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.

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Devotees or fanatics

 

Devotees jostle one another as they try to touch the Black Nazarene replica during an annual procession in Quiapo city, Metro Manila, Philippines January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco – RC16CD6BA0A0

This is about Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s homily on the 2019 Feast of the Black Nazarene where he tried to differentiate devotees from fanatics the best and simplest way he could so it could be understood by the ordinary person.

It was Tagle’s way of refuting and justifying claims by many that the religious procession, known to be the world’s biggest show of Catholic zeal, has become a circus-like superstitious celebration participated allegedly by fanatics who in manifesting unabashedly their faith intends also to curry favor with the suffering Christ for good health, good fortune and whatever blessings the zealots want sustained.

Tagle’s rationalization was indeed meant for the common mass of people who are poor and afflicted, for who else would dare risk life and limbs trying to climb onto a carriage carrying a replica of the Black Nazarene to be able to touch it or, if that is impossible, to get hold even for a second the rope that pulls the carriage for miracles to happened in their lives?

One can see handkerchiefs or bits of cloth flying all over towards the carriage hoping it would be rubbed on the icon and thrown back to where it came from. It is always a guessing game by the curious viewers on TV following the event whether or not the thrower got his or her item back as all these are happening in the middle of a sea of fanatical people. What a site indeed!

Tagle, however, decries the description given that the animated participants in this chaotic scene are fanatics. To him those uncontrolled sea of people professing their faith are devotees in the real sense of the word and therefore not fanatics.

But its seems fallacious, however, when Tagle made emphatic clarification that what made the big difference between the devotee and the fanatic is that the former loves, but the latter does not love.

The truth is that both the devotee and fanatic are all capable of loving, but what clearly differentiate them from one another is when the fanatic’s show of love and admiration on something turns exceedingly extreme and unreasonable.

Thus, Tagle not only contradicts himself but also misleads the Catholic faithful when he says that “A fanatic only clings to something that gives value to him. But a devotee does not share the same reasoning” or that “A fanatic, once he does not get what he wants, will already stop. But a devotee, because he or she loves, will remain faithful, whether or not he gets something out of it.”

In fact when you look at it and observe keenly at what is happening during the religious procession of the Black Nazarene there is really nothing that differentiates between devotees and fanatics. They are one and the same.

Duterte is no anti-Christ

 

The latest furor over the polemic remarks of President Rodrigo Duterte about the teachings of the church relative to the Holy Trinity can best be describe as much ado about nothing, especially knowing where it comes from.

In defending the church, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas would have done a better job had he left the president’s remark unanswered. It did not deserve an answer anyway knowing that Duterte had made an even worse remark in the past calling God “stupid”.

But if Villegas thinks that he could discredit and destroy Duterte’s popularity and high satisfaction rating among the mostly Filipino catholic who voted for him then he erred in publishing a letter for his godson purportedly aimed at negating Duterte’s statements, if not repudiating the man himself.

Politicizing Duterte’s religious beliefs and statements by the church hierarchy by calling him anti-Christ does not only sit will to those supporting him but will not also make a dent in the people’s trust and confidence in his leadership.

In fact to label Duterte as anti-Christ is a misnomer for one who expresses his thoughts and opinion on religion or religiosity as part of his constitutional freedom does not necessarily translate to being anti-Christ.

To be an anti-Christ is to deny mankind’s necessity for God and if that is the case then why seemingly accused Duterte of being anti-Christ when he himself has said many times that he has his own God to worship?

I worship my own God too so does that make me anti-Christ?

What is important to note is that Duterte has not imposed his will on which God to worship, much less assert himself as religious authority.

There is no doubt that Villegas’s godson will have a hard time understanding what anti-Christ truly means. Even harder to comprehend perhaps what it means to have three persons in one God.

Surely Duterte is not Satan manifesting as man for his love for the country and his readiness to die for the Filipino people, as he have sworn to do many times, remains unquestioned.

What Villegas should do instead is continue preaching the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic faith if he thinks that this will help stimulate spiritual fervor among the Filipino Catholics.

Allow Duterte to speak his mind for as long as he steers the country to progress. This is what matters most.

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.

