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.

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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.

 

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.

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.

‘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.