From Philippines to Maharlika


I find few disagreements with President Duterte’s words and deeds, but next to his supercilious designation of the late dictator Marcos as a hero who deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery), I find his latest caper of floating and signifying his interest in changing the name Philippines to Maharlika the highest of absurdities, if I may call it that way.

It is one thing to put on the highest pedestal ones idol and hero, like Duterte has done about Marcos, but it is another thing to ram it down the throat of the Filipino people because it was once the dream and aspiration of the person you greatly admired.

I do not know if changing the country’s name to Maharlika matters really because if Wikipedia has the comprehensive answer for everything then its connotation is not what we want it to be or what we perceived it to be because it says that the origin of the word is Indian-inspired word that influenced our culture as members of the Malay race.

When put in the proper context, historians and scholars agree on one thing and it is that Maharlika means anything but “a concept of serenity and peace”, as Duterte imputed it to be, or “a royalty” as presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo wants us to believe it is.

In fact award-winning novelist Abdon Balde Jr. shared his views in the social media saying that the word Maharlika was included in the Vocabulario de la lengua tagala (vocabulary of the tagalog language) that showed its meaning, when translated from Spanish to Tagalog, as “alipin na itinuring na malaya“, which means in English as ‘a slave deemed/considered free’. I would assume that Maharlika was translated in Spanish as “esclavo considerado libre”.

Balde’s views are irrefutably confirmed by historian Rolando Borrinaga of the National Commission for Culture and Arts, during an interview with radio station DZBB, that Maharlika actually means “free man.”

The reason why I am expounding on this alternative name is because it puzzles me why Duterte is picking up where Marcos has left off when what the latter was mainly interested in was having his ego inflated by fantasizing and falsely reviving that the name Maharlika was ancient Filipino nobility.

It is even discombobulating that heroes like Mabini, Luna, del Pilar, Aguinaldo, Bonifacio and notably Rizal did not belittled the name Philippines and in fact were proud being called Filipinos who wrote, condemned, fought and died valiantly for the country against the abuses and atrocities of both the Spanish colonial rulers and the Spanish friars.

It is perhaps prudent for our leaders to be reminded that the name Philippines is not what made us who we are today but, rather, it is us, the people who has given the country the ambiguities perceived today by the peoples in the world community.


Voting wisely

How I wish the preponderance of millennials voting on May 2019 senatorial election will gather their acts together this early and try to find time in knowing who were elected senators in the past by the Filipino people.  

Perhaps they can go as far back as the Fifth Congress when then Senator Ferdinand Marcos was the Senate President.

The reason why I am suggesting this idea to the millennial generation is so they could make early assessment on who were the candidates preferred by most Filipinos in the past to study and enact laws in the Senate.

Most of all my intention is for the millenials to compare who the past senators were as individuals against those presently serving in the Senate, those who are seeking re-election and the numerous new faces that are running for senator in the coming May elections. I am particularly referring to our current crop of politicians who uses their popularity and/or notoriety to further their own political and personal interests rather than those of the country and its people.

This comparison is the only way that the voters, collectively, will be able to determine if, indeed, the current senators running for re-election, the ex-senators who want re-elected and the new candidates all possess the character deserving of our trust.

What I am trying to say and emphasize here is that there has never been a time such as today, and in this generation, the urgency to admit and accept the importance of voting wisely for the good of the country and the Filipino people.

By voting wisely, and I mean voting intelligently, one finds satisfaction that, after deep and careful consideration,  the choices for senatorial bets are deemed to be adequately qualified and competent to legislate the laws of the land based on their educational background and relative experiences.

That he or she must also be articulate, reputable, responsible, and conscientious, to mention a few excellent qualities of a high-ranking public servant.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of some of our present senators and more so of many of those running for the elective office.

It does not mean to say also that just because they are the favored candidates of President Duterte and her daughter, Sara, that they have to be voted on for the reason that we are strong supporter of the Dutertes. Following our leaders blindly will only make us complicit.

This is where prudence and utmost caution is necessary among the voters because while we are aware who the undesirable and rouge politicians are, we do not have control over those trying to play political patronage and political gamesmanship.

Simply said, it is incumbent upon us the voters, that includes now more of the millennials, to carefully and earnestly separate the chaff from the grain in every election time for it is the only way that we can be sure that our future and the future of those that will follow us shall always be in good and reliable hands.


West Philippine Sea Victory Day

Senator Leila de Lima

It is lamentable that progressive and powerful countries in the world advocating strong support or protection for democratic principles have remained silent and noncommittal towards our plight over China’s egregious military build-up in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

But what makes it even more ridiculous now is a bill filed by Senator Leila de Lima seeking to declare July 12 of every year as the “West Philippine Sea Victory Day”.

I mean why call for a yearly moral victory celebration when China has positioned itself intrinsically at will to continue bullying us?

Senate Bill 2201 may be right in describing the arbitral tribunal’s decision on July 12, 2016 as a landmark victory for the country when it favored the country’s sovereign rights in the WPS, as stipulated by the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty which, among other things, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

In effect, the same tribunal invalidated China’s expansive claims ruling that it had no legal basis to claim the area within its nine-dash lines demarcation.

Ironically the opposite has happened because even as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was resolving the issue of sovereign rights over the disputed waters, China was busy developing the man-made islands into military bases with deep water ports and airports, after which all sorts of armaments were installed.

So while China would consider the area within the nine-dash line its territory, other countries were assured, if not pacified, that they would still have freedom of navigation,

How could de Lima, therefore, say it is a victory worth commemorating every July 12th when it is hollow and ineffectual, to say the least? Let us not fool ourselves.

What I am saying is that for as long as China stays militarily and permanently entrenched in our territorial waters and has claimed the rights to activities ranging from fishing to prospecting and mining for energy or mineral resources, while nobody in the world can admonish its hegemonic ambitions in the area, then one can never declare himself victorious in the true sense of the word.


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.

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.

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.