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BBL splits Congress
By Amado Doronilla
JUNE 1, 2015
(INQUIRER) Amando Doronila @inquirerdotnet | Wednesday,
May 27th, 2015 - The effort of the Aquino administration to ram through
Congress the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law has run into an
impasse between the Liberal-Party-dominated House of Representatives and the
Senate, where independent-minded senators are resisting pressure to join the
Malacañang-driven express train to create a Bangsamoro substate in Mindanao.
Time is running out on the bill, considered as crucial to
bringing peace in Mindanao which has been engulfed in more than 30 years of
Moro rebellion last led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The BBL seeks
to implement the peace agreement signed between the Philippine government
and the MILF. Congress must pass the BBL before it adjourns in mid-June. But
the prospects of this happening are dim because the deadlock in Congress
appears to be hardening rather than dissolving.
Last week, Sen. Francis Escudero, one of the principal
opponents of the BBL, said he did not think President Aquino would have the
bill he had certified for urgent enactment by Congress completed in time for
his final State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 27. “It is impossible
that the President would be able to sign the BBL before his Sona. That’s
impossible because even if Congress would be able to pass it on June 11,
it’s certain that the Senate and the House of Representatives will have very
different versions,” Escudero said.
He said he expected the bicameral
committee that would reconcile the conflicting versions of the BBL to have a
long and hot debate on the centerpiece of Malacañang’s peace agreement with
Another oppositionist opponent of the BBL, Sen. Ferdinand
Marcos Jr., who chairs the Senate committee on local governments, has lined
up two more hearings on the bill—the last on June 3—before coming up with a
report. After June 3, the Senate still has three more sessions before
Congress adjourns sine die.
This foreshadows rough sailing for the BBL in the bicameral meetings.
Resentment rankled in the Senate over the roughshod tactics used by
Malacañang in pushing the BBL draft in the House. “I think all the senators
do not want what happened in the House to happen in the Senate,” Marcos
said, referring to criticism that the bill was “railroaded” during the
three-day hearing last week of the House committee chaired by Rep. Rufus
The committee deliberated on the Palace version of the bill,
chosen during two meetings of its leaders with President Aquino in Malacañang. Those who would vote for its approval, according to press
reports, were promised P50 million in pork barrel projects and P1 million in
cash. Malacañang has denied the alleged tradeoff, which has been criticized
in the press as tantamount to bribery.
Something more onerous than dangling pork barrel
incentives or rewards apparently took place in the Palace meetings on the
Before the meetings, Rodriguez had said in radio
interviews that there was a “consensus” among the committee members that at
least six provisions in the draft bill contravened the Constitution and
should go—separate commissions on audit, on elections, on civil service and
on human rights, separate ombudsman, and the “opt-in” membership in the
But these subjects remained in the committee draft, with
very minor revisions. Critics were scandalized by the “marketplace manner”
in which the committee rammed through the approval of the BBL, which had
been delayed following widespread indignation over the Jan. 25 massacre of
44 Special Action Force troopers by Moro guerrillas in an area controlled by
According to Marcos, the House-approved version of the BBL
was worse because it did not include amendments that some congressmen
wanted. He pointed to the proposal to include 10 provinces in the new
Bangsamoro region, describing it as “creeping expansion.”
The split in the conflicting versions of the House and
Senate drafts was pronounced in a draft committee report of Sen. Miriam
Defensor Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional
amendments. Her committee draft report questioned the constitutionality of
some provisions in the BBL concerning local autonomy.
Sensing that the storm clouds looming over the Senate and
the House on the BBL would scuttle his peace initiative, the President made
conciliatory moves, offering a dialogue with the senators to discuss their
reservations about the bill which swiftly hurdled a House committee after
meetings with him. “If they want to talk to me about this so that I won’t be
intrusive, if they would invite me to share my opinion in a meeting,
wouldn’t I do that? We’re ready for that,” the President said. He said he
was confident that the senators would “see that the [BBL] will withstand the
test of constitutionality.”
