EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full Commentary below)

FROM THE INQUIRER

INQUIRER EDITORIAL: CHASING GRACE
[But should Poe join forces with Roxas, it is the memory of her late father that will be dishonored. Remember that in the 2004 presidential derby when Fernando Poe Jr. squared off against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Roxas was snugly ensconced in GMA’s camp, which mocked FPJ’s supposedly paltry credentials for statesmanship and untested capacity for leadership. In other words, when FPJ was cheated “not once but twice,” in the words of his wife, the actress Susan Roces, Roxas was in the cheering cabal that popped the proverbial champagne bottles to celebrate six more years for GMA in Malacañang.]


Should President Aquino anoint Grace Poe as his successor, and turn his back on longtime loyal aspirant Mar Roxas, it will be a repeat of how his mother let go of loyalist Ramon Mitra to support Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.
Mitra had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives and had the support of the traditional politicians. In contrast, Ramos had not occupied any elective office and his stature owed to his heroic role in the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. Mitra seemed formidable because of the “trapo” support but was easily outdone by Ramos’ popular support coupled with President Cory Aquino’s valued endorsement. The déjà vu will not end there. It’s not just that now another sitting president will spurn a proven loyalist in exchange for the perceived winnable. It’s also that the perceived winnable embodies the hope of a new order while the loyalist represents the entrenched cliques who have not really delivered, going by their performance under the P-Noy administration. Poe is not allied with any political party or faction, except perhaps being identified with a veteran politician, Sen. Francis Escudero, while Mar Roxas has cultivated faithful followers and managed to place them in key government posts. That might be seen as a plus, since it means that Roxas can hit the ground running. But running where and toward which direction is the question. Poe carries no such baggage, has no acolytes to reward, no fiefdoms to preserve, and abundant prospects to fulfill. READ MORE...

ALSO: Why Poe will beat Binay in polls


NEAL H CRUZ  TALK OF credit-grabbing, is it true that Vice President Jejomar Binay is claiming credit for the victory of El Gamma Penumbra, the Philippine shadow play troupe that won the first “Asia’s Got Talent” contest in Singapore? Is it true he claimed that he is the original “penumbra” and that the troupe got its inspiration from him? I don’t think so, but you can never tell with politicians. They would sell their own mothers for votes. * * *  “And now the end is near, and so I take the final curtain…”  That line from a signature song of Frank Sinatra may now be the theme song of Binay, now that it looks like Sen. Grace Poe will be the presidential candidate of the administration’s Liberal Party in next year’s elections. In his statements to the press, President Aquino is dropping very broad hints that he prefers Poe to be the LP standard-bearer, saying that Poe seems to be the right person to continue his reforms. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas is the presumptive LP candidate, but so far the President has refrained from endorsing him publicly; instead he seems to be endorsing Poe. The reason may be the low ratings of Roxas in the opinion polls. He is behind Binay and Poe, tying for third place with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. But Poe, with 31 percent, is only 5 points behind Binay who has 36 percent. And she has not even declared her candidacy yet, while Binay has been campaigning for the presidency on the very first day that he became vice president. Political analysts see Poe overtaking Binay in the next poll, especially with the discovery by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that the Binays have hundreds of millions of pesos stashed in a number of bank accounts which the Court of Appeals has ordered frozen. In a contest between Poe and Binay for the presidency, Binay would surely lose. READ MORE...

