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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a far from modest and less than truthful description of itself, the Philippine government, said a Malacañang statement, is “headed by someone who has strong political will, decisive leadership, and compassion for his fellow men,” hence the “fruitful” first two years of the six-year Rodrigo Duterte presidency.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”