Marcosian PNoy


Last Wednesday, 1500 people led by Juana Change were prevented from forming their human chain from Crame to EDSA shrine. Talk about irony. The son of democracy icons doing a Marcosian tactic on the day we celebrate the end of a dictatorship.

What happened to PNoy? He clearly is not the person that millions of Filipinos thought he was when he was given an unprecedented mandate to lead. Mea culpa, as well as culpa of the millions of others who voted for him and ensured his victory in the 2010 elections.

I thought PNoy would stand for good governance and democracy because I had the opportunity to work with him up close in the attempts to impeach PGMA. Of course we expected him to be part of the moral indignation against the bastardization of democracy as evident by the notorious “Hello Garci” tape. His involvement against the cheating, stealing and lying PGMA regime was expected of him because his father died fighting for the restoration of democracy, while his mother ushered in democracy. Clearly, it would have been unforgivable for the son of our icons of democracy to be indifferent to systematic electoral cheating.

PNoy also stood his ground against corruption in the country. The anomalous Chinese-funded projects that became the consideration for PGMA’s sale of our patrimony to the Chinese- initially through the joint seismic exploration with China. This SURVEY  enabled China to confirm its  suspicions that the disputed Spratlys islands and even the undisputed territory of Recto bank contained vast deposits of oil. China has since  been unrelenting and outright aggressive in defending its claims to the disputed and undisputed territories. An energy-starved country with the highest population density in the world is bound to lust after the resources of others. PNoy also stood against this sell-out by opposing the anomalous Chinese projects both in the impeachment complaint against PGMA and when he became Senator in 2007.

With such clear track record, the question now is:  what on earth happened to him ? Yesterday he was a true blue democrat. Today, he would not even allow a crowd -whom he has dismissed as insignificant in number- from doing a human chain on the day we celebrate EDSA 1!

PNoy successfully dispersed and prevented the human chain by ensuring that no one would be able to congregate on EDSA. As early as 5 AM, police blocked off EDSA from all cars and people! This was worse compared to what PGMA did also on a February 25 when she declared a state of national emergency that led to THE ARREST OF Randy David et al while marching along EDSA. This is because PGMA at least allowed everyone else to march along EDSA except for those who were arrested.

PNoy in this year’s EDSA commemoration prevented the people from marching altogether!

Of course I’m shocked. Of course I’m indignant. How dare the scion of democracy destroy that which his own father died for! The same democracy that his own mother defended from putschists. How dare PNoy be the same evil that we stood against in EDSA. And like millions of other Filipinos, I feel utterly betrayed by him and indignant that he has become himself an enemy of democracy.

What was PNoy afraid of? We already know the truth! We know that the blame for the Mamasapano massacre lies with him not only for authorizing his suspended henchman implement a bad plan, but also for refusing to order the military to provide assistance to the beleaguered policemen to ensure the sell-out of Mindanao through the BBL, the handiwork of Black and White movement’s Ging Deles and the rest of the MILF spokespersons.

We know already the truth that he is simply unable to lead- abdicating the functions of his most powerful office to his kaibigans, kaklase, and kabarilan. We already know that other than blaming the previous administration for all the woes of our nation, he was devoid of a platform of government that led literally to a lack of governance under his term. We also know the truth that he does not care for Philippine sovereignty as he has in fact surrendered the custody of a vicious killer who murdered one of us to please mother America. We know too that his eagerness to please Uncle Sam also led to his support to the one-sided EDCA and the death of the SAF 44 even if it is clear that their martyrdom is not worth achieving the US objective in capturing its enemy coddled by the MILF.

So what else is PNoy hiding when he infringed on our rights to speak out? Clearly, the truth has already set the people free!  While he may have succeeded in preventing the human chain  using the same techniques of both Marcos and PGMA, he will not be able to restrain the people’s anger altogether. In this regard, he should learn from the experiences of Marcos and PGMA. Soon, he will be booted out and made to pay for his crimes against the people.

