Soldiers at the BOC

 

This is not about questioning the wisdom of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive for the military to have part of its component deployed to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for law enforcement activities.

After all, not being a lawyer, one can only submit to the statement of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, saying, “Time and again, the President assures everyone that as a lawyer, he knows the limits of the power and authority of his office.”

This, after Malacañang finally saw it fit to declare a state of lawlessness at the BOC following the seemingly undetected shipment of illegal drugs (shabu) worth billions that entered the country through customs during the time of recently ousted Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña, and even during the time of his predecessor, Nicanor Faeldon.

Obviously, what is happening at the BOC can be considered as a crime committed against humanity, which can also be interpreted in the same vein as invasion or rebellion and the only way to quell it is by the use of military force which is a constitutional mandate of a president.

But what I am questioning, however, is the efficacy of such an order.

It is not as if there never were military officers assigned to the BOC before. In fact this is one government agency where, because of its notoriety as haven for nefarious activities, retired military leaders are immediately considered on the pretext that their training, rank, assignment or position while on active service will be able to instill discipline and change the despicable corrupt culture of the hugely income generating agency.

Alas, time and again the once highly respected gentleman and officer fall short of his mandate to tame and cleanse the agency or his department for that matter, of unscrupulous individuals and become instead a willing participant of a rotten system.

So what makes the deployment of ordinary soldiers a ray of hope at the BOC under a newly minted commissioner who is himself a general of the armed forces?

I understand it is a tactical approach not only to make the bureaucracy change its notorious corrupt practices but also effect a turn-around of the negative perception of the people about the BOC.

It’s an approach intended to stir ‘shock and awe’ feeling in the bureaucracy, but who are they kidding?

Whatever and however one describes the crime syndicate inside the bureau that are smuggling illegal drugs with impunity and creating havoc in our society, the fact remains that those behind it cannot easily be intimidated and, therefore, no amount of soldiers and weaponry brought in could ever bring down the monster that it has become all these years.

This is not to belittle our soldiers, but this is not the kind of confrontation they have been trained to do their best and so let us save them from embarrassment as they will surely fail. Without strong psychological preparedness in battling corruption, human frailty can easily succumb to temptation.

Hopefully, Duterte would consider looking once more into what Sen. Panfilo Lacson has suggested which is having a need for a sophisticated counter-intelligence mechanism in the BOC. This is not about force but rather of having a superior intelligence by any means under a competent and exemplary head.

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A living political martyr

 

It was not too long ago that a running controversy erupted between Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as to who was the smarter of the two.

Well, if Duterte kept his cool and exercised prudence, as his office expects him to do, people would have continued believing that he was the more intelligent.

Alas, Duterte got the better of his unbridled emotions, after Solicitor General Jose Calida reported his covert discovery that the amnesty granted to Trillanes in 2011 by then president Benigno Aquino III, for leading the Oakwood mutiny in 2003 and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007, was defective.

Immediately, Duterte issued Proclamation 572, declaring the amnesty “void ab initio,” for supposedly having failed to comply with two requirements for its granting, namely, (1) application for amnesty and (2) admission of guilt.

There is no doubt in the minds of many who has been following how Duterte and Trillanes have been feuding that each has been laying traps for the other to fall into.

It looks like this time the foxy Trillanes has been able to successfully snared Duterte first, for how else would you describe it when it is Trillanes now who is accusing Duterte’s point man, Calida, of “stealing” his amnesty application documents following these statements:  “I am calling on the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense, particularly AFP’s J1. They knew that I applied. They knew that I have the documents. Why did they allow Mr Calida to take it and lose it?”

Indeed, what a turn of events!

But does this mean that Trillanes has now the upper hand against Duterte despite being out on bail after Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 ordered his arrest that brought him to the Makati City Central Police Station for booking procedures, while still making his office at the senate building his home?

That could be anybody’s guess, but one thing sure is that this turn of events has given Trillanes even more opportunity to be basking in the lime light which he enjoys doing.

This has always been Trillanes’s game plan – to be the center of attention – as a renegade soldier and now a controversial senator.

Remember the verbal tussles he had had with his peers, the likes of Sen. Zubiri, Sen. Gordon, Sen. Cayetano, and even former Sen. Enrile, when the latter was still active?

Trillanes always comes out strutting like a peacock after these episodes for having caught the attention of people and the same thing is happening now against Duterte. All ears and eyes are directed towards him, yet again.

Indeed, this is a classic case of how one is made a living political martyr, perhaps to the realization and consternation of Duterte.

 

Distorting history at will

 

Marcos-Enrile tete-a-tete on the eve of the 46th anniversary of Martial Law.

Much has been said about the televised cozy chat between the ousted dictator’s son and namesake Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the eve of the 46th anniversary of Martial Law, which was for all intents and purposes a ploy to rewrite the brutal notes of history to sooth the ears of the Marcos heirs and those of the millennials, whom they think are clueless, and, thus, sympathetic to their plight.

So, who would be Bongbong’s preferred guest but the maestro himself, Enrile, then the Defense minister, who orchestrated and implemented the now infamous Proclamation 1081, starting with his own egregious claim that an attempt was made to assassinate him.

Whichever way one looks at the interview, however, it was a dud because no matter how Enrile distorted events at will to please the young interviewer, the dark years of the Marcos regime has been etched in stone and firmly established in the annals of Philippine history.

What made the tete-a-tete even more absurd and distasteful, to say the least, is that at his dotage Enrile allowed himself to be used even as history considers him, along with Fidel Ramos, then director of both the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Integrated Police (PIP), a hero of the EDSA Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Perhaps Marcos, the interviewer, succeeded in having Enrile spill the beams the way he wanted it to hear, but no one can deny that it was all staged at the expense of those still feeling the atrocities committed by the despot Marcos and those still yearning to see the “disaparecidos” – the missing ones.

We are fortunate that to this day we still have in our midst victims and patriots in their own rights whose lucidity can’t yet be questioned like former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., former senator Rene Saguisag, and former senator Heherson Alvarez, among others, who not only vehemently deny but has the courage to denounce the untruthful utterances of Enrile. They also represent the muted voices of the poor and deeply aggrieved Filipinos.

Those of us who have experienced, one way or another, the anxiety and fear of the martial law years will continue to speak adversely about it with conviction and go on denouncing the unrepentant  Marcos heirs who are now back in their glory days.

To the millennials who still find themselves in dilemma as to what the truth really is before, during and after martial law in the country, do not listen to interviews conducted by the Marcoses themselves for it is not only self-serving but more than anything it is an affront to your intelligence.

Read authentic Philippine history or any reliable source about the Marcos regime. That is all there is to it.

 

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!

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.

 

 

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.