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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: MAR's 'DAAN'
[Based on his answers [at a Forum], it seems that the reluctant politician, who left his career in investment banking and joined Philippine politics only after (and because) his brother died, thinks that reasonableness, the sincere but not necessarily exciting balancing of interests, is part of the “daang matuwid.”]


FROM GOOGLE IMAGES Ex-Secretary Mar Roxas is the first candidate for president in the post-Edsa era to run on the promise of specific program continuity, and he is not shy about it. At the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Wednesday, he gave many answers that were based on a common premise, namely, that he was continuing President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” approach to governance. Other candidates have campaigned on the basis of promised reforms, of course; but no one, not even Fidel Ramos in 1992, could present himself or herself as the avatar of continuity. Whether this is a winning strategy for Roxas—Mr. Aquino’s losing vice presidential running mate in 2010 and his survey-challenged preferred successor in 2016—remains to be seen. It helps that President Aquino is the most popular president since the advent of regular political polling; having recovered from the decline in his approval and satisfaction ratings earlier this year, a drop caused by the Mamasapano tragedy, he is finishing his term with enviable ratings. Promoting the continuity of the so-called straight path is a logical attempt to translate those high numbers into votes. But it has also become clear that Roxas does in fact believe, heart and mind and soul, in Mr. Aquino’s “daang matuwid.” His invocation of the administration mantra was a nonironic recurring feature of his responses at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum. Whatever one may think of the straight path approach to governance itself, or indeed of Roxas himself, it seems clear that he has embraced the “daan,” that the path is part of his personality. At the forum, he described the President as “the moral force” of the straight path, without apologies and with no reluctance. He seized the opportunity to define the elements of “daang matuwid” again and again, pivoting in the direction of the straight path almost regardless of the question. He even answered the question about the extent or depth of support of the President’s sisters—“You are sure of the President’s full support, but what about his sisters?”—in a manner that was both straight to the point (“the short answer is yes”) and an invocation of the straight path yet again. READ MORE...

 ALSO By Randy David: Four models of political leadership


By: Randy David Governance in the modern world has become anything but simple. The more economies are interconnected, the harder it is to predict and control their outcomes. Worsening inequality among and within nations produces problems that are intractable. Because economic growth can now be achieved without necessarily creating jobs for the many, or improving public services, governments are increasingly unable to invoke sheer growth rates to justify their continued stay in office. The irony of it all is that simplistic political discourse persists everywhere, offering drastic solutions that substitute strong rhetoric for hard-nosed analysis. Politicians like the garrulous Donald Trump in the United States are the popular purveyors of such talk. They say things ordinary people are too timid to express. They are popular because they serve as megaphones for the public’s collective frustrations. They occupy the center stage of politics because every comment they make sparks controversy. Beside Trump, the rest of America’s politicians seem like wooden figures bereft of commonsense. But, while politicians are wont to occasionally engage in hyperbole to draw public attention, it is the responsibility of voters to think hard of what they are actually being offered in relation to what the nation needs. Philippine politics shares many similarities with that of the United States. But, given the tenacity of a patron-client culture in our society, our political models are different. In general, Philippine politics today offers us four basic models of leadership: the patron, the strongman, the caregiver, and the manager. Readers may note that in previous essays, I have used slightly different terms to designate the same clusters of traits. These are “ideal types” in Max Weber’s sense of the term—meaning, each one is a composite of traits not necessarily to be found in one actual person. Indeed, a politician may project elements drawn from the different models. But, as “ideal types,” they serve as a heuristic device by which a political analyst may discern patterns in the empirical world. We can classify politicians according to the style and vocabulary by which they present themselves. The patron. This quintessential Filipino politician finds a perfect niche in social structures marked by sharp inequality and mass poverty. He promises to take care of everyone, particularly the poor. READ MORE...

