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EDITORIAL: A GENERATION WITHOUT PEACE


FEBRUARY 8 -In those matters within the scope of his political experience or legal expertise, President Duterte does not seem to recognize any middle ground. Either “drug personalities” are killed, or nothing; he has even said he regrets allocating government funds to pay for the rehabilitation of drug dependents. His relationship with communist rebels is the latest example of this either-or thinking. The first President to style himself as a socialist, to justify giving public honors for a dead New People’s Army leader when he was still mayor of Davao City, to claim in public and before influential businessmen that “the Reds” would “die for me, believe me,” has now ordered an all-out war against them. Last Friday, he lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire against the communist insurgents, and told the Armed Forces: “Go back to your camps, clean your rifles and be ready to fight.” On Saturday, he ordered the government peace panel to pull out of the peace negotiations, telling the members to “fold up the tents and come home.” On Sunday, he pronounced the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front “a terrorist group.” And on Monday, a consultant of the NDF, released as part of the peace process, was arrested in Davao City. READ MORE...

ALSO: By John Neri - ‘A bunch of shameless hypocrites’


FEBRUARY 7-JOHN NERY: After the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued its pastoral letter on extrajudicial killings, one of President Duterte’s closest allies took direct aim at the bishops. “Sinners [that] they are, the Catholic Church has no moral ascendancy to judge what is right and wrong,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said via SMS. “They are simply a bunch of shameless hypocrites.” It is good that the Speaker, by all accounts a straight talker and a practical man, was clear about his antecedents, because anyone else paying attention to Philippine politics would have thought he was referring to his own chamber of Congress. Having engineered the most recent wave of political turncoatism in our history, he is no stranger to accusations of hypocrisy. What is a majority composed of newly elected or reelected politicians who changed political parties for power and convenience, after all, but a bunch of shameless hypocrites? But Speaker Alvarez is a power center in the administration, not only because he is one of the handful of true believers who pushed a reluctant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run for president, but because he shares the President’s core beliefs. His broadside at the Catholic bishops, generalized to include the entire Church, springs from the same source as the President’s contempt for the religion of his strong-willed, sainted mother. That the Church has “no moral ascendancy”—this is the authentic Dutertismo note. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Cielito - Habito A prophetic pivot?


FEBRUARY 7 -By: Cielito F. Habito President Duterte’s pivot to China may have been prophetic. At the rate things are going, one is easily led to think that America is doing the wrong things while China is doing things right, and that a reversal of global roles for the two may be in the offing. Many see America to be wittingly or unwittingly yielding economic and political domination in the Asian region, and possibly in the global arena as well, to China. Two recent speeches delivered three days apart — by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 17 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and by US President Donald Trump on Jan. 20 at his inauguration in Washington, DC — signal what sounds like an impending dramatic reversal of roles between the countries they lead. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Teddy Casiño - What price peace?


FEBRUARY 7 -Teddy Casiño
In a series of statements over the weekend, President Duterte went from calm to ballistic against the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. He started on Thursday by saying he would ignore the New People’s Army’s scheduled lifting of its unilateral ceasefire and would respond “in the fullness of God’s time.” By Sunday, not only had he ordered the resumption of military offensives against the NPA, he also announced the termination of the peace talks altogether, ordered the arrest of the NDFP negotiators, and labelled them “terrorists and criminals.”  The President’s statements came as a shock even to the negotiating panels and the various parties involved in the peace talks. After all, the negotiations were doing quite well and surpassing expectations. The third round of formal talks, held in Rome on Jan. 19-25, saw the two panels signing a supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen the joint monitoring committee for their human rights agreement signed way back in 1999. READ MORE...


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‘A generation without peace’

MANILA, FEBRUARY 13, 2017 (INQUIRER) Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:15 AM February 08, 2017 - In those matters within the scope of his political experience or legal expertise, President Duterte does not seem to recognize any middle ground. Either “drug personalities” are killed, or nothing; he has even said he regrets allocating government funds to pay for the rehabilitation of drug dependents. His relationship with communist rebels is the latest example of this either-or thinking.

