Posts Tagged ‘martial rule’

Juan Ponce Enrile: A Memoir is an autobiography of one of the most controversial figures in our contemporary political history, the defense minister and implementor of the Marcos dictatorship, a failed coup d’etat plotter against both the Marcos and Aquino governments, a political lord of the far-north province of Cagayan, a habitue of Congress, both as a congressman and as a senator, and the presiding officer of the impeachment court that convicted and removed from office Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Now almost 89 years old, he can claim a certain place in our nation’s history, having served in high places throughout his political career–on both sides of the political fence. He is a political survivor, missing only the post of presidency in the 1998 elections.

The interesting thing about Juan Ponce Enrile is how he can glibly change his story to fit the political necessity of the moment. Two of the most memorable stories came from him during the 1986 failed coup against Marcos. Holding a hasty press conference in beleaguered Camp Aguinaldo–and desperately calling for help–he admitted to his participation in the conduct of electoral fraud in the 1986 snap elections and in the staging of a fake ambush on his own convoy in Wack Wack Golf and Country Club on September 22, 1972, the night before martial law was publicly proclaimed the next day.

In the book, he made nary a mention of the 1986 snap election fraud and completely changed his story about the fake ambush, asserting the opposite that it was really a genuine ambush by unidentified persons. And to think that this was the last act in the series of staged terror attacks in the three months preceding the declaration of martial law and cited as basis for Proclamation 1081!

My own recollection of the period is that the fake Enrile ambush and its citing as the signal for martial law declaration already circulated among some newsmen at least a month before the event. This is the reason why many student leaders and activists of the period were able to elude the massive dragnet by the military and police forces under Enrile’s administration and supervision in the first hours and days of martial rule.

Of course, it is Enrile’s decision on what to write and say on the history of his times. However, it is also our decision to believe him or not. In many accounts in the book, he provided new glimpses, maybe even truths, on the historical events he participated in. However, in the most important of them, he ended up rewriting and reinforcing old Marcos myths.

The question, therefore, hangs. What for? The nuanced presentation seemingly points to pandering for a Marcos revival while maintaining enough traction as a people power hero. Another myth, but its another story…

Shakespeare here is maybe relevant when he said in The Tempest: “What’s past is prologue.”

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In the midst of the testimony of Philippine Savings Bank president Pascual Garcia III, the Supreme Court granted his bank’s petition for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the disclosure of SC Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar accounts. In an 8-5 decision with 2 abstentions, the SC invoked RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposit Act of 1974 (as amended by PD 1035 and PD 1246), a Marcos-era law absolutely prohibiting the disclosure of FCDU accounts without the consent of the depositor.

Thus, two schools of thoughts or doctrines will be tested in the coming week. One, is the constitutionally mandated Senate impeachment court with “sole power” to try impeachment cases subject to the jurisdiction of or is it superior to the Supreme Court in its own jurisdiction? Two, does a law–decreed by dictator Marcos no less–have an absolute application and not subject anymore to any interpretation or exception, particularly by a constitutionally-mandated sui generis impeachment court.

In the first case, any weakness by the impeachment court by accepting, to any degree, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can fatally undermine its own jurisdiction and will open the door to more SC intervention. This includes the possibility of the SC stopping the impeachment trial altogether as what is prayed for by a separate petition for certiorari and TRO filed by no less than CJ Corona in his own court.

In the second case, acceptance of the absoluteness of any law, in this case the FCDU act, will also undermine the jurisdiction and even the capability of the impeachment court to fulfill its mandate  of determining whether or not an impeachable public official is still fit to hold office. An impeachment process implies the fullest use of state power to get at the truth precisely because the impeachable official is in a position to use the power of his office to derail the search for truth. What this implies, in turn, is that the impeachment court–when it is convened–has only itself to turn to for interpreting its mandate.

In a situation of a divided Supreme Court, with Supreme Court majority decisions being questioned in the impeachment articles, it is dangerous for the impeachment court to allow any interference from this body in its proceedings. In its turn, the Supreme Court TRO exposes the eight justices who signed the order to contempt by the impeachment court at the least. It may, as a possibility, lead to their own impeachment.

It is–as yet–not a constitutional crisis precisely because both sides are still adhering to constitutional processes, albeit with differing interpretations of their respective role and mandate in relation to impeachment. The crisis will arrive when–as a consequence of each one’s decisions–the other side does not recognize the decisions and consequently defy them.

In this situation, the Executive will play the crucial role of choosing whom to recognize and therefore implement the orders, particularly in relation to contempt citations and orders for arrest. Unfortunately, for the Supreme Court majority, they will lose in this battle–it is an open secret that the opposing protagonist in the impeachment trial–despite not directly participating in it–is no less than the President of the Republic.