Whether or not the senators would like to talk with the
President in the Palace, it seems certain that, given the Senate’s tradition
of independence vis-à-vis the executive branch, they would be loath to step
on Palace grounds to conspire with him in watering down the peace agreement
with the MILF, by ceding to them terms that further weaken the Philippine
republic’s control over the components and territory of the national state
under the government’s policy of appeasement to demands of separatist armed
movements. That would be treason.
Thoughts on the peace process
Randy David @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily
Inquirer 12:10 AM | Thursday, May 28th, 2015
PROF. RANDY DAVID
It is interesting to note that some of our legislators are raising
fundamental questions about the Bangsamoro Basic Law only now. They ask, for
instance: By what right is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front speaking for
the people of Muslim Mindanao?
Why is the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous
government ministerial in form? What is meant for this Bangsamoro government
to have an “asymmetrical” relationship with the Philippine government? Why
is Malaysia allowed to play a role in the peace negotiations, etc.?
Basic as they are, these questions project the false impression that the
bill is being sprung on Congress, permitting little time for a thoughtful
consideration of its terms, provisions and implications. In truth, the key
issues have been debated for at least 17 years now, acquiring the hysteria
with which they are today invested only after the unfortunate Mamasapano
incident in January.
The answers were all first clearly laid out in the Framework Agreement on
the Bangsamoro, signed on Oct. 15, 2012, whose constitutionality critics
could have challenged at the Supreme Court.
It will be recalled that the
high court stopped the Arroyo-era Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral
Domain (MOA-AD) in its tracks before it could even be signed.
was another chance to run to the high court after the signing on March 27,
2014, of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which incorporated
all the annexes fleshing out in detail the spirit of the peace agreement
with the MILF.
Unchallenged and witnessed by the international community,
these documents carry the binding force of an executive agreement.
But, perhaps it is just as well that the BBL is attracting thorough
scrutiny, late as it comes.
The eminent Maguindanao lawyer and Islamic
scholar, Michael Mastura, noted in a recent commentary submitted to the
Senate: “So far it is not useful to set a deadline for the passage of the
BBL when substantive debates have not been exhausted.” I agree: This is how
political will formation in a democracy is supposed to happen.
The more we understand the philosophy and intent of the proposed law,
the greater are its chances of being supported by an informed public. Still,
we should not allow one tragic incident to completely define our attitude
toward a piece of vital legislation that is being offered as a solution to
one of the most persistent problems of our nation since independence.
Even as we debate, we should take stock of what we have achieved. Under
the umbrella of a ceasefire agreement that has given Mindanao a long respite
from war, people representing the government and the MILF worked quietly to
craft an elaborate roadmap to lasting peace.
They have built and nurtured
trust on both sides, leading us step by step to where we are today. We
should not throw all this away by unnecessarily inciting patriotic passions
to depict what is being done here as a treasonous conspiracy to dismember
Why are we dealing with the MILF? The peace talks with the MILF logically
build upon the ceasefire agreement that was forged in 1997. The ceasefire
has generally held up over the years in those areas under MILF influence,
testifying to the latter’s reliability as a partner in the peace effort and
as an authentic voice of the Moro people.
That it is the MILF that
negotiated the agreement creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region does not
mean it will automatically control the latter’s government. The MILF has set
up its own political party to compete with other parties in the elections
for the autonomous government.
Why is the proposed autonomous government proposing a structure that is
different from that of the local government units in the rest of the
The proposed Bangsamoro entity is not like an ordinary LGU. Rather,
it seeks to meaningfully implement the provision on autonomous regions found
in Article X of the 1987 Constitution.
The relationship between the national
government and the autonomous regional government is nevertheless
“asymmetrical,” meaning, there are powers reserved to the autonomous region,
but the latter remains an integral part of the republic.
form is a choice proposed by the MILF panel to promote a strong party
system; it simply means the people will elect their representatives to the
assembly through their parties, and the assembly will then elect the chief
minister to serve as its leader.
What is Malaysia doing, playing a role in what is supposed to be an
internal affair of the Filipino people? In 2001, when Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo became president, our government requested the Malaysian government
to serve as a facilitator of the talks with the MILF. To its credit,
Malaysia has performed this role with great sensitivity, fairness and
goodwill, with no reference whatsoever to the Philippine claim to Sabah.
