Category: america

When will we have ‘Philippines First’?

Rigoberto D. Tiglao

WHILE the new US President Donald Trump is inarguably a demagogic megalomaniac, he demonstrated a streak of genius, or a deep insight into his countrymen’s feelings, that made him win, when he made his campaign battle cries “America First” as well as “We will make America great again.”

Read on…

duterte and history

in gina apostol’s President Duterte and our revolutionary history and sylvia mayuga’s The politics of memory, the thinking, basically, is that the president’s anti-imperialist rants are not worthy of attention, much less of celebration, not because he has his facts wrong but because his “indiscriminate” and “chilling” war on drugs makes him as bad, even, as morally bankrupt, as the powerful ones that massacred our people in the filipino-american war, and as the recently powerful ones that have taken over our territories in the west ph sea and killed our coral beds, among other depredations.

i get it naman, the outrage over the lack of due process for victims, guilty and innocent, especially the innocents caught in the crossfire of the president’s war on drugs.  but the prez also speaks the truth about the enormity of the shabu problem.  as my brother, a balikbayan doctor who has been living in the boondocks of tiaong quezon for some 20 years, and who has seen it up close, wrote 10 years ago:

… the illicit drug market has successfully gained inroads into subcultures of users, into collegiate life, and deep into the bowels of Philippine rural life, burgeoning into a raging epidemic of drug addiction…

and recently, in Duterte and the War on Shabu:

…the scourge swelled and raged on
brought stories of despair, violence and deaths
ho-hum stories of day-to-day life.
thousands of sons and daughters
trapped in the quagmire of addiction
countless petty crimes to buy the high.
drugs paid for by sex favors.
the violent turf wars
the salvaging of drug pushers.
there was frustration among the tanods,
the police and local folk who cared.
di pa tapos ang barangay report,
naka-piyansa na.

… as the drug cancer continued to spread
the powers that be turned a blind eye
government wore blinders
as drug syndicates came to our shores,
from nearby and faraway,
setting up shop in our gated communities
and countless small towns across the land
under the guise of legal commerce,
cooking shabu to feed the addicts of the world
while they fed the greed and filled the coffers
of the corrupt and the powerful
who provided protection
who for the price of a million or ten or fifty
would turn a blind eye
would provide sanctuary and deliverance.
make evidence disappear.
provide passage on the next boat to china.
the masa watched helpless
as the drug commerce prospered.
emboldened by decades
of government apathy
impotence and corruptibility
the masa resigned in collective sadness
at the ruination of their communities.
it was a sad commentary, often heard
kay marcos, di mangyayari iyan…

and then came duterte, and like my brother i grieve the wrongful deaths, but what’s the alternative?

… shabu is a gold mine of immeasurable riches
to fuel the needs of power and greed.
shabu will merely recede into the shadows
selling clandestine highs
while kingpins and drug lords
figure out their next moves
patiently waiting and reassured
at their chosen sanctuaries
that duterte will not win his war
or that he will not last the war
or that six years is an easy wait
for them to reclaim the land.
unless we see kingpins
dangling on a noose
or strapped on a chair
unless we hear
the cracking of firing squads.

… we stand conflicted at this crucial crossroad
but we have seen an alternative to apathy
and the possibility of change.
i pray, hope duterte survives the bounty on his head,
and i dream, wish for his victory on his war on drugs.

and i get it, the outrage over the marcos burial, the cursing and the jolog ways, the many extemporaneous speech boo-boos that he has had to back out on, at kung ano-ano pang utterances and behavior deemed unpresidential and uncivilized and unacceptable by his critics.  maybe prof. antonio contreras is right:

President Duterte is postmodern in the sense that he escapes any attempt to be named and labeled. He is unpredictable. He is an iconoclast in that he challenges conventions in almost everything. His identity rests on fluidity rather than on certainty. He forces people to pay attention to the nuances of language if only to make sense of what he says.

He interrupts the usual, subverts the conventional, and challenges the traditional, and deploys a kind of unpredictability that becomes his own weapon. This is why the elites and those who lived comfortably in the certainty of the “daang matuwid” and black and white politics hate him.

