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In his own words

Had it not been for that “incident” near the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea, the 121st anniversary of Philippine independence would have come and gone like any other holiday whose significance escapes many Filipinos.

Teachers’ plaint

Teaching is not about money but about public service, Education Secretary Leonor Briones told her constituents last week.

Combating ‘fake news’

Singapore passed early last May an anti-“fake news” law that will be implemented this month. The “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation” Act gives government the power to compel online news sites and even chat groups to remove statements “against the public interest” and to correct them. Not only individuals will be affected but also social media and news organizations like BBC and Reuters.

Blueprint for unrest

The way the Philippine Party List System has worked, since it was created by the 1987 Constitution to assure “proportional representation” in the House of Representatives and the Party List Act ( Republic Act 7941) was passed in 1994, has provoked even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to consider asking Congress to amend the law. But it is unlikely that that body will do so -- at least not towards making it truly serve the voiceless and marginalized sectors of Philippine society.

Miseducated and disinformed

The problematic -- and for many Filipinos, depressingly predictable -- results of the May 13 senatorial elections have provoked the usual mini-debate on whether the mass of the electorate is really so stupid as to vote against their own interests. They have after all elected, among others, accused plunderers, liars, supporters of tyrannical rule, opportunists, enforcers of extrajudicial killings, and, in general, the yes-men and chorus line of the Duterte regime.

Information disorder

UNLESS there was widespread cheating and fraud on May 13, the Philippine electorate has apparently elected to the Senate enough Duterte candidates for that body to be fully under administration control.

Lawyers and lawlessness

The Philippines is one of the world’s most lawless countries. But it’s not because it has too few laws or none at all, but because it has too many that are often interpreted in favor of the powerful so as to bring about the exact opposite of their intention, are selectively implemented, or hardly enforced at all.

What Press Freedom’s For

World Press Freedom Day has always been the occasion for responsible journalists to reexamine the state of one of the fundamental needs of ethical practice. This year as in 2018, May 3rd was not so much an occasion for celebration as for alarm. As in many other parts of the world, the independent press is under siege from a government that has made it its life work to harass, restrict, threaten and silence it, and to even arrest practitioners for daring to report the truth.

Its Achilles’ heel

Why the seeming change in the Duterte regime’s response to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea? Is it because it fears that mass opposition to its refusal to do anything to stop Chinese bullying could affect the chances of its candidates at both the national and local levels on May 13?

The Chinese connection

The public opinion surveys of the past year or so have confirmed that most Filipinos distrust China while wholeheartedly favoring the United States. Over a majority of the population are skeptical of the former’s intentions, and would like the Philippine government to do something about its occupation of the West Philippine Sea.

Reason versus Madness

Now on its 26th year in the Philippines -- March 29, 2019 marked the 25th year since the country was “wired” into it -- the global communication network known as the Internet has been rightly hailed as another milestone in providing the perennial human need for information.

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.

Brainwashed

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.

The enemy within

By revealing that it was Solicitor General Jose Calida who “did the research” on which he based his proclamation that Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s 2011 amnesty is void ab initio, President Rodrigo Duterte demonstrated once again how successfully his regime has been undermining itself. Calida had earlier denied having anything to do with the proclamation. But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Calida had asked for his help, and that he directed him to the office that had custody of Trillanes’ amnesty papers.

The trouble with dictatorships

NO MATTER their official justification for being — whether “so the trains will run on time,” “to save the Republic and reform society,” or “to rid the country of crime and illegal drugs” — dictatorships are premised on the presumption that the dictator knows best and everyone else is ignorant and incompetent.

‘Moving on’

FERDINAND “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., then an outgoing senator, ran for the vice-presidency in 2016.

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.

Ship of fools

WERE they fools duped into boarding the “federalist ship,” and drafting and defending a constitution that would supposedly bring into fruition President Rodrigo Duterte’s oft-repeated claim that a shift to a federal form of government would accelerate the development of the country’s poorest regions? At least one member of the Duterte-appointed Consultative Committee (Con-Com), who helped write the draft that’s now in Congress, is beginning to think so.

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.