Year: 2011

2011: Annus horribilis

President Benigno Aquino III partying, giggling over starlet Valerie Concepcion’s jokes, when at least 1,200 Filipinos just drowned in a typhoon in Mindanao and 60,000 lost their homes, captures the ethos of the past 12 months: a horrible year of natural and man-made disasters, with an incompetent or uncaring national leadership’s mind elsewhere.

Five destructive typhoons hit the country, with the fifth the most horrible, Tropical Storm “Sendong” in December.  Yet government’s disaster preparation and management continued throughout the year to be a bungling one.Continue reading

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‘A bloodless coup d’état’

That was how the great American columnist Walter Lippmann in his column, titled “The Seizure of the Court,” described President Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt in 1937 to control the Supreme Court. Roosevelt’s victory would have meant that “one man shall become the master of all three branches of the government and the fundamental law as well,” he wrote.  Fast-forward 74 years later, soberly consider the recent events in our country, and a bloodless, though slow-motion coup d’état is also occurring by which President Aquino will dominate all three branches of government and the Constitution as well:

On President Aquino’s orders, the daughter of a respected former president, a former senator, the Philippines’ 12th vice president, the 14th president of the country, and a sitting member of the House of Representatives is arrested on the sole, very dubious claim of a warlord’s underling implicated in the Maguindanao massacre of 57 people.Continue reading

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Hacienda Luisita’s day of infamy

December 12, 2011 is a day that will live in infamy in the history of our Republic. That was the day when the House of Representatives politically prostituted itself to a President demanding the head of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court because it ruled against his clan.

In the impeachment of Joseph Estrada and Merceditas Gutierrez, the proceedings went on for months.  In the case of Chief Justice Renato Corona, there were no hearings, no debates, no discussions.  Only secret meetings in hallways and restaurants.  Within hours, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte got 188 out of the 284 representatives to sign the document impeaching the Chief Justice, never mind if most of them hadn’t read the 57-page complaint.  “We were not allowed to read the document,” Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño told this newspaper, oblivious to how servile his admission made him.Continue reading

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Aquino savages the rule of law

Never has this happened before in our nation: The President savages the Supreme Court, the core institution of the rule of law, insults the Chief Justice to his face, and claims that only he—and not the justices who have spent decades in the study of law—can correctly interpret the Constitution.

Never before has a president called for a lynch mob against a crucial institution of a civilized society, alleging that the Supreme Court justices rule not on the basis of the law but on the command of who appointed them to their posts. It didn’t occur to Mr. Aquino though that the person he claims to control the high court—former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—is powerless, sick, and even nearly helpless in fending off a lynch mob.Continue reading

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Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, farmers victorious vs Aquino hacienda

You’d have to visit Hacienda Luisita to realize how vast it is, why it’s been a symbol not only of elite rule in our country but of its hypocrisy and powers of deceit. It’s the biggest hacienda in the country, with a total area of 64.4 square kilometers—nearly as big as the cities of Manila and Makati combined.

The sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see were a marvel for me when I first visited the hacienda in 1970. It was troubling though to see emasculated sugar workers, their skin blackened by the hot Central Luzon sun, their shoulders nearly buckling under the weight of sugarcane poles, and after that to be served US steak from nearby American Clark Airfield in an air-conditioned hacienda mansion. Class exploitation, class struggle are not ideas but realities in this hacienda, I then felt.Continue reading

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Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, farmers victorious vs Aquino hacienda

You’d have to visit Hacienda Luisita to realize how vast it is, why it’s been a symbol not only of elite rule in our country but of its hypocrisy and powers of deceit. It’s the biggest hacienda in the country, with a total area of 64.4 square kilometers—nearly as big as the cities of Manila and Makati combined.

The sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see were a marvel for me when I first visited the hacienda in 1970. It was troubling though to see emasculated sugar workers, their skin blackened by the hot Central Luzon sun, their shoulders nearly buckling under the weight of sugarcane poles, and after that to be served US steak from nearby American Clark Airfield in an air-conditioned hacienda mansion. Class exploitation, class struggle are not ideas but realities in this hacienda, I then felt.
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Maguindanao suspect is sole witness vs Arroyo

A former president of the republic is arrested, humiliated and tormented on the sole basis of the very dubious claim of one man: Norie Unas, Andal Ampatuan Sr.’s former underboss, who relatives of the 58 victims in the Maguindanao massacre claim was involved in the atrocity.  Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose wife’s and two sisters’ bodies were abominably mutilated, said it was Unas who even deployed the tractor backhoe to dig the victims’ mass grave.

Yet Justice Secretary Leila de Lima calls it “a triumph of justice,” and this lawyer debased the Supreme Court’s image on the basis of the testimony of this massacre suspect.Continue reading

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A vindictive President’s desperate plot

Ninoy Aquino would have turned in his grave, with his vindictive son President Aquino throwing all fairness, justice and decency to the garbage bin just to put Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in jail, just as the dictator did in 1972 to incarcerate him.

Ferdinand Marcos had more decency and allowed the convicted Ninoy to travel to the United States for a heart bypass surgery, already a routine operation at that time here.  Now it is President Aquino who is even trampling on the constitutional right of a citizen to travel to seek medical care, and even defied the Supreme Court directive ordering it not to do so.

There is a devious reason to Mr. Aquino’s and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s madness in opposing even the highest court of the land. De Lima is lying when she claims that she is just doing her duty, since Arroyo has to face plunder charges against her.  She and Aquino know that these plunder charges wouldn’t stand up in court, and Arroyo would be foolish to go on exile because of these flimsy accusations.  They have therefore changed their stratagem.

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What exactly are the charges against her?

Ferdinand Marcos in 1980 allowed his archenemy Ninoy Aquino to go to Boston for a heart bypass surgery, even as the procedure had become routine since 1975 at the Philippine Heart Center. Aquino had been sentenced to death for murder and subversion after five years of trial by Military Commission No. 2, whose legality was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The Sandiganbayan in 2004 allowed Joseph Estrada to travel to Hong Kong so that the doctor he chose could undertake a very routine procedure to correct his knee ailment.  Estrada’s plunder trial was then underway for nearly four years, with credible eye-witnesses against him such as Ilocos Gov. Chavit Singson and Clarissa Ocampo and roomfuls of documents, especially bank accounts supporting the allegations that he enriched himself in office.

In sharp contrast to these past situations, the cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo haven’t even reached the very first stage of trial. Yet she is barred from seeking medical attention abroad for a rare disease that couldn’t be cured after three operations.

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‘If you want peace, prepare for war’

That was the slogan prominently displayed at the main assembly hall at the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s headquarters called Camp Abubakar.

An aphorism from classical Rome (“Si vis pacem, para bellum”), it means that a nation or society is likely to be left in peace by its enemies if its military capacity to wage war is a deterrent enough—an idea that proved true during the Cold War’s arms race. The slogan speaks volumes of the MILF’s real thinking even with the peace talks: The Moro homeland will finally be left alone in peace when the government is confronted with an MILF that can really wage war.

In fact, in my interview then with the late MILF chairman Hashim Salamat, he explained that his organization’s strategy is not for a Maoist guerrilla war, but to match, battalion per battalion, the government’s military force—at which point government will have no choice but agree to an Islamic state in Mindanao. Ceasefire agreements during peace talks simply allow it to build up its forces. Indeed, the MILF force, which recently decimated an Army’s Special Forces platoon, is referred to as the 113th Base Command, already mimicking our Army’s organizational nomenclature.

I stayed at Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao for several days when I was correspondent for the Hong Kong-based magazine Far Eastern Economic Review. I still think the area, on a plateau with its idyllic fields, waterfalls and virgin forests, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Such a colossal waste: even with the camp captured by government forces in 2000, the area is still deserted and will remain as such even for a century—because of the Muslim insurgency.

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