COMMENTARY: THE 'VAPORIZATION' CONTINUES

Having “vaporized” the highly controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program by telling the Supreme Court it no longer exists, and that therefore the issue of its constitutionality is now “moot and academic,” President B. S. Aquino III now wants to “vaporize” government-owned or –controlled corporations implicated in the alleged multi-billion peso scam reputedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles.He has approved the abolition of three GOCCs, according to Malacañang, namely, Philippine Forest Corporation, ZNAC Rubber Estate and National Agri-Business Corporation. And more will follow soon. What Malacañang is trying to say is that the GOCCs are involved in the scam, and PNoy wants them swiftly punished. Many are applauding. But it looks more like a part of a cover-up than a real effort to dispense swift and impartial justice. Some people running the GOCCs are obviously involved, but they are not being charged in court. Instead the GOCCs are being “abolished.” Aren’t the wrong parties being punished while the guilty ones are given breathing space? Like most of us, Aquino is not a lawyer. But he swims in a vast sea of lawyers. The lady who announced his decision to abolish the GOCCs is herself one. Is there no one among them with the sufficient integrity to tell him what he can do and what he cannot do under the Constitution and the law?

ALSO: PHL dismisses US general's call to tone down China talk

A Bloomberg report on Monday quoted US Pacific Air Forces General Herbert Carlisle as saying that comments made by the leaders of the two countries comparing China's “growing assertiveness” in the region and events in pre-war Europe are “not helpful.” He likewise said all countries should de-escalate tensions in the area. But in a text message, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino III “simply called attention” to the need for international solidarity in “asserting the primacy of the rule of law to deter expansionism in West Philippine Sea.” “It's understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that's different to a head of state's perspective,” he said. This was echoed by Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez, who, in a separate statement, said the Philippines, by opposing aggressive and expansionist behavior, “is not only serving its national interests, but also serving the region’s as well, including all states which have a stake in freedom of navigation and clear territorial rights as defined under the principles of UNCLOS.” UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which extends the territorial jurisdiction of maritime states up to 200 nautical miles from its coasts. It is signed by at least 162 nations, including the Philippines and China.

ALSO: Kerry to take harder US line on Asia maritime disputes to China

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square km (1.35 million square miles)
South China
Sea, depicting what it sees as its area on maps with a so-called nine-dash line, looping far out over the sea from south China. The United States is increasingly worried that China is trying to gain creeping control of the waters in the Asia-Pacific region and Russel said its claims had "created uncertainty, insecurity and instability." Kerry leaves Washington on Wednesday for a one-week trip to Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi. Even though it will be Kerry's fifth visit to Asia since taking office a year ago, he has faced criticism for the time he has devoted to Middle East peace efforts rather than President Barack Obama's much vaunted policy of rebalancing the US military and economic focus toward Asia. Analysts said Russel appeared to firmly blame China for the territorial disputes, warned against any attempt by the Chinese to declare a new ADIZ in the South China Sea and suggested that Chinese claims were not supported by international law. ‘New model relationship’ - China, in response to Russel's comments, accused the United States of undermining peace and development in the Asia-Pacific in a Foreign Ministry statement on Saturday that also said "these actions are not constructive." Chinese officials described Kerry's trip as an "important" visit in which China would explore ways to strengthen ties and seek to deepen the "new model relationship" proposed when the US and Chinese presidents met in California last year. "We want to make that concept come alive," one Chinese official said on Tuesday.


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The ‘vaporization’ continues



MANILA, FEBRUARY 10, 2014
(MANILA STANDARD) By Francisco S. Tatad - Having “vaporized” the highly controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program by telling the Supreme Court it no longer exists, and that therefore the issue of its constitutionality is now “moot and academic,” President B. S. Aquino III now wants to “vaporize” government-owned or –controlled corporations implicated in the alleged multi-billion peso scam reputedly masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles.

He has approved the abolition of three GOCCs, according to Malacañang, namely, Philippine Forest Corporation, ZNAC Rubber Estate and National Agri-Business Corporation. And more will follow soon.

What Malacañang is trying to say is that the GOCCs are involved in the scam, and PNoy wants them swiftly punished. Many are applauding. But it looks more like a part of a cover-up than a real effort to dispense swift and impartial justice. Some people running the GOCCs are obviously involved, but they are not being charged in court. Instead the GOCCs are being “abolished.” Aren’t the wrong parties being punished while the guilty ones are given breathing space?

Until now, no one has been brought to court. Not even Napoles. Accused of kidnapping a whistle-blower, she has been put inside a maximum security jail in Laguna, ostensibly to protect her from possible assassination but more likely to keep her from talking about her secret links to Aquino who had received her royally in Malacañang and escorted her personally to the PNP headquarters after her “surrender” on August 28, 2013. But she has not been charged with plunder.

