjoyable for our young learners because they will now be able to interact with their teachers and their classmates in a language that they all understand. More interestingly, MTBMLE significantly improves the young learner’s language acquisition skills. In practical terms, this means that with a well-considered MTBMLE program, our young learners can actually learn to speak and read much better in English or in any other language of wider usage, such as German and Spanish or Niponggo and Cantonese.

Clearly, there are major challenges ahead. Developing a coherent 12-year curriculum that builds competencies as the learner progresses through the years is one. This kind of curriculum development process really takes time, but it is something that must be undertaken with complete resolve. DepEd has made meaningful strides in this regard. Education Secretary Armin Luistro has been indefatigable in mobilizing the academe and education stakeholders. We must continue to support him in whatever way we can.

Advocating MTBMLE is another major challenge, but this one needs a more devolved, community-driven approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution because we are a culturally diverse people. The Eggie Apostol Foundation offers a People Power solution: organize and convene workshops in local languages through partnerships with the academe, linguistics societies, and DepEd.

Here’s what we mean. In February, St. Louis University, the University of Southern Mindanao, the Nueva Vizcaya State University, SIL Philippines, DepEd, and the Eggie Apostol Foundation will hold the “Panangisuro” at Quezon Elementary School in Baguio City and the “Pagtudlo” at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Panangisuro is a series of parallel workshops to develop learning materials in the language arts, math and Araling Panlipunan. There will be lectures clarifying the philosophy, concepts and methodologies in MTBMLE instruction, but most of the time will be devoted to producing Stage 1 to Stage 2 instructional materials and how to use these materials through demo-teaching. There will also be sessions on how to create tools for early grade assessment in reading, mathematics and social studies.

Pagtudlo is a conference-workshop on specialized topics in every learning area, like Singapore math, language primers and cultural identity markers. There will also be paper presentation sessions and open forums.

Aside from development materials, development techniques and practices for specific language groups, both events are aimed at serving as a forum for teachers and other stakeholders to share their experiences in implementing MTBMLE policy and curricula, and at constructing an early grade reading and numeracy assessment tool for each language group.

The Eggie Apostol Foundation hopes that other interested groups will use our workshops as templates that they can adapt and organize for their own language groups.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

Sam Miguel
01-09-2013, 09:47 AM
Public empowerment

7:46 pm | Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The sin tax bill, the reproductive health bill, the “enforced disappearances” bill—as far as substantive, high-impact legislation goes, 2012 will go down as a banner year for Congress and the administration of President Aquino. It’s quite an annus mirabilis, too, for a country long starved for laws and regulations that have the potential to truly change the game. Too many Congresses have come and gone with not one meaningful piece of work to remember them by. But now, practically in one blow, the Philippines has been presented with three new laws that advance the cause of progressive politics and, not incidentally, kindle the hope that this time, the country may indeed be on its way to a more modern, enlightened era of governance and civic order.

The President has said many times that his campaign for reforms isn’t premised on cleaning house only for the moment, but on creating an environment for systemic changes that would prove irreversible in force and effect. This is to ensure that whatever gains his administration notches up, from reducing corruption in government to pumping more blood into the economy, will be sustained and institutionalized for the long term. The passage of good laws with far-reaching impact will certainly help deliver on this promise, and credit must be given Malacañang for the assiduous way it worked on having the bills go through the legislative wringer—subjected to everything from endless dilatory tactics to ridiculous antics by the likes of Sen. Tito Sotto, in the case of the RH bill—with their fundamental strengths left intact in the end. Congress, too, can be proud of its work in 2012; along with the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the new laws it passed represent an unusually productive year for it.

However, that momentum and sense of reform would be wasted if Malacañang and Congress decide to slacken up at this time. While the trifecta of enlightened new statutes do constitute new ground gained for the country, they are not enough. Another, and possibly far more important, bill deserves to be given attention and consideration—by the House of Representatives where it has been all but becalmed, and by the Aquino administration which needs to certify it as urgent, the same way it did for the RH legislation.

The freedom of information bill has already gotten the nod of the Senate—even if its version carries the unfortunately juvenile title of “People’s Ownership of Government Information,” or Pogi, bill—but at the House, it has hurdled only the committee on public information, and is yet to reach the plenary. Congress has precious few session days left; it resumes session on Jan. 21 and breaks on Feb. 8 for the 3-month election campaign period. Sen. Loren Legarda, who cosponsored the bill in the Senate, has called on Mr. Aquino to certify the bill as urgent, to “send a clear message to our fellow legislators that the President considers the measure a vital tool for effective governance… We must give the people something that they can hold on to.”

Mr. Aquino, who has hemmed and hawed on the bill because of some newfound apprehension that it would be open to abuse, must be held to his promise—made during his own presidential campaign—to pass the bill to allow for greater transparency and honesty in government. That happens to be the most crucial part of his much-touted anticorruption drive—not just the removal of rotten officials, or the streamlining of bureaucratic processes, or his vow to lead by clean example.

The freedom of information bill will guarantee the citizenry access to the ways and means by which the government that governs in their name, and with their hard-earned taxes, does its work. If Mr. Aquino is serious not just about eliminating corruption, but also about laying the groundwork for the kind of cleaner, more honest governance that his successors would eventually be in no position to undo, then he must formally empower the public to do its part as guardians of the public till with the FOI bill.

He has done well with three new good laws under his watch. The FOI bill, if passed, will be the crowning achievement of the most productive phase yet of his presidency. More importantly, it will mark the Philippines’ biggest break from its old, rotten ways. This much is clear: Without some form of express, legislated power on the part of the people to look into government affairs, the old order will go on, and Mr. Aquino’s legacy as a reformist leader will all be for naught.

Sam Miguel
01-14-2013, 10:52 AM
Enrile just doesn’t get it


By Boo Chanco

(The Philippine Star) | Updated January 14, 2013 - 12:00am

Maybe, for someone pushing 90, we really can’t expect him to still be able to change… or read the changing times. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile rejected criticisms about how he “gifted” fellow senators with money from the taxes we paid. As far as he is concerned, he was well within his legal rights and that’s that.

The amount Mr. Enrile “gifted” 22 senators is sizeable: P1.6 million each to 18 senators, and the four he wasn’t particularly fond of, he still gave P250,000 each. Enrile was supposed to have said he was “just making lambing” to the senators. No one can say Enrile cannot “make lambing” to anyone he likes so long as he is using his own money.

Of course a lot of people were scandalized. We are being bombarded with government statements urging us to pay the right amount of taxes because every centavo is needed to build the country of our dreams. DOF has painfully nursed our country back to a much acclaimed fiscal health. Now we see our elected senators being loose with our money.

Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Our legislators, senators and congressmen have creatively invented many ways of raiding the National Treasury. Getting a commission from pork barrel projects is a favorite. Now they are re-allocating “savings” for dubious year-end “maintenance and other operating expenses.” Savings ought to be returned to the Treasury.

The outrageous thing about that is how some of the senators we thought we could respect took the Enrile “gift”. I am particularly disappointed with Sen. Joker Arroyo.

Joker has presented himself as the most frugal senator, refusing to take anything even for staff expenses so that his driver supposedly doubles as his secretary. But Joker can apparently be tempted. Say it isn’t so, Joker!

Our legislators are missing the mood of the times. There is a call for greater sensitivity on the part of public officials to the need for a Jesse Robredo type of selfless public service. We are coming into an era where public office is truly a chance to serve the public even at personal expense and sacrifice… not to raid the public treasury.

Of course, our old politicians also know we are still in the tail end of an era. Public officials can use their positions to further personal or family interests. This explains why all the trapos and the sons and daughters of dynastic trapos are still leading the surveys for the senatorial election in May.

Maybe, Mr. Enrile in fact gets it and we don’t.

In the end, it is still up to us to deliver a very compelling message that the new era is here for good. Those of us who know better should do all we can to reverse the trend in the election surveys. We have to make sure we don’t elect anyone who sees nothing wrong with an “Enrile lambing” at taxpayer expense.

A good start is to reject do nothing re-electionist senators and those whose only claim to the position is dynastic roots. We must deliver the message that the Senate is not a family business.

We can’t have a Senate whose members include a father and a son (Enrile and son Jack), two brothers (Jinggoy and JV) and a brother and a sister (Pia and Peter) and two sons succeeding their fathers (Angara and Pimentel). We surely have more talent in this country of 100 million to resort to such a shameless concentration of trapo genes in the political gene pool.

Their fathers, indeed, their families have had their chance. The public ought to try new ones who just might have a better sense of public service.

I know that may limit our choices to just a few. But if we all vote for just four or five really worthy senatorial candidates, we get a better chance of introducing change in the system.

On top of my tentative list is Puerto Prinsesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn. I don’t know why he is running for the Senate but because he is, he deserves our vote. He has proven himself as the long time mayor of our premier frontier city. His experience in local government and environmental protection is valuable for the Senate.

Then there is Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr., the son of our country’s most beloved President. Jun has protected the legacy of his father well, served with distinction as a Senator before he termed out. He deserves our vote. He is the real Magsaysay in this contest.

The other one on my list is Dick Gordon. I know Dick is often so full of himself that he turns off people. But he has his heart in the right place and also manages to produce results. His “boy scout” mentality as exemplified by his Red Cross activities is something we need as well.

I am not too sure about Risa Hontiveros because she seems quite entrenched with the powers that be in recent times, but I am inclined to take a chance with her. She earned her reputation as an activist, even suffered some amount of persecution for her convictions. She has a reputation to protect so maybe, she can be a refreshing voice in the Senate.

I would also take a chance on Bam Aquino. With his credentials after college, he could have quietly but happily be making oodles of money in some bank or business. But he made a conscious commitment to work with the grassroots through various NGOs and his efforts are internationally recognized.

Yes, Bam is an Aquino and strictly speaking part of a political dynasty but unlike other scions of political heavyweights who are in the top 12, Bam chose to serve our people first before seeking public office. He is a worthy representative of our young generation in a chamber full of old and jaded politicians.

And that’s my complete list of worthy senatorial candidates. If the current dynastic frontrunners make it, it will prove that perhaps we are wrong and indeed, Mr. Enrile can do what he wants with our money and we can’t complain. We shouldn’t let that happen.

Raffles Fairmont

A good symbol of this new optimism about the future of this country just had its soft opening. The Raffles Fairmont hotel, actually two luxury hotels in one, is all set for its formal inauguration soon.

I had the opportunity to sample the buffet in its Spectrum restaurant last week with PhilStar columnists Sara Soliven and Nelson Navarro. I think they will give the established hotels here good competition.

This new luxury hotel will provide much needed rooms for an expected uptick in the number of foreign visitors. Potential investors as well as tourists are expected to come in the light of our country’s new improved international image.


I got this e-mail from an American from San Diego.

“It is absolute stupidity that the Philippines only allows 21-day visa before you have to pay for an extension. I come from America and would like to stay 23 days. I have a three-week vacation every year. But I always leave on the 21 day. It will cost me P3,700 to use a travel agent to get the extension.“That is two or three days of extra money for the Philippine economy. Instead the extension people are just money grabbing for there own benefit. There are other countries in Asia that allow the 30 days.

“There was talk about nine months ago when NAIA Terminal one was voted the worst airport that they would think about the 30-day extension. Nothing. Stupid.”

I was wondering about the 21-day visa too. Some years ago my US-born five year old grandson traveling with my daughter who was then carrying a Philippine passport was slapped a 21-day visa on arrival. No one noticed it and we all presumed he is a balikbayan and entitled to a much longer stay.

When departure time came, a fine was being slapped for overstaying. Of course my daughter no longer had any money in local currency so it was a problem as we had to go back to the airport.

I suspect the immigration people have a nice racket. Many balikbayans who are eager to leave will just agree to settle. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It also convinces former Pinoys they did the right thing in turning their backs on this hopelessly corrupt country.


Jose Villaescusa sent this one.

A man walking behind his wife commented, “Honey you’re so fat now your butt looks like a washing machine!”

His wife just kept quiet about it.

Come bedtime... the guy is asking for you-know-what. The woman responds, “I can’t start the washing machine for such a small load...you will have to hand wash!”

Sam Miguel
01-14-2013, 11:25 AM
Marcos victims bill mired in debate

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:58 am | Monday, January 14th, 2013

Lawmakers crafting the final bicameral version of a bill granting compensation to victims of human rights violations during martial law are debating whether or not to automatically recognize a certain group of claimants for indemnification or to open the fund to all claimants.

Despite this snag, however, they remained optimistic a final version of the measure would be ready for ratification by the Senate and House of Representatives when both houses resume sessions on Jan. 21.

The first bicameral conference committee meeting was held last week and another is scheduled for Wednesday.

The compensation bill seeks to provide tax-free remuneration to victims of human rights violations or their relatives during the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. The funds would be taken from the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth that Swiss authorities have returned to the Philippines and which stands at about P10 billion.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the bicameral conference committee debated during its meeting last week on whether or not it would be fair to automatically recognize the claimants in the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses as human rights victims entitled to compensation.

The House version of the bill states that there would be a conclusive presumption that claimants in the Hawaii suit were victims of human rights violations, while the Senate version provides for a disputable presumption, meaning their claims would be subject to validation.

Bello believes the panel is moving toward adopting the position of disputable presumption, which would allow those who have doubts about the validity of the Hawaii claimants to contest their status and present proof against them.

Discussions on sharing

Another point that was the subject of much discussion was the proposed 80-20 sharing of the compensation fund in the House bill, where the bigger chunk would go to the martial law victims recognized by the Hawaii court, and 20 percent to all other claimants.

Bello said several lawmakers raised questions about this provision’s constitutionality and fairness, and the matter had yet to be resolved.

He said they contended that it would violate the equal protection clause in the Constitution, which is intended to prevent undue favoritism or hostility from the government toward a certain group. They also believed it would be unfair to the many other victims who opted not to join the class suit against the Marcoses in the Hawaii court.

Bello himself shared similar concerns. “My personal view on that is that I’m very worried about the constitutionality question. I want to be very fair, that everybody has an equal chance to be compensated,” he said.

“There is a strong sentiment that we make sure we don’t have a constitutionally infirm law,” he added.

Peaceful protesters

Colmenares said the bicameral conference also debated on whether to recognize the human rights violations against all martial law victims, or only against those who were exercising their rights “peacefully.”

The Senate version states that one of the human rights violations entitled to compensation is the infliction by a person in government or a state agent of physical injury upon, or the torture, killing or violation of other human rights, of any person “peacefully” exercising civil or political rights.

The House version does not include the word “peacefully” and only states that one of the violations is the commission by a state agent or a person acting in an official capacity of physical injury, torture, killing, harassment, deprivation of liberty or similar acts.

Who’ll make up board?

Discussions are also expected to continue on the composition of the board that would determine how much the victims would receive and oversee the implementation of the program, according to Colmenares.

The Senate version states that the claims board would consist of two representatives from Congress and three representatives from Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism (Mabini).

The House bill proposes the compensation board be composed of seven members selected by the President from a list provided by a nominations committee. The committee would be composed of representatives from the Commission on Human Rights, TFDP, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), and Samahan ng Mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda).

It further provides for a consultative body that would identify and monitor the legitimate victims entitled to compensation. It would be composed of representatives from FIND, Selda, TFDP, Claimants 101 and Karapatan.

But though these issues are still up for resolution, Colmenares and Bello both believe that a final agreement would be hammered out soon, possibly in the next meeting this week.

Sam Miguel
01-23-2013, 08:55 AM
Aquino hits and misfires in the barilan debate

By Benjamin Pimentel

8:36 pm | Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO – Like most Filipino boys, I was fascinated with guns.

Baril-barilan was one of my favorite games. My boyhood friends and I idolized Vic Morrow, the gutsy sergeant in ‘Combat!’ and Clint Eastwood, the no-nonsense cop in ‘Magnum Force.’ And we so wanted to be like the great FPJ, as Fernando Poe Jr. is known. We knew their famous lines by heart, from “Isang bala ka lang!” to “Go ahead, make my day.”

Eventually, these fantasies faded. But the reality of gun violence has not.

Thankfully, my exposure to gun violence has been limited, although my experiences do speak to the different realities in the Philippines and the US.

The first time I fired a gun was when I covered a press conference of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Maguindanao in 1986. During a light moment after the event, I casually mentioned that I had never fired a gun and the rebels, to my surprise, offered to let me try. While the rebels and my fellow reporters watched with amusement, I fired one shot into an open field.

And that was that.

The first time I was threatened with a gun was nearly 20 years later when I was mugged in broad daylight in the Bay Area city of Richmond. A young man pointed a pistol at me and asked for my wallet. He wasn’t angry or verbally abusive. In fact, I sensed he was uneasy and nervous and didn’t really relish what he was doing. I gave him my wallet. He walked away.

And that was that.

Neither incident reignited my boyhood fascination with guns.

Firing one didn’t give me the sense of power and excitement that apparently many gun enthusiasts feel. Being robbed at gunpoint did not make me feel any need to be armed. (I simply cannot imagine shooting anyone, even a kid who’s robbing me.)

But my Maguindanao and Richmond episodes pointed to two key reasons people turn to guns. For some, guns are for fighting criminals. For others, they are for fighting government.

It’s interesting that debates over guns erupted at pretty much the same time in the Philippines and the US. But it is also a sad coincidence since these debates were triggered by bloody tragedies.

Newtown was followed by Kawit and now we have Atimonan. The battles offer opportunities for the two societies to learn from one another. But while the realities of gun violence in the Philippines and the US are, in many ways, similar, there also so many important differences.

In the US, a low point in the raging debate was the infamous rant of a right-wing commentator who blasted CNN host Piers Morgan, yelling, “I’m here to tell you 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!”

That outburst has been widely condemned and pointed to as evidence of the wackiness of many of the opponents of gun control who view restrictions to gun ownership as part of a bizarre conspiracy being hatched by secret sinister forces.

In fact, most of the proposals focus on common sense questions: Should people really be allowed to own high-powered military style weapons? Shouldn’t people who buy weapons at gunshows also be subjected to strict background checks?

Unfortunately, in the Philippines, the situation is more complex. The Atimonan incident underscored this.

Was it a shootout? A police operation gone awry? A massacre? I still don’t understand.

In the Philippines, citizens who buy guns worry about crime. But many of them also worry about the agencies that are supposed to be protecting them against crime.

I agree with President Aquino.

Simply launching into a campaign based on a slogan about banning all guns as a way of ending violence will probably fail. Gun violence is a much more complex problem in the Philippines. It’s related to crime, and to other long-term, complicated problems such as peace, justice and the integrity of the country’s military and security forces.

In fact, Aquino has scored some hits when it comes to taking on these other aspects of gun violence in the Philippines.

The most important one is making peace with the MILF and trying to do the same with the communist underground. I wonder now if the Moro rebels who let me take my first try at a gun are now getting ready to lay down their weapons, looking forward to a time when they won’t need them.

Then there’s the recently-passed Desaparecidos law. It’s not directly related to gun control. But it focuses on the entity that is widely known to be responsible for much of the gun violence in the country: the military and the security forces.

The law sends a very powerful message: that while the armed forces and the police play an important role in protecting the country, it must never, ever abuse that power.

Unfortunately, one of Aquino’s recent statements directly related to gun violence misfired.

He is a known gun enthusiast, and, despite the controversy about that, I actually don’t think that’s a problem. In fact, I think it’s even good for the country to have a president engaged in a sport that requires patience, discipline and precision.

But Aquino’s decision to ask for an exemption from the ban was puzzling.

“I think you will acknowledge that I was a victim of violence in this aspect in 1987,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, referring to his being injured during one of the coup attempts against his mother’s administration.

“The law recognizes my right to self-defense,” he continued. “Self-defense is a skill and it’s a skill that has to be practiced to have any value.”

That was an unfortunate statement. For it framed the problem in a dangerous way. For Aquino essentially said that even the president of the country, who presumably enjoys the best security in the Philippines, is so worried about his own safety that he feels the need to carry a gun.

You can hear an ordinary Filipino reacting, ‘If the president needs a gun for protection, then I should get one too. E kung president na nga, kelangan pa ng baril, paano pa kaya ako.’

Aquino was also quoted as saying, “I’m not the kind who flatters people. Let’s find a way to solve the issue and not try to be cute.”

But is it really about being cute?

I have friends and relatives in Manila who routinely complain that road rage conflicts or disputes over parking have at times led to shootings in the nation’s capital. Throw in the now infamous phenomenon of Filipinos getting shot for singing “My Way” in bars and it’s fairly obvious that there’s nothing cute about trying to discourage citizens from defining their security strictly in terms of whether or not they own a gun.

Sam Miguel
01-23-2013, 09:05 AM
Losing bidders assail Comelec for ‘anomalous’ contract awards

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:53 am | Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been accused of fudging the rules and preferring negotiated bids in awarding multimillion pesos worth of service and supply contracts from generic memory cards to a warehouse in a flood-prone area for the May midterm elections.

“Definitely, there is a pattern of faulty biddings by the Comelec to favor a few select bidders including Smartmatic,” said Norlito Domantay, chief executive officer of LDLA Marketing which lost the bidding for the supply of 82,200 compact flash (CF) cards for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines despite its best bid of P33.5 million which was 28 percent below the approved budget price of P46.5 million.

Reacting to the complaints, the Comelec on Tuesday challenged losing bidders to pinpoint which rules it had supposedly bent to favor other bidders.

In an interview Tuesday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez rebuffed allegations that the Comelec special bids and awards committee (SBAC) rigged bidding rules to favor PCOS machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM particularly.

He pointed out that there were many procurement lots that did not include Smartmatic and there were also instances that it did not win.

Domantay has questioned before the Supreme Court the Comelec’s decision to award Smartmatic-TIM Corp. with the CF cards contract although it submitted the highest bid price of P50.9 million which it later reduced to P45.2 million to meet the budget price.

Domantay argued that Smartmatic should have been automatically disqualified from the bidding for exceeding the budget price in its first offer and for selling China-made generic cards when the bidding rules specifically required branded CF cards.

In its website, the Comelec said LDLA’s bid was declared ineligible in the first bidding for “failing to provide the statement of their single largest contract sworn with a notarial seal” and was also disqualified in the second bidding “due to insufficiencies in their submitted requirements.”

The Comelec also disqualified Unison Computer Systems, Inc., another bidder for the CF cards, for “failure to comply with the technical specifications and with the authentication of certifications.”

In its petition, LDLA claimed that the only reason why its CF cards could not work with Smartmatic’s PCOS machines

was because the Venezuelan firm “refused and up to this time continues to refuse to declare the technical requirements of the PCOS, claiming it to be proprietary information.”

But Jimenez said the CF cards of LDLA Marketing did not fit the slot of the PCOS machines.

“These machines are going to be ours for the next three elections and more. We’re not giving them back anymore. So if you will just use items that are not compatible with the machines, its usable life will be shortened,” he stressed.

A source said Smartmatic also won through negotiated biddings with the Comelec the P405.432-million contract to transmit the election results electronically and the P154.576-million contract for the modems where the other bidder, Mega Data Corp., was declared ineligible for “failing to satisfy all the documentary requirements.” Gil C. Cabacungan and Jocelyn R. Uy

Sam Miguel
01-25-2013, 08:44 AM
Lacson rues: We’re all losers

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:02 am | Friday, January 25th, 2013

There were no winners; just losers.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson came up with this assessment amid the controversy over the conversion of millions of pesos in excess Senate funds into cash “gifts” and “bonuses” just before Christmas for two groups of senators—those favored by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and those who were not.

To save the chamber’s image, Lacson called for a “no-holds-barred” audit of the Senate’s finances.

He agreed with the observation that the Senate may have lost its moral ascendancy to conduct inquiries into alleged corruption in government after an ugly quarrel between the Senate President and the minority leader over the use of Senate funds.

“Definitely. It’s not just the moral ascendancy of the Senate. Let’s face it. Our well-being, whether as institution or individual senators, largely depends on public perception, our image,” Lacson told reporters ironically after the Senate blue ribbon committee held an inquiry into the alleged misuse of billions of pesos in Malampaya funds.

Lacson, the chairman of the Senate committee on accounts, said “the Senate will be nothing” with the bad public image.

He made the comments a day after Enrile and Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano exchanged insinuations of impropriety in a heated argument on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

Cayetano’s main issue with Enrile was the latter’s distribution of P250,000 to each senator as a gift last December.

He, however, also made an issue over the apparent influence wielded on the chamber by Enrile’s chief of staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

Enrile explained that the “cash gift” of P250,000 for each senator constituted public funds that should be used for the public good.

He made the explanation after he told Cayetano that the latter’s late father still owed their law firm P37 million.

The minority leader said it was Reyes who issued handwritten instructions for the release of P1.6 million in maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) to each of 18 senators except Cayetano and three other senators—Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Santiago said on Jan. 22 that she would conduct a probe of the Senate President’s release of funds for MOOE just before Christmas. She claimed that Enrile had no authority to realign savings into Christmas bonuses.

Joint panel of auditors

“The Senate is the loser. Nobody is the winner. Hopefully somebody will win when the logical conclusion is reached and that should be the Filipino people,” Lacson said.

Lacson said the senators should brace themselves for a “no-holds-barred” audit to bring back the trust and confidence of the public to the level before the controversy erupted weeks ago.

Unlike Cayetano, who’s pushing for an independent audit by a private auditing firm, Lacson said the Commission on Audit (COA) should conduct the audit.

An audit by a private firm, he said, could be too expensive and would indicate a lack of trust in the COA, a constitutional agency.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party, said the audit should be done by a joint panel made of government and private auditors.

“It would be best for the Senate as an institution to have definitive findings regarding the controversy of the use of its funds,” said Pangilinan, who like Lacson, is on the last months of a two-term, 12-year stint in the Senate.

Joint audit

“If allowed under our laws, a joint panel composed of the COA and a private auditing firm may help put a closure to the issue,” Pangilinan said in a text message.

Sen. Francis Escudero, the chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said what happened between Enrile and Cayetano was “unfortunate.”

“But I am of the firm belief that the protagonists will rise above personal differences and will be able to focus on the job at hand,” Escudero said in a text message.

“[The] Senate as an institution will overcome this difficult stage and perform its constitutionally mandated functions,” he added in response to whether the integrity of the Senate was affected by the controversy.

Enrile said he was open to an independent audit but added that the matter was up to the Senate to decide as a whole.


Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III downplayed the effects of the issue on the Senate.

“If the Senate President or the Senate is violating any law, the first to complain will be the LP [Liberal Party senators] and [maverick lawmaker Senator] Joker [Arroyo],” Sotto said in a text message.

Sotto said Enrile had already satisfactorily explained his yearend release of P1.6 million in additional MOOE to all but four senators and the P250,000 in cash gifts.

“It’s only the anti-Enrile camp that’s complaining. Read between the lines. Politicians are already on election mode,” Sotto said.

Sam Miguel
01-25-2013, 08:49 AM
^^^ Sen Lacson, you lost moral ascendancy the minute you flew the coop and became a fugitive, returning only when it suited you.

Personally I would have done the same, but I am not an elected official like you, with very special legal and moral obligations to uphold and follow the laws of our country. You asked the Filipino people for our votes, we gave it to you, yes my self included, and when you were sworn in as Senator your oath included respecting and upholding the laws of the land. You threw all of that away when you slipped out of the country when GMA and company came to arrest you.

Ninoy Aquino didn't run. And he was fighting a more powerful foe. You ran.

Don't insult our intelligence by now lecturing on moral ascendancy.

01-25-2013, 10:06 AM
^ I completely agree. I am actually enjoying this brouhaha in the Senate. Hala, ilabas lahat ang baho dyan...

Sam Miguel
01-28-2013, 08:21 AM
The PMA ‘mystique’

By Ramon Farolan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:09 am | Monday, January 28th, 2013

Last Saturday, the Philippine Military Academy held its annual general membership meeting at Camp Aguinaldo with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas as guest of honor.

In his introductory remarks, Roxas recalled how in his younger days, whenever the family went up to Baguio, there was always this “mystique about the PMA,” an air of mystery and reverence surrounding the institution. His grandfather President Manuel Roxas, the first president of the Third Republic, held the rank of brigadier general in the Philippine Army and served as the aide de camp to Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Secretary Roxas himself would pursue a career in investment banking. In 1996, Roxas, still a neophyte congressman, was invited by PMA Class 1984 to be an honorary member of the group. Perhaps it was something about “mystique” that led him to accept their invitation.

I have often been asked what led me to Fort Del Pilar and a military career. My father was a newspaperman and my older brothers were not particularly interested in the military.

Was it the glamor of the cadet uniform? The challenge of a military lifestyle? The desire to “serve the nation,” as some would put it? Or was it the “mystique about PMA” referred to by Roxas?

The uniforms looked good especially to the ladies, the military life represented a challenge of the unknown, and a desire to “serve the nation” was farthest from my thoughts. Perhaps the thing about “mystique” had something to do with my decision, but it certainly was not very clear to me at that time.

The best reason I can offer, and this is something I have mentioned in the past, is that after graduation from UP High in Diliman, I really was at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my life. Some guys were set on becoming lawyers, doctors or engineers. I wasn’t sure about anything. I took the PMA exams along with some of my high school classmates and when the notice arrived from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to report to V. Luna Hospital for final physical clearance, I said to myself, “Baguio has always been home to me. Let’s see what happens…”

The rest is history and I shall be forever grateful to the military academy for all it has given me. It is a debt that can never be fully paid.

Today, the PMA is the main source of regular officers for our Armed Forces. With the end of the ROTC program as we knew it in the past, we only have Officer Candidate schools that from time to time graduate a number of young eligible candidates for the Armed Forces. This situation is reflected in the fact that for the past decade or more, PMA graduates have had a monopoly of leadership in the major services of the Armed Forces—in fact, in the AFP as a whole.

It would be in the national interest if we could revive military training programs so as to be able to attract more of our youth. National security is the responsibility of all, not just a few.

Secretary Roxas, in his speech before the alumni, mentioned that the threats to national security are no longer restricted to NPA insurgents and Muslim secessionists. Today, there is the ongoing war on terror; the challenge of cyberwarfare and climate change; and looming large on the horizon is the dispute with our neighbor over the West Philippine Sea. We shall need all hands if we are to confront and successfully overcome these obstacles to the economic growth and stability of the nation.

Somehow I am reminded of a story concerning US Sen. James Webb, an Annapolis graduate Class of 1968, who served in Vietnam as a young Marine lieutenant. After the war, he went to work with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and was disturbed about the many conflicting reports regarding Vietnam—about who had served and who had not. So he began to do more research. He was unhappy with what he discovered. “This was the first large-scale war in American history where the elites did not go,” he said. “I called Harvard, Princeton and MIT, and I asked the registrars very specific questions. This was a war fought by the poor, by minorities and by the middle class—not the elites.” Many young men were sent to Vietnam because they had no other way out of what was supposed to be the universal obligation of military service.

Webb went on to say, “It is simply a matter of the elites not having a sense of duty to their country, while the lower classes for reasons of economics and family tradition, continue to sign up and do the fighting.”

Are we going to fight our wars with only the poor and the middle class? What about the elites in our society, those who live in gated communities, who feel secure because they know that there are others who will do their fighting for them? It is time to remind everyone that we—not just the military or the police, certainly not just the poor and the middle class, but the elites as well—are all responsible for the safety of our country.

* * *

On Feb. 16, PMA alumni and their families will be making their annual trek to Fort Del Pilar for homecoming activities. In the past, Foundation Day was the main reason for the February gathering. But this event is now celebrated in October to mark the establishment of the Academia Militar by President Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898, a few months after the birth of the First Philippine Republic.

The guest of honor for the homecoming program is Vice President Jejomar Binay.

One can see how politically astute the PMA Alumni Association is. They invite Secretary Mar Roxas to grace the annual membership meeting and balance this with Vice President Binay as the honored guest in Baguio. No one can accuse the PMAAA of being for or against any of the potential rivals in the coming presidential elections.

I mentioned earlier that Secretary Roxas is an honorary member of PMA Class 1984. Vice President Binay, on the other hand, is an adopted brother of Class 1988. In fact, his military assistant (security matters, in particular) is Col. Ferdinand Fraginal of the Philippine Marines, also of Class 1988.

Now remember that former President Gloria Arroyo was an honorary member of Class 1978. Her military assistant was Col. Delfin Bangit, a member of the same class. He was later named AFP chief of staff just before she stepped down from office. During Arroyo’s time, PMA Class 1978 was a powerhouse group in the Armed Forces.

This time around, will it be Class 1984 or Class 1988?

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:06 AM
Gov’t set to recognize victims of Marcos rule

Finally, Congress ratifies measure

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:05 am | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Almost four decades after he was arrested and tortured and his sister disappeared into a maze of Philippine police cells and military houses, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan is finally seeing his suffering officially recognized.

A writer for an underground communist newspaper, Ilagan and thousands like him were rounded up by security forces of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos after he placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972. Detentions, beatings, harassment and killings of the regime’s opponents continued until Marcos was toppled in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

Even though democracy was restored, it would take another 27 years for Congress to vote on a bill awarding compensation and recognition to martial law victims.

On Monday, the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the bill after the bicameral committee earlier in the day signed the final version of the bill following some last-minute polishing.

President Aquino is expected to sign the bill into law shortly, possibly before the anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos.

“More than the monetary compensation, the bill represents the only formal, written document that martial law violated the human rights of Filipinos and that there were courageous people who fought the dictatorship,” said a statement from Selda, an organization of former political prisoners.

Ilagan’s story is more of a rule than exception among leftist activists of his generation.

“The torture started in the house. We were beaten up, punched and kicked,” he said, recalling a police raid on his residence in April 1974 and the beginning of his two-year detention ordeal.

He said he vomited blood after being kicked in the thighs. The soles of his foot had been burned by an iron, he added.

“The one episode in my torture that I cannot forget was when they ordered me to remove my pants and underwear and they inserted a piece of stick into my penis. ‘Oh my God,’ I said, this is one torture I could not bear,”’ the 61-year-old said in an interview.

He said that interrogators wanted him to decode documents and identify people in pictures that were seized from suspected communists.

“Compared to others, mine was not the worst torture,” he said. “The others were electrocuted and injected with truth serum. … But the threats continued.”

Ilagan’s sister, Rizalina, disappeared in 1976 along with nine other activists, many of them students involved in anti-Marcos publications, he said.

One of the women arrested by the same government unit that he suspected was involved in his sister’s abduction had escaped to recount her rape and torture. Ilagan said he has no doubt that his sister went through the same abuses.

His parents died still hoping his sister would turn up alive, but the family has found no closure, Ilagan said.

