Duterte’s first year in office

 

I have lived long enough to see presidents come and go in this country but I have never seen the likes of President Rodrigo Duterte who hit the ground running at a considerable speed upon assumption of office.

While Duterte may have been ready with his administration’s 10-point socio-economic agenda that included among other things the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law to enable especially poor couples to make informed choices and family planning, he, however, entrusted the execution of all these to his social and economic mangers while he took it upon himself to lead his much vaunted campaign promise to fight the proliferation of illegal drugs , corruption and criminality.

As an unconventional politician whose approach to solving problem has been described as ‘out-of-the-box’, not to mention the colorful language he uses especially when piqued, is what has endeared him to the Filipinos which is why he was overwhelmingly voted to the presidency.

I am not going to discuss here Duterte’s defining moments individually which includes among other things his running after and eventually putting Sen. Leila de Lima in police custody for using drug money to finance her senatorial bid, his alleged killings and human rights violation stemming from his bloody war on drugs that has been harshly criticize here and abroad by international human rights agencies and advocates, his antagonistic stance towards the U.S., his shift from a U.S. dictated foreign policy to an independent foreign policy, his open arms policy towards China despite the latter’s incursion and militarization of the West Philippine Sea, his diplomatic sortie to Russia, and last but not least of his controversial decisions is the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

For me what is important in Duterte’s 365 days in office is putting into context how the country and the Filipino people are today having Duterte as our president.

I do not know about you, but it makes me wonder, if not guessing, how it would have been for the Philippines and the Filipinos had we had Roxas, Poe or Binay as the president.

Knowing what we know now about the wide-ranging prevalence and gravity of illegal drug use in the country, could any of the other presidential aspirants, had they won, had the political will or the gumption to declare war against it, as Duterte has done, knowing that you are up against ruffians and monsters?

Could they have had the guts to discover and say that we are now a narco-political country?

Would talking to just the MILF, passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law and establishing a new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, prevented the Islamic State-inspired Maute group from storming and creating havoc in Marawi City.

Would they have the potency to declare martial law?

Perhaps Divine Providence determined the course that Duterte be president, warts and all, for he has what it takes to lead and fight for the Filipinos in preserving the integrity of the country and having it respected.

This in essence is what is Duterte’s presidency about one year after and in the next 5 years, God willing.

 

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Trillanes’ show of idiocy

 

Senator Antonio Trillanes

I find it truly nothing but a show of idiocy Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s absence at the Independence Day rites at Luneta park.

Trillanes described Duterte as ‘tactless’ for skipping the celebration just because the latter lacked sleep, he said, and uttering further the following statement: “You will see in this instance that he does not care, that he does not give any value to this very important event in our country’s history. What’s to lose by waking up early?”

There is nothing to lose actually, Sen. Trillanes, if Duterte’s body clock is similar to yours.

And when I talk about body clock I am not referring simply to the most basic daily rhythm of the sleep-wake cycle.

Perhaps you are not aware, but research has been finding that the body’s clock is responsible for more than just sleep and wakefulness. Other systems, like hunger, mental alertness, and mood, stress, heart function, and immunity also operate on a daily rhythm.

This is where the stark difference lies between you and Duterte because circumstances surrounding your daily lives at this very instant are distinct and divergent.

What I am simply saying is that you, Mr. Senator, is not burdened by the awesome responsibility that President Duterte is carrying on his shoulder in the light of the Marawi City siege by the Maute-led militant group who have sworn allegiance to Islamic State, including dozens from neighboring countries and the Middle East, which was the reason why martial law was declared in Mindanao.

It is not the siege alone per se, but it is the onerous responsibility of facing the consequences of lives lost defending and liberating the beleaguered city from the clutches of evil, not to mention the onus of rebuilding the displaced lives and infrastructure of the city when it is all over.

While you, Mr. Senator, is still harping the lawfulness of the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, the fact is that you are living an easy life and very well far from the predicament that President Duterte is in today.

Thus, I find it absurd and appalling that Trillanes continues to have the temerity to publicly say that he is frustrated and disappointed that he is the nation’s president.

Thank goodness you belong to the trivial few who dislike Duterte because the vital many in this country also think and believe that your presumptuous and arrogant attitude is a big disservice to the country and the Filipino people.

That is the long and short of it.

Government forces alone should liberate Marawi City

 

President Rodrigo Duterte, while on official visit to Russia, imposed martial law for 60 days on the island of Mindanao on May 23 following the Maute attack in Marawi City.

As we already know the declaration of martial law is a constitutional power that the president has when he sees the country or a part of it being subjugated with impunity by extremists or terrorists, the likes of what was seen and reported in Marawi.

