Friday, June 15, 2018

He is to blame!

TOO many killings are happening in our country. Last week the Global Peace Index 2018 ranked the Philippines as the second ‘least peaceful’ country in Asia Pacific after North Korea. What a distinction!

Duterte tried to distance himself from the killings and the acts of violence. But it cannot be denied that these are happening under his watch. He also is a factor in this increase of violence. Violence generates violence. If the president of the land gives out violent words in almost all his talks, violence becomes his message. If he boasts of thousands of killings and that he will exonerate his police force if they kill drug addicts, this robs on the people. If after more than 22,000 killed “under investigation” no one has been held accountable, then the message becomes clear that one can kill--for whatever reason--because the police is either so inept that they will not be able to hold anyone liable, or they can easily be bought so that no one will be caught and put on trial--as long as one is in good odor with the administration. In this sense Duterte has furthered the culture of violence in the country, and with it, the culture of impunity.

The same can be said about the boldness of China to claim our islands, to build on them, and to send military hardware on them. Duterte and his administration have not made any fuss on China’s moves and aggressiveness. He  just jokes about them and even makes innuendoes that China will protect him and not allow him to fall. If this is the message he sends out, China on its part will not hesitate to do what it wants. So again we can say that Duterte has a great influence in the Chinese aggression even if he does not have any direct hand in it. There is not even any strongly worded protest against our big neighbor even if our fisher folks are already being harassed in our own territories! The Chinese have even the gall to claim that it is by their own good will that Filipinos fish in their (that is, our) seas.

We have to bear in mind that China is not one given to the defense of human rights nor to the rule of law. In fact it does not accept international law if it is not to its advantage. Unlike other democracies which are accountable to its constituents, China is accountable to none. It is not a democracy.  There will not be people who will rally against the government because it has oppressed or been unjust to other small countries. Chinese leaders do not consider the sentiments of its peoples and they are not ruled by any code of ethics. Many leaders of Western countries can still say that they follow the Judeo-Christian ethics. Hence they are so sensitive to human rights. Muslim leaders still follow the ethics of the Qur’an. Chinese leaders do not follow any ethical standard at all, except what is pragmatic and to their advantage. This is clearly seen in the case of Tibet. It really used its might to bully a poor neighbor. It can do the same in the Western Philippine Sea. China can easily bully us too if we allow it to gain any foothold in our territories and in our policies. Duterte too is playing the same game. He has no moral compass to guide him. There is even no love of country. He is plane pragmatic. He uses situations just to his own advantage. He does not care about the Filipinos nor about the future of the country.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Increasing Lawlessness

ANOTHER priest has been murdered.

Last night, June 10, Fr. Richmond Nilo, parish priest of Zaragosa in Nueva Ecija of the diocese of Cabanatuan, was gunned down and killed instantly in the early evening as he was about to celebrate mass in the barangay chapel of Mayamot. Six Sundays ago, Fr. Mark Anthony Ventura was also killed – gunned down – in Gattaran town in Cagayan Valley after celebrating morning mass. He was still in his priestly garb. Both of them were killed as priests. Mistaken identity could not be a reason. They were really killed because they are priests.

This is a very bad sign in the situation of the country now. There is no more consideration of who or what a person is. If people could be so brazen as to kill a priest as he is about to celebrate mass or has just celebrated mass on a Sunday, then who could be safe? There is really no longer any fear of God.
Are these two killings related? We cannot say. It is not only too early to say but the police are so inept that we may never be able to know the facts and the perpetrators. Many high profile killings are not solved – with so many other killings of priests, like the killing of Fr. Tito Paez in December 2017 also in Cabanatuan and even up to killing of Fr. Pops Tintorio in October of 2011 in North Cotabato remains unsolved, or intentionally left unsolved. If killings of priests are left unsolved, then what can the ordinary citizen expect? Thus the more the 20,000 killings in the name of war on drugs are filed “under investigation.” They will remain unsolved!

There is indeed an increasing lawlessness in the country. Why? Not because the police or the military do not have enough power; but because there is a culture of impunity in the country. Those who do wrong are not held accountable while those declared “enemies” of Duterte are made to face flimsy  and even trumped up cases, like in the case of Sen Delima, CJ Sereno, Sr. Pat Fox and many lumad and farmer leaders in Mindanao.