No convictions

Despite cases filed by former political prisoners, “there have been no convictions of perpetrators,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Selda, said Monday.

“Governments after Marcos did not move or did not do anything to go after Marcos seriously, so we filed a case in Hawaii,” Enriquez said.

In 1992, the victims won a class action suit against the Marcos estate in Hawaii.

Under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, the 9,539 victims in the Hawaii class action suit against the Marcoses will be awarded compensation using $246 million, roughly P10 billion, that the government recovered from Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth deposited in Swiss bank accounts.

The bill states that these plaintiffs would be presumed victims of martial law abuses, which means they would no longer have to prove their claims for compensation.

Also to be conclusively recognized as Marcos victims are those in the list of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani foundation.

The amount each will receive will depend on the abuse suffered.

Never again

Loretta Rosales, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, said her agency was looking at around 6,000 cases of abuses during the Marcos years. If there are two victims for each case, there could be 12,000 more claimants eligible for compensation, she said.

“Finally, over two decades after the fall of the dictatorship, we will have a law that puts the responsibility of human rights abuses square on the shoulder of Marcos and provides justice for all those who suffered under his reign,” said Rep. Walden Bello, a member of a congressional committee that drafted and approved the bill.

“This bill should make us realize that never again should we allow (the atrocities) of the Marcos regime to happen in this country,” Sen. Francis Escudero said after the Senate ratified the 16-page bicameral report.

“After 25 years, I really hope that the Marcos compensation bill would be signed in time for the Edsa One celebration,” the senator said.

Escudero noted that many of the victims of martial rule were more interested in being recognized and listed in the Roll of Victims than in receiving reparation, citing Sen. Joker Arroyo.

There would be cases when the Human Rights Claim Board itself would recognize unilaterally a martial law victim and put his name in the roll even if he does not apply for recognition, he added. With reports from AP, Leila B. Salaverria and Cathy C. Yamsuan

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:11 AM
Celdran found guilty in ‘Damaso’

By Erika Sauler, Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:28 am | Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

It was the kind of court decision that—for some—could only please Padre Damaso.

A Manila court on Monday found tour guide Carlos Celdran guilty of offending religious feelings when, dressed like Jose Rizal, he stood in front of the main altar of Manila Cathedral during an ecumenical service, shouted and raised a placard with the word “Damaso” on it.

In an eight-page decision, Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Juan Bermejo Jr. sentenced Celdran to a minimum of two months and maximum of one year in prison for violating Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.

Celdran was protesting against the Church’s opposition to the reproductive health (RH) bill then pending in Congress. The measure was passed into law last year.

Damaso is a hated character in Jose Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere,” which depicts the abuses of friars in the years of Spanish rule.

Judge Bermejo cited a law which penalizes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

An act is considered offensive to a religion when it is “directed against religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule, as mocking or scoffing at or attempting to damage an object of religious veneration.”

‘Still flexing muscles’

Celdran, who was in court with his wife Leny to hear the verdict, said his legal team was preparing to appeal the decision, adding it set a “bad precedent” and that he was ready to take his fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

“The time of Damaso is not yet over,” Celdran told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Filipino. “As a matter of fact, Damaso is flexing his muscles to get back .”

Also a theater artist and a painter, Cedran has been known to use his celebrity status to take on social issues.

“I am afraid for the Filipino people because this is a precedent that, when you question the Catholic institution, they can bring you to court and put you in jail,” Celdran, who is out on bail, said. “I am lucky that I have legal support but what about other Filipinos who don’t?”

Stay away from politics

Celdran said he was not surprised by the court’s decision and that he suspected it was payback for his vocal stance against the Church position on the RH measure.

Bermejo also cited a 1939 Supreme Court decision stating that the determination of an act’s offensiveness was “a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones.”

Prosecution witnesses testified that at 3 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2010, inside the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Celdran interrupted an ecumenical prayer when he went near the altar and flashed the “Damaso” placard.

Dressed like Rizal, he shouted that the Church “should stop getting involved” in politics.

The incident occurred during the second anniversary of the “May They Be One Bible Campaign” and the launch of the “Handwritten Bible,” a project of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS), with a two-part program—the ecumenical prayer and the Holy Mass.

The occasion was attended by then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the papal nuncio, other bishops, PBS members, and military and police officers, witnesses said.

Fr. Oscar Alunday, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Biblical Apostolate (Ecba), said the incident was “insulting, aggrieving, and an intrusion of the holy liturgical worship.”

Witness Angelito Cacal, a staff of Ecba, said he was “surprised, offended and angry since he did not expect such incident will happen considering that it was a solemn celebration.”

“The positive declaration of the witnesses for the prosecution and the circumstances surrounding the incident are sufficient to satisfy the quantum of evidence needed for a criminal conviction,” the court decision said.

‘Damaso still strong’

Celdran said the verdict would not slow him down because he believed the decision violated freedom of speech, human rights and the separation of Church and State.

“There was a case in the 1950s but it was never taken to trial because that law was never taken seriously. Now, in the age of technology, of the mobile phone, Damaso is still strong,” he said.

Celdran, who has apologized to the Archdiocese of Manila, said the Church leaders had forgiven him in the name of the Lord but not on the earthly realm.

“As far as they are concerned, I can go to heaven, but I have to go to jail first,” Celdran said.

Msgr. Nestro Cerbo, rector of Manila Cathedral, declined to comment on Celdran’s conviction.

“I am not authorized to give a statement. I might get sanctioned. Please take pity on me,” Cerbo told reporters. He directed the media to the Archdiocese of Manila’s communications office for an official comment.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said: “This is a setback for free speech in the Philippines, which prides itself on being a democracy. This verdict should be reversed. Nobody should be jailed for voicing out an opinion or position, especially on a subject that concerns the lives of millions of Filipino women and mothers.” [I]With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy, Leila B. Salaverria and Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:12 AM
^^^ Carlos Celdran had it coming. As anti-RH and as pro-Republic as I am, I do not condone that type of action, getting in the faces of ALL Catholics, even pro-RH ones, by disturbing celebration of the Holy Eucharist. That is one step much to far already.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:28 AM
^^^ I meant as pro-RH as I am.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 08:29 AM
Priests who know who is ‘Church’

By Asuncion David Maramba

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:05 am | Monday, January 28th, 2013

Yes, Virginia, hundreds of priests know who is “Church.” It’s city folk and rural folk; it’s you and me, priests included, and bishops, too. It’s people, Virginia, Vatican II’s “people of God,” not ecclesial statements many of which, of late, are hardly edifying, not the church building under continual “beautification.”

It’s time we read about priests, foot soldiers, right where the people are. Forgive the favoritism, but let me pick two priests, one each from the seminaries where I’ve taught.

Msgr. Pablo Legaspi of San Carlos Seminary was immediately sent forth to serve after deaconship in 1990. Now he is parish priest at the Malolos Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A premier parish usually begets lateral roles. Two of them have brought Monsignor Legaspi to the people at close range: education in the province and the grassroots of Bulacan.

For education, he is rector of the Immaculate Conception School for Boys, another for Girls, the Immaculate Conception School of Malolos beside the cathedral, Stella Maris in the island-parish of Pamarawan, a 30-minute banca ride from the cathedral, and others; all are run with lay partners, with a collective enrollment of around 1,600.

Even closer to the people are Monsignor Legaspi’s forays into the mountainous areas of the Sierra Madre range. There he meets with Fr. Johann Sebastian, parish priest of the quasi-parish of the Most Holy Eucharist in Gabihan, which includes far-flung sitios with so-Filipino names like: Biga, Camachin, Akle, Casalat, Talbak, Kalawakan and, into the fastnesses, Cambubuyugan, where live the Dumagat cared for by Fr. Edgardo de Jesus.

Also coworkers in tough social apostolate are Fathers Joshua Panganiban and Boyet Concepcion, in rehab work for drug dependents and in Bethlehem House “where kids study, are guided and fed.”

The terrain is “Survivor” landscape, up and down mountains, beautiful perhaps from afar, but nothing romantic about it when negotiating bad roads in 4×4 trucks or on foot (as in Jesus’ “hill country”?). Some sitios are hours apart and the good fathers visit them once a month, oftener when possible, or once a year, but not even that when the rains come, for then the sitios are cut off, inaccessible.

There are around 100 families per sitio living far from one another. The people quarry limestone, iron ore and silica on public land, and haul these to trucks for several hundreds of pesos, which they divide among themselves. They also fish. Released in the rivers in GMA’s time was a tilapia species popularly named “Arroyo.” Unfortunately piranha-like, the tilapia ate up smaller creatures like alamang.

With one teacher per community, school is a two-room affair, offering two grades per year, moving up as pupils go to the next grade. One of the people’s few perks is the distribution of Christmas packs by the priests in makeshift, multipurpose shelters.

From rural space and sky, let us drop into urban pits of poverty in Pasay and Manila. Rogationist Fr. Dexter Prudenciano, who has just marked his 10th year as a priest, wondered how far dogmatic truths could go on empty stomachs and sick bodies.

In 2004, he initiated a transformative miracle of housing, livelihood, education, health, value formation, etc. Named SHEC (for St. Hannibal Empowerment Center), it operates seven sites of urban poor communities in Malibay, Tramo and Maricaban in Pasay and Baseco in Manila. To date, with more on the planning board, it has built 414 housing units, literally lifting hundreds of families from riverbanks to dry land, from airless and waterless “boxes” to decent 24-square-meter units. It’s a great idea—seeking out 400-, 500-, and 1,000-square-meter lots that owners can’t use or can’t sell, and converting these to neat clusters of row houses.

What is remarkable is that the housing goes hand in hand with “formation” and “empowerment.” Several hundreds of families where genuine BECs (basic ecclesial communities) can thrive, have organized into neighborhood and homeowners’ associations federated into SHACC (St. Hannibal Christian Community Inc.).

They make soap, fabric conditioners, bleach, etc. We buy “Go Healthy Products” like chicken, pechay and camote, all organic, of course. There is youth formation, an excellent singing group, trained health workers; what else!

The priests do not just visit the sites. RCJ Fathers Dexter, Orville Cajigal and Arlene Gumangan LIVE there. Talk of immersion!

When can we get it into our thick skulls that Jesus was poor, that our country in too many corners is scandalously poor, and that the institutional Church in too many corners is scandalously rich?

The Church is people, often poor people, whether in Monsignor Legaspi’s rural Bulacan or in Father Dexter’s dense Pasay. “Mission” is written all over the spirit behind their work. Truly, priesthood is nothing if not mission.

Sam Miguel
01-29-2013, 09:34 AM
What the money means

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:36 pm | Monday, January 28th, 2013

If money is paid out for it, does it mean it really happened? That seems to be the current thinking, especially in this age of deniers and revisionists, with people believing that if you deny or doubt something often enough, the public will start questioning even their own memories or the historical record.

For many human rights victims of martial law, the soon-to-be-passed legislation requiring compensation for the abuses they suffered may come too late. Some have already died, while others have since moved on. For many others, the mental torture and trauma they suffered will continue to haunt them long after their share of the P10-billion loot confiscated by the government has been used up.

Still, a number of them could use the money. Some need financial support for their health problems, many of them traceable to the torture they endured and the hard life they led. Many others could put the money to good use by supporting the education of family members, or providing them with such basic comforts as housing, a source of income, and insurance against catastrophe.

But more than providing material compensation for victims of martial law, what the prospective law does, says the former detainees’ organization Selda, is to finally establish in the historical record that, indeed, human rights violations took place under the sponsorship of the Marcos government. “More than the monetary compensation,” says Selda, “the bill represents the only formal, written document that martial law violated the human rights of Filipinos and that there were courageous people who fought the dictatorship.”

No more room for Marcos relatives, such as Rep. Imelda Marcos or Sen. Bongbong Marcos, to assert that martial law under Marcos’ rule was benevolent and progressive. No more room for hawks in the military and government to insist that martial law “saved” the Philippines from a communist insurgency (indeed, recruitment to the ranks of the New People’s Army surged during the martial law period).

And as Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello declares: “Finally, after over two decades after the fall of the dictatorship, we will have a law that puts the responsibility for human rights abuses square on the shoulder of Marcos and provides justice for all those who suffered under his reign.”

* * *

While the number of possible beneficiaries of the law still remains in dispute, an estimated 16,000 individuals have been identified, some 10,000 being the plaintiffs in a Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses and 6,000 more documented by the Commission on Human Rights. Even so, CHR Chair Etta Rosales is encouraging other claimants to come out and be recognized, subject to screening.

I’m just hoping the effort doesn’t end up in the same mess created by the “war damages” or reparations claims filed against the Japanese government shortly after World War II. In those years, a cottage industry of fake and falsified claims and bogus claimants blossomed and, if we recall right, some so-called “collaborators” of the Japanese military even managed to get elected to office.

Already, there have been reports of falsified claims among the martial law victims, with the identities of some usurped by the undeserving.

I hope everyone involved in managing and disbursing the funds keep in mind that the millions represent not just compensation but is actually “blood money,” amassed at the cost of many lives lost, futures compromised, and a generation lost.

* * *

The bill, which goes through the final bicameral conference meeting today, is the last of a raft of bills championed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who is bowing out of legislation, if not politics, at the end of this, his third term.

The bearish, fatherly Lagman, whose hair was still black when he started filing bills upholding the rights of students, workers and women, as a website avers, has racked up an impressive array of legislation.

He is most famous for sponsoring in the House (and shepherding through it for more than a decade) the newly-passed Reproductive Health Law (his Senate counterpart is Sen. Pia Cayetano). But he can also boast of being the sponsor of such laws as the “desaparecidos” (disappeared) law, which identifies as a crime the act of making criminal suspects “disappear” (through summary executions) while under custody; the law criminalizing the use of torture by agents of the State; and now this law on compensation for human rights victims of the martial law regime.

In recognition of his steadfast work on the RH Law, Lagman will be named today an “Eminent Person” of the Forum on Family Planning, an honorific post created by the Forum for individuals who have proven to be outstanding supporters of reproductive health and rights in the country.

* * *

But more than recognitions or awards, I think what sustained Lagman through this dark night of struggle—including his loyalty to former President Gloria Arroyo who ultimately betrayed him—was knowing what his legislative work was rooted in.

And that is his own painful family history, with one brother wrongfully picked up, tortured and killed by the military at the outset of martial law, and another brother (labor and urban poor leader Popoy) gunned down on what is believed to be the orders of the communist leadership.

He may be best known for the battle he led for the passage of the RH bill, but I bet it is the human rights legislation that most warms the heart of “Cong Edcel,” representing a personal vindication and compensation for his own family’s long dark night of struggle and grief.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 07:59 AM
Marcos sins, victims’ woes to be taught in schools

By Leila B. Salaverria

1:40 am | Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Never again.

So the nation will remember not to forget, a bill that recognizes for the first time that the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship committed atrocities against Filipinos also mandates the teaching in schools of the abuses inflicted on its opponents and the heroism of those who fought the regime.

The bill, ratified by the two chambers of Congress on Monday and awaits the signing into law by President Aquino, creates the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission and lays down guidelines for monetary reparations to the victims from a P10-billion fund out of the ill-gotten wealth recovered from Marcos.

The memorial commission is tasked with collaborating with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) “to ensure that the teaching of martial law atrocities, the lives and sacrifices of [victims of human rights violations] in our history are included in the basic, secondary, and tertiary education curricula.”

The memorial commission will also establish, restore, and preserve a memorial, museum, library and compendium in honor of the victims as outlined in the policy statement of the bill, called The Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The bill states: “It is hereby declared the policy of the state to recognize the heroism and sacrifices of all Filipinos who were victims of summary execution, torture, enforced or involuntary disappearance and other gross human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos covering the period from Sept. 21, 1972, to Feb. 25, 1986, and restore the victims’ honor and dignity.”

The memorial commission will be run by a board of trustees led by the Commission on Human Rights chair, and composed of the secretary of education, heads of the National Historical Commission, the CHEd, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, and the University of the Philippines-Diliman Main Library.

Roll of victims

The bill also creates the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, an independent and quasi-judicial body tasked with receiving, evaluating, processing and investigating the applications for monetary compensation.

The board is also called upon to draw up a “Roll of Human Rights Victims,” regardless of whether they sought reparation or not, to be displayed in government offices. A compendium of the victims’ sacrifices will also be prepared and posted on the Internet, the bill states.

The President will choose the nine members of the board, and human rights organizations may submit a list of nominees.

The board must complete its work within two years from the effectivity of implementing rules and regulations concerning the measure.

A martial law victim may file an application for reparation with the board within six months from the effectivity of the implementing rules, according to the bill. Failure to do so within that period will be deemed a waiver.

For the victims who are deceased, incapacitated, or missing due to enforced disappearance, their legal heirs or representatives may file an application for reparation on their behalf.

Any application may be opposed if the challenge is filed within 15 days from publication of the official list of eligible claimants. Those found by the board to have filed fraudulent claims will be prosecuted.

Conclusive presumption

The bill also states that the 9,539 plaintiffs in the litigation against the Marcos estate in a Hawaii court will be given the conclusive presumption that they are human rights violations victims.

To be given the same presumption are those victims recognized by the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation.

In determining compensation, the board will use a system assigning points—from one to 10—to each claimant depending on the severity of the abuse suffered.

Victims who died or disappeared and are still missing will be given 10 points; those who were tortured and/or raped or sexually abused will be given six to nine points; and those who were detained, three to five points.

To be awarded one to two points are those who suffered any force or intimidation leading to their voluntary exile abroad; and those who suffered force, intimidation or deceit causing the unjust or illegal takeover of a business, confiscation of property, detention of owners, or deprivation of livelihood, including those caused by the Marcoses and their immediate relatives and cronies.

To be given the same points are those who were kidnapped or whose children were exploited; those who suffered sexual offenses while detained or the subject of military and police operations, and those who suffered similar or analogous abuses.

Compensation will be made within 30 days after the board approves with finality each eligible claim and publishes it.

Sam Miguel
01-30-2013, 08:00 AM
^^^ And I wonder what teachers will say when students ask them if the Marcoses were so bad how did they win public office in this day and age?

For that matter, what if they have marcos grandchildren and greatgrandchildren in attendance, and those people raise a howl?

Sam Miguel
02-06-2013, 10:28 AM
Whole truth

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:04 pm | Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Better late than never—particularly about a project that has to do with “never again.” Heeding calls from various sectors worried about the growing blight of revisionism, the Senate has just passed a law that would create the Memorial Commission. The Commission will oversee the teaching of martial law’s atrocities in schools, and the heroism of those who fought it.

It’s a good idea, and one that should have been done long ago. Then one Juan Ponce Enrile might have thought twice about writing a memoir that makes him out to be the savior of the country. It’s a good idea for several reasons.

The first is that the teaching of the crimes of martial law, and those of one Ferdinand Marcos, in schools in the Ilocos in particular, is absolutely necessary. Ilocos Norte has pretty much seceded from the Philippine Republic at least ideologically if not politically, at least in mind if not in body. It’s not just because, as the joke goes, Marcos thought he was fleeing to Paoay and not Hawaii when he was plucked out of Malacañang in 1986 and spared the attentions of the ragged crowd rattling the Palace gates. It’s also, and far less facetiously, because the schools there have a different version of Marcos and martial law.

It’s a version that says Marcos was the best thing to have happened to this country. He was a brilliant man who saw farther and deeper than anyone—he had a photographic memory and was “always two steps ahead of you,” as his generals kept saying—who bucked the Left, the Right and the Americans, ending up much misunderstood, unappreciated and maligned. Martial law, for its part, far from digging the grave of democracy—an “elite democracy” in all its tyrannical contradictions—resurrected it in its indigenous, Pinoy, form.

The same things Filipinos in general were told during the 14 years of it, who were moreover made to celebrate Sept. 21 as Thanksgiving Day. Clearly, it’s not just Marcos’ corpse that has been preserved there, by formalin and other drugs, it’s his specter as well, by (mis)education and other dregs. It’s time Ilocano kids got taught the right things about the wrong things Da Apo did. Contrary to rumor, Ilocanos can handle the truth.

The second is the increasing disappearance of cruelty, atrocity, barbarity from the recollection of martial law. It’s a common thread in Philippine history. The Americans managed to wipe out all traces, or vestiges, of their horrific pacification campaign following its gratuitous occupation of a country trying to free itself, emphasized by Gen. Jake Smith’s orders to “turn Samar into a howling wilderness.” All we remember now is a benign rule that began with the coming of the Thomasites, the American volunteers that brought education to us. The Japanese managed to wipe out all traces or vestiges of their even more horrific attempts to make the Filipinos see the light of their being Asian, specifically the blinding light of bayonets glinting in the red sun while making a long and lethal march. All we remember now is that Japan gave us animé and Japanese restaurants, little helped by postwar action movies that turned mga Hapon into caricature.

If that could happen then, it can happen now. I don’t know that the Marcoses can develop the cheek to try to transform themselves, like Enrile, into the country’s benefactors. But I know that they can always take the sting out of martial law in time, with time, across the length of the long and lethal march of forgetfulness. Unless we do something about it.

Teaching the atrocities of martial law, indeed teaching the atrocity that was Marcos himself, in school, and to the kids in elementary school in particular—you can’t have more fallow ground than that—does something about it. It helps nip it in the bud. But here’s a rub, which the Memorial Commission would do well to address.

That commission is tasked with teaching the heroism of those who fought martial law, along with the villainy of those who wrought it. But who were the heroes of that time? That is a vital question particularly in light of this country’s allergy to the Left, the communists, the “outsiders.” They tend to be erased, deleted, blotted out from the story the way “ideological deviants” tended to be erased, deleted, and blotted out from the annals of Soviet history.

Yet if you come right down to it, they were the heroes of the greater part of martial law. In the same way, or more, that the French resistance fighters, many of whom were communists and many of whom died, were bona fide heroes of the German Occupation. The students, teachers, human rights lawyers, nuns, priests, bishops, workers, peasants, urban poor, rural poor, indigenous people, ordinary folk who went to the hills or stood right where they were to fight it.

They were the heroes of the time, particularly during the 1970s, well before Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, well before Enrile fell out of grace with Marcos and plotted against him. Not the steak commandos, they in restless exile abroad desperately fighting, well, steaks. Not the ex-politicians who belonged to ex-political parties who had become ex-oppositionists for the most part. Not even the Yellow Brigade, that would come much later after Ninoy fell at the then Manila International Airport.

Not to tell their story, not to tell their heroism, not to tell their living—and dying—during the pit of martial law, when few others, if any, were there to fan the embers of freedom, that would be revisionism, too. No more and no less than forgetting martial law’s atrocities. No more and no less than accepting Enrile’s rewriting of history. No more and no less than tolerating the Marcoses’ efforts to reinvent themselves.

By all means let’s tell the truth. But the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Sam Miguel
02-07-2013, 08:28 AM
From Inquirer.net - - -

DPWH, BIR Aquino’s favorite success stories

1:16 am | Thursday, February 7th, 2013

DAVAO CITY—President Aquino has said his favorite success story these days is that of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), an agency notorious for corruption during the Arroyo administration.

In those days public works officials sold contracts for projects and approved substandard projects in exchange for cash.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the World Bank-sponsored Philippine Development Forum (PDF) here on Tuesday, Aquino said the DPWH was one of the government agencies that spent a lot and ended each year with their budgets spent to the last peso.

But the funds were not entirely spent on projects or legal expenses, as large amounts were pocketed by officials of the agency “once known to be a den of corruption,” Aquino said.

When he assumed office in 2010, he zeroed in on the DPWH to clean it up as part of his administration’s “straight path” campaign, Aquino said.

‘Conscientious,’ honest work

One year after the introduction of reforms, Aquino said the DPWH realized considerable savings of more than P300 million.

The reason: Public works officials had become “conscientious.”

In 2012, Aquino said “honest work” at the DPWH resulted in savings of about P12 billion despite the government’s aggressive spending on public infrastructure.

Such are the results of his administration’s commitment to good government, Aquino said, beaming with pride as he enumerated the achievements of his reform campaign in his speech to Filipino and foreign economic planners who attended the forum.

BIR collects P1T

Aquino cited another success story, that of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which, he said, used to be run by corrupt officials.

The introduction of reforms and a top-down revamp have resulted in changes for the better at the BIR, the President said.

In 2012, for the first time in the agency’s history, the BIR collected more than P1 trillion, he said.

A “transparent” revenue campaign led by Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares made the achievement possible, he said.

For this year, the BIR promises to hit 95 percent to 99 percent of its revenue-collection goal for an even better performance, Aquino said.

The DPWH and BIR stories show what a serious fight against corruption can do even in the most corrupt agencies of the government, Aquino said.

Real results

“This kind of transparency and accountability leads to the increased efficiency of agencies and redounds to real results: money saved, programs improved, and people helped,” he said.

Aquino said the money that his administration had saved boosted the budget for other programs, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer Program that hands out cash to the poorest of poor families in exchange for keeping their children in school and submitting themselves to health care in state-run clinics.

Aquino said that for this year, the budget for the program was P44.3 billion, four times the allocation for it in 2010.

He said the budget increase was aimed at helping 3.8 million poor families.

Government savings also made the expansion of the PhilHealth coverage possible, Aquino said.

Investor confidence

And his administration’s campaign against corruption has also boosted investor confidence in the Philippines, he said.

So encouraged are investors that even Mindanao, which for the first time in 40 years can look forward to peace and development with the signing of a preliminary peace agreement with Moro rebels, is getting a large share of fresh investment, the President said.

Sam Miguel
02-07-2013, 08:29 AM
DAR distributes 480 ha

De los Reyes: This is just the beginning

By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

Inquirer Southern Luzon

12:05 am | Thursday, February 7th, 2013

MULANAY, Quezon—Despite a warrant for his arrest, Rodolfo Pagatpat, 60, a tenant at the vast Villa Reyes in nearby San Narciso town, on Wednesday joined an estimated 5,000 farmers from the Bondoc Peninsula at the distribution of certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“I have to be here to witness the culmination of our long and painful struggle to own the land that we have been tilling for several generations,” Pagatpat told the Inquirer at a parking lot in this rustic town on the edge of Tayabas Bay.

According to Jansept Geronimo, campaign officer of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization, which has been helping the farmers, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributed CLOAs for 480 hectares of the vast farmland owned by the scions of the late Don Domingo Reyes in the towns of San Narciso, Buenavista and San Andres.

“There will be another distribution of 120 hectares in March and another 524 hectares in June. There is no more legal impediment to its distribution,” Geronimo said.

Records of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP) show that 303 criminal cases, mostly for the qualified theft of coconuts, have been filed against 223 tenants who complained of harassment by several landlords whose estates were under CARP coverage.

One of the victims of harassment was Pagatpat, who said he has been living in the mountains since 2006 to avoid authorities. “Once I am arrested, I have to shell out close to P100,000 for my bail, which I don’t have. But I’m not in hiding. I’m just living far from my family,” he said.

Agrarian hot spot

Pagatpat said his son would receive the CLOA for him, which would entitle him to the legal ownership of three hectares of land. His niece Rosita, 56, a tenant of Villa Reyes for the past 40 years, also received her CLOA for more than one hectare of land.

In between sobs, she said she had spent time in jail for the “unjust charge of stealing coconuts which our forebears had planted.”

Mulanay is regarded as one of the “agrarian hot spots” in the Bondoc Peninsula because of landowner resistance and the land distribution ceremony was a symbolic gesture of the government’s sincerity in pushing ahead with the agrarian reform program expiring in 2014.

The farmers traveled from different towns and assembled at the town entrance since early morning. They later marched toward the town plaza for the distribution of the CLOAs by a government delegation led by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and included Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Commission of Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chairman Joel Rocamora.

In a short dialogue under the scorching noonday sun, farmer Myrna Fontamillas of Barangay (village) Lakdayan, San Narciso, engaged the government officials in an argument on why the agrarian reform beneficiaries still had to pay for the land.

In the end, apparently convinced by the explanation of government representatives, the woman hugged and kissed Alcala in gratitude while the rest of the farmers and officials applauded.

End to Bondoc disputes

De los Reyes said the distribution was only the beginning. “The government will bring to an end the agrarian disputes in the Bondoc Peninsula,” he told newsmen.

He said the DAR was now speeding up land distribution under CARP, particularly those lands with “notice of coverage.” He said this would continue even after CARP ends. He said that nothing in the law stated that the DAR could not distribute CARP-covered lands beyond June 2014.

The DAR’s P21-billion budget for 2013 covers land acquisition and distribution; and includes more than P2.3 billion for support services, up from P800 million this year.

Joyous farmers

“The farmers are all joyous. Most of them shed tears when they were informed of this land distribution event,” said Maribel Luzara, KMBP president.

The agrarian reform initiative was initiated by President Aquino’s late mother, then President Corazon Aquino, on June 10, 1988, as the centerpiece of a social justice program to lift farmers from poverty and eliminate one of the causes of a lingering communist insurgency.

On Aug. 7, 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9700, or the Carper (CARP extension with reforms) Law. This extended CARP for another five years with a total budget of P150 billion.

Sam Miguel
02-11-2013, 09:45 AM
The 15th Congress’ surprising output: A bumper crop of reform measures

By Walden Bello

12:50 am | Monday, February 11th, 2013

It was disappointing, the way the last session of the 15th Congress ended, with the Senate in turmoil over Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s gestures of feudal favoritism with the people’s money and the House of Representatives’ unconscionable failure to pass the Freedom of Information Bill. But its tragicomic last act should not bury the fact that this Congress had a bumper crop of progressive measures strengthening social, political, and human rights.

At the top of the list is, of course, the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Act. The significance of this measure lies not only in its advancing women’s rights and welfare and promoting sustainable and manageable population growth, but in its being a giant step towards completing the process of secularization that began with the Reform Movement of the ilustrados in the 19th century.

R.A. No. 10351, better known as the “Sin Tax,” broke the cancerous hold on the country’s health by the Lucio Tan–Philip Morris partnership while acquiring over P33 billion in its first year of implementation, the bulk of which will go towards kick-starting the government’s universal health program.

The Kasambahay Act brought long-delayed legal coverage to the millions of domestic workers that constitute the pillar of the household economy. Now they will be entitled to a minimum wage, social security and Pag-Ibig housing benefits, days off, and limits to their working hours. The Act, along with its signing the International Labor Organization’s Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, will also strengthen the government’s hand in negotiating stronger benefits and protections for our migrant domestic workers in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Owing to its implications for family finances, many in the middle class may not be happy with this bill now, but they will eventually come to accept it as necessary from a human and social rights perspective.

The Amended Anti-Trafficking Act strengthens the hand of the authorities in dealing with the cancer of human trafficking against which they have made little headway so far. It strengthens their power to prosecute pre-empted acts of trafficking. It eliminates the privacy clause previously enjoyed by traffickers, which means that people, including members of the media, who reveal the identities of those accused in human trafficking cases shall not be subjected to criminal sanctions. Finally, it penalizes the confiscation of travel documents such as passports and working permits from trafficked persons.

The landmark Marcos Compensation Act will finally bring some measure of justice to the more than 12,000 victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos period. Funded by P10 billion from the Marcos assets seized by the Swiss government and turned over to the Philippines, the Act is one of the few, if not the only instance, a government anywhere in the world has made financial reparations to victims of human rights violations.

Alongside the Marcos Compensation Act as a milestone human rights measure is the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act. Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors, told the Inquirer that the measure is “a milestone in Asia as it will be the first national law to criminalize enforced disappearance as a separate or distinct offense.” The Act provides for a penalty of from 20 to 40 years in prison, renders illegal “orders of battle” that give police and military units blanket power to deal with targeted individuals, outlaws secret detention centers, and mandates the compensation, restitution and rehabilitation of victims. The only major flaw of the Act is its not covering non-state actors, which have also been responsible for acts of forced disappearance, a provision that several of its authors, including myself, fought for, unsuccessfully.

A final feather in the cap of the 15th Congress was ratified on the very last day of the last session on February 6. This was the Amended Overseas Voting Act, which did away with the requirement that those registering to vote overseas must file an affidavit stating they will return to the Philippines after three years. It also empowered the Commission on Elections to explore new technologies of registration and voting, including internet registration and voting, and make recommendations to Congress on their adoption. With over 10 million Filipinos now living and working abroad, the amended law is expected to dramatically expand the number of overseas voters. A commonly accepted view is that, owing to their cosmopolitan experiences, Filipinos working overseas are not easily subverted by the blandishments of traditional politicians and are likely to base their vote mainly on candidates’ stands on issues and their programs instead of feudal loyalties or bribes. This amended law will provide a good test of this thesis, and if the outcome is as expected, then people will look back on it as a major step forward in the modernization and maturation of Philippine democracy.

Yes, despite its unfortunate ending, the 15th Congress has been a historic Congress. There, of course, remains much that remains to be done, and passing laws does not guarantee that they will be implemented effectively. But legislating reform is a conditio sine qua non for the reform process, and the 15th Congress, along with the impressive initiatives of the President in the area of good governance, provides proof that despite its grave imperfections, Philippine democracy is capable of self-transformation.

Sam Miguel
02-11-2013, 09:45 AM
Understanding senatorial preferences

By Randy David

9:03 pm | Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Not a few have asked how we can make sense of the senatorial preferences expressed in recent surveys leading up to the 2013 elections. What seems to be the basis of these preferences? Is it all about “name recall”? How much value is attached to political programs and visions?

My usual answer is that I am as baffled as they are about the choices that our people make. These preferences don’t seem to be anchored on any serious understanding of what a senator’s functions are, or on a thoughtful examination of the candidates’ qualifications and record, and, least of all, on any idea of the kind of legislative leadership the country needs at this time.

I have before me the results of the most recent Pulse Asia survey released last Feb. 8, with four months left before Election Day. The official campaign period has not begun, and candidates have yet to explain their programs in public forums, but already, respondents are filling up, on average, eight of the available 12 senatorial slots. “Virtually all of the probable winners,” the survey notes, “are either former or current members of Congress.” The odd person in the winning circle of 12 is Nancy Binay, who is ranked No. 4, just below the sure winners—Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, and Alan Peter Cayetano.

Binay has not previously run for, or occupied, any public office. Her political experience is limited to her having served as personal assistant to her father, current Vice President Jejomar Binay. She is not known to have taken any stand on any national issue that is likely to be debated in the halls of the Senate. Yet she enjoys an awareness rating of 88 percent that is significantly higher than that of former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr. With an awareness rating of only 79, Jun, the son and namesake of the popular president who died in a tragic plane crash, is currently ranked at No. 17.