He is the master of simulations, in the sense that one could no longer distinguish his image from his reality. Unlike his predecessor who lived on contrived imaging courtesy of staged narratives by media spinners, Duterte’s obliteration of the divide between joke and hyperbole on one hand, and serious policy statement on the other is so organically rooted that it acquires enormous political power, to the consternation of media and the elites so used to predictability and plasticity of messages.

but also, too much is going on behind the scenes that we are in the dark about.  where is the promised transparency.  i pray that the duterte admin gets its act together, inspires some confidence that the changes the prez promises are indeed doable.  i have yet to get a sense, for instance, of how the president plans to lift the masses from poverty and to make OFWs and the diaspora things-of-the-past.

most disturbing is the charter change move via con-ass towards a shift to federalism, something our elected representatives are themselves ill-informed about and ill-prepared for and which threatens to fracture further our divided nation.  there has to be a smarter way of giving our moro brothers and sisters the self-rule they deserve.

just as sinister is the plan to change the economic provisions of the constitution.  read bobi tiglao’s The big lie: ‘Charter’s restrictions have limited foreign capital inflow’.

The move to lift the Constitutional restrictions on foreign investment in public utilities and media is based on false arguments repeated over and over again in the Hitlerian fashion of the “Big Lie.”

… Sadly, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez seemed to have believed this Big Lie, based on his statements in a forum with Japan’s big businessmen in Tokyo recently. I don’t think President Duterte, with his strong sense of nationalism, would follow the cue of Dominguez, who is after all, the sole big capitalist in his Cabinet….

Dominguez should first clear such policy announcements with the more nationalistic Duterte. It is he who was elected to office, not Dominguez.”

as for the pivot-to-china at the expense of our “special relations” with the US, my question always has been, why did america stand by and watch as china took over the west philippine sea?  and did china dream up that nine-dash line as a response to the return of US troops and bases to the philippines?  anyway, it’s really more like a pivot to asia.  read malou tiquia’s The Duterte Initiative.

Derisively called mad man by his critics, there is serious thinking in his “madness.” Visiting Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei, China and Japan, PRRD has set the stage for a peaceful region, lights on for Asia and ASEAN and a face-to-face diplomacy that has never been seen from a David like the Philippines. There is rhyme and reason where he went and the key messages he called out in those visits. The Duterte Initiative has made the Philippines top of mind. Apart from Manny Pacquiao, foreigners meeting Filipinos have been asking about Duterte. Seriously, the “mad man” is a rockstar.

and if he’s serious about ending the visiting forces agreement and EDCA, a joint advocacy of senator miriam defensor-santiago and partylist rep walden bello in 2012 and 2014, he can easily do it.  read LEADER OR BLUFFER? | How the President can send the Americans packing as early as April 15, 2017. 

Article IX, titled “Duration and Termination,” of the Visiting Forces Agreement reads:

This agreement shall enter into force on the date on which the parties have notified each other in writing through the diplomatic channel that they have completed their constitutional requirements for entry into force. This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.

Since VFA is an executive agreement, Duterte does not need Congress’ approval for his action. If the president wants the United States out of the Philippines by, say, April 15, 2017, he can simply give written notice to Washington by October 15.
As for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Supreme Court in its decision on the constitutionality of EDCA on January 12 of this year stated:

The admission and presence of US military and civilian personnel in Philippine territory are already allowed under the VFA, the treaty supposedly being implemented by EDCA. What EDCA has effectively done, in fact, is merely provide the mechanism to identify the locations in which US personnel may perform allowed activities pursuant to the VFA. As the implementing agreement, it regulates and limits the presence of US personnel in the country.

The Court’s words are crystal clear: since it is merely an implementing mechanism of the VFA, EDCA loses its character as a legal agreement once the VFA is terminated. With VFA terminated on April 15, 2017, EDCA will be null and void on that date.