Will this weaken the Supreme Court as an independent institution? I don’t think so. For what weakened already the credibility of the institution is CJ Corona himself and the majority SC justices appointed by former president Arroyo, whose collective antics have lost the trust of the vast majority of our people in the impartiality, independence, and soundness of the present occupants of the institution.

The charge of the king’s knights only confirmed this. Alas, it is the charge of a light brigade.

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I am amazed that  some friends and colleagues in the NGO community and even in the human rights community can rationalize and even defend the arrogant acts of Davao local czar  Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte  and his children, Mayor Sara Duterte and Councilor Paul Duterte in relation to the incident of the mauling of a court sheriff. They should reexamine their stand and separate the acts from the other presumed good deeds of the dynastic family.

Mauling is mauling in any language. That it was done by a state official against an unarmed citizen (who happened to be another state official (!)) is enough reason to condemn the act as a human rights violation. It even merits possible criminal and administrative charges. The  good mayor is still unrepentant, egged on by dirty-finger-pointing father and brother.

Citing the demolition being carried out by the court sheriff (incidentally, assisted by the mayor and the Davao police) is beside the point. This has its own issues which may well place the court in a controversial position. However, the issue at hand is: Is it correct or wrong for Mayor Sara Duterte to assault and beat up  the court sheriff and otherwise defy the court authority?

The obvious answer is no. It is in this light that she is being investigated. The reaction of her father and brother–while maybe understandable because of family ties–only strengthened the impression of an arrogant Duterte ruling family in Davao.

The issue that is naturally linked to what happened are the human rights abuses in Davao City that happened and are still happening under the family’s watch. The hundreds of extrajudicial killings by the infamous “Davao Death Squad” are not only tolerated but even defended by the elder Duterte. This has already created an atmosphere of white terror in Davao City, particularly in the poorer quarters.

By and large, many Davaoeños supported Duterte on this because of the illusory “peace and order” that white terror brings with it. They would also credit this “peace and order” as bringing the economic boom of the city.

The “peace and order” is illusory precisely because the DDS vigilantism is itself a violation of the peace and order, the drug trade and other criminal activities still persist, rebel activities continue, and rule of law has been, to a certain extent, replaced by the rule of the strongman.

Economic development and peace and order had always been the catchphrases of the Marcos dictatorship. It is not a wonder that during the early years of martial rule, many, if not the majority, accepted the curtailment of their freedoms in exchange for the “peace and order” and “economic development” promised and actually delivered by Marcos. They would accept the horrendous violations of human rights–the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests, curfews, zonings, forced evacuations, etc.–because of the illusions of economic development and peace and order.

We know the eventual results and legacy of the Marcos dictatorship–economic bankruptcy, continuing rebellion, and warlordism. It effectively set back the country’s development by a few decades.

Of course, it can be argued that Duterte’s Davao is far from the martial rule of Marcos. However, from my point 0f view, the only difference is that we have now a democratic Philippine state and government that can curtail Duterte’s power and bring the rule of law to Davao. A responsibility that, sadly I think, some of my friend and colleagues in the NGO and human rights community are already abdicating.

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Recently, the Marcos specter started to manifest itself more strongly–the dictator’s family is evidently emboldened by the victory of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. in the Senate during the last 2010 senatorial race. There is a basis to ring the anti-dictatorship alarm.

Though 2016 is still far away, there is already enough basis to say that Marcos, Jr. is eyeing a presidential bid. In fact, the family is resurrecting the old ties with regional Marcos henchmen, consolidating the Marcos political machinery throughout the country, surreptitiously bringing back a big chunk of their huge stolen hoard, and buying or bullying their way to political influence in various vote-rich regions and key sectors, including the mass media. It is also not an accident that he has discarded his erstwhile silence and gone on offensive on popular issues where the Aquino government is vulnerable.

Marcos would have been just another politician with presidential ambitions if not for the family’s and his own unsavory historical record. The father, dictator Marcos, was responsible for the involuntary disappearance of hundreds of Filipinos, the summary execution of thousands, the torture of tens of thousands, and the incarceration or arrest of hundreds of thousands more. He ruled the most corrupt regime in this land for almost 21 years, 13 years of which was under a fascist dictatorial rule. The 1986 people power put an end to the Marcos dictatorship.