It is obvious that Binay’s astounding feat in preelection surveys draws solely from the magic of her father’s name. In this, she’s not alone. One could say the same thing for Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., JV Ejercito Estrada, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, and Edgardo “Sonny” Angara. Perhaps it is not so much that voters mistake them for their fathers, as they positively associate them with the images of their famous namesakes.

But why does name recall work for them and not for Magsaysay who was a senator until three years ago? I think there is a simple answer: the late President Magsaysay lived in the 1950s, and despite his abundant presence in children’s textbooks and peso bills, he is a remote figure to the young generation of Filipino voters. For all its saliency, the name “Magsaysay” is linked with the past.

On the other hand, Benigno “Bam” Aquino, the namesake and look-alike of the martyred Sen. Ninoy Aquino, might have a better chance of improving his survey ranking as the elections draw near. He is now at No. 13, three rungs above the 16th place that he occupied in the December Pulse Asia survey. One might hold up the same hope for Grace Poe, whose more deliberate pairing with her iconic father, Fernando Poe Jr., in recent media adverts has pulled her from No. 17 to No. 14. Grace has been able to combine this name advantage with her effective projection of herself as a young sweet woman of serene intelligence.

Name recall is clearly important but, by itself it does not guarantee “winnability.” Jamby Madrigal, who conducted a maverick campaign for the presidency in 2010 and was a senator until six years ago, has an awareness rating of 90 percent. She was at No. 13 in the December 2012 survey, and has slid down to No. 16 in the January 2013 survey. Former Sen. Dick Gordon also ran for president in 2010 and has maintained a high public profile as head of the Philippine National Red Cross. He enjoys an awareness rating of 88, but remains at No. 15, still outside the winning circle. Former Sen. Ernesto Maceda, an old hand in Philippine politics, having served in various capacities in successive administrations, has an awareness rating of 82 percent but languishes in the surveys at No. 19.

Voters have short memories. The younger they are, the more impressionable they tend to be. Their impressions, mostly based on sound bites and fleeting glimpses, do not last long either. Three years out of the limelight, a politician who fails to etch a strong presence in the public memory is as good as forgotten. But those who manage to leave a deep mark on the people’s consciousness are rewarded by a lingering loyalty. Think of politicians like Legarda, Escudero, Cayetano, Trillanes and Honasan. The mere mention of their names conjures, rightly or wrongly, images of vitality, eloquence, audacity, etc.

One would have thought by this same token, that the young activist social democrat Risa Hontiveros, who figured prominently in the anti-Arroyo rallies and almost made it to the Senate in 2010, would by now be among the top senatorial choices for 2013. It is a puzzle that she is not. She possesses all the qualities that young people seem to admire in their leaders—brightness, courage, compassion for the downtrodden and articulateness. What seems to spell the difference is that in the last three years she was not in the public eye. It is time now to remind the public that this is the same bright and brave woman they almost made senator in 2010.

Today’s voters are mostly young, lower middle class, and with the benefit of no more than a high school education. What the surveys suggest is that they are not interested in the candidates’ party affiliations, or what they stand for, or whether they think they can meaningfully contribute to the discussion of issues at the Senate. They are dazzled by form rather than by substance, a fact that makes television all the more the true battleground of national elections.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-12-2013, 08:51 AM
Enrile’s ambush claim defies logic–retired general Montaño

By Cathy Yamsuan, Donna Z. Pazzibugan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:34 am | Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s claim in his autobiography that he was ambushed in Wack-Wack Subdivision in Mandaluyong City on Sept. 22, 1972, “defies logic,” according to the former Philippine Constabulary general who investigated Ferdinand Marcos’ justification for placing the Philippines under martial law.

In a report published on Friday by Yahoo! News, retired Gen. Ramon Montaño Jr., who is running for the Senate as an independent candidate, said he was part of the team that investigated the supposed ambush and he knew early on that it was staged.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Monday, Montaño said the bullet holes on Enrile’s car were “very neatly aligned” and the supposed automatic gunfire “conveniently missed all the occupants.”

Such an outcome, he said, would have been “impossible” had the car really been speeding when it was raked with automatic gunfire.

“They alleged they were intercepted and there was gunfire. If you do that, [bullet holes should be] all over [the car]. But in this case, [the bullet holes] were very neatly aligned and then no one was hit,” Montaño said.

“It defies logic,” he added.

Montaño said that at the time, he was with the intelligence branch of the Philippine Constabulary’s Criminal Investigation Service (CIS).

He said he neither submitted a report on his investigation nor meddled with the official report, preferring to keep quiet in light of the imposition of martial law.

At the start of the People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos from power in February 1986, Enrile himself told reporters that the ambush was faked.

But in his autobiography published last September, Enrile said the ambush was real.

Senate probe

So whose memory is correct—Enrile’s or Montaño’s?

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants the Senate to investigate Enrile “in aid of legislation” for what she called “brazen false claims” involving the supposed ambush.

In a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer, Santiago said she had set the inquiry for July after the opening of the 16th Congress and Montaño would be called as a witness.

Montaño’s statements in the Yahoo! News report spurred Santiago’s initiative.

Montaño, former commander of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP), forerunner of today’s Philippine National Police, in the administration of President Cory Aquino, said in the Yahoo! News report that he stopped reading Enrile’s 700-plus-page autobiography after getting to the part where Enrile insisted the ambush was real.

‘Full of lies’

He said he could not finish reading the book “because it was full of lies.”

Montaño also said Enrile initially supported the presidential bid of the widow of assassinated opposition Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., Cory Aquino, but when he realized that she was winning, he proposed a junta that he would lead.

“[T]hey wanted to recruit our troops [to] their junta because they said she (Cory Aquino) would support communists, that she would appoint communists to her Cabinet,” Montaño said in his interview with the Inquirer on Monday.

“Gringo’s propaganda was very good,” he said, referring to the then Army colonel, now senator, Gregorio Honasan, Enrile’s trusted military aide in 1986.

“So we had a hard time keeping troops on the side of Cory. General [Fidel] Ramos and I were walking on a tightrope because they had charisma. Even the WAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) was angry with us,” Montaño said.

Enrile eventually dropped the junta plan after realizing that Cory Aquino enjoyed huge public support, Montaño added.

At the start of the Edsa People Power Revolution, Enrile told reporters that the ambush was staged to provide the dictator a convenient excuse to place the Philippines under martial law.

Enrile’s revised account of the ambush in his autobiography, “Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir,” greatly disturbed many readers who could still recall his statement to journalists that the ambush was scripted.

Members of the Senate President’s staff said Enrile did not want to comment on Montaño’s statement. They said Enrile, one of the leaders of the opposition coalition for May’s midterm elections, was busy with meetings and preparations for the proclamation of the group’s senatorial candidates in Cebu City on Tuesday.

False claims

In her statement to the Inquirer, Santiago said Enrile “may have committed any of the several crimes punishable by the Penal Code, such as unlawful use of means of publication, falsification by a public officer of a document, or falsification by private individual.”

Unlawful use of means of publication, she said, is publication by anyone by any means of news or false news that “may cause damage to the interest of the State.”

Falsification of document by a public officer, she said, is making it appear that people participated in any act or proceeding when, in fact, they did not, or “by making untruthful statements in a narration of facts.”

Santiago added that falsification by a private individual is “committed by any person who, to the damage of a third party, shall in any private document commit acts of falsification.”

“Whatever the crime, the basic rule is that the accused should have violated public faith and destroyed the truth, as decided by the Supreme Court in the 1985 case of Gamido, and the separate case of Sabiano,” Santiago said.

“The Enrile book caused a scandal because his claims have no relation to political reality. But the scandal will be finally settled when General Montaño appears in a Senate hearing. He has already told me that regardless of the Senate campaign results, he is willing to testify in a public hearing and affirm his statements against Enrile,” Santiago said.

“The rule of evidence will apply to Enrile: False in one thing, false in all things. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” she added.

‘Variance from history’

In the Yahoo! News report, Montaño said that when he was appointed PC-INP chief by President Cory Aquino, he headed a team tasked to look into the supposed ambush. The team returned a report stating that the ambush was faked.

“This is one of the major variance from history,” Montaño said.

Montaño also served as adviser on political affairs to President Fidel Ramos.—With a report from Tarra Quismundo

Sam Miguel
02-15-2013, 08:03 AM
Sabah in standoff with Sulu ‘royal army’

Agence France-Presse

1:52 am | Friday, February 15th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR–Malaysia’s government said Thursday its security forces have surrounded dozens of Filipino gunmen in a remote area of Borneo island, and a report said the group is demanding the right to stay.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters about 80 to 100 gunmen apparently belonging to the “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu had been cornered by security forces near the small coastal town of Lahad Datu in Sabah.

He said security forces were in control and negotiating with the group, some of whom were armed.

The area was once controlled by the former Islamic Sultanate of Sulu and has a history of incursions by armed Filipino Muslim groups.

Malaysia’s national police chief Ismail Omar was quoted as saying the militants had declared themselves followers of “a descendant of the Sultan of Sulu.”

Ismail, quoted on the website of The Star newspaper, said the group demanded to be recognized as the “Royal Sulu Sultanate Army” and insisted that as subjects of the sultanate, they should be allowed to remain in Sabah.

“They have made known their demands while we have told them that they need to leave the country,” the police chief was quoted as saying, adding that negotiations with the group were still under way.

The report did not elaborate.

Earlier Thursday Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted by The Star as saying police were negotiating with the gunmen “to get the group to leave peacefully to prevent bloodshed”.

The report said a tight security ring including Malaysian army and naval forces had been drawn around the “heavily armed” group.

The Sulu sultanate, first founded in the 1400s, was once a regional power center, controlling islands in the Muslim southern Philippines and parts of Borneo including Sabah until its demise a century ago.

Much of the eastern part of Sabah is being claimed by the Philippines as part of the Sultanate of Sulu that was leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1878. Great Britain transferred Sabah to Malaysia in 1963, which according to the Sultanate of Sulu was a violation of the Sabah Lease of 1878.

Security on Sabah’s coast has been a problem for Malaysia, with tens of thousands of Filipinos believed to have migrated illegally to the state over the past few decades from the adjacent southern Philippines.

People continue to move freely across the maritime border from Mindanao, which has been racked for decades by Islamic separatist insurgencies and other lawlessness.

In 2000, guerrillas of the Islamic militant Abu Sayyaf movement seized 21 mostly Western holidaymakers as hostages at the Malaysian scuba diving resort of Sipadan near Lahad Datu.

The hostages were taken to Philippine islands and later ransomed.

Mainly Muslim Malaysia hosted long-running talks between Manila and the southern Philippines’ main Muslim separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, that resulted in a framework agreement last year aimed at ending their insurgency.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez has said Manila was in touch with Malaysia over the case. With INQUIRER.net

Sam Miguel
02-19-2013, 08:25 AM
In the Know: PH claim to Sabah ‘dormant’ but KL pays annual rent

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:14 am | Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

In October last year, President Aquino described the territorial dispute with Malaysia over Sabah as “dormant at this point in time.”

While the Philippines’ pending claim to Sabah is dormant, the country has never relinquished its claim to Sabah and Kuala Lumpur continues to pay a yearly rent to the heirs of the sultan of Sulu.

The Philippines’ claim to Sabah (formerly North Borneo) is based on the historic ownership of the territory by the hereditary sultans of Sulu.

North Borneo, which used to be under the sultan of Brunei, was ceded to the sultan of Sulu in 1704 after the sultan of Sulu helped quell a rebellion instigated against the sultan of Brunei, according to descendants of Sultan Jamalul Ahlam of the kingdom of Sulu.

Sabah was leased to the British colonizers of what is now Malaysia in the late 19th century. In 1878, Ahlam leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Co. for 5,300 Mexican gold pieces a year. The company religiously remitted payments until 1936, when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the 32nd

sultan of Sulu, died.

The British consul in Manila recommended the suspension of payments because President Manuel L. Quezon did not recognize Kiram II’s successor. In 1950, Sultan Punjungan Kiram, crown prince of the sultanate at the time of Kiram II’s death, went to the British consulate in Manila to demand the resumption of payments.

Kiram II’s heirs also filed a case in the Sessions Court of North Borneo, which directed the British company to resume payments. The company complied for several years, but it stopped paying when its rights to Sabah were transferred to the newly established Federation of Malaysia in 1963. The new government assumed the payment but in ringgit.

Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (about P77,000) to the legal counsel of Ahlam’s descendants. Malaysia considers the amount an annual “cession” payment for the disputed state, while the sultan’s descendants consider it “rent.”—Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

Sam Miguel
02-20-2013, 09:42 AM
The Sabah standoff: Revolt left out sultanate’s heirs

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:30 pm | Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

For 50 years, the Philippine claim to Sabah in the former British North Borneo has remained dormant like a ticking time bomb. On Feb. 12, this tranquility was disturbed when some 300 armed Filipinos led by Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of a descendant of the Sultan of Sulu, landed on the seaside village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu town in Sabah after crossing the sea from Island in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines’ southernmost province in the Sulu Archipelago.

Agbimuddin was reported to have claimed that the expedition was launched to press the claim of the Sulu sultanate to Sabah, which the administration of President Aquino appeared to have shelved to avoid a confrontation with Malaysia, which has been brokering the government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The landing threatened to wreck the framework agreement signed by the Aquino administration with the MILF, a “peace in our time” accord to create a Bangsamoro entity, carving out an autonomous Moro homeland from the sovereign territory of the Philippine republic.

The expedition also created a dangerous armed impasse as Sabah security forces surrounded the landing group, which refused demands to leave the village, saying it should not be expelled because Sabah is part of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. Negotiations are underway between Philippine and Malaysian authorities to prevent the standoff from escalating into an explosive confrontation. The impasse has also reignited demands in the Philippines to put the claim to Sabah on high profile in the relations between Manila and Kuala Lumpur—a step that may open rifts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which the two countries are original founding members.

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu decided to press their claim to Sabah after feeling betrayed and left out in the peace process between the Aquino administration and the MILF, according to a report in the Inquirer. In an interview with the Inquirer, Agbimuddin said the government appeared to have neglected the heirs and ignored their stand that their claim to Sabah is an “integral and essential” aspect of any peace agreement with any armed group in Mindanao. Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesperson of the sultanate, said the decision to show not just physical presence but actual occupation of Sabah came late last year, shortly after the Aquino administration signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF on Oct. 15.

“They are not interested, this government and the previous governments, so we decided to act on our own,” Agbimuddin said. On Feb. 11, he and 1,000 followers, including armed men from what he called the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo,” left Simunul Island on speedboats and headed to Sabah. He described the action as, not an act of aggression, but “a journey back home.”

Idjirani said that before the signing of the framework agreement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process invited the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu to what was supposed to be a consultation on the peace deal with the MILF. Idjirani said the heirs thought the government wanted a comprehensive resolution to the peace, security and economic problems of territories in Mindanao by consulting with them. “But it was just talk,” he said. “The framework agreement was finished without even the shadow of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. They just pretended to consult us.”

The next thing the heirs knew, Idjirani said, the framework agreement had been signed without any mention of the “historic and sovereign rights of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” in it. “Until the government includes the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, no lasting and significant peace will come to Mindanao,” he said. “They should have seen the failure of the peace agreement with Nur Misuari. ”

According to Idjirani, the signing of the framework agreement with the MILF led to the unification of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and their decision to proceed with claiming Sabah on their own. He said the “meeting of the minds” of the heirs occurred on Nov. 11 last year in a relative’s house.

It was during that meeting that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III issued the royal decree that authorized his brother’s “journey” to Sabah. Among the 70 Tausug men rounded up by Malaysian authorities was Agbimuddin.

Over more than a century, the Tausug of Sulu have crossed the sea to Sabah, the former homeland of the sultanate, and had trade intercourse with the inhabitants.

The former British North Borneo, which used to be under the Sultan of Brunei, was ceded to the Sultan of Sulu in 1704 after he helped crush a rebellion against the Sultan of Brunei.

Sabah was leased by the British North Borneo Co. to the British colonizers of the former federation of Malaya. It became Malaysia in 1963, when the British relinquished sovereignty. Subsequently, Sabah became part of Malaysia, with which the Philippines has a dispute over Sabah. The Philippines lost interest in pressing its claim at the International Court of Justice in 1963. This vacuum opened the way for the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu to press their claim on Sabah on their own initiative.

Sam Miguel
02-21-2013, 08:13 AM
Dorita Vargas’ dream of owning land still a dream

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:43 am | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Dorita Vargas’ troubles are not yet over.

Days after the 63-year-old agrarian reform beneficiary was awarded a parcel of land by the government, she said she, along with 12 others, was refused entry to the property by the security guards of her former landlords in Negros Occidental.

Vargas said armed guards at Hacienda Manalo in La Castellana town turned her and her companions away on Wednesday when they tried to stake their claim on the 5-hectare farm using the certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) handed to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Feb. 13.

The property is in the middle of the 126-hectare sugar plantation, which she said had been “chopped” into separate titles that are now in varying stages of processing for distribution to other beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“We tried to enter the hacienda this morning and we showed them the CLOA but the blue guards would not let us enter. They said we should respect the Manalos,” Vargas said in a phone interview from La Castellana.

She said she was extremely grateful to President Aquino for making good on his promise that she would be given land.

Last June, Vargas marched with 300 other farmers belonging to the Task Force Mapalad (TFM) to Malacañang. The farmers had a dialogue with President Aquino and some Cabinet members. In the meeting, Aquino personally promised Vargas that the land she tilled would be hers by the end of 2012.

The CLOA was given to Vargas on Feb. 13 in a ceremony held at the DAR municipal office there, some eight months after Aquino made his promise.

Vargas said it was still too early to celebrate. She said it might take some time before she could finally be “installed” in the land which she technically now owns, along with the 12 others with whom she would share it.

DAR officials scared

She said the DAR’s municipal unit in La Castellana town appeared to be afraid of the former landlords and could not give the agrarian reform beneficiaries any reassurance that they would be able to occupy the land anytime soon.

She added that the local police also did not appear to be willing to escort them to the property. She admitted, however, that they had not actually made any request for police assistance, believing that it was the DAR’s job to ensure their security.

Vargas pleaded to Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to help her and her companions claim the parcel of land.

“Since he said that the land is now ours and we can do what we want with it, then we are asking the secretary to personally install us in the land,” she said.

“Why don’t they buy a helicopter and fly us directly to the property so we don’t have to encounter any resistance from the blue guards?” Vargas said.


De los Reyes said Vargas’ struggle for land ownership had taken years due to complications brought by the so-called “chop-chop,” or parceling of land titles, a tactic used by some landowners to evade CARP coverage.

The official defined chop-chop titles as land titles sold piecemeal by the original landowner whose landholdings, usually beyond the 5-ha limit set by law, were covered by agrarian reform.

He said the owners of Hacienda Manalo subdivided a 10-ha piece of the land into three titles of more than three ha, with two lots transferred in the names of Venysse Laurel and Lorenzo Manalo, immediately after the agrarian reform law was passed more than two decades ago.

Half of that property eventually was retained by the landowners and the other half was awarded to Vargas and her companions.

TFM deputy national coordinator Lanie Factor said her group also appreciated the effort the government had made to award the land to Vargas and her companions.

But Factor said it was a shame that the DAR had not processed the other titles in the same estate at the same time as Vargas’ in order to avoid the problem of landlord resistance.

As for Vargas, she said once she and her companions were finally able to occupy the land, they would form a collective and continue planting sugarcane.

“In the meantime that we’re not being allowed to enter our own land, why don’t they rent the land from us?” she said.

President’s promise

In their June meeting, Vargas told Aquino she raised her six children—all girls—after her husband abandoned her and she took over his job in the farm. It has been 29 years since her husband left her, she said.

To support her family, she worked as a farmhand at Hacienda Manalo, planting sugarcane, fertilizing the fields, picking weeds and harvesting. She was paid P85 a day.

She said that when she joined the clamor to bring the plantation under CARP in 1995, she was fired and her hut was torched.

“Hayaan mo, Nay, tutulungan ko kayo (Don’t worry, I will help you),” the President had told her. Flanked by Cabinet officials, Aquino also promised to fully implement the CARP before its expiration in June 2014, renewing a vow he made when he ran for President.

Sam Miguel
02-21-2013, 09:03 AM
The Sabah standoff

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:29 am | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

There is more to the ongoing standoff between Malaysian forces and some 300 armed men holed up in a coastal village in Sabah than meets the eye. The latter are Filipino nationals, though they identify themselves as members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.” They have announced that they sailed to Sabah to reclaim their rightful homeland. Heaven forbid that any harm should befall them. For, that will play right into the hands of those who, for some reason or other, wish to derail the current peace effort in Mindanao and foment a rift between Malaysia and the Philippines.

The relations between the two countries have significantly improved after Malaysia began hosting the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Malaysia has a clear interest in the political stabilization of neighboring Muslim Mindanao. In the past, Muslim rebels routinely sought sanctuary in Malaysian territory, and their presence there not only strained relations with the Philippines but also posed the danger of locally spreading a politicized Islam. Of course, beyond all this, the Malaysian investment in goodwill, properly acknowledged as a Filipino debt of gratitude, serves to undercut any move to activate a long-standing irritant in the relations of the two countries.

The Sultan’s heirs have been pressing the Philippine government to actively pursue its sovereign claim to Sabah. Keeping the issue alive will greatly bolster their demand to be justly compensated as the rightful private owners of the territory. The Philippine claim is solely anchored on the property rights asserted by the descendants of the Sultan of Sulu. This claim was formally advanced by President Diosdado Macapagal in 1962. That was the year before the British formally relinquished their colonial hold on Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and the straits settlements (including Singapore), paving the way for the establishment of Malaysia as an independent state. Singapore subsequently left the Malaysian federation.

“North Borneo,” writes the historian Onofre D. Corpuz, “was crucial to the new Malaysia; without it, the latter would have an overriding Chinese majority in its population, because Singapore was to be part of Malaysia. The United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan had interests in the new state based on global strategic considerations. The claim would be pursued, if at all, in diplomatic isolation. The future of the Philippine claim, into the 1980s, was not bright.” Sure enough, the keen desire of the Philippine government to forge strong regional ties with its major Southeast Asian neighbors thereafter consigned the issue to the margins of Philippine foreign policy.

It has been a long time since the Sabah claim has been openly discussed in the media or, even less, officially taken up by any administration. Yet, no Philippine president has dared to categorically renounce the country’s claim to this territory. The young generation of Filipinos, who are unaware of the historic claim of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, may thus be forgiven if they perceive the group of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as no different from those syndicates who now and then invade expensive real estate in Metro Manila waving fictitious royal titles. But, this particular claim is by no means founded on fantasy.

North Borneo was acquired by the Sultanate of Sulu sometime in the 17th century as a gift from the Sultan of Brunei, in appreciation for the former’s help in successfully quelling a local rebellion against the latter’s rule. In 1878, the Sultanate of Sulu agreed to lease the property to a British company. Malaysia argues that in 1885, Spain renounced all claims of sovereignty over the whole of Borneo, in exchange for British recognition of Spanish sovereignty over the entire Sulu archipelago. Its lawyers contend, moreover, that the Sultanate of Sulu ended in 1936 following the death of the last Sultan.

Yet, since its formation in 1963, the Malaysian state has thought it proper to hand over every year to the lawyers of the descendants of the Sultan of Sulu a check for 5,300 Malaysian ringgit (about P70,000 at the current exchange rate). Before that, except for the period between 1936 and 1950, the payment was made by the British North Borneo Co., in accordance with the terms of a lease agreement between the British company and the heirs of the Sultan. Today, Malaysia calls the token payment “cession,” meaning payment made in exchange for the ceding of property rights. The Sultan’s descendants, however, continue to refer to it as “rent,” for obvious reasons. Regardless, the amount is ridiculous. The territory in question covers approximately 30,000 square miles.

The Sultan’s heirs have a pending petition with the United Nations for the return of Sabah to the family. This may be a way of compelling Malaysia to pay a substantially higher rent, or an offer to quit all claims in exchange for a huge payment. But, it is also possible that Malaysia intends to stop paying altogether in order to put to rest any doubt about Malaysian sovereignty over Sabah. Unfortunately, the UN has not acted on the petition.

The “invasion” led by the brother of the current Sultan is clearly an attempt to shove the issue into the faces of the two governments, neither of which relishes being dictated upon by the heirs of an archaic sultanate. Still, both governments must realize that they have an interest in ending this standoff without firing a single shot. A messy end to this impasse could stoke ethnic resentments and needlessly inflame nationalist sentiments.

Sam Miguel
02-21-2013, 09:05 AM
Now is the time to expose the corrupt

By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:26 am | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Let me take last week’s column a bit further. We have a President who is changing society, or trying to. Political games he plays (successfully, I might add), but a trapo he is not. His “daang matuwid” has resonated in the public arena, and his honest lifestyle is setting an example for many to follow. Attacking corruption at the top is working, but it now has to be expanded. We all know who the corrupt are, so the President now has to widen his net and take them down, too.

And what better time than now, as the political campaign starts, to expose the corrupt so they don’t get elected into public office to continue their corrupt ways? All’s fair in love, war—and politics. So hit them now. I’ll live with it, being only the opposition for now (you can’t, after all, completely expel politics from the equation, sadly), as long as friendships become irrelevant later. That’s what makes great leadership—playing no favorites, the only favorite being the people.

The President has promised to be such a leader, to serve the people and truly clean up this society. He has but three-and-a-bit years to do it. He has to so entrench the desired result that whoever follows can’t undo it, so he needs to widen the net far more quickly. And address where he hasn’t succeeded as yet—the local level. I hear innumerable stories of bribes required to get anything done by local governments. These, too, can be exposed right now so the corrupt local officials are not reelected.

And the entire judicial system has to play its part. Do you know that the current administration has filed 276 smuggling and tax-evasion cases since July 2010 but there has been not one conviction yet? Of the 151 tax-evasion cases, 132 are pending at the Department of Justice, 17 are pending at the Court of Tax Appeals or regular courts, and two have been dismissed. Meanwhile, of the 125 smuggling cases, 16 are pending at the Court of Tax Appeals and the rest are still for preliminary investigation.

It would seem that the bureaucracy is not supporting their President by not attaching any urgency to removing corruption from society.

The business community, or at least the respectable side of it (certainly not the 276), has chipped in to help the President. The local and foreign business chambers have joined together to sign a pledge of doing business honestly, to resist unscrupulous, dishonest government officials. Some 1,600 companies have signed an Integrity Pledge wherein they promise to operate honestly. Of course, anyone can sign anything and still do everything else, but it’s a start. It’s creating an awareness of the benefits of dealing honestly, and one won’t be alone if one does. There are 1,600 others who feel the same way.

Some indications from the Philippine Development Forum in Davao last week give some hope. The DOJ included in its Rule of Law Working Group (ROLWG) not only the Judicial Reform Initiative group (which now has some 17 member-organizations) but also partner-agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the foreign chambers. Among the ROLWG projects is the establishment of an incident/complaint/case monitoring system covering the entire justice system. Various initiatives have been approved by the President through a Cabinet cluster, but these are still in the works. And the Supreme Court is working on automation and greater use of the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, and has established eight mediation centers and accredited more mediators. So some things are happening.

And the business sector has noted improvements in national government agencies. But, the gains of the national government are not showing up in the local government units, where governance and corruption issues remain. These should be known so that in the May elections, the people can vote out the corrupt in favor of the decent.

Yet many, including businesses, are unable to seek redress in the courts because of perceptions of delay and corruption. As I mentioned, there’s the Judicial Reform Initiative that the business chambers have started in recognition of the negative impact of slow—or, worse, influenced—decisions in court cases. It’s a significant reason why investors don’t invest. The Chief Justice has promised her support and cooperation in moving this project forward.

One suggestion is to establish a special court (courts?) to handle business cases. Another is to have “friends of court,” experts in business, to advise judges on the technicality of a case and, in instances where the case is with the Supreme Court, on its possible impact on business in general and on society as a whole.

Many decisions of the Supreme Court are judgmental, as the split decisions show, so the impact beyond the strict interpretation of the law should be among its principal considerations. The decision on the level of foreign ownership in PLDT was such a case. Here, the high court overthrew (in a 10-3 decision) a definition of ownership that had been in place for 75 years for no (in my opinion) sound reason, sending the business community into turmoil. It should reconsider its judgment if it cares for what is best for society.

And what is best for society is what law is all about; it’s the only reason for law. Law is the servant of society and it was created and developed to strive for the harmonious relationship between peoples. A lower court may be constrained to stick to the letter of the law, but the Supreme Court is not, or should not. “WHAT IS BEST FOR SOCIETY” should be its motto.

Sam Miguel
02-22-2013, 09:23 AM
‘Hayaan mo, Nay’

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:16 pm | Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Last week, Dorita Vargas was finally granted ownership of the farm lot in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, that she had been tilling for 29 years. The other day, in a twist of fate that was both proof and symbol of the essential difficulty of agrarian reform, she went to claim the property, but was turned away. The previous owners’ security guards adamantly refused her entry.

The 63-year-old farmer and single mother of six was in reasonably good spirits and clear-minded about the rebuff. “We tried to enter the hacienda this morning and we showed them the CLOA (certificate of land ownership award), but the blue guards would not let us enter. They said we should respect the Manalos (the family that owns Hacienda Manalo),” Vargas said last Wednesday.

The conduct of the guards, who have more in common with Vargas and the other new agrarian reform beneficiaries than with their landlords, is not a surprise; whether they were merely following orders or were responding out of a sense of genuine employee loyalty, their action should have been expected. What is a surprise is the failure of the provincial and municipal staff of the Department of Agrarian Reform to anticipate the rebuff.

At the very least, DAR staff should have arranged for a police escort, and accompanied Vargas and the 12 others with her in force.

After Vargas received her CLOA on Feb. 13, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes greeted her with somewhat condescending advice: “I pray that Aling Dorita will take good care of the land awarded to her under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The land is hers and she is free to use it in whatever way she wishes to.” (Surely, after half a lifetime fighting for her ownership rights, Vargas did not need a reminder about taking good care of the very land she had tilled for three decades.)

After she was turned away by the security guards, Vargas directed an appeal to De los Reyes, quoting his words back to him. “Since he said that the land is now ours and we can do what we want with it, then we are asking the secretary to personally install us in the land,” she said. She added, good-naturedly: “Why don’t they buy a helicopter and fly us directly to the property so we don’t have to encounter any resistance from the blue guards?”

Vargas’ serene confidence that she will be “installed” in her own property, in due time, must stem in part from her conviction that President Aquino, the man she voted into office, keeps his promises, including his personal promise to her.

At a “dialogue” last June in Malacañang between the President and farmers pushing for faster implementation of the extended CARP , Vargas’ plight moved Mr. Aquino to give a categorical answer: “Hayaan mo, ’Nay, tutulungan ko kayo.”

It was a promise that encouraged Vargas, and saw her through the next eight months. Despite her continuing travails, she said she continues to be grateful for the President’s personal attention. His promise has certainly made an impact on her, in part because of his choice of words. His promise has been translated thus: “Don’t worry, I will help you.” But Mr. Aquino used the (very Filipino) plural form of you (“kayo”), indicating respect. He called her “’Nay.” And his use of “hayaan,” to mean “let” or “leave” (that is, let it be or leave it to me)—instead of, say, the more literal forms of “don’t worry” in Filipino—made the promise more emphatic: “You leave it be, Mom, I will help you.”

All this should have been a signal to De los Reyes and his staff to see to it that when ownership was awarded to Vargas, she can claim her property without incident. The President, after all, would be watching.

The problem is: The President cannot attend to every single agrarian reform beneficiary. Indeed, even if he could, he should not intervene in every case—because the law is supposed to take its own course. Vargas’ experience proves that agrarian reform continues to be a tedious, strength-sapping struggle; it also symbolizes a system that remains biased in favor of the wealthy and the landed, despite advances in law.

At least Vargas has managed to see the silver lining even in her moment of not-quite-triumph. “In the meantime that we’re not being allowed to enter our own land, why don’t they (the former owners) rent the land from us?” she said. She should start drawing up the contract.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 07:41 AM
Roberto V. Ongpin: ‘Snake pit’ beckons

By Fernando del Mundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:49 am | Sunday, February 24th, 2013

(First of two parts)

When the phone rang one day in May 1979, he was not to know that he would be caught in one of the most tumultuous chapters in Philippine history.

“Do you know what time it is in London?” Roberto V. Ongpin said, the drowsiness evident in his voice. “It is 4 a.m.”

“Bobby, the President wants to talk to you,” said the voice at the other end, half a world away in Malacañang. It was Ruben Ancheta, an aide to President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Pare, please, give me two hours,” Ongpin said.

“All right. I will tell him,” Ancheta said.

Ongpin told the story of how he was conscripted by Marcos in an interview with the Inquirer at his penthouse office in the Alphaland Southgate Tower, a shopping mall and office complex which he owns, overlooking the western part of the capital and the spectacular Manila Bay farther on.

“You know, when the President calls [and] you are sleeping, you can no longer sleep,” said the 76-year-old business tycoon as he sat sipping his scotch and picking at a sandwich. He wore a cotton barong, his silver hair closely cropped.

After a while, the phone rang again. Ancheta put on the President.

“Sorry, I woke you up.”

“That’s okay, Mr. President.”

“When are you coming back?”

“Two weeks.”

“Can you come back in three days?”

Apparently, the President was planning to shake up his Cabinet, five years after he declared martial law, said Ongpin, at the time the chair and managing partner of SGV, the highly regarded Philippine auditing firm whose clients included some of the country’s—and the world’s—largest corporations.

“Mr. President, why am I being called?”

“Basta. Come back and we will talk.”

“At the time, it was very difficult to say no to him, you know,” Ongpin said with a laugh.

He returned forthwith to Manila and went to the Palace. The guard at the gate gave him a hard time and he had to wait. Finally at 2 p.m., he was let in. Marcos was in tip-top shape, looking very athletic. He had just come from the pelota court.

According to Ongpin, the Marcos he met that day was so far removed from the ailing man of three years later who was stricken with renal problems—a subject of much speculation in the nation where media facilities were controlled—and had to undergo two kidney transplants.

The first donor, Ongpin said, was Marcos’ namesake son who is now a senator. A rejection soon set in. He had another transplant several years later. The donor this time was a soldier in the presidential security group who was from his Batac hometown in Ilocos Norte. The organ kept him alive until he died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 at the age of 72.

Forceful guy

“I heard you are a forceful guy,” Marcos said to Ongpin.

“I don’t know if ‘forceful’ is the right word, Mr. President, but I do speak my mind. I don’t think I am the right man for your Cabinet. I think I will bring embarrassment to your Cabinet.”