ALSO: Two BBL strategies


Retired CJ Artemio Panganiban The two legislative committees primarily handling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) favor peace. However, they are using diverse strategies to achieve their common goal. Risky strategy. On one hand, the House committee headed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, voting 50-17, approved the BBL with some amendments, but did not revise or delete several provisions that critics claim are unconstitutional because their revision or deletion would contravene the government’s comprehensive peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. On the other, the Senate committee headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago believes that, in addition to passing the BBL, Congress should also amend the Constitution to validate the questionable portions. The congressmen, swayed no doubt by their meeting with the President a few days ago, are taking the calculated risk that the bill would survive scrutiny by the Supreme Court. Or, at least, they think that the Court would not invalidate the entire BBL (but only separable parts), unlike the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which was totally scrapped. Better strategy. I believe the Senate track is safer and better. Why? First, a constitutional amendment or revision would conclusively solve all the legal objections to the bill. True, such a route would take more time. But, as I pointed out in this space on Feb. 8 (“Saving the peace”), the process could be speeded up by Congress by tackling its legislative function of enacting the BBL alongside its constituent function of amending the Constitution. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Right thing to do
[Welcoming a brutalized, traumatized people to our shores is the right thing to do. It’s the Filipino way. For all our faults, we are a kind people. Let us stay that way.]
The latest word from Malacañang is that Asian “boat people” who might wash up on Philippine shores will not be turned away. The clarification came on the heels of an earlier report quoting Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma as saying that the Philippines “will have to deny” the boat people admission “if they don’t have travel documents”—a requirement that seemed particularly cruel and pointless given the refugees being talked about: some 3,000 Rohingya who, fleeing hunger and persecution in Burma (Myanmar) where they are considered a stateless ethnic minority, have been stranded at sea for days or weeks without food and water. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima eventually said asking for travel documents from boat people, if and when they do apply for asylum in the Philippines, would not be a requirement, precisely because escaping from their country, often in haste and fear, meant reverting to undocumented status. “Asylum seekers cannot always be expected to obtain travel documents particularly where the agent of persecution is the state. Hence, their situation deserves to be treated and examined in a different context,” she added. This is the humane, compassionate thing to do when it comes to treating a people who are in supreme, desperate need of immediate aid. So far, with this pronouncement, the Philippines stands as the only nation in Southeast Asia to indicate that it is open to granting some form of refuge and succor to the Rohingya boat people. As many as 6,000 such migrants are currently adrift at sea, denied entry by countries such as Thailand, which, like the Philippines, is plagued by a Muslim insurgency in the south and so is wary of receiving the Muslim Rohingya. But predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia are barring their doors, too, or at most taking in only a trickle of the flood of refugees that await deliverance from their ordeal at sea. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Tough guy


The 'Courageous Mayor" To youth gangs: “I’ll break your bones.” To drug pushers: “I’ll execute you.” To alleged rice hoarders: “I will kill you.” To corrupt cops: “Not in Davao or I’ll kill you.”  Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte utters one more variation of his favorite warning to criminals and lowlifes who make the mistake of operating in his city, and his admirers and supporters swoon. Such pluck! they say. So unlike the effete politicians out there who hem and haw and hedge and waffle, desperate to be seen as similarly resolute against criminality but unwilling to go down and dirty with them. The man is different; he suffers no knaves, and loves the idea of bludgeoning them to submission—or to kingdom come, if need be. His vocabulary is a thesaurus on one word—“kill.” He doesn’t mind being seen as violent; if it’s the language of the blackguards and heels he’s up against, then he’ll dish it to them, in full glare of the media and an adoring throng weary of the everyday lawlessness around them. Forget action movies, here’s the real Dirty Harry, and he doesn’t slink back into ambiguous darkness after the hit. No, he is Rodrigo Duterte, proud scourge of criminals—and, if the enthusiasts of his brand of governance will have their way, the next president of the Philippines. It’s what we need, we’re told. This is a country that has gone to the dogs, with a justice system so weak and so rotten that it has robbed the people of the rights fundamental to their happiness and security in a decent, viable society—to walk the streets at night without fear, to drive to work without being flagged down by mulcting cops, to go to sleep without worrying about thieves entering one’s home. READ MORE...