…It is time the President proves to the nation and the world that he is really serious about asking the Americans to leave. The action required is simple; it is a notice from the Department of Foreign Affairs that does not even need his signature. Not following through will not only translate to a loss of his credibility among his constituents. It would lead to his being dismissed as a bluffer, a “tin pot” ruler, by Washington, which can easily adjust to living with his curses and his tantrums.

meanwhile, i have finally seen the sense in, and have stopped scoffing at, the president’s speeches, never mind that he repeats himself from one gig to another, almost ad nauseam.  he is, after all, addressing himself each time to a different group of filipinos, whether the soldiers, the police, the OFWs abroad, or the masses here at home, from one local event to another, and indeed it behooves him to explain again and again about his roots and worldview, about mindanao and the moro problem, about how and why we were colonized by america, and why we continue to have this relationship with the US that is special only in a lopsided sense.

except when he speaks (rarely) of marcos as the best president we’ve ever had who deserves burial in libingan ng mga bayani, which thankfully he leaves up to the supreme court, digong lifts my spirits with his lectures on philippine history, especially our history with america.  the elephant in the room whose continued intervention in our affairs past presidents have never dared question or criticize, much less speak about in public.  how spain, without consulting our lolos and lolas, simply sold us to america for 20 million dollars.  and after and beyond the massacres of our patriots and heroes, how they took over our educational and cultural institutions and turned us into caricatures of themselves, shaped us into little brown brothers who would rather be americans than filipinos, the better the easier to take advantage of us, to manipulate us into unquestioning submission down the century, past “independence”, all the way to the new millennium.

rare history lessons that no doubt the filipino masses are hearing, learning, for the first time.  this to me is priceless.

and so when gina apostol says filipinos are “gaslighted”, i.e., manipulated, deceived, by duterte when he invokes historical facts — an abuser condemning an earlier abuser of the nation in order to sanction his own abuse — i can only say, take a second hard look, please.  it is america, the master manipulator, that has been gaslighting our people for the last hundred years.

LP asking for foreign intervention vs. duterte?

ninez cacho-olivares writes that the liberal party (LP) has sent out an SOS to the US, stepping up calls for foreign intervention, cranking up the campaign to oust president digong and replace him with vp leni.

LP senators are launching a probe on Rody capitalizing on a statement made in his recent state visit to China that the country is separating from the United States.

The probe was called on the pretext of inquiring into the administration’s foreign relations policy but is obviously meant to add more fuel to the raging feud between Washington and Rody.

hmm.  i bet these LP senators were among those whom US asst secretary of state and senior diplomat for asia daniel russel met with when he was here oct 22 to 25.  i also bet that it was duterte who snubbed russel and not, as reported by manila standard, the other way around.  i remember catching duterte in some televised event post-china, and when asked about that impending visit, he shrugged and said that the asst. sec. of state could meet with his counterpart, the secretary of defense, or someone like that.  too bad the prez doesn’t have a working communications dept. otherwise na-straighten out en seguida yang balitang inisnab ni russel si digong.

but to get back to russel and his mission.  surely it was not just to personally air america’s concerns over digong’s pivot-to-china independent-of-america foreign policy and to reaffirm “America’s enduring bond of friendship, respect and shared value with the people of the Philippines,” but also to be assured by defense sec lorenzana that the prez doesn’t mean what he says, lol, or doesn’t know what he’s saying, lol uli.  and surely he was also here to meet with groups like the LP and who knows who-else to get the pulse, and state, of the opposition, kumbaga.

reminds me of pre-EDSA 1986 when US president reagan sent philip habib, the counterpart of russel in those days, to trouble-shoot the major major marcos-aquino conflict.  this was post-snap elections, post-batasan proclamation of marcos as winner, at the height of cory’s crony boycott and civil disobedience campaign.  it was reported that habib met with everybody: marcos, cory, the military, the church, the makati business community, and who knows who else, but both marcos and cory were adamant about standing their ground, no room for compromise, and honasan’s RAM was bent on pushing through with the coup / palace attack set for early sunday 23 feb and marcos and ver were prepared to wipe them out.

at the time, it must be said, america was squarely on marcos’s side on account of the US bases and the reagans being friends of the marcoses, and squarely anti-cory on account of her campaign promise to release all political detainees and, even, to put an end to the US bases.  it also bears pointing out that the only thing habib was sure of when he hurriedly left at noon of 22 feb was that something big and bloody was about to break between the marcos-ver and the enrile-honasan camps.

