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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.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Despite Christmas---or maybe because it’s Christmas, the Season of Grace and 2000th anniversary of the Birth of CHRIST who is Life---it’s imperative to take a hard look at the House of Representatives’ impending move to ram through the revival of death penalty, allegedly to curb rising criminality. But let's take a harder look at The Netherlands, how it has shut down 19 prisons---FOR LACK OF INMATES! It must be doing something we aren’t.








Even as it’s just a few days to Christmas, during which we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer who came into this world as a helpless baby 2000 years ago, the world is once again confronted by grim realities that contradict the spirit of goodwill worldwide. I commiserate with all those folks who were just out doing the beautiful Christmas market in downtown Berlin (such markets in Europe are always so fabulous) when a truck plowed into the teeming crowds---killing a dozen people and injuring many others. As I write this piece in this uncertain world of ours, it appears that this ghastly Berlin episode was an act of terrorism.  

Also labeled an act of terrorism by the UN was yesterday’s brutal slaying of the Russian ambassador to Ankara while attending the opening of an art exhibit of Russian photographs in the Turkish capital, the largest city after Istanbul. The gunman was identified as a police riot squad officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” before he was shot dead by police after refusing to surrender. Russian President Vladimir Putin termed the cold-blooded murder of his envoy in Ankara an act to sabotage the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara to resolve the conflict in Syria that’s currently being brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

XXX

With these two bloody episodes abroad as background, it is ALMOST INCONGRUOUS here to raise this blogger’s objection to the administration’s plan to revive the death penalty that was first outlawed in the 1987 Constitution under President Cory Aquino. Recall that the Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish it for all crimes, with all death sentences at that time reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. But raise our objections at this time we must or we should, AS CHRISTMAS IS A CELEBRATION OF LIFE.  My radio partner Cecile Guidote Alvarez and I decided---as a way to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child--- to focus on an issue against Life: the official snuffing of life by the state.  

We invited to our dzRH program last Sunday one of the foremost pro-Life members of the House of Representatives, who’s leading the stand vs. the death penalty there:  Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza, former mayor of Manila and former assemblyman. While there’s expectation that pro-administration solons, led by House Committee on Justice chair Reynaldo V. Umali of Mindoro, would ram through its revival after the Christmas break, pro-life representatives such as Cebu’s Raul del Mar and Buhay’s Atienza, as well as Albay’s anti-death penalty Rep. Edcel Lagman and Rep. Garbin are giving it their most valiant opposition.

XXX

Death penalty in this country has had a checkered history.  During the Spanish colonial period medieval-type executions were prevalent and during the American and Japanese occupations, capital punishment was kept as a means of colonizing this country and suppressing resistance to the authorities. In post-World War II it continued to be upheld for offenses that the Supreme Court labeled as “crimes of senseless depravity or extreme criminal perversity.”

In the 20 years of the Marcos regime, capital crimes rose, the most celebrated being the gang-abuse of a screen star. Ninoy Aquino was sentenced to die by firing squad following accusations of several capital crimes in 1977, but he was allowed to seek medical help in the US and was murdered at the airport upon his return on Aug. 21, 1983.  

XXX

As mentioned earlier, the post-Marcos era President Cory abolished the death penalty, but during the term of President Fidel Ramos, a series of heinous crimes returned it in December 1993, listing 46 crimes punishable by it. During President Joseph Estrada’s time, crimes continued to rise but he issued a de facto memorandum holding capital punishment in abeyance, in deference to the pressure of the Church and observance of the Jubilee Year. 

On the other hand, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was quoted as asserting that while she was personally not in favor of death penalty, in view of the rising criminality she would resume executions stayed by President Erap’s moratorium. In June 2006, however, capital punishment was suspended via R.A. 9346, and it has been suspended ever since---but it’s now being revived in the Duterte administration.

XXX

I am personally against the death penalty, as I believe that life emanates from God and only He has the right to take it away. An equally important reason is that it would be a throwback to the Middle Ages when torture by death was prevalent. It should also be mentioned that some 126 countries around the world have already abandoned death penalty as punishment, opting for programs to rehabilitate broken lives. A good number of states in the US have likewise done so, and there is hot debate among the other states. The world is now realizing, it seems, that death penalty has not been a deterrent to criminality.

I agree with Lito Atienza’s argument that the prevailing deep poverty as well as continuing corruption in the administration of criminal justice contribute to rising statistics on criminality in our society---which a revival of the death penalty will not solve or even deter. The solution, argues Atienza, is to reform the criminal justice system mainly by eliminating corruption down the line---so that light-sentence criminals are not mixed with the hardened ones---and instilling the rule of law.  

He noted that prisoners from very poor circumstances who are jailed for petty crimes often rot in jail, whereas those who can pay for good lawyers and/or corrupt judges escape prolonged imprisonment.

Talking of poverty as a definitive factor in criminality, it’s good to note that The Netherlands RECENTLY CLOSED DOWN 19 PRISONS IN THAT COUNTRY. You know why? No more inmates!  I ascribe this incredible phenomenon to two factors: the low poverty rate in the Netherlands and reforms in its justice system. WE SHOULD CERTAINLY TAKE A HARD LOOK AT THE SITUATION IN THE LOW COUNTRIES.  

