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.

Duterte warns judiciary on rampant TROs

President Rodrigo Duterte

“For Christ’s sake, do not play with TROs.”

Sounds like a reasonable plea addressed to the judiciary branch of government and coming from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself, it is even more compelling as he knows whereof he speaks.

There could not have been a more opportune time than today for Duterte to call upon the Supreme Court to implement internal control mechanism in the judiciary such that wanton issuance of temporary restraining orders (TROs) are prevented especially when it has to do with government projects.

Duterte’s ambitious program of ‘Build, Build, Build’ epitomizes what “Dutertenomics” is all about.

Accordingly, it is a program and a strategy that will usher in the golden age of infrastructure in the Philippines by embarking on a nationwide network of high impact projects that will try to connect places and people, create jobs and bring down the cost of doing business through logistical support and other foundations.

It is short of saying that what Duterte has envisioned during his tenure as president is to see the   nationwide infrastructure network connecting the archipelago into one cohesive and dynamic whole Philippines.

Duterte’s mission and vision for the country is both timely and laudable as it complements the connectivity or linking of nations as initiated by China’s One Belt One Road and the ASEAN Master Plan on Connectivity.

The Belt and Road Initiative of China’s President Xi Jinping is a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa in a monumental trade and infrastructure network. It is aimed at promoting prosperity for countries across the world.

China calls it a “modern Silk Road”, referring to what has also been called Silk Route, which was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.

Apart from free trade, the plan would provide opportunities for peace and inclusiveness. China says the scheme is open to all countries and aims to be a win-win for all.

With President Xi pledging US $124 billion for his new Silk Road plan, not to mention the financial aid the Duterte’s government has been receiving from China, there are indeed enough funds to envision and start projects that will help the country move forward.

Do we still have to question why Duterte is appealing that his administration’s projects should not be at the mercy of uncontrolled and corrupt TROs?

 

Reopening of pork barrel scam probe and Dutertenomics

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

You might be wondering why I am lumping up the two together when they are different and distinct subjects.

Well, they are not really contradistinctive.

What makes them related or akin to one another is the fact that both deals with preventing corruption as the country is steered towards growth and development.

Thus, while Dutertenomics is getting to be a popular buzzword here and abroad for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 6-year development plan that aims to make the Philippines a high middle-income status before his term ends in 2022, it is a much welcomed boost for the country also that Duterte is keen and in fact throwing his full support behind the reopening of a congressional inquiry into the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Dutertenomics is actually about the 10-point agenda that is listed below and which emphasizes transparency and inclusiveness in every step:

  • Higher infrastructure spending, with 5 percent of gross domestic product targeted
  • Lower income and corporate tax rates to better compete with other Asian nations
  • Less red tape and corruption, including permits and land titles crucial to business
  • More state resources for the countryside, reducing poverty and boosting rural growth
  • Strong law enforcement and peace efforts to enhance the business environment
  • Small business gains with GoNegosyo’s Ramon Lopez as Trade & Industry Secretary
  • Better China relations enhancing Chinese trade, tourism and investment flows
  • Charter change to devolve power to the regions and ease foreign investment limits.

In the same manner, in revisiting the pork barrel scam probe, Duterte simply wants to make sure that all those government officials involved in unscrupulously diverting the government funds for the poor and needy into their own bank accounts are taken to task and prosecuted.

I just hope that in so doing Duterte will not interfere and just allow the Sandiganbayan ( a special appellate collegial court) to run its course in prosecuting the high profile accused namely, ex-senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. He will be doing the country a great favor if he does.

Oozing with political will with no one to be beholden to and having the interest of the nation and the welfare of the people foremost in his governance, I am sure Duterte will find success in this twin concerns he is driving at.

 

Callamard’s unexpected visit and interference

 

UN’s Agnes Callamard

I am saying that U.N. Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s visit to the Philippines was unexpected because her presence was only reported when she was spotted at the 30th anniversary celebration of the Commission on Human Rights on May 4.

In fact she refused to grant interviews to the media and the reason could only be that she didn’t want to make a big fuss of her visit because supposedly it was under wraps. But her familiar looks gave her away and she was divulged.

The reason why her unexpected visit got media attention is because the country was expecting that the next time she come it was to debate with President Rodrigo Duterte on extrajudicial killings and human rights violation brought about by the administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs which has been vigorously criticized by Callamard and her ilk.

As we all know, she rejected Duterte’s challenge and instead said she preferred a joint press conference with him, which actually does not prove anything.

Why can’t Callamard allow Duterte to throw questions at her and have her answers under oath if she really has the dossiers necessary to nail down the president?

But that is neither here nor there for Callamard was in the country, according to her, in an unofficial capacity, solely to attend a two-day academic conference at the invitation of the University of the Philippines and human rights lawyers.

It did not stop her, however, from chiding Duterte’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs, saying world leaders have recognized that such an approach does not work. It is just like saying that because high-ranking government officials have declared war against illegal drugs that there is now legitimacy in their actions.

Callamard told a forum she attended that badly thought out policies not only fail to address drug abuse and trafficking, they also compound the problems and “can foster a regime of impunity infecting the whole justice sector and reaching into whole societies, invigorating the rule of violence rather than law.”