ALSO: Binay, BBL and misrepresented legal doctrines


by Oscar Franklin Tan CRUCIAL misrepresentations of law are circulating. These relate to two important issues that a citizen cannot weigh without appreciating their legal aspects: the unprecedented court freeze order against Vice President Jejomar Binay’s assets and the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s constitutionality. Media is not yet capable of filtering respectable legal interpretation from what contradicts the freshman syllabus. Nor can we simply outsource our thought process to lawyers whenever a legal issue crops up. I have been critical of the Vice President’s lawyers after they proposed theories that contradict the naked text of our laws. At the Supreme Court hearing on the Court of Appeals’ temporary restraining order on the mayor of Makati’s suspension, they proposed that the Ombudsman Law, which prohibits TROs against the Ombudsman’s investigations, is invalid because a TRO is a court procedure that only the high court may set. The justices cited the explicit sentence in the Constitution that states lower court jurisdiction is set by law, not the high court. The same lawyer threatened to prosecute the Inquirer for reporting the Court of Appeals’ freeze order, supposedly in violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The Amla section he cited reads: “When reporting covered or suspicious transactions to the AMLC… Neither may such reporting be published or aired in any manner or form by the mass media….” A child can see that this covers reports to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), not court orders. A legal expert proclaimed that Senate contempt orders against resource persons linked to the Vice President are illegal because the relevant Senate inquiry is not related to the proposed legislation. He claimed that the 2008 Neri decision during the Arroyo administration narrowed the scope of Senate inquiries. Nothing in the two Neri decisions says this. They even affirm: “The power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is broad… a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information….”  The actual doctrine is that senators need only state that they are contemplating legislation without giving specifics, as they are free to consider what comes to mind after their investigations. Further, the Neri decisions actually dealt with executive privilege, which can only be invoked by the President, and the Senate’s alleged failure to publish its regulations governing inquiries (which has since been done). READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA EDITORIALS & OPINIONS  HERE:

Editorial: Chasing Grace

MANILA, MAY 25, 2015 (INQUIRER) Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 - Should President Aquino anoint Grace Poe as his successor, and turn his back on longtime loyal aspirant Mar Roxas, it will be a repeat of how his mother let go of loyalist Ramon Mitra to support Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.

Mitra had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives and had the support of the traditional politicians. In contrast, Ramos had not occupied any elective office and his stature owed to his heroic role in the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. Mitra seemed formidable because of the “trapo” support but was easily outdone by Ramos’ popular support coupled with President Cory Aquino’s valued endorsement.

The déjà vu will not end there. It’s not just that now another sitting president will spurn a proven loyalist in exchange for the perceived winnable. It’s also that the perceived winnable embodies the hope of a new order while the loyalist represents the entrenched cliques who have not really delivered, going by their performance under the P-Noy administration. Poe is not allied with any political party or faction, except perhaps being identified with a veteran politician, Sen. Francis Escudero, while Mar Roxas has cultivated faithful followers and managed to place them in key government posts. That might be seen as a plus, since it means that Roxas can hit the ground running. But running where and toward which direction is the question. Poe carries no such baggage, has no acolytes to reward, no fiefdoms to preserve, and abundant prospects to fulfill.

READ MORE...
But should Poe join forces with Roxas, it is the memory of her late father that will be dishonored.

Remember that in the 2004 presidential derby when Fernando Poe Jr. squared off against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Roxas was snugly ensconced in GMA’s camp, which mocked FPJ’s supposedly paltry credentials for statesmanship and untested capacity for leadership.

In other words, when FPJ was cheated “not once but twice,” in the words of his wife, the actress Susan Roces, Roxas was in the cheering cabal that popped the proverbial champagne bottles to celebrate six more years for GMA in Malacañang.

After all, Roxas was GMA’s No. 1 senator in 2004, leading the Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (or K4) Senate coalition. Poe will thus make common cause with the camp that belittled her father’s simple yet noble dreams, and robbed him of victory.

And Poe must recognize that her Senate victory owes much to her father’s name. What an irony if she will lend that name to benefit a group many of whose members had mocked him in the past, and some of whom had abandoned GMA only when GMA’s ship was sinking. She will thus put a principled quest in the service of political opportunism.

Now, more than ever, Poe must wean herself from traditional politics, and prove what FPJ before her tried and failed to show: that a political outsider can win without the backing of traditional politicians who are the bane of Philippine democracy. It may be good for symbolic reasons to highlight the theme of “continuity,” of sustaining the reforms begun by President Aquino. But now that Poe seems destined for greater heights of power, she must stand for something more than just continuity. She must ask what it was in FPJ that endeared him to the common folk, and why they wanted an outsider, a nonpolitician, to be their president.

The people have been disappointed, not once but twice. The first was at Edsa I, when the anti-Marcos triumph was betrayed with scandal after scandal, coup attempt after coup attempt, and the glorious dreams of the People Power revolution were laid to waste. The second was at Edsa II, when one president was replaced and jailed for the crudeness of his plunder, and another was enthroned and who spurned the crudeness but plundered just the same.