XXX

Fr. Ranhillo Aquino, dean of the Graduate School of San Beda College, argued strongly in his Dec. 05, 2016 column in the Manila Standard that now, more than ever, we need the “ferocity of our convictions,” vs. what he terms the poised ramming through in Congress of the bill that returns the death penalty. In fact, points out Fr. Rannie, “so confident are its advocates (in the House) that the measure will pass muster that the conversation there has turned ghastly---which methods inflicts the most agony…” He argues that “if so much noise was made about the burial of one long dead (the late President Marcos), the proposal to inflict death on the living should meet with even more spirited opposition and manifest disgust.”

I wholeheartedly agree.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Despite Christmas---or maybe because it’s Christmas, the Season of Grace and the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of CHRIST who is Life---it’s imperative to take a hard look at the House of Representatives’ impending move to ram through the revival of death penalty. But look at how The Netherlands recently shut down 19 prisons---for lack of inmates! The Dutch must be doing something we aren’t.


House Representative Joselito Atienza




Even as it’s just a few days to Christmas, during which we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer who came into this world as a helpless baby 2000 years ago, the world is once again confronted by grim realities that contradict the spirit of goodwill worldwide. I commiserate with all those folks who were just out doing the beautiful Christmas market in downtown Berlin (such markets in Europe are always so fabulous) when a truck plowed into the teeming crowds---killing a dozen people and injuring many others. As I write this piece in this uncertain world of ours, it appears that this ghastly Berlin episode was an act of terrorism.  

Also labeled an act of terrorism by the UN was yesterday’s brutal slaying of the Russian ambassador to Ankara while attending the opening of an art exhibit of Russian photographs in the Turkish capital, the largest city after Istanbul. The gunman was identified as a police riot squad officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” before he was shot dead by police after refusing to surrender. Russian President Vladimir Putin termed the cold-blooded murder of his envoy in Ankara an act to sabotage the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara to resolve the conflict in Syria that’s currently being brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

XXX

With these two bloody episodes abroad as background, it is ALMOST INCONGRUOUS here to raise this blogger’s objection to the administration’s plan to revive the death penalty that was first outlawed in the 1987 Constitution under President Cory Aquino. Recall that the Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish it for all crimes, with all death sentences at that time reduced to reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. But raise our objections at this time we must or we should, AS CHRISTMAS IS A CELEBRATION OF LIFE.  My radio partner Cecile Guidote Alvarez and I decided---as a way to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child--- to focus on an issue against Life: the official snuffing of life by the state, as a punishment for a heinous crime.  

We invited to our dzRH program last Sunday one of the foremost pro-Life members of the House of Representatives, who’s leading the stand vs. the death penalty there:  Buhay party-list Rep. Joselito Atienza, former mayor of Manila and former assemblyman. While there’s expectation that pro-administration solons, led by House Committee on Justice chair Reynaldo V. Umali of Mindoro, would ram through its revival after the Christmas break, pro-life representatives such as Cebu’s Raul del Mar and Buhay’s Atienza, as well as Albay’s anti-death penalty Rep. Edcel Lagman are giving it their most valiant opposition.

XXX

Death penalty in this country has had a checkered history.  During the Spanish colonial period medieval-type executions were prevalent and during the American and Japanese occupations, capital punishment was kept as a means of colonizing this country and suppressing resistance to the authorities. In post-World War II it continued to be upheld for offenses that the Supreme Court labeled as “crimes of senseless depravity or extreme criminal perversity.”

In the 20 years of the Marcos regime, capital crimes rose, the most celebrated being the gang-abuse of a screen star. Ninoy Aquino was sentenced to die by firing squad following accusations of several capital crimes in 1977, but he was allowed to seek medical help in the US and was murdered at the airport upon his return on Aug. 21, 1983.  

XXX

As mentioned earlier, the post-Marcos President Cory abolished the death penalty, but during the term of President Fidel Ramos, a series of heinous crimes caused it to be returned in December 1993---, listing 46 crimes punishable by capital punishment. During President Joseph Estrada’s time, crimes continued to rise but he issued a de facto memorandum holding capital punishment in abeyance, in deference to the pressure of the Church and the observance of the Jubilee Year. 

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was quoted as asserting that while she was personally not in favor of death penalty, in view of the rising criminality she would resume executions that were stayed by President Erap’s moratorium. In June 2006, however, capital punishment was suspended via R.A. 9346, and it has been suspended ever since---but it’s now being revived in the Duterte administration.

XXX

I am personally against the death penalty, as I believe that life emanates from God and only He has the right to take it away. An equally important reason is that it would be a throwback to the Middle Ages when torture by death was prevalent, not to mention the fact that over 180 countries around the world have already abolished it in exchange for programs to rehabilitate lives. Above all, it is not a deterrent to criminality.

I agree with Lito Atienza’s argument that the prevailing deep poverty as well as continuing corruption in the administration of criminal justice contribute to rising statistics on criminality in our society---which a revival of the death penalty will not solve or even deter. The solution, argues Atienza, is to reform the criminal justice system mainly by eliminating corruption down the line, so that light-sentence criminals are not mixed with the hardened ones, and instilling the rule of law.  He noted that prisoners from very poor circumstances who are jailed for petty crimes often rot in the horribly over-crowded jail, together with hardened criminals; whereas those who can pay for good lawyers and/or corrupt judges escape prolonged imprisonment.

Talking of poverty as a definitive factor in increasing criminality, it’s good to note that The Netherlands RECENTLY CLOSED 19 PRISONS IN THAT COUNTRY. You know why? No more inmates!  I ascribe this incredible phenomenon to two factors: the low poverty rate in the Netherlands and reforms in its justice system. WE SHOULD CERTAINLY TAKE A HARD LOOK AT THE SITUATION IN THE LOW COUNTRIES.  