The imposition of martial law is said to be premised upon the principle that “the state has a right to defend itself” and rests on the proposition that “every state possesses the power of self-preservation.”

Martial law has been characterized as “the public right of self-defense against a danger to the order or the existence of the state.”

Lest I be misunderstood, I am not arguing whether or not Duterte is right in declaring martial law in Mindanao. What he is and where he is, there is no doubt that he knows better than most of us especially when he says that the militant Maute group’s incursion in Marawi City is fueled by drug money.

Whether it is drug money or funds coming from the foreign terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the fact alone that the ISIS inspired Maute group was able to terrorize Marawi causing the residents to fled hastily to Iligan city and elsewhere only means that they have the wherewithal to establish their own caliphate or Islamic State in the area.

That being the case, it becomes even more justifiable that martial has been declared so that government forces can wage war against them as mandated and, with God’s help, will be able to liberate Marawi from the evil doings of this group.

You will probably notice that I invoked the intervention of the Divine Providence.

I did for the simple reason that it is what gives our government forces the fortitude to fight for what is right, just and lawful, and what is best for the Filipino people in addition to what they know about fighting skills.

Thus, I am averse to the idea that President Duterte made a clarion call to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the CPP’s New People’s Army (NPA) to join the government in fighting the militant Maute group in Marawi City.

It is bad enough that all of them are thorns on the side of government, which to this day continue to be problematic as when they started rebelling and worshiping their own respective ideology.

Making these dissident groups part and parcel of our loyal government forces, who have pledged allegiance to the Filipino flag, for the sake of patriotism, is not only precarious but a very unsound military strategy.

Truly, it will only complicate matters.

At best it will put government at a disadvantaged, at worst the country will lose face.

 

A “bully” is an apt description of China in the SCS

 

U.S. Senator John McCain (photo by Reuters)

It surprises me no end hearing highly respected Republican U.S. Senator John McCain describing China as behaving like a “bully” with its militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Of course that is what it is or it won’t be called and acknowledged the second most powerful nation on Earth today, and fast catching up to surpass the U.S.

What I am saying is that when China started getting economically strong and used it in building its military might to be able to do what it wanted with impunity, like claiming most of the resource-rich South China Sea, it was simply making a statement not only to the other claimant nations in the region, but more so to the western world, especially the U.S., that it is there to stay and not even an international body like the United Nations (UN) could drive it out.

Like the rest of our neighbor-nations we also knew what we were up against when China started reclaiming and converting atolls and reefs into militarily equipped islands.

But what was even worse was when it included in their build-up the country’s exclusive economic zone, a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles and over which the country has special rights to explore and exploit its marine resources in the water and beneath.

Thus, China, which does not respect the UNCLOS, prevented our own fishermen from catching fish in our own territorial waters.

If this is not bullying in the real sense of the word, I do not know what is.

By claiming almost the entire of SCS China was already bullying the world and if only the U.S. reacted to this claim sooner and challenged China’s hegemony in the area it would have not gotten to a point where the SCS, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, could be a potential flash point.

Now to counter the perceived Chinese aggression in the area, the U.S. has been conducting so-called freedom-of-navigation exercises, the most recent of which was conducted by a U.S navy warship near Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Yes, McCain is right in describing China as a “bully”, but he and the rest of the American politicians could have prevented China from becoming one in the SCS had they decidedly choose to confront China much, much earlier.

Yes to martial law in Mindanao – Part II

 

Former President Fidel Ramos

It boggles my mind why of all people Fidel Ramos, the military’s second most powerful official after General Fabian Ver during the dark years of the Marcos martial law era, and who later became president of the country, is stepping out front and disparaging at President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration putting the whole of Mindanao under martial law.

Ramos’ main fear and contention is that abuses of any manner, shape and form will destroy the nation once more, the way it happened during the Marcos years.

I think Ramos knows whereof he speaks because under Martial Law and the EDSA Revolution, Wikipedia has this to say about him: Ramos headed the Philippine Constabulary, then a major service branch of the Armed Forces, that acted as the country’s national police until 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos imposed Martial Law. Ramos is held responsible by for human rights abuses committed under Martial Law as head of the Philippine Constabulary chief; the unit responsible in the arrest tortures of civilians.

It is in this light that people should start reminding Ramos that the only similarity Duterte has with Marcos as a leader is in their ability to lead the country with an iron hand.

With Marcos’ corrupted wife and cronies, martial law was declared because of an ulterior motive to benefit themselves and that is what they did when the plundered the nation dry after committing the utmost human rights abuses.

Duterte, however, is putting the whole of Mindanao under martial because he is seeing Mindanao as becoming the hotbed of an emerging jihadist militant group belonging to the notorious ISIS that is known for spreading hatred, beheading victims on camera and instigating deadly terrorist attacks.