ALSO Editorial: ‘The newer normal’


The Philippines cut a sharp profile in the climate change negotiations which began in the French capital of Paris on Monday—drawing attention to the fate of people suffering from the already serious effects of global warming, offering to share the lessons the Philippines has learned and is learning from its experience with natural disasters, leading an important meeting of a growing alliance of climate-vulnerable countries. Not least, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which President Aquino chaired, officially adopted the Manila-Paris Declaration. The declaration, backed by the full support of the forum’s 20 current members, seeks to strengthen the new climate treaty being negotiated in Paris by lowering the temperature ceiling from 2 degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and by integrating human rights and climate justice provisions. The forum includes countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh in Asia, Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, and Costa Rica and Santa Lucia in the Americas, and together represent hundreds of millions of people at increasingly serious risk posed by the adverse consequences of climate change. The “High-Level Meeting” of the CVF (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whose auspices the climate negotiations are being conducted, has specific terminology classifying the various meetings) was only the third since the forum was formed, and one of only six high-profile side events on the first day of the 21st Conference of Parties or COP21. As chair, Mr. Aquino gave a keynote speech which did, in fact, strike the key notes. Two passages from his speech, in particular, sum up the context of climate vulnerability and the corresponding demand for climate justice. After noting that the CVF members already “experience climate change in the starkest possible terms,” President Aquino proceeded to present an even bleaker future. “But building back better has become less and less of a guarantee, given that the new normal might still be replaced by an even newer normal if we fail to act in concert. Positive national development trajectories, especially of emerging economies such as the Philippines’, can be broken due to the disruption caused by disaster. After all, what if we could channel the resources used for building back better towards other development interventions?” If countries like the Philippines already lose about 2 to 2.5 percent of their GDP to calamities, what would a future where global surface temperature would have risen to 2 degrees above pre-industrial era levels (currently it is around 0.8 degrees) be like, for developing economies? READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Recipe for disorder
[Left unresolved for long, Grace Poe’s case is a recipe for disorder. It needs to be resolved definitively, and fast.]


Disqualified from the presidential race by the Commission on Elections’ Second Division, Sen. Grace Poe isn’t about to throw in the towel. She is pinning her hopes on the Supreme Court, reminding the nation that her late father, Fernando Poe Jr., won his own case for Filipino citizenship in that tribunal. That’s true, though the parallels pretty much end there. In FPJ’s case, the issue was not his being a foundling, as is the case with the senator, but whether he was a natural-born Filipino since his father was supposedly a Spanish national and he was delivered out of wedlock by an American mother whose citizenship he should have followed. In March 2004, by a vote of 8-5, the Supreme Court ruled that FPJ was a natural-born Filipino and therefore qualified to run for president. He did so, but lost in what was widely perceived as a stolen election underscored by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s infamous “Hello, Garci” conversation caught on tape. Well before that, however, the trigger for FPJ’s case reaching the high court was a Comelec resolution upholding his citizenship and allowing him to run. It was the petitioners against FPJ who sought relief from the Supreme Court when their disqualification suit against him was dismissed by the poll body—a scenario that has been turned on its head in the case of the senator, whose candidacy was rendered moot at the Comelec level, so it’s her camp that’s about to seek succor from the high court. The Comelec ruling throwing out the senator’s candidacy rested not only on grounds of citizenship—that she is not a natural-born citizen because she was a foundling—but also on a quite unrelated fact: that by allegedly writing on her certificate of candidacy that she was a resident of the Philippines for “6 years and 6 months,” she does not fulfill the constitutional requirement of a 10-year residency for a presidential candidate. Poe has claimed that the numbers were an “honest mistake”—a defense that the Comelec panel rejected. Counting the relevant numbers should be simple enough, but various quarters for or against her have advanced their own notions of how to correctly calculate the length of the senator’s stay in the Philippines after her return from the United States. But even more contentious than this is the question of her citizenship; the Comelec decision denying her such status on the basis of her history as a foundling flies in the face of the earlier ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which voted 5-4 in favor of seeing her as a citizen fully qualified to run for president. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: VFA treachery


When Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde found Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, a US Marine, guilty of homicide in the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, she ordered him committed to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. Pemberton’s security detail, composed of American soldiers, refused to turn him over to the Philippine National Police or the Bureau of Corrections. A two-hour standoff occurred, until the judge, acting on the motion of Pemberton’s lawyers, ordered his temporary return to his detention facility inside the Joint US Military Assistance Group compound in Camp Aguinaldo. The standoff obscured what was otherwise a clear legal victory for both Laude’s family and friends and for the national interest. And it reminded Filipinos yet again of the essentially unequal relationship at the core of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We understand that, under the provisions of the VFA, which allowed the “temporary” return of the American military to the Philippines less than a decade after the last American base was shut down, the Philippine and American governments have the responsibility to agree between themselves on where to detain a visiting American soldier once convicted of a crime. What we cannot understand is how, when the controversial VFA was drafted, the Philippine side could even imagine that that provision would be fair, or be perceived as fair, to Philippine interests. Yes, the place of detention would be inside Philippine territory, but did any of the senators who supported the VFA then think that the Philippine government—regardless of administration or ruling coalition—would insist on the NBP? It was always going to be some place other than where ordinary Filipinos are imprisoned. The notion that Philippine officials can insist on the NBP or a similar facility became unrealistic the moment the VFA became law—when it was recognized as a treaty by our own Senate, but treated as a mere executive agreement by Washington. The veteran lawyer Jose Justiniano, who has been involved in the prosecution or defense of two American soldiers facing major criminal charges in the country, gave the lie to the notion. “There was already an agreement that the AFP would be the custodial place. That’s why the US government is insisting that he should be brought to Camp Aguinaldo,” he said, and added: “The US government only holds that position because they know the conditions inside Bilibid. And that’s OK. All they’re after is the safety of their citizens. Especially since this involves a soldier, and you know how much they protect soldiers.” READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: Mar’s ‘daan’


FROM GOOGLE IMAGES

MANILA, DECEMBER 7, 2015 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:57 AM November 27th, 2015 - Ex-Secretary Mar Roxas is the first candidate for president in the post-Edsa era to run on the promise of specific program continuity, and he is not shy about it.

At the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Wednesday, he gave many answers that were based on a common premise, namely, that he was continuing President Aquino’s “daang matuwid” approach to governance.

Other candidates have campaigned on the basis of promised reforms, of course; but no one, not even Fidel Ramos in 1992, could present himself or herself as the avatar of continuity. Whether this is a winning strategy for Roxas—Mr. Aquino’s losing vice presidential running mate in 2010 and his survey-challenged preferred successor in 2016—remains to be seen.

It helps that President Aquino is the most popular president since the advent of regular political polling; having recovered from the decline in his approval and satisfaction ratings earlier this year, a drop caused by the Mamasapano tragedy, he is finishing his term with enviable ratings. Promoting the continuity of the so-called straight path is a logical attempt to translate those high numbers into votes.

But it has also become clear that Roxas does in fact believe, heart and mind and soul, in Mr. Aquino’s “daang matuwid.” His invocation of the administration mantra was a nonironic recurring feature of his responses at the Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum. Whatever one may think of the straight path approach to governance itself, or indeed of Roxas himself, it seems clear that he has embraced the “daan,” that the path is part of his personality.

At the forum, he described the President as “the moral force” of the straight path, without apologies and with no reluctance.

He seized the opportunity to define the elements of “daang matuwid” again and again, pivoting in the direction of the straight path almost regardless of the question.

He even answered the question about the extent or depth of support of the President’s sisters—“You are sure of the President’s full support, but what about his sisters?”—in a manner that was both straight to the point (“the short answer is yes”) and an invocation of the straight path yet again.

READ MORE...

“When we filed our COCs [certificates of candidacy], Ate Ballsy and Viel were there. Pinky also on another occasion has showed her support, as well as Kris; we had a conversation. So I’m comfortable that the President and his family support ‘daang matuwid,’ and Mar, and Leni [Robredo, his candidate for vice president],” Roxas said.