“Mr. President, I have a very complicated personal private life. I don’t think you want me in your Cabinet.”

And then he told Marcos why.

At this point in the INQUIRER interview, Ongpin, who is married to a Filipina and has two children by her, asked that the tape recorder be switched off.

German beauty

But he could not resist showing a copy of a glossy magazine with his daughter on the cover. Her mother is German. She is a lovely woman worthy of a Miss Universe crown. She runs Ongpin’s world-class resort on the 400-hectare Balesin island that he owns on Lamon Bay in Quezon. He also has a son, whose mother is Australian. But Ongpin obviously was very proud of the German daughter. This gem of beauty and brains is evidently a source of joy for the man with an eye for beautiful women and an uncanny knack for making money.

The Forbes list of the top 40 wealthiest Filipinos ranked Ongpin 21st in 2010, with a net worth of $300 million. In 2011, he jumped to the ninth slot with a net worth of $1 billion, comprising holdings in several dozen companies ranging from gaming, communications, petroleum and mining.

“I want you to know that those things do not bother me,” Marcos told Ongpin.

“He wanted to know more about me, what I did, where I went to school,” recounted Ongpin, a certified public accountant educated at the Ateneo who also has an MBA from Harvard.

What was supposed to be a half-hour meeting lasted three hours.

“I would have thought that he would have done research on me, but he did not, or else he kind of just enjoyed talking to me. From the start, we hit it off, as if we were on the same wavelength. He knew that I speak my mind and I told him I might not stay long with him because I am a hothead, that he might get upset with me,” recalled Ongpin.

“No, no,” Marcos said. “I like that. I want people to speak up, because nobody has been speaking to me as they should.”

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 07:42 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Luncheons with Marcos

He told the President: “If that’s the way you want it, we can have a deal. The minute that I feel I am not of help to you, you would let me go and the minute that you feel I am not of help to you, whatever, sorry na lang, you let me go, if possible gracefully, not fire me,” Ongpin recounted, laughing.

“Fair enough,” Marcos said.

And so he joined Malacañang, which Marcos’ daughter Imee once described as a “snake pit.”

Ongpin had a lot of meetings, almost every day, with Marcos before he was finally sworn in as minister of trade and industry in the Cabinet revamp announced during the President’s State of the Nation Address in July 1979.

Discussions even went on in the golf course. Ongpin said he was a fairly good golfer then, like the President, although he said Marcos had a “strange swing,” motioning with an imaginary club circling over his head like a helicopter blade before bringing it down to strike a ball.

He hated having lunch with the President, who always had a spartan diet of pinakbet—the Ilocano vegetable stew, mainly eggplant without pork—and plain rice. Starved, Ongpin would order hamburger. “I was always hungry.”

Run-ins with Imelda, Ver

Soon enough, Ongpin tangled with the President’s powerful wife, Imelda, and Gen. Fabian Ver, the Armed Forces chief of staff who also headed the presidential guards and the national intelligence service. Marcos, Imelda and Ver made up the triumvirate running the country.

“My first clash was with Imelda,” he said. The flamboyant first lady, her protégé Joly Benitez, and many hangers-on were badgering him with their “harebrained” ideas, he said. They complained to Marcos and Ongpin would explain to the President he could not go along with their proposals. At one time, he was called by Imelda to ask him why he was harassing Benitez. “Ma’am, I’m not bothering him,” he would tell her.

By that time, Imelda had organized the Ministry of Human Settlements. She was also governor of Metro Manila. The ministry was “basically functioning like a government within a government,” said Ongpin. It had offices similar to the departments of industry, agriculture, social welfare, science and technology.

“I said, ‘Ma’am, I’m doing a job. If you think I am doing something wrong, let me know. And if you want, please feel free to go to the President. I can go anytime. I didn’t ask for this job. I don’t need this job.’”

He said Imelda, “as was her wont,” also tried to put down the urbane Prime Minister Cesar Virata, who was also the finance minister, telling the President office gossip about Virata.

‘It’s nuts’

When she learned about Ongpin’s German daughter, Imelda ran to Marcos with the gossip. Marcos told her he already knew this. “She thought she had a bazooka,” said Ongpin, laughing.

Ongpin talked about an Imelda proposal to set up a semiconductor company, Asian Reliability, to be run supposedly by a Chilean expert. She wanted the Development Bank of the Philippines to sign a $30-million loan to the company. He questioned the project, “What’s our competitive advantage?”

“But we will learn,” Imelda insisted.

“One afternoon, the President calls me. Bobby, this Asian Reliability, I was told you don’t like it. I said, ‘Sir, it’s nuts, it’s crazy!’”

Danding Cojuangco’s friend

He said there were many more of these kinds of run-ins. His candidness characterized his dealings with the President. “I really did not want this job,” he said, but he stayed on, for seven years. He suspected that Virata, a former SGV colleague, had recommended him to Marcos. He never confirmed this.

“As we got to know each other, I got involved in so many things that I was not supposed to,” said Ongpin. “It was tough.”

He said he thought he served as a foil to all the shenanigans going on at the Palace and, as a result, made a lot of enemies, except for businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Marcos’ ambassador at large and head of the state-owned United Coconut Planters Bank, depository of the multibillion-peso coconut levy funds.

“Danding and I have been friends. He was my client at SGV,” he said. When Cojuangco had projects, he would discuss them with Ongpin before the businessman made his presentations.

Loan from Brunei sultan

All hell broke loose after the opposition leader, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1983, on his return from three years of self-exile in the United States.

“Wow! In one day, $770 million in short-term loans were withdrawn. We were left with nothing. We were really about to collapse,” said Ongpin.

Ongpin was dispatched urgently to seek loans from the leaders of Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had long been a personal friend of Ongpin. “We used to do things together,” he said, reminiscing with a smile. He left on a 5:30 a.m. flight to Brunei’s capital for a meeting with the absolute monarch of the oil-rich country.

“We need a short-term loan,” he told the sultan. “Understood,” Bolkiah said, and gave him $150 million.

$75M from Mahathir

His next stop was Kuala Lumpur, whose prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was likewise a soul mate of old. He got $75 million from the Malaysian leader who, after the fall of Marcos, even offered to send a plane and fly Ongpin out of Manila.

Ongpin proceeded to Singapore and saw the crusty Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. “Are you really the minister?” Lee asked. “I looked really young,” he said with a laugh. “I was 42.”

“I know what you want. You’ll never get a single cent from me,” said Lee.

“Well, in that case, sir, I will go.”


Lee stopped him, saying he wanted to talk to him some more. It lasted four hours, during which Ongpin argued with the prime minister, telling him he was wrong when he needed to. And in a book that Lee recently wrote, Ongpin read that Lee mentioned the contentious Filipino trade minister.

Ongpin got nothing from Lee, except probably enriching his vocabulary. Lee told him that while watching the mammoth crowd that attended the funeral of Benigno Aquino, he thought the Philippines was undergoing a “catharsis.” When he got home, Ongpin looked up the word in the dictionary.

(Next: US conditions to save Marcos)

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 07:44 AM
US set 5 conditions to save Marcos

By Fernando del Mundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:49 am | Monday, February 25th, 2013 (Last of two parts)

As the nation hung on a knife-edge on Feb. 22, 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos signed a deal with an emissary of US President Ronald Reagan to keep him in power that included removing his wife, Imelda, and loyal security chief Gen. Fabian Ver, former Trade Minister Roberto V. Ongpin said in an interview with the Inquirer last week.

Ongpin said he was with Reagan’s troubleshooter, Philip Habib, and US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth in the Palace on the day Ver aborted a coup attempt by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile that prompted Enrile to defect. He was later joined in the breakaway by Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos.

Bosworth and Habib outlined arrangements for Marcos to remain in power under five conditions, three of which were “nonnegotiable,” said Ongpin, who helped draw up a presidential decree to cover each of the conditions hammered out during weeklong negotiations with Habib and Bosworth. He said he reported every step of the way to Marcos, who approved all five conditions.

“No. 1, Fabian out. Out. No way. Out of any position in the military. And Eddie Ramos will take over. The Americans like Eddie Ramos,” Ongpin said.

“Secondly, Imelda, out. The Ministry of Human Settlements abolished. Her position as governor of Metro Manila abolished, she would have absolutely no position in the government. No. 3, a new Cabinet. They wanted a stronger Cabinet. And I had to talk to each one of them. It was tough. I cannot mention the names. You’ll be surprised at some of the names who agreed to become members of the new Cabinet. Maybe I can only mention one, because he has passed away, Enrique Zobel, as agriculture secretary,” Ongpin said.

Ongpin said Marcos vetted the candidates and approved the final list.

Other conditions

The other two conditions were for Marcos to have former Sen. Arturo Tolentino, his running mate in the snap election, to write a new Constitution to be submitted to a plebiscite; and the creation of a commission headed by former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez that would investigate human rights abuses.

He said Marcos agreed to all five conditions but had a hard time dealing with the ouster of Ver, his “security blanket.”

“All Reagan wanted was to put the fires out, let everything settle down,” Ongpin said.

In the interview, Ongpin said he was so upset when he saw in a TV interview with a US network in November that Marcos was calling a snap election on Feb. 7, 1986, to show the world that the President had popular support.

Ongpin said he was then in the midst of putting down a runaway inflation and feared the country was heading down the way of Argentina, where the currency went into a free fall in the 1970s causing untold suffering. And so he went to Malacañang and confronted Marcos.

So mad

“I was so mad. You cannot have 50-percent interest rates and then expect a situation where people can think rationally,” he said. “All they feel is the pain.”

Ongpin was so upset he raised his voice and Marcos told him, “I’m the President. Don’t shout at me.” It was the only instance Marcos scolded him in the seven years he was trade minister.

“With the election, a lot of people felt that he lost. You know, he won. In my view, he really won,” Ongpin said.

Corazon Aquino, the opposition candidate who claimed Marcos stole the vote, mounted a civil disobedience campaign, and protests across the land widened, causing concern in Washington.

Reagan was a close personal friend of Marcos. When he was governor of California, he went on a two-week vacation in the Philippines and received royal treatment from the President and Imelda.

In the midst of the turmoil, Ambassador Bosworth went to see Ongpin and told him that Reagan wanted to send Habib to have a dialogue with Marcos.

“President Reagan loved Marcos. He wanted to save him. State wanted to bring him down. Defense. CIA. Everybody wanted to bring him down. But Reagan, they had a close personal relationship,” Ongpin said.

It showed, he said, that the US structure was not monolithic.

Marcos agreed to the Reagan proposal. “You’re in charge,” he told Ongpin.

Habib, who arrived in Manila in mid-February, had daily discussions with Ongpin and three meetings with Marcos, the final one on the day Enrile and Ramos, the vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and head of the Philippine Constabulary, broke away from the President, after a coup attempt to overthrow the dictator was foiled by Ver, the AFP chief of staff and Marcos’ loyal commander of the presidential guards.

‘We hated each other’

On the night before the breakaway, Ongpin attended his usual monetary board meeting and was taken home by his security detail to one of four safe houses he had been maintaining because Ver was after him and wanted to kill him.

“We didn’t like each other. We hated each other, with a vengeance,” Ongpin said.

“He was very shortsighted. For example, the Binondo central bank,” he said, referring to a measure to stop black market trading of dollars in the midst of the foreign currency problem following the Benigno Aquino assassination in 1983. Short-term dollar placements were pulled out. The black market rate was much more than the official rate. Importers could not buy goods overseas. Worried exporters kept their money abroad.

“The country was headed for a runaway inflation, like Argentina. We were right there on the brink. I told Marcos the only way if you want me to do it is to get these guys and put the fear of God in them and tell them you’d better do it. And they did. It was horrible,” Ongpin said.

“The whole concept was discipline. We had no money to defend the peso. The only thing we had was moral suasion, or immoral suasion,” he said. The traders were using their money. The treasury was bankrupt.

“I had the President sign arrest and seizure orders for each of the black marketers,” he said. He had to meet them every night to set the rate and this went on for two and a half years. The traders were given a 20-centavo margin per US dollar between buying and selling. Ongpin had a network of spies. Traders caught cheating were imprisoned.

Ver attended the first meeting and had his men attend the nightly ritual. One night, Marcos berated Ongpin for the reported death of one trader who had been arrested and was being led to the stockade. Ongpin said he put three traders in jail. He said one of them could not stand the pressure of incarceration and died of heart attack.


“Ver did not understand anything. He thought of making money for himself. I said, this is what’s happening. You want us to look like Argentina. In two months, we will be P50 to a dollar. In another five months, P100 to one,” he said. And the peso would continue going down the drain, just like the German currency during the Weimar Republic after World War I. He threatened to resign if Ver did not shape up.

Life was so tough that he sent his family abroad, Ongpin said. (He corrected the Inquirer report on Sunday that he has a Filipino wife. He said he is married to an Italian-Chilean woman.)

Ongpin said that after the Edsa People Power Revolution, he told his brother, the late Jaime Ongpin, who became Cory’s finance secretary, that he should not forget that he was inheriting an economy that the trade minister had put back in shape, bringing down the inflation rate from 50 percent to 4 percent.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 07:45 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Security gone

On that fateful Saturday morning, Feb. 22, 1986, Ongpin woke up to find his security men all gone. He had 29 working for him in shifts round the clock because he knew Ver was out to kill him, but that he had so far been able to outsmart the general.

He said he started calling Enrile, and got him at 365 Club in Makati at around 7:30 a.m. All of his security people were provided by Enrile’s Reform the Armed Forces Movement. He told Enrile that Ver had all his security detail arrested.

Ongpin said Enrile feigned ignorance of the arrests. He said he would check around. Half an hour later, Enrile called again and told him that the country was in serious crisis.

“All I can tell you is please take care of yourself,” Enrile said. “But what about my security? How can I take care of myself?” Ongpin asked. Enrile told him to call Ramos, which he did. But Ramos said he had been stripped of his power over the Philippine Constabulary.

During the week, he said Marcos promoted Ramos to AFP chief of staff, but Ver rebelled, and so Marcos reinstated Ver.

“It was chaos,” Ongpin said.

Finally, he found a spare key to a car and drove himself to the Palace, where he had an appointment for a final meeting at noon with Bosworth, Habib and Marcos. It was the first time he drove a car in seven years, having had a driver all the seven years he was in government.

Five decrees

Marcos signed the five presidential decrees as did Bosworth and Habib, as witnesses. When the Americans were about to leave, the President said, “You know, gentlemen, it has come to my attention that there’s a coup plot being hatched.” The two were stunned.

“Mr. President, we know nothing about this,” Habib said. “Why would we go through with this charade?”

Ongpin said he likewise knew nothing about what the President was talking about at that point. He said Enrile never told him anything, although he had expressed to him disenchantment with Marcos in the past several years.

As soon as Bosworth and Habib left, Ver came to Marcos with affidavits purportedly from Ongpin’s security men who he had ordered arrested the night before. Marcos read the papers, then told Ongpin, “These are affidavits from your security saying you were involved in the plot to overthrow me.”

“I was surprised,” Ongpin said. He exploded, “This stupid Fabian, do you believe him?” (He said it was normal for him and Ver to exchange cuss words in front of Marcos.)

“For the first time, I was disappointed,” Ongpin said. He told Marcos, “Do you believe that I, who sacrificed everything, didn’t make a goddamn cent working for you, will be involved in a plot to overthrow you? You know what he did? He looked at me, appearing sad. ‘You know, there’s these affidavits,’” he quoted Marcos telling him.

Ongpin thought that Marcos was being legalistic and that the President at that point had begun to entertain doubts about him.

But Imelda, who was there listening, spoke at last. “Fabian, you did this. Bobby would never do anything against the President.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ver meekly said.

No regrets

By then, Ongpin was so hungry. Thankfully, Greggy Araneta, the President’s son-in-law, had a hamburger bought for him. He finally left the Palace at 4:30 p.m. after his security men were released and fetched him.

At 6 p.m. his secretary called him to listen to the radio. Enrile was on the air, announcing his defection, saying there was cheating during the election and that the ambush on the night Marcos declared martial law in 1972 was staged.

Looking back to those seven years with Marcos, Ongpin told me:

“Those were the most difficult times of my life. But I do not regret it. I feel I was able to contribute something to the country, particularly through the prevention of hyperinflation through the Binondo central bank. And also, preventing bloodshed.”

Marcos obviously was convinced of the power of the Americans to shape the destiny of the country and was banking on the arrangement he hammered out with Habib, that he would remain in power, even as forces were building up against him.

Not a party to bloodbath

In a televised meeting with Ver and his loyal generals in the course of the revolt, the President rejected Ver’s demand that he go against the mutineers, declaring he would not be a party to a bloodbath.

And as hundreds of thousands of Filipinos massed on Edsa to support the breakaway group and the nation teetered on the brink of civil war, Marcos called US Sen. Paul Laxalt to find out if Reagan wanted him to remain. Laxalt famously said, “You should cut and cut cleanly. The time has come.”

US helicopters airlifted Marcos and his family to exile in Hawaii as mobs stormed Malacañang, ending his 20-year rule.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 09:02 AM
‘Jose Velarde’ eyes site for Edsa memory museum

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:44 am | Monday, February 25th, 2013

“Jose Velarde,” not the one who was ousted in Edsa II, is back, making backroom deals with Malacañang executives who are pushing for the construction of a memory museum for Edsa I, or the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

Businessman Jaime Dichaves, a member of then President Joseph Estrada’s “midnight Cabinet,” is lobbying fellow homeowners in Corinthian Gardens to agree to a proposal by some members of the Edsa People Power Commission to allocate a portion of the upscale subdivision’s vacant lot as site for the museum.

The proposed site on Castrillo Street is part of the subdivision’s buffer zone along White Plains Avenue in front of the People Power Monument.

Dichaves is facing plunder charges for allegedly conspiring with Estrada to amass illegal wealth, specifically a P189.7-million commission from the P1.85-billion acquisition of Belle Resources Corp. shares in 1999 by the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.

Impeachment trial

The P189.7-million commission was alleged to have been deposited in the Jose Velarde account in Equitable PCI Bank. Bank executive Clarissa Ocampo testified at the Senate impeachment trial of Estrada on Dec. 22, 2000, that she was just one foot away when the President affixed the signature “Jose Velarde” on documents authorizing a P500-million investment agreement with the bank on Feb. 4, 2000, to lend the money to the Wellex Group.

But Estrada maintained that the account was owned by Dichaves.

Ocampo told the impeachment trial on Jan. 2, 2001, that the then Equitable PCI Bank chair directed her to draw up documents transferring the President’s P500-million trust account to Dichaves, a good friend of Estrada.

Ocampo, senior vice president of Equitable PCI Bank, said she prepared a second set of bank documents that Dichaves signed on Dec. 13, 2000, at the Makati office of Estelito Mendoza, a member of the defense panel in the impeachment trial.

The signing occurred five days before Dichaves wrote the Senate to claim ownership of the Jose Velarde account. Ocampo earlier said “Velarde” was none other than the President.

When the second envelope (containing documents on the Jose Velarde account that the Senate impeachment court, by a vote of 11-10, decided against opening it in 2000) was finally opened a month after Estrada was ousted, it contained a statement by Dichaves declaring that he was indeed Jose Velarde.

The refusal of 11 senator-judges to have the envelope opened led to Edsa II in January 2001 that toppled Estrada, the second President to be ousted by people power since Edsa I in 1986.

Won’t confirm or deny

In a reply to the Inquirer’s questions on the project, Celso C. Santiago, Jr., a special assistant of Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, neither confirmed nor denied Dichaves’ involvement and the homeowners’ stand on the project.

“Talks with possible partners are still in the initial stages and the specifications of any contribution as well as the roles of all stakeholders have not yet been identified,” Santiago said.

Dichaves, who was elected president of the Corinthian Gardens Homeowners Association Inc. in February last year, is facing stiff resistance from homeowners who do not want to get involved in politics.

‘Currying favor’

“He just wants to curry favor with Malacañang. Most of us just want to have peace and quiet in our homes, no controversy,” said one homeowner, who requested anonymity.

At a meeting last month, homeowners discussed the proposal of the Edsa People Power Commission. Dichaves proposed to build a multistory, recreational facility, with the memory museum allotted space on the top floor. The project needs to get a majority of the homeowners’ votes for it to push through.

Another proposal calls for the construction of the museum at the Camp Aguinaldo side of White Plains Avenue. Camp Aguinaldo is the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

A source, however, said some Edsa commission officials were worried that this was not allowed under the military camp’s deed of donation. The Ortigas family would regain ownership of the land where the camp is located if the government sold it or used it for other purposes.

Value of democracy

On its website, the Edsa People Power Commission explains the project’s rationale:

“The project aims to preserve the memory of the events that led to the declaration of martial law in 1972. The museum would connect the younger generations to the experiences of the men and women who stood up against the dictatorship. The museum would likewise serve as a cultural instrument that would inspire Filipinos to recognize the value of democracy.”

Last year, the commission held a forum and brought in three foreign guests who related their experiences in establishing memory museums in Peru, Chile and Argentina.

But while the Edsa project has been widely promoted since last year, nothing has been firmed up.

“Given that the planning for the construction of the memory museum is still in its initial, exploratory stages, the specifications of the building and the complex, the budget, and the timeline and roles of all stakeholders have still not yet been identified. The Edsa People Power Commission plans to work with both public and private partners for the fruition of this project,” Santiago said.

Architect, study area

The building has no designer yet, but architect Paulo Alcazaren has been helping the commission in the design of the complex and the surrounding areas that will house the museum, Santiago said.

Based on initial discussions, Santiago said: “There will be a study area where students will be able to access taped interviews of the many people, celebrities and ordinary folk, who have their own stories to tell about those times.

“It is the aim of the museum to make sure that this recent [event] in history is accurately recounted and that [the museum] be a place where the nation can recall one of the most glorious events of our history.”

Santiago said the Edsa People Power Commission was also looking for other sites for other memory museums outside Metro Manila.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 09:08 AM
Transition from old to new oligarchy

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:21 am | Monday, February 25th, 2013

Twenty-seven years after the Edsa People Power Revolution toppled the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, the government of the restored Philippine democracy is in the hands of the son of the late President Cory Aquino, whose family is descended from the country’s wealthiest political dynasty.

That dynasty, the Cojuangco-Aquino family, owns Hacienda Luisita, one of the largest landed estates in the Philippines.

Cory Aquino was elevated to the presidency on the back of people power, a mass movement driven by a triumvirate of social forces clamoring for national leadership change—the Roman Catholic Church, the propertied class and a segment of the military establishment that revolted against Marcos.

Today, the solidarity of this triumvirate has been fractured by social issues fueled by widespread poverty and the cavernous gap in wealth between the rich and the poor, despite the change brought by people power.

Not much has changed in ownership of wealth since Cory took power from a corrupt and rapacious dictatorship.

At 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1986, when Cory arrived at Club Filipino (an enclave of the privileged class) to take her oath as President, she came with an entourage composed of the Old Guard of Philippine politics disbanded by Marcos’ martial law rule. By then, most of the dictatorship’s Armed Forces had switched loyalty to the military-civilian rebellion centered in Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine Constabulary.

Old elite

Shocked at seeing old faces in the new political order, I wrote for the just liberated Manila Times newspaper—silenced during the martial law regime—in its Feb. 26 issue:

“The people power movement has been an Imperial Manila phenomenon. Their (the elites’) playing field is Edsa. They have excluded the provincianos from their movement with their insufferable arrogance and snobbery, ignoring the existence of the toiling masses and peasantry in agrarian Philippines.

“One is disappointed that none of the people of the lower orders of Philippine society is represented at the head table (at Club Filipino). Most of the people inside are members of old political families whose social and economic background put them in key positions to influence policy decisions. New forces in society crying out for recognition are invisible within the Club Filipino power elite.”

I was writing this dispatch fresh from arrival from Australia in time for the snap election of Feb. 7, 1986, which was stolen by Marcos, provoking the people power protests.

Perfect timing

I had taken a leave from my job as subeditor on the foreign news desk of The Melbourne Age to cover the unrest in Manila. I had also taken a leave from the Center of Southeast Asian Studies in Monash University, Australia, where I was doing my master’s degree thesis on political change in the Philippines.

Close monitoring of the events in Manila for the Age had honed my journalistic instincts and told me that the crisis in Manila was coming to a head.

The flash point exploded with the mutiny of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos on Feb. 22—perfect timing for a journalist seeking to be at the right place at the right time and in the center of the action.

That was how, by accident, I found myself swept into the human tidal wave called people power.

Balance of power

Proclaimed as leaders of the new order were Cory as President and Salvador Laurel, an opposition leader in Marcos’ New Society government, as Vice President.

The new Cabinet represented a tenuous balance of power between the civilians and the military. Enrile was proclaimed defense minister and Ramos, Armed Forces chief of staff. This arrangement made the civilian government hostage to the military which—under the leadership of Enrile—staged no less than seven coup attempts against the Cory administration up to 1989.

Cory set the tone of the arrangement—i.e., the supremacy of civilian authority over the military—by insisting that she be proclaimed head of state in a civilian venue and not in Camp Crame, the center of the military rebellion.

The stalemate over that delicate issue was the reason her arrival at Club Filipino was delayed for two hours. But she won her point, ensuring that the government succeeding the dictatorship would be a constitutional democracy—not a civilian-military junta preferred by Enrile and his military cohorts.

New challenge

The people power generated by the post-Marcos regime survived turbulent coups but today it faces new issues against which that same power might not be successfully deployed.

The original allies of Edsa I—the Church and the heirs of Cory—have gone on separate ways over new social issues, for example, the reproductive health law that was pushed by the current Aquino administration.

The Church has criticized the priorities of the Aquino administration and its record in alleviating poverty—a major concern of the Church. Like independent economists, the Church has criticized the administration’s performance in promoting economic growth without creating jobs to help alleviate poverty.

The economic issue has taken a high profile as the administration’s economic performance comes under attack in the campaign for the midterm elections, in which the administration is seeking a fresh electoral mandate.

Spell is lost

The 27th anniversary of Edsa comes three months ahead of the elections. Given the diversity of issues that divide the administration and the Church, the mystique of people power as a unifying element in political mobilization has lost its spell and is no longer useful as a framework for attacking social issues related to poverty and equitable distribution of wealth.

Edsa I was expected to empower the masses, democratize the political system and initiate reforms. It is odd that more than 20 years after Edsa I, another descendant of the landed oligarchy, President Aquino, has been recruited and elected from the same social class.

Edsa I was a movement for liberty and a protest against abuses on human and political rights. Yet today’s people power anniversary is dominated by economic and social issues in which political families belonging to the landed few are under fire for perpetuating dynasties that have expanded their wealth on the basis of their hold on economic assets.

Symbol of continuity

The family of President Aquino, which owns Hacienda Luisita, is under fire over its credentials to be an agent of political and social change. This is because his social class has been one of the main beneficiaries of an economic expansion growth that has not created jobs to help alleviate poverty.

Mr. Aquino is perceived as the symbol of the continuity of the dynastic rule of the landed oligarchy from the old generation to the new.

The question now is: Has the Edsa tradition been an agent of social change?

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 11:12 AM
Long wait ends for HR victims

By Mike Frialde

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 25, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Labor leader Romy Castillo will never forget the events of July 23, 1984, the day he was introduced to wet submarine, dry submarine and electrocution.

Following his arrest by agents of the Marcos regime, Castillo was subjected to nine days of torture and abuse meant to break his will and make him admit his affiliation with the communists.

His ordeal finally ended on Feb. 26, 1986, the day after the people power revolt booted Marcos out of Malacañang.

President Aquino is set to sign into law today an act recognizing the atrocities of the Marcos government and granting reparation to human rights victims like Castillo.

Castillo, now 61, recalled that around 2 a.m. of July 23, 1984, agents of the Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG) raided the staff house of the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Barrio Tubigan, Antipolo, and arrested him and four of his fellow labor leaders. He was beaten until he lost consciousness.

Castillo, also known as Ka Romy, said they were planning to stage a big rally of workers against Marcos.

Tagged as the “Antipolo 5,” the arrested activists were taken to a safehouse in Bicutan, Taguig where they were forced to admit their affiliation with the communists. When they refused, they were subjected to various forms of torture that almost cost them their lives.

Castillo welcomed the news of Aquino signing into law the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, as part of today’s commemoration of the 27 anniversary of the people power revolt.

The legislation is official recognition by the government of the Marcos regime’s atrocities, including summary executions, torture and forced disappearances of people suspected of affiliation with the underground movement.

The law will also grant reparation for human rights victims of Martial Law and will create the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, which will work with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for the teaching in schools of the abuses inflicted on opponents of the Marcos dictatorship.

Castillo said he and the other victims of the Martial Law have long been waiting for reparation and recognition, and sees this as a political victory for them.

“Finally, after a long delay, there will be recognition and reparation for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship. This is so beautiful… the recognition will serve as lesson that it will never happen again. This is the most significant part here,” he said.

“At first I did not believe the Marcos ill-gotten wealth could be recovered and be paid to the victims. This proves that this is possible. This is really a milestone,” he added.

After his release from prison in 1986 following the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, Castillo returned to trade union organizing work. But he can not forget the events that transpired in the wee hours of July 23.

“Five of us were taken. That’s why we were called ‘Antipolo 5’.” With him were three other men – also fellow trade union leaders – and a woman, a sympathizer who owned the house.

“I am classified as a missing-resurfaced-alive person,” he said, explaining that other political prisoners and those arrested during the Martial Law years were classified as “missing-resurfaced-dead,” or simply “still missing.”

He said the five of them were kept in separate rooms, constantly tortured by their captors, who made sure the screams of one would be heard by the others.

“It was psychological warfare. But, it was alright, at least I would know one of my companions is still alive because I could hear his screams.” he said

He said of the four torture methods – wet submarine, dry submarine, psychological torture and electrocution – that he was subjected to, it was the latter that he dreaded the most.

A “wet submarine,” Castillo explained, was a trip to the latrine where his head would be pushed down into a commode filled with feces.

“Dry submarine” involved suffocating him with a plastic bag until he passed out.

He said he knew it would be electrocution if his captors made him sit on a sack on the floor and poured water on him.

Minutes later, he would hear the whirl of a hand-cranked dynamo, and he would feel hands attaching wires to his feet.

“It’s so painful. My whole body would shake, particularly when the electricity would reach my neck and head. It felt like my brain and eyes would burst out of my skull,” he recalled.

Shaking in pain, Castillo said his captors would make fun of him by drowning his screams with loud speakers placed inside the room, blaring Neil Sedaka’s song “My World is Getting Smaller Everyday.”

For nine straight days at the safe house, Castillo was stripped naked, handcuffed, chained, blindfolded, and made to sleep on the cold concrete floor.

The blindfold and handcuffs would only be removed when he would be allowed to eat. There was no way of knowing day from night, or what the date was.

The torture was meant to force them to admit their links with the communists.

“They were asking who administered my oath, who were the communist elements around me, how many of us took the oath, or where we held the oathtaking,” he said. He refused to answer any of their questions.

Several times, his captors, who wore bonnets to conceal their identities, would threaten to pick up his girlfriend and have her gang-raped.

“But I knew it was just psychological torture, because at one point during interrogation, they asked me the name of my girlfriend. I told them, ‘You’re saying you’ll have her gang-raped, and yet you don’t know her’.”

That retort earned him more beatings.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2013, 11:12 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

The most traumatic torture he was subjected to involved a homosexual captor, who fondled his genitals with baby oil. The torturer got mad when he did not get an erection, and poked his penis with a barbecue stick.

He developed an infection, which infuriated then MISG commander Rolando Abadilla, who came for a visit, and ordered him sent to the Camp Panopio military hospital in Cubao, Quezon City for treatment.

“Kabise (their name for Abadilla) was angry when he saw me shivering on the floor due to infection,” he said.

While recuperating at the hospital for 15 days, Castillo was chained to his bed and placed under guard.

When he recovered, he was sent back to the safe house, where he found his captors have become lenient. He was no longer blindfolded, was allowed to wear an old pair of shorts, and walk outside the safe house.

It was only then that he realized the safe house was inside Camp Bagong Diwa, near the dormitories of drug addicts undergoing rehabilitation.

The labor leader said he only managed to reach Grade 4. He spent his early years working as a sakada in the sugarcane plantations in La Carlota City, Negros Occidental.

In 1966, when he was just 15, he stowed away on a boat to Manila and lived with an aunt who offered to send him to school. He refused, and chose to work, taking on odd jobs until he landed at a steel mill in Pasig.

It was at the steel mill that Castillo discovered his knack for organizing his fellow workers. Soon he became their union leader under the militant KMU, eventually becoming KMU’s Area 2 chairman for the Port Area of Manila and Eastern Rizal, until the day the MISG raided their staff house.

“I’m a thoroughbred laborer. I worked at the Philippine Blooming Mills in Rosario, Pasig. I started there in 1976, and I was the acting union president,” he said.

When they were inquested in Rizal fon rebellion charges, Castillo pleaded with the fiscal, a certain Colonel Alsaga of the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO), to transfer him and his fellow Antipolo 5 detainees to a regular detention facility.

Their counsel was then MABINI (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism, Inc.) lawyer and now Vice President Jejomar Binay

“We told the court that our whereabouts are being concealed from our families.”

He said Binay managed to convince Alsaga to order their transfer to a regular detention facility. But the MISG refused.

“Although we were already brought in for inquest, they still kept on hiding us. We went missing for 60 days. It was the end of September that we were transferred to a regular detention center inside Bicutan,” he said.

Castillo believed their transfer to a regular detention facility was the result of the pressure exerted by cause-oriented groups on the military, including Amnesty International, which one Christmas day sent him 150 Christmas cards written by schoolchildren from England, Japan and Latin America.

“We were always in the newspaper headlines. Our colleagues were looking for us in camps, morgues, and hospitals.”

At the regular detention facility, Castillo said they had a more relaxed time and had the chance to meet fellow known “nat-dem” (national democrat) activists like Satur Ocampo, Fidel Agcaoili and Alan Jasminez.

The guards allowed family members and girlfriends to visit.

Castillo said his girlfriend was even given a special pass to visit him by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

“My family was in Negros, so the only one who visits me was my girlfriend. She’s a tibak (activist) at the St. Joseph College whom I met during their immersion. I told her, she’s my type, and that I liked to take her along with me to the street. She went along,” he said.

After his release in 1986, Castillo married then 23-year old Maritess Angeles. They have two children, Raiza, 23, who finished Food Technology at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, and 20-year-old Riel who is finishing his Architecture course at UP Diliman.