It is almost incredible that we have reached this stage of the peace
process at all, considering how the Arroyo administration promptly disowned
the efforts of its own panel after the MOA-AD was declared unconstitutional
in a split vote of the Supreme Court on Oct. 14, 2008. Today, we not only
have a comprehensive peace agreement, we also have the draft of an original
Yet, the process is far from finished. If the law is passed, it will have
to be ratified in a plebiscite in the core areas of autonomy. If the law is
rejected, we go back to the drawing board. If it prevails, then the complex
experiment of forming a credible and functional regional government
tailor-made for Muslim Mindanao begins—under the watchful eye of, hopefully,
a supportive Filipino nation.
Duterte’s safe city
Like It Is by
Peter Wallace @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:09 AM | Thursday,
May 28th, 2015
I visited Davao City last week and I was impressed. We’ve all heard of
the “kill them” mayor; well, I met that mayor. A more down-to-earth person
would be hard to find, and a more sincere person equally hard. Whether you
agree with his ruthless approach to criminality or not, you can only be
impressed with what he’s done for the city.
We toured his emergency response station. I couldn’t believe I was in the
Philippines. I mentioned how impressed (that word kept cropping up) I am
with his new fire trucks. “Not new,” he said, “properly maintained.” Not
only were they well-maintained, they were also well-equipped. Even helmets
and fireproof clothing were on the seats waiting to be put on instantly for
rapid response to a fire call.
There was a pediatric ambulance just for mothers giving birth, which they
can do in the ambulance if time runs out. It had an incubator, even cartoon
paintings on the wall for a little comfort. It was a maternity hospital on
wheels. The other ambulances were similarly well-equipped, and in perfect
condition, not like the decrepit vans, inadequately converted and never
maintained but emblazoned with the mayor’s name, you see elsewhere. Mayor
Rodrigo Duterte’s name was nowhere to be seen, just the functions of the
ambulance or emergency vehicle.
There were rubber boats, fiberglass boats, even two amphibious vehicles,
all carefully stored in working condition, ready for any emergency.
Everything stored in a purpose-designed building. And throughout that
building, everything was organized, tidily stored, ready for instant use.
The only other place I’ve seen like it is my own workshop.
We headed to the CCTV control center next door; it’s a world first
jointly developed with IBM. I thought I was in one of those “CSI” series.
There were two rooms full of screens depicting scenes on the roads of Davao
from 1,300 CCTV cameras. These were cameras able to circle and zoom down to
read a car’s plate number, cameras able to pick up an accident or a crime in
full detail, even peek through the window into McDonalds to see what people
are eating. “Impressive” is not a sufficient word—but be careful what you do
The emergency call center in the same building, like the CCTV monitoring,
runs 24 hours. A call to 911 gets instant response. I tried it: Within three
rings a girl answered, inquiring about the emergency. This at 1 a.m.
The mayor says his central theme is “discipline”; everything revolves
around that. He stands for no nonsense. Which brings us to the “Dirty Harry”
(as this newspaper’s editorial referenced him) image. Certainly he doesn’t
hesitate to talk tough. Does he do it, or at the least sanction it? I don’t
know. Maybe it’s just a scare tactic, but Human Rights Watch accuses him of
In a civilized society, such action is reprehensible. But in a civilized
society, the system of law works. In the Philippines, it very provably does
not—as I’ve argued in many columns, to no effect, although the Chief Justice
has promised reform. But she’s up against monumental problems and
resistance. Criminals, even if they’re caught in the Philippines, get away
with it. According to the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, 171
journalists have been killed since 1986, with only 16 convictions so far.
It’s a difficult one, in a society where crime goes mostly unpunished.
Duterte’s solution is drastic in the extreme and, in the wrong hands, could
be massively abused, as we saw during martial law. But if you rely on an
inutile legal system the society remains at risk from ruthless criminals. So
what do you do? Do you stick to the democratic ideal, or accept that the
reality calls for a different solution?
