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What’s the DFA good for?

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is expected to promote international understanding and defend Philippine sovereignty. It is also tasked with protecting Filipinos abroad. In its dealings with other countries, it is of course assumed that the DFA will enhance and defend Philippine interests through diplomatic means. But equally important is its affirmation in word and deed of the value and need for the country to honor its international commitments to human, civil and political rights.

Parody of democracy

DEBATES between candidates for public office are among the means some media and civil society organizations are using to help voters decide who deserve their support. They’re especially useful in the Philippines, where those running for this or that post are often hardly distinguishable from each other in terms of platforms and programs, if at all they have any.

Racist — and colonial

TO BELIEVE and argue that black people are inherently violent or that all Jews are money-grubbing scoundrels is to presume that race is the determinant of certain vices and virtues. It is nothing but racism, and those who harbor that presumption qualify as racists.

Duterte and Trump

The Chinese embassy in Manila had earlier demolished Duterte spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s tale that should the government deport Chinese nationals illegally working in the Philippines, the Ambassador had threatened to do the same to Filipinos in China.

Blaming EDSA

His spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that it wasn’t because President Rodrigo Duterte thinks that the 1986 civilian-military mutiny at EDSA isn’t important; it’s just that he has a lot of things to do.

Contexts: The Rappler case

ASKED if he caused the February 13 arrest of Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had nothing to do with it, and that he did not “relish picking on her.” He also said he did not know Wilfredo Keng, whose complaint that he had been libeled by the online news site led to the Ressa arrest.

Representing themselves

On July 23, 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 2 mandating public access to information held by the agencies and offices of the executive branch. The nongovernmental organizations that had been campaigning for a freedom of information (FOI) act for decades welcomed it with cautious optimism. The Executive Order (EO) encouraged the legislature and judiciary to do the same, but the FOI advocates nevertheless pointed out the need for a law that would cover all three branches of government.

Media are part of the problem

That former TV broadcaster who’s running for senator under Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago party isn’t alone in denying that the Duterte regime is a threat to press freedom.

Arsenal of oppression

Not even child rights advocates have been saying that children are incapable of committing crimes. Neither has anyone said that children are angels. But in reaction to Senator Risa Hontiveros’ opposition to the bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte made it seem as if those two assumptions were at the heart of the resistance to that outrage.

War Zone Philippines

THE US-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) is correct: the Philippines is indeed “a war zone in disguise,” and is among the world’s deadliest countries for civilians.

Journalism in troubled times

Should the media report everything government officials do and say for the sake of that elusive concept called “objectivity”? Philippine practice suggests that that’s what most journalists assume -- and that, no matter how erroneous, outrageous or potentially harmful the statements and actions of those sources may be, their responsibility ends with accurately quoting them.

Hopeless but hopeful

In a December Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on whether they would welcome the coming year with hope or with fear, 96% of the respondents said they would welcome it with hope.

That was 2018

When historians recall in their books a hundred years from now what the year 2018 was like, they won’t be focused on the six-month shutdown of Boracay or the number of “credible” aspirants for various local posts in the 2019 elections compared to “nuisance” candidates.

Terrorism by another name

“Do not bully anyone. Just because you’re in power doesn’t mean you have the right to insult others... the bully who uses power to belittle others is the most cowardly and most insecure person of all.” (Translation from Filipino mine)

Recycling Arroyo

Former President, and, since July of the year that’s about to end, Speaker of the House of Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was generous in her praise for her accomplices during her speech this Wednesday when the aptly named Lower House adjourned for the Christmas break.

Getting away with plunder

The acquittal last week of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., and his alleged accomplices’ being found guilty and sentenced to the mandatory penalty for plunder of reclusion perpetua (20 to 30 years’ imprisonment) has understandably raised doubts over the justice of the decision. Two of the five associate justices of the Sandiganbayan’s First Division that tried the case are even questioning the majority opinion.

The injustice league

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said a few days ago that those individuals and groups demanding the imprisonment of Imelda Marcos because of her conviction on seven counts of graft should be “fair” to the Marcos family matriarch by respecting her constitutional rights, among them her right to post bail.

A union for a dangerous trade

Press freedom is protected by the 1987 Constitution because of the vital role of the news media in providing the information the citizenry needs in making intelligent decisions on matters of public interest. But despite Article III, Section 4, journalism is still a dangerous calling in the Philippines.

Misreading the news media

Denmark’s Ambassador to the Philippines said he “reads” the media, but has apparently been misreading them. He said “some media” are “systematically negative” in their reporting on the government, but his subsequent statements sounded as if he was describing most, or even all of them.

The dimensions of impunity

Those Filipinos aware of the record-breaking looting of the public treasury by the Marcos kleptocracy are hailing the Sandiganbayan’s conviction of Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft. They had already lost hope that any of the billions diverted to Swiss bank accounts, real estate, and jewelry and art collections in Bern, Paris and other world capitals will ever be recovered, or that any form of legal retribution against the thieves is forthcoming, but have been heartened by the graft court’s decision 27 years after charges were filed against the Marcos family matriarch.

Enrile before history

What the media described as an “apology” last Oct. 24 from former Marcos Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile was in the same league as that of Marcos’s daughter Imee’s and son Bongbong’s.