Is this sense of lawlessness deliberately created? Some with naughty minds may think so. Like in the time of Marcos, when a “state of anarchy” was created to justify the declaration of Martial Law, it may not be far-fetched to sense that these killings are executed to create a sense of helplessness to justify a declaration of nationwide Martial Law. It is not Martial Law that can stop lawlessness. In fact it will bring about more lawlessness because all the more the police and the military will pursue their operations without any accountability to civilian authorities. More impartial and independent investigations are what we need. More accountability of the government to the people should be the call. The people then have to be more active and vocal to call for accountability. Huwag tayo matakot at huwag tayo magpabaya. No one is now safe. Kaya makialam na tayong lahat!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Consequences of the Quo Warranto Decision of May 11

Much has been written on why the Quo Warranto Decision of the Supreme Court on May 11 was flawed. Legal luminaries, former chief justices, numerous lawyers groups, church people, academic circles, NGO leaders, politicians and many others have expressed and continue to express their indignation at the blatant disregard for the Philippine Constitutions and for the rules of law. Of course there are also defenders of the decision but their arguments are so flimsy. From now on, it could nolonger be invoked that because a decision comes from the Supreme Court it has to be right. The High Court has made an enormous blunder, and it will take a lot of effort – and perhaps time – to redeem itself, if ever.

But some are asking, does it really matter that the decision was reached in this way? The process may be wrong, but what consequences will it have in our democratic life?
From a non-lawyer’s point of view, here are some of the consequences of such a decision:

1. It tells us that the justices of the Supreme Court cannot be trusted in interpreting the Constitution. With convoluted arguments they can bend the interpretation according to their purposes. This case clearly bears this out.

2. The decision to oust the Chief Justice of the land sends a signal that nobody is safe in the country anymore. If the Chief Justice herself cannot get justice, who else can? I do not say that the Chief Justice is without fault. I just ask that she be tried in the proper forum – in the senate according to impeachment rules where she can defend herself.

3. No appointed officials, even of constitutional bodies such as the ombudsman, the commissioner on audit and the commissioner of the COMELEC, can be free from now on from undue pressure in doing their job. They have to kowtow to those in power or else they can be eased from their office by means not even provided by law.

4. The Supreme Court is now seen as a Duterte Court. It has lost its independence from the executive branch. It can no longer put a check to the whims of the one in power.

5. The justices in the Supreme Court can easily become a barkadahan of likeminded persons. Anyone with a different view can be taken out by themselves. Not only does the Supreme Court as an institution lost its independence. Each of the justices has lost his/her independence. Each has to look over his/her shoulder if his/her decisions and wayswill sit well with the gang. Objective justice will not anymore be the main concern. Who can trust such a court?

The quo warranto decision and how it was arrived at have brought down the Supreme Court. People are protesting because they know that it is also bringing down our democracy. Dictatorial rule is already upon us. Can we take this without a whimper?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lights in Defeat

THE petition on the Quo Warranto has been granted by the justices in the Supreme Court with a vote of 8-6. In effect the justices have ousted SC Sereno from being the Chief Justice. This is a big defeat for thousands of lawyers, civil society people, leaders of the academe, religious people, students and many other groups and sectors in society who have lobbied, prayed and even marched in front of the Supreme Court for several days to warn the justices and the people at large of the subversion of democracy in the country if the Chief Justice is removed by the Quo Warranto. In spite of all these warnings, rallies and prayers the justices stone-heartedly approved the petition.

In this darkness of defeat, however, lights of hope have shone . This somehow is a reflection of the Paschal Mystery where life came out of death. The Jericho March was a success. The walls of Jericho fell when the Israelites marched around it. The Supreme Court building did not fall down when Evangelicals and Catholics marched around the block of the Supreme Court early this morning. But the Supreme Court fell today. It self-destructed by granting the Quo Warranto. It fell from its being a bastion of independence in our democratic system. It lost the esteem and even the respect of the people. It has shown its true and unmistakable color of being now a tool of Duterte. It is now a Duterte Court.

Another light: the quo warranto issue has united broad segments’ of Philippine society. Evangelicals and Catholics have come together, so also Church people and civic organizations.  Urban poor organizations have joined forces with the middle class. Student organizations have been organized. Groups from different political spectrums marched together. The various colors of flags that flown this morning  along Taft Avenue and Padre Faura Street was a sight to see. Speakers from various persuasions spoke out in a hastily built stage in Taft Avenue in the morning, with claps of approval coming from all.