If Grace Poe is to sustain the emerging elation of her availability for higher office, she must turn her back on the traditional politicians, their coterie of loyalists, and the vested interests they represent. For her to ally with the “trapo” is for her to betray the core reason for the Filipinos’ turn toward grace—namely, the hope that they can begin anew.

Indeed, she has much thinking to do. And because she won because of the good name her father left her, she must nurture that legacy carefully so that it benefits only those candidates who are truly worthy.


As I See It

Why Poe will beat Binay in polls Neal H. Cruz @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 AM | Monday, May 18th, 2015


NEAL H CRUZ

TALK OF credit-grabbing, is it true that Vice President Jejomar Binay is claiming credit for the victory of El Gamma Penumbra, the Philippine shadow play troupe that won the first “Asia’s Got Talent” contest in Singapore? Is it true he claimed that he is the original “penumbra” and that the troupe got its inspiration from him? I don’t think so, but you can never tell with politicians. They would sell their own mothers for votes.

* * *

“And now the end is near, and so I take the final curtain…”

That line from a signature song of Frank Sinatra may now be the theme song of Binay, now that it looks like Sen. Grace Poe will be the presidential candidate of the administration’s Liberal Party in next year’s elections. In his statements to the press, President Aquino is dropping very broad hints that he prefers Poe to be the LP standard-bearer, saying that Poe seems to be the right person to continue his reforms.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas is the presumptive LP candidate, but so far the President has refrained from endorsing him publicly; instead he seems to be endorsing Poe.

The reason may be the low ratings of Roxas in the opinion polls. He is behind Binay and Poe, tying for third place with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

But Poe, with 31 percent, is only 5 points behind Binay who has 36 percent. And she has not even declared her candidacy yet, while Binay has been campaigning for the presidency on the very first day that he became vice president.

Political analysts see Poe overtaking Binay in the next poll, especially with the discovery by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that the Binays have hundreds of millions of pesos stashed in a number of bank accounts which the Court of Appeals has ordered frozen.

In a contest between Poe and Binay for the presidency, Binay would surely lose.

READ MORE...
Why? As I explained in the May 11 column, it is because Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada will dump him and support Grace Poe, the daughter of his bosom friend Fernando Poe Jr.

Erap told me why, and I will quote him word for word: “Grace is the daughter of my bosom friend FPJ. It was I who convinced FPJ to run for president but I was not able to help him campaign because I was already in prison. Helping his daughter become president is the only way I can atone for that shortcoming.”

“Baka pagmultuhan ako ni FPJ kung hindi ko tulungan si Grace (FPJ may haunt me if I don’t help his daughter),” he added as a joke.

So what if Erap supports Poe instead of Binay? Because Binay is nothing without Erap’s support.

Binay won as vice president as the running mate of Erap, who placed second to Noynoy. Binay won and Erap lost because members of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan double-crossed Noynoy’s running mate, Mar Roxas, by secretly campaigning for a “Noy-Bi” (Noynoy-Binay) tandem.

In short, Binay may have also double-crossed Erap in exchange for the “Noy-Bi” campaign. Those close to Erap say that he also thinks so.

Binay has practically no party. He was forced to quit his party, PDP-Laban, because of differences with the party’s president, Sen. Koko Pimentel, who is now leading the Senate investigation of the corruption charges against Binay when he was mayor of Makati.

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is not the party of Binay, although he claims it as his own. UNA is a coalition founded by Erap, Binay and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is now detained also on graft charges.

But UNA is 90 percent Erap’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). Binay and Enrile brought nothing to UNA except themselves and their families. Without the PMP, UNA would be nothing.

Binay said he would form his own party and join the UNA coalition, but he has not done that.

So where would Binay get votes when Erap’s PMP votes go to Poe? Binay might as well say goodbye to his presidential ambition. Right now, he should be singing, “And now, the end is near….”

* * *

The surprise is Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. From faraway Davao, he catapulted to third place in the surveys, tying with Mar Roxas. Not many people outside Davao even knew Duterte a few months ago. Although he claims he is not running for president but only campaigning for a federal system of government as an answer to the Moro problem, people think he is really aiming for the top position.