XXX

Fr. Ranhillo Aquino, dean of the Graduate School of San Beda College, argued strongly in his Dec. 05, 2016 column in the Manila Standard that now, more than ever, we need the “ferocity of our convictions,” vs. what he terms the poised ramming through in Congress of the bill that returns the death penalty. In fact, points out Fr. Rannie, “so confident are its advocates (in the House) that the measure will pass muster that the conversation there has turned ghastly---which methods inflicts the most agony…” He argues that “if so much noise was made about the burial of one long dead (the late President Marcos), the proposal to inflict death on the living should meet with even more spirited opposition and manifest disgust.”

I wholeheartedly agree.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Allegations by CIA of Russian hacking of US presidential elections to favor Trump would doubtless be on Christmas Day menu in American homes. Outgoing President Obama orders full disclosure by intel agencies of findings before Jan. 19, as former CIA Acting Director labels the hacking "the political equivalent of 9/11."





In the long history of US presidential elections, this kind of development has never happened, and one would think it could only happen in Third-World countries such as the Philippines where ruckuses over elections are nearly always par for the course. Yet it’s happening in America, as report has surfaced from no less than the Central Intelligence Agency that US elections last November were hacked---by Russia allegedly to influence the victory of Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. 

In fact, today (Dec. 15) US intelligence officials were quoted by NBC News asserting that they believe "with high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "became personally involved in the covert Russian conspiracy to interfere in the US presidential elections."

What’s interesting is that those making the biggest noise about this allegation--and demanding full-dress investigation---are Republicans themselves. President Obama, who’s bowing out of office on Jan. 20 as the US makes way for the newly-elected President, has called on all the US intelligence agencies to disclose their findings to the American public on the supposed hacking, before its new leader's inauguration.  

XXX

The gravity of the situation can be gleaned from the fact that no less than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke away from President-elect Trump over this issue and supports full congressional investigation.  McConnell praised the American intelligence community, saying he has "the highest confidence in this group, especially the Central Intelligence Agency"---which co-incidentally Trump recently lambasted over its findings. 

A bipartisan group of senators-–namely, Republicans John McCain of Arizona, himself once a presidential candidate too, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island-–last Sunday called for an investigation into the intel community's finding on Russia’s alleged attempt to influence last November’s elections. 

So serious is the situation that former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell was quoted as asserting: "A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, this is not an overstatement, this is THE POLITICAL EQUIVALENT OF 9/11."

XXX

Trump has found himself in the unenviable--- and rather unpatriotic---position of defending Putin and Russia.  Since his victory last Nov. 8, considered “shocking” by a lot of US political pundits, Trump has been mired in one controversy after another, so that some people now are beginning to wonder out loud if his impending presidency can even survive long enough for him to be sworn in. On Sunday morning he blasted the intel community anew, terming its assessment that Russia interfered in the US elections "ridiculous."

"I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it," he was quoted in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." But the unenviable situation Trump may be in now could be his own doing: it will be recalled that during the presidential campaign, he was heard calling on Russia ("if you're listening...") to hack the Clinton emails. Pretty soon such emails began emerging from Wikileaks. 

XXX

In another rather bizarre twist, Dmitri Alperovitch, a U.S. cyber-security expert, of Russian descent no less, came on CNN to relate how his team had been on to the Russian hacking for weeks even before the elections. Alperovitch alleged that the hackers were from two separate groups operating under the supervision of Russian Intelligence.  One of them, he claimed, is the GRU, the intel arm of the Russian military.  

Former CIA operative Robert Baer says if the CIA can prove that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections then “we may need a new vote.”  Baer said that if the US got caught in hacking another democratic country's elections and trying to influence the results, that country would doubtless be calling for new elections and this would make sense, he stressed, since the election results have been “compromised". 

The former CIA operative went on to say that "Putin hates Clinton because of the former US Secretary of State's criticism of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine (in 2014).” Hillary Clinton served as President Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.  

XXX

Obama has called for a broader investigation and directed all intel agencies to make public their findings before January 19, one day before the swearing-in of the new President.  Some US observers are quite agog over this alleged cyber-security breach of the US elections, for a number of reasons. 

On the political front, Clinton won in the popular vote but lost in the electoral votes to Trump. She was widely favored in the weeks preceding the elections but later polls revealed a tightening race. What appeared to help Trump was the FBI’s sudden reinforcement of Hillary’s unauthorized use of her private email to funnel official mail as State Department Chief. 

Still, allegations of cyber-hacking to influence the results of the US elections in Trump’s favor could raise all kinds of questions---not to mention straining anew US-Russia relations and the all-important issue of the balance of power in the world.  

XXX

It’s pertinent to recall that this would be the second time that the American public---and the world at large because of the dominant role of the US in the global scenario---are going to be on tenterhooks over the result of recent elections.  

In the 2000 US presidential elections, the proclaimed victory of Republican candidate George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore was delayed for some time because of perceived glitches in the ballots in four counties in Florida. The system of hole-punching in Florida ballots produced multiple candidates when all that was needed by the winner were---and are---270 votes from the Electoral College.  What complicated the picture in Florida was that its state supreme court, in a 7-2 vote, ordered state-wide manual recount. On Dec. 9, 2000, however,  the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote ordered the state court TO ABANDON the Florida recount. 

