Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, February 23, 2015

DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima accuses the National Transformation Council of trying to pull a coup d'etat and threatens its leaders with sedition for allegedly instigating a 'military-backed people-power uprising.' But she should realize that after the botched SAF operation, the AFP and PNP are so unhappy over embarrassing finger-pointing in public that they don't need any 'inciting' from civilian sector. Instead of threatening these patriotic NTC faith leaders Leila should listen to their admonitions.

Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa

The National Transformation Council (NTC) is composed of various leaders of the large nationwide faith community that includes Catholic bishops, Protestant pastors and ministers and Muslim imams and ulamas, as well as various professionals and civic leaders of many different citizens’ associations. It has been holding citizens’ assemblies since Aug. 27, 2014, kicking off in Lipa, Batangas, and hosted by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, then on in Cebu City, Davao City, Angeles City, Butuan City, General Santos City and the latest again in Cebu City last Feb. 13, 2015 under the auspices of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. in each assembly the call was sounded for President Aquino to step down and meaningful reforms to be ushered in.

I'm belaboring the point about the various NTC assemblies since Aug. 27 last year, for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is now lambasting the NTC as allegedly “using the people’s grief to pervert a national catharsis," referring to the Mamasapano botched operation that resulted in the very tragic death of 44 SAF troopers, in addition to 18 MILF fighters and some civilians. De Lima now asserts that this “aggrupation of disgruntled GMA allies,”  has "crossed the line” in allegedly inciting the military to join its advocacy, so that she now says that the NTC “may be charged with sedition, rebellion or coup d’etat for instigating a military-backed people-power uprising.”


De Lima---yes, this is the same official who in a recent Senate hearing startled the nation by asserting that the PNP, being a civilian organization, does not have the chain of command that's operative in the military (!)---is once again confused about her dates and legal principles. The NTC began calling for people power way before the national tragedy of Mamasapano happened, and as any two-bit lawyer knows, calling on the people to withdraw support from a most unpopular president cannot be rebellion, but the exercise of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by the Constitution. 

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) led by Dante Jimenez sees this far clearer than the DOJ Secretary, and Jimenez laments that such threat from De Lima "further creates an atmosphere of anger among the people." He said the VACC, though not officially part of the NTC, "will challenge this threat of Malacanang before the Supreme Court."

As to inciting the military sector to rebel against the President, there is no evidence of the NTC doing that---unless of course, we see the military and police as part of the Filipino people, which they are and whom the NTC seeks to address. But listening to the Senate hearing this morning where AFP and PNP officials accuse and counter-accuse each other in the failed SAF operation and rescue, I think the Aquino administration is doing a splendid job of inciting both security forces to agree to a badly needed change of regime---even without help from disgusted private citizens.


Instead of deriding members of the NTC as coup-plotters, the voluble DOJ Secretary should praise them for their patriotism and love of country and listen to their admonition. For many of them have already achieved their mark and no longer need any personal embellishment, but because of love for country and alarm over the continuing destruction of institutions in this Aquino administration that should otherwise be the foundation of solid growth and progress, they continue to conduct forums to enlighten the people.

I’m talking, for instance, of 84-year old Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, the retired Archbishop of Cebu, who asked for P-Noy's resignation as early as August 2014. Or take 80-year old Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, a man of deep learning and erudition who should just be enjoying the fruits of ripe retirement. Yet he chooses to shuttle between Davao and Manila because he cannot just watch the country be destroyed by incompetence and corruption. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa is no surprise as a firebrand, for he is a true Batangueno, but take Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, who received his pallium of authority from the Pope only last September. De la Cruz has never been known to hesitate to speak out on vital issues, especially on Mindanao. 

These and the other archbishops associated with NTC are a true inspiration for its mass followers.


Or take youthful NTC spokespersons Atty./CPA Glenn Chiong of Biliran who has made the cause of clean and honest elections his own lifelong advocacy after having been cheated in the congressional fight in his province, thanks to the damned machine. Or lawyer-minister Greco Belgica who battled the DAP in the Supreme Court; Greco wants to serve in government but would not even dare to run as long as the PCOS machines are operative.

Leila de Lima with her warped legal theories cannot hold a candle to anyone of these outstanding NTC leaders. She makes heroes out of them by accusing them of fomenting a coup d'etat. 


Listening to resigned PNP Chief Alan Purisima and relieved PNP-SAF Commander Getulio Napenas trade accusations about over-all responsibility for the botched SAF operation that cost the lives of the 44 Fallen SAF and two dozen MILF combatants and one or two civilians was funny and painful at once. Funny because it was evident that both disgraced PNP leaders were trying to save their own necks by blaming each other; yet painful too because it made our PNP the laughing stock of the world, with the AFP as collateral damage.

Related to this tragic-comedy is that like so many other citizens, I found the idea of all these officers of both PNP and AFP commands TEXTING ONE ANOTHER about crucial developments that affected scores of lives revolting. Over the past month I have encountered fellow citizens who ask, why were all of them just using texts? Didn’t they have two-day radios? Whatever happened to the huge PNP and AFP budget?  Surely these officials know that texts can be delayed for as much as two hours because of some communication fluke. If there were no radios, the officers could have used their cell phones to call for more efficiency---INSTEAD OF TEXTING LIKE GIDDY HOUSEMAIDS. Was it the cost they were mindful of? With billions being spent by this government in fanciful items, what's the costs of cell phone calls in battle, really?).


At the Senate hearing this morning Gen. Alan Purisima asserted point-blank that the commander on the ground was responsible for the botched operation and he referred to Napenas. But queried by Sen. Francis Escudero as to who ordered Napenas to push the Mamasapano operation, he points to Purisima; but the latter, when confronted, denied it outright, saying that he had been suspended by then so how could he make such decisions. Actually his suspension was supposed to have been effected Dec. 4, yet Purisima was firing orders to Napenas up to the day of the operation, including the order to keep DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Espina out of the loop regarding the SAF operation. 

Moreover, Purisima was seeking rescue for the embattled SAF troopers from his PMA class ‘81 classmate,Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, that very morning, and the latter found out about it only then and there. Time-on-target, it's called. 

Clearly Napenas is the fall-guy, but if Senate President Franklin Drilon would have it, Purisima should get the bigger blame as Napenas was merely obeying Purisima's orders up to Jan. 25. Purisima is Drilon's fall guy, but the ultimate responsibility for Mamasapano lies with P-Noy, as he hatched this operation with a suspended PNP chief and severed the line of communication with PNP OIC Leonardo Espina who could have effectively coordinated the massive operation with the AFP. Every senator knows P-Noy is to blame, but no one's saying it. The other two guys in this tight triumvirate, Purisima and Napenas, wouldn't be able to move one bit if the Commander-in-Chief---or whatever he's called in the PNP hierarchy, according to De Lima---did not authorize them. 

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