The decision of the justices has heightened the level of engagement of the groups. Yes, there is anger at eight justices who voted for the quo warranto, but more than that, people have already openly expressed the call for Duterte to resign. The fight now moves from the Supreme Court to Malacanang because people clearly see now the dictatorial moves of the Duterte regime. It has become unmistakable.

The decision did not dampen the mood of the people. It angers them all the more. They resolve to more actions is palpable in the hearts and speeches of many. Expect more mobilizations. Expect more protests. Expect more unmasking of the hypocrisy of Duterte and his cohorts.

As CJ Sereno said in her short speech before the crowd around noon, we did not really lose. If the 6 justices who have already accused her had inhibited themselves, as they should have done if there was an iota of decency in them, the vote would have been 6-2, with 6 dismissing the quo warranto petition. If the playing field were level, the petition would have been squashed. How could accusers take the function of judges? Is there justice here?

The Supreme Court has fallen. Malacanang will be the next!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Suspicious haste

SUDDENLY the justices of the Supreme Court are so eager to solve a case. The Supreme Court is not an institution known for coming up with fast decisions. We give it the benefit of the doubt--maybe there are so circumspect in studying the cases in front of them, maybe they are so overloaded with many important cases, maybe they take a looong time to deliberate because of the weightiness of their decisions. Then all of a sudden they decided to break their summer vacation to deliberate on the case of CJ Sereno on the Quo Warranto petition! Not only that! They agreed to move their meeting one week earlier, from May 17 as originated set, to May 11.  Not only that! Even before their meeting, leaks have already come out that the decision is already done to oust Sereno! Suddenly the Supreme Court justices have been prompt – suspiciously too prompt even - to give a decision on the quo warranto petition. Why are they hurrying? What could the reasons behind the suspicious haste?
Is it really so important that Sereno should be ousted at this time? The matter of the SALN that is the reason why they claim the appointment of Sereno is defective is the same matter that is set on the impeachment case against her in congress. Why not let the Chief Justice  go through the usual and uncontroversial route of the impeachment process? I suspect that the SALN case is weak, and it may not get the nod of the senators. I suspect that in the impeachment process in the Senate CJ Sereno can have the chance to explain herself in public on this matter while in the quo warranto case the poor lady does not have her day in court. I suspect that the aggrieved justices want to execute the Chief Justice by their own hands, rather than give her the chance to exonerate herself. I suspect that the brains behind this dubious scheme does not want the public to have the time to digest the meaning of the case against the  Chief Justice. Oh, so many theories can be conjured because of the suspicious haste that this matter is being pursued.
But the people will not stand by. Most of the Filipino people do not know the intricacies of the law but they have their own sense of what is right and what is wrong, and they are not fooled even by those who claim to hold the office of interpreting the law. The manipulation of interpreting the law is so blatant! The schemes to control the Supreme Court and the institutions of democracy in the country are so glaring! The end game is total control of the government and manipulation of the people! The innate sense of the people is aware of this and the people will move, maybe not as fast as the justices now, but they will move and hold the schemers accountable!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Culture of killing unleashed

The cold-blooded and pre-meditated killing of the Catholic priest Fr. Mark Ventura. 37, at about 8:15 am after celebrating mass at a gymnasium in Brgy. Pena Weste in Gattaran town, Cagayan, sends chills to the country. He was killed as he was blessing children and talking with choir members after the mass. The killers knew full well that he was a priest; they were bold enough to kill in broad daylight in front of people. The killers were so brazen! This happened four months after another priest, Fr. Tito Paez, was killed on Dec 4, 2017 in Nueva Ecija, again by raiding in tandem assailants.

What is happening to our country? As of now it is still too early to find the motives for the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura. What is clear, however, is that peace and order is getting out of hand. The killers are so bold because they know that they cannot be caught, either because they are protected by powerful people or they know that the police and the intelligence community in our country are inept – or even both!