To our comrades on the streets: we may have failed to capture EDSA last Wednesday. But like Don Quixote, we simply need “to rise, brush off the mud and CONTINUE the fight!” Soon, PNoy will suffer the fate of Marcos and PGMA. Only I hope it will be worse. Because unlike Marcos and PGMA, it was only PNoy who betrayed so many of us.

P Noy: Why have thou forsaken us?


maguindanao1I wondered what P Noy would say in this year’s SONA about the Maguindanao massacre and other cases of extralegal killings in the country. Since becoming President, he has consistently said something about this malaise. This may be because when he still seeking the people’s mandate, he sought an audience with our clients and promised that the prosecution of the perpetrators of the massacre would be on top of his priorities. This was why one of our clients, Myrna Reblando, wife of slain Manila Bulletin journalist, “Bong” Reblando, the only full time journalist of a national broad sheet to perish in the massacre, agreed to publicly endorse him in a television advertisement broadcasted at the tail end of the campaign period in 2010. That endorsement earned Myrna front seat sitting in P Noy’s inauguration at Luneta.

In 2010, while not expressly mentioning the Maguindanao massacre, P Noy did promise that he would “punish” the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings. In 2011, he expressed confidence that the Department of Justice will go after those behind these extrajudicial killings. In 2012, he expressly promised that he would accord the victims of the massacre justice. Earlier this year, the Secretary of Justice declared that the prosecution of the case would be finished within the term of P Noy.

I then expected that the President would reiterate De Lima’s promise to finish the prosecution of the case before 2016. Alternatively, I was hoping that our recent expose that about 14 of the victims almost entered into a settlement with the accused would prompt the government to discharge its duty to pay compensation to the victims as a consequence of the Philippine state’s breach of its obligation to protect and promote the right to life of the victims. While Deputy Presidential mouth Valte exhibited her gross ignorance of human rights law when she said that this administration will not pay compensation to the victims since it was not responsible for the massacre; I was hoping that those with brains in the administration, such as Secretary Leila De Lima or Secretary Ronald Llamas, maybe upon the prodding’s of CHR Chair Etta Rosales, would already correct the mistake of the mouth named Valte.

So for 1 hour 45 minutes, I, with millions of other Filipinos, eagerly awaited the Presidential pronouncement on how he would protect and promote the most important right of all rights, the right to life.

My heart was hence tattered into pieces when after an hour and forty-five minutes of waiting, the President concluded his SONA without mentioning a single word on either extrajudicial killings or the Maguindanao massacre. My immediate reaction was one of panic. Oh my God, I said, the President is not even sure that the trial of the century could be concluded during his term! If it could not be done during the term of one who had not benefitted from the Ampatuans of Maguindanao, what would happen to the case should the President to be elected in 2016 be indebted anew to the family of the accused? It would certainly be hopeless for the victims.

The fact that I felt this sense of despair is actually to commend P Noy. I have always acknowledged that he is one of the few politicians who did not benefit from the Ampatuans of Maguindanao. On the contrary, he was one of those who allegedly got zero votes in the province in the 2007 elections. This is reason to be confident that there would be a level playing field in the prosecution of the massacre during his administration. But the reality is outside of P Noy, almost all of the contenders in 2016, unless the likes of Grace Poe, Chiz Escudero, or Allan Cayetano make a go for the Presidency, have had some ties with the Ampatuans of Maguindanao. This means that the possibility of a conviction, at least during my lifetime, has dimmed. This is because P Noy’s silence on the massacre is an implied admission that no one is certain when the prosecution of the country’s worse massacre will conclude.

