Revilla’s magical win

 

Revilla and his ‘budots’ dance campaign video.

I am of course talking about Ramon “Bong” Revilla who seem to have secured the 11th spot in the senatorial race in the last mid-term elections.

Like many, I am wondering what Revilla has that Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile do not have.

I mention the three in comparison because all are out on bail after being charged with plunder at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan over alleged misuse of their pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the lump-sum funds previously allocated to legislators.

Could it be that Revilla has a more effective talisman than Estrada and Enrile have? Not that I believe that having in their possession something that is thought to have magical powers and bring good luck could actually happen, but the fact that Revilla has been returned to the Senate after what he has done makes one wonder really.

Does a lucky charm really works or is it the shallowness of the Filipino voters that made Revilla won?

It would have been a satisfying victory for the people if, like Estrada and Enrile, Revilla was repudiated too. For a government official, and a senator at that, to be accused of pocketing P224 million in kickbacks from fake projects with the help of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who herself was convicted of plunder is simply unconscionable no matter how one looks at it and the same rejection, therefore, should have befallen his candidacy.

I mean, if like Napoles, Revilla’s former chief-of-staff Richard Cambe, was also found guilty of plunder by the anti-graft court, what does that speak of Revilla acquittal, given that he is the head of his Senate staff? The same question can be ask of Enrile, while his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila Reyes, continue to languish at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, while Enrile was released on bail in 2015 in consideration of his old age and poor health.

Does this mean to say that had Estrada and Enrile also utilized a campaign video that showed him perform a goofy dance that they would have won too?

How shallow and cheap can we all be to parlay our votes for an idiotic dance so that we can have a questionable character at the senate to represent the Filipino people in legislative matters that will protect the interests of the country and its government?.

Sense of humor is one thing that Filipinos have aplenty. But just because a candidate has found a medium to amuse people so that his disgraceful past can be swept under the rug is another deceitful act on the part of the candidate.

On the part of the Filipinos who still voted for him, it is called stupidity.

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What hope?

I understand the continuing concern the opposition has about the impunity over how China developed, occupied and militarized the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This, even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, overwhelmingly favored the Philippines in its 2016 decision on the disputed waters of the South China Sea, of which the WPS is part of, ruling that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.

The tribunal furthermore found China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in those waters by interfering with its fishing and petroleum exploration and by constructing artificial islands which are being used now for military purposes.

But if one looks at the events leading to China’s massive development and eventual occupation and militarization of the WPS with an open mind, it must have been and continue to be the concern also of all Filipinos including President Rodrigo Duterte who assumed office while the country waited with bated breath at the PCA’s verdict.

Thus, I find it quite unsavory and unfair that to this day Duterte continues to be at the receiving end of verbal tirades from different parties opposing the president for not doing anything against China’s incursion in the WPS.

Not only that. Now former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and a group of fishermen have filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), that also sits in The Hague in the Netherlands, against Chinese President Xi Jinping and some Chinese officials of crimes against humanity for what the PCA described as “severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species”.

As if equating this accusation against Xi to crimes against humanity, which are certain acts that are deliberately committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population, is not ridiculous enough, now comes Vice President Leni Robredo chiming in, saying, that she appreciated the bold steps taken by del Rosario and Morales “for it added to the hope of Filipinos, that we have the courage to stand up to a giant like China.”

What hope is Robredo talking about?

If the most powerful nation, the U.S.A., and its Western allies, has not been able to rebuke and deter China’s hegemonic ambition in the area and China has no respect for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) nor has it accepted or acknowledged the judgment rendered by the PCA, declaring the ruling in fact as “ill-founded” and “naturally null and void”, what would make Duterte’s critics believe that the ICC has the authority and wherewithal to abrogate China’s predominance in the disputed area when it is not even a member of the organization?

Duterte’s heir apparent

 

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio

No matter how much Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio tries to fend off questions about her being the heir apparent of her father, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, the writing on the wall is as clear as when night follows day that she is charting her own course to be next in line to the presidency.

Is this good for the country?

Well, it all depends on how one is perceiving things this early, especially where she goes, what she does and the kind of company she keeps around her.

There is no doubt in the minds of many Filipinos that, like her father, she has the traits and the background that would make her a competent head of government.

Growing like her father to become a fearless lawyer, following his footsteps as an astute politician and succeeding in sustaining the peace, safety and stability of Davao City that was once her father’s domain, Sara can only be seen as a worthy successor, indeed, exhibiting the same brand of Duterte politics, political will and no non-sense governance.

More worthy perhaps than one thinks about Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who never got to be a local government executive and could not claim the same educational and political achievements as Sara, but who became president, nevertheless, because of the ‘magic’ of his name.

