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FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: 'TOKHANG FOR-RANSOM' - RUNNING RINGS AROUND 'BATO'?


JANUARY 17 -How far is the office of Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa from the PNP’s Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit? The question needs to be asked in light of the astounding revelation that the rogue policeman Dela Rosa had lately publicly excoriated for suspected involvement in the “tokhang”-for-ransom case involving a Korean national—who he said had repeatedly ignored summonses to report and explain his actions to his superiors—turned out to have been assigned to that unit in Camp Crame all along. SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel has been identified as the police officer who led a group of armed men that barged into the home of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in Angeles City in October 2016 on the pretext of a drug raid. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Killer weather


JANUARY 20 -WET, COLD, AND HUNGRY — Stranded students and teachers of the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) fit into a rescue raft as floodwaters rose in Cagayan de Oro City around 2 a.m. Tuesday. They were rescued by Army’s Fourth Infantry Division and the Police Regional Office-10 after 10 hours of being trapped inside the campus without food and water. COURTESY OF (Camcer Ordońez Imam | Manila Bulletin) When the rains came, they came for the children. At least eight children were among the 11 lives claimed by the torrential rains that swamped many parts of Mindanao, especially Northern Mindanao, and the Western Visayas last Monday. In Naga, Cebu province, four-year-old Aileen Rose Paquit was still in bed in her family’s shanty, sleeping, when a flash flood swept her and her mother away at around 7 a.m. Aileen Rose died while being taken to a hospital. In Northern Mindanao, four children were among six persons killed by runaway floodwaters: Jaime Chan, three, in Gingoog City; CJ Lapuz, seven, in Magsaysay town; Kian Montecino, 10, in Opol town; and Renny Boy Cabido, in Cagayan de Oro City. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Jose Ma. Montelibano - Split-level morality (Split-level Christianity)(Mouthing religious teachings is like mouthing laws and regulations. If we act differently from what we say, that is split-level morality, whether in faith or in governance.)


JANUARY 20 -By: Jose Ma. Montelibano It is refreshing for Filipino Cardinal Quevedo to publicly admit the split-level Christianity that most of us are participants and witnesses to daily – and having been so all our lives. It does not mean there are no exceptions, but the exceptions do not matter enough to significantly influence any reversal soon. Sad, isn’t it, and sadder still that this is not a momentary lapse of a lived faith but a dominant pattern. I have personally rebelled against the way that many Christians are so verbally expressive in advocating religious teachings but are behaving in sharp contrast. Articulated statements being quoted from the Bible, whatever version, may sound nice and carry a deep resonance with what we know are true and good. But the way even the articulators live their lives, when matched with their saintly words, offer confusion. When words and actions do not jive, when they frequently contradict each other, they not only confuse but generate skepticism. In the end, truth suffers. In the end, society suffers. READ MORE...

ALSO: From Letters to the Editor - Stop using drug war as front vs activists
{We also call for the prosecution of those responsible for extrajudicial killings. Finally, we call on government not to use the drug war as a front to attack activists.}


As longtime advocates of genuine democracy and peace in the Philippines, we are pleased to see some positive changes under the Duterte administration. It is great to see mining companies finally being shut down for violating Philippine environmental laws, and the Philippine government asserting an independent foreign policy from the United States. We are also pleased that President Duterte has reopened peace talks with the National Democratic Front and seeks a peaceful settlement of the decades-old armed conflict in the Philippines. Unfortunately there have been some disconcerting developments in the human rights front these past months. READ MORE...


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EDITORIAL- Running rings around ‘Bato’?

MANILA, JANUARY 23, 2017 (INQUIRER) January 17, 2017 - How far is the office of Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa from the PNP’s Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit?

The question needs to be asked in light of the astounding revelation that the rogue policeman Dela Rosa had lately publicly excoriated for suspected involvement in the “tokhang”-for-ransom case involving a Korean national—who he said had repeatedly ignored summonses to report and explain his actions to his superiors—turned out to have been assigned to that unit in Camp Crame all along.

SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel has been identified as the police officer who led a group of armed men that barged into the home of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in Angeles City in October 2016 on the pretext of a drug raid.

READ MORE...