It was also worrisome that despite the fact that there have already been 15 cases of extrajudicial killings of journalists in P Noy’s three-year-old administration, the President was equally silent on what he intends to do with the perpetrators of these killings. This prompted the Human Rights Watch to declare, “We are dismayed that President Aquino, in his State of the Nation Address today, chose not to talk about the continuing culture of impunity in the Philippines. We are disappointed that he did not take the opportunity to communicate to the military and the police that they will be held accountable for human rights violations. President Aquino’s failure to denounce abuses against outspoken activists, environmentalists, clergy and journalists sends the wrong message to abusive security forces and corrupt politicians”. The Center for International Law, for its part declared: “The President’s failure to state how he intend to finish the prosecution of the massacre case points to a lack of political will to punish those who will violate freedom of the press and the right to life”.

As for the victims, three of them, Monette Salaysay, Editha Tiamzon, and Cipriana Gatchalian tearfully asked on the occasion of the 44th month commemoration of the massacre held only a day after the SONA: “why have thou forsaken us?”

#30#

America: The former superpower


America is now an ex-superpower. First, it ceased to be the biggest economy in the world. It is now only the second-biggest economy. China has long overtaken it and the tables have been turned. Communist China has not only become an economic tiger; it has also become the biggest creditor of capitalist America.

And the decline of superpower America goes beyond economics. With China’s recent foray into bullyism (yes, I invented that word) in the West Philippines Sea, it has allowed China to challenge its pre-eminence in the Pacific front. This used to be its bastion since World War II. This was why despite granting the Philippines nominal independence, it insisted on utilizing the country as an unsinkable military carrier with take-off points at Clark and Subic. These were bases that used to be its biggest military installations outside the mainland US.

Today, it is longer the US Navy that is feared in this part of the world. It is now the Chinese Navy that lords it over in these waters. First it took possession of Mischief Reef in the disputed Kalayaan groups of islands from Filipino soldiers then assigned in the island. Today, it has effectively driven away all Filipino presence in Panatag Shoal, an area that is literally the backwaters of the province of Zambales. And if the respected journalist Chito Santamaria is correct, China is not just interested in the fishing waters around Panatag. The real battleground, according to Chito, is Recto Bank where Manny Pangilinan is about to drill for oil.

Amidst this newfound Chinese expansionism, where is America? Well, at the first sign of a conflict, Hilary Clinton declared that it would take a neutral stance and urged a peaceful settlement of the dispute. Later, when the standoff persisted, she declared during a US Senate concurrence hearing on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that China’s claims to the vast waters of the West Philippine Sea exceeded what is allowed under international law. And recently, when President Noynoy Aquino went to the US begging anew for help, no less than President Barack Obama was clearly non-committal. This is apparent in a White House release after the meeting between Obama and PNoy stating, among others, that the two leaders merely agreed on “firm support for a collaborative diplomatic process among claimants to resolve territorial disputes in a manner consistent with international law and without coercion or the use of force.”

Make no mistake about it. Uncle Joe can’t be counted upon to deal with China- the bully.

Central to American foreign policy is that as the lone superpower of the world, it can be counted upon to maintain peace and order in this planet. At the very least, if its economic woes have become so bad that it can no longer play the role of superman, it should have sufficient resources to stand by its long-standing ally when needed. But no, nowadays, the American position is for its allies to swim or sink. Full stop.

This is not to say that the American position is wrong. I for one have never believed that mother America will ever come to our rescue solely to defend our interests. This is why I have been a long supporter of the likes of Claro M. Recto and Jovito R. Salonga, who believed no one can be counted to uphold Philippine interest but us -Filipinos.

Still, this lackadaisical manner by which America seems to regard the recent threat of Chinese expansionism is a major change in its foreign policy.

Make no mistake about it. While America couldn’t care less about the West Philippine Sea, it will come back to Subic and Clark not to defend us; but to uphold its own national interest. This is why it is in the process of sending 60 percent of its navy forces to Asia. Malacañang, I’m sure would want to take credit for this. But nope, this has been in the offing even before our recent controversy with China. At most, perhaps, the actual deployment of these forces to Asia was hastened by the dispute. They will come though not because Scarborough and the Spratly islands are ours. They will come because China’s claims to these territories may precisely hinder deployment of their ships into these waters.