XXX

It’s worth quoting here the main thesis advanced by SC decision-writer (the ponente, as we call it here) Justice Scalia, as follows: “The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner Bush, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election. Count first and rule upon legality afterwards is not a recipe for producing election results that have the public acceptance that democratic stability requires.” 

These words of immense sense are worth internalizing by our politicos too.

It’s also worth quoting here Democrat Al Gore’s beautiful concession speech to Republican George W. Bush on Dec. 13, 2000, as he borrowed from Sen. Stephen Douglas, who lost to President Abraham Lincoln in the hotly contested 1860 US presidential elections: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” 

XXX

To this quote from Abe Lincoln’s opponent, Al Gore added his own: “Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly, neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came and now it has ended, resolved as it must be resolved through the honorable institution of our democracy.” 

It should be noted that Electoral College gave Bush 271 electoral votes---one vote more than the required votes to win---while Al Gore garnered 266 electoral votes. That's how close the race was. 

It must be noted, however, that the Trump-Clinton dispute of 2016 is an entirely different ballgame as there’s the most serious allegation of cyber-security breach of the US elections allegedly through Russian hacking. The question on American---and everyone else's---minds is: if they could hack the US elections, what can they not hack? 

I'm sure the world will hear more about this US election mess in coming days and that these hacking allegations will be the most popular topic during Christmas dinners all over the US. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Unlike in our setting, where the VP holds office at indulgence or whim of the President, so that historically a number of our two top officials have ended up at odds with each other, the US VP is assured of two specific roles by US Constitution, which makes for greater political stability. Constitutional amendments urgently needed in this regard.




                                                                      VP Leni Robredo



Last Monday, December 05, I took advantage of being with former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who chairs the Alay sa Kawal Foundation that yours truly founded in 1987, during its awarding of checks to widows or parents of AFP enlisted personnel killed in action. I queried Jojo what he thought of the sacking the night before of Vice President Leni Robredo through a text message from Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr.,  informing her of the President’s order for her to DESIST from further attendance in the Cabinet as chair of the Housing and  Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). 

Jojo admitted that when he served as VP in the P-Noy Aquino administration and held the same post that Leni has just resigned from, he didn’t have much of a problem with the President then---doubtless because Jojo was a Cory original.

Jojo explained, however, that the problem in our country is that the VP is ENTIRELY DEPENDENT on the President for a job or role; whereas in the US the second highest official has two duties or tasks clearly defined by the US Constitution, WHICH GIVES SECURITY OF OFFICE TO THE US VP. 

XXX

These two tasks statutorily defined for the VP in the US Constitution are: 1). to assume the presidency of the US Senate where his or her main task is to cast a vote in case of a tie during voting on crucial  legislation, (never mind if the US VP’s task in the Senate is actually more pro forma, as the real administrator of that chamber is the Senate President Protempore), and 2). to SIT AS MEMBER of the US National Security Council.

These two statutorily-defined tasks are independent from the fact that the US Vice President, like ours, is the defined successor to the US PRESIDENT in case of his or her demise in office---(this is where the phrase “one heartbeat away” was first applied).

XXX

Thus, opined former VP Binay, the Vice President of the US is NOT DEPENDENT ON THE WHIMS AND CAPRICES OF THE PRESIDENT TO CO-EXIST AND BE OF USEFUL SERVICE TO COUNTRY, AND NOT JUST A WELL-PAID WALL DÉCOR.  This constitutional provision, he argues, assures far greater stability in the US set-up between the President and the second in command, whereas in our setting the President can afford to be haughty to the Veep and render him or her completely inutile, without a post, resources and support.

Jojo Binay is correct:  how many times in our country have we seen  alienation between the two top officials of the land. Recall the open quarrel between President Diosdado Macapagal and then Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, who claimed that Cong Dadong “borrowed my honor” in the early ‘60s; and between opposition running-mates Cory Aquino and Salvador Laurel, who had fought in the 1986 elections vs. Ferdinand Marcos and Arturo Tolentino. In the Cory administration, Laurel was pressing for a parliamentary form of government with him as PM, which Cory refused to agree to. 

Now the conflict between President Duterte and VP Robredo, where he resents the VP's public criticisms of his policies such as the EJK and the Marcos burial in Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Leni, on the other hand, accuses PRRD of inaction on her appointees and the HUDCC budget, among others.

FROM THE ABOVE CONFLICT EPISODES AMONG OUR TOP POLITICAL LEADERS THROUGH HISTORY, A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO GRANT THE VICE PRESIDENT A SPECIFIC ROLE IN GOVERNMENT---AND NOT JUST BE AT THE MERCY OF PRESIDENTIAL GENEROSITY, INDULGENCE, WHIM OR CAPRICE ---SHOULD BE TOTALLY IN ORDER.

XXX

It helps too that US candidates who bag the two top posts normally are elected from one party, thus making for greater harmony as the two officials steer the ship of state in the same direction. 

Thus, outgoing US President Barrack Obama and VP President Joe Biden held the Democratic reins of government for the past eight years, just like President Bill Clinton and VP Al Gore, and earlier, Republican President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney led the US. The US administration to be inaugurated on  January 20, 2017 has Republicans Donald Trump and Sen. Mike Spence winning vs. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. In the past US administrations there has been nary a public discord among the teams. 

Here Rodrigo Duterte ran under the PDP Laban, while Leni Robredo ran under the Liberal Party. Complicating the picture is the fact that Leni barely squeaked a win over Bongbong Marcos of 260,000 votes, which the latter is hotly contesting before the PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL (PET) that's composed of Supreme Court justices; whereas Rodrigo Duterte won with an unprecedented 16 million votes---thus reinforcing his hand in anything he does.

