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, 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. 


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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. 


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.

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