Based on his answers, it seems that the reluctant politician, who left his career in investment banking and joined Philippine politics only after (and because) his brother died, thinks that reasonableness, the sincere but not necessarily exciting balancing of interests, is part of the “daang matuwid.”

His response to the question about tax reform, for instance, was measured, deliberate.

“Obviously all tax measures should be subject to review,” he said. “I just don’t think it is wise to review tax measures in the heat of the political atmosphere of an election.”

“If this degenerates to just pa-pogian [a contest to look good], then let’s not tax anyone anymore. It will become a dive to the bottom. Somebody will say 20-percent tax; the next one will say 10-percent tax, or 5 percent, or just zero,” he added.

Even his response to related questions about the sorry state of traffic in Metro Manila was calibrated, a weighing of the negative and the positive.

He acknowledged the dismay millions of Filipinos feel day to day: “I know the frustration and anger [of motorists and commuters] as they see the hours wasting away. By the time they get home it’s already late.”

At the same time, he directed attention to what was being done. “Yes, traffic exists but there are also solutions that are on the way,” he said.

He noted that connectors to the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway were already under construction. “All the vehicles that are on Edsa today will have 12 additional lanes to use once these things are up,” he said. He also said he would look into the decongestion of main roads by reviewing the franchises of buses.

“Ours is the only city in the world with multiple bus lines operating in the same route.”

Again, a seemingly reasonable position, but not without its vulnerable points. Why, for instance, did the Aquino administration take a long time to put these solutions in place?

But for better or worse, this is the government Roxas represents, this is the program he wants to continue, and this is the candidate he chooses to be.


Four models of political leadership By: Randy David @inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:25 AM December 3rd, 2015


By: Randy David

Governance in the modern world has become anything but simple. The more economies are interconnected, the harder it is to predict and control their outcomes. Worsening inequality among and within nations produces problems that are intractable. Because economic growth can now be achieved without necessarily creating jobs for the many, or improving public services, governments are increasingly unable to invoke sheer growth rates to justify their continued stay in office.

The irony of it all is that simplistic political discourse persists everywhere, offering drastic solutions that substitute strong rhetoric for hard-nosed analysis. Politicians like the garrulous Donald Trump in the United States are the popular purveyors of such talk. They say things ordinary people are too timid to express. They are popular because they serve as megaphones for the public’s collective frustrations. They occupy the center stage of politics because every comment they make sparks controversy. Beside Trump, the rest of America’s politicians seem like wooden figures bereft of commonsense.

But, while politicians are wont to occasionally engage in hyperbole to draw public attention, it is the responsibility of voters to think hard of what they are actually being offered in relation to what the nation needs. Philippine politics shares many similarities with that of the United States. But, given the tenacity of a patron-client culture in our society, our political models are different.

In general, Philippine politics today offers us four basic models of leadership: the patron, the strongman, the caregiver, and the manager. Readers may note that in previous essays, I have used slightly different terms to designate the same clusters of traits.

These are “ideal types” in Max Weber’s sense of the term—meaning, each one is a composite of traits not necessarily to be found in one actual person. Indeed, a politician may project elements drawn from the different models. But, as “ideal types,” they serve as a heuristic device by which a political analyst may discern patterns in the empirical world. We can classify politicians according to the style and vocabulary by which they present themselves.

The patron. This quintessential Filipino politician finds a perfect niche in social structures marked by sharp inequality and mass poverty. He promises to take care of everyone, particularly the poor.

READ MORE...

He demands unconditional loyalty from his followers in return for a pledge of abiding support for all their needs. He tells them: “Walang iwanan” (rough translation: No one will be left behind). It is a pact of mutual support that, while resonating the rules of Filipino friendship, is, in fact, a signifier for a paternalistic relationship. The patron projects himself as the supreme provider. Government, to him, is a personal turf—a family duty he bequeaths to his children and kin. He is accustomed to taking liberties with the powers of his office and the finances of government. He feels personally betrayed when he is charged with corruption. Many of our traditional politicians fit into this model of leadership.