XXX

That the candidates for the two top US posts are usually voted together is due to the fact that majority of US voters are registered party people, and during the campaign both Republican and Democratic parties seek to flush out their partisan voters.  Thus, normally, the electors who comprise the US Electoral College (that finally elects the winning President and VP) vote for candidates from their same party.  In case there is no clear majority vote from the Electoral College, the US House of Representatives gets to elect the President while the US Senate elects the Vice-President---although this has never happened before.

Normally, the two top US posts are voted from the same party, but there were actually a few times in the history of US elections when the two top posts were filled from different parties. Thus, Republican Abraham Lincoln chose Democrat Andrew Johnson as his VP. That the two top US posts come from the same party makes for ENORMOUS POLITICAL STABILITY, unlike here where they frequently come from opposing parties and end up fighting like cats and dogs.

XXX

I wonder if VP Leni Robredo ever anticipated how tough it would be for her to be in the second top post. She never held a public post prior to her running last May and in fact, had her husband, former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, not perished in a plane crash off Bohol three years ago he might have been Mar Roxas’ running mate as he was hugely popular.  Many voters ended up voting for LP candidate Leni despite her lack of political experience because they did not want the re-emergence of a Marcos.

But now she finds herself out of the Duterte Cabinet because the President felt he could no longer trust her in it, owing to her frequent opposing stand on burning issues. Leni is now the symbol and moving spirit of the political opposition: A JOAN OF ARC IN THE RAGING BATTLEFIELD OF PHILIPPINE POLITICS. She has appealed to the Filipino people to take courage and be brave even as she affirms that she'd support Duterte IF HE'S RIGHT AND OPPOSE HIM IF WHAT HE DOES IS INIMICAL TO THE NATION'S INTEREST.  

XXX


Leni has warned of alleged plans of the administration to “steal the vice-presidency” from her, which the Duterte spokesman dismissed as crazy ranting. Yet, to a lot of observers, including this writer, that predicament may be very real, if the votes of the Supreme Court justices on the Marcos burial issue---9 for, 5 against and 1 abstention---are a veritable, if shocking, gauge. The SC, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, will be ruling on the petition of Bongbong Marcos to throw out Leni as he claims to have won the elections. 

President Duterte is fully supportive of Bongbong, owing to long association between the Marcos and Duterte families (Mr. Duterte's father served as Davao governor during the rule of President Marcos), plus the Marcos family's large financial support for his presidential run last May. 

If the SC vote  on the Marcos burial is any indication, Leni could really lose the battle in the PET.

Friday, November 25, 2016

This evening’s “Black Friday" rally” in rainy Luneta could be first of such protest rallies by millennials around the country, judging from their militancy. House hearing with Dayan reaps enormous criticisms from tri-media and netizens for concentrating more on salacious details of his love affair with Sen. De Lima, instead of building state case vs. illegal drugs and corruption. The "Lower House" truly lives up to its name.










Ateneo Prof. Tony La Vina and fellow rallyists (photo from Dean Tony La Vina)

A huge streamer at tonight's "Black Friday Rally" at the Luneta (as posted by Dean La Vina)


I failed to join this evening’s “Black Friday" rally” at the Luneta against the burial of the late President Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani because of the rains, but I watched it over TV and it brought back this déjà vu feeling all over again, just as it did when I rushed to the LNMB last Nov. 18 to protest the late dictator’s hush-hush burial. I was quite happy tonight to see all the students rallying and voicing their sentiments vs. the burial, undaunted by rains and though most of them were born a generation apart from the dictator’s rule---today's vaunted millennials. 

One student said in an interview that while it was his parents who had marched a generation ago vs. the Marcos dictatorship, he knew exactly why he was in the streets amidst the rains tonight: to protest the burial of someone who doesn’t deserve a hero’s burial in the national pantheon of heroes.

Listening to this drenched young man justify his presence at tonight’s “Black Friday Rally” gave us, his elders, enormous hope that our country would be in good hands for the future---that the young generation knows its values and convictions and is ready to defend them.

XXX

Today's “Black Friday" rally” sprouted in other cities around the archipelago, notably, in Davao City itself, home-ground of President Duterte, as well as in Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Legaspi, Baguio, Tarlac, Dagupan, Zamboanga City and many other places. It would be a big mistake to think that tonight’s protest rally would go pffffttt---on the contrary, I think this is just the beginning of protest rallies around the country---with the youth of today as its core, just like the protesters in the late '70s and '80s.

It is to the credit of the Duterte administration that it directed the police to exercise maximum tolerance and they did---congratulations!  It would be a dreadful mistake, however, to think that this first “Black Friday" rally” will just be ningas cogon.  The way the students came prepared with their props, their mind-set and their umbrellas and raincoats, it promises to be just the beginning.

XXX

In the history of every democratic movement all over the world and since the beginning, the student population has comprised a vital and critical component. So was it in the first anti-Marcos movement a generation ago, backed up by left-wing elements, and so will it be in the current protests, likewise backed up by the same elements. From what I know of history, the students would probably stand their ground in protest, and it leads me to wonder what would give.