And the reality is that crime flourishes in the Philippines, but doesn’t
in Davao. It is now listed as the 12th safest city in the world, even
outranking Tokyo, Dubai, Ottawa, Copenhagen and Reykjavik. Davao was given a
crime index of 20.13. According to the Internet site Numbeo, which compiles
crime statistics from more than 400 cities worldwide, “crime levels lower
than 20 are very low, crime levels between 20 and 40 are low, crime levels
between 40 and 60 are moderate and crime levels between 60 and 80 are
considered high.” The next Philippine city is Cebu, ranked 236th, with a
crime index of 48.88. Manila is ranked 359th, with a crime index of 67.78.
In a letter to the editor, a visiting German rightly says: “You can’t
apply Western ideas in the Philippines.” He adds: “Duterte makes no secret
about what he thinks should be done with murderers and rapists. So every
criminal knows what will happen if they cross the red line; they have been
properly warned, and they have been given a fair chance to think twice
before they make their choice.” Could this be the justification? Warning has
Aside from its impressive peace and order situation, Davao is also among
the country’s most competitive local government units. The National
Competitiveness Council (NCC) ranks Davao as the fourth most competitive
city in the country, only behind Makati, Cagayan de Oro and Naga.
Davao topped NCC’s Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness survey in
terms of infrastructure (which covers subsectors such as health and
education infrastructure and ICT connection); ranked 11th in economic
dynamism (which includes jobs generated and the cost of doing business); and
placed 13th in terms of government efficiency. The survey noted that Davao
is the most transparent LGU in the country and the most active in terms of
promoting investments. The NCC also recognized the city for its compliance
to national directives to LGUs and efficient tax collection.
I used to run a factory in Davao back in the late 1970s. It’s a different
city today, one that works—in safety.
Virus of divisiveness Glimpses Jose
Ma. Montelibano @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:18 AM | Friday, May 22nd, 2015
Jose Ma. Montelibano
I met a wise man when I was in my 50s, a
brilliant Filipino with great experience born out of special
circumstances. It was an advantage that he was more than
well-schooled and ended up with a host of degrees and
But most of all, he was in the right place at
the right time at crucial junctures of our history. He
parlayed natural intelligence and personal experience into
deep and strategic insights.
The late Prof. Emmanuel Q. Yap did not
make me patriotic but he definitely intensified not only
love for country from his own passion but greatly aided in
developing a macro perspective in me.
While he was astute
and personally connected to global dynamics for several
decades, I think it was also his background in the
humanities as well as economics. In the end, he taught me to
love and appreciate history, not as a thing of the past, but
as a never-ending process where the past plays a crucial
It had always thrilled me that the
Philippine Islands, the motherland of the Filipino race, is
one of the richest, if not the richest, in biodiversity.
Biodiversity means life forms, all life forms on earth and
that about covers everything.
From different life forms, the
physicality of territorial nature and its human residents is
But as much as our extreme wealth in
biodiversity thrilled me, our massive poverty puzzled me.
How could a people, especially whose talents match the
richness of their environment, be mostly poor in a national
economic setting that leaned almost totally on its natural
attributes until the last few decades?
Of course, any
rational review will immediately lead one to understand that
something disruptive or traumatic had effectively upset a
favorable configuration. I did not have a good graphic
understanding, though, until Professor Yap pointed me to the
The historical truth.
Professor Yap kept insisting that we must learn the
historical truth in order to understand why things are
mostly the way we are. We must understand why natural wealth
became the bane, not the blessing, for our people, how the
greed of the globally powerful for these can drive invasions
and occupations. 380 years of colonization is the disruption
and trauma of Filipinos that absolutely redirected the
course of our history.
Spanish, American and Japanese occupation
of the Philippine Islands did contribute many things, no
doubt. Assimilation is one process by which cultures
diversify and create new opportunities.
But assimilation by
force, at the cost of perverting the native strengths of a
people, triggers an ugly mutation and evolution. The worst
of these, according to Professor Yap, is the virus of
divisiveness planted into the culture of Filipino natives.
Divisiveness is a human weakness, but in the case of
Filipino natives, it was intensified by circumstances and by
policy, by the “divide and conquer” practice applied by
conquerors among their conquered.