We, unfortunately, are irrelevant to their policy.

PNOY’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD


 

NOY’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

Geneva, Switzerland. The Philippines will be the object of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May of this year by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Council is a body composed of 47 states tasked with the protection and promotion of human rights. The Council seeks to achieve its purpose through this periodic review, where states are asked by other states on the level of their compliance with human rights norms. This in turn is premised on the assumption that no state would want to be declared to be in breach of its human rights obligations. It also works through expert rapporteurs, both thematic and country specific, whose function is to conduct investigations to determine states’ compliance with their obligations.

As an adherent of humanitarian law that utilizes penology as an enforcement mechanism, I have been critical of how the UN implements human rights through this shaming machinery. But I had a different insight into the human rights mechanism when I saw it up close. To begin with, the world’s civil society is active here to ensure that non-compliant states are in fact shamed to the fullest. Further, one certainly gets the sense that with all states dutifully attending the many meeting of the UN here in Geneva, states do abhor the prospect of being branded as a violator. Judge Rosalynn Higgins said it succinctly: while violations of the rights of human beings are rampant, states will opt to deny that their conduct violate these rights and will instead argue that their conduct is either compliant or justified. She cited the case of torture. Amnesty International, who together with the German Action Network Human Rights-Philippines, are my hosts here- has once declared that almost all states commit torture. And yet, not one state will acknowledge this and all will still maintain that torture is illegal.
Why am I here? To participate in a side event to discuss human rights under P Noy and to lobby states to question the Philippines why extralegal killings (ELK’s), torture, and enforced disappearances (ED’s) persist.

I argued that extralegal killings, torture and enforced disappearances continue even now because their perpetrators have not been investigated, prosecuted and punished for their acts. Here, I traced the problem to a breakdown in the country’s pillars of its criminal justice system. First, the police do not know how to investigate. A recent study revealed that 8 out of 10 policemen are not trained and are hence incompetent to investigate crimes. There too is the PNP procedure that seeks first to identify the perpetrator of a crime before gathering and processing of physical evidence. Worse, in almost all the heinous crimes that I have been involved as a private prosecutor: the Maguindanao massacre, the Evangelista torture case, the Tanauan massacre, the Bicutan siege, to name only a few, policemen are the perpetrators of these crimes. How can they investigate themselves?

Second, the National Prosecution Service has failed to prosecute. The Perreño report commissioned by the Asia Foundation revealed that their conviction rate for Elk’s and ED’s is a measly  1% . Over-all, no less than the President has said that their conviction is a low of 14%. There may be many reasons for this -including lack of resources and manpower. But what appears to be obvious for now is their adamant refusal to be involved in the investigation of these crimes is responsible for their low conviction rate. Under human rights law, it is the state, acting through the police and the prosecutors, who must investigate and hence gather the evidence to meet the minimum threshold of evidence.

The Courts have at least, through former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, acknowledged that it is also in breach of their duty to protect and promote the right to life. This is due to the perennial problem of court delays and even the incompetence and lack of integrity of some of our Judges.

The decision to make the presentation here was not easy to make. I have been supportive of the administration of P Noy and make no apologies for it. But I opted to attend and am currently even lobbying the international community to confront the Philippines with the issues of ELK’s, torture, and ED’s for two reasons: one, a belief that true friend of an administration should not just sing odes of praise.  A friend should commend when it is deserved, and should criticize, when necessary. This is   not to overthrow it, but for it to become better. Secondly, I am here because you and I could be the next victims of these crimes.

 

 

 

 

10-4-9 for removal of Corona


Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer 12/15/11

So it happened. A few days after my column last week where I exhorted the impeachment of both Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, the President, weary of yet another TRO from the Arroyo court -asked his allies in Congress to impeach the Chief Justice. And while I have maintained that this should have been done since day 1 of his administration, its certainly better late than never, as the saying goes.