Will it be the Supreme Court that would come to realize the foolhardiness of its disastrous decision not only to allow the burial of Mr. Marcos in the LNMB, but also to disrespect the 15-day period for its ruling to attain final fruition?   Will it be the Duterte administration which would beat a mea culpa over its supposed innocence of the burial, the excuse being that the President was in Lima, Peru at that time?  Will Mr. Duterte plead for reason and dialogue with the students? Such dialogue I would encourage heartily before the drift widens between him and the millennials. He lost the support of a substantial chunk of the youth and the Left over this issue.

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What aggravated the issue of the Marcos burial as far as the Filipino people are concerned was the stealthy manner whereby it was carried out---to use the shop-worn phrase, like a thief in the night. As I argued a blog earlier, had the Supreme Court insisted on the full 15-day period for reconsideration, knowing full well that such motions were forthcoming in the last five days, and had it dribbled the issue until perhaps early next year, it might have been less controversial to sell Marcos at LNMB. 

To be sure, protests would still erupt even if the burial was carried out in full knowledge of the populace, and perhaps some radical students would still have laid their bodies in the streets in protest, but I maintain that such physical outbursts would have been easier to pacify than today's anger.

Tonight's “Black Friday" rally” is a protest against the issue of Marcos’ burial at LNMB and the odious manner whereby it was carried out---with SHOCK AND STEALTH. IT WAS A TOTAL MISREADING OF THE PEOPLE'S SENTIMENT. 

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Talking of another issue, ODIOUS is the word to describe the marathon hearing conducted by the House of Representatives the other day on the issue of the alleged involvement of former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima in the illegal drug trade, with her former driver and erstwhile lover, Ronnie Dayan, as star witness. Interestingly, another angle on the same drug trade issue was being conducted in the Senate that same afternoon, with Kerwin Espinosa, reputed to be the biggest drug dealer in the Visayas, as star witness, but the Senate hearing didn’t reap the tons of angry criticisms that the House did.

The reason was that the Senate hearing concentrated on the extent of the drug-trafficking itself as a crime, with De Lima’s alleged involvement as drug money recipient as mere factor---whereas the House hearing became absorbed in the lurid details of the relationship between De Lima and Dayan, with the solons concentrating more on the salacious details of their personal life---rather than probe the extent of their criminal involvement, thereby establishing a case for the State.

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The House hearing was simply distasteful and malicious, with tri-media as well as social media netizens heaping tons of well-deserved criticisms on the chamber. One netizen noted, “No wonder the House of Representatives is called the ‘Lower House’---it is absolutely degraded.” One critic pointed out that the physical arrangement of the House hearing contributed to encouraging abuse in sexual overtones, in that visitors sat close to the representatives, giving a cozy atmosphere prone to gossipy details---whereas the Senate forum, co-chaired by Senators Dick Gordon and Panfilo Lacson, was arranged and conducted in a more impersonal way. 

Thus, queries to Ronnie Dayan, such as "How did you call each other?" “Did you sleep together in one bed?” and “How intense was your relationship?” Dayan's reply: "Intensity V at first, then later just Intensity 1," which drew naughty reactions from the House. Most of the Honorables should have just gone to a sex video shop to get their high, instead of wasting tax-payers' money in a fraud of a hearing. 


I am not particularly fond of the former Justice Secretary and now Senator, but I felt that the efforts of the “Honorables” to slut-shame her were totally repugnant. As a fellow woman I was terribly offended by the direct assault on her reputation--- whatever is left of it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jitters in Congress over Ombudsman’s order to dismiss Sen. Joel Villanueva on PDAF misuse, President’s threat to suspend writ of habeas corpus and possible revamp of Senate leadership over Marcos burial issue. Presidential legal adviser Sal Panelo says martial law by President Digong "unlikely" despite his threat to suspend writ. Peks man ha, Sal?




Senator Joel Villanueva


Everyone in Congress, especially in the Senate, seems jittery and agitated over recent developments affecting not just that institution but national stability. To wit:

There's the recent order of Ombudsman Conchita Morales seeking dismissal from the Senate of Sen. Joel Villanueva, over alleged misuse of his PDAF as well as falsification of public documents in 2008, when he was still a member of the House of Representatives representing the party-list CIBAC. Morales ordered Villanueva to face trial before the graft court, but Rep. Harry Roque has come to the defense of the former TESDA Chief, asserting that only the Senate could discipline its member. Predictably, some senators quickly circled wagons around him, scrutinizing the Ombudsman Act for a provision that would prevent any move against one of their own.

Recall that former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were imprisoned for the same accusation. But it seems that the Senate would want to truly protect its own this time, and the Ombudsman's letter was quickly consigned to the rules committee chaired by Sen. Tito Sotto, where possibly it could just lie there and die there, as the song goes. Given the widespread misuse of the PDAF and DAP in both chambers of Congress in the P-Noy regime, it's easy to predict that senators would seek to thwart Morales' order.  

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Then there is the impending burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, following a most disconcerting 9-5-1decision by the Supreme Court upholding President Duterte's order. There is a sense of urgency about this move, as the Marcos tomb is already constructed though still boarded up all around with green GI sheets in the site reserved for former presidents in the LNMB. Recall that Mr. Duterte's campaign promise to the Marcos family was to give the late martial rule president "proper burial” in the national pantheon of heroes. 

His order, however, has re-opened deep fission over this issue and protests are bound to escalate as burial date nears.  Anti-Marcos solons like Rep. Edcel Lagman, whose brother was a torture victim/desaparecido in the martial law years,  have filed a motion for reconsideration with the SC and it should only be fitting and proper that the administration respect that MR before implementing the SC decision in LNMB. Sen. Risa Hontiveros has campaigned  for a “sense of the Senate” resolution against the burial, but she managed to get only 11 votes so far.

