‘Duterte death squad’

 

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

The infamous Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group accused by Amnesty International and local human rights advocate for widespread summary executions in Davao City, must have been in the mind of President Rodrigo Duterte when he announced that he would create his own hit squad, if that is what it takes to counter the Sparrow Units employed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Naming it the ‘Duterte Death Squad’, the president said it will try to match the communist rebel’s “talent in assassinating people.” An eye for an eye, as the saying goes. As if this is what is legally meant by extracting justice from the rebels.

Perhaps tired and exasperated that to this day government soldiers and policemen continue to be sitting ducks of the NPA’s hit men and hopeless that there will ever be peace while Duterte and exiled-CPP head Joma Sison continue to bicker, the former could not help but express his frustrations this way in his speech during the turnover of housing units for the military and police at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol recently. The reality is that the plan is better said than done.

It is bad enough that to this day also there has not been any let up pertaining to killings in the government’s fight against drugs and if we have to believe that the formation of the ‘Duterte Death Squad’ is bound to happen then we simply have to admit that the country will no longer be govern by the rule of law.

But the presidency is so powerful, what with all the intelligence and resources the occupant has at the tip of his fingers that resorting to this foolish plan of creating a death squad is nothing short of being irresponsible.

Besides, Duterte as an astute lawyer and as the president of the country knows what is good for him and what is best for the country, but above all what weighs more for consideration is the legacy he wants to leave behind and how history would judge him.

Suffice to say Duterte’s announcement was just a metaphor and should not be taken seriously.

 

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Mockery of justice

 

Imelda Marcos

The much long awaited arm of the law has finally caught Imelda Marcos’s sticky fingers and most Filipinos rejoiced declaring the special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court’s conviction of her on seven counts of graft as victory for the people.

Imelda was found to have made a total of $200-million bank transfers to seven Swiss foundations of her own creation during her incumbency as Metro Manila Governor. Not only that. She and her despot husband were also found deliberately using aliases to hide the crime.

This means that the 89-year old widow now faces a sentence that will keep her incarcerated for over forty years, if indeed the penalty from six to eleven years for each count of graft happens to be the case.

But, is it time for rejoicing really?

By victory the people would have expected that with the conviction immediately thereafter a warrant for her arrest would follow.

Alas, it did not come to that. On the contrary, Imelda, a congress representative from Ilocos Norte, continues to enjoy freedom after she posted bail of P150,000. It said that the Sandiganbayan allowed her to post bail while it is still deciding whether or not to grant her appeal for post-conviction remedies.

If this is not a mockery of justice, I don’t know what is.

This is the same mockery of justice observed when former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, then 92 years old, was freed after spending a year in hospital arrest when he posted P1.45-million bail bond over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

Certainly among the post-conviction remedies to be discussed is age consideration and if it was able to release Enrile, why would it still send Imelda to jail especially that she is also having health issues?

This would not have been disturbing and frustrating if we knew that there are not old, sickly people languishing in jail as this piece is written, but the reality is that there are plenty and for reasons that some may be inside because of miscarriage of justice.

The same cannot be said, however, of Enrile, and now of Imelda Marcos.

Justice is suppose to be triumph over evil, but in the case of Imelda, and even for Enrile, evil still favors giving mercy to the privileged.

Perhaps Orson Welles was right when he said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Imelda’s guilty verdict

Imelda Marcos

After so much wishing and praying for something to prick the ever ballooning ego of each of the remaining Marcos family starting from the wife down to the three children after a glorious political comeback, the decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring guilty and ordering the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft committed during the reign of her husband and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos could never have been a more appropriate answer.

The reason for their exceeding arrogance is the fact that they had been going around the country trying to rewrite history by convincing people that the dictatorship was the best thing that ever happened to the country, that there was no crime committed, no human rights violated, and nothing stolen from the coffers of government.

What added even more to the bluster of the Marcos family is the fact that today the despot patriarch is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ cemetery) after years of being kept in a crypt.