Why would the virus of divisiveness be
particularly debilitating to Filipinos? When one considers
that bayanihan, that hospitality, are traditional cultural
strengths of the natives of the islands, promoting a direct
counter force called divisiveness against their natural
strengths caused, and still causes, havoc in Philippine
One often repeated analogy used by the
eminent professor was a situation where a piece of bread was
placed on a table surrounded by Filipinos. In the discussion
that turned to a debate, then to an argument, the Filipinos
around the table began to fight with one another. While they
were doing do, a foreigner walked over to the table and
simply ran away with the bread.
The analogy explains many things, both
about the past and the present. If we understand this, we
can anticipate even our future as a society. The
divide-and-rule policy of the conquerors pit natives against
each other, especially since the foreign masters used
selected locals to pacify and maintain order among all other
locals. Early in the game, to maintain control over millions
when they only had thousands of soldiers, the conquerors
used local sympathizers and evolved their own datu system
loyal to them.
Because we never confronted this
historical truth, because pointed to other reasons or blamed
the wrong people or events, the effect of that divisive
virus continues to keep so many of our people poor,
landless, homeless and even hungry.
Because we just moved
from foreign governance to a local governance trained only
by the views and ways of the foreign masters, it has been as
if we are still governed by them. Look at our laws and
jurisprudence. Look at our Constitution and how it is framed
and worded. The horizon of it all is foreign, mostly
American and partly Spanish.
Our continuing amnesia of the historical
truth is our single worst weakness. It gives birth to a host
of other weaknesses. And the hyper activation of
divisiveness in our cultural genes because of our colonial
history almost automatically sets a path of confrontation
among ourselves—whatever the issue of the moment. At the end
of the day, when our emotions have stabilized, we even
forget why we fought. Unfortunately, we had already fought
and developed prejudice and distrust for one another.
Today, then, our politics and politicians
are past masters in jumping on the board of prejudice and
distrust, from their campaigns to their governance.
Divisiveness is the heart of the partisan
politics we have, not a diversity of ideas. That is why we
have an overflow of personalities, each claiming to be
better than the other, but an absence of vision and
platforms. What our past has influenced us to be is what our
present and near future will follow.
Unless we understand ourselves, reclaim
the historical truth, learn and change from it. Unless we
allow the younger generations who do not yet live according
to the dictate of the virus to take us to the tomorrow they
Amando Doronila @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:14 AM | Friday,
May 29th, 2015
by Amando Doronila
CANBERRA—Recent signs herald a face-off between Interior Secretary Mar
Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay in the 2016 presidential election,
which promises to return the nation to a two-party slugging contest and to
wean it away from the chaotic multiparty system inherited from the 1986
People Power Revolution.
This political turning point in the electoral system, probably beneficial
for Philippine democracy, should be a welcome development. It will narrow
the choice to just two presidential contenders—Roxas, representing the
revitalized Liberal Party, and Binay, who holds a Cabinet position in the
administration of President Aquino with whom the Vice President has been at
loggerheads during the past five years.
This turn of events, which indicates systemic change, crystallized last
week when the President declared that Roxas remained on top of the list of
those being considered by the ruling Liberal Party, which was founded by
Roxas’ grandfather, President Manuel A. Roxas, in 1946. Mr. Aquino said
Roxas would be the perfect successor to continue his administration’s reform
“Even if I am not a member of the Liberal Party, I believe that if there
is a candidate who can continue the reforms begun by the President, it is no
other than Mar Roxas,” Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said.
Roxas quickly seized on the President’s statement as a development that
bolstered his electoral chances in 2016. He said he was ready to take the
challenge of continuing Mr. Aquino’s “straight-path” governance, and added:
“I thank the President for the trust he has given me. What he said was very
clear, and I accept it wholeheartedly.”
The President has earlier said the Liberal Party would announce its
standard-bearer in 2016 when he delivers his final State of the Nation
Address in July. He is the party chair, and Roxas, the party president. As
nominal party leader, Mr. Aquino exercises enormous influence in the
selection of the LP standard-bearer in 2016, and party leaders expect the
LP’s formal declaration of Roxas as its official candidate and also that the
President’s endorsement would enhance Roxas’ chances.