Why then the Marcos resurgence? The answer lies partly in the present demographics. The majority of the present Filipino population (including citizen-voters) were born after 1986. Most of them simply do not have the race memory on the bitter Marcos experience. The other factors are the dearth of educational initiatives to teach the historical lessons from the Marcos martial rule; the Marcos media initiatives to re-tell history, propagate the myth of a Marcos economic paradise, and even invent a Marcos idol image; the resurgent political power of the erstwhile Marcos political allies and supporters among the traditional politicians; and the disunity, errors, or non-action by those who fought the Marcos dictatorship.

What we are facing today is an unremorseful Marcos family bent on vengeance, with a huge, unrecovered stolen warchest in the tens of billions of dollars, and who thinks that the time has arrived for a comeback. What is still lacking, from its perspective, are the political and armed machinery for the comeback as well as the national political stature of the Marcos scion for a presidential bid.

The House resolution for the burying of the Marcos remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the AFP hierarchy’s enthronement of Marcos on a lame excuse of his having a questionable Medal of Valor are tests of the family’s current political clout.

Of course, the Marcos family can rejoin the democratic fold. The guilty among them can sincerely apologize and make amends to the Filipino nation and people, as well as to their victims during the Marcos dictatorial rule. The innocents can recognize the plague that Ferdinand Marcos brought on our land and likewise sincerely apologize and promise never to take the path of the father.

However, there is as yet no remorse in the Marcos family. All democratic forces who fought the Marcos dictatorship are called upon to once again unite and consolidate the democratic ranks. Let us prepare for the coming political battle. Marcos has already thrown the gauntlet; we are constrained to pick it up. No remorse.

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The dramatic events in Egypt for the last 18 days culminated in President Mubarak’s resignation of his presidency and the passing of power to the military. He and his family fled to Sharm el-Sheikh. With this, the people power manifested by the Egyptian people basically ended. The ousting of a dictator won them the victory for the moment.

The similarity to our own EDSA circa 1986 is now being talked about. Its relative peaceful resolution, the activism of all the people including those from the middle and upper classes, the international isolation of the ruling regime–all these bring to mind our own  ousting of the dictator Marcos.

However, there are a lot of differences. Among these are the lack of a democratic political pole that can immediately rally the people (Cory Aquino, in our case), the decisive role given to the military hierarchy whose current loyalties are still uncertain), the major role given to information technology, and the regional impact of the Egyptian crisis.

The differences are great enough to say that the Egyptian people power will be a unique one in its own right. The situation right now hangs in balance, with the two powers–the army and the people–still separated and unreconciliated. The army, who holds the transitory power, has not yet spoken for a transition to a democratic regime. The people, who actually holds the decisive power but in a generally spontaneous manner, are in danger of assuming the automatic rise of a democratic regime.

The democratic forces, in both political parties and the army, have to prevail with the help of people power. Otherwise, the entry of an unrepentant army into power will result in either a disguised martial rule or a wimpy democratic regime, that may even bring back Mubarak.

At any rate, the people of Egypt won this phase of their struggle for democracy. The world pays homage to them!

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The holiday ceasefire between armed forces of the Government of the Philippines (GOP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), respectively, will start tomorrow, December 16, 2010 until January 3, 2011. This ceasefire, a product of the initial talks in Hongkong, augurs well for the success of the soon-to-be resumed peace talks between the two panels. It also helped that other confidence-building measures by the GOP, such as allowing NDF negotiator  Luis Jalandoni to enter the country and the withdrawal of the charges against the “Morong 43,” were undertaken.

However, a realistic assessment needs to be done beyond the symbolic confidence-building measures. The appointment of human rights lawyers and civil society advocates in the panel showed the seriousness of the government initiative this time around. This must be realized by the CPP which should drop its own tactical framework  and adopt the same serious approach to the peace negotiations. Both sides should persevere in negotiations until a permanent peace is attained.

The fundamental basis of the negotiations should be political. The raison d’etre of the rebellion–the economic, political, social and cultural demands of the CPP and its allied organizations–are in essence–its political party platform.  From their point of view, these are the necessary reforms constituting the national democratic and eventually a socialist makeover of Philippine society.

From the standpoint of the restored Philippine democracy, every political party or organization–or for that matter, everyone–is free to espouse ideas and beliefs. What is anti-democratic and hence cannot be allowed in a democracy is for anybody to prevent an idea or belief to be aired or propagated or force others to agree on one’s own ideas or beliefs. Even the State is constrained from doing this unless the very survival of society and State is at stake. Thus we enshrined in the Philippine constitution, in consonance with internationally-recognized human rights instruments, the various freedoms and rights of citizens in a democratic society.