The strongman. This is a variation of the patron type, and is distinguished by the projection of a no-nonsense, tough-talking demeanor. The paternalism of the patron toward his constituents is there, but in addition to personalized power, the strongman is distinguished by a readiness to apply direct force to punish troublemakers and teach their ilk a lesson. The strongman is a figure of awe as much as he is an object of fear. His language is blunt; he does not indulge in courteous platitudes. He takes the victims of power and of criminal abuse under his wing, and swears they will get justice by his own hands. He, too, fits a society characterized by extremes of power and privilege. He likes to mock the pretentiousness of the elite and the institutions they represent by the deliberate vulgarity and crudeness of his language. In that way, he projects himself as the ultimate weapon of the weak.

The caregiver. This is a role that is uniquely drawn from the tender traits of our culture. This is the loving Mother Mary, the self-sacrificing Filipino “Ate,” the protective Tandang Sora, and the fearless heroine Gabriela Silang rolled into one. Best played by women, the caregiver projects moral integrity and compassion as her defining qualities. Paradoxically, her political effectiveness rests on an explicit rejection of everything that is political. To do that, she employs a moralistic language that elevates political inexperience to the level of a virtue, and privileges kindness over competence as a pillar of governance.

The manager. And lastly, there’s the manager, a figure seldom seen in Philippine politics, but who, in view of global complexity, could well become the face of the modern statesman. More comfortable at sorting out systems than with pleasing people, the manager instantly suffers from a strained access to voters. He comes out cold and uncaring, ready with statistics but blind to people’s needs. It is the nation as an entity that he cares about and constantly thinks about, as he charts its preferred path in a world system filled with uncertainty. That is what a modern president should be doing. But, first, he has to get elected, and that, probably, is the biggest challenge a leader-manager has to face.

It’s not difficult to guess who among the current crop of presidential candidates falls under which category. Whatever our choices might be, what is important is that they are informed by an unflinching view of what our country needs at this time.

* * *


‘The newer normal’@inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:30 AM December 2nd, 2015



The Philippines cut a sharp profile in the climate change negotiations which began in the French capital of Paris on Monday—drawing attention to the fate of people suffering from the already serious effects of global warming, offering to share the lessons the Philippines has learned and is learning from its experience with natural disasters, leading an important meeting of a growing alliance of climate-vulnerable countries. Not least, the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which President Aquino chaired, officially adopted the Manila-Paris Declaration.

The declaration, backed by the full support of the forum’s 20 current members, seeks to strengthen the new climate treaty being negotiated in Paris by lowering the temperature ceiling from 2 degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and by integrating human rights and climate justice provisions.

The forum includes countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh in Asia, Kenya and Tanzania in Africa, and Costa Rica and Santa Lucia in the Americas, and together represent hundreds of millions of people at increasingly serious risk posed by the adverse consequences of climate change. The “High-Level Meeting” of the CVF (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under whose auspices the climate negotiations are being conducted, has specific terminology classifying the various meetings) was only the third since the forum was formed, and one of only six high-profile side events on the first day of the 21st Conference of Parties or COP21. As chair, Mr. Aquino gave a keynote speech which did, in fact, strike the key notes.

Two passages from his speech, in particular, sum up the context of climate vulnerability and the corresponding demand for climate justice.

After noting that the CVF members already “experience climate change in the starkest possible terms,” President Aquino proceeded to present an even bleaker future.

“But building back better has become less and less of a guarantee, given that the new normal might still be replaced by an even newer normal if we fail to act in concert. Positive national development trajectories, especially of emerging economies such as the Philippines’, can be broken due to the disruption caused by disaster. After all, what if we could channel the resources used for building back better towards other development interventions?”

If countries like the Philippines already lose about 2 to 2.5 percent of their GDP to calamities, what would a future where global surface temperature would have risen to 2 degrees above pre-industrial era levels (currently it is around 0.8 degrees) be like, for developing economies?

READ MORE...