At this stage, the electability of Roxas against Binay is still in doubt.
Roxas has not yet formally declared his candidacy and the President has not
yet officially or unequivocally endorsed his candidacy.
Many Liberal Party leaders are disturbed by Roxas’ low ratings in the
opinion polls. Recent surveys show him lagging behind Binay and Sen. Grace
Poe. But some LP congressmen point out it is possible for Roxas to catch up
with the poll front-runners. They recall that in the 2010 vice presidential
election, when Roxas was lagging behind Binay in the surveys by double
digits, he was able to overhaul Binay’s lead when the campaign began.
The current narrowing of the field between Roxas and Binay has developed
into a rematch of the 2010 presidential election—a contest in which the
parties are defined and are expected to play critical roles. In a one-on-one
face-off, Roxas and Binay both enjoy party machines and party coalitions not
available to other candidates.
According to LP leaders, “it’s really the
administration party and the UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) of Binay
which are capable of having candidates with the means to win.”
They say that
“ultimately, that will happen,” with the two men ending up standing on the
road to 2016.
The face-off raises the issues of whether Mr. Aquino’s vaunted popularity
would work wonders to lift Roxas’ prospects and whether Binay could overcome
the damage caused by the congressional investigations into the alleged
corruption that attended City Hall projects and transactions when he was
mayor of Makati.
On the other hand, doubts over the President’s capacity to enhance Roxas’
prospects have been fueled by a deep plunge in his popularity ratings as a
result of the Mamasapano massacre in January.
The massacre of 44 members of
the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force by guerrillas linked
to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will hang like a deadweight albatross
around Roxas’ neck. Instead of the presidential endorsement, he would be
better off focusing on his assets and track record in public service.
Is the Philippine flag ‘unconstitutional’?
John Nery @jnery_newsstand Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:35 AM | Tuesday, May
THE RESISTANCE to the Bangsamoro Basic Law has shifted to the
battleground of constitutionality. We still hear the occasional demand for
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to show its sincerity as a partner in the
peace process by making amends for the Mamasapano incident—but now that
congressional committees have started voting on the controversial measure,
the question of MILF sincerity is no longer a determining or even perhaps an
Even supporters of the bill recognize the shift in the debate; Rep. Rufus
Rodriguez’s strategy to win the bill’s passage at his committee level, for
instance, was premised and pushed (and publicized) on the perceived need to
align key provisions in the BBL with the Constitution.
We can all agree on one principal reason for the change: It is an attempt
to base the debate on firmer ground, on the solid logic of constitutional
law rather than the volatile emotionalism of post-Mamasapano
Except that the Constitution is not so much solid as a combination of all
states of matter. On some questions, it has the quality of a liquid,
assuming the shape of the given legal container it occupies. On others, it
is gaseous, easily compressible depending on the source of pressure. It is
solid and has a fixed volume only on certain questions.
If this metaphor does not work, my apologies. But the point I wish to
make is that the Constitution is not as inflexible, as black and white, as
lawmakers engaged in the BBL debate seem to suggest.
The argument, for example, that the BBL is unconstitutional because the
Constitution does not allow the idea of asymmetry is worth a closer study,
but why can’t the very concept of autonomy, embraced in a Philippine Charter
for the first time in 1987, be flexible enough to accommodate a local
government that is other than a region?
* * *
Even the Constitution itself assumes certain contexts. It is not, cannot
be, text alone; otherwise, many of its provisions will not make complete
I once heard Mahar Mangahas of Social Weather Stations criticize our
legalistic culture’s overdependence on the notion of constitutionality at a
University of the Philippines forum, by raising a provocative question: Is
the flag constitutional?
He was referring to the way the Philippine flag is described in the 1987
The first section of Article XVI provides that the “flag of the
Philippines shall be red, white, and blue, with a sun and three stars, as
consecrated and honored by the people and recognized by law.” (The language
is lifted, word for word, from the 1935 Constitution; the 1973 Constitution
also uses the exact same phrasing.)