The first President to style himself as a socialist, to justify giving public honors for a dead New People’s Army leader when he was still mayor of Davao City, to claim in public and before influential businessmen that “the Reds” would “die for me, believe me,” has now ordered an all-out war against them.

Last Friday, he lifted the government’s unilateral ceasefire against the communist insurgents, and told the Armed Forces: “Go back to your camps, clean your rifles and be ready to fight.” On Saturday, he ordered the government peace panel to pull out of the peace negotiations, telling the members to “fold up the tents and come home.” On Sunday, he pronounced the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front “a terrorist group.” And on Monday, a consultant of the NDF, released as part of the peace process, was arrested in Davao City.

READ MORE...

Last December, in Malacañang, he had waxed expansive about the communist movement’s support for him. “The Reds would never demand my ouster. They will die for me, believe me. That’s the reason why I was able to convince them for a talk.”

Five weeks later, at the wake in Cagayan de Oro City of three soldiers killed in an encounter with NPA guerrillas, he gave vent to his feelings of resentment and mistrust. In a mix of languages, he said: “You show your good faith, and instead you are shamed by the response of the damned group. As if they were somebody. You give them all the leeway and you return to me a stupid [reply] … From now on, I will consider the CPP-NPA-NDF a terrorist group.”

What triggered the abrupt change?

In a word, reality caught up with the President. A movement that was initially welcoming of him had trusted him to keep his promise to release all political prisoners; at the same time, the dividing lines in the movement, between younger rebels particularly in Mindanao and the older generation living in exile, had emerged in sharp relief. Dissatisfaction with the President’s handling of the issue involving political prisoners had gelled in the last few weeks; this led the CPP and the NPA to lift its own ceasefire, without withdrawing support from the peace talks. Fighting, however, resumed just hours after.

This is not the first time that the President has vented his anger on communist insurgents.

In his first State of the Nation Address last July, he announced a unilateral ceasefire in the military campaign against the NPA. A mere week later, he lifted the ceasefire; he charged the communist insurgents with bad faith, mocked their armed strength, called Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison “arrogant.”

Sison responded in kind, describing his former student as “volatile” and a “butangero” (a goon). But despite the harsh exchange, the fate of the first round of negotiations scheduled for August was never at risk or in doubt.

The situation today, half a year later, is much more problematic. The fate of the peace talks is now in limbo; NDF consultants released because of their role in the negotiations are now targeted for arrest; the defense secretary has vowed an all-out war; and even the President himself, who inspired so much hope that the longest-running communist insurgency will finally be resolved through a just peace, has thrown up his hands.

“So I really would like to express my sadness. We cannot have a peaceful generation. There will be always be a fight,” he said last week. “But let it not be said that I did not try. So I guess that peace with the communists cannot be realized during our generation. Maybe years from now.”

From peace partner to enemy.


‘A bunch of shameless hypocrites’ By: John Nery - @jnery_newsstandPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:10 AM February 07, 2017

After the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued its pastoral letter on extrajudicial killings, one of President Duterte’s closest allies took direct aim at the bishops.

“Sinners [that] they are, the Catholic Church has no moral ascendancy to judge what is right and wrong,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said via SMS. “They are simply a bunch of shameless hypocrites.”

It is good that the Speaker, by all accounts a straight talker and a practical man, was clear about his antecedents, because anyone else paying attention to Philippine politics would have thought he was referring to his own chamber of Congress.

Having engineered the most recent wave of political turncoatism in our history, he is no stranger to accusations of hypocrisy.

What is a majority composed of newly elected or reelected politicians who changed political parties for power and convenience, after all, but a bunch of shameless hypocrites?

But Speaker Alvarez is a power center in the administration, not only because he is one of the handful of true believers who pushed a reluctant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to run for president, but because he shares the President’s core beliefs. His broadside at the Catholic bishops, generalized to include the entire Church, springs from the same source as the President’s contempt for the religion of his strong-willed, sainted mother. That the Church has “no moral ascendancy”—this is the authentic Dutertismo note.