Critics though have claimed that the impeachment will undermine the independence of our courts. Far from it. In the first place, it was Corona who did it to himself. He agreed to become an unconstitutional Chief Justice when he assumed the office knowing fully well that both the language and the spirit of the Constitution barred his appointment. You cannot undermine the judiciary when you remove an unconstitutional appointee. On the contrary, you uphold the supremacy of the Constitution by doing so.

True, the Constitution defines judicial power as including the power to declare any act of any branch or instrumentality of government as null and void where there is grave abuse of discretion resulting in lack of or excess of jurisdiction. Included in this function is the duty to declare as illegal any act that is contrary to the constitution. But this is not a monopoly of the Courts. All public officers are required to uphold the constitution and the laws of the land. Surely, when it is the Supreme Court that makes a mockery of the Constitution, as it did in the case of De Castro v. JBC where the midnight appointment of Corona was upheld, the executive is duty bound to resort to the constitutional tool of impeachment to uphold the constitution and accountability of public officers.

It must be underscored that while the Constitution refers to the Senate as an “impeachment court”, the language of the organic act should not deceive the Senate. They are a court only for the purpose of determining whether the impeached official should be removed from office. This does not make them a court of law. They are still policy makers who must formulate policy on whether one should continue in public office. They should not make the mistake, as argued by Estelito Mendoza during the Erap impeachment, of acting like a court hearing a criminal case. Public office is still a privilege and not a right. When the Constitution vested in elective representatives of the people the power to remove impeachable officers, it was their will to include the issue of fitness for a public office as a policy issue and not a criminal inquiry. The standard is hence not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, nor any of the standards recognized by our rule of evidence. The sole criterion is fitness to remain in office from a policy point of view. While the grounds for impeachment should still be proven, the Senate though is free to decide on the basis of other considerations considered relevant in formulating policy. Otherwise, the power to impeach and sit as an impeachment court should have been vested in the judiciary.

So how will the Senators possibly vote on the Corona impeachment case? Well, while it is still too early to tell, my crystal ball shows the following:  all four LP Senators: Drilon, Recto, Pangilinan, and Guingona will vote for impeachment. They have to. When we say impeachment is a political process, it also means that political parties, at least in the United States from whom we copied our constitution, vote along party lines. Expect the four to be joined by Senators Trillianes, Estrada
, and Lacson, all of whom have proven to be staunch political nemesis of Corona’s boss, CGMA. 
 Add to the list Senate President Enrile who should know that voting in favor of Malacanang’s wish would be the surest way of safeguarding his post as head of the Senate. Voting with JPE would be his majority floor leader Sotto and his prodigee, Honasan. That’s a sure 10 votes for impeachment.

Those who will most likely cast negative votes would be Senators allied with or sympathetic to CGMA. This would include Senators  Revilla
, Lapid
, Arroyo, and Marcos. That’s a sure 4 votes against impeachment.

The rest, 9 in all , I think, are undecided: Santiago

 , in my mind, is undecided because while she appreciates Malacanang’s support for her ICC candidacy, still, she has been very  clear that she does not think Corona should be impeached. Angara, as a veteran politician, should be  open to offers. The same goes for Legarda. Villar and his block, including the two Cayetanos, have been rabid anti-Malacanang Senators. Palace operators may have to strike a deal first with the Villar block, if they want to have the numbers to remove Corona. Osmena is undecided because he has been maverick lately, opposing even the nomination of P Noy’s Tito, Domingo Lee, as Ambassador to China. This means that Osmena does not believe in voting along party lines. And finally, Escudero is an undecided because he normally defers to his elders in his own fraternity. One of his esteemed senior brod, former Chief Justice Renaldo Puno, is seen as being sympathetic to Corona as in fact- he even resigned earlier than his 70th birthday to facilitate Corona;s appointment. Pimentel is an undecided because he has been quoted as saying he will decide on the basis of evidence.

We need 16 Senators to remove Corona. But anything can happen. As we have known all along: never underestimate the vast powers of the President