Imelda has been found guilty of violating R. A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, as Metro Manila Governor, and as then Minister of Human Settlements.

The anti-corruption court’s 5th Division ordered Imelda, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft.

Now it can be said that Imelda did not only have a cabinet full of shoes and expensive jewelry and artworks, but inside and in a more secluded place of the cabinet were Swiss foundation skeletons bearing the names Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation and Avertina Foundation which they allegedly created and managed under the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan.

This probably gives credence to the allegations made before by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth “is estimated between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad”.

The question now is, would the children, especially politicians Imee and Bongbong, still have the arrogance to deny this conviction of Imelda after it took decades to decide it or will this decision get them grounded with humility in tow?

Wasn’t this writing on the wall when President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted that Imelda offered to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, including a few gold bars, for whatever help it can do to the country’s economy?

While this may be a victory of sorts for all the people who have experienced the dark days of martial law, the moral fight against the Marcoses continue since they can still make an appeal at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the conviction.

But what the aggrieved Filipinos are asking at least is that Imelda be arrested just like any ordinary citizen in the country that has been declared guilty and are praying once more that Duterte won’t pardon her. Let the verdict of the law fall where it may and without regard to age.

Imelda, who is on her last term as Ilocos Norte representative and has already filed a certificate of candidacy for the province’s gubernatorial race in 2019 is sane enough, therefore, to understand that she has committed a crime and answerable for it and that neither age nor stature should make her feel she is above the law.

 

Santo Rodrigo

President Rodrigo Duterte

Time and again the nation, nay the whole world, gets dumbfounded every time President Rodrigo Duterte utters outrageous or ridiculous comments which many deem unpresidential.

But when was Duterte ever presidential – from the way he wears formal clothes, like the barong tagalog or coat and tie, or even in the way he delivers impromptu speeches and interacts with his audience, what with his ever ready vulgar words to run off at the mouth?

Fortunately we are not bound by rules of electing president based on being dapper or silver-tongued and, thus, Duterte was elected overwhelmingly by many who identified with him as a simple, unpretentious and inarticulate person, but whose leadership has been the envy of every politician in the country the way he transformed Davao City from bedlam to a peaceful and livable place.

It is no surprise therefore that what people see in Duterte is what they get, warts and all, even as our president, because as the old cliché goes, “you cannot teach old dogs new tricks”, especially a stubborn ‘dog’ like Duterte.

And so we tolerate and accept, and even laugh, at the banter that Duterte dishes out when he senses that he has connected with the audience, like when he cursed the Pope and called God “stupid”.

Duterte’s latest caper was when he questioned the celebration of All Saints’ Day alleging that the saints Filipinos were worshiping were fools and drunkards and to be sure that they are venerating the real deal Duterte suggested that they get a picture of his and idolize him instead by calling him Santo Rodrigo.

Clearly this is a joke and no one should lose sleep over it. Had Duterte been a natural born comic and knew how to deliver his punch lines, nobody would be questioning his act.

But because he is the president known for delivering uncouth language, the simon-pure in us insists and expects Duterte to show an exemplary demeanor befitting his position.

Duterte may be unpresidential when compared to those before him, but what he lacks in style he compensates it with important traits of a president which is to have not only the knowledge and acumen of his job but also the political will to go after the problems plaguing the country no matter how controversial, unpopular and deadly it may be. This is what makes him stand out from the others.

At the end of the day the reality is that a well-intentioned sitting president is the person who could lead us to salvation from our long agonizing woes and not the veneration we offer the saints who many believe helps in assuaging man’s suffering soul.

So, Santo Rodrigo, any one?

Of course I am joking!

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.

Preserving our sanity

 

Every time elections are held in this country we always find ourselves at the crossroads where our sanity is being tested to the limit.

It used to be that there were only two political parties to choose from where its respective leaders running it and endorsing their candidates share common values and ideals about the party and the same mission and vision for the interest of the nation and its people.