He was then variously seen on CCTV driving one of the cars tagged as getaway vehicles and withdrawing money using the ATM card provided by the Korean’s wife. The wife has paid ransom of P5 million, but her husband remains missing to this day. She told the Inquirer that she had been asked to produce another P4.5 million for his release.
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Since news of the kidnapping Sta. Isabel has also been missing, or so Dela Rosa seemed to have been told by his subordinates. The PNP chief fumed on TV over the officer’s nonappearance and called on him to surrender or be shot on sight. He also publicly aired his suspicion about the officer’s guilt, based on uncovered records showing that Sta. Isabel was involved in another kidnapping case in the 1990s. What he wasn’t told—apparently deliberately, for how could such an oversight be explained?—was that the officer had been reassigned to another PNP office.

Sta. Isabel is now reportedly in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation. Earlier, he found the gumption not only to resign from the PNP, claiming that he is being framed, but also to march into his superiors’ offices, accompanied by two lawyers, to turn over his badge. He has denied involvement in the kidnapping, but the police say they have “the goods on him.” But no charges have yet been filed. In all this, the most urgent question remains: Where is the Korean businessman—or at least his body, because even Dela Rosa has said he may no longer be alive?

How this case has unfolded is yet another shameful mark on the PNP. Not only because a cop appears to have perverted the Duterte administration’s flagship campaign against drugs and crime to commit a heinous act, but also because, more alarmingly, the organization he belongs to appears to have no idea of how to handle his case with any sense of efficiency.

The PNP’s own chief is caught unaware of staff movements, as if his lieutenants and underlings were running rings around him. Dela Rosa fulminates on TV against Sta. Isabel, but the latter is able to walk away, three months after his alleged crime, with no case pending against him. Why was he still in the rolls in the first place, given his supposed earlier involvement in another kidnapping case? He was reportedly reinstated after he turned over some P2 million in ransom money, claiming it was used in an attempt to bribe him. Sounds familiar? That’s essentially the same absurd defense offered by two immigration lawyers recently caught on camera receiving millions of pesos from casino mogul Jack Lam.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has said the Korean national’s kidnapping may not be an isolated case: A Chinese-Filipino businessman was also apparently abducted under the same circumstances in Meycauayan, Bulacan, last year. How many other similar crimes are being committed in the name of the administration’s war on drugs, by the very same lawmen tasked to enforce it? More crucially, who exactly is in charge?

Lacson mentioned a Senate inquiry. It’s time to take a good, hard look at this precarious state of affairs.


EDITORIAL - Killer weather Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:32 AM January 20, 2017


WET, COLD, AND HUNGRY — Stranded students and teachers of the Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST) fit into a rescue raft as floodwaters rose in Cagayan de Oro City around 2 a.m. Tuesday. They were rescued by Army’s Fourth Infantry Division and the Police Regional Office-10 after 10 hours of being trapped inside the campus without food and water. COURTESY OF (Camcer Ordońez Imam | Manila Bulletin)

When the rains came, they came for the children. At least eight children were among the 11 lives claimed by the torrential rains that swamped many parts of Mindanao, especially Northern Mindanao, and the Western Visayas last Monday.

In Naga, Cebu province, four-year-old Aileen Rose Paquit was still in bed in her family’s shanty, sleeping, when a flash flood swept her and her mother away at around 7 a.m. Aileen Rose died while being taken to a hospital.

In Northern Mindanao, four children were among six persons killed by runaway floodwaters: Jaime Chan, three, in Gingoog City; CJ Lapuz, seven, in Magsaysay town; Kian Montecino, 10, in Opol town; and Renny Boy Cabido, in Cagayan de Oro City.

READ MORE...

In Zamboanga del Norte, two children were first reported missing, and then eventually found dead. Local authorities in Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental, also reported that a child believed to be between 8 and 12 years old had been found dead.

The floods struck Cagayan de Oro hard; major streets were flooded as the rains continued to pour, thousands of students and employees were stranded in schools and offices, and some 1,345 families had to be evacuated to safety. The city council declared a state of calamity. At its worst, the heavy rains and the flash floods brought back nightmarish memories of “Sendong,” which killed about 1,000 residents.

But Cagayan de Oro was not the only area seriously affected by the unusually heavy rains. Heavy floods were reported in many other places, including Naga in Cebu and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental; landslides were reported in Cebu City and in Cagayan de Oro.

The casualty toll is much lower than that recorded in the wake of Sendong in 2011; that comes as a relief and is a good sign, that citizens are readier to heed warning signals and follow evacuation orders—and to help each other out. But it is also true that, unlike in the case of Sendong, the rains fell heavily during daytime; that meant that most residents in the affected areas were awake, and thus were able to secure themselves. In other words, it could have been worse.