That Sara is very glaringly visible beside the president in every Malacañang state function and even during state visits not only signifies the president’s confidence in his daughter’s ability but is likewise giving her the early insights of what the presidency is all about during these events.

That Sara accompanies the president, especially during overseas official trips abroad, to prevent him from committing faux pas is an inconsequential alibi.

But in the same manner that Sara has plausible strong and positive attributes as a political leader who could carry out the same vision and mission her father has for the country, regrettably there are also weaknesses in her persona that make people cynical about her political motivations and intentions.

I am referring of course to her close association and strong endorsement of senatorial bets like Imee Marcos, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, all of who continue to leave a bad taste in the mouth of many Filipinos.

I was hoping that Sara would be unsentimental about the Marcoses and accept the truth and the reality about what this despicable family has done to the country and its people, even as Pres. Duterte poignantly consider them a family friend. Alas, she stands with her father on this.

Also, why champion the candidacy of Estrada and Revilla, who together with Juan Ponce Enrile, were involve in the multi-billion-peso public funds scam so blatantly misused during their term as senators and which got them all jailed for plunder and malversation charges? That they have not been convicted yet does not mean that they deserve to have their seats back. That is simply absurd and not in conformity to the Dutertes’ strong aversion for corruption in government.

 

Minimum age of criminal responsibility

Debates about the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) has been a contentious issue among some sectors of society that finally both the House and the Senate seemed to have agreed to amend the existing law lowering it from 15 to 12 years old.

Under the amended law, a child aged 12 to 18 would be sent to an intervention center called the Bahay Pag-Asa if he or she commits the crimes of rape, murder or violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The reason why some sectors, including the ranking members of the Catholic Church and the Child Rights group, decry the lowering further of the age where a child can be prosecuted within the country’s justice system is because they think and believe that these kids are still young and innocent when caught committing the aforementioned crimes.

What this presupposes is that a 12-year-old kid still lacks the discernment to understand the moral and psychological components of criminal responsibility and the consequences of the wrongful act committed.

Scientific studies, on the other hand, has shown that discernment on decisions and actions—which is apart from the ability to distinguish right and wrong—does not develop until adolescent years.

I cannot agree more with the ideal truth, but the reality however is that in countries where poverty is overwhelming there is not really that much difference in the thinking, language and deeds of the 12 and 15-year-old kids in the streets. Mark difference can only be seen in their size.

Thus, to me, I am more hopeful of a transformation happening in their lives when these kids are brought to the Bahay Pag-asa once they find themselves in conflict with the law. With competent administrators/psychologists in place to care and teach them values and guide them to become better persons, there is no doubt these kids will come out more better than when given just a slap on their hands and entrusted back to their parents who am sure won’t give much a hoot about their future.

It is along this frame of thought that I disagree with the appeal made by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to Congress to re-consider the amendment declaring that lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility poses ‘greater harm’ and is therefore anathema to a ‘civilized society’ like ours.

The truth is that the younger we teach and inculcate in the kid’s mind values, the sooner they can have sharpened discernment about the legality of their decisions and actions.

De Lima’s dilemma

 

Arch-enemies Duterte and De Lima.

One can only admire the diligence of Senator Leila de Lima in regularly coming out with hand-written dispatches from her detention cell at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, in Quezon City, which contains almost always barbs against her arch-enemy, President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Without access to any electronic gadget and communication device, the written word is my only weapon while in detention,” De Lima, the first prominent politician jailed under the Duterte regime, said.

Admitting that she could still use her pen and paper in expressing her thoughts on important issues like Duterte’s war on drugs, extra-judicial killings, human rights and governance among others, and able to share her feelings about her current situation only means that her voice has not been suppressed and that she is using it brazenly as a weapon not only to destroy Duterte but also to play upon the emotions of people.

On one hand Duterte has prevented de Lima from gallivanting, but on the other hand de Lima can’t really complain because she continues to exercise her freedom of expression to the fullest, which includes taking potshots at Duterte. For this she should be thankful because it is as if she has taken the floor of the senate to lambast Duterte.

In de Lima’s latest transmittal she is reminding people again, least they forget, that Duterte is and has always been the chief instigator of thousands of extra-judicial killings and a foremost misogynist.

That Duterte’s tirades and blasphemies against the Church and the Catholic faith have gone beyond what is acceptable, according to her, as he seems to be inciting his base of supporters to rob and /or kill bishops.