It would not do for President Reagan’s negotiator to be in Manila if all hell was going to break loose. It might seem as if he were involved, or responsible. [Sterling Seagrave, The Marcos Dynasty]

but as it turned out, honasan called off the coup because ver was on to it pala and was prepared to stop the rebel reformists in their tracks.  defense minister juan ponce enrile, who had been all set to take over as head of a ruling junta, decided to defect instead and with AFP vice-chief of staff and PC-INP chief fidel ramos announced their breakaway in that historic camp aguinaldo presscon just before 7 pm of saturday 22 feb.  the rest is history.

it bears repeating that contrary to popular opinion:

… the Americans were not responsible for EDSA. Ronald Reagan’s trouble-shooter Philip Habib knew that something was brewing but he failed to get a handle on it. The Ramos-Enrile defection caught the Americans napping, People Power knocked them out. It was already day three of EDSA—the battle was practically won—when the Americans intervened in earnest, and only in the matter of Marcos’s escape. Intelligence reports from the CIA may have helped the rebel military during the four days, but if the Americans had completely stayed out of it, EDSA would have happened anyway, and it could have ended more decisively. [EDSA Uno page 11]

america had nothing much to do with EDSA 86.  it was not america that brought people marching to EDSA to shield enrile, ramos, and RAM from marcos’s wrath — it was butz aquino and cardinal sin.  it was not america that compelled cory and enrile to reconcile their differences and join forces against marcos — it was the millions of people who surrounded the camps, cheering for both cory and enrile.  and it certainly was not america that installed cory as president but the sea of people who bravely stood their ground in the face of tanks and cannons and helicopter gunships and howitzers, demanding that marcos resign.

so, really, if the LP and the VP want the president ousted for his anti-america pro-china rhetoric, america is not the one to run to first.  america would happily assist in an ouster, i would think, but only if the opposition has the numbers, which means that the LP and the VP have their work cut out for them, which is to swing to their side duterte supporters who are pro-america and anti-china, and who might therefore be having second thoughts about their president.

if they’re not up to the job, it is perhaps time to turn their attention to other issues and events unfolding that are just as earthshaking, and where they could make a difference, e.g., charter change via con-ass, unless that’s okay with them pala, as with the planned shift to federalism?

BBL, mamasapano, MILF

With only three days left, Senate President Franklin Drilon conceded, saying there is no more time for Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as the measure is already dead in the Senate.

Drilon attributed the slow death of the Aquino-backed proposal for a long-term peace program for Mindanao to the bloody January 25 clash last year that resulted in the death of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

“The political environment has become very toxic. I think the BBL and the peace process of the BBL is the 45th victim in the Mamasapano (incident),” Drilon said in an ANC interview.

so, why couldn’t oplan exodus wait until the BBL was a done deal.  i mean, you know, if the BBL was so important, why jeopardize it in any way?  why couldn’t oplan exodus wait?

the answer, if memory serves, lies in alleged intelligence reports relayed to suspended pnp chief purisima by american operatives that marwan was showing signs of planning a change in location.  so there was a sense of urgency on the part of the americans, who must have demanded immediate action, knowing full well that napenas had a plan.  a time-on-target plan that the americans must have deemed doable.  the president may have been convinced that it could be kept secret and done quickly, in and out.  besides, what was the MILF doing, coddling terrorists.

in fact the MILF is as much to blame for mamasapano killing the BBL, and not only because they gave refuge to terrorists.  worse,  that the MILF could not prevent or stop the killings — a one-sided massacre — in territory they claimed to control certainly does not inspire confidence in its promise to eschew violence and embrace peace.

as for the americans, i wonder now what they thought of the BBL.  did they approve?  did they care?  maybe they cared more about getting marwan.