Most presidential candidates come from the Senate and from Luzon, the Philippines’ biggest and most populous island, so why is Duterte from Davao suddenly a “presidentiable”?

Because Filipinos are fed up with crimes and criminals and Duterte talks tough against criminals. His latest quote against them is: “Kill them all!”

This may shock human rights advocates but, apparently, this tough stance against criminals works. Duterte’s Davao City has been ranked as the “9th safest city” in the world by the crowd-sourcing site www.numbeo.com.

“How do you think I did it?” Duterte asked a national convention of safety advocates. “Kill them all (the criminals)!” he answered his own question. There were gasps in the audience, but they were drowned out by loud applause.

That’s how fed up Filipinos are with criminals, such that they will tolerate human rights violations to get rid of crime. Human rights for criminals is a Western concept which should not have been adopted in the Philippines, Duterte said.

He added: “When you start getting soft on criminals, that’s when you start to have problems.”


Two BBL strategies Artemio V. Panganiban @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:49 AM | Sunday, May 24th, 2015


Retired CJ Artemio Panganiban

The two legislative committees primarily handling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) favor peace. However, they are using diverse strategies to achieve their common goal.

Risky strategy. On one hand, the House committee headed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, voting 50-17, approved the BBL with some amendments, but did not revise or delete several provisions that critics claim are unconstitutional because their revision or deletion would contravene the government’s comprehensive peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

On the other, the Senate committee headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago believes that, in addition to passing the BBL, Congress should also amend the Constitution to validate the questionable portions.

The congressmen, swayed no doubt by their meeting with the President a few days ago, are taking the calculated risk that the bill would survive scrutiny by the Supreme Court. Or, at least, they think that the Court would not invalidate the entire BBL (but only separable parts), unlike the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which was totally scrapped.

Better strategy. I believe the Senate track is safer and better. Why?

First, a constitutional amendment or revision would conclusively solve all the legal objections to the bill. True, such a route would take more time. But, as I pointed out in this space on Feb. 8 (“Saving the peace”), the process could be speeded up by Congress by tackling its legislative function of enacting the BBL alongside its constituent function of amending the Constitution.

READ MORE...
For lack of space, I will no longer repeat how this could be done.

Anyway, readers can easily access that older column from the website of this paper (www.inquirer.net) or from my personal website (www.cjpanganiban.com).

Suffice it to say that the whole process can be done within this year, if Congress puts its mind to it.

Second, constitutional amendments would undergo a nationwide debate and plebiscite. In contrast, the purely legislative route would subject the BBL only to a plebiscite in the autonomous region of Mindanao which would constitute the proposed Bangsamoro homeland.

A national plebiscite would mean a free and robust discussion and vote by the entire electorate. After all, the peace we seek is not only for the Bangsamoro but for the whole country and for all our people.

Third, while the BBL would be passed under the present Congress and the present President, its implementation would be undertaken mostly by the new president to be elected in 2016. So, too, a purely legislated BBL would surely be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Given the requirements of due process, the case may not be decided within the tenure of President Aquino.

The next president may not be as committed to the BBL and may not defend it as passionately as P-Noy and his administration. Cases are won or lost because of the facts, issues and arguments presented by the parties to the courts.

If the parties do not present them prudently and diligently, the courts may not have enough justification to uphold the BBL.

But if the BBL is backed by constitutional changes, there would be no challenge to its constitutionality.

Equally important, the next president would be compelled to implement the BBL in full because it would carry the mandate of the entire electorate, not just of those in the Mindanao autonomous region.

* * *

More on arbitration.

An internationally-respected arbiter, who requested anonymity (true to their calling, arbiters prefer to keep a low profile), e-mailed an interesting comment on my piece last Sunday (“Respect and obey arbitral decisions”).

He explained that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) which created the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos) has an “opt out provision” allowing a member of the Unclos, like China, to “reject” an arbitration suit.

However, China did not expressly invoke this provision in its controversy with the Philippines over the Spratlys and other isles in the West Philippine Sea. It “simply refused to participate” in the arbitral proceeding.

The question is whether the Itlos panel hearing the arbitration case will construe this “refusal” as a “rejection.” If so, then the Philippines will probably lose because the tribunal would simply dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

On the other hand, the arbiter stressed, if the Philippines would “hurdle the jurisdictional issue, the likelihood is that it will win. Reason: the Philippine government is the only one presenting arguments and evidence.”