The truth is that, carried by her unhinged emotions, de Lima could no longer see anything that is good in what Duterte is doing for the country. She thrives in sowing fear like saying that Duterte has treasonously sold us out to China for refusing to assert the Hague ruling in exchange for dubious loans, or that Duterte is now more likely to harm, harass or even kill human rights defenders (HRDs) as he has now tagged them as “enemies of the State”. Worse still is that de Lima is peddling the idea that Duterte wants to be a dictator.

The irony here is that in de Lima’s quest to be perceived by the populace as the mouthpiece of  political critics of Duterte, she has forgotten that she is in jail mainly because she is facing serious and credible drug charges while heading the Department of Justice during the Aquino administration.

The people, therefore, know who de Lima is and know even better who Duterte is – warts and all.

Finger pointing

 

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim

There is no disputing anymore that the West Philippine Sea (WPS) has been turned into a militarized zone by China. Much has been written about it and photos will prove the extent of the military build-up in the area.

But I just want to give my two cents’ on a recent news report where US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was quoted, when interviewed on ANC, saying, “I’m not sure if it’s really fair to point a finger at the United States because we’re not doing anything. It’s China that’s taking aggressive unilateral actions in the disputed area.”

This has reference of course to a remark made by President Rodrigo Duterte sometime this year that it is the US who should be blamed for the reclamation activities done by Beijing in the WPS.

What Duterte simply meant is that had the US, as the acknowledged leader of the free world, intervened early on by calling upon China to respect and adhere with the rulings of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), aggression and expansionism by China, using its historic claims of “Nine-Dash Line” could not have happened in the SCS and in the WPS, for that matter.

Note that UNCLOS defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans; it establishes guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

Because of UNCLOS, the Philippines made a unilateral move to sue China before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 due to China’s aggression and incursions in the WPS which is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile-exclusive economic zone (EEZ). We all know by now that the Philippines won the case against China in July 2016 when the UN court junked China’s nine-dash line claim on the entire South China Sea.

Duterte therefore was right in putting the onus on the US which, unfortunately Kim willfully ignored and refrained from disproving it.

The truth of the matter is that while the US participated in the negotiations of modifications to the treaty in the early 1990s, before it came into force in 1994, and continues to recognize the significance of UNCLOS, it has, however, failed to ratify it to this day, thus, compromising its ability to peacefully resolve SCS disputes by its non-party status to UNCLOS.

It is in this context that China took advantage of the seeming absence of the US in strongly promoting rules-based approach to governance in SCS and in the WPS, for that matter.

The seeming US nonchalance also failed to stop China’s impunity to increase its control and extend its authority in the region at the expense of its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

Command responsibility

Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla

There is no doubt that the latest Sandiganbayan’s ruling convicting  businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the mastermind of the multi-billion-peso lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, and acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla surely leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of many Filipinos.

It was not so much that Napoles got nailed, as she had it unmistakably coming, but finding a trusted staff in the person of Richard Cambe blameworthy than Revilla and adjudged equally as guilty as Napoles is simply beyond logic.

Why, what has happened to the popular tenet of command responsibility expected of those in power, position and influence, whether in the military or civilian setting, who has under them loyal subordinates who are now in hot water blindly following the bidding of their superiors?

What I am saying is that if Revilla has the unfortunate Cambe who has been sentenced to ‘reclusion perpetua’ or 40 years imprisonment, so too has former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, also implicated in the same corruption scandal but out on bail, a trusting soul in the person of his chief of staff,  Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, who continues to languish in her detention cell at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Taguig City, when her petition for bail was denied by the Sandiganbayan citing strong pieces of evidence about her participation in the so-called PDAF or “pork barrel” scam.

Command responsibility is about leadership and leadership is about being able to admit and accept failure and being able to take the blame for it instead of passing the blame to others. Worse still is being silent about it to save ones skin.

There could not be a better example of who should possess this remarkable trait of a leader than in our public officials, like congressmen and senators, who are tasked to serve the people.

But, alas, public servants they no longer are because instead of teaching and practicing values-based leadership, corruption has become the norm and excellence the exception.

We understand that public officials the likes of a congressman or a senator manages a large workforce and deals with numerous complex problems and so the more they should be vigilant that things won’t get out of control because the repercussion could be detrimental and far reaching.

Congressmen and senators have all the resources in their hands to ensure that plans, programs and projects benefitting the country and its people, especially the poor, will come to fruition.

But the same resources, however, can be used wittingly by unscrupulous public officials who stand to gain vast monetary advantages because of their complicity at the expense of those they promised to serve and without regard to command responsibility simply because they make sure that the dots won’t connect to make them liable and culpable.

Such is the case of this on-going episode of the infamous pork barrel scam by public servants.