Many of the greenhouse gasses trapping the heat were produced since the mid-19th century by the economies commonly described as developed; even though China, officially still classified as a developing economy, has already become the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the mostly Western members of the rich-countries club have the burden of history on them; they’ve produced most of the greenhouse gasses.

Thus, the vulnerable countries’ demand for climate justice.

“By some estimates,” President Aquino said, “annual losses amount to at least 2.5 percent of GDP for us in the CVF—this, despite the fact that we collectively contribute less than 2 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions. We have all echoed the call for global solidarity in responding to climate change. Our gathering today, and the hard work that our representatives have been doing since the Climate Vulnerable Forum came into being, highlights an essential pillar of the solidarity we are pursuing: Fairness and equitability are not mere catchwords for the vulnerable; they form the very foundations of a truly global climate response.”

We think the Philippines recognizes, together with other members of the CVF, that the Paris talks need to conclude with a treaty that is universal (unlike the Kyoto Protocol, it will have to apply to both developed and developing economies) and legally binding (the provisions must be enforceable). That is the priority. Getting all the parties to agree would be made more palatable, not more difficult, if the needs of the vulnerable, facing the increasingly likely prospect of the “newer normal,” are fairly and equitably integrated into the text.


Recipe for disorder @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:40 AM December 5th, 2015

Disqualified from the presidential race by the Commission on Elections’ Second Division, Sen. Grace Poe isn’t about to throw in the towel. She is pinning her hopes on the Supreme Court, reminding the nation that her late father, Fernando Poe Jr., won his own case for Filipino citizenship in that tribunal.

That’s true, though the parallels pretty much end there. In FPJ’s case, the issue was not his being a foundling, as is the case with the senator, but whether he was a natural-born Filipino since his father was supposedly a Spanish national and he was delivered out of wedlock by an American mother whose citizenship he should have followed. In March 2004, by a vote of 8-5, the Supreme Court ruled that FPJ was a natural-born Filipino and therefore qualified to run for president. He did so, but lost in what was widely perceived as a stolen election underscored by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s infamous “Hello, Garci” conversation caught on tape.

Well before that, however, the trigger for FPJ’s case reaching the high court was a Comelec resolution upholding his citizenship and allowing him to run. It was the petitioners against FPJ who sought relief from the Supreme Court when their disqualification suit against him was dismissed by the poll body—a scenario that has been turned on its head in the case of the senator, whose candidacy was rendered moot at the Comelec level, so it’s her camp that’s about to seek succor from the high court.

The Comelec ruling throwing out the senator’s candidacy rested not only on grounds of citizenship—that she is not a natural-born citizen because she was a foundling—but also on a quite unrelated fact: that by allegedly writing on her certificate of candidacy that she was a resident of the Philippines for “6 years and 6 months,” she does not fulfill the constitutional requirement of a 10-year residency for a presidential candidate.

Poe has claimed that the numbers were an “honest mistake”—a defense that the Comelec panel rejected. Counting the relevant numbers should be simple enough, but various quarters for or against her have advanced their own notions of how to correctly calculate the length of the senator’s stay in the Philippines after her return from the United States. But even more contentious than this is the question of her citizenship; the Comelec decision denying her such status on the basis of her history as a foundling flies in the face of the earlier ruling of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, which voted 5-4 in favor of seeing her as a citizen fully qualified to run for president.

READ MORE...

Which is truly which? Now that the case is about to be elevated for higher and final resolution, the Supreme Court needs to decide on it more expeditiously than usual, to forestall any possibility of chaos or confusion in the coming elections. By Dec. 15, the Comelec will have to release the official list of candidates; Poe’s case is not expected to be resolved with finality by then, in which case her name would still be on the ballot. That would not present a problem if she eventually wins her case; if she loses, however, the Comelec would be in a quandary over having to redo the ballots, at significant additional cost, to strike out her name.