The second question is: If, indeed, the Philippines wins, how can the decision be enforced against China?

He agreed with me that the Philippines would lose its moral ascendancy to ask China to honor an Itlos decision unfavorable to China, if the Philippines would honor and obey only arbitral decisions it wins (like the Manila Water case) and disobey those it loses (like the Maynilad Water case).

Our country should be consistent in observing the rule of law regardless of the outcome of arbitral proceedings in which it freely and actively participated.

* * *

The temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals stopping the Bases Conversion and Development Authority from evicting the Camp John Hay Development Corp. upheld the arbitral decision of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc.

Equally important, it also protected the rights of the innocent bystanders I wrote about last Sunday.


EDITORIAL: Right thing to do Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:20 AM | Thursday, May 21st, 2015

The latest word from Malacañang is that Asian “boat people” who might wash up on Philippine shores will not be turned away.

The clarification came on the heels of an earlier report quoting Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma as saying that the Philippines “will have to deny” the boat people admission “if they don’t have travel documents”—a requirement that seemed particularly cruel and pointless given the refugees being talked about: some 3,000 Rohingya who, fleeing hunger and persecution in Burma (Myanmar) where they are considered a stateless ethnic minority, have been stranded at sea for days or weeks without food and water.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima eventually said asking for travel documents from boat people, if and when they do apply for asylum in the Philippines, would not be a requirement, precisely because escaping from their country, often in haste and fear, meant reverting to undocumented status. “Asylum seekers cannot always be expected to obtain travel documents particularly where the agent of persecution is the state. Hence, their situation deserves to be treated and examined in a different context,” she added.

This is the humane, compassionate thing to do when it comes to treating a people who are in supreme, desperate need of immediate aid.

So far, with this pronouncement, the Philippines stands as the only nation in Southeast Asia to indicate that it is open to granting some form of refuge and succor to the Rohingya boat people.

As many as 6,000 such migrants are currently adrift at sea, denied entry by countries such as Thailand, which, like the Philippines, is plagued by a Muslim insurgency in the south and so is wary of receiving the Muslim Rohingya. But predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia are barring their doors, too, or at most taking in only a trickle of the flood of refugees that await deliverance from their ordeal at sea.

READ MORE...
Thailand, despite its rigid refusal to admit the Rohingya, appears to be in a greater position among other Southeast Asian nations to help, if only because many of the refugees were reportedly promised safe passage by smugglers operating a network of human trafficking camps in its jungles.

A recent crackdown by Thailand on the people-smuggling trade within its borders appears to be the proximate cause at least of the rickety boat recently found drifting on the Andaman Sea that was crammed with Rohingya migrants. The boat’s engine had been cut by the smugglers, they said, who fled and abandoned them when news of the Thai crackdown went around.

Ten of the refugees had died and been thrown overboard. But, incredibly, the weak and starving rest of them were still not brought ashore. Thailand’s defense ministry dropped food packages around the boat, and basically pushed it back to sea.

Malaysia’s navy has similarly turned away migrant boats it had found on its waters. “What do you expect us to do?” Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar was quoted as saying. “We have been very nice to the people who broke into our border. We have treated them humanely, but they cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

This issue should be an urgent concern of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of lives are at stake every day that the Asean dithers on what to do with the boat people in its midst.

Unfortunately, if other issues like China’s continued encroachment on the West Philippine Sea is any indication, the members of Asean will continue to speak with divergent voices, unable to arrive at a timely enough consensus, let alone a viable one, that would address the current desperate situation with a modicum of shared responsibility and coordination.

And so the Philippines stands alone at this juncture. We are a poor country, with scant resources for our own people, but we have never been known as less than compassionate. We took in thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and 1980s and gave them a peaceful haven.

Our wartime government under President Manuel Quezon saved thousands of Jews from persecution and certain death. The shocking, heartbreaking images of the Rohingya at sea are something we cannot ignore, even as our neighbors choose to look the other way.

Welcoming a brutalized, traumatized people to our shores is the right thing to do. It’s the Filipino way. For all our faults, we are a kind people. Let us stay that way.