Maritess died last December.

“No one among my children became an activist. They said they didn’t like a revolutionary life,” he said with a smile.

The end of his ordeal began on the evening of Feb. 26, 1986.

They watched on television as Enrile and then Philippine Contabulary chief Fidel Ramos withdrew support from Marcos, and an uprising was ongoing.

Upon hearing the news, Castillo and other detainees, including Jasminez and activist Gerry Bulatao, went to negotiate with their jail warden, a certain Colonel Uliquino, that they be released as the camp would most likely be attacked by government forces.

“I told him the UN states that when a country is at war, all political prisoners should be freed.”

Castillo said Uliquino assured them that at the first volley of gunfire, all political prisoners would be released.

“We were 26 nat dems at the second floor and 35 from the soc-dems (social democrats), Light A Fire Movement and the April 6 Liberation Movement on the apartment’s ground floor. We requested that we also get arms as the camp is undermanned and that we could defend the camp together,” he said. Uliquino refused his request.

On the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1986, the jail warden instructed the Antipolo 5 and six other soc-dem detainees to get dressed.

Castillo recalled asking the warden if they were to bring clothes, thinking they would be transferred to another jail. The warden told them to just wear ordinary clothes.

Shortly after, the detainees were loaded on two military jeeps and heading towards Camp Crame in Quezon City when one of the vehicles had a flat tire near EDSA.

Castillo would later learn from their escorts that they were supposed to be presented to foreign media as released political prisoners after a thanksgiving Mass at Crame.

As the group missed the Mass and arrived late at the gates of Crame, they were “ambushed” by the foreign press.

“They asked me: ‘Are you happy with your release?’ I answered: ‘Yes of course. I am happy now that I can take 100 steps forward when before I could only take seven steps’,” he said.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 08:20 AM
Lawmakers slam Ongpin for historical revisionism

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Lawmakers on Monday slammed former Trade Minister Roberto V. Ongpin for his purported attempt to rewrite Philippine history and paint the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family and his cronies in a better light.

“Good Lord! More revisionism?” said Sen. Serge Osmeña, who instigated a Senate blue ribbon committee probe on Ongpin for alleged insider trading of Philex Mining Corp. shares, profiting from a behest loan granted by Development Bank of the Philippines in 2009 and acting as a front for former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“These are matters of history. It’s amazing that Ongpin is making these claims only now,” said Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

In an interview last week with the Inquirer, Ongpin said: “With the election, a lot of people felt that he (Marcos) lost. You know, he won. In my view, he really won.”

“This is a case of historical revisionism. An insult to the heroism of thousands of Filipinos who fought for the ouster of Marcos. A reminder to be vigilant against Marcos apologists who want to rewrite history and justify the crimes of the past,” said Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino.

Belmonte found it strange that Ongpin would follow Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s lead in trying to revise history.

“What about the claim that there was really an ambush prior to proclamation? It’s a different tune from before,” Belmonte said, recalling Enrile’s claim during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that Cory was the real winner in the snap election that month and that his ambush, which led to the proclamation of martial law in 1972, was staged.

Binondo Central Bank

Osmeña also blasted Ongpin for his alleged attempt to window-dress his brainchild, Binondo Central Bank, which controlled the black market for dollars amid the flight of capital and refusal of exporters to bring their dollars back home following the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in August 1983.

“Nothing noble about the use of police powers to suspend the law of supply and demand to cover up the plunder and gross mismanagement of the economy and keep the Filipino people in ignorance and misery,” Osmeña said.

In the interview with the Inquirer, Ongpin said that the Aquino assassination ignited massive withdrawals of short-term dollar placements and required extraordinary measures to avert hyperinflation similar to those experienced by economies torn by wars and civil strife. Foreign currency traders in Manila’s Chinatown were having a field day, steadily debasing the peso.

“The country was headed for a runaway inflation, like Argentina. We were right there on the brink. I told Marcos the only way, if you want me to do it, is to get these guys and put the fear of God in them and tell them you’d better do it. And they did. It was horrible,” Ongpin said.

“The whole concept was discipline. We had no money to defend the peso. The only thing we had was moral suasion, or immoral suasion,” Ongpin said. “The traders were using their money. The treasury was bankrupt. I had the President sign arrest and seizure orders for each of the black marketers.”

‘Still doesn’t get it’

“Almost three decades on and he still doesn’t get it. The results of the snap election are irrelevant. No rigged and thoroughly corrupted polls could confer legitimacy on Marcos. The people had had enough of the dictatorship, so the people kicked them out,” said ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio.

“Ongpin’s revisionism highlights the urgent need for a thoroughgoing review of how the history of the martial law period is written, discussed in public and taught in our schools. In Germany, no one can speak favorably about the Hitler period without being called to account. It should be the same here regarding the Marcos era,” Tinio said.

“[Ongpin] claims to have saved the country from a crippling economic crisis that was largely brought about by him and his ilk to begin with? The staggering foreign debt, corruption-riddled white elephant projects and crony monopolies?” he said.

Historical account

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said: “We should have an historical account of the 20 years of Marcos misrule and make it part of our educational curriculum.”

Guingona said historians with “firsthand” experience with martial law should be tapped to write this chapter of the country’s history.

“I remember reading the column of Ambeth Ocampo (of the Inquirer) that Raul Roco, when he was secretary of education, was talking to him about it. He would have been commissioned by the Department of Education to write about those 20 years of Marcos rule. Unfortunately, it did not push through,” Guingona said.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2013, 08:24 AM
Edsa ’86: A military perspective

By Reynaldo V. Silvestre

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:31 am | Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 (First of two parts)

(Editor’s Note: The author was an army major during the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. A bemedalled officer, he retired in 2005 as a colonel.)

In the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1986, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos, under threat of imminent arrest, sought refuge in their military headquarters. In the morning of Feb. 25 both were sworn into the government of Corazon Aquino. That same evening Ferdinand Marcos flew into exile.

In just about 80 hours, a military organization strong enough to prop Marcos up during 14 years of martial law simply abandoned him.

What happened?

Of utmost psychological significance, the top rebel, Fidel Ramos, was a bred-in-the-bone military leader. It was he who transferred to Camp Crame on Sunday, Feb. 23, to use its field communications system to order, plead, harangue and cajole front-line commanders to join him.

Against Marcos, a civilian who emitted the stench of corruption, sickness, weakness, repugnant favoritism and loss of legitimacy from having been in fact beaten in the snap presidential election by Cory Aquino, the military stood by one of its own in Ramos.

Gen. Fabian Ver, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was the Himmler of Marcos. He was feared as one who would purge the officer corps mercilessly. He was also both envied and despised for his wide-ranging corruption.

Ramos, by contrast, was the true military leader, bred in the Philippine Military Academy, heroic in field combat, perceived as prudent, dignified and fair. Thus, to fire those mortars and to march those Marines against Ramos meant not only killing people, but also killing their true leader.

Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar and his Marines just could not do it. Col. Braulio Balbas and his mortars could not do it. Col. Antonio Sotelo and his helicopter gunships saw Ramos and could not kill him. Such is the human being, capable of cold-blooded murder one moment, and mawkish the next.

Marcos had always based his power on military might. There is no other alternative for anyone who desires power on a national scale because the military has a monopoly of the greatest single concentration of brute force in any society. Marcos the sophisticate, who plundered his people even as he tried to mesmerize them with his tales of a New Society, carefully developed an obedient military machine.

Marcos began by insinuating himself into the professional mind-set of the officer corps who, since their academy training, had been indoctrinated into a reflex loyalty to “duly constituted authority.” Marcos, as the elected President in 1965 and 1969, was that authority. The “New Society” constituted the “talking point,” the psychological measure to ennoble his moves.

Fragile element

Moreover, by abolishing the representative structures under martial law, Marcos turned the military into his power base. The military became involved in nonmilitary functions.

But loyalty is a fragile element, and Marcos tried other ways of ensuring loyalty: power sharing (allowing provincial commanders to rule their areas); financial franchises (allowing smuggling and carnapping and other ways of becoming wealthy); and prolonged tenure.

Alas, Marcos was in a losing game. He simply did not have enough power to share, unless he gave up his own and provoked the anarchy of warlordism. He did not have enough financial franchises to bestow, unless he destroyed his own financial empire and all civilized government by encouraging nationally rampant gangsterism. The prolonging of tenure of favored military officers in time created envy and anger.

But while the military budget markedly increased, the basic salaries of Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel did not rise to any significant degree.

Marcos had come sharply against a constant in human nature: You cannot please everybody all the time. The historical solution to the dangers posed by scarce economic resources and restlessness is for autocrats to create a smaller group with greater ferocity to awe and to terrorize both the body politic and the military itself. Adolf Hitler had his SS, and Joseph Stalin his KGB. Marcos had his Ver-PSC-MISG (Presidential Security Command-Military Intelligence and Security Group), but before this could develop into a heavily armed and well-staffed killing machine, Edsa happened.

Only the military could have dispersed the crowd. But the Marines stopped at Edsa and Ortigas. Only the military could have pulverized Enrile and Ramos. But the commander of the armor refused repeated orders to fire on targets. His reason was that “too many innocent people would be killed.” An interesting answer worthy of a treatise in itself.

Ruptures in public order

The crowds on Edsa were mobilized by other factors. One factor was the shattered economy. Unemployment and inflation had impoverished millions. Despair and seething rage had become corrosive in the body politic.

Poverty is painful enough, and it becomes even worse when combined with the perception that it has been caused by the thievery of others. To the people, the ‘others’ were Marcos, his kin and his associates.

The growth of the communist insurgency and the secessionism movements in the Cordilleras and Mindanao were therefore traced to Marcos. The “best recruiter” for the New People’s Army was Marcos.

These insurgencies raised serious worries in Washington. Marcos had become unreliable. US military facilities and investments were imperiled by his misdeeds and his failures, which included his appropriation of the sustenance America had tried to infuse into both the economy and the military. The restiveness of the body politic also troubled America with the added worry that it could be alienated from any succeeding government.

The herd instinct toward either flight or anger needed a focus. Cory Aquino, by the alchemy of circumstances, became that focus. At last, the opposing masses had grown a head. The fractious political parties were organized into a functioning coalition.

To Marcos, this was a shock. One of the gambits in his snap election decision was that he could abort a dangerous coalition of his opponents since every party would field its own candidates. Instead, Marcos was confronted by a united phalanx.

Loss of US support

It also helps, of course, that America is on one’s side. For unknowingly among Edsa partisans, American technicians kept a 24-hour vigil on Ver’s communications, which they easily tapped. The CIA maintains in the Philippines an intelligence base capable of monitoring radio and microwave phone transmissions all over Asia. The CIA learned that Ver had arrested and interrogated the bodyguards of Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin provided by Enrile and stumbled on the coup plot of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM).

American intelligence forthwith warned Enrile that the PSC was on red alert, that Ver had repositioned his forces around Metro Manila, and that Enrile, Ramos and Ongpin had been ordered arrested. Enrile found the time to flee to Camp Aguinaldo and enlist the support of Ramos, Jaime Cardinal Sin, US Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and “people power.”

In Washington that Sunday, Feb. 23, US President Ronald Reagan met for 85 minutes with national security advisers to discuss the US-Philippine options.

(Next: US abandons Marcos)

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:27 AM
A Truth Museum

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:53 pm | Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Twenty-seven years ago, the miracle of a peaceful revolution that removed a dictator from power unfolded in Edsa. Since then, much has happened that could never have been predicted at that time. Personal and political fortunes had serious ups and downs, heels became heroes and heroes became heels.

As time marched, so did versions of the truth. Many who were quite active in the political dynamics then have since passed away. Most who are forty and below today would have either little or no memory of what really happened then. It is no wonder that there are attempts to mitigate the truth so that villains are viewed more kindly. Unfortunately, mitigating the truth can result in revising history.

There was a famous ambush that many had believed to have been staged, an ambush that was one of the main reasons used to justify the declaration of martial law. In 1986, that ambush admitted in statements to media as, indeed, having been faked. Last year, however, that ambush is again claimed to have been real.

Several days ago, Bobby Ongpin, a key Marcos Cabinet member, was interviewed and he tried to share a personal version of history about the dying days of the dictatorship. Part of what he said in the interview was his belief that Marcos had won the snap election.

This is an email reaction to the Bobby Ongpin interview that came out in the Philippine daily Inquirer, from a Cecilia A. Concepcion. I repost it in full below:

“Very myopic view, if you ask me. Up in his ivory tower (doing what he thought was the only thing that mattered), Bobby Ongpin did not give a hoot about what was going on in the streets below…

He (Marcos) won? Bobby Ongpin even today, with the benefit of hindsight, says he won? Come on! Bobby never heard about the technicians staging a walkout from PICC because of all the fake election returns they were being forced to input? They were heroes of the revolution more than the group of political adventurists that planned that coup d’etat.

By the way, let’s get this straight, once and for all. EDSA was not just about the 3 days where Enrile and his coup gang decided to defect to the side of the people as Ver was after their arses and would have annihilated them. The EDSA revolution was an ongoing process, and we were making inroads. We may have taken a little more time, granted. But the people would have been more politicised in the process. Enrile’s coup ony messed up the educative aspect of our revolution. It delivered outcomes,yes, but unfortunately, too prematurely. –Ces Concepcion

Postscript. A few weeks after EDSA, a group of us (Rose Montenegro, Nini Rojas, Leni Evaristo, Lydia Echauz, Mrs Fernandez, and myself) had a series of meetings with members of the RAM at the La Salle Graduate School. It was then we realised, much to our dismay, that RAM was seeing the same event with a different set of realities, directly opposite to ours; looking at themselves as the saviors for taking Marcos down. Wow! we said to them, See here: we started making noise as early as 1978 when the first elections were held under martial rule. In subsequent elections, we manned the election precincts with our flashlights and candles, with Ting Paterno and Jimmy Ongpin, we distributed flyers, we too turns sleeping on hard benches in nearby sarisari stores.

And when Ninoy was gunned down, we more actively and fearlessly than ever took it to the streets of Ayala and the Quirino Grandstand, seething through the Agrava Commission trials, until Marcos made the fatal mistake of calling a snap election that finally unraveled his grip on a long-patient nation. And now in 1986, after taking cover in Camp Aguinaldo for 3 days behind the shield of the people who massed up at EDSA (and didn’t Nini and Teena even whip up 10 gallons of adobo and delivered to the Camp to feed them?), they have the temerity to call themselves the heroes and the saviors of the EDSA movement? I mean, Come on! Give me a break!

History will record that RAM and Enrile mounted a series of coup attempts against the Cory government in pursuit of their power ambitions. This clearly showing the world and sadly, that, while they had taken advantage of our kindness on those 3 days, they were never on our side.”

Revising history will create a confused people. Generations will become unsure of their own history and may even end up as a laughing stock before a world. After all, many parts of the world at that time had been monitoring the events and personalities deeply affecting the Philippines. Media coverage was more available through international sources because the dictatorship controlled local media.

It is most timely today that President Noynoy Aquino is creating a Truth Museum to enshrine what had happened before more attempts to revise history will achieve permanent status. The Truth Museum will cover martial law and the Edsa People Power revolution, following what some other countries have also done to preserve their experiences of dictatorships and their struggle for freedom.

If the truth does set us free, then the Filipino people must have the truth. The lessons of the past must be learned. Martial law must never find its way to our nation again, and its evil must not be mitigated to serve the interests of the guilty.

The search for the truth is, in itself, the most important issue. Filipinos must be given official encouragement to pursue and preserve the virtue of truth that is challenged every time there is an attempt to revise history. Those who commit high crimes against the nation must not get away with it and the condemnation of their wrongdoing must outlive them.

Once it becomes a national effort to bring out the truth, then preserve this for future generations, I believe we will be shocked to know there is much more than we already know.

NB - Emphasis all the author's own

Sam Miguel
03-04-2013, 11:30 AM
Credit goes to Filipinos as the real heroes of Edsa ’86

By Reynaldo V. Silvestre

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:23 am | Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 (Last of two parts)

(Editor’s Note: The author was an Army major during the Edsa People Power Revolution. A bemedalled officer, he retired in 2005.)

Edsa looked like this—a vast multitude of civilians thronging the avenue to protect the rebels headquartered in Crame and Aguinaldo. The proximate causes of their gathering were the mobilization of Butz Aquino’s peer network and the appeal of Cardinal Sin on Radio Veritas to the national audience. But why did the people come?

Because the invisible roots of Edsa were a burgeoning despair over a disintegrating economy and rage at a national leadership perceived as incompetent, rapacious and the major reason for everything wrong. Anger makes people brave and reckless.

In their anger, millions in their hearts severed allegiance to the Marcos regime and hundreds of thousands actually demonstrated in the open.

Sterling Seagrave in “The Marcos Dynasty” narrates that the CIA manipulated events, using a backroom behind Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile’s office in Camp Aguinaldo; instigated the RAM and Enrile to connive against Ferdinand Marcos and to stage a coup; deliberately misled Ronald Reagan because the CIA did not trust him to act decisively against his friend Marcos; made available for Enrile their extensive taping of Gen. Fabian Ver and company’s communications; and delivered to Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos their extensive collection of military officers.

Regrettably, Seagrave’s statements are unverifiable. So are the miracle claims of Cardinal Sin. A parochial faith alone upholds either view.

When Ver, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in full battle gear, asked for the nth time for permission to bomb the rebels, President Ferdinand Marcos simply had to say no.

Washington had spoken against the assault on Enrile and Ramos.

On the sly, Ver sent a helicopter team to assault Camp Crame. The team landed inside the perimeter of Camp Crame and defected inside. By then Washington knew that the breakaway group was winning the Edsa rebellion.

Marcos lost American support, which included the loss of a small legion of officers in the military. An alliance with a “foreign prince” is unstable enough, and more so when you steal from him, place his interests in grave danger, and appear to him that you are about to fall anyway.

Officer corps mind-set

In the Philippines, we had not seen the military mount a successful coup d’état. What Marcos did was to be elected leader and then use the Constitution and the military’s vow to defend the republic against his enemies.

The lesson here is that the military, once it has an anointed leader, can be moved against a reigning leadership if a messiah role can be created. This evolves when the integrity of the republic and the people seem in danger. The officer corps has a mind-set about legitimacy and a revulsion for treachery, treason and destroying the people it was sworn and trained to protect.

In the case of Edsa I, Marcos lost his legitimacy because the majority of the military was not his direct beneficiary as Ver and co. were, and the massive crowds in Edsa looked like the sovereign people themselves withdrawing their allegiance to Marcos.

Military not isolated

In another instance, if the officer corps can be made to feel that it is a separate class altogether, then it may rule by whim one day. The isolation of the military from the nation has in fact occurred many times in human history: the praetorian guards of Rome, the janissaries of Baghdad, the mercenary armies of Machiavelli’s time, the “noble family” officers of European kingdoms, the Sandhurst military academy officers of England’s colonies, the “good family” officers of Brazil and Argentina, to cite a few examples.

It would take more than a generation to breed this isolated type of military in the Philippines, far too long for anyone who wants to use the military for his own purposes.

Today, the broadly recruited officer corps which we have is linked to too many socioeconomic classes. They cannot think of themselves as separate from the people.

Edsa was a civilian-backed military revolt, sparked by the defection of two men, who were supported by a national religious leader and a foreign power with strong adherents within the military.

The military, as sheer power goes, could have dispersed the crowd, but to do so would have been to kill one of their very own, Ramos, who was their highest leader at that time.

In other nations of current memory this scruple was not policy. Burma became Myanmar after its military shut down and crushed its “people power.” An octogenarian autocracy still rules a billion people after its military fired at will relentlessly at its “people power” with lethal tanks. But assuredly no military leader of rank was obviously to be killed as well.

Perhaps later, but that is the work of time, subtle terror and the police.

Asserting a miracle

The Roman Catholics have built a shrine on the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue. There, on top is a statue of Virgin Mary with rather homely Malayan-Chinese features. She represents the rosaries held up to the armored vehicles of the marines. The priests, nuns and laity who claim to have stopped the armored personnel carriers assert a miracle.

The basis of this assertion is that rosaries do not stop armored soldiers, and yet they apparently did. To achieve a prediction with an improbable means is, and has been for millennia, a definition of a ‘miracle’ sufficient for large multitudes as well as for quite a few who would consider themselves positivist logicians.

But there are those who would be interested in either predicting or creating another Edsa. For them a secular explanation would be more interesting if only because control would be reverted to their human hands.

Credit Cory, Enrile, Ramos

There are, to be sure, passionate adherents on either side. But the failure of the Aug. 28, 1987, putsch, with its rather visible squad of CIA colonels all too obviously on Gregorio Honasan’s side, certainly belies CIA capability to deliver large numbers of military officers on demand. No one turned up on Edsa to support Honasan. Thus, CIA capability to whip up national passions clearly was limited.

Edsa ’86 was the classic revolutionary situation described by Clarence Brinton in the “Anatomy of Revolution.” To be sure, the CIA saw it coming and might have nudged it along. But Edsa ’86 was too big to be anyone’s creation.

Give credit for sparking the revolution to Enrile and Ramos since it started with their defection. Give distinctive credit to Ramos, the professional soldier around whom the officer corps rallied. Give credit to Cory for winning a mandate which unraveled the legitimacy of Marcos and provided the people with a visible alternative leader. Give credit to the national voices (include June Keithley) who called on the people to stand up against all that armor with their amulets. Give credit to the CIA which had the common sense to act upon the knowledge that Marcos had become irrelevant.

People most of all

But after all is said and done, remember the people in the millions upon whom everybody rode to separate glories. Anything else is a pompous guess.

Sam Miguel
03-21-2013, 10:17 AM
Way to go pinkos...



By Alex Magno

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

Once again, student radicals at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) assault public sensibility by pushing a valid grievance beyond the limits. They have turned the protest into an orgy, throwing equipment out of the classrooms and torching the pile.

No one will argue with the claim that the facilities in this school, as in all public educational institutions, are seriously wanting. The situation is not alleviated by burning what is already scarce.

Radicals at PUP pulled this show of vandalism once before, drawing adverse public reaction. They do not seem smart enough to alter abusive tactics.

This week, they appear to be engaged in a perverse arms race with their cousins at the UP, each trying to prove they are better vandals than the other. As the PUP militants were busy burning their own chairs, their peers at UP-Manila were happily defacing walls with spray paint and barging into the PGH, disturbing the hospital zone with their noisy clamor.

Apart from reading Mao’s Red Book, it might serve these militants well if they also leaf through Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. The latter reading will better help them advance their cause, whatever that cause might be. Vandalism was never a good medium for reshaping public convictions.

The death of Kristel Tejada is a truly sad event. It is a sharp stab at our consciences, a provocation for soul-searching. It is powerful stimulus for rethinking the way we do things, for reviewing policies and reexamining procedures.

The orgies of vandals merely distract us from properly reflecting on possible remedies within the framework of resource constraints. The bonfires lit by vandals are meant to air impossible demands, to make the problems irresolvable and to foist the opium of socialism in public campuses.

The death of Kristel, no doubt, provides rich powder for propaganda. It is a deeply emotional, highly symbolic and profoundly revolting event. It will obviously present rabble-rousers a strong temptation for doing propaganda for propaganda’s sake.

Radicals have fallen for the temptation as the events of this week make clear. Instead of looking for solutions, they have converted into a lynching mob in quest of scapegoats. They seek to repay an unfortunate death with the scalps of those who have given their very best trying to govern the ungovernable public institutions of higher learning.

The UP administration, for its part, scrapped its late payments policy. That is about as humane a solution as there could be given the circumstances. When a student has done work for the semester and could not find the financial means to complete payments by the end of the term, all the work put in should not be for naught.

It should be pointed out that the late-payments policy (where credits for a term’s work are forfeited when fees are not paid by the end of it) which might have felled Kristel is standard in all institutions, including the heavily subsidized Tesda programs where fees are truly minimal.

By scrapping this policy, the UP now sets a standard for all institutions of learning. That new standard is a challenge, to be sure. The distasteful but unavoidable matter of ensuring collection at some point will have to be worked out. Fiscal responsibility requires this to prevent our educational institutions from falling into bankruptcy.

While a term’s work will no longer be forfeited in the event of financial disability, some checks will have to be installed after the fact, such as forbidding enrollment in the succeeding term unless previous debts are settled. Otherwise, the COA will have the necks of school administrators.

We do have an underdeveloped culture of credit discipline, especially where it is public agencies that do the lending. In the course of the controversy following Kristel’s death, we find out that the CHED has been running a study-now, pay-later lending program for financially challenged students. The repayment rate, however, has been very low and the program is in clear and imminent danger of going bankrupt.

No financing scheme for higher education will last very long unless a culture of credit discipline evolves to maturity. There should be appropriate mechanisms to ensure credit discipline is observed. If there are, they have yet to be discovered.

Commercial financial institutions might have found educational lending an attractive proposition if the default rate in the CHED program was not as high. Given the risk profile of student borrowers, commercial lenders will have to charge high interest rates to cover their exposures. That will only aggravate the default rate.

We once had a workable alternative in the preneed educational plans where parents may invest forward to secure educational opportunities for their children. A wrong-headed policy change that submitted the preneed companies to the same stringent reserve requirements applying to the life insurance industry killed the former. The high-profile collapse of several preneed companies (due to misguided government policy) killed the market for educational plans.

Some candidates for the Senate have promised to legislate financing schemes for bright but poor students. Such schemes will likely meet design issues centering on financial sustainability.

The simplest (simple-minded, really) solution is socialism: provide state subsidies across-the-board. There are issues of justice here, however, since it involves heavily taxing those who are not even potential beneficiaries of the subsidies. While seductive, it has no real workable financial model that ensures sustainability.

Alas, we are left only with policy responses that will constantly seem short of the utopian goal of making tertiary education fully accessible to the poor.

Sam Miguel
03-25-2013, 09:27 AM
A short history of Martial Law, version whatever

Hot Manila -

by Alan C. Robles

Posted at 02/22/2013 11:57 AM | Updated as of 02/22/2013 12:00 PM


Martial Law? What Martial Law? What Marcos dictatorship? Never happened! Go home.

Ha ha, just kidding. OF COURSE Martial Law happened. In fact, that's what we're here to talk about. You see it seems more and more Filipinos are beginning to forget about that period

To address this problem, we've put together this short summary using highly reliable sources such as Wikipedia, elementary school textbooks, FB sites and random kids walking around our neighborhood .

And, what do you know, it's about that time of the year when we celebrate whatchamacallit, People Power. A good time to recall, uhm, what was that again? Oh yeah, Martial Law. Here goes:

Martial Law was declared in 1972 by a saintly Dalai Lama-type, all-around good guy president named Ferdinand "Gorgeous" Marcos. He was not a liar. He was not a thief. He was not a murderer. He was not a fake war hero. He was so not corrupt. He was not married to a demento klepto. We have this on the best authorities, namely his relatives.

He was actually forced to declare Martial Law because of threats to the nation's freedom and liberty. To protect these, he took them and put them in a very safe place -- a vault inside Malacañang Palace. He could have put them in any of his bank vaults in Switzerland but they were all full of money he had so not stolen.

During Martial Law, some Filipinos would try going to Malacañang, demanding to see the country's freedom and liberty. People were always welcome to visit the Palace! As long as they could find their way through the ranks of heavily-armed Metrocom police and Marines, barbed-wire entanglements, fire trucks and automatic cannon mounted on the rooftop. Gorgeous Marcos always managed to persuade the crowds that the country's freedom and liberty were safe. One of the country's finest legal minds, Marcos used outstanding arguments based on the sound concepts known as "gunfire," "truncheons" and "tear gas."

Oh, and another reason he was forced to proclaim Martial Law? His defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile was ambushed / not ambushed / ambushed by mysterious terrorists / henchmen / gunmen.

Martial Law means "military rule" but it was a FRIENDLY rule. Marcos, his wife, and their cronies were smiling, even though they were straining to heave and carry off all that loot and cash. Armed soldiers went out to the streets to raid newspapers, TV stations, etc - but the soldiers were SMILING.

Here's the thing: ordinary citizens, youths, students, peasant leaders, bystanders were unnecessarily panicked and started running blindly for cover, mysteriously ending up in military stockades and intelligence safe houses. Goodness! Marcos never even knew those safe houses existed!

Anyway, the military goons in these places were taken by surprise and instinctively started torturing, beating up and killing all these people. And this kept happening year after year. Yes, we know, amazing, right? All this was accidental, the deaths were clearly caused by the victims themselves. We have all this on good authority, namely Marcos' best torturers. Wait, did we say "torturers"? We meant honorable military and police officers.

It was so not true that there was total censorship of the press during Martial Law. Filipinos had a wide array of media to choose from: (1) The Marcos controlled press; (2) The Marcos intimidated press;(3) All of the above. See? Plenty! And people who complained or protested were always given space to do so - usually in a jail cell with an actual bed! How about that!

Martial Law was so popular even the US approved of it, and why not? It was a period of growth: the numbers of NPA, poverty, the national debt, bankrupt firms, the bank accounts of Gorgeous Marcos and his cronies and his generals and his technocrats. Everything boomed. Boy, those were the days! Of course, there were always critics who opposed Martial Law and complained about the alleged abuses -- those were called "subversives" aka "tortured", "imprisoned" and "dead."

But it all started unraveling when in 1983, a troublemaker named Benigno Aquino somehow arranged to kill himself and pin the blame on Gorgeous Marcos. Wouldn't you know it, you had riots and trouble, and in 1986, Marcos found himself cheated in a totally credible election (we have this on good authority, namely the election officials at that time). Next thing you know, he was fleeing with his family, with only enough time to pack several cargo planes full of loot and gold and stuff. And he died of heartbreak abroad. Or maybe he ruptured something, carrying all that loot.

Talk about ingratitude of the people.

That's the story of Martial Law, which holds two lessons Filipinos should never forget: first, always respect the dead Marcos, because he has rich and powerful living relatives. Second, remember: crime does not pay. It earns interest in Swtizerland

Sam Miguel
03-26-2013, 08:10 AM
Aquino vetoes bill setting P3 trillion for poor

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:38 am | Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

He could have signed it into law and scored brownie points. But without a P3.044-trillion budget to fulfill the basic needs of the poor right away, the government would have been haled to court.

This in essence was President Benigno Aquino III’s reason for vetoing the Magna Carta for the Poor, a measure that mandates the government to immediately provide homes, food, jobs, education and health care for the country’s 25 million poor.

Facing reporters, the President on Monday said that when the legislation was forwarded to his table for signing, he realized that the government did not have sufficient funds to immediately carry out even one of the five basic needs.

Mr. Aquino said that 5-million social housing units alone would cost the government P2.320 trillion, way more than this year’s P2.006-trillion national budget.

This year, the government could program only P600 billion for social housing and that doesn’t even include food, jobs, education and health services yet, he said.

“In other words, I could have played cute. I could have signed this into law, and earned brownie points, but I know the government wouldn’t be able to meet this,” Mr. Aquino told reporters after speaking at the anniversary celebration of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in Pasay City.

In the end, the head of the National Housing Authority would face charges in court from people whose homes have not been built, or for not paying the rent of beneficiaries pending the construction of their homes, the President said.

Lack of funds

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said providing for the key programs in each of the five basic rights would cost some P3.044 trillion.

“Keeping in mind that our 2013 budget comes to P2.006 trillion, that is way beyond our capacity to provide. That is why the President had the law vetoed and promised to substitute a more fiscally viable and practical version of the Magna Carta for the Poor,” Abad said in a text message.

Lawmakers had high hopes Mr. Aquino would enact this into law. Congress approved it in early February ahead of the start of the campaign period for the May 13 national elections.

‘Progressive realization’

After a review, the President said he discovered that the measure did not carry the phrase “progressive realization” of the poor’s rights, and this made all the difference.

This phrase is clearly enunciated in the International Covenant on Economic Culture and Social Rights, of which the Philippines is a signatory, he said.

The measure spells out the rights of the poor: right to food; right to employment and livelihood; right to quality education; right to shelter and right to basic health services and medicine.

And as part of its duty, the government would provide “the requirements, conditions and opportunities for the full enjoyment of these rights of the poor and which the poor can demand as a matter of right.”


“While reading it, we found out that the phrase ‘progressive realization’ wasn’t there. That means, we have to fully realize these rights of each of our countrymen living below the poverty threshold, which is estimated to be 26 percent of the 95 million Filipinos,” Mr. Aquino said.

The housing provision alone “is demandable” and has to be carried out immediately, he pointed out.

“If only they have put the ‘progressive realization’ in, which was in the covenant, we won’t have any problem here. But if I signed it, and we’re aware the government couldn’t accomplish it, then I’d be deceiving my bosses, and I can’t do that,” he said.

He could have signed it and delayed its implementation until the next administration comes in, but this would have been unfair.

“Our corrective action is that we’ve directed the Social Cluster to draw up a substitute measure that we will give to the next Congress, and hopefully, that they will act upon with haste,” he said.

The Magna Carta for the Poor was expected to institutionalize the government’s main antipoverty program, such as the conditional cash transfer.

The Magna Carta for the Poor describes the poor as those whose income falls below the poverty threshold defined by the National Economic and Development Authority, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

The measure mandates the government to ensure adequate and decent employment and living wage for the basic sector workers, farmers-peasants, artisanal fisherfolk, and other indigents, among others.

Sam Miguel
03-26-2013, 08:11 AM
Magna Carta for the Poor authors lament veto

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:38 am | Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Authors of the proposed Magna Carta for the Poor are aghast that President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the measure intended to guarantee that the downtrodden and impoverished would get opportunities to improve their plight, believing there was no reason to deny them any kind of help they could get.

Alagad Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, one of the main proponents of the bill, said he was disheartened by the President’s decision, which came at a time when many candidates were trying to focus on the concerns of the poor.

Marcoleta said Mr. Aquino could just have vetoed certain provisions of the bill instead of rejecting it wholesale, so that Congress would have the chance to improve the measure later.

Other sections could still have provided relief to the poor. With the veto, a new bill would have to be filed and Congress would have to start anew.

Marcoleta noted that the proposed Magna Carta for the Poor had been pending since the 13th Congress and that it took two more Congresses before it was sent to the Chief Executive for signature.

“The Pope in Rome is talking about helping the poor and the weak, and this could have been the instrument and could have provided the mechanism [for it],” he said in a phone interview.

He said he was laying the blame for the veto on Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate’s committee on social justice.

The House of Representatives, which approved its version of the bill about four months before the Senate did, had adopted the Senate version last December.

With the adoption, there was no need for a bicameral conference committee before the bill could be sent to the President for his signature.

