Trillanes’ cowardice

 

Senator Antonio Trillanes

For somebody like Senator Antonio Trillanes, who gloats about being a crusader against corrupt government officials, including his mistahs in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), one would think that he would also be the epitome of fearlessness as a leader.

If Trillanes thinks he has stirred a hornet’s nest in exposing the nefarious activities of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, after the latter issued Proclamation 572 voiding the amnesty granted Trillanes by then President Benigno Aquino for leading the infamous 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege, then he should bravely face the consequences of his action.

If Trillanes firmly believes that he is being politically persecuted for being a fierce critic of Duterte’s style of governance then, by all means, he should show to the Filipinos the stuff he is made of and convince the people that he is better person than Duterte.

There is nothing more dismaying, therefore, than seeing a pretentious soldier turned senator who makes the senate floor not only as haven for parliamentary immunity from fiery exposes, but uses it as well as physical structure for his safety and security.

Such is what is happening now to Trillanes who has been staying in the Senate building since Proclamation 572 stated that the amnesty granted was “void ab initio” or invalid from the beginning as the senator supposedly failed to comply with two requirements for the granting of amnesty: (1) application for amnesty and (2) admission of guilt.

Obviously Trillanes’ own forced confinement in the Senate building is to avoid arrest even as the leaders of the military and police forces have given their assurances that no apprehensions be done unless there exist a warrant for his arrest.

In curtailing his own freedom, Trillanes is showing utter cowardice, even as his stature is being seen by many as a political martyr.

What a shame!

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Duterte wrong in making Trillanes a political martyr

 

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Antonio Trillanes

President Rodrigo Duterte may be a shrewd politician but his promulgation this time of Proclamation 572 ordering the police and the military to file criminal and administrative cases against Sen. Antonio Trillanes in connection with his involvement in 2003 Oakwood mutiny and 2007 Manila Peninsula siege is a grieve mistake that he will come to regret later.

There is no doubt that Trillanes has been a thorn in Duterte’s side ever since the latter thwarted the former’s political ambition of becoming his vice presidential running mate during the 2016 presidential election.

As swell-headed as Trillanes is as a politician, he recognized earlier the ‘bankability’ of Duterte as a presidential candidate and being a heartbeat away from the presidency was where he wanted himself positioned. It was for political expediency, pure and simple.

Duterte, however, know who Trillanes is and the latter’s military adventurism in the early 2000 may not have sit well with him, and neither his performance as a senator impressed him, thus he deemed Trillanes more as a baggage that could drag him down in the polls and therefore unacceptable.

This rebuff from Duterte did not deter Trillanes from running as an independent candidate and true enough he suffered the worst beating of his political career placing 5th among the 6 vice presidential aspirants.

To the cavalier Trillanes this humiliating defeat made him, along with another shamed senator, Leila de Lima, Duterte’s fiercest critics, with the former even going after the president’s children.

Of course we know how Trillanes got catapulted to the political limelight – his notoriety as leader of the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege which both aimed to overthrow the Arroyo administration.

Knowing at the time that the Filipinos were starting to get disgruntled with the corrupt administration of then Pres. Gloria Arroyo, Trillanes took advantage of the situation by playing with the emotions of the people, even as he faced serious rebellion charges, by declaring himself a candidate for senator in 2007.

Known for having affinity for underdogs, the Filipino people elected Trillanes senator of the realm even as his incarceration prevented him from going around the country campaigning.

Trillanes formally became a senator when President Benigno Aquino III, with the concurrence of Congress, granted him and at least 38 of his fellow Magdalo soldiers amnesty in December 2010. He was reelected to a second Senate term in 2013 and will remain as senator until his term ends in 2019.

But the nation finds itself once again in bedlam now as Duterte, through proclamation 572, has voided the amnesty given to Trillanes 8 years ago claiming it illegal from the very beginning.

Why, if Trillanes is indeed a pain in the ass for Duterte, does the senator have to be silenced this way? Does this not smack of political persecution?