Certain to be caught right in the vise of the Marcos issue is Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, as his father, former Senate President Nene Pimentel, was jailed by FM and became a leading light in the anti-Marcos movement. Koko has openly criticized the LNMB burial but it is easy to see that should Mr. Duterte push this issue to its fruition, Koko, who cannot move from his position vs. FM's burial, could find himself under threat of being unseated.

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President Duterte

Then there's jitters over the recent pronouncement of Mr. Duterte that if lawlessness in Mindanao and efforts of drug lords allegedly to fund anti-administration activities are not curtailed, he would suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus as provided in the 1987 Constitution. To be sure, the 1987 Constitution, a.k.a. the "Cory Constitution," reflected the trauma of martial rule and has loaded safeguards vs. abuse of the privilege of the writ;  but everyone in Congress as well as citizens engaged in a Duterte-watch are nervous just the same.

This is because, as Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza, one of the leaders of the anti-Marcos movement in the US in the martial law years, recalls,  the proclamation of martial law by Marcos on September 21, 1972 was preceded a few months by suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The writ enables relatives of an arrested person to ask a court to present him or her bodily before it, to disprove that said person has become a desaparecido.

Will Mr. Duterte indeed suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and on what grounds? If he would, would he then be on the way to proclaiming martial law as he has threatened in media? On what grounds would such proclamation stand? These are some of the questions on many minds nowadays---especially in both chambers of Congress.

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The 1987 Constitution has striven to ensure that enough protection of public welfare is imposed against suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, as provided in Article VII, “The Executive Department.” Thus, Sec. 18 provides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it,” the President, as Commander-in-Chief, “may for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the writ or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

Within 48 hours from such proclamation or suspension of the writ, however, the Constitution requires the President "to submit a report in person or in writing to Congress,” and the latter, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, “may revoke such proclamation or suspension, and this shall not be set aside by the President.” Moreover, upon initiative of the President, Congress “may extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

But who may "qualify" for the suspension of the privilege of the writ? The 1987 Constitution defines it: only persons "JURIDICALLY CHARGED FOR REBELLION OR OFFENSES INHERENT IN OR DIRECTLY CONNECTED WITH INVASION."  

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Not content with these safeguards, the Constitution framers also insisted that Congress, if not in session, shall within 24 hours of such proclamation or suspension, CONVENE WITHOUT NEED OF A CALL. Moreover, within 20 days Congress can meet in joint session and VOTE WHETHER TO REVOKE OR SUSTAIN the presidential suspension of the writ---in effect, this is Congress' VETO POWER over the President's move, as Rep. Raul Daza stressed to this blogger. Daza also pointed out that THE 1935 CONSTITUTION DID NOT HAVE THIS SIGNIFICANT ROLE ASSIGNED TO CONGRESS BY THE 1987 CONSTITUTION.  

Moreover, under the 1987 Charter, the Supreme Court may review a request filed by any citizen on “the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and (it) must promulgate its decision within 30 days from its filing.” The Charter also declared that "a state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution" and that during the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus any person arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

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Given all the above protection imposed by the 1987 Constitution, the logical and persistent questions are, are there grounds to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and impose martial law, or do the conditions exist only in the mind of President Duterte and his advisers? Presidential Legal Adviser Sal Panelo opines there are enough grounds to consider the suspension of the writ---given that many thousands of Filipinos are still involved in the drug problem and that “the country’s slow judicial system” is a weak countervailing force in what may be “an eternity” to solve such problems. Panelo, however, was recently quoted by Daily Tribune as asserting that Mr. Duterte was "unlikely to declare martial law." 

Peks man ha, Sal Panelo. 

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Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, shoots down the eagerness of Mr. Duterte’s advisers to even hint of suspension of the writ and a hovering martial law declaration. Ping offers the following reasons: l). there has been no lawlessness in Mindanao since the Davao bombings, 2). the PNP claims that index crimes have dropped by more than 40% and 3). so many drug dealers have already surrendered in the administration's unrelenting war vs. illegal drugs.   

Ironically, Ping Lacson, once perceived as the berdugo of the PNP, is evolving now as more of a libertarian than his Senate colleagues. 

Some observers suspect that Mr. Duterte’s resurrection of the twin ghosts---suspension of the writ and proclamation of martial law--- arises from prospects of widespread unrest anticipated in connection with the planned burial of Marcos in LNMB.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sen. Dick Gordon has no choice but to open Senate hearing on Albuera Mayor Espinosa's slaying. SC favorable ruling on Marcos burial in Libingan ng Mga Bayani would be incomprehensible to the world. Pro-Duterte business leaders assert that he is "quite smart" and knows exactly what he's doing in playing the China card vs. the US




The late Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, shown with PNP Chief Rolando "Bato" de la Rosa


The Senate committee on justice, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, has no choice but to open hearings on the recent slaying of Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa by PNP-CIDG operatives, as the public won't be satisfied by anything less than the TRUTH of what really happened. The Espinosa slaying comes in the wake of the still unexplained killing last Friday of Mayor Samsuden of Datu Samdi Ampatuan town in North Cotabato, together with all nine of his men, in a supposed encounter with lawmen. Interestingly, all the casualties were on the side of the Mayor and none from the police side. 

Alas, too many killings and too many questions raised by media are left unanswered. 