The time it would take to argue the case back and forth might also further polarize the electorate, given the stark positions of the opposing camps on this issue. Former Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes all but charged the poll body with abuse of authority by saying it has no business deciding on the senator’s qualifications to run for president, because that function allegedly only resides not even in the Supreme Court but in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). Furthermore, he said, that determination can only happen in the event Poe wins the presidency.

If Brillantes is right, what are ordinary citizens to make of such confounding laws, which appear to guarantee only mess and uncertainty? What is the point, after all, of resolving Poe’s, or anyone else’s, qualifications for president after the fact, when millions of pesos have been spent on the election, and a number of lives have inevitably been lost to poll-related violence? The nation will have to endure a prolonged period of instability as the PET—if indeed it has the sole power to decide such things—deliberates on whether a duly elected candidate should be deprived of the popular mandate.

Left unresolved for long, Grace Poe’s case is a recipe for disorder. It needs to be resolved definitively, and fast.


VFA treachery @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:16 AM December 4th, 2015



When Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde found Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, a US Marine, guilty of homicide in the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, she ordered him committed to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City. Pemberton’s security detail, composed of American soldiers, refused to turn him over to the Philippine National Police or the Bureau of Corrections. A two-hour standoff occurred, until the judge, acting on the motion of Pemberton’s lawyers, ordered his temporary return to his detention facility inside the Joint US Military Assistance Group compound in Camp Aguinaldo.

The standoff obscured what was otherwise a clear legal victory for both Laude’s family and friends and for the national interest. And it reminded Filipinos yet again of the essentially unequal relationship at the core of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

We understand that, under the provisions of the VFA, which allowed the “temporary” return of the American military to the Philippines less than a decade after the last American base was shut down, the Philippine and American governments have the responsibility to agree between themselves on where to detain a visiting American soldier once convicted of a crime.

What we cannot understand is how, when the controversial VFA was drafted, the Philippine side could even imagine that that provision would be fair, or be perceived as fair, to Philippine interests. Yes, the place of detention would be inside Philippine territory, but did any of the senators who supported the VFA then think that the Philippine government—regardless of administration or ruling coalition—would insist on the NBP?

It was always going to be some place other than where ordinary Filipinos are imprisoned.

The notion that Philippine officials can insist on the NBP or a similar facility became unrealistic the moment the VFA became law—when it was recognized as a treaty by our own Senate, but treated as a mere executive agreement by Washington.

The veteran lawyer Jose Justiniano, who has been involved in the prosecution or defense of two American soldiers facing major criminal charges in the country, gave the lie to the notion.

“There was already an agreement that the AFP would be the custodial place. That’s why the US government is insisting that he should be brought to Camp Aguinaldo,” he said, and added: “The US government only holds that position because they know the conditions inside Bilibid. And that’s OK. All they’re after is the safety of their citizens. Especially since this involves a soldier, and you know how much they protect soldiers.”

READ MORE...

A pity we don’t protect our own as zealously as the Americans protect their soldiers. The issue is that a crime was proven beyond reasonable doubt to have been committed against a Filipino citizen, in her own country. Conviction should carry the penalty that would have been meted out to a Filipino; the convicted should suffer the same sanctions as Filipinos convicted of the same crime would suffer, regardless of “the conditions inside Bilibid.”

Otherwise, we are granting the criminal special privileges. As it is, even as the Olongapo court awaits a copy of the memorandum of agreement between the Philippine and US governments regarding Pemberton’s detention facility, we—because of the VFA—are giving Pemberton special treatment.

In Judge Ginez-Jabalde’s ruling, she invoked the rule on treachery (if present, it would have justified a finding of murder, instead of just homicide). “For treachery to be considered, two elements must concur: (1) the employment of means of execution that gives the persons attacked no opportunity to defend themselves; and (2) the means of execution were deliberately or consciously adopted.” She also ruled out the presence of the aggravating condition known as abuse of strength. “Likewise, abuse of superior strength is not present when the killing was unplanned and not premeditated.”

To the Filipino outraged by the two-hour stand-off, these elements may well describe the treacherous political arrangements that led to the VFA and its unequal provisions.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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