This is why at the outset I said that Duterte may regret later to have taken this action because this kind of political repression only elevates and favorably changes the perception of the people about Trillanes.

It is because of Duterte’s high popularity and trust ratings that Trillanes has been preparing for his political demise.

But that seems to be changing now as Proclamation 572 is helping Trillanes regain his popularity and will be around for much longer to continue being Duterte’s tormentor.

This is the price Duterte has to pay for making Trillanes a political martyr.

 

 

Performance over intelligence

Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

In this day and age, Philippine politics is no longer about a candidate’s brilliant mind being noticed and catapulted to political stardom. It is now a free-for-all and it is not doing the country any good.

If the millennials are part of this readership, I would refer them to the era of the intellectual giants where the likes of Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Sumulong, Ambrosio Padilla, the Tañadas, the Pelaez’, the Tolentinos, the Manglapus, the Rodrigos, Gerardo Roxas, Jovito Salonga, Benigno Aquino Jr., among others, and even Ferdinand Marcos, who later became a dictator, graced the august body of the Senate not with their bloated egos, but with their brilliance and gift of gab.

Except for Marcos whose brutal regime ended disastrously for the country and its people, the other illustrious names mentioned above could have done a better job as president of the country but, alas, it never was their destiny to lead.  Or how could they when Marcos stifled their chances of becoming one.

Politics in this country evolved into one that has kept us thinking if we could do any better than electing movie stars, TV personalities, military people and others that have earned notoriety for one reason or another to the Senate and catapulting them to the presidency.

But more than the glaring flaw of the candidates in this new era, we can only blame the electorate for accepting and embracing the inadequacies of our present politicians and trusting them to lead us to nirvana.

Thus, in this day and age, performance matters more than the intelligence of any politician.

It is not therefore whether President Rodrigo Duterte is more intelligent than Senator Antonio Trillanes, or vice versa. I just find this argument childish, if not absurd.

Between the two we could only ask whose performance is impacting the nation today?

It should sink in Trillanes’ head by now that Duterte won the presidency because of his performance as Davao City mayor and his mission and vision to do the same to the country as a whole. His term is not yet over so we will see and give him the benefit of the doubt.

But it should even sink more in Trillanes’ head by now that his unsuccessful run for the vice presidency in 2016, placing 5th among the 6 candidates, speaks volume of the kind of person he is and his uneventful performance as a politician.

 

Duterte wants more citizens like Ninoy Aquino

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and the martyr Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino

In commemorating the 35 years of martyrdom of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, President Rodrigo Duterte once more encouraged the citizens of the republic to reflect on his sacrifices that led to his heroic death.

A staunch critic of the despot Marcos, Ninoy was assassinated while deplaning at the then-Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the United States.

Ninoy’s death sparked the now widely known EDSA revolution that marked the beginning of the end of the brutal Marcos regime and at the end also catapulted Ninoy’s widow, Cory, to the presidency in February 1986.

While it was a public statement, I deemed Duterte’s exhortation, however, as one intended more to politicians and would-be leaders of this country.

“In this time of real and lasting change, we need more citizens like him (Aquino) so we can steer our country towards the direction where a brighter and better future awaits us all,” Duterte said.

Duterte explained that this can only be achieved “if we work together to institute meaningful reforms that will put an end to the many social ills that have obstructed our path towards becoming a mature and stable democracy.”

I have no doubt in my mind that Duterte is performing and doing even more than what Ninoy has envisioned for the country, but while both Ninoy and Duterte have exceptional leadership skills, can the same be said of those “wannabes?”

While both also have expressed the same patriotic fervor in the past, I have, now, reservations as to Duterte’s deep feeling of love and loyalty for the country.

Why am I saying this?

Well, it is because I find it paradoxical that while Duterte wants more citizens like Ninoy to be leaders of this county, he has specifically and unabashedly made reference of the son and namesake of the dictator Marcos as his chosen successor in case he decides to step down from the presidency.