It takes some time, but gradually we realize what is missing in this
description. It scants the eight rays in the sun, which irradiates the
flag’s design with the fire of the Philippine Revolution; as every student
knows, the rays stand for the first eight provinces to revolt against the
Spanish colonial regime.
This is hardly an insignificant detail, and any flag without the
requisite eight rays would be controversial and even illegal. (It also does
not specify the color of the sun and the stars—a nontrivial omission, when
one considers other national flags with other-colored suns and stars in
But even without the qualifying phrase about consecration and honor and
recognition, we readily supply what is missing. This is what I mean; the
Constitution cannot be completely understood if it were treated as text
(For the record, the law that specified the design of the flag some 10
years after the Constitution took effect described the flag as follows: “The
flag of the Philippines shall be blue, white and red with an eight-rayed
golden-yellow sun and three five-pointed stars, as consecrated and honored
by the people.”)
* * *
To hear some of our legislators speak, the language of the Constitution
is clear-cut and admits of no flexibility.
And yet the honorable members of the Senate and the House are quite
content to disregard a literal reading of the Constitution when it suits
them. Case in point: the Judicial and Bar Council.
This innovation of the post-Marcos Constitution specified only one
“representative from the Congress” in the JBC’s list of members, and from
1987 to 1994 this limit was scrupulously followed, with representatives from
the Senate and the House taking turns.
But the literal reading of the constitutional provision was abandoned in
1994, and the representatives of the Senate and of the House began sitting
in the JBC simultaneously.
This unconstitutional state of affairs came to an end only in 2013, or
two decades later, when the Supreme Court stopped the charade. “In cases
like this, no amount of practical logic and convenience can convince the
Court to perform either an excision or an insertion that will change the
manifest intent of the Framers.
To broaden the scope of congressional representation in the JBC is
tantamount to the inclusion of a subject matter which was not included in
the provision as enacted.”
During these two decades, “the Congress” was unconstitutionally
represented in the JBC by such prominent lawyer-legislators as Alberto
Romulo, Marcelo Fernan, Raul Roco, Renato Cayetano, Miriam Defensor Santiago
(but only for a month), Francis Pangilinan, and Francis Escudero from the
Senate; and Pablo Garcia, Alan Peter Cayetano, Simeon Datumanong and Niel
Tupas from the House.
So when legislators wave the flag and demand that the BBL withstand the
most stringent constitutional scrutiny, let’s gently set the flag aside, and
also investigate the lawmakers’ sense of practical logic and convenience.
Commentary: Edca and war
Reynaldo V. Silvestre @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:34 AM |
Saturday, May 30th, 2015
There are pending petitions at the Supreme Court to declare
unconstitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) between
the Philippines and the United States.
The petitioners are led by Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, who were
among the 12 senators who voted in September 1991 against the extension of
US military bases in the Philippines. Including activists, lawyers and
representatives of the academe and the religious, the petitioners claim that
the Edca violates the ban on foreign military bases, including the
construction of facilities and storage of defense supplies.
Signed in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama to the
Philippines on April 28, 2014, the Edca facilitates the entry of nuclear
weapons into the country, which is banned by the Constitution.
It behooves us to discuss the terms of survival now essential to all
nations, and from this discernment to foresee our specific needs, as well as
the latitudes (since we cannot operate as a sole actor) that other nations
must perforce allow us.
By way of a clarifying contrast, let us restate basic strategic factors
that determined relations among nations. We are excepting here personal
ambitions of rulers, intradynastic rivalries, religious wars and chauvinist
vindictiveness. We are concerned instead with the concepts that have
dominated the last 500 years of world history. In this context, we find that
there have been three factors crucial to the external security of nations:
First, the concept of indigenous armed forces, held in readiness even in
times of peace. The infantry, artillery and naval warship constituted the
defense system of a nation. This structure of defense and offense was
premised on the basic concept of direct physical confrontation between the
armed units of one nation and those of another. Wars, so to speak, were
eyeball-to-eyeball and hand-to-hand confrontations. Apart from design,
leadership and fortuitous events, national security was lodged in the weight
of the army and the navy.