I have written so many times in defense of Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, bloody/deadly as it may seem to be, but again I ask this question: who is complaining?

With the information and communications technology in almost everybody’s finger tips now, we are no longer a far-flung corner of the world. We are no longer ignorant about events, good and bad, happening all over the world.

There are more atrocities committed by strongmen abroad where even their own state are being destroyed and their citizens fleeing and dying that is exceedingly worthy of the UN’s attention, action and strong condemnation.

Here in the Philippines we are just waking up to a new president that seems to be succeeding where others failed miserably in uplifting the lives of Filipinos while steering the nation to calm waters.

There may be killings along the way but if that is what it takes to reach the aspirations of the many poor Filipinos, then who is the UN to stop us?

We never had it this good and we can only hope it continues without the interference of UN’s Callamard.

 

 

Duterte’s non-censure of China on SCS dispute hit

 

Long before the Philippines was designated as host for the ASEAN Summit 2017, those instrumental in filing and winning the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague over the country’s maritime territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea (SCS) were hoping that this could be the right opportunity and venue by which the ASEAN bloc, through its chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, could express condemnation over China’s aggressive build-up of artificial islands and militarization of the same, which are now viewed as a threat to the peace and security of the region.

What gave these people the confidence that this will be realized is the fact that many of the member-nations are, like the Philippines, contesting China’s claim of its own territorial waters.

Unfortunately, the ruling of the PCA came after Duterte got elected president and as we all know he never considered this favorable arbitral tribunal’s ruling a victory of sort for the country as he continued making deals with China.

In fact one would think that Duterte should have kept distance from China after illegally claiming and occupying parts of our sovereignty, but he instead honored the invitation of China’s president to visit him.

But do we really have to blame Duterte if, as chairman of the 30th ASEAN Summit, he failed to censure China over what it has done with impunity in the SCS?

Throughout the summit Duterte said the Philippines and other nations were helpless to stop the island building, so there was no point discussing it at all.

Duterte was just being practical and realistic for, indeed, the issue in the SCS among claimant nations versus China is no longer about resolving China’s permanent military presence in the area, but rather in trying to manage and make the best out of their presence in the region.

What we and the other ASEAN member-nations are facing now is a developing geopolitical situation which has been arrogantly imposed on us.

This is the price of being an underdeveloped country. Against China we are nothing. If the U.S. was not able to stop China’s military build-up in the SCS, who are we to stop them?

But as people, we just have to make sure that our pride and dignity will not go to the dogs.

We will see how Duterte could protect us and where his independent foreign policy will get us to.

We can’t do nothing but cross our fingers.

Duterte, ICC and the NYT

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

I don’t know but the timing by which the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the New York Times have issued their acrimonious/fault-finding statements against President Rodrigo Duterte, when the Philippines is hosting the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, smacks of pure interference and arrogance.

There is no doubt that both the ICC and the NYT wants to generate negative feelings of dislike or distrust among the leaders of the member nations toward Duterte and his bloody war on drugs, alleged extrajudicial killings and even his unpredictable foreign policy, but all these will surely fall on deaf ears and come to naught.

The reason why I am saying this is because there is nothing but sheer respect and recognition for one another in their style of leadership and governance and meddling in the affairs of another state is definitely a no-no.

Thus, for entities like the ICC and the NYT to interfere in the affairs of the state is even worse because first and foremost they have to make sure that what they are saying or implying is factual.

Take the case of the NYT, for instance, where in its editorial, “Let the World Condemn Duterte”, it described the Philippine president as a “man to be stopped” and is urging the ICC to conduct a preliminary investigation on the spate of extrajudicial killings being linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.

There may be a “spate of extrajudicial killings” but how sure is the NYT and the ICC, for that matter, that the killings are state sanctioned? Because jailed Sen. Leila de Lima has been harping about it even as nothing materialized during the investigation she conducted against Duterte when she was still chair of the commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Justice Secretary?

Why has Duterte won overwhelmingly for president despite his alleged notorious past as mayor of Davao City, even when he did not have the political machinery?

Duterte won because many Filipinos looked up to him and believed in his promise to wage serious war against drugs, corruption and criminality.

What this means is that Filipinos were tired having ordinary and traditional politicians who had been ineffective running this country and who, in many ways than one, abetted in hindering the growth and development of the country.

What I am simply saying is that one has to live here and experience what it has been like for the country having one president after another for decades that did not have the political will and the spunk to make an impact in the lives of many poor Filipinos.

Fighting a war against people corrupted by drugs that include policemen, judges and other government officials masquerading as public servants is no easy task.

Duterte was not only able to unmask who the culprits are but has also discovered the enormity of the drug menace in the country and for this he continues to have the people’s trust and approval of his governance.

Other ASEAN leader recognizes the competency and authority of Duterte and has showed their high regard for his brand of leadership and this augurs well for the country’s future with him at the helm.

This is what matters most and not what the NYT, the ICC, and for that matter, the Amnesty International (AI), have been negatively blurting about against Duterte.