Although this will never happen because of its unconstitutionality and the apprehension of what might history say about him and his shameful and damned legacy, the fact alone that Duterte toyed with this idea makes him insensitive to the feelings of many Filipinos and exposes himself as very much less of what Ninoy was.

Ninoy decided to come back 35 years ago to lead the struggle against the despotic regime of Marcos because he deeply believed that the Filipino is worth dying for.

Compare this to Duterte now supporting the Marcos daughter for her senate candidacy and favoring the Marcos son to replace him if he decides to resign because of his belief that the unrepentant Marcoses are worth living for!

What an absurdity and a contradiction, indeed.

 

A new twist in Phil-China relationship

 

This is a new twist in the Phil-China relationship that I surely welcome and so should the rest of the Filipino people who feels aggrieved, bullied and disadvantaged over China’s wanton aggression and utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty – the international agreement that defines the limits of the territorial seas of nations and the areas in which they could exploit marine resources.

It is now history at what China has done and accomplished in the South China Sea (SCS), of which the West Phil Sea is part of it, and for a little insight you may open this link, among the other pieces I wrote about these controversial seas:  https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/eez/.

If it is of any consolation at least President Rodrigo Duterte has finally found the courage and the aggressiveness to chide China, calling it wrong the latter’s claim of the airspace over their militarized artificial islands in the SCS.

“That is wrong because those waters are what we consider international sea,” Duterte said in a speech before an audience that included foreign guests.

“You cannot create an island, it’s man-made, and you say that the air above these artificial islands is yours,” the president also said.

The logic of this statement is simply profound and, indeed, incontrovertible.

This rebuke from Duterte came in the wake of a repeated warning radioed by the Chinese military to a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon plane to “leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding” while the reconnaissance aircraft flew close to some of the man-made islands.

On this, Duterte said, “I hope that China would temper … its behavior.”

This observation and comments by Duterte did not sit well with Beijing, however, as it ignored Duterte’s chiding, saying and asserting instead that where the man-made islands are in the SCS all are China’s inherent territory and, thus, it has the right to react to foreign ships or aircraft that get close to its islands.

Perhaps piqued by China’s continued arrogance in asserting its supremacy of the airspace over the militarized man-made islands, which for timeless occasions even our own military aircraft patrolling the area receives Chinese radio warnings, Duterte could only issue another relative statement, saying, “You cannot create islands there and claim the sea. That is not an island, artificial islands are not true, are prohibited in the middle sea. ‘Yan nga ang rule diyan eh (That’s the rule there).

Another frustration vented? You bet!

I only hope that in this new twist in Phil-China relationship Duterte will be able to see a lot more to it than meets the eye.

It’s never too late.

Duterte vents frustration

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

This may be aptly described also as the Duterte resignation brouhaha.

This has reference of course to the latest announcement by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte during a speech at Malacañang Palace that he was mulling of quitting the presidency, saying, “Guys, I want you to know that I am thinking of stepping down because I’m tired,” he said. “I am not angry [with] anybody. My chase against graft and corruption seems to be endless, and it has contaminated almost all government departments and offices.”

It is not the first time we have heard Duterte hinting about his plans of stepping down despite having four more years in his term.

But I don’t think Duterte is really serious in his threat of giving up the presidency.

For one he has made history and he owns the bragging rights about winning the presidency with over six million votes against his closest rival and to this day has a high support and trust rating from the Filipino people. In fact Duterte called his “historic” victory “the triumph of the people, by the people and for the people.”

But for another and more importantly, Duterte certainly would like history to be kind to him, thus all this brouhaha of having a Marcos or an Escudero to succeed him instead of Robredo and suggesting that a military junta would even be better to run the country when he steps down are all nonsensical and should not be taken seriously.

To say, however, that Duterte’s expressed feelings and emotions are product of his frustrations in not being able to defeat the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country and not being able to stop corruption from spreading in all sectors of government at the time frame he promised during the campaign and beyond is simply being forthright and human.