READ MORE...

But I think something else explains the attacks the President launched against the Church the week the bishops were to meet and Alvarez’s scandalous response after that meeting: They sense the bishops finally stirring out of a deep political slumber, and sought to scare them back into sleep.

As a statement, the pastoral letter signed by CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas does not have the same impact, the same moral edge, as that issued after the snap election of 1986. But it is nevertheless a powerful sign of the times, amplified by the thousands of times it was read in churches across the country last Saturday and Sunday.

I note that the bishops took pains to give due weight to the President’s concerns. “Any action that harms another (seriously) is a grave sin. To push drugs is a grave sin as is killing (except in self-defense).” The text is marked by this use of balanced language. While theologically robust, this language, at least to this particular sinner’s ear, sounds like it is forcing or assuming an equivalence between pushing drugs and killing.

But surely killing someone is the greater sin (and crime), because the possibility of redemption (or rehabilitation) is also extinguished.

I can understand this use of language, however, as a necessary tack to win the consent of all the bishops. It has taken some time for the country’s bishops to issue a common statement on President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs; in part this is because they only meet in plenary twice a year, but in part also because the President, despite his disdain for the Church, counts supporters among the bishops.

But read as a whole, the statement says what needs to be said, by a Church that self-identifies, despite its shortcomings, as a Church of the Poor.

“This traffic in illegal drugs needs to be stopped and overcome. But the solution does not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers. We are concerned not only for those who have been killed. The situation of the families of those killed is also cause for concern. Their lives have only become worse. An additional cause of concern is the reign of terror in many places of the poor. Many are killed not because of drugs. Those who kill them are not brought to account. An even greater cause of concern is the indifference of many to this kind of wrong. It is considered as normal, and, even worse, something that (according to them) needs to be done.”

The bishops, listening to their faithful, have spoken: A reign of terror has fallen upon many of the poor. (Even the surveys show that a great majority of Filipinos fear they may be the next victim of Mr. Duterte’s war.)

Shameless hypocrites would be among those who pretend otherwise.


A prophetic pivot? By: Cielito F. Habito - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:09 AM February 07, 2017


By: Cielito F. Habito

President Duterte’s pivot to China may have been prophetic. At the rate things are going, one is easily led to think that America is doing the wrong things while China is doing things right, and that a reversal of global roles for the two may be in the offing. Many see America to be wittingly or unwittingly yielding economic and political domination in the Asian region, and possibly in the global arena as well, to China. Two recent speeches delivered three days apart — by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 17 at the World

Economic Forum in Davos, and by US President Donald Trump on Jan. 20 at his inauguration in Washington, DC — signal what sounds like an impending dramatic reversal of roles between the countries they lead.

READ MORE...

Consider what Xi said: “China’s outstanding development achievements and the vastly improved living standards of the Chinese people are a blessing to both China and the world. China’s development is an opportunity for the world; it has not only benefited from economic globalization but also contributed to it. China’s remarkable achievement in poverty reduction has contributed to more inclusive global growth. And China’s continuous progress in reform and opening-up has lent much momentum to an open world economy. We applaud the achievements made by others and wish them a better future. We are not jealous of others’ success; and we will not complain about others who have benefited so much from the great opportunities presented by China’s development.”

In stark contrast, Trump’s inaugural (as well as campaign) rhetoric claims: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

One European editorial described President Xi’s speech as “a staunch defense of economic globalization, and international cooperation on issues that threaten global prosperity and growth.” The same editorial described President Trump’s speech as “outbursts about the unfair advantages built into the global economy’s rules of the game — [the same] rules that have paved the way for the US’s rise to the top.” Thus, while he rails against other countries “stealing American jobs,” Trump is actually railing against big American businesses that had immensely benefited by “exporting American jobs abroad.” America, especially its big US businesses and consumers, actually gained big-time from open trade, but seemingly failed to address its impacts on millions of American workers.