According to Marcoleta, Pangilinan had insisted on his version of the measure, which the party-list lawmaker thought had lacked pertinent details.

He said he would have wanted to push his version of the bill, which would impose administrative penalties on government officials liable for the violation of the bill, but the House had to defer to the Senate’s wishes.

Another coauthor, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, said Mr. Aquino’s elite background had apparently numbed him to the needs of the destitute.

“I believe a President who comes from an elite landed family would be unable to see the merits of a propoor legislation,” Ilagan said.

She said the veto had deprived the poor of additional opportunities they could have seized to uplift their conditions.

“We have the saying that ‘those who have less in life should have more in law.’ With the veto, the poor will not be able to seek succor even in law,” she said.

Sam Miguel
04-05-2013, 08:26 AM
PH to probe ‘secret’ Marcos offshore trust

Agence France-Presse

5:15 pm | Thursday, April 4th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine government said Thursday it planned to investigate an allegation that the eldest daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was the beneficiary of a secret offshore trust.

A report published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) alleged Imee Marcos, 57, now a provincial governor, had failed to declare the British Virgin Islands trust as legally required.

Andres Bautista, head of a presidential body tasked to recover the billions of dollars the Marcos family stole from government coffers during the patriarch’s 20-year rule, told AFP his office would look into the allegations.

“We are duty bound to investigate and, depending upon informed preliminary findings, decide whether to pursue the matter,” Bautista said.

A popular uprising topped Marcos in 1986, and he died in US exile three years later. His famously extravagant wife, Imelda, has always denied she and her husband were corrupt.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government, which Bautista heads, has recovered $4 billion in assets that the Marcos illegally acquired, including from Swiss bank accounts and US properties.

But Bautista told AFP in January that, with Imee, Imelda and Ferdinand Jr. having re-established political influence in the Philippines, the commission was considering giving up on the chase for the billions more believed to be hidden.

“It’s been 26 years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, ‘We’ve done our best’, and that’s that. It is really difficult,” he said.

The PCIJ said the work looking into the Marcos trust was a collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which includes major foreign media groups.

It said the research had uncovered “scores of documents” showing Imee Marcos was a financial advisor for, and beneficiary of the secret trust, although it was not known what assets it held.

Calls by AFP to Imee Marcos’ office went unanswered on Thursday. The PCIJ said she had failed to respond to its requests for comment.

Imee Marcos is running unopposed in next month’s mid-term elections for a second term as governor of Ilocos Norte province, which was her father’s political stronghold.

Imelda Marcos is likely to retain her seat in Congress representing a district in the province.

Ferdinand Jr., a senator, is widely expected to run for president in 2016.

Sam Miguel
04-12-2013, 10:45 AM
Cultural Catholics

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:54 pm | Thursday, April 11th, 2013

The results of the recent Social Weather Stations survey on Roman Catholic (I’ll use “Catholic” from here on, for convenience) belief and practice in the Philippines have caused a stir, particularly the figure of 9 percent of respondents agreeing with the statement “Sometimes I think I might leave the Church” and another showing regular (meaning weekly) Mass attendance dropping from 66 percent in 1991 to 43 percent in 2013. (See sws.org.ph for the full report.)

The reactions from Catholic religious leaders have generally been defensive, according to an article that appeared last Wednesday. Some leaders questioned the validity of the survey itself by citing their own perceptions, mainly about churches being packed. Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez said that in his diocese, more Catholics were attending Mass and that he found “vibrancy” in 17 parishes he has attended.

Rather than being so defensive, Catholic leaders should heed the biblical injunction to read the signs of the times. Like it or not, the Catholic Church is losing its members to other religions, especially evangelical Christian groups, and there are those who simply drift away without taking on a new religious affiliation. Even the Vatican is aware of this, which is why the last two popes, as well as the present one, have called for renewed efforts at evangelization, November 2012-October 2013 having been declared the Year of Faith.

Certainly, there is more to being a Catholic than going to Mass but this observance is so central to Catholicism that the SWS figures on the practice do deserve more analysis. SWS did ask about Mass attendance as an indicator of self-rated religiosity, which was generally higher among Catholics than non-Catholics.

In my time, kids in Catholic schools were told that to miss Mass was a mortal sin and that if you died before you could confess this abominable sin, you went straight to hell. I think (hope) Catholic catechists don’t paint such horrible scenarios anymore and instead talk about what the Mass means, a reenactment of Christ’s supreme sacrifice.


To many Catholics, though, the Mass’ doctrinal aspects—for example, transubstantiation, or the belief that bread and wine become, literally, the body and blood of Christ—have little or no meaning. Going to Mass is an obligation that if not observed could bring less in life. I’ve heard people attributing their illnesses, or financial difficulties, to not having been a “good Catholic,” which is then equated with not attending Mass regularly. Conversely, when people talk about returning to the “Church” after a “life of sin,” unfailing Sunday Mass, if not daily Mass, is cited as proof of repentance.

An obligation is not the best motivation for a religious practice, so it should not be surprising if people begin to skip a Mass occasionally, then more frequently, perhaps becoming a bit more regular again in times of crisis or need, such as when taking a board exam or seeking public office. The Mass, or a novena, becomes a tool for negotiating with heaven, only to be set aside once the crisis, or the elections, are over.

No, let me correct myself about the elections. For politicians, going to Mass regularly will remain an imperative, not so much in terms of religious obligation as of display, of saying “I am a faithful Catholic, like you are.”

Catholic leaders cite attendance at mall Masses as “proof” of continuing Catholic faith in the Philippines, but my perspective is that the mall Mass itself is an attempt, almost a desperate one, to raise Mass attendance figures. If you can’t bring mall rats into churches for Mass, then bring the Mass to the malls.

The problem there is that it simply reinforces the idea of the Mass as a passive obligation. A friend of mine who is a priest is even more cynical about these mall Masses: “What do the bishops care, as long as the people give money during offertory?”

I’ve watched people at these mall Masses and many are so clearly waiting for the Mass to be over and done with. I’ve seen flirting, courting, texting (while courting?), sneaking a peek at their iPads, snacking. But what I do wonder most about is whether these mall Masses contribute anything to building a sense of community or parish, the foundation of any faith-based group.

And why is it so hard now to get people to go to Mass? Conservatives will say because it has lost its solemnity after Vatican II, what with guitar-strumming choirs and the use, horrors, of the “local dialect” (that last word said almost as if it turned the Mass blasphemous).

Liberals will say church attendance is dropping because the Mass just does not connect to people’s daily lives. I’d add, too, in the wake of the reproductive health debates, that many Catholics, including those who were in the middle when it came to the RH debate, were turned off by the way priests and bishops delivered the homily as a means to scold and threaten those who supported the bill.

For many other Filipino Catholics, the “conservative” and “liberal” labels are inapplicable; these are people who want to be able to connect religious worship with their daily lives. Evangelical Christian groups attract Filipinos because the congregation is drawn into more active participation and pastors discuss people’s daily concerns.

El Shaddai, which remains nominally Catholic, brings many evangelical Christian practices into its Mass, exemplified by the exhortation to invert umbrellas to take in blessings from heaven, and to hold up applications, passports and doctors’ prescriptions for divine intervention.

Cultural identity

The figures on Mass attendance suggest we are moving toward becoming a nation of cultural Catholics—that is, Catholicism evolving into a cultural identity rather than a religious affiliation in the sense of agreement with doctrines and practices. This includes those who do not regularly go to Mass, perhaps going only for a baptism, a wedding, or a funeral, sometimes ending up listening to a priest railing against RH.

I should mention that this “culturalization” is happening in all the other major religions. This means that for many years to come, Catholic churches will remain full. I have no doubt about that because Mass attendance, especially in smaller communities, is important for social life.

And if the Pope visits, as previous ones did, there will be millions pouring out into the streets as they did in Manila for Popes Paul VI and John Paul II. When Pope Francis’ election was announced, all of Argentina, his home country, broke out in celebration and many newspapers noted that something like 77 percent of Argentineans are Catholics… but only 17 percent attend Mass regularly.

I’m actually not too pessimistic about these developments. In my younger years working in rural areas with the Catholic Church’s social action programs, there were places so remote that a priest could visit and say Mass only once every few weeks. But people had their own prayer services with lay leaders, and they strived to build what were then called basic Christian communities. And when the priest did visit, the Masses were indeed “vibrant,” if I may borrow the term.

I am more hopeful about a Catholic Church moving forward with members who question the meaning of passive Mass attendance, looking for ways to be Catholic in daily living, than presuming that all there is to being a Catholic is going to Sunday Mass, and never mind what they do the rest of the week.

04-21-2013, 05:59 PM
Old bureaucratic system: A major obstacle


By Babe Romualdez

(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2013 - 12:00am

I must admit that I was one of those a bit skeptical about the “daang matuwid” and “walang wang-wang” that President Noynoy Aquino first talked about during his 2010 State of the Nation Address. But it’s starting to become clear the president’s resolve to imbue a new way of thinking and change the ways of old has taken traction and getting noticed by the international community. The Fitch rating upgrade of our economy and the Philippines taking the spotlight when Time magazine included President Aquino in the list of 100 most influential people in the world tells you that story.

Obviously, Time noted the economy’s impressive performance under President Aquino’s stewardship, citing that it “stabilized and became hot” when it was sputtering before. The magazine also cited P-Noy’s adamancy in pushing through a reproductive health bill that many thought was “impossible in the fervently Catholic nation.” But the most impressive was the president’s valiant stance against China over the Spratlys issue, reminiscent of a David standing up against a military, political and economic Goliath. Aquino, Time declared, “became the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea.”

Just how supportive Filipinos are to the president’s reform agenda will most probably be validated by the result of the 2013 May senatorial elections. Going by the last Pulse Asia poll and recently, a private survey conducted by a special intelligence network, it would seem that Team PNoy will have a major edge over the United Nationalist Alliance bets with the administration candidates taking at least nine out of the 12 Senate seats being contested.

There are a lot of indications that Filipinos are sick and tired of the old trapo kind of politics and want to see young leaders whose idealism is tempered by pragmatism. Sonny Angara is a good example. His legislative work pertinent to the education sector makes him credible especially among the youth when he shares his vision of wanting at least one college graduate in every family. For many Filipinos, “education is the only way out of poverty,” which is why Sonny is proposing amendments to the government’s conditional cash transfer program to include a college scholarship per family.

No doubt the road towards “daang matuwid” has not been all that smooth and easy. We have a long way to go because of the deeply entrenched culture of bureaucratic corruption in many government offices, something that embattled Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon knows very well. Institutional and policy changes are necessary to strengthen and reinforce what this administration has set out to do, think-tank Stratbase president Dindo Manhit said, and rightly so considering that these “institutionalized systems” within the bureaucracy are proving to be a major obstacle in pushing reforms, causing costly delays in crucial infrastructure projects and making it difficult to attract more foreign investors.

This is precisely what seems to be happening at the DOTC and its projects like the LRT-1 Cavite Extension project with the public bidding getting repeatedly postponed — putting President Aquino in great danger of committing “hara kiri” if the line is not operational by 2015 as pointed out by our colleague Boo Chanco. In fact, I spoke to Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and told him that many motorists are angry about the shortage in license plates and the inefficiencies in the old LTO system.

Improvements in LTO’s system for drivers’ licensing and other services as well as the expansion of the MRT and LRT lines are major projects that impact the masses, and clearly, government cannot afford to be unresponsive to the growing frustration of Filipinos over these unbelievable delays. People are blaming Secretary Abaya, saying he’s not doing his job — but I honestly believe it’s the “old” bureaucracy that is at fault here. Jun himself admitted his frustration with the flawed system that is bogging down key infrastructure projects.

Last week, I received a letter from a frustrated reader, JP Fenix who says things may not be as “matuwid” as they seem with regard to the P8.2 billion LTO IT infrastructure project that is supposed to replace the system by Stradcom (which continues to get a lot of flak due to inefficiencies and glitches). The DOTC disqualified the lowest bidder for serious deficiencies while another bidder faced a conflict of interest issue and was also rejected.

However, the rejection of the bid of a German firm (currently the lowest calculated bidder) is making the company feel like this LTO project could be another Fraport-Piatco fiasco in the making. The Fraport deal was a major booboo that chilled relations between Germany and the Philippines but despite that, this particular German firm joined the bid, playing it clean — a firm believer in President Noy’s “daang matuwid.”

The bid rejection was reportedly based on “very flimsy” grounds like the lack of brochures and other non-essentials according to our reader who is familiar with the company. The Germans submitted a motion for reconsideration and an affirmative decision would enable it to show its capability through a proof of concept, but a denial would result in a bidding failure which could mean more delays — with potentially serious and irreparable repercussions for many years to come. This travesty with the P8.2 billion IT infrastructure project must be exposed, according to Mr. Fenix.

Expectations are extremely high among the majority of Filipinos with the good governance and reform agenda that President Aquino started. Everybody, and I mean everybody — whether yellow, red, green or blue — wants him to succeed. Nobody wants to see the country go back to the old, trapo politics of yesterday.

Sam Miguel
04-22-2013, 10:47 AM
Biazon faces ‘revolt of corrupt’ in customs

By Amando Doronila

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:31 am | Monday, April 22nd, 2013 (First of two parts)

Under fire for failure to curb corruption in the Bureau of Customs, Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon proposed to President Aquino the abolition of the bureau for a top-down purge that would end smuggling and rid the agency of corruption “once and for all.”

Facing mounting demands for his resignation, Biazon defiantly dug in. In a recent interview with Inquirer editors and reporters, he said it was up to President Aquino to decide whether to keep or fire him. He did not say, however, whether he was included in his proposal to abolish the customs bureau.

Biazon’s proposal came amid reports of rampant smuggling of oil and agricultural products through special economic zones, costing the government billions of pesos in lost revenues every year. According to Petron Corp. chair and chief executive officer Ramon Ang, 1 in every 3 liters of fuel sold in the country is illegally brought in, resulting in a revenue loss of P30 billion to P40 billion yearly.

Another industry official, Shell country manager Edgar Chua, has said the volume and value of oil products illegally entering the country can be understated, resulting in smaller tax payments. One way of doing it, Chua said, is having a tanker out at sea fill smaller vessels, which then deliver the smuggled fuel directly to small storage facilities.

Such operations are within sight from the Bureau of Customs building at the South Harbor. How the operations have remained unnoticed by customs authorities stands as the worst case of astigmatism or color blindness afflicting the agency’s personnel.

Despite protests from oil industry executives, the administration remains unmoved and shows no sign it will sack Biazon. Instead of voluntarily going, he has produced from his pocket a proposal that no previous customs administration had the gumption to put forward—the abolition of the bureau as the “final solution” to curb corruption in the agency.

Startling suggestion

Biazon’s solution is a startling idea. The Bureau of Customs, one of the two foremost centers of revenue collection in the country (the other is the Bureau of Internal Revenue), was one of the first insular institutions established by the American colonial government following their occupation of the islands in the first decade of the 1900s. The revenue institutions were established alongside the public schools system.

But if Biazon would have his way, the Bureau of Customs would be the first to go to pave the way for the so-called modernization of the Aduana, to make it run in line with the good government and moralistic preaching of the Aquino administration.

Biazon faces the colossal task of abolishing the customs bureau and replacing it with a new revenue institution. But the replacement will not be part of the state bureaucracy. It will stand outside it as an anomalous sore thumb, staffed by a new batch of personnel untainted by corruption and pristinely innocent. The new institution will be a private sector enterprise.

Peru model

In justifying his innovation, Biazon cited Peru’s customs reforms as his model. He claims that Peru, a Third World country like the Philippines, defeated corruption and smuggling by abolishing its “customs department,” replaced it with a new institution outside the regular state bureaucracy, hired new officers and employees, adopted stringent qualifications, paid the new staff higher salaries exempted from the salary standardization norms governing the civil service.

Biazon is misrepresenting the so-called Peru model. My research found that Peru did not totally abolish its customs department but only rid it of “corrupt personnel.” It was not a total sweep.

Biazon said corruption was “deeply entrenched in the customs bureau’s culture and system, so firing a few people or catching some smugglers will not solve the problem.”

He said that under his proposal being considered by the administration, the bureau’s replacement will not be dependent on the national government for its budget. Instead, it will retain 3 percent of its tax and duty collections to finance its own operations, assuming its hypothesis is confirmed by results (which is still up in the air).

That way, he said, the new institution will not have to go to Congress every year to ask for approval of its budget, thus “insulating it from politics.”

Biazon assumed that a financially independent institution with highly paid personnel would shield customs operations from corruption.

Civil service law

But he did not say how the new recruits would be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law. He conveniently ignored the issue that the civil service law protecting the tenure of civil servants forbids their removal without reasonable cause.

His proposed reform involves wholesale dismissal without due process. Current employees are at once branded as “corrupt” and stigmatized for life by one stroke of the pen approving the abolition of the customs bureau. It’s hard to imagine how the customs employees could take a mass purge lying down.

Biazon faces a revolt of the rank and file in the customs bureau and a costly dislocation in operation and collection during the transition from the dismantled bureau to its private replacement.

What about the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)? Like the customs bureau, the BIR is a reputed hotbed of corruption. Is the abolition and privatization of the customs bureau a warning of the fate that awaits the BIR, part of a privatization mania that started with the Mindanao hydroelectric power plants—the main cause of the power shortages on that island?

Is Biazon the agent of this ideological shift in the economic policies of the Aquino administration involving the role of the state in relation to private enterprise in economic development?

(Next: What’s the Peru customs abolition experiment?)

Sam Miguel
04-22-2013, 10:48 AM
PH a torture-risk state—AHRC official

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:25 am | Monday, April 22nd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Saying the Philippines was a “torture risk state,” an official of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has criticized the Hong Kong Immigration Department for its decision denying the claim for protection of Myrna Reblando, widow of slain Manila Bulletin correspondent Bong Reblando, one of the victims in the Maguindanao massacre.

Danilo Reyes, acting deputy director of the Hong Kong-based AHRC, said Reblando had cited enough incidents in the torture claim she filed before the immigration department to show the risks she faced should she return to her country.

Denied claim

The Hong Kong Immigration Department denied the torture claim of Reblando and her young daughter, which they filed so they would be allowed to stay in Hong Kong while waiting for the result of their pending application for asylum before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

With the immigration department’s ruling, Reblando and her daughter face deportation to the Philippines. There is no ruling yet on their plea for asylum.

The immigration department said it did not believe Reblando would be tortured should she return to the Philippines, noting that the Ampatuans, the main suspects in the gruesome killings, had not physically harmed her.

Prevent torture

Reyes, in a statement to the Inquirer, said the Hong Kong government’s obligation was not just to provide remedies to victims of torture, but to prevent torture from being committed against persons claiming such a risk.

Given the situation in the Philippines, the risks to Reblando and her daughter are clear, he said.

“The AHRC and its sister organization, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), have gathered substantial proof that the Philippines is a ‘torture risk state’ and there are ‘substantial grounds for the belief’ that the claimants would be tortured, extrajudicially killed and forcibly disappeared once they are returned,” he said.

Reyes added that the interviews, reports and documents culled by the AHRC and ALRC from victims, their families and lawyers, human rights organizations and their engagement with the government supported this finding.

Clear evidence

Reyes also pointed out that Reblando’s decision to leave their home was based on “credible recommendations,” one of which had come from the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights in 2011. He said the CHR had a report on the real risk and threats that the Reblandos faced.

“The certification of the CHR is clear and compelling evidence of the absence of adequate domestic protection,” he said.

Reyes also said the AHRC had been aware of the dangers facing them and Reblando’s other children who had remained in the Philippines even after Reblando and her daughter had left the country.

Appeal for safety

The AHRC had appealed to the Philippine government asking it to ensure the security and safety of Reblando’s other children after they had been the target of overt surveillance and harassment at their home. This same appeal was included as evidence in Reblando’s torture claim filed in Hong Kong, Reyes said.

The AHRC has also not received any official investigation report on the matter, and is unaware if they had been provided with adequate protection.

Reyes also contested the immigration department’s finding that there was no government involvement when it came to the threats against Reblando.

Security escort

Reyes said one of the security escorts that the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines had provided for Reblando used to work for the Ampatuans, and later appeared to have tried to act as an emissary for the latter.

Reyes noted Reblando’s statement to Hong Kong authorities that upon learning from her escort that he used to work for Zaldy Ampatuan, she tried to trick him by saying she would be amenable to a P100-million offer from the Ampatuans.

The escort disappeared for two days after that. When he came back, he told Reblando that the Ampatuans could not afford the amount.

Sam Miguel
04-25-2013, 09:12 AM
Am I getting soft in the head?

By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:22 pm | Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

I went to a refreshing meeting the other day. Officers of the Management Association of the Philippines met with Public Works Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson.

We’re all sick of the endless promises made by government. All, not just this one. Well, all except Fidel V. Ramos; he got things done. Babes Singson seems to be of the same mold, and I’m not surprised. He comes from the private sector where performance is obligatory if you are to succeed—and he had succeeded.

Babes has experience in the management of toll roads and expressways, water and power utilities, privatization, airports, and seaports. As chair and president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, he converted Clark, Subic, and Fort Bonifacio from military use to private commercial and industrial uses as special economic and free port zones. They are now hubs of commerce and trade. He led in the conceptualization and promotion of the Subic-Clark Alliance Development project as priority national program and in securing a JBIC loan for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway. He also served as president and CEO of Maynilad after its reprivatization. He has what you need to do a job properly: experience.

The President did what he should always do—choose people with the competence, expertise and experience for the job. It pays off, as the appointment of Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez shows with the never-before-seen gains being reaped now by the tourism sector. Choosing for loyalty, friendship or political accommodation may seem unavoidable, but too often, the country pays for it. Mind you, there are exceptions; some of them do rise to the occasion and are performing well. But I’ll not name them as that will set the others against me. Readily available records (through the Internet and social media) will tell you pretty clearly who are performing, and who are not.

The Department of Public Works and Highways ranks with the Department of Transportation and Communications in importance for infrastructure. And the lack, and appalling condition, of infrastructure is one of the top 10 disadvantages of doing business, of attracting business. It’s a principal reason foreign investment is so low, and makes it difficult for companies to be globally competitive.

So Secretary Singson announcing they’ll spend 5 percent of GDP on infrastructure versus the 2-2.5 percent under GMA shows a government now determined to achieve action.

Much of that 5 percent and of the 70 percent of PPP projects falls, not under the DPWH, but under the DOTC under Secretary Jun Abaya, so he must work hand in hand with Secretary Singson. Convergence, Singson calls it—working together. That brings in Jimenez of Tourism and Butch Abad of Budget to provide the funds, something he’s doing much more efficiently than in the polarized (you had to be politically connected) past. And funds that are, it seems, being more honestly used.

The SWS’ 2012 Survey of Enterprises on Corruption, which had top executives of more than 800 firms as respondents, revealed that the DPWH, although still questionable as to its honesty in its dealings, got a net sincerity rating of -23. This is far better than in GMA’s time, when it was rated at -65. It’s heading in the right direction. Money that used to line pockets can now be used to line roads with cement.

The Philippines has 215,000 kilometers of roads, 31,000 of which are national roads. Of those 31,000, some 7,000 km are unpaved. Singson committed to pave them all by 2014. And he may well do so as from 2010 to mid-2012, nearly 550 km were paved, or close to 30 percent of the department’s target. The remaining unpaved roads are national secondary roads. Here, 1,030 km had been paved as of mid-2012, representing a fifth of the agency’s goal. The DPWH hopes to completely pave the secondary roads by 2016.

Full pavement of national roads is crucial as it will get tourists to the beaches, and products to the market, let alone ourselves to school and work. Or it will get those tourists to the beach if there are functional airports. There the story is not so good, as I highlighted last week. Remember, last week I pointed out how it’s been 19 years since the need for a new international airport was discussed. Well, Burma (Myanmar), which only recently started to open up, has a brand-new airport that can handle some 5 million passengers in just three years. Not to make a decision, not to get started, but finished and open for business. Decisions must be made—now.

Singson has instituted what he calls a Good Governance Reform and Anticorruption Program where the goal is: right projects, right cost, right quality, right on time, right people. That’s pretty ambitious; I’ve seen some other good men defeated by a system that refuses to change. But with an honest President determined to end (or at least reduce, in practical reality) corruption, there’s a chance he’ll succeed to a fair degree. As it is, he’s already saved around P11 billion as of end-2012, through the changes he’s made. The bidding activities conducted by the DPWH are now more transparent, with nearly 50 civil society organizations accredited to monitor the bidding and implementation of public works projects.

Singson’s having led thousands of employees from various private and public organizations gives him the experience to make a good shot at it. I can’t stress too highly the need for experience. We never, in the private sector, appoint someone to a senior position without them having the requisite experience, and expertise. It’s a principal reason business succeeds. The public sector would do well to emulate this practice.

Here I am praising someone. Am I getting soft in the head?

Sam Miguel
05-02-2013, 08:24 AM
She danced while a nation burnt

By Luis H. Francia

2:17 pm | Monday, April 29th, 2013

NEW YORK - Was it Oscar Wilde who quipped that one thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about?

In this regard, Imelda Romualdez Marcos need not worry. The ex-czarina of the Philippines has never been out of the spotlight even after her less than glamorous exit from center stage. Still, the provincial lass-made-good lived very well in Honolulu, though perhaps not as luxuriously as when, with Ferdinand, bringing the country to ruin. When apparently unable to touch her bank accounts while being tried in a US federal court for alleged crimes committed while in office, she was bailed out, literally, by her glam friend Doris Duke—a trial in which she was acquitted, on her birthday no less, leading her to remark that it was Ferdie up in heaven who made it all possible. Of course, I doubt it was from heaven that the dead tyrant pulled strings. Besides, it has always struck me as odd, the implication of that statement, that only a miracle would save her from federal prison, suggesting that if there had been no divine intervention she would have been found guilty.

David Byrne’s musical Here Lies Love, labeled a “poperetta,” would surely not surprise Imelda, did she care to notice, that her life story has been reclaimed for the stage at the Public Theater, a theatrical mainstay of downtown Manhattan. Would the work please her? She probably would consider that question irrelevant, apropos of Wilde. Byrne has fashioned a piece of musical theater that attempts to depict a psychological portrait of La Imelda within the setting of a discotheque—his and Fatboy Slim’s music, lights, DJ, slide shows, the works—going by the much publicized fact of Imelda’s fancy for discoing.

He with some singers performed the music at a Carnegie Hall concert gig some years back, and was rightly criticized (by myself, among others) for overlooking the much darker side of the woman who would be queen. This time there is more of that side, while still hewing to the pop psychologizing of a poor girl’s need to satisfy her craving for acceptance and respectability by acquiring all the conventional tokens of a high-end lifestyle: jewels, artworks, real estate—not to mention shoes, of which there is blessedly no mention here.

Here Lies Love has catchy, danceable tunes, and, as staged by Alex Timbers, motion, sound, images and lights combine to not just evoke an era but also actually transform the theater into a disco. There are no seats, except for the upper boxes, so most of the audience becomes disco goers, standing and dancing beside moveable platforms where different parts of the poperetta unfold. Ruthie Ann Miles and Jose Llana bring verve and magnetism to their roles as Imelda and Ferdinand, embodying the real-life duo’s view of themselves as the mythical Malakas (Strength) and Maganda (Beauty).

It is a thoroughly enjoyable spectacle. And yet, pop psychology is in the end unsatisfying, simply because it adheres to a rather simplistic intellectual frame. Yes, Imelda was driven by an unflagging insecurity about her humble origins but one’s social genesis is not the only determinant of future behavior. Played with convincing grit by Melody Butiu, Estrella Cumpas—the loyal servant who took care of Imelda and her siblings when they were poor relations of the father’s first family—tells Imelda, in one of the sharper encounters, that there was nothing wrong with growing up poor.

Rather than point to that as a measure of her character, Imelda shied away from this inconvenient bit of reality and deliberately made moral and ethical decisions in her personal and political life (to her, they were inseparable) that stressed appearance above everything else. In Byrne’s telling, she causes the disappearance of Estrella and also warns Ninoy Aquino not to return once he leaves with his family for the United States.

The poperetta stresses Imelda’s penchant for culture and the arts. True enough, but nowhere is there a mention of the huge scandal due to the1981 tragedy that befell workers rushing to complete the Film Palace, as part of the Cultural Center complex, with strict orders from Imelda that they were to do so 24/7 to ready it for her ill-advised Manila International Film Festival. The haste led to a top floor collapsing and burying those underneath it, in quick-drying cement. Attempts were made to suppress the deaths—after all, these bodies belonged to nobodies—but the event was too much of a tragedy to be kept from the news.

Political and social events are sketched that point the way to the 1986 People Power movement that forced the Marcoses to flee. Towards the conclusion, a member of the terrific ensemble starts playing on acoustic guitar songs whose lyrics are based on the actual words of those who had taken part in the 1986 uprising. He is joined shortly by two other drum-playing ensemble members. It is a beautiful, reflective scene, and I initially thought, what a great way to end the night, hearing from the too-often anonymous. I was mistaken, however, for the last number is reserved for Imelda and the ensemble, singing the lead song, “Here Lies Love.”

Good music, wrong notes.

Sam Miguel
05-08-2013, 08:43 AM
Sidetracked campaign

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:20 pm | Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

On the surface at least, the current election campaign appears to be a slight improvement over past ones. The Commission on Elections’ strict enforcement of its rules on poster size and common poster areas, for instance, has drastically reduced the blizzard of banners and posters that used to choke every available space in the country come election time. Airtime limits have also generally held despite the late-breaking status quo ante order by the Supreme Court, sparing the public of airwaves clogged day and night with political ads.

These are laudable incremental changes. Once the dust settles after May 13, however, it’s a safe bet that this exercise will still be seen as a rehash of the tired, dysfunctional politics of old.

Consider the critical issues that should have occupied front and center in this election: Even as the country’s economy has received consistently glowing marks from international observers, the rates of poverty and unemployment remain staggeringly high. The boom times, in fact, only seem to be reinforcing the obscene social inequality that has been the hallmark of Philippine society throughout its history.

Law and order, too, is quite a joke—if only the joke weren’t on us. The victims and survivors of the Maguindanao massacre are still awaiting justice; same with numerous victims of human rights abuses. The Philippines continues to rank as one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. And, as Cezar Mancao’s recent no-sweat escape from official custody shows, the influential, powerful and high-profile in this country have the option of going on the lam without any serious risk of pursuit or recapture by a lackadaisical government.

Social injustice, economic inequality, the breakdown in public safety and security, not to mention the blackouts in Mindanao, the long-festering insurgency, the environmental blight everywhere—yet what, so far, have been the most talked-about topics this election season? Chiz Escudero’s show-biz romance, for one. Jack Enrile’s shady background, for another. Loren Legarda’s undeclared property in New York, Nancy Binay’s aversion to debates, Migz Zubiri’s and Koko Pimentel’s volleys at each other, the sordid Erap-Lim mudfest.

The politicians and their dirty-tricks departments are not entirely to blame for this. Media play a part in the disproportionate share of shallow, sensationalistic stories in the news. Much of the public, too, as dispatches from the campaign frontlines attest, end up basically tuning out in the face of issues-based rhetoric from the candidates, preferring instead the usual populist bombast spiced with singing-dancing divertissements.

One institution could have made a difference by swinging the debate back to the substantive issues. The Catholic Church could have used its powerful voice and widespread reach to demand that candidates vying for public office measure up to the task by steeping themselves in the problems of the country and offering pertinent, viable solutions for them. The Church could have raised the flag for social justice, better governance, the war on poverty and corruption, this government’s seeming inability to consistently walk the talk on its “daang matuwid” mantra, etc.

Sadly, in quite a disservice to its voting flock, the Church has chosen to see this election as a one-issue exercise—sort of a referendum on its bete noire, the reproductive health bill. In the wake of its defeat in the campaign to junk the bill, the worst tendencies of the Church has been on display this season, from reducing the debate to the candidates’ RH bill affiliations irrespective of their other (perhaps more telling) qualities, to the actual demonizing of pro-RH names via the “Team Buhay/Team Patay” posters adopted by some dioceses.

If only the good bishops could apply the same zeal and energy they’ve expended going after pro-RH candidates to the fight for social justice that even Pope Francis himself has made the early centerpiece of his young papacy. But, given the tunnel-vision moral guidance emanating from the local Church these days, conscientious Catholics will have to go beyond simplistic “pro-life/pro-death” labels and to be extra-discerning about their choices at the polls next week.

“As she stepped out of a Manila church after Sunday Mass,” reported the Agence France Presse recently, “retired civil servant Minnie Nicholas, 62, told AFP she considered herself a devout Catholic and an active parishioner.

“But when asked if the birth control issue would influence her voting, she laughed and asked: ‘How is that related to running a country?’”

Sam Miguel
05-08-2013, 09:15 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:19 pm | Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

What a difference an election makes. Three years ago, the one thing that occupied our minds was the extent to which Arroyo’s government would cheat. It was the first time votes would be counted electronically, which caused widespread anxiety and fear. The possibilities for cheating had just been jacked up a hundredfold, computerized canvassing threatening to make “Hello Garci” look like child’s play.

Gus Lagman warned so, Jun Lozada warned so, I warned so. Sure Noynoy Aquino was up there in all the surveys, but the question was, would his votes be counted?

But lo and behold, none of these fears materialized. Before election day was out, the presidential results were already known: Aquino was leading far beyond the capabilities of his rivals to catch up with, much less overtake. The swiftness and relative cleanliness of it stunned pretty much everyone—including me—who had thought cheating would never be abolished in our lifetimes.

I still don’t know if it has been so, or would be so. But meanwhile, something has changed, and that is the public expectation of cheating. Few now seriously consider we’d be back in Arroyo’s time when it could be expected as a matter of course. Though concerns have been raised about the source code, some clamoring for it to be made public, they have not been of the scale or stridence they were three years ago. And unless there are glaring or eye-popping gaps between expectation and result, the elections will generally be taken, like the previous one, as reasonably clean.

Other banes or scourges remain however, if indeed this one has entirely gone. Two come to mind, the first one easily, being a patent boon or scourge, the other not so easily, being both a boon and bane.

The first is “command votes,” which is just a fanciful term for bloc voting. Chief of those blocs being the religious groups, or cults, or churches, and chief of them being the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). Gringo Honasan points it out. The ones who are languishing at the bottom of the ladder in the senatorial race—such as he—would now be making a beeline for the INC, commander in chief of the command votes. Equally so would be those candidates locked in a dogfight with their rivals. Chief of them Asiong Salonga and Dirty Harry, pitted in the Battle for Manila. Though Erap still holds a lead, Lim has stormed mightily back, and both are now looking at the INC to tilt the balance in their favor.