Duterte’s candor should not be mistaken for complete failure in his governance especially in dealing with corruption, criminality and most of all about the illegal drug scourge.

If Duterte has been able to sustain a high trust rating among Filipinos it simply means that most like what they see in him and what he is doing for the country. It could have been worse if we elected a yellow-bellied politician as a leader.

Thus, Duterte owes it to the people to continue leading.

But what the people can ask of Duterte at this very crucial moment in our history is to ponder once more if he really has the right people who like him, has primarily the interest of the country and the well-being of its people.

Duterte has to seriously think once more if his closeness with China a boon or bane for the country in the long term. I am saying this because almost all of the sources of illegal drugs in the country come from China and to think that China is very much our neighbor now.

Duterte should already refrain from trying to ram down in every Filipino’s throat to support and have another Marcos at the helm. Duterte won the presidency because he showed to be a different animal. Marcos belongs to the group of animals the people repudiated which made Duterte a winner.

Lastly, Duterte should rethink about his exhortation and move for the country to adopt a federal  form of government. This is one political recipe that will only exacerbate the proliferation of drugs, encourage more corruption and abet criminality. The country is not ready for this. The country needs politicians in the mold of Duterte to make federalism a success.

Otherwise, Duterte’s frustrations today will be the Filipino people’s nightmare tomorrow.

 

 

The federalism hoopla

 

Ever since the subject of federalism has been broach up years back I never was sold out to it.

The current 1987 Constitution was promulgated during the time of Pres. Cory Aquino when she discarded the 1973 Constitution because  “she did not want to derive legitimacy and power from the very institutions that she fought”, saying, she wanted to start anew and break from the “vestiges of a disgraced dictatorship.”

I am just saying this at the outset because the 1973 constitution, to this day, has served us well.

One of the compelling arguments for those trumpeting the federal form of government is that the concentration of power and wealth will now be decentralized such that governance is now done in a regional manner thus making it more convenient and responsive to the immediate need of the people.

So what if the authority will now be localized and to hell with “imperial Manila”?

Are we saying that by changing the Constitution again in order to comply with the requirements of a federal form of government we will finally and ultimately be able to address the country’s political and socio-economic woes?

Can’t we not, for a moment, rationalize that in fact and in truth what has gone wrong all these years that we had been under a presidential form of government is that the people we elected to lead this country did not live up to our highest expectations?

Is the transformation we are expecting from this Constitutional change will also alter completely the character of the people such that peace, tranquility and progress for the nation and the Filipinos will be attained?

Or is the shifting from presidential to federalism only going to be a transition from bad to worse?

And I am not even talking here yet about the enormous expenses to be incurred when it is going to be effected, God forbids.

I had always been pragmatic in my belief that after experiencing the dark days of the Marcos regime the brilliant minds behind the drafting of the 1987 Constitution made sure that what they wrote will do justice to the Filipino people and will be able to stand the test of times.

The 1987 Constitution may not be perfect, but if it is deemed to have failed such that people are calling for it to be re-written, the stark reality is that it is the imperfection of man that has made it deficient.

The election of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency in 2016 has convinced me more than any other time that it only takes a determined, fearless and strong-willed leader who knows his law to make the 1987 Constitution potent and successful.

I find it very ironic that in the same vein Duterte is the very person that is loudly advocating the change to federalism.

It would have served Duterte well had he thoughtfully considered  former Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s warning that shifting to federalism was a “lethal experiment” as it did not suit the Philippines and the “people of our generation and even those of the succeeding generations.” Davide happens to be one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Davide is not only referring to the Philippines being a third world country with more regions poorer than richer, but more so about our nature as Filipinos.

Davide said that if the shift to federalism were to deal with the imbalance created by an “Imperial Manila,” then this could be done by “effectively and efficiently implementing the relevant provisions” of the present Constitution “for strong local autonomy and decentralization.”

With the kind of president that Duterte is, this could easily be done without spending billions to make federalism workable and sustainable in the whole Philippine archipelago.