Credible — or a nuisance?

A “nuisance candidate,” to summarize what Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code says, is someone who files a certificate of candidacy (CoC) with the intention of mocking the electoral process or putting it in disrepute; whose name is similar to that of other registered candidates and whom the electorate can therefore mistake for him or her; or who has no real intention to run for the office for which he or she filed a CoC.

The passing of elite democracy

The filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) by those running for the Senate ended two days ago on Oct. 17. As usual, the media focused their attention on high-profile and so-called “nuisance candidates.” But they failed to mention that the outcome of the May 2019 elections, particularly for the House of Representatives and the Senate, will be crucial to the survival of this rumored democracy.


The spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in elaboration of the AFP chief-of-staff’s tale of a “Red October” leftist-rightist conspiracy to oust President Rodrigo Duterte from power, said last week that the country’s university and college students are being “brainwashed” into activism and radicalism.

Trapped in the 17th century

It’s been two years and three months into the six-year term of the provincial despotism that became a national affliction in 2016 by promising to deliver the changes that have long eluded the Filipino people. It should be evident by now that it is at the very least underperforming -- or at the worst, rapidly bringing the entire country to ruin.

With friends like these…

In the evening of Feb. 22, 1986, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos announced that they were withdrawing their support for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was only a few hours after AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver had discovered and foiled their plan to storm Malacañang, oust Marcos, and replace him with a military junta.

Method in its madness

Despite the bluster of President Rodrigo Duterte and his equally loud lieutenants, yes-men and accomplices in the Cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, his regime is in reality completely without anything that even approximates a rational and coherent platform of governance. It is making things up as it goes along, and patching together ad hoc attempts to make it seem as if it were addressing the urgent problems that haunt the nation, most of which are of its own making.

Philippine train wreck

LIVING in the Philippines has always been challenging and difficult for many Filipinos. But never since the Marcos dictatorship has it been more dangerous than today for Lumad, dissenters, women, human rights defenders and the poor.

Death wish

No, he doesn’t want to die; he just wants others put to death.

The ignorance that kills

Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media -- in Japan, the United States and Europe -- to what was happening in the Philippines.

Theater of the Absurd

A television comedy director was supposed to direct it, and did hold at least one rehearsal over the weekend. But the directorial prowess of Joyce Bernal wasn’t in much evidence except in President Rodrigo Duterte’s subdued though less than forthright State of the Nation Address (SONA) this year.

Better silenced than silent

Some 21.9 million Filipinos, notes the National Anti-Poverty Commission’s Reforming Philippine Anti-Poverty Policy (Manila: NAPC Secretariat, 2017), are officially considered poor.

Offender of the faith

Before Rodrigo Duterte, no Philippine president, as morally challenged as some of them may have been, had ever disparaged Catholicism and Christianity, much less cursed the God Christians, Muslims, and Jews worship in common. Even Ferdinand Marcos, to whose overthrow in 1986 both the institutional Church as well as its activists contributed, did not take that path, although among the victims of his terrorist regime were nuns, priests, pastors, and other religious workers.

Standby regime

President Rodrigo Duterte has denied ordering the arrest of “istambay” (the plural form of Filipino nouns is not formed with an “s”) despite the Philippine National Police’s detention of over 7,000 mostly young people, and the death, most likely through a police beating, of at least one individual who had stepped shirtless out of his home to get a cellphone “load” only to be arrested and jailed.

A matter of time

The killing of three priests over the last six months -- of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June -- has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.

Dependence Day

With no sense of irony, it seems, did the United States “grant” Philippine independence on the same date as its own independence day, nearly half a century after Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed independence in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898, and the First Republic was established in Malolos, Bulacan on Jan. 23, 1899.

Surveillance state

Upon the declaration of martial law in 1972 and in the 14 years that followed, the Marcos terror regime arrested, abducted, and detained over a hundred thousand political activists; artists, writers and critical journalists; teachers, professors, lawyers and other professionals; student, labor and peasant leaders; Muslims and indigenous people; and members of the opposition and other regime critics.

Divide into two

His attacks on the press are “repulsive,” and “he should be the figure of suspicion, not the press,” when it comes to “fake news.” A president who “constantly deflects and distorts and distracts -- who must find someone else to blame -- is charting a very dangerous path.”

After the Supreme Court — the Senate?

The newly elected president of the Senate has been accused of plagiarism, of disrespecting women, of cluelessness about the most pressing issues of public...

It’s not just about Sereno

The unprecedented removal through quo warranto proceedings of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from her post isn’t only about her, or solely about the...

‘Protection’s’ price

President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that China has promised to protect the Philippines from external threats immediately raises two questions. Who or what these external threats...

Proving RSF right

Four media-related events occurred within days of each other last week. One was the release by the press freedom watch group Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF...

Just for laughs

The gulf between what President Rodrigo Duterte says and what he does is raising already dangerous levels of cynicism about government and governance even...

Made in China

In the aftermath of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar announced the availability in that country...

Mere anarchy

His defenders and partisans, as well as the trolls his regime pays out of public funds, describe President Rodrigo Duterte’s “leadership” as “decisive.” They’re referring...