Election was never a complicated process then as those selected as candidates on both sides were competent and able and had no other motivation but to serve the people in earnest.

It was always fulfilling to have exercised ones freedom of suffrage then knowing that whoever wins will perform to the best of his ability and according to the moral beliefs of the party he represents, which translates to the aspirations of the people.

Alas, elections today have become a political circus of sorts – entertaining, yet confusing and unnerving not only because of the numerous political parties coalescing/aligning with one another but more so because of the wide differences in the nature, character and notoriety of candidates running for office.

There is need therefore for every Filipino to be convinced that in order to preserve ones sanity in the upcoming 2019 elections we have to examine our own consciences and determine the best candidates who will be able to help Pres. Rodrigo Duterte accomplish the programs he has set forth for the country during his term of office.

It is still a long time until Duterte’s presidency expires in 2022 and there is nothing more important than to ensure that there are no personal or political hindrances in the country’s march to progress.

There is no doubt that Duterte’s popularity comes from his out-of-the-box type of governance that is being recognized and accepted by the people as what is propelling the country forward and the only way to keep it moving positively is to have newly elected people in government that could contribute fresh and doable ideas for what the president has envisioned for the country.

What is harmful to our sanity is when we allow ourselves to be suckers of pretentious candidates – young, old and very old – who because of their seeming closeness to Duterte are making a pitch of their usefulness, but in reality have continuing hidden agenda of their own.

For sanity sake, let us vote in the coming 2019 elections intelligently and judiciously.

 

 

Electing senators in 2019 and beyond

 

Senatorial positions are again at stake in the upcoming May 2019 elections and this early we are already seeing political parties either floating or identifying names of candidates that could at best boost and make appealing the image of their party to insure political gains.

Sadly and disturbingly, however, some political party leaders continue resisting in adapting better ways of promoting the embodiment of their respective parties, like selecting candidates with impeccable character and tract record, but rather contented, as usual, with representations that leave voters aghast and wondering whether or not their candidates could make a difference in the country’s future.

The motivation in doing so simply points to the fact that what is really promoted is the self-serving interest and survival of the party as oppose to what it should be which is putting the welfare of the country first and foremost over any other political consideration.

For decades now we had been seeing presidents come and go, yet their lack of strong leadership has failed this country such that we see ourselves always lagging behind among our neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

I am sure other countries have the same continuing inherent problems that we had been confronting all these years, like corruption, criminality, insurgency and illegal drugs, for that matter, but the lack of courage, resolve and political will from those we have elected to lead our country have always been our downfall.

We have finally come to realize that electing a traditional politician (trapo) to be at the helm of government is not the answer to our political, economic and social woes and this was proven when the Filipinos overwhelmingly opted to elect the unconventional Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president in 2016.

Compared to past presidents Duterte stands head and shoulders over his predecessors, even as he finds himself only in his third year in office, in the way he has governed and positioned the country in the world stage.

The fact that Duterte has maintained a high trust and satisfaction rating to this day simply means that his leadership is acceptable and, thus, has won the moral ascendancy to continue guiding the country the way he sees fit until he could turn it around for the better.

Having said that, it now behooves on us all to extend to Duterte our full support/cooperation and ensure that we elect senators in 2019 whose integrity and competence are beyond question so that they could ably assist the president in making his plans come true for the country.

All I am saying, therefore, is let us not become victims anymore of their chicanery and finally put a stop of recycling former senators whose celebrity status and/or notorious reputation are their only means of getting elected, but whose integrity, competence and dedication remains suspicious at best and at worst, ineffective, as gleaned from their past performances.

It is about time we make choices for senators whose ideas could integrate with Duterte’s plan of making a meaningful and lasting difference for the country and in the lives of the greater number of Filipinos.

Duterte’s incorruptible and resolute leadership is being noticed in the community of nations and it is only appropriate, as it is reasonable, that those who we elect as senators in 2019 and beyond to write and pass laws, approve presidential appointments, etc., are equally sincere, reliable and competent.