I can’t imagine a worse scourge. We do our best to discourage the practice in the Muslim South of one village-one vote, or of chieftains getting their clans or tribes to vote as one. Yet we do nothing to discourage the religious groups, or churches, from doing exactly the same thing, or worse. In the case of the INC, it’s not just one small constituency, it’s one whole congregation. That’s anti-democratic in the extreme, the vote being the most basic expression of democracy. It’s also, not quite incidentally, anti-constitutional, openly flouting the separation of Church and State.

The bane of it is obvious. You win with that kind of help, to whom will you be beholden afterward—your constituents or your benefactor? What exactly the INC’s help means, you see in its efforts to keep Magtanggol Gatdula, a pillar of the church, as NBI chief despite P-Noy firing him for extortion. Thankfully, P-Noy never solicited it and never felt beholden to it.

Frankly, I don’t know why we don’t ban it. Beyond legal sanctions, I don’t know why we don’t make this practice an object of scorn and opprobrium. It’s worse than epal or dynastic politics. Hell, it’s even worse than vote-buying. I don’t know why we don’t hang a symbolic sign around the candidates who do this, saying, “Huwag tularan: Mambebenta ng kaluluwa.”

The second thing is surveys, which are both boon and bane to elections. The boon is that it has helped curb cheating. That was so in particular in the last elections. There are many reasons why the expected massive cheating did not take place, but I suspect that one of them was the surveys which showed P-Noy, despite some bumps along the way, to be miles ahead of the pack. Given the explosive outpouring of grief and goodwill, commiseration and celebration, that accompanied Cory’s death, massive cheating would have been an engraved invitation to revolt. Election day showed so: It was an Edsa masquerading as an election.

How would we have known there was massive cheating? Pretty much only through the surveys. They had established an expectation, or indeed a sense of inevitability, of a P-Noy victory.

That expectation, or sense of inevitability, is also what makes it a bane in elections. Throughout the years, I’ve been against surveys in elections for that reason. As the threat of cheating diminishes, the threat of conditioning increases. It’s inversely proportional to it. In other countries, surveys creating a bandwagon effect are not that much of a problem because elections rest on something more substantial than the popularity of the candidates. Debates matter, policies matter, what the candidates would be expected to do if they win matters. We saw that in the United States where Barack Obama’s ratings plummeted after he lost the first debate.

Here, where the candidates do not really represent anything, surveys can be crippling. Indeed, here, where going along with the crowd is reckoned the wise thing to do—you’d be a fool to vote for the Ang Kapatiran candidates or Teddy Casiño, they’re way down there—surveys can be baneful. They help push back thought and discernment. Additionally, they supply a moral justification, or excuse, for selling votes: “He’s going to win anyway, might as well sell my vote to him. Where’s the harm in that?”

Ah, but we’ve got a long way to go yet in the daang maayos.

Sam Miguel
05-09-2013, 10:07 AM
Politics and its consequences

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:28 pm | Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

It is a testimony to the undifferentiated nature of our political system that many other social institutions are mobilized during elections. There’s the family, there’s religion, there’s the business sector, and then there’s the science of surveys. Their chief purveyors try to convert the power they wield into the currency of politics. We are disturbed by this because, more than ever, we now have a clear sense that it is not right.

It is not right that the power to govern is monopolized by a few families, or transferred along kinship lines. It is not right that priests and religious ministers can decide who their flocks should vote for. It is not right that money from the propertied classes should determine a candidate’s chances of winning. And it is not right that paying clients should determine the agenda and content of scientific studies.

Interestingly, theorists of modernity do not fret over the fact that premodern societies do not measure up to these standards. They believe that societal evolution eventually favors the emergence of autonomous political systems. In short, whether or not there’s an explicit law banning them, political dynasties, religious meddling in politics, corporate financing of electoral campaigns, and the use of surveys to sway voters are bound to become less important, or even obsolete, as society becomes modern.

Maybe this is an over-optimistic view. But there’s plenty of evidence to show that, as societies become more complex, they do tend to form differentiated institutional systems as a means of reducing complexity. Of course, people will always try to bring other values to bear upon politics, as they do on other systems. The big difference is that in a modern society, they may not always be understood or appreciated when they do. That is when we say a society has changed.

But, of equal interest to students of transitional societies is what happens to basic institutions like the family, religion, the economy, and science when they are heavily tapped for politics. Will love survive when the family is converted into a political machine? Will notions of the transcendental life outlive the engagement of the clergy in the partisan contests of the temporal world? What happens to economic production when the owning classes are invested heavily in the fortunes of individual politicians? And what happens to science when its agenda is set by politics?

We have seen in the course of our life as a nation how political power, like money, can so distort the operation of the justice system that people who could not win their cases in court attempt to redeem themselves in the polls, or buy protection from prosecution by winning in elections. Unable to preserve its autonomy, justice becomes no more than a commodity and a tool of political power.

Why would it be any different when the family, religion, or science are fed into the mill of politics? Marriages become tools for forging political alliances. An ambitious politician chooses a celebrity spouse or partner to enhance his political assets. Children are valued not for who they are but for what they can contribute to the family’s political strength. Or vice versa, ties of kinship are thrashed when members of the same family take different political sides.

It was in view of these real dangers that Benedict XVI counseled against the clergy taking partisan positions in politics. Doing so, he said, would be to risk undermining the moral authority of the Church. It would go against the Church’s principal function of educating consciences and serving the poor.

This kind of reflexivity, I’m certain, has also begun to take root within the corporate community, which has become accustomed to setting aside a huge amount of resources every election for campaign contributions. It is an obligation they are minded not to shirk, given that those who wield political power can easily put businessmen who back the wrong politicians out of business. But no economy can flourish in the long term under these conditions. Vulnerability to political shifts limits the scope of rational economic planning and decision-making.

But, it is the effect of politics on scientific activity that concerns me most as a sociologist. I have been keenly observing the public reception of preelection surveys. It is worrisome to see how much value Filipino voters and political coalitions assign to surveys to determine the suitability of candidates for public office. I am bothered by the way the science of opinion surveys in our country has been massively shaped by the short-term interests of partisan politics.

I am not merely referring here to the danger of deliberate data manipulation in order to serve the propaganda needs of certain clients. I am particularly troubled that the scientific study of public opinion itself appears to have become narrowly focused on the concerns of electoral politics. There’s hardly any attempt in these surveys to uncover or illuminate the long-term developments in the nation’s political life. Whatever scholarly objectives they may have are vastly overshadowed by the informational requirements of paying clients. One wonders how long our survey firms can continue to invoke the authority of science.

Until now, we have only worried about the way other sources of social power have distorted our politics. It is time we also paid attention to what politics is doing to our families, our churches, our economy, our justice system, our scientific community, etc.

Sam Miguel
05-09-2013, 10:13 AM
Anti-dynasty as irony

By Oscar Franklin Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:20 pm | Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The rising consciousness against political dynasties may become ironic. We are laudably critical, asking candidates to present more than a famous surname. Some propose, however, to boycott anyone branded a dynast, credentials or none. To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV is the perfect case study. To cite credentials, Bam was a valedictorian and Student Council president of Ateneo de Manila, and received a summa cum laude in management engineering, its most difficult course. His Hapinoy program established his outstanding track record in social entrepreneurship, validated by a Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) of the World award. To cite the dynasty, Bam is a cousin of President Aquino. He changed his eyeglasses to remind us that he is the stunt double of the late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino II, martyred icon of Philippine democracy.

Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara graduated from Harvard Law School, the University of the Philippines College of Law (where he was an editor of the Philippine Law Journal), and London School of Economics. A three-term congressman and a spokesperson of the prosecutors at the Corona impeachment trial, he has a sterling legislative track record highlighted by key finance and education laws. He holds a TOYP of the Philippines award and is a law professor. His father is Sen. Edgado Angara, a former UP president whose name is synonymous with Philippine education.

Few media reports are worded thus. It is counterproductive when our narratives increasingly cast Bam as the President’s cousin instead of a social entrepreneur and youth leader, or Sonny as Ed Angara’s son instead of a veteran lawmaker. Stereotyping has become easy to the point that some opponents emphasize they are not from any dynasty but offer little else, down to a candidate who was reported as believing “there should be no constitutional principle of separation of Church and State.” It is indeed a negative for a candidate to be running on nothing more than an inherited name, but it is not a positive to have an unknown name!

Equally counterproductive is criticism that focuses solely on candidates’ names. Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz has been most vocal, at one point citing Bam Aquino in the same breath as convicted child rapist and former congressman Romeo Jalosjos. Cruz, preferring the spelling “Bum,” wrote: “He came from nowhere wanting to be senator immediately just because he is an Aquino, a cousin of the President, and a Ninoy Aquino lookalike. He has not even served as barangay captain….” Unless critics delve into credentials and specifically claim that Bam’s helping thousands develop sari-sari-store livelihoods does not qualify him for national office or that Sonny’s Expanded Senior Citizens Act embodies flawed policy, it is impossible to have a constructive conversation. The stereotyping has become so ironic that were their surnames less storied, we would uniformly tout Bam and Sonny as the fresh young faces to watch in the next Senate.

Admittedly, Bam’s glasses are such a turnoff that his Facebook page subtly reminded voters he has worn glasses since Grade 6. My frustration, however, is directed more to our political maturity. The reality is that repeating “Tito Ninoy” often enough gains more votes than being an Ateneo summa cum laude, and Juan Edgardo Angara dropping the “Juan” gains more than Ivy League distinction. I remember voting for Bam well before the cheesy glasses, when I knew him only as an upperclassman who welcomed me into Ateneo. My college claim to fame was being editor of The Loyola Lampoon in 1999, and President Bam gamely posed for my front page, not knowing we were running the Bill Clinton-inspired headline, “Sex Scandal in Sanggunian.” Not once did Bam ever mention Tita Cory, and I only found out he was “that kind of Aquino” when he was conspicuously absent from a function on Ninoy’s death anniversary.

I hope to see more credentialed, idealistic young senators, and I would be irresponsible if I blindly ruled out TOYP awardees such as Bam and Sonny. The present reality is that boycotting anyone connected with a political dynasty will leave a woefully subpar pool. Even the beloved Jesse Robredo was the scion of a dynasty.

It is not completely accurate that our Constitution outlaws dynasties. It actually reads: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” The key words are “equal access” and the true goal is to one day see the talented son of a farmer or a fisherman credibly seek public office alongside an equally talented Aquino or Angara. It is our loss when anyone connected to a political dynasty is summarily cast aside as the price to curb this legitimate problem.

In an ideal world, the sight of a candidate with a famous relative will be taken as no more than a pledge of his good name to bond the post sought. The United States has seen and admired its share of political families, from the Kennedy mystique and its evocation of a sense of royalty and Camelot to Hillary Clinton seeking the presidency as her own woman independent of Bill.

The ideal world will unfortunately not take shape in the scant days I have to decide who I am voting for. In the meantime, I am happy to see Bam the young Ateneo valedictorian and Sonny the young Harvard lawyer in the Senate.

05-13-2013, 10:08 AM
PH beyond 2015: What next after the MDGs?

By Raoul Bermejo III, Renzo Guinto

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:34 pm | Sunday, May 12th, 2013

April 5 marked the beginning of the 1,000-day countdown signaling the end of the implementation period of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But while the Philippines is still struggling with reaching MDG targets, the global community, for almost a year, has already been deliberating on the new development agenda beyond 2015. What is of concern is that there is little discussion about these global processes—which will impact our own national development in the next decades—in our own backyard.

Signed in 2000 by 193 countries, the MDGs provided the world’s development framework for the first part of the 21st century. They are aimed at accelerating human development and uplifting people’s lives by addressing specific issues such as extreme poverty, lack of education, and exclusion of women. All the eight goals contribute to human health; three are directly related to health outcomes—reduction of child mortality, improvement of maternal health, and control of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The MDGs paved the way for initiatives by various global players, including multilateral organizations and nonstate actors, as well as ambitious projects on poverty alleviation and disease eradication, especially in countries with strong-willed and committed governments. In the Philippines, the MDGs are manifested in our national development plans crafted under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations. However, despite our devotion to the MDGs especially in the area of health, our progress remains stagnant, if not lagging, both in terms of health outcomes and in addressing the social determinants of health such as income and literacy.

For example, for the past decade the Philippines has dramatically lowered the infant mortality rate, yet too many pregnant mothers die of highly preventable causes yearly. Also, our country, despite having been described for decades as having “low” prevalence and “slow” incidence of HIV-AIDS, was recently named by UNAIDS as one of seven countries with rising infection rates amid the global decline. With this milieu, the Aquino administration’s Health Agenda included the achievement of health-related MDGs as one of its three pillars. But the impact of its programs has yet to be measured.

Numerous streams such as the United Nations Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons and the UN Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals are conducting global consultations and seeking regional and national contributions to shape “The World We Want,” the slogan of the post-2015 agenda discussions. In the Philippines, the National Economic and Development Authority has been tapped by the Aquino administration to lead the national consultations. However, many sectors have still not been reached by these national discussions, especially the academe (the creator of evidence and source of innovation) and civil society (particularly the groups representing the poor, the marginalized, and the underserved). Most importantly, any framework for sustainable development for the future must involve and reflect the views of young people, which unfortunately are also left out of the equation.

As a country, we have learned from experience that real development only happens when there is active engagement with and full participation of the people in all stages—from the analysis of problems to the implementation of solutions. Therefore, there is a dire need to bring the matter to the people on the ground. Policymakers should begin listening to our farmers, fisherfolk, and factory workers on what kind of development they want. The media should expose the public to these crucial issues instead of wasting our time with the mediocre and the obscene. Our universities should stimulate bright students to develop “futures thinking” and spark conversations on how to evenly spread prosperity to all Filipinos.

Finally, it is not enough to discuss what the Philippines can contribute to the global goals; it is equally important that the Philippines, as a society, begin a national discourse on our shared future beyond 2015. We as a people have acknowledged the myriad problems that persist—abject poverty, widening inequalities, limited opportunities, and unsustainable environment, among others. Unfortunately, we have stopped at recognizing and have not proceeded to act toward our collective destiny. We as a people are still afflicted with a myopic outlook, thinking about the next elections and not the implications of our decisions and actions on future generations. For example, our perennial struggle with flooding demonstrates our utter neglect of the future in the way we plan our national development.

But it is never too late to talk about it. The Post-2015 global consultations may be reaching the finale, with the synthesis and processing of inputs under the auspices of the UN to commence before 2013 ends. Still, everyone can contribute to the ongoing online consultations at www.worldwewant2015.org.

The collective project of nation-building continues. We can begin by directing fundamental questions to the winners of the elections. We can start thinking of innovations and solutions with our peers in schools and workplaces. And we can call on our government institutions to create spaces for an intersectoral, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational dialogue, so that together we can design a positive, healthy, and sustainable future for our nation—in 2015 and beyond.

Renzo Guinto, MD, and Raoul Bermejo III, MD, are graduates of the UP College of Medicine. Guinto is with the Department of Ethics and Social Determinants of Health, World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, as an intern. Bermejo is also a graduate of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.

Sam Miguel
05-14-2013, 10:28 AM
Breaking the survey mirror

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:25 am | Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

I must disagree with the esteemed Randy David, when in his May 9 column he lumped election surveys together with “political dynasties, religious meddling in politics, [and] corporate financing of electoral campaigns” as obstacles to modernity.

By that measure, every single modern polity that the Philippines can possibly look to as template is premodern. In fact, given that mature democracies use election surveys even more heavily than the Philippines does, by Randy’s own criteria they must be even more backward than we are.

I must quarrel especially with his reduction of the purpose of election surveys to the general notion of trending, and thus of the bandwagon. To quote the passage in full: “Interestingly, theorists of modernity do not fret over the fact that premodern societies do not measure up to these standards. They believe that societal evolution eventually favors the emergence of autonomous political systems. In short, whether or not there’s an explicit law banning them, political dynasties, religious meddling in politics, corporate financing of electoral campaigns, and the use of surveys to sway voters are bound to become less important, or even obsolete, as society becomes modern.”

That is certainly interesting, especially the idea that surveys are used to sway voters. Mahar Mangahas’ polite but pointed response to Randy’s column on May 11 explodes the myth that surveys influence voting results to any significant degree. In fact, as the surveys themselves point out, only a minority of voting-age Filipinos are aware of survey results, and even fewer say they will be influenced by them. In the latest Social Weather Stations poll, only 11 percent of respondents said survey results will shape their vote—and essentially the so-called bandwagonners and the underdoggers (SWS’ own terms) cancel each other out.

(I had a chance to say almost the same thing on GMANews.tv’s News To Go recently, using data from a 2007 SWS survey.)

This is the survey paradox, isn’t it? It is precisely our nature to vote according to our own views—in other words, we are not influenced by survey results—that serves as the guarantee of the surveys’ accuracy.

Where does this idea that surveys sway voters come from? Perhaps from the parallel action of political alliances. They use polls, Randy wrote, “to determine the suitability of candidates for public office.” That is certainly true, and explains the diverse political fates of, say, Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada and self-proclaimed 20-year-on-the-job trainee Nancy Binay. But, as in 2007 (Sonny Trillanes) or 2010 (Nancy’s own father), nothing prevents a candidate riding a national consensus or running a disciplined campaign from breaking into the winners’ circle.

Randy’s underlying argument about the use of big money to fund surveys is also problematic. When he writes, “And it is not right that paying clients should determine the agenda and content of scientific studies,” we feel ourselves almost agreeing—but is that in fact what happens when politicians hire pollsters to sketch the political landscape? Why would prospective candidates throw away good money if they want survey institutions to merely tell them what they want to hear? “Determining the agenda and content of scientific studies” seems to me to be a misleading label to apply to the survey work of SWS and Pulse Asia.

What worries me most, as a journalist, is the near-certainty that Randy’s views will add academic cachet to a strain of criticism against surveys that I find particularly insidious. A close reading of his columns will show that Randy himself does not hold this view, but I doubt if those who do will bother with that particular nuance.

The critique can be summarized simply enough: “The surveys don’t reflect what I know, therefore they must be wrong.” Of course no one says it quite that way, not even those politicians who are most aggrieved by survey results, but that, at bottom, is the fundamental argument. The surveys do not mirror our own perceptions.

When a candidate says he cannot believe he is not faring well in the latest survey, because his campaign rallies are always packed, or because his social media presence is solid, or because he has met so many people who had promised him their votes, he is essentially arguing that there is a disconnect between survey results and his own perception of reality.

This is the same kind of concern that an ordinary citizen might feel, when she says she does not believe in surveys because in all her life she had never been approached by a pollster, or knows of anyone ever included in a survey’s random sample.

So far, so familiar. But there is an extreme version of the critique that is, to use a label that I hope won’t prove misleading, anti-masa. It is the one that says that because surveys continue to show the undistinguished Nancy Binay thriving at the top, while the accomplished Risa Hontiveros has broken into the statistical Top 12 only once (in the mid-April Pulse Asia survey), then there must be something wrong with surveys as a whole. To appropriate what was a high-velocity meme, we can call this version the “Anyare?” critique.

But scientifically conducted social surveys, I have argued before, are like a mirror, which we hold up to nature. Or, to be more precise, to public opinion. If the preelection surveys from the last six months tell us that Nancy continued to enjoy high ratings, while the eminent Ramon Magsaysay Jr. continued to lag behind despite unstinting endorsements from Ser Chief himself, we should not smash the mirror, or hurl it to the ground. We should, instead, take a closer look.

A modern democracy, in short, should not hope that surveys become obsolete. It should run more of them, the better to see society’s changing face.

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:20 AM
Church no longer exempt from scrutiny

By Asuncion David Maramba

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:15 pm | Sunday, May 19th, 2013

“WHY WOULD someone with the name Asuncion [a great feast of Mary] find time to pass judgement on the Catholic Church?” (reaction to “Spiritual but not religious,” Inquirer, 4/27/13). Once in a while I do get such rebukes, friendly and not so. A prelate once commended me for a column but remarked that “the institution can’t be destroyed; many have tried but failed.” But he got me right; it’s the institution that I twit, not the wonderful works of the people of God. Probably for my ears, a priest said that the Church “is like an elephant”—that is, big and indestructible.

Such hints boil down to one message: “So, you’re attacking the Church.” That confounds me. First who wants to destroy or get rid of institutions; who says that the Church is dying? No one wants to bring down Congress (corrupt as it is) or the Judiciary, or a school or university, or the family (contrary to the hysterics of the “buhays”). Why would anyone single out the institutional Church? Only coups, war, revolution, terrorism, dictators destroy sacred institutions. The rest of us seek only to reform.

Second, it confounds me to be mistaken for an “attacker.” I do exposition: I explain, exemplify, clarify as simply and mildly as possible, with understatement and innuendo, yes, but no fireworks. I do not do argumentation. I am not confrontational and never set out to “engage” anybody. Dubbed a “critical moderate,” that is what I have always aimed to be.

But why do such reactions crop up?

First, many still consider the Church a sacred cow—untouchable, to be held in high esteem, never to be criticized, certainly not by lay persons with the gall to suggest reform. The Church has been not only sensitive, it is also often impervious to scrutiny; dissent, verboten; discussion, zilch. Only the hierarchy can critique themselves.

Then there is the “perfect society” meme which we were led or allowed to believe as a society that was sinless and inerrant; only to find out that it refers to organizational and structural completeness, “a perfect and absolutely independent society with full legislative, judicial and coercive powers.” (Catholicism, p 659). The Mystical Church is perfect with inviolate sacredness and a divine character. But that is another story.

We are also expected to keep our mouths shut in accordance with the age-old culture of coverup, secrecy and silence. So reflective of this culture is the e-mailer’s admonition, “… cover the failures you may see with the mantel of charity.” Practically the same words in a response to me eight years ago (Inquirer, 6/16/05)—“cover with the mantel of charity the shortfalls you see.” Motivated by charity, but still coverup. Furthermore, criticism must not be done “in public.” How can whisper-whisper bring the Church forward?

Times have changed and the “special treatment” for the Church is wearing away. No institution is now above scrutiny or investigation. Government gets it every day without mercy. Schools are regularly subject to inspection and accreditation. Whenever business abuses, it gets a beating. More or less, institutions are now on a level playing field. Although painful to admit, the Church is no longer exempt.

The Church’s human face (to borrow Ceres Doyo’s column head) is not that of the so-called “perfect society.” It’s like yours and mine.

As for the culture of coverup, we all know how that has been split wide open like a self-inflicted implosion because of various clerical and ecclesiastical misdemeanors, made more glaring by an unstoppable, omnipresent communication technology that spares no one from both truth and trash. Criticism will inevitably “go public.”

Reform is imperative. We used to be coy and hide behind euphemisms like “renewal.” But Benedict XVI himself has admitted “sins within the Church” and “problems of its own making” as its “greatest persecution.” What pushed Pope Benedict’s resignation: a health crisis and/or a “job crisis”?

Moreover, reform must come not only from “within” the Church but also from “without,” meaning, from lay persons who are not echoes of the Church. There is already a small critical mass of concerned and knowledgeable people who have much to contribute. The Church would do well to “listen,” as Cardinal Antonio Tagle has advised. Self-reform or the notion that reform can come only from insiders is as futile as the bishop’s statement that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would curb her own corruption. “Who will guard the guard?”

And could that reform come a bit faster as our Church thinks “in terms of centuries” (Inquirer, 2/28/13), glacially, even as glaciers themselves are now melting faster? About 50 years ago, theologian Hans Kung wrote, “As a Church of men, sinful men, the Church though of divine foundation, needs criticizing…” Today, 50 years after, Kung has become more forceful: “… faced with a lack of impulse toward reform from the hierarchy, we must take the offensive, pressing for reform from the bottom up” (Tablet, 5/11/13).

The Church may be an elephant, but it’s an ailing, lumbering elephant like beloved Mali in the Manila Zoo.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:36 AM
To those who say Filipinos are stupid

By Benjamin Pimentel

2:30 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Perhaps the stupidest reaction to the last Philippine elections came from people who concluded that, based on the outcome, Filipinos are really stupid.

Someone even came up with a faux Time magazine cover making that argument. In an ironic twist, a few who embrace the stupidity claim believed the spoof was for real.

Then there’s the Philippine Star columnist who argued that, “In the present system no matter how hard we try, the numbers are against an intelligent vote. … It is inevitable that the huge majority of unintelligent voting will always overwhelm a small intelligent vote. So it is not about making clueless voters more intelligent to achieve better elections alone. It is also about restructuring our politics and governance so that the selection of leaders does not depend on money and popularity.”

Carmen Pedrosa’s statements about “restructuring our politics” and the need to neutralize the role played by “money and popularity” in elections certainly make sense.

That’s not just a problem in the Philippines. You can hear that complaint in most electoral democracies, even in older, presumably more established, ones like the United States where the fight to reform the way elections are financed has been raging for decades.

But in a country that very recently had a disastrous encounter with dictatorship, what she said can easily be twisted around by forces with a much narrower view of elections and who probably don’t even believe in democracy.

You can almost hear some of these forces declaring: “Well, clearly, the people are stupid and unintelligent. So it’s time for those of us who are not stupid and unintelligent to take charge.”

Yes, some of the big winners aren’t exactly paragons of democratic governance.

As an Associated Press report said, “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots in the Philippines’ congressional and local elections Monday, making them a contest of popularity first and reform second.”

It would have been great to see Risa Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño on the list of winners and to have them inject more progressive ideas and discussions into the Senate. (It would also be fascinating given that they belong to rival segments of Philippine progressive politics. But that’s another story.)

But the results aren’t as “unintelligent” as some would think.

As columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out, the number of women in the Senate just doubled – a big deal in a political culture notorious for narrowminded machismo.

The top-notcher Grace Poe has quickly come across as intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent. She clearly has no delusions about why she won. She knows it’s because of her ties to a revered cultural icon and was quick to acknowledge the hard work ahead to really earn the people’s trust and respect.

Meanwhile, Nancy Binay has quickly emerged as the most ridiculed political newcomer in the history of Philippine politics. Some of the criticisms and fears may be justified. But many of the attacks have been so over-the-top and unfair.

There’s an important point in the elections that I haven’t heard much about. And it has to do with those whom the supposedly “unintelligent” masses rejected.

There’s the son of the one-time guardian of fascist rule in the country, the veteran trapo now also known for a new literary genre we could probably call ‘extremely creative memoir writing.’ (“I was ambushed. … No, that was a hoax. … Just kidding, I was really ambushed.”)

His son will not be joining the Senate because enough people apparently were not impressed with Jackie Enrile’s ‘I didn’t kill anyone and I really wanted to be a missionary’ narrative.

And Filipinos won’t have to read or hear about Senator Migz “This-time-I-didn’t-cheat’ Zubiri. That’s apparently because enough people didn’t buy into the former non-senator’s ‘Believe me, I didn’t know my votes were stolen” tale.

Then there are the other signs of cracks, even small ones, in the elite political machine on the local level. Why can’t we celebrate the victory of Leni Robredo who just won a congressional seat in Camarines Sur by beating the powerful Villafuerte clan?

But the biggest win is this: Filipinos yet again were able to engage in this crazy exercise. For there was a time when elections were a far more dangerous political activity in the Philippines.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the dirtiest elections in Philippine history.

The year was 1978. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos was in power and thought that he should prove to the world that the people really love him. So he called for elections for a new legislature.

Big mistake.

A broad opposition coalition, led by the likes of Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel, took him on. They waged a spirited, courageous campaign, winning the support of Filipinos who had grown tired of the regime.

The dictator hit back by cheating his way to victory. The cheating was so massive and so brazen it stunned even Marcos’s key ally, the United States.

Journalist Raymond Bonner recalls in “Waltzing With a Dictator” how the US Embassy in Manila reported how the Marcoses used flying voters and “printed and marked one million fake ballots for use in the process as necessary” to assure an “overwhelming” victory.

But cheating wasn’t enough.

After the elections, Marcos went after those who defied him by throwing his opponents in prison.

There’s a famous editorial cartoon by the legendary Herblock that brilliantly summed up Marcos’s twisted view of elections. It shows Marcos standing next to one of his generals. They’re both angry as they watch a military van hauling off protesters.

“Ingrates!” Marcos roars. “You let them vote and the next thing they want their ballots counted.”

Filipinos have come a long way since those dark days. And it’s time for an important reminder.

Democracy is a journey, and it’s often messy, unpredictable, at times exhilarating. And the destination isn’t paradise.

Sam Miguel
05-23-2013, 08:41 AM
False god

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:23 pm | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

The idea that Charter change is the key to unlocking the Philippines’ full potential, or to solving many of its most intractable problems, is a powerful one; it recurs every now and then, precisely because of the simplicity of its appeal. But it is a false simplicity. Charter change as many in the political class define it will prove to be difficult and complicated—and it may create more problems than it may solve.

This is not to say that the 1987 Constitution should not be revised or amended. But taking history’s lessons into account, we should recognize that the success of any attempt will be determined not so much by political will as by political timing.

One of the crucial innovations of the post-Marcos Constitution was the imposition of term limits, including a single six-year term for the presidency (a faint echo of the original 1935 Charter). The failure of the concerted efforts to change the Charter during the late Ramos years and in the last years of the Arroyo administration can be explained by their inability to generate popular support—an inability based directly on popular suspicion that the presidents at the time wanted to skirt the six-year limit. Any attempt at Charter change, then, must deal with that well-founded sense, that politicians if given a chance will move to extend their hold on power.

Those who wish to change some of the Constitution’s economic provisions (the limits on foreign ownership being at the top of their wish list) may question the continuing relevance of this public sense or chafe at its scope of influence, but it is reality. Perhaps the best chance to amend or revise the Charter was immediately after Edsa 2, in 2001, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enjoyed the privilege of running for the presidency in her own right, and for a full term. (In other words, there was no need at that time to extend her stay in Malacañang.) Today, some proponents of Charter change see President Aquino’s continuing popularity, and his consistent position against any constitutional change, as the guarantee that the provisions on term limits won’t be lifted.

We do not know if the President shares their fine sense of irony. He has said again and again that he does not see the need to amend the Constitution; he will certainly not lead any effort to change it. Part of his reasoning must be that the reforms he has started to put in place, and which have earned him popular approval and international praise, did not need constitutional change to work, so why change?

Perhaps part is sentimental; the present Constitution is one of his mother’s legacies. Corazon Aquino, using her powers as the head of a revolutionary government, convened the Constitutional Commission in 1986 and ushered in a new constitutional order in 1987. He may be loath to tamper with one of his mother’s chief achievements.

Does the Constitution need amending or revising? That is a different question, to which many Filipinos, even those most suspicious of politicians’ motives, will answer in the affirmative. The lack of a run-off election provision has meant that no majority president has been elected since 1986. The lameness of the anti-political dynasty provision has condemned many parts of the country to a quarter-century of dynastic rule. The experiment that is the Judicial and Bar Council seems to have failed. And the list goes on.

Unlike in 1986, however, amending or revising the Constitution today is necessarily an open-ended process. When a constitutional convention is elected or the chambers of Congress are convened as a constituent assembly, the members will answer only to themselves; not even the President can impose his own schedule on them. In short: Despite promises to limit Charter change to specific provisions, everything in the Constitution becomes negotiable when a ConCon or a ConAss begins its work.

Perhaps the best approach today is to try the US formula, as recommended by constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, SJ: File specific Charter-amendment legislation in Congress. That would limit the scope of any change, but at the same time meet the Constitution’s own more stringent standards for amending the Charter. Any other approach will create more problems than it will solve.

Sam Miguel
05-24-2013, 09:56 AM
Blame and injustice


By Cito Beltran

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2013 - 12:00am

“Blame it on Carandang.”

That’s what several junior government officials have been telling me over time when I ask why this or that agency failed to react or reply on certain issues.

I don’t know if my former colleague is aware of it, but the general impression is that it was “HIS” idea that all communications concerning anything related to the government, should only be addressed by the Presidential Communications team. In short the general feeling is that everybody should shut up and leave the talking to Carandang, Valte, and Lacierda et al.

From what I know, the centralized talking heads idea was supposed to be the idea of Secretary Sonny Coloma not Carandang. My impression is that the communications approach is a copy from the US designed to avoid multiple information sources, miscommunication as well as misinformation. While the intentions are good, centralization almost always results in isolation, indifference and paralysis.

From my many meetings, exchanges and conferences where I talk at length with non-cabinet government officials, what I have gathered is that the centralized system of communication prevents departments and agencies from responding to a brewing or existing issue immediately. As a consequence the public and the media have developed the impression that people are incompetent for failing to respond. In addition, when the response comes from “talking heads” or spokespersons, the message looses credibility or impact because of competing issues and pronouncements from the same mouths.

One of the worst things I’ve scooped from the bottom is that because departments and agencies are unable to promote and defend themselves, their people feel it diminishes their significance and subsequently lose their “Pride of place”.

Another thing that the President ought to think about is the fact that a communications team that is so devoted and dedicated to deodorizing and promoting the administration, also covers up a lot of the bad things and bad people.

In our free-range mini-pig farm, everyday one of the boys goes around with a pooper-scooper, collecting the stinky pig shit and dumps them into the many little holes we dig around trees. We discovered soon enough, that it’s a bad idea to bury the pig shit near the trees because the roots eventually grow out. When it rains and digests the poop you have a highly concentrated toxicity that burns the roots of the trees and kills them off.

The lesson is you can only cover up so much shit for fertilizer. After that it becomes poison. The same goes with communications and propaganda. Sooner or later, when you do all the talking people begin to resent it, and causes dissent and that is what’s beginning to happen to people in government.

* * *

Blame it on a lack of appreciation, but the recent statements of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima concerning the unnecessary interference of the Court of Appeals on major cases is actually something Big!

Considering how P-Noy made it his personal business to bring down a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for being an obstruction in the “Matuwid na Daan”, perhaps P-Noy should now make it his mid-term vision to remove the corruption in various levels of our justice system.

While Secretary De Lima has reason to bemoan the interference of the Court of Appeals regarding the smuggling case against the boss of Phoenix Petroleum and their broker, that is just one of thousands of legal cases where interference, obstruction or outright corruption are being complained about by thousands of Filipinos.

With prejudice to none, all P-Noy needs to do is watch or read the police stories about how an Indian businessman remained free to travel after a vehicular homicide, how the police had egg on their face when no judge in Cavite dared to issue a search warrant to enter the house of Sen. Bong Revilla, as well as the assortment of dismissed and buried claims against pre-need firms whose owners have the temerity to parade themselves in public while parents go into long term debt to bankroll educational plans that they were scammed on.