Whether the GOCCs should go or not is an important question. But if yes, what provision of the Constitution or law empowers the President to abolish them by his own diktat? Since they were created by law, isn’t a law needed to dissolve them, assuming the law is silent on their dissolution?

Like most of us, Aquino is not a lawyer. But he swims in a vast sea of lawyers. The lady who announced his decision to abolish the GOCCs is herself one. Is there no one among them with the sufficient integrity to tell him what he can do and what he cannot do under the Constitution and the law?

Ferdinand Marcos was a bar topnotcher and a brilliant lawyer. As a young man, he successfully defended himself in the famous Nalundasan murder case. He was concededly one of the most brilliant, if not the most brilliant, among our past presidents.

But even after he had assumed “dictatorial powers” under martial law, he never failed to consult with his legal advisers before embarking on any legal decision. He would turn to his Secretary of Justice, the Harvard-trained former dean of the UP College of Law, Vicente Abad Santos, and say, “Dean, do you think we can do this?” And he would state the proposition.

The fiercely independent legal eagle would quickly say yes, if he thought it could be done.

Otherwise he would roll his eyes, rub his face with the palm of his hand and chuckle: “I don’t think so, Mr. President.”

And the all-powerful, other legal eagle would humbly listen. After Abad Santos moved on to the High Court, the legendary Estelito Mendoza took over.

By contrast, Aquino is reputed to impose his own reading (usually a misreading) of the Constitution and the law upon those who know better, and none of them could summon the courage or the humility to tell him he is wrong. This has cost us the much needed vigor of the law and the life of reason at the highest official level.

In discussing the moral foundations of a free state, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became Pope Benedict XVI) wrote that power always needs to be regulated, and to do so meaningfully, politics must subordinate power to the criterion of law. “It is not the law of the strongest that must prevail, but rather the strength of the law,” he said.

The merit of this statement does not lie in the fact that it was said by the greatest intellectual of our time, but simply in the fact that its truth is quite self-evident.

How much folly, if not utter idiocy, have we had to suffer just because our highest ranking political official has decided he was also the wisest without equal even on matters to which he was a total stranger?

Under PNoy, reason and the rule of law have ceased to function even in the most vital questions.

In the search for peace in Mindanao, for instance, the inviolability of the Constitution has been “vaporized” in favor of the “will of the parties” to come up with an agreement to meet their own deadline.

The Agreement makes no attempt to conform to the Constitution. It is the Constitution that will be made conform to the Agreement. Prof. Merlin Magallona sardonically points out in a scholarly paper that the Constitution will be made to fit the “Procrustean bed” of the Parties.

In Greek mythology, as Prof. Nassim Nicholas Taleb reminds us in his book, “The Bed of Procrustes,” Procrustes was the cruel owner of a small estate in Corydalus in Attica who abducted travelers, provided them with a generous dinner, then invited them to spend the night in a rather special bed, which he tried to fit the traveler to perfection.

Those who were too tall had their legs chopped off; those who were too short were stretched. Procrustes ended badly when the fearless Theseus, who was to slay the Minotaur later, made Procrustes lie in his own bed. Then to make him fit in it to the desired perfection, he decapitated him.

Let’s hope Aquino’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fares much better.

FROM GMA NEWS TV

PHL dismisses US general's call to tone down China talk February 11, 2014 12:31pm 48 67 0 158 The Philippine government on Tuesday shrugged off the call made by a US general for Japanese and Philippine leaders to tone down their comments regarding China.


Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle is Commander, Pacific Air Forces; Air Component Commander for U.S. Pacific Command; and Executive Director, Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. PACAF is responsible for Air Force activities spread over half the globe in a command that supports 45,000 Airmen serving principally in Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam.

A Bloomberg report on Monday quoted US Pacific Air Forces General Herbert Carlisle as saying that comments made by the leaders of the two countries comparing China's “growing assertiveness” in the region and events in pre-war Europe are “not helpful.” He likewise said all countries should de-escalate tensions in the area.

But in a text message, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino III “simply called attention” to the need for international solidarity in “asserting the primacy of the rule of law to deter expansionism in West Philippine Sea.”

“It's understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that's different to a head of state's perspective,” he said.

This was echoed by Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez, who, in a separate statement, said the Philippines, by opposing aggressive and expansionist behavior, “is not only serving its national interests, but also serving the region’s as well, including all states which have a stake in freedom of navigation and clear territorial rights as defined under the principles of UNCLOS.”

UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which extends the territorial jurisdiction of maritime states up to 200 nautical miles from its coasts. It is signed by at least 162 nations, including the Philippines and China.

Carlisle issued the statement after Japanese premier Shinzo Abe was quoted as saying current tensions in East Asia are akin to those between Britain and Germany on the eve of World War I.