The downfall of the Marcos dictatorship removed a major barrier to Philippine democracy and substantially weakened the argument for armed revolutionary struggle of the CPP and the NPA. The remaining political question in this regard is the reform of the current political order characterized by continued existence of warlordism and private armed groups, the politicization of the AFP and the police forces, and the various existing obstacles to full enjoyment by the people of the fruits of the restored democracy. The removal of these conditions (or the substantive weakening of these conditions) will enable the strengthening of democracy and render moot and academic the rationale for the armed struggle.

To be sure, these conditions or their solutions are not tied to the peace negotiations between the GOP and the CPP. These are already contained in the various reform agenda of other political forces in the country who are already contesting in the parliamentary arena. Whether the talks succeed or not, these reforms need to be put in place if we want to leave behind the dynasty-ruled, personalistic politics of “guns, goons, and gold” and establish a modern democracy regime in the country.

The second major context of the resumed peace talks is the fact–admitted openly or privately on both sides–that the CPP armed struggle and the AFP’s counter-insurgency program are both getting nowhere near for either side to claim complete victory over the other. The CPP and the NPA under its command may maintain their mobile bases in remote areas, evade military operations, or conduct occasional ambuscades or attacks on military posts but cannot by any means develop stable base areas, contend for control of any area, or strike decisive blows on the military’s capability. The GOP and the AFP and police forces under its command, on the other hand, does not have the demonstrated capability to cover all areas of insurgency and hence claim a permanent control of these areas, force the AFP to drastically weaken its capability for external defense in favor of internal counter-insurgency operations (particularly affected are the navy and the air force–logically strong in an archipelagic state), suspend the delivery of government services and entry of investments into the insurgency areas, and eat up the state resources that should have been used for more productive development endeavors.

However, it is the CPP that is getting the short end of the situation more than the government. As time goes on, its survival mode became more pronounced in direct inverse proportion to the growth of people’s participation in the democratic system. Even the growing influence of political groups identifying with its program but chose to participate in the parliamentary arena is a testimony to the dead-end anachronism that is the primary armed struggle in a democratic society. Worse, it has made the CPP vulnerable to the charge of becoming anti-democratic–a sharp reversal of its heroic role in the anti-dictatorship struggle.

The government–faced with its own dilemma of debilitating internal conflicts and various crises arising from global and domestic factors–needs to unite the people and enhance its own capability to steer the country in the sea of uncertainties arising from these crises.

Seeing the conflict in political terms means overturning the current boxes that both sides hitherto used in sitting down on the peace table. The government, particularly the armed forces, needs to discard its outdated good/evil anticommunist framework of the 50s and 60s. The CPP also needs to discard its messianic, “correct” ideological framework in vogue in the 60s. The world of the 21st century is vastly different from the one 50 years ago. In a sense, we all need to grow up.

It does not mean discarding the ideas or beliefs of those on either side of the fence. What a political settlement in a democratic setting means is that we allow all, including the CPP and the anti-communists, their day in the sun–to argue  their case before the people and get their support. Let them participate in the democratic free and fair elections and give the people a chance to see their wares and buy or reject them. This is the essence of democracy.

It means that there is no need for the current extended, laborious, step-by-step process of negotiations that basically advantaged those who are looking at these as tactical maneuvers within irreconcilable frameworks of a total CPP victory, on one hand, or the total eradication of communism, on the other hand. If the two sides sincerely chose to end the fighting, both can agree on a political settlement, based on the reform and strengthening of democracy, and unfettered participation of the CPP in our political processes.

Let democracy–or more accurately–the people ultimately decide the fate of the CPP position. All should serve the people, let the wounds or war heal, and let us unite the family that is the Filipino people.

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If there is an act that would define the 14th Congress and its legislative work, I would easily choose how it handled the Freedom of Information bill. It went through the motion of filing, conducting hearings, deliberating and debating on it, approving the FOI bill on third reading, synchronizing the HOR and House versions, and finally–with Senate already approving of the synchronized version–rejecting it in the HOR by a quorum lack. Only two steps–HOR ratification and presidential signature–are needed.

Alas, FOI law will not be. And we beheld the classic method by which the Arroyo administration undermined the democratic order by using the latter’s own rules (Constitution, laws, and House rules). The quorum question ranks right up there with the false filing of impeachment against GMA, the redefinition of a “midnight appointment”, short-cutting of procurement rules and regulation, and declaring martial rule through a “state of emergency.”

Unfortunately, this undemocratic mindset that evades responsibility to democracy will still be there in the 15th Congress. Democracy will have to find effective democratic tactics against undemocratic use of democracy. The passage of the FOI bill is both an end and a means to this end.

To the front!

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