How have we come to this? A culture of killing has been unleashed! If they can kill priests, they can kill anybody! Talagang wala ng takot sa Diyos ang pumapatay ng pari. Kung wala ng takot sa Diyos, kahit na ano maaari ng gawin! A great blame can be thrown to the thousands of  extra judicial killings that have been done in the name of the War on Drugs. So many so-called vigilante killings and killings by people riding in tandem are just simply listed “under investigation” and not one of the thousands has been solved. This sends a strong message that the police is very inept to solve crimes, if they themselves are not complicit in the killings. 

The police has to show that there is no culture of impunity. The criminals are to be brought to trial. Can the police do this? I strongly doubt. The killing of Fr. Tito Paez is still “under investigation.”

If the authorities cannot, or will not, do their responsibilities, the people should stand up. We should demand that killings should stop, that human rights be respected, that the big fishes should be caught and made to answer. We cannot just stand by and let things be.

We can connect this culture of impunity to the case of Sr. Patricia Fox. Can the government just send out missionaries on flimsy accusations without even due process? We can also connect this culture of impunity with the pro warranto case of CJ Sereno. Even the justices of the Supreme Court cannot act with impunity that they can do blatantly illegal decisions.  The Supreme Court cannot bend the laws!

Our present Constitution tells us that sovereignty ultimately resides on the people. Let the people now act and stand up!

Unrecognized and now threatened

WHAT we have feared has now come to the surface. We feared that the Duterte government will be vindictive. We feared that the Duterte government is so onion-skinned that it will not take dissent. We feared that the Duterte government will use government institutions to crack down on its victims. All of these fears have been confirmed by the downgrading of the missionary visa of 71-year old Australian Catholic missionary Sr. Patricia Fox.

The government is now using the Bureau of Immigration against Sr. Fox. The accusation against her is that she is engaged in activities which are “political in nature.” Of course they arbitrarily define what is “political in nature” is. Specifically they are:

She joined in the fact finding mission on land distribution in Hacienda Luisita. Is a fact finding mission to seek whether justice has been done and the law has been fulfilled “political in nature”?  Sorry to say to those ignorant of the Catholic faith; work for justice is part and parcel of our Christian commitment. The same would be true of the fact finding mission whether Martial Law in Mindanao is serving its purported purpose and not just a tool to abuse the rights of the people.

2.    She was part of a solidarity fast to free political prisoners. Has any harm been done to anyone by one undergoing voluntary fasting? Is solidarity with the oppressed “political in nature”? Yes, probably, if the government admits that it is oppressive to those who hold deviant ideas from its own. Then the fasting would hurt them. She is also accused of joining a solidarity program with political prisoners at the Davao del Norte Provincial Jail. This is in the same category of calling to set prisoners free – the very mission to which Christ has been anointed by the Holy Spirit. [ cf Lk 4:18-21]

3.     She joined the rally of the Coca Cola workers who are calling the giant Coca Cola company to implement the decision of the Department of Labor to regularize more than six hundred workers. She told the workers that the Social Teachings of the Church says that there is a right to unionize, that workers have a right to just wages and they have right to security of tenure. Is teaching the social teachings of the Church not part of missionary work? In fact even our present Constitution states that workers have a right to a living wage and to security of tenure. It is our present government who is wrong in not following the mandate of the Constitution.

4.     She joined a press conference on “Trump and Duterte, Hands off Human Rights Defenders.” This was in support of Jerome Aba who was detained in San Francisco Airport, shamed and psychologically tortured and made to sign a statement that he was a terrorist before he was deported back to the country. Is solidarity to victims of human rights abuses and expression of indignation wrong? Is this not an inviolable right of every human being, no matter what his/ faith race, creed and nationality may be?

S    Pat fox has been working in our country for the past 27 years helping farmers, indigenous peoples, the urban poor and the workers. She was engaged in helping the farmers improve their livelihood by organic farming. She has educated people on their rights and duties as Christians and as citizens. She has helped in rehabilitating  the poor when disasters came. In short she has been doing a lot of good work. For these there is no recognition at all on the part of the government, and now she is threatened to be deported for the incoherent allegations that her work is “political in nature”

      The Church cannot remain silent in this situation. Her right to preach the gospel of justice, peace, love and truth is being impinged. We stand up together with Sr. Pat.

He is to blame!

TOO many killings are happening in our country. Last week the Global Peace Index 2018 ranked the Philippines as the second ‘least peacefu...