Second, the concept of capturing cheaper sources of material supplies and
human labor, plus the protection of access routes to these sources. From
this concept evolved the history of Western imperialism which really
amounted to the garrisoning of sources of supply. Coeval to control of
supply sources was the concept of developing and holding consumer markets
captive. It is to these concepts that we may ascribe the imperialist
colonization of Asia, Africa and India.
Third, the concept of perimeter defense. This was directly related to the
control—direct or indirect—of sea lanes and adjacent land masses. The
strategic idea was to control supply routes and to render these as costly as
possible for invading forces to penetrate the “heartland.” We still find
current use of some terms that evolved from this concept: “buffer states”
and “spheres of influence.”
As the number of nations able to maintain large armed forces increased,
and as their competition for supply and market sources became more intense,
the need for maintaining armed reserves on foreign territory grew as well.
It is to this that we owe the existence of foreign military bases all over
the world, reinforced by the point that the protection of far-flung outposts
could not be left in the protection of long supply lines.
Each garrison, each base, had to have sufficient strength to hold out
against the enemy until additional armed might from the heartland could
arrive. National needs and international rivalries were deemed permanent,
and so foreign garrisons and bases had to be maintained even in times of
peace, since peace—then as now—was considered only a lull between wars.
In time, the world space open to imperialist expansion became clearly
marked among the world powers. A time of imperialist consolidation set in,
and it became a commonly-held view to merely contain each other. The phrase
that evolved from this, “balance of power,” has come down to us with another
nuance, “balance of terror.”
When England emerged as the dominant European power, it became a
fundamental of her foreign policy to maintain this balance of power. But
since retaliatory power was not feared enough, the balance-of-power concept
as a guarantor of world peace soon collapsed in the holocausts of 1914 and
In the last 70 years hence, the rise of militant communism in Soviet
Russia and the growing might of the People’s Republic of China, together,
most significantly, with the development of ultimate weapons, have now given
the world’s nations new realities to encompass.
The new realities are refutations of the old, and these refutations have
compellingly changed the old formulations of foreign policy. The two new
realities of most pertinence to our present evolution are: “ultimate
weapons” and the dominant emergence of Russia and China.
Under ultimate weapons we take note of three: the intercontinental
ballistic missile, of immense destructive power; the Polaris-type submarine,
able to range the world for months, with its nuclear missiles; and the giant
battleships, with their supporting flotilla, fighter bombers, also armed
with nuclear weapons.
These armaments can devastate entire countries. They are armed and
supplied with weapons and provisions from the heartland. They are absolutely
independent of bases around the nation they are supposed to guard, and to
attack if need be. These capabilities have revolutionary implications: It is
no longer necessary to encircle an enemy with foreign bases; the heartland
now needs to rely only on attack systems located right within its borders.
The preeminence of the United States and Russia in this regard is beyond
the capability of any other nation today. And, unless China is sooner
fragmented by some preventive war, it, too, must soon be counted in this
ultraselect group of the United States and Russia.
Since these weapons have removed the need for direct armed confrontation,
the necessity of the buffer state, the perimeter defense, has also been
removed. This is a matter of logic, but the question arises: Will the
heartlands realize this, act upon it, and when? Will leaders act according
to the balance of terror existing, such that the fear of unavoidable mutual
destruction will press inexorably for a permanent détente? Will nations
realize that there is no need to capture supply and consumer sources because
the techniques of superior technology and marketing as exemplified by Japan
can achieve the same results without the costs of war?
There are no definite answers because such decisions are ultimately left
to human leaders in whom temperament and chance can lead to the most
War is an utterly serious concern to be left to graduates of the
Philippine Military Academy not honed in military and political theory but
glamorized in Hollywood’s “The Long Gray Line.” Only a diplomatic strategy
of mutual benefit can be relied upon, or we should get resigned to a
superpower breathing down our necks.
Reynaldo V. Silvestre is a retired army colonel, multiawarded writer,
bemedaled officer and former chief, Office of Strategic and Special Studies,
Armed Forces of the Philippines.