Both the national government and the local authorities responded to the crisis in the making with all necessary speed. The Army’s Fourth Infantry Division, based in Cagayan de Oro, fielded its trucks to bring food to the stranded and to evacuate residents. All told, the Armed Forces ferried residents to a total of 53 evacuation centers in Misamis Oriental. The Department of Social Welfare and Development was ready with its relief packs. The “government is doing everything to ensure that things go back to normal especially now that the weather is improving and [the] roads are again passable,” President Duterte’s spokesperson, Undersecretary Ernesto Abella, said in a statement.

The many official and volunteer networks, for identifying the crisis areas or rescuing the stranded or coordinating the collection of relief goods, also swung into action.

Preliminary fieldwork suggests that the public works improvements begun after Sendong, while not all complete, had a positive impact. The problem may have been with the drainage systems in the affected cities, likely the result of local economies thriving despite or rather because of the lack of adequate urban planning.

To be sure, the steady rains the preceding weekend, and then the downpour on Monday, did not spare the countryside, too. The oversaturated earth led to the landslides.

But when Sendong happened in 2011, the unusually high amount of rainfall was said to be a rare occurrence, perhaps something that happens once every 20 years or so. This week’s misfortune proves that, in a time when the effects of global warming are increasingly being felt, we need to redefine, not only what we mean by acceptable levels of risk, but also what we mean by unusual or extraordinary weather events.

In 2009, “Ondoy” struck Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. That was supposed to be a once-in-a-hundred-years event. Three years later, flash floods of almost the same magnitude swamped the capital region again. The weather is telling us something.


Split-level morality By: Jose Ma. Montelibano - @inquirerdotnet 01:45 AM January 20, 2017


By: Jose Ma. Montelibano

It is refreshing for Filipino Cardinal Quevedo to publicly admit the split-level Christianity that most of us are participants and witnesses to daily – and having been so all our lives.

It does not mean there are no exceptions, but the exceptions do not matter enough to significantly influence any reversal soon. Sad, isn’t it, and sadder still that this is not a momentary lapse of a lived faith but a dominant pattern.

I have personally rebelled against the way that many Christians are so verbally expressive in advocating religious teachings but are behaving in sharp contrast.

Articulated statements being quoted from the Bible, whatever version, may sound nice and carry a deep resonance with what we know are true and good. But the way even the articulators live their lives, when matched with their saintly words, offer confusion.

When words and actions do not jive, when they frequently contradict each other, they not only confuse but generate skepticism. In the end, truth suffers. In the end, society suffers.

READ MORE...

When the present Pope, Francis I, began his leadership of the Catholic Church, his first public actuation served as grim reminders of how the hierarchy of the religious had veered away from the simplicity and integrity expected of them.

Choosing ordinary living quarters and vehicles (as simple as the Vatican can make available to a pope) was already a quiet move that sent a loud message. He reorganized the financial setup, managers and priorities, and again sent a loud message with the least of words.

But when he had to be vocal, he made sure that the most crucial of messages would be heard, officially, and they referred to the Church-neglected poor (“Go to the peripheries.”) and the narrow, inward-looking mindedness of leadership, whether theological or otherwise.

I have no illusions about the humanity even of Catholics, or especially of Catholics. After all, I am Filipino and Catholicism is the religion of a clear majority. In my view, there is a declining Catholic population by percentage, and why this is so. But then again, this is a situation that the Church hierarchy in the Philippines has not openly asked its laity to ponder on, or to offer suggestions on how to reverse.

Living a life that is supposed to be in fidelity with the teachings of Christ is a serious struggle, even if I am convinced that it is worth it. After all, beyond the theology and dogma of religions, there is an authentic resonance to the virtues being promoted and the natural well-being that follows in the adherence to them.

I also see how Filipinos of virtue, if there will be enough of them, could really lead to a religious, econo0mic and political renaissance in our society.

From my own shortcomings as a human being, a Filipino citizen and a Catholic, I have painfully learned how judging others inevitably leads to having to judge myself. It takes much objectivity and self-honesty to give credible assessments of others if we value intelligent and accurate conclusions.

It is a constant effort to restrain commentaries, especially public ones, when I see mistakes and wrongdoings. Abut I also realize that my deliberate public silence on many controversial issues do not ease pressure on the wrongs and wrongdoers because millions of netizens invariably flood society with their opinions.