No apology needed for the return of the Balangiga bells

 

Much has been said already about the historic Balangiga bells which found its way back to the church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Easter Samar, where it rightfully belongs, after it was readily and gladly removed from the church’s belfry as spoils of war by American soldiers during the 1901 Filipino-American war.

One can only understand how the Americans felt when the bell’s toll were used by the Filipino bolo-wielding insurgent guerillas as a signal to stealthily attack a detachment of American troops having breakfast at their garrison in Balangiga. The unsuspecting soldiers had left their rifles at the barracks thinking that having established peace they were already far from harm’s way.

This was the time when the leader and symbol of Filipino resistance, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, was captured and forced to issue a proclamation calling all insurgents to lay down their arms and submit to American rule.

Our history however of fighting oppression and subjugation that started when Lapu-lapu killed Magellan in the battle of Mactan has been always predicated on the fact that all the Filipinos wanted was humane treatment and respect over clamored reforms leading to establishing our own identity and government.

Armed rebellion in the Philippines, in whatever way seen, has always been a tacit declaration of war against foreign domination. This happened during the Filipino-Spanish war and the same colonizing mind-set of the Americans when they took over from the Spaniards the dominion of the Philippines was the same reason why animosity against the Americans also prevailed.

Thus, among the many uprisings by Filipino insurgents against the Americans, the Balangiga massacre stood out not only as a storied event but also a harrowing experience for the place and its residents when the newly replenished US troops exacted revenge after receiving orders from their angered leader, General Jacob Smith, to burn, kill and leave the place a ‘howling  wilderness”.

This utter destruction of life and property is said to have spread to the entire province of Samar with local men being killed and women and children being starved.

It is in this context that I do not understand why some group in our society still has demanded that an official and public apology be made by the US government upon the return of the bells for the atrocities committed.

War is a tit-for-tat action where someone takes revenge for what they have done by doing similar to them. In some cases the retaliatory action is beyond imagination as what happened in Balangiga.

That is all there is to it.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Sandiganbayan’s despairing decision

 

Enrile, Revilla and Estrada, all accused of plunder over the multi-billion PDAF scam are now enjoying freedom.

This is about the latest decision of the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla of plunder after the latter was accused of surreptitiously pocketing P224.5 million worth of kickbacks in what is now known as the country’s biggest corruption scandal involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a yearly lump sum or discretionary fund that members of Congress use for government programs to benefit the people, most especially the poor.

It used to be that before the Supreme Court nullified the PDAF, after the P10-billion pork barrel scam was uncovered, a senator and a member of the House of Representative were entitled to P200 million and P70 million  in PDAF, respectively.

One can just imagine, therefore, the enormous amount of money that Revilla, together with then senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, have squandered when the Commission on Audit (COA) found out in 2013 that each of their 2007-2009 PDAF went to phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ghost projects masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, instead of being funneled to a legitimate government organization, as was the intention, to alleviate and improve the quality of lives of the poor Filipinos.

It was on this basis that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder cases that ultimately led to their arrest.

But while Enrile was granted freedom for humanitarian reasons in 2015, being sickly and old, and Estrada freed in 2017, after the anti-graft court ruled that “there was no strong evidence” that he was the “main plunderer” in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla, however, stayed detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame until the announcement of his acquittal recently.

For many who have been yearning that convicting the three ex-senators for plunder will not only be a moral victory for the Filipino people, but a lesson taught for politicians to truly work for the interest of the people first as they have been sworn to do, the latest Revilla episode is indeed a very despairing decision. It simply means that acquittal also awaits Enrile and Estrada in due time.

We thought lady justice had finally snared the big fishes. Alas, like ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before them, they three got off the hook cheerfully to the dismay of many.

Yes, despairing, but does this mean giving up hope? Of course not!

You see, Enrile looks hale and hearty again and is in fact running for senator in 2019 elections. So is, Estrada and Revilla, who have always expressed their intentions to make a comeback at the propitious time.

On the part of the aggrieved Filipinos smarting from the seemingly unjust ruling, I could not see a more opportune time than in next year’s senatorial elections for them to exact retribution for Enrille’s, Estrada’s and Revilla’s misdeeds and dubious ambitions. All we have to do now is start talking and convincing other people that this is going to be payback time and not having any of them and their ilk elected to the senate ever again is doing our country a big favor.

This is a collective exercise of poetic justice at its best.