EDITORIAL: Tough guy Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:08 AM | Saturday, May 23rd, 2015


The 'Courageous Mayor"

To youth gangs: “I’ll break your bones.” To drug pushers: “I’ll execute you.” To alleged rice hoarders: “I will kill you.” To corrupt cops: “Not in Davao or I’ll kill you.”

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte utters one more variation of his favorite warning to criminals and lowlifes who make the mistake of operating in his city, and his admirers and supporters swoon. Such pluck! they say. So unlike the effete politicians out there who hem and haw and hedge and waffle, desperate to be seen as similarly resolute against criminality but unwilling to go down and dirty with them.

The man is different; he suffers no knaves, and loves the idea of bludgeoning them to submission—or to kingdom come, if need be. His vocabulary is a thesaurus on one word—“kill.”

He doesn’t mind being seen as violent; if it’s the language of the blackguards and heels he’s up against, then he’ll dish it to them, in full glare of the media and an adoring throng weary of the everyday lawlessness around them.

Forget action movies, here’s the real Dirty Harry, and he doesn’t slink back into ambiguous darkness after the hit. No, he is Rodrigo Duterte, proud scourge of criminals—and, if the enthusiasts of his brand of governance will have their way, the next president of the Philippines.

It’s what we need, we’re told. This is a country that has gone to the dogs, with a justice system so weak and so rotten that it has robbed the people of the rights fundamental to their happiness and security in a decent, viable society—to walk the streets at night without fear, to drive to work without being flagged down by mulcting cops, to go to sleep without worrying about thieves entering one’s home.

READ MORE...
The Philippines imagines itself a modern country, a vibrant emerging economy of gleaming malls and humming cities, but on the ground, among the harried and harassed millions who traverse its streets every day, it’s but the Wild, Wild West, without the glamour of horses and the grandeur of the desert.

The republic seems in meltdown, with criminals getting away with their crimes and politicians getting away with their politics—the two often in cahoots with and indistinguishable from each other—while the desperate populace is caught in between, unable to look to its government for redress and largely left to fend for itself.

Radical times call for radical solutions, we’re told, and here is Duterte, whose track record in Davao should speak for itself. A former backwater city strewn with “salvaged” corpses and overrun by rascals and delinquents, Davao is now rated one of the world’s safest cities, free of the drug menace, clean and orderly, peopled by law-abiding, disciplined folk.


DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES

Thanks to the iron-fisted mayor, the city’s miscreants have all but disappeared—summarily executed, according to observers such as Human Rights Watch, which has called for an inquiry into Duterte’s possible hand in the formation of “death squads” that are said to have visited cold justice on those who had dared bring their nefarious activities to Davao.

Hypocrites, fumed Duterte of the New York-based rights groups—these bleeding hearts who can’t even protect the citizens in their own countries, “the American-Africans” and the victims of genocide in Africa and other places, but who now have the nerve to question his unorthodox style of governance.

Human Rights Watch says Duterte’s possible involvement in extrajudicial killings in Davao may have led to at least 1,000 deaths. At which Duterte once again whipped out the tough language beloved by his supporters: “You want a taste of justice, my style? Come to Davao City, Philippines, and do drugs in my city. I will execute you in public.”

The appeal is understandable; it was only a matter of time before our descent into the pits as a nation would produce another tough guy, another putative strongman whose penchant for legal shortcuts, whose disdain for the exasperating niceties of the law, becomes precisely his sterling qualification for the job of extracting Filipinos from the hellhole.

Ferdinand Marcos once attempted this, too—his New Society, backed by martial law, was meant to save Filipinos from the rot and evil of the old ways, and for a while the country seemed functioning and orderly.

The deaths under his watch eventually reached tens of thousands. Most of them, unfortunately, were not criminals, but people who simply had a different mind than the guy in power. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.


Sisyphus’ Lament

Binay, BBL and misrepresented legal doctrines Oscar Franklin Tan @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:09 AM | Monday, May 25th, 2015


by Oscar Franklin Tan 

CRUCIAL misrepresentations of law are circulating. These relate to two important issues that a citizen cannot weigh without appreciating their legal aspects: the unprecedented court freeze order against Vice President Jejomar Binay’s assets and the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s constitutionality. Media is not yet capable of filtering respectable legal interpretation from what contradicts the freshman syllabus. Nor can we simply outsource our thought process to lawyers whenever a legal issue crops up.