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One central fact: Mayor Espinosa, accused together with his son Kerwin of involvement in drug-trafficking in Northern Luzon and Regions 7 and 8, was in the custody of the state, and therefore assumed to be in safe hands. But how come a "search warrant" had to be served at 4:10 am. last Saturday? How come this move was not coordinated with the Leyte provincial administrator? How come Espinosa and Raul Yap, his co-accused and who was killed with him, were alleged to be in possession of firearms that they supposedly used to fire on the warrant-serving police, when precisely, in prison they are supposed to have been stripped of these arms?  Again, if Espinosa fired first, how come no one among the police was hurt?

How come the CCTV paraphernalia showing what happened went missing?

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP investigator and Chief, terms the episode outright as EJK, while Sen. Gordon lamented about how "we can encourage suspects to surrender under the law in this situation?" Gordon rightly asserts that the brutal murder of the Mayor "is a slap on the face of the rule of law and it signals a more desperate system---a 'take-no-prisoners-approach.' " 

The common perception is that IT WAS NO LESS THAN A RUB-OUT because Espinosa would have implicated a sizable number of prominent people in the drug trade, include some lawmen.

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Last week I published here the “Dear Bel” letter from a European business executive who has chosen to settle in our country in his retirement. His letter politely scored President Duterte for his flip-flop stand on some key issues, such as our long-standing relationship with the US, as well as his resort to scornful language in addressing foreign leaders and institutions critical of him---only for his tirades to be softened up by defending Cabinet members or his pronouncements subtly reversed. 

The expat letter-writer lamented that such tactics do not inspire perceptions of stability for our country and he appealed to the President to be more consultative in his approach especially on sensitive issues.

I promised you readers a contrary view from that of the retired European executive and sure enough I found this last week among business leaders who had traveled with President Duterte to China and Japan, as well as to Asean countries earlier.

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As expected, this group of business leaders is quite supportive of Mr. Duterte and in fact those I spoke with opine that his “flip-flopping” stance is deliberate and calculated and that this "smart president" knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants to achieve. They argued that he has succeeded not only in captivating world imagination but also in keeping the US off-balanced as he plays the China card. One business leader related how much of a ROCK-STAR Mr. Duterte has become in the countries he visited---especially in Japan.

Those I spoke to underscored that his popularity among our countrymen cuts across the classes---so that what began as masa support is now found also in the upper reaches of society. 

Frankly I was quite amazed at the level of support he enjoys with the business community, and I found myself cautioning some of them, in fact, about being a little less fanatical and a bit more critical of the President if the need arises to dish out some contrary view to him. That way, I insisted, they would be truly helping him.  

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November 1st and 2nd were days of remembering. After visiting my husband’s grave and dropping by that of our family friend, the late Chief Justice Renato Corona, both in Heritage Memorial Park, I crossed over to the other side of Heritage to light a candle at the crypt of my brother, Ed Olivares. On rainy Nov. 2nd  I was at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio to visit the grave sites of my father-in-law and two brothers-in-law. Then I walked up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Libingan, guarded by four soldiers in raincoats, and I read the beautiful words inscribed there: “Here lies a Filipino soldier whose name is known only to God.” 

From there I crossed over to where the remains of three Philippine Presidents, namely, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal, lie. I noted a large area next to them, all boarded up in green GI sheets and it turned out to be the proposed burial site of President Ferdinand Marcos. A woman sweeping nearby whispered to me that the grave of the late dictator is already finished.

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In a few hours the Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the Marcos burial at Libingan---seven petitions seeking to prevent it as opposed to the Marcos family's petition to allow it. The SC decision has been postponed twice already, indicating the gravity of this issue  for the high magistrates; the pros and cons have made their stand clear with rallies in front of the Court for Marcos supporters, and at the Luneta for the oppositors.  I am signatory to one of the petitions against the Marcos burial at Libingan, but right now I wish to recall the excellent arguments of a columnist whose name unfortunately I cannot now remember.

He argued that the 1987 Constitution is a document borne out of the EDSA People Power Revolution and how, therefore, various institutions, led by the SC, have derived their resuscitated existence from that monumental epoch in our history---that one shining moment when our people drove out the dictator and recovered our freedom. How then, wrote this columnist, could the SC allow the burial of the same leader in the nation’s most hallowed ground?  How indeed? 

We would be totally incomprehensible to the world if our High Court were to rule favorably on Mr. Marcos’ burial in the Libingan. 

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The law that established the national heroes’ burial site provides that it be “for the inspiration and emulation of this generation and of generations still unborn.” The antis argue that Mr. Marcos was certainly not worthy of emulation but the pro-Marcos assert that he was president, and therefore he ought to be buried with the other presidents.  

I was thinking about this as I lingered around in that area last Nov. 2nd, and perhaps what could be done---to end this bitter controversy---is to separate the site reserved for soldiers who have fought and died for the nation, from the site marked exclusively for our Presidents and high officials. Libingan ng Mga Bayani separate from the Libingan ng Mga Pangulo at Iba Pang Matataas na Pinuno ng Bansa. That way there'd be no controversy: Mr. Marcos could be in the second burial site (I note that the remains of the late Foreign Secretary Carlos P. Romulo lie  just across from President Macapagal’s).

But I think that if the majority of our people were to be asked about this issue, they'd probably prefer that Marcos be buried---as former President Fidel Ramos' 1993 agreement  with the Marcos family had provided---in Batac, beside his beloved mother and where he is loved by his fellow Ilocanos. Now the Marcoses don't want to honor that agreement.