Split-level Christianity cannot but induce split-level morality since Christianity is the dominant faith of the Philippines. Before we can even consider our public officials and the morality they should live by, we have to ascertain that our families, churches and schools are effectively guided by the kind of moral standards we will demand from government.

A split-level morality will necessarily produce a split-level governance where ideal ethics and laws will find spurious application. We only do with consistency that which is of greatest importance to us. Mouthing religious teachings is like mouthing laws and regulations. If we act differently from what we say, that is split-level morality, whether in faith or in governance.

The issues which manifest our split-level morality may vary from time to time, but the fundamental contradictions that cause this hypocrisy remain the same. For example, the preferential treatment for the poor which the Catholic Church espouses is not its defining posture but a mere afterthought, especially when compared to what the daily efforts of the church hierarchy, and the bulk of its resources, are focused on. Somehow, the priority of faith, hope and love and how these virtues drive the lives of the institution and its officers and members are too often overwhelmed by rituals and administrative operations. It can seem very much that religion and faith end up more business-like and even political.

But the same is true of governance, of justice, of law-making, of law enforcement, and the rollout of programs that are supposed to be for the collective well-being of society. The spirit of the law succumbs to the letter of the law, and the letter of the law is not measured by the benefits they generate but more by its compliance to procedure. Even when lives are on the line, especially in emergencies, signatures on documents can be more important than even hunger or death. If a bureaucrat releases food belonging to government so the hungry will not starve or die, he can be liable by law and can go to jail. But if a citizen dies because aid is withheld in compliance to law, the bureaucrat in charge will not have violated anything.

People are tired of split-level morality, split-level Christianity and split-level governance. This also means they are tired of the protocols that reek of the split-level morality that too often defines leadership in many areas of society. It also stands to reason that the minority who benefit from all the persistent split-level morality will be the ones who will be agitated when there is an honest-to-goodness pressure to reconcile a split-level into a whole, to dismantle hypocrisy in search of authenticity, to transcend confusion towards the truth. But whatever the cost, split-level morality must go.


FROM LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Stop using drug war vs activists Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:16 AM January 20, 2017



As longtime advocates of genuine democracy and peace in the Philippines, we are pleased to see some positive changes under the Duterte administration.

It is great to see mining companies finally being shut down for violating Philippine environmental laws, and the Philippine government asserting an independent foreign policy from the United States. We are also pleased that President Duterte has reopened peace talks with the National Democratic Front and seeks a peaceful settlement of the decades-old armed conflict in the Philippines.

Unfortunately there have been some disconcerting developments in the human rights front these past months.

READ MORE...

In the government’s so-called war on drugs, thousands of drug suspects have been killed, most of them coming from urban poor communities.

In fact, under the cover of Oplan Tokhang, police authorities and vigilante groups are killing drug suspects with impunity. We are very concerned to hear of cases of mistaken identity, in which innocent people, including children, who have no connection to the drug trade, have been killed.

Philippine security forces have long used counterinsurgency as an excuse to attack, harass and kill activists. These days, they have another excuse—the drug war. Karapatan and other leading human rights groups have documented several cases where state forces and vigilante groups, using the drug war as a front, arrested activists on trumped-up charges, or violently attacked them.

Last October, policemen, allegedly using planted evidence, arrested a group of farmer-activists resisting land grabbing in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. On Dec. 5, Joel Lising, a leader of the Tri-Wheels Organization para sa Kabuhayan (Patok), was gunned down in Tondo, Manila.

Oplan Tokhang promotes lawlessness and is being used as a convenient shield in “neutralizing” activists in people’s movements.

Another cause of great concern is the 400 political prisoners. Many of them are elderly and are suffering from poor health. They should be released immediately for humanitarian considerations. This will ensure that there will not be a repeat of tragic deaths, like that of Bernabe Ocasla who died of a stroke while in custody last Nov. 25.

Even for political prisoners in relatively good health, releasing them is the right thing to do. Many of them were arrested on trumped-up charges during the past administrations.

In the name of justice and in support of the peace talks, we urge President Duterte to release all political prisoners. We also call for the prosecution of those responsible for extrajudicial killings.

Finally, we call on government not to use the drug war as a front to attack activists.

CAMERON WALKER, Auckland Philippines Solidarity, ph.solidarity@gmail.com; MURRAY HORTON, Philippine Solidarity Network of Aotearoa, cafca@chch.planet.org.nz; ROD PROSSER, Wellington Kiwi Pinoy, communitymedia@paradise.net.nz


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