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MAKOY, 100