What is even bad, which justifies Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao, is that the government has discovered that foreigners have joined the Maute group in battling the military forces in Marawi City.

“What is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into an invasion by foreign fighters,” Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer, told reporters in the southern city of Davao.

He said Malaysians, Indonesians, Singaporeans and “other foreign jihadists” were fighting in Marawi, one of the biggest Muslim cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines with about 200,000 residents.

Marawi looks like a ghost city now and if it is of any consolation to the terrified residents who are fleeing to Iligan City, Ramos will be doing the country a favor if he should instead urged Filipinos to rally behind Duterte and his administration’s drive to have lasting peace in Mindanao, improve the plight of all Filipinos and move the country forward.

(In the same breath let me invite you to this link which I saw three days after I posted this blog so you will know why I felt aghast at Ramos’ tirade against Duterte: http://www.dailytopmedia.com/2017/05/canadian-political-scientist-tells-fvr.html — Quierosaber).

 

Yes to martial law in Mindanao

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

The writing on the wall was there. It was coming. It was just a matter of time.

Coming from Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte has always longed for peace in the war turned  region.

He has always made it clear that he identifies himself with the Muslims, openly stating that he has their blood flowing in his veins from his maternal side of the family.

But as then mayor of Davao City he could only do so much and with limited impact.

Thus, when Duterte got overwhelmingly elected president he worked hard to make Mindanao what it is suppose to be – the land of promise, among other things.

Duterte realized that peace in Mindanao will not come easy not because of the much talked about Muslim-Christian conflict, but more serious is the enmity and hostility among the different Moro rebel themselves.

As Duterte showed ardor and determination in his fight against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption in the country, his sincerity and passion also manifested in his quest to pacify the warring Moro rebels in Mindanao so lasting peace in the region could be attained. I am referring here to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Alas, while peace talks, agreements and even unavoidable occasional skirmishes between government troops and the Moro rebel have been ongoing, another radical Islamist rebels known as the Maute group made known of their existence with impunity.

The Maute group who are based in Lanao del Sur is also known as the Islamic State of Lanao led by their founders Omar and Abdulla Maute. It is said that this local terrorist group has already pledged allegiance to international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), carrying and raising ISIS black flags and insignia.

The Maute has been blamed for a bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern Davao city last September and a number of attacks on government forces in Lanao, although it has faced setbacks from a series of military offensives.

With events going bad and spiraling out of control in Marawi City, as the Maute group mounted violent attacks when government forces tried to capture their leader Isnilon Hapilon, Duterte deemed it timely to declare martial law for the whole of Mindanao.

I think Duterte knows what he is doing and if putting Mindanao under martial law is what it takes to prevent the enlisting and widening the control of the Maute terrorist group so that the country could go on developing its national interest then the president should be commended for exercising his much appreciated guts and political will.

 

War with China not an option

 

President Rodrigo Duterte with China President Xi Jinping

Much have been said about whether or not China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, had really warned the Philippine government not to rock the boat over the country’s maritime dispute with them at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) or else  there will be war.

Some politicians and political pundits are saying this is bullying in its highest form to keep us silent, and the best remedy, as they suggested, is to bring the matter up again to the UN tribunal, the same body that declared China’s build-up in the WPS as illegal.

Again I have to ask: what for?

Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Chinese leader’s threat, if true, is a gross violation of the United Nations (UN) charter. Then he cited Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter that states “all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations.”

While this may serve as basis for another related complaint we will be raising against China before the UN tribunal, what good will it do the country if China do not give a hoot about what the arbitral court says?

Like I said many times before, what China has claimed at the South China Sea is China’s and what belongs to the Philippines at the WPS is still China’s and if the most powerful nation on Earth, the US, was not able to prevent China from its military build-up in the area and the UN tribunal’s decision favoring the Philippine’s claim of its own territory just brazenly and utterly disregarded and disrespected by China, then who are we to think, much less believe, that elevating the war threat against us by China will stop China from doing what they are there for – militarizing the area.

President Rodrigo Duterte knows very well that war with China is not an option, but he is intelligent enough to understand that if he plays his cards well he can make the most out for the country and the Filipino people.

We are in a new geopolitical situation forced upon a third world country and we just have to be thankful that Duterte is one leader who thinks out of the box, has political will and has the support of the people to make things happen for the interest of the country.

Duterte is left with no other alternative but to make deals and pacts with China to benefit the country, like when sought closer ties with Beijing to win billions of dollars of Chinese investments and loans.

Duterte is doing the same thing with Russia now finally putting into practice his serious shift in foreign policy that all these years have been dictated and dominated by the US government.