Aquino, meanwhile, had related the territorial feud between China and Philippines to the West's failure to support Czechoslovakia against Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s demands for the Sudetenland in 1938.

The Palace has said that Aquino did not mean to offend China with the remark, saying he just likes military stories. But it also said it has no plans to explain the comments to China. — Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK, GMA News

Kerry to take harder US line on Asia maritime disputes to China By ARSHAD MOHAMMED and DAVID BRUNNSTROM, ReutersFebruary 12, 2014 1:37pm 0 43 0 144

WASHINGTON - The United States fired a shot across China's bow a week ago by taking a tougher stance on maritime disputes in East Asia, a message Secretary of StateJohn Kerry (photo) will amplify in Beijing this week.

The high tensions in Asia over Beijing's territorial claims in the East China and South China Seas will be near the top of Kerry's agenda when he meets senior Chinese officials on Friday. He will also discuss North Korea and climate change.

Kerry's top aide for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel, drew a harder US line last week on a series of maritime disputes between China and its neighbors.

"It (Russel's testimony) certainly indicates a sharper tack in terms of the concerns we have and the steps we want China to take" on maritime disputes, said a senior State Department official. "Secretary Kerry will continue to press the Chinese to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric and caution against the provocative nature of some of China's actions."

Russel faulted recent steps by China, including its Nov. 23 declaration of an air defense zone (ADIZ) in an area of the East China Sea that includes islands at the center of a dispute with Japan, and suggested its South China Sea territorial claims that do not flow from land features are "fundamentally flawed."

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square km (1.35 million square miles) South China Sea, depicting what it sees as its area on maps with a so-called nine-dash line, looping far out over the sea from south China.

The United States is increasingly worried that China is trying to gain creeping control of the waters in the Asia-Pacific region and Russel said its claims had "created uncertainty, insecurity and instability."

Kerry leaves Washington on Wednesday for a one-week trip to Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi.

Even though it will be Kerry's fifth visit to Asia since taking office a year ago, he has faced criticism for the time he has devoted to Middle East peace efforts rather than President Barack Obama's much vaunted policy of rebalancing the US military and economic focus toward Asia.

Doubts about this US commitment were highlighted in October when Obama called off plans to attend two summits in Asia because of a budget crisis at home, so the tougher stance signaled by Russel will be welcome in much of the region outside of China.

Analysts said Russel appeared to firmly blame China for the territorial disputes, warned against any attempt by the Chinese to declare a new ADIZ in the South China Sea and suggested that Chinese claims were not supported by international law.

‘New model relationship’

China, in response to Russel's comments, accused the United States of undermining peace and development in the Asia-Pacific in a Foreign Ministry statement on Saturday that also said "these actions are not constructive."

Chinese officials described Kerry's trip as an "important" visit in which China would explore ways to strengthen ties and seek to deepen the "new model relationship" proposed when the US and Chinese presidents met in California last year.

"We want to make that concept come alive," one Chinese official said on Tuesday.

Jonathan Pollack, an analyst with the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the United States and China may have very different concepts of a "new model" of great power relationships, a phrase both have used.

"What Kerry will probably say is that the all too frequent kind of truculence that China is demonstrating in relation to a number of its neighbors is hardly the kind of confidence-builder that would leave the US assured of the ability to create that kind of relationship," Pollack said.

"He will undoubtedly be explicit that the United States wants the relationship with China to be stable and productive in the longer term, but it's not going to be done at the cost of critical relationships with states that are China's near neighbors," he added.

Kerry met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on Friday and stressed the US commitment to defend Japan and stability in the Asia-Pacific region against the backdrop of Chinese territorial claims.

The United States flew B-52s through the Chinese air defense zone after it was declared last year. US officials have warned that a declaration of another zone in the South China Sea could result in changes to US military deployments in the region.

Jia Qingguo, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said Beijing may try to reassure Kerry it does not want a conflict with Japan, even though it has not backed down over the East China Sea ADIZ.

"You have to stand up to the US when the so-called important interests of China are concerned," Jia said of the Foreign Ministry's angry response to Russel's comments, saying this reflected domestic politics as well as foreign policy.

"But this does not mean that the two countries cannot pragmatically manage this kind of issue," he said.

The first stop on Kerry's trip is Seoul, where the main topic is likely to be North Korea, which over the weekend rescinded an invitation to a US diplomat to visit Pyongyang to discuss the fate of an imprisoned US missionary.

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American, has been held for more than a year in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying to overthrow the state.

The United States has long sought to persuade China to use its economic leverage over the North, which has conducted three nuclear tests, to rein in its nuclear program.

From Seoul he travels on to Beijing and then to Jakarta, where he will give a speech on climate change in a country that is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change because it is an archipelago made up of more than 17,000 islands. —Reuters
 


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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