Xi’s speech clearly illustrates China’s “charm offensive” that has been winning it approval abroad. Trump’s speech is seen to be pushing American isolationism, arrogantly at that, which, while sending shivers among friends and foes alike, is not earning the United States any admiration at this time. Setting aside alleged hypocrisy by both — Xi’s speech has been met with as much vitriol from skeptics as Trump’s speech elicited apprehension and disdain from those with a different world view — what usually matters is optics, and the optics are now in China’s favor. While Trump has so far walked his tough talk, particularly in his promise of immigration restrictions, China has so far demonstrated its professed benevolence by showering huge sums on appreciative partners, especially in Africa and Latin America.

In this seeming contest of the giants, it may be well worth asking: Is the promise of “greatness” achieved by sowing fear and disdain, or is it something better achieved by winning the goodwill, respect and admiration of the world?


What price peace? By: Teddy A. Casiño - @inquirerdotnet 12:05 AM February 07, 2017


Teddy Casiño

In a series of statements over the weekend, President Duterte went from calm to ballistic against the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

He started on Thursday by saying he would ignore the New People’s Army’s scheduled lifting of its unilateral ceasefire and would respond “in the fullness of God’s time.” By Sunday, not only had he ordered the resumption of military offensives against the NPA, he also announced the termination of the peace talks

altogether, ordered the arrest of the NDFP negotiators, and labelled them “terrorists and criminals.”

The President’s statements came as a shock even to the negotiating panels and the various parties involved in the peace talks. After all, the negotiations were doing quite well and surpassing expectations.

The third round of formal talks, held in Rome on Jan. 19-25, saw the two panels signing a supplementary agreement to revive and strengthen the joint monitoring committee for their human rights agreement signed way back in 1999.

READ MORE...

With respect to the agreement on social and economic reforms, the parties reached an agreement on the first three sections of the draft, including the key issue of free land distribution to landless farmers. To expedite the process, the parties agreed to form bilateral working teams to meet continuously before the resumption of the formal talks scheduled on April 2-6.

On the proposed agreement on political and constitutional reforms, the reciprocal working groups of both sides exchanged their respective drafts and initial views.

While no agreement was reached on the government’s proposed bilateral ceasefire agreement, talks on the matter were scheduled in the Netherlands on Feb. 22-27.

But it seems the President was not briefed about these developments when he made his statements last week. He was apparently even unaware that the negotiators of both sides had already returned to the country from Rome.

It’s more than just ignorance. The President is obviously irritated by the NDFP’s insistence that he deliver on his earlier promise to release 400 or so political prisoners. Doing so, he admitted, would make him face a coup d’état, or even murder, at the hands of the military. He said such sentiments were apparent in the “vibrations” and “suggestions” he got during his “coffee time, relaxed moments” with his men.

Adding to the President’s agony over the political prisoners’ release were recent clashes between government troops and the NPA that resulted in the deaths of several soldiers. He probably had to pander even more to the military and assure it of his loyalty, given his previous admissions to being a “leftist” and “socialist.”

Mr. Duterte is frustrated at the NPA’s lifting of its unilateral ceasefire because like previous presidents, he wants an end to the fighting even before a final peace agreement is reached.

But the aim of the talks is not just to end the fighting but also to address the roots of the armed conflict. Thus, much patience, diligence and courage are needed. Insisting on a premature ceasefire and throwing tantrums won’t help.

More than this, the President shouldn’t allow himself to be held back in his peace efforts. As commander in chief, he is in the best position to convince his soldiers that in winning the peace, talking is just as important as, and probably even more crucial than, fighting.

Releasing the political prisoners paves the way for a bilateral ceasefire with the NPA that, in turn, will allow both sides to vigorously pursue the peace talks to its desired conclusion.

The question is: How far is the President willing to go to forge a just and lasting peace? If he can stick his neck out for his war on drugs, then he should be ready to stick it out for peace.

Teddy A. Casiño is an activist who served as Bayan Muna party-list’s representative in Congress in 2004-2013. He is now back in the parliament of the streets.


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