Yes Mr. President you have turned the country around by a single act; declaring total war on corruption. But corruption is not found only in government offices engaged in taxation or infrastructure projects. The worst form of corruption exists in halls of Justice, in courtrooms that fertilize corruption through trickery and delay, and done by hoodlums in robes.

Mr. President, there can be no real prosperity in a country where there is no real Justice.

* * *

For a couple of years, I supposedly have been on the Board of an NGO called Center For Possibilities, a very dedicated group of people particularly parents of children with special needs. Aside from actively bringing attention to the reality of special children particularly those “mentally challenged,” the group has been a potent support group for people who are just only discovering that the condition or problem exists in their homes.

I have to confess that since I am not a parent with a disabled or special child, I have somewhat been disconnected, not knowing exactly how to fit in. Unfortunately, as often is the case, the Little Prince pointed out that what is essential is invisible to the eye. Call it distant denial or discomfort for others, but the fact of the matter is that I have a niece and a nephew who are “special” in varying degrees.

All this hit home during my stay at the Heart Center when I realized that my niece also went there for her therapy, and when her mom implored me to write something about the fact that there is a law requiring companies to hire handicapped people but employers ignore it, or are ignorant of it, I discovered that yes, there are some inconvenience for employers, but my sister’s fast-food crew would testify that the special people they’ve worked with put more effort and had more appreciation for the opportunity and the recognition.

In a time when it’s really cool to open doors to the handicapped and special people, what have you done in your place of work to make this happen? Do we need to enforce the law just to bring out the caring Filipino parent, brother or sister in you? Please, it’s not about the law, it’s about us doing something for the special people around us.

And yes, I finally figured out my role from Proverbs 31 verse 8: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the right of the poor and needy.

* * *

Sam Miguel
05-24-2013, 10:03 AM

Spokespersons: Need a diplomatic primer


By Roberto R. Romulo

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2013 - 12:00am

It is now the flavor of the week to hit the President on his “inaction” on the Taiwan incident. I leave that to the many who have chosen to focus on that path. For me it is back to basics as stated in Diplomacy101. The biggest threat to the deterioration of bilateral relations can be directly related to those minions in Malacañan who claim to speak on behalf of the President. These people should always remember that their “quotes” are immediately picked up by the foreign press as gospel truth. They are the front line of diplomacy. As the saying goes: if you feed the beast with misleading statements, it will be magnified by an antagonistic press.

If you watch international news on CNN or BBC, you can observe the spokesmen of foreign governments responding to the press and making pronouncements. What is clearly discernible is the professional, inscrutable discussion/responses devoid of emotion and facial expression. Moreover, they have obviously checked their facts before making any statement. If they don’t have the facts, they so inform them and will revert after checking the facts. These spokespersons should watch TV to learn how to be professional.

Regrettably, Palace spokespersons often make statements on matters affecting relations with another state without consulting people on the ground who are more aware of the political and cultural nuances and context. Carefully crafted statements can easily be undone by flippant sometimes ignorant remarks. Facial gestures such as smirking can often be misinterpreted.

In the case at hand, it has been reported that the spokesperson in question was quoted as saying, “no apology is forthcoming” when in fact the President eventually sent his apology through the MECO chairman. Moreover, the same individual has stated that the President will not send another emissary to Taipei. That was unauthorized and presumptuous to have speculated as such without explicit permission from the President.

In another instance, I understand that the MECO resident representative in Taipei was quoted as committing to a joint probe. As a result, it understandably caused a furor in Manila. Instead of checking with MECO, the spokesperson left it to the media to speculate. In actuality, the Taiwan Ministry of Justice said that what they meant was not a joint probe but a cooperative or parallel investigation. During the hostage crisis I also remember instances when the spokespersons spoke out of turn. There is an expression which is quite appropriate: “Shape up or ship out.” I would suggest that many would express delight with such a departure.

I have always maintained that the Palace urgently needs a knowledgeable senior diplomat seconded to the Press Office.

Sam Miguel
05-30-2013, 08:40 AM
Out of the shadows

By Conrado de Quiros

3:11 am | Thursday, May 30th, 2013

That’s the title of the book “Out of the Shadows: Violent Conflict and the Real Economy of Mindanao,” edited by Francisco Lara and Steven Schoofs and published by International Alert early this year. It’s an insightful and important book and should come to the attention of the government agencies involved in the peace process. Indeed, it should come to the attention of every Filipino who wants to make some sense of the often alien and forbidding world of Mindanao.

A couple of recent events have driven home to me the need to push it to the national consciousness. The first is the killing of seven Marines in Patikul. The chief of the Patikul police says it was the result of an ambush while the commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade says it came from a chance encounter. The soldiers were part of a group hunting down the Abu Sayyaf which had just kidnapped a sergeant’s wife.

The question in my mind was not so much what actually happened as why the Abu Sayyaf is still free to ply its vicious trade. It’s been associated with dozens of kidnappings, some more heinous than others. It’s been associated with atrocities, like beheadings and mutilations. So why is it still there tormenting soldiers and civilians?

The second is the Ampatuans winning big in the last elections. So far no one has complained that the polls were rigged. Which raises all sorts of questions: Are the voters of Maguindanao natural suckers? Are they masochists? Will Mindanao ever rid itself of its clans and tribes, some more murderous than others?

“Out of the Shadows” offers real answers to these questions. Real as opposed to superficial, which is to simply reduce the problem to a peace-and-order one, namely, these are criminal elements and the government or its armed forces lack the will and means to stop them. That may be so, but that’s just part of it. Their persistence suggests so. Though criminal, they also provide livelihood for the community—oh, yes, even kidnapping for ransom does—and the reason the state lacks the will is that it’s embroiled in a system of relationships with the actors that compromises it.

The book examines the intricate relationships between the clans, between the clans and rebels, between the clans and the subnational state, between them and the communities, between them and the central government, a set of relations that derive from and shape the way wealth is created and distributed in Mindanao. The book calls this wealth creation and distribution “shadow economies.”

Despite the pejorative connotations of “shadow,” the word is used in a nonjudgmental way. Though some of these economies are patently criminal, such as kidnapping and drug-pushing, they’ve become ingrained in the workings of the society, involving as they do all sorts of actors, licit and illicit, private and public, local and national, as to give them stability, permanence, and at least in the eyes of the community, a measure of legitimacy. They’re “economies” in a real, if shadowy, sense.

The book examines six of these economies, the first three deemed criminal by the state (gunrunning, drugs, and kidnapping for ransom) and the second three borderline (land markets, cross-border trade, and traditional credit) which fly under the radar of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

I was particularly riveted to Ed Quitoriano’s chapter on guns and Eric Gutierrez’s chapter on kidnapping for ransom.

Quitoriano shows how the proliferation of guns in this country has been staggering. The military estimates that there are 2.83 million registered and unregistered guns in the hands of civilians alone—costing a whopping P56.6 billion. A great deal of the loose firearms are found in Mindanao, quite remarkably as a result of the clans/actors/“entrepreneurs” procuring these not from outside but from inside sources, not least military officials involved in the illicit gun trade. This was highlighted by the discovery of the Ampatuans’ high-powered weapons bearing government-issue numbers. Quite incidentally, investigation of this has stopped.

The Ampatuans themselves were in a reciprocal relationship with the Arroyo administration.

Gutierrez shows how kidnapping for ransom thrives not just because of the ingenuity and ruthlessness of the kidnappers but also because of the willingness of the community to help or turn a blind eye to it. The “economy” requires capital and organization. The actual kidnapping is often the least of the problems. Hiding the kidnapped, providing for their upkeep—the term “room and board” is actually used in letters demanding ransom—maintaining security: All these entail the help of the community to carry out.

The Abu Sayyaf did not invent kidnapping for ransom, though its name has become nearly synonymous with the crime. Alonso Tahir alias Tigre, a warrior of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was an exponent of it and enjoyed the protection of his community. He himself was known to protect and share the ransom with that community. Sentenced to death in 1999, he escaped and went back to his trade. The US government put him on its wanted list with a $1-million bounty on his head. The military then shelled his lair and reported him dead. Less than a year later, he was spotted and efforts were made to capture him. Which proved futile when the villagers themselves refused to help the authorities and helped him instead. He died in 2011—from diabetes.

If all this points to anything, it is to the need to realize that the path to peace is going to be a daang balubaluktot. The signing of the peace agreement is just the beginning—and the book cites instances when peace agreements have actually led to more, not less, violence. I do hope the government and civil society read this, as indeed ordinary Pinoys who ought to contribute to the discourse on it.

It’s one sure way to move out of the shadows.

Sam Miguel
06-10-2013, 10:38 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:40 pm | Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Juan Ponce Enrile had some choice words for his tormentors last Wednesday. In a privilege speech announcing his resignation as Senate president, he assailed Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Santiago in particular for the injustice he felt they had done him. Cayetano he expressly identified, Santiago he obliquely referred to.

In a shaking voice, he railed at the harm the two wreaked not just on him but on the Senate. “No matter how baseless and malicious their accusations were, the issues hurled against me and their implications (hurt) not only my own but the Senate’s integrity.” The personal harm to him, he said, was incalculable. “The common analysis of observers showed that Jack’s (his son’s) candidacy suffered from the fallout and bitter criticism hurled against me by those I displeased. I endured in silence the pain of seeing my son suffer because of me. He carried on his shoulders the weight of all mud thrown at me as I stayed and watched quietly on the sidelines. My heart bled for him.”

I’m sorry but my own heart doesn’t bleed from this (melo)drama.

The only person to blame for his son’s crushing defeat at the polls is he himself. He’s right to say that the common analysis of observers is that Jackie suffered from the fallout of the bitter criticism hurled against him. But that merely highlights the fact that Jackie was ampaw, that he shone on completely borrowed light, that he had no shape and substance and form by and of himself. All of it drew from his father. It was Juan Ponce who gave him blessings to run. Whether tacitly or openly, whether by acquiescence or encouragement, whether by tolerating it or engineering it, doesn’t really matter.

Borrowed light always dims when the source of the light dims. Whose fault is that?

Juan Ponce wants to blame others for his son’s debacle, let him blame the US Embassy. After all, it was US Ambassador William Sullivan who declared categorically that it was Jackie who murdered 19-year-old Ernest Lucas during Ferdinand Marcos’ time. A thing made known to the voters during the height of the campaign by way of WikiLeaks. He can always sue Sullivan or his estate for lying. He can always demand that the US Embassy apologize for the lie. Why doesn’t he?

In fact the only person to blame for his own disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, as Shakespeare puts it, is he himself. He pushed his luck to a point where it ran out.

I’ve said again and again that Juan Ponce is the luckiest man I know. He was at the right place at the right time on two momentous occasions which allowed him to reinvent himself, or make the public forget his role as co-architect, champion, and enforcer of martial law. The first was when he happened to be among the mutineers that People Power rescued from Marcos’ murderous wrath, which allowed him to rehabilitate himself. The second was when he happened to be the Senate president the first time a chief justice of this country was impeached. Which allowed him the opportunity to ride off into the sunset in a blaze of glory.

The first he bungled by leading a series of coups against Cory, not content with having erased a good deal of his past, believing himself instead to be the rightful successor to Marcos. He gambled and lost, and for a while his fortunes plunged anew.

The second he bungled by trying to rewrite history. Or by trying to prove Marcos’ dictum about the “big lie”—which Marcos himself got from Hitler, who defined it in “Mein Kampf” as “a lie so colossal no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” From being an aso, or issuer of ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure order), he became an Oskar Schindler, rescuing the hapless citizens from Marcos.

He upped the ante by (re)claiming that his ambush in Wack-Wack was genuine, a thing Ramon Montaño, who headed its investigation (and who ran for senator in this year’s elections), peremptorily dismissed.

That was what brought him down. Along with his son’s running for senator and the accusations brought against him by his co-senators, his reputation—particularly his ability to espy the truth, to recognize the truth, to tell the truth—took a dive. It is no small irony that his defeat began at the height of his victory, not unlike Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, another master he served, who fell at the height of her glory. After wangling a meeting with Barack Obama, which represented the pinnacle of her efforts to sell herself as a global figure, she saw her world crumble by Cory dying and sending seismic shock waves her way.

In Juan Ponce’s case, it was at the height of his seeming glory, during his book launching when it appeared he had finally succeeded in altering the past, in revising the past, in reshaping the past, that the beginning of his end came. He had told the big lie, he had sold the big lie. Alas—for him—sometimes big lies only succeed in making the public realize some people truly have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. A cautionary tale, not quite incidentally, for the Marcoses should they try to do more than slink away in the hope that people would forget the inferno they had thrown them into.

No, Juan Ponce has only himself to blame for his current plight. I was tempted at the start to title this column, “Hubris.” But “hubris,” or overweening pride, carries with it tragic stature, a heroic figure striving for heroic ends and failing catastrophically. Juan Ponce does not cut a heroic figure, or a tragic one. All he strove for was to mass-hypnotize the country into believing his self-advancement was its own, his capacity to survive was its own, his oppression was its salvation. That is not hubris. That is brazen, breathtaking, unbelievable:


06-13-2013, 09:31 AM
Not sure where to place this...


Public Lives


By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:54 pm | Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

When General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, he had only the vaguest idea of how to proceed to establish a self-governing nation. The act was mainly the initiative of the military chiefs of the revolution. Missing was the civilian component. It fell on Apolinario Mabini to work out what a people must do next after proclaiming their emancipation from colonial rule.

Oddly enough, Aguinaldo and Mabini met for the first time on the day of the proclamation itself. While still in exile in Hong Kong, Aguinaldo had heard of this bright lawyer who seemed to be familiar not just with the theory and justification of anticolonial revolutions, but also with the establishment of a new government in the wake of a revolution. Summoned to Cavite, the paralytic Mabini arrived in Kawit on a hammock on June 12, totally clueless that independence was to be proclaimed that same day.

He thought that the declaration was “premature and imprudent.” In his brilliant book, “Mabini and the Philippine Revolution,” Cesar Adib Majul wrote that Mabini came to this conclusion after asking Aguinaldo for documents containing the supposed understandings between him and the American consuls in Singapore. Aguinaldo could not show him anything because there was none. From this, Mabini inferred that it was just a matter of time before the war with the Americans would break out.

A strategic thinker with a sharp sense of anticipation, Mabini thought that a public declaration of independence would make the Americans even more wary of helping the Filipino revolutionaries purchase arms for the war against Spain. He was right. But, as importantly, Mabini also thought that a proclamation of independence that did not actively involve the civilian community would have no popular basis, and therefore would be lacking in legitimacy.

Working alongside Aguinaldo from the first day they met, Mabini set out to make the best of a situation that could not be reversed. This meant, first of all, laying down the legal foundations for the new government. While the June 12 proclamation had given Aguinaldo dictatorial powers, it was the series of decrees Mabini drafted and which were promulgated on June 18, 20, and 23 that gave the revolution its shape and direction.

Majul wrote: “The Decree of June 18, 1898 established the Dictatorship. Since the Dictatorship was replaced by the Revolutionary Government within less than a week, its importance lies in its serving as the basis for the establishment of municipal and provincial governments, and also for the formation of the Revolutionary Congress. Together with the Decree of June 20, 1898, it served as the electoral law of the Revolution.”

Participation in the local elections carried with it the requirement that the electors and the elected officials commit themselves to the independence of the country. While these exercises were dominated by the ilustrados to the extent that they explicitly invited the participation of the “inhabitants most distinguished by their education, social position, and honorable conduct,” it was clear in Mabini’s mind that this was the best way to avert the fragmentation of the revolution along class lines. Of course, this created opportunities for counterrevolutionary elements to infiltrate the revolution. But Mabini thought it was a gamble worth taking since the revolutionary army was, after all, safely in the hands of volunteers from the peasant masses.

The June 23 proclamation is particularly significant. While its main point is the establishment of the revolutionary government, O.D. Corpuz regarded it as a “revised declaration of independence.” Far more eloquent than the June 12 proclamation, it contains no reference whatsoever to any quest for protection from the United States. This is in stark contrast to the June 12 declaration, which invokes “the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation, the United States of America.” The June 23 document bears all the marks of Mabini’s distinct social philosophy. Here, he describes the Filipino people as embarked on the creation of a free society, “taking reason as the only standard for their acts, justice as the only end, and honest work as the only means.”

On Aug. 3, 1898, the various elected chiefs of the local governments established in the territories under the control of the revolution were assembled to sign a document ratifying the country’s independence. At around the same time, the Americans were accepting the surrender of the Spanish forces, completely oblivious of the fact that it was the Filipino revolutionaries and not they who were holding thousands of Spaniards prisoners.

A few months later, in October 1898, negotiations for a peace treaty between the United States and Spain began. The talks excluded the Filipinos. Here, the Americans demanded the total cession of the islands to America. Spain initially opposed the idea, but later relented after it was offered a one-time payment of $20 million. In February the following year, the Philippine-American War that Mabini had presciently anticipated began.

It was a savage war that scandalized American intellectuals like Mark Twain who, until then, had thought of their country as a beacon of liberty and freedom for all subjugated nations. The American colonizers sought to erase memories of that war from the Filipino psyche by giving us back our independence on July 4, 1946. But, we owe it to our heroes and to our children that we continue to remember.

06-13-2013, 09:44 AM
^ From this article and from what was taught in school about Philippine history, it seems that managing the economy was not given much attention in those early days. A stark contrast to those who were in charge of other nations at the beginning of their respective independence, such as Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or Chiang Kai-Shek of Taiwan. Perhaps that focus could have been there if there indeed was civilian participation.

Today, the military chiefs have been replaced by political dynasties with no strategy on uplifting the lives of their constituents, or the whole country for that matter. I guess that's an unfortunate feature of "Filipino-style Democracy." That being said, sabi nga ni Randy David, "we owe it to our heroes and to our children that we continue to remember."

Sam Miguel
07-03-2013, 08:54 AM
Adding insult to injury: UP College named after Marcos’ Prime Minister

By Ted Laguatan

2:51 pm | Sunday, June 30th, 2013

In the 1986 Guinness Book of Records, Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos is the biggest thief in history. Perhaps Filipinos should also be on record as being the biggest fools in history – or maybe the most forgiving – or both. Not only did they allow the Marcoses to return to the Philippines, they also voted his son Bongbong to be Senator, his daughter Imee as Governor of Ilocos Norte Province and his wife Imelda as Congresswoman.

In 2001, the German gov’t, wanting to help Filipinos recover the enormous amounts of money Marcos stole, reported to the Philippine government – that Greggy Araneta and Irene Marcos Araneta were transferring billions of dollars from the UBS Swiss Bank in Switzerland to Germany. Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez reported the amount to be around $13.2 billion dollars. Joseph Estrada was then president. The news was stifled in the Philippines and there are no reports from the Estrada administration or the administrations after of any attempts by the Philippine government to recover this enormous amount for the people. But you can still Google this news item in the Internet.

About 2 1/2 months ago, in the British Virgin Islands, an account containing an obscene amount of money under the name of Sintra Trust established by a Mark Chua, said to be the boyfriend of Imee Marcos – was discovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The beneficiaries are Imee and her children.

Knowing that one third of Filipinos go to bed hungry at night and live in subhuman conditions, many well-meaning countries and entities try to help the Philippines recover the Marcos loot by providing vital information to the Philippine government. With its new laws, Switzerland has also made it easier now for countries to recover stolen money deposited there from dictators and other thieves.

But what is wrong with us? Are we really such a sick country that we are not taking advantage of all these opportunities to recover Marcos’ stolen wealth to help our people? Or is it because our national leaders and Presidents who were born well off – never felt the hunger pangs and the crushing desperation of our poor whose children must dig for scraps of food in smelly garbage cans to survive.

There appears to be no fire in the souls of our presidents to recover moneys that can significantly help our poor. Two previous ones even tried to funnel these funds to their own accounts. Early this year, PCGG Chairman even announced that they were ready to throw in the towel as far as the Marcos wealth goes. Does this not mean that the Marcoses won in getting away with their loot and the people lost? Well yes. On this earth maybe.

And now, this distortion: The country’s premiere university, the University of the Philippines – has renamed the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) as the Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business. Now who is Virata? He is many things including being a former scholar and Dean. But his most prominent identity is that he played a major role as Prime Minister in the corrupt oppressive Marcos government.

I acquired my Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from UP before I left for the United States for some graduate studies but instead wound up taking law in an American university when martial law was declared in the beloved homeland. As an alumnus, I am connected to the UP community one way or another. I want it to continue to improve in being a credible and effective respected institution of higher and even profound learning – benefiting our young people and the country.

Universities play an important role in the life of a nation and the lives of its citizens. They prepare our young people for the future by teaching them all the skills they need for the professions they have chosen. But before we can be good doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, accountants, entrepreneurs or whatever else – we must first learn to be good human beings. Otherwise, what we learn might be used to service the evil forces within us: greed, ego, lust, violence and the other deadly inclinations that bring out the worst in us.

As such, universities expose us to the best in human beings – requiring us to take subjects in the humanities: literature, art, philosophy, Western Thought, Eastern Thought, the different religions, etc. – with the hope that with these subjects and the guidance and examples of our professors and instructors – we can develop to our highest potentials: good thinkers, filled with integrity, competent in our professions, compassionate to our fellow human beings and courageously committed to intellectual and moral honesty.

Consider this: Like Hitler, Marcos could not have ruled for so long without the cooperation of so many Filipinos. He recruited people with good minds, some of whom were my classmates or friends at UP.

When an evil ruler takes over government and imposes all kinds of hardships upon the people, the moral obligation of good men and women – is to work for the downfall of that ruler – or the people continue to suffer. Logically, a person who not only knowingly closes his eyes, ears and mind to the darkness that has befallen the nation – and even joins the oppressive evil government enjoying its perks and privileges – cannot later plead innocence to the charge that he did not collaborate with that evil government.

To this day, many who were in Marcos’ government for a long time and even up to the end when he was kicked out of the country by the people – continue to justify themselves:

“I really thought that Marcos had good intentions and programs for the country so I joined.”

Pure bullshit! Bovine dung reasoning that stinks to the high heavens because it is an obvious blatant lie. Not only is it a non-credible plea of innocence citing a lack of awareness of Marcos’ abuses but also insults the intelligence of listeners.

Ivy League and other preppie guys with high IQs and impressive academics pretending to be idiots when it comes to being conscious of the imprisonment, tortures, salvaging, the massive Marcos stealing and other abuses going on during those evil times when they served the dictator – are a pathetic lot. They learned the skills on how to be good at their professions. But they did not learn how to be good human beings.

Joining the dictator’s government for idealistic reasons may have been a valid excuse for those who left when they became aware of the evils he was inflicting on the people in his desire to cling to power. But for those who stayed with Marcos to the very end, such an excuse is an obscene plain as day lie.

Some of the latter also claim that they stayed with Marcos to control his excesses. Another fabrication. They were an integral part of the excesses. If their hearts and minds were in the right places, they should instead have been involved in toppling the dictatorship – instead of helping to prop it up resulting in long continuous suffering for the people.

The engine that was running the greedy and brutal Marcos regime was composed of key military officials, high ranking bureaucrats and sycophantic politicians – fueled and blinded by rewards of money, privilege and position. The military imprisoned, tortured and killed for Marcos – causing the people to be afraid and intimidated. The bureaucrats provided the organization to maintain the regime’s existence. The politicians were there to give a semblance of democratic rule but in reality were professional Marcos ass kissers.

As Prime Minister, Cesar Virata played the role of both politician and top technocrat in the Marcos government bureaucracy. He was installed as Prime Minister by Marcos in 1981 and stayed on until Marcos was toppled in 1986. He held this position concurrent with his position of Finance Secretary which he held since 1970.

His time in these offices was marked by some economic advances but more failures as a matter of record. But his success or failure as an economic Tsar, his academic achievements and his mild mannered countenance – are not the issues discussed here. The issue is his long term participation and collaboration with an evil regime.

Sam Miguel
07-03-2013, 08:56 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Why did Marcos appoint him as Prime Minister? At the time of his appointment, the Marcos government had lost all credibility – locally and internationally. Marcos’ and Imelda’s reputation as a corrupt conjugal ruling couple had become common global knowledge. The jails were full of political prisoners. The economy was hemorrhaging.

Virata then tried to explain the economic problems in usual macro-economic terms: The price of oil had increased; The peso to dollar exchange rate became unfavorable; Collecting taxes was a problem; etc.

The real reasons: The Marcos government had lost all credibility. Marcos had become President for life by declaring martial law using a bogus supposed assassination attempt by the communists on his Defense Minister as an excuse. Issues on the government’s legitimacy and the regime’s reputation for corruption and oppression of political oppositionists – drove foreign investors away.

No new industries were coming in to stir the economy to create new jobs. The country also borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars which Virata helped to secure much of which went into Marcos’ personal coffers. Lucrative government contracts went to Marcos cronies who also controlled and monopolized the coconut and sugar industries.

The tourism industry went dead as it usually does when a country is ruled by a non-benevolent dictator. So many other reasons related to the loss of credibility of Marcos and his government resulted in profuse bleeding for the economy.

Essentially, Marcos brought in the mild mannered non-flashy soft spoken Virata as Prime Minister in an attempt to give credibility to his rule – to give the impression that it was not a one man rule and that a gentle faced Wharton man known internationally in finance circles shared power with him. At that time in 1981, Virata had been with Marcos as his Finance Secretary since 1970.

As such, being an intelligent man, it is not the case that he could not have been aware of all the lies, the abuses, the corruption, the imprisonment, tortures, murders and other heinous crimes that Marcos were committing against the Filipino people. He knew that Marcos became President for life based on deceit. He knew that the innocent Benigno Aquino was languishing in jail because he was the main contender to be president. Even when Aquino was assassinated in 1983 – Virata continued to loyally serve Marcos. He closed his eyes to all these evils.

The undeniable fact is that this low keyed even likable scholarly quiet man served to deodorize, to legitimatize and to prop up the illegitimate Marcos regime for a good 16 years until the people brought Marcos down together with him. Undeniably, he cooperated and collaborated as a major player with an evil government enabling it to survive for so long – imposing all kinds of hardships on the people.

To this day, the Filipino people continue to suffer from the after effects of the Marcos era. The method and technology of massive corruption utilized by Marcos has been culturally institutionalized and used as a model by corrupt national and local leaders. The President previous to this one is detained in a hospital charged with all kinds of Marcos type corrupt practices.

If Marcos men like Virata had listened to their deepest selves and had not numbed their moral senses to the evil surrounding them – the Marcos regime might not have lasted as long as it did. In a very real de facto and de jure way, by being a major player in the Marcos regime, notwithstanding his image as a Wharton trained technocrat, Virata was as much a part of the oppression of the people as Marcos was.

While unlike Marcos’ worst torturers-executioners Colonels Rolando Abadilla and Rodolfo Aguinaldo, he may not have twiddled the knobs that sent volts of electricity to their victims’ genitals or choked them to death with barbed wire – perhaps he bears a bigger fault responsibility because he had a more superior intelligence and education than these brutes.

His deafening silence on these ongoing brutalities was a tacit approval of the demonic means utilized by the dictator to stay in power. Some of Hitler’s brightest technocrats similarly came from the best European universities. The Nazi regime’s brilliant main architect Albert Speer could not escape conviction at the Nuremberg trials by claiming that he was just being an architect.

Just like Virata to Marcos, he was very close to the Fuehrer whom he served coincidentally also for 16 years. Speer was an intelligent reality savvy man and the Nuremberg judges sensed that he knew of the dictatorship’s horrible crimes against humanity. Not only did he keep his silence – he continuously played a major role in supporting the regime – instead of seeking its collapse or at the least not cooperate with it – as any decent human being should have done.

Many from UP including Ninoy Aquino and other schools were detained, imprisoned, tortured and killed by the Marcos regime because of their resistance to his evil government. These courageous patriots suffered and some died for the freedom of the Filipino people – expressing the best sentiments in the human spirit. They deserve to be honored and not insulted. Virata shares a responsibility for the great harm that was done to them and their families.

It is a terrible insult to them and to the UP faculty and alumnus and the studentry and the Filipino people – that a few influential Virata supporters and apologists were able to manage and manuever the naming of a major College in the country’s premiere University after him. This certainly does not reflect the best sentiments of the UP community and the citizenry. It reeks of intellectual and moral dishonesty that has no place in a university like UP or any university for that matter.

The very fact that a rush was made to name a major UP College after him – and that it is the only one among 60 or so UP Colleges, Schools and Institutes named after a person – living or dead – is by itself a tacit triggered subliminal admission from the man and his supporters that he needs to be redeemed.

Sam Miguel
07-03-2013, 08:57 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Ironically, seeking to redeem and sanitize his role in the Marcos dictatorship by naming the UP College of Business Administration after him – will not bring him redemption but only subject his memory to continuous ridicule. One redeems himself by doing something good in making up for the wrong he has done. That may not be possible if like the Marcoses, Virata feels that he has done nothing wrong during the Marcos years. He does not get redemption by being cloaked with a dubious honor.

The flimsiest reasons were given by CBA Dean Ben Paul Gutierrez, a Virata supporter, in justifying renaming the College after Virata, essentially that: He was a former Dean; During his term, certain faculty members got scholarships to the U.S.; He served in government; The students of CBA approved of the name change.

The same could be said of many former Deans from the UP College of Engineering, Medicine, Law, Education, etc. Are any of these Colleges being renamed after them? As to the students of the CBA approving the renaming – they certainly would be under duress if they went against their Dean’s campaign for Virata. Moreover the students were not yet born or at least not old enough to have a first hand experience of the horrors of the Marcos era. These reasons were given simply because reasons needed to be given to rename the CBA after him. There are more valid compelling reasons not to rename the College after him.

The UP Board of Regents decision to rename a major UP College after a Marcos collaborator should not be based on a localized push by a probably well-meaning grateful to Virata Dean of the CBA utilizing a limited number of students to support his cause. This is an important issue affecting the entire University and the nation. The input of the entire University alumni, the faculty, studentry and Filipino citizens from everywhere – should be considered in deciding this issue.

We ought to be all together in the effort of trying to do the right thing: trying to create a better country; trying to create a better University of the Philippines; trying to have sensitivity on moral propriety and respect for the martyrs who died for the cause of freedom.

This is not even a case of Virata and company and the Board of Regents against whoever. We are all in this sacred work together including Virata. I believe that if he were to listen and be true to his deepest self, he would realize that this issue is more important to the nation and UP than ego based inclinations. Hopefully then, he will humbly request – for the College not to be renamed after him. There is more true honor in quietly doing the right thing than building statues or memorials to one’s self.

I have nothing personal against Mr. Virata or even against the Marcoses even if I do blame them for causing so many Filipinos to suffer and be victimized by their egos and selfish blindness. I don’t hate them. I hate their sins. In absolute terms, only God who knows everything can be their ultimate judge. Our lives are short. We only have so much time to do the right thing. I can only wish them well and hope they find their true redemption.

God was good to them in having them become a part of a very forgiving and forgetful people. If they had been in Libya, Romania, Italy and other countries, they would have been hanged, torn to pieces or riddled with bullets. For this great grace and mercy alone, they should thank God and the Filipino people and truly redeem themselves with both. They should do all the good they can for the Filipino people using all the resources and talents at their disposal while they still have the time and opportunity. I pray for their true redemption.

However, if Mr. Virata continues to want the UPCBA to be named after him, in my standing as a UP alumnus and as a Filipino citizen, on my own and on behalf of those who wish to express similar sentiments – I strongly protest the renaming of the CBA after Mr. Virata – and urge the UP Board of Regents to reconsider its decision in the general interest of the University and the Filipino people.

I also respectfully request President Benigno Aquino II in his capacity as chief executive – to rescind the renaming of the UPCBA after Mr. Virata in respect for those who suffered and the martyrs including his father who died during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.

07-09-2013, 03:36 PM
Madaming magagandang babasahin dito.
Glad I stumbled into this thread.

Sa mga sumusulat at nagpopost, keep it up.

Sam Miguel
07-11-2013, 08:51 AM
Pablo, Joe told me about that time he, you and Bchoter had a drink in Sampaloc, at Alfredo street I think, near UST. Perhaps I can join you one of these days. Here's some more reading for you.

Why the Catholic Church should apologize to Rizal’s mother

By Dean Reyes Bocobo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:22 am | Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Coming so swiftly on the heels of Christmas and the Slaughter of the Innocents, the annual Rizal Day holiday on Dec. 30 usually passes fleetingly by as just another blessed day off, before we all plunge merrily into the noisy revelries and inebriations of New Year’s Eve.

(In the late 20th Century, some of the well-known speakers on Rizal Day began those festivities a little early, perhaps even before or during their oratories!)

This year promises to be a little different, as events of a century ago come up for commemoration—namely the burial of Jose Rizal by Filipinos and Americans at the Luneta on Dec. 30, 1912—fully 16 years after his execution by firing squad near the same spot in 1896.

Headed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, this year’s Rizal Day event at the Luneta features a full-dress reenactment and commemoration, by the Knights of Rizal and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, of the 1912 transfer of Rizal’s remains in an urn, from the custody of his family in their house in Binondo into the hands of the public for a wake at the Ayuntamiento in Intramuros, then burial at the Luneta.

There is an historic photograph taken in the City of Manila on Rizal Day 1912, showing the urn with the bones of Jose Rizal borne on a military caisson drawn by six black horses, and flanked by an honor guard of the Knights of Rizal (with caps and striped sashes) and white-clad members of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. The location of this 1912 event is now the Plaza Binondo de San Lorenzo Ruiz.

Amazing moments

How the twists and turns of history produced amazing moments in time, frozen in these historic photographs, is poignantly told by Asuncion Lopez Bantug, granddaughter of Sisa, the sister of Rizal, in her classic biography “Lolo Jose: An Intimate Portrait of Rizal” (Manila: Intramuros Administration, 1982). It turns out to be an intimate portrait also of the mother of Jose Rizal, Doña Teodora Realonda Alonso Rizal (1827-1911) and of his entire family.

She describes the events following the execution of Jose Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896, how his mother was denied custody of his remains, how he was denied a Catholic Church burial on consecrated ground and how he was secretly buried at Paco Park in an unmarked grave.

As Bantug wrote: “The previous evening (Dec. 29, 1896), Doña Teodora had gone from one official to another, begging to be given her son’s body after the execution. None was moved by her pleas—except for the mayor of Manila, Don Manuel Luengo, who acted on