I have been critical of the Vice President’s lawyers after they proposed theories that contradict the naked text of our laws. At the Supreme Court hearing on the Court of Appeals’ temporary restraining order on the mayor of Makati’s suspension, they proposed that the Ombudsman Law, which prohibits TROs against the Ombudsman’s investigations, is invalid because a TRO is a court procedure that only the high court may set. The justices cited the explicit sentence in the Constitution that states lower court jurisdiction is set by law, not the high court.

The same lawyer threatened to prosecute the Inquirer for reporting the Court of Appeals’ freeze order, supposedly in violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The Amla section he cited reads: “When reporting covered or suspicious transactions to the AMLC… Neither may such reporting be published or aired in any manner or form by the mass media….” A child can see that this covers reports to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), not court orders.

A legal expert proclaimed that Senate contempt orders against resource persons linked to the Vice President are illegal because the relevant Senate inquiry is not related to the proposed legislation. He claimed that the 2008 Neri decision during the Arroyo administration narrowed the scope of Senate inquiries. Nothing in the two Neri decisions says this. They even affirm: “The power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is broad… a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information….”

The actual doctrine is that senators need only state that they are contemplating legislation without giving specifics, as they are free to consider what comes to mind after their investigations. Further, the Neri decisions actually dealt with executive privilege, which can only be invoked by the President, and the Senate’s alleged failure to publish its regulations governing inquiries (which has since been done).

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The media also inadvertently misrepresented a key issue in the TRO hearing. They highlighted how a justice questioned a lawyer’s integrity for invoking the so-called “condonation doctrine,” and made it appear that this doctrine was a devious new proposal to the high court. However, this doctrine is taught as gospel and is legitimately in the law books until revised by the high court.

Regarding the BBL, it is lamentable how so many who have not read it yet react strongly on the basis of vague impressions or dubious summaries that contradict the text, or on the basis of informal head counts of legal experts. Mahar Mangahas quantified in the Inquirer: “The national average of -24 reflects a favorable +28 among those with extensive knowledge, a neutral -2 among those with partial knowledge, an unfavorable -27 among those with a little knowledge, and a worse -35 among those with no knowledge about the BBL.” When friends decry the BBL, I ask which sentence they refer to and conversations end abruptly.

Public attention focused on individual amendments only when they were actually voted upon. Reporters were at a loss on how to intelligently communicate the large number of amendments to a lengthy law. In an attempt to be objective, they focused on the numbers of amendments rejected and accepted, and latched onto the human interest angle of a persistent Rep. Celso Lobregat repeatedly proposing amendments until a precious few were accepted. Unfortunately, the number of proposed changes is irrelevant to how the proposed law’s nature changed after the marathon voting. In another attempt to be objective, some simply reported a list of all the amendments made, hardly the most digestible format.

It is a failure of democracy that op-eds have yet to discuss specific sections of the BBL. Ideally, there should have been robust debate on key sections well before they were voted upon. For example, some ask why the proposed change to describe the Bangsamoro area as “integral and inseparable” instead of just “integral” was rejected. They mean the same thing and there can only be so many redundant anti-secession phrases in the law before it becomes demeaning. Nevertheless, it would have been a good public debate to have.

It would have been even better to see separate public debates on key sections, such as how natural and water resources would be apportioned and how indigenous people’s rights will be respected. If the BBL is taken to the high court, it is far better for it to arrive as the political product of our entire citizenry’s robustly debated wisdom that our justices should hesitate to upend, not as a sterile intellectual puzzle.

It undercuts democracy when we cannot even begin our debates from the correct versions of simple legal doctrines. Law is often too important to be left to lawyers, and in an age of Google, it may be worth double checking the actual laws being cited by experts. In 2013, media discussed an allegedly invalid appointment to the Commission on Elections for five days, based on a nonexistent constitutional provision cited by an “Atty. Rod Vera” on Twitter (“The fake Comelec constitutional crisis,” 4/24/13). There are times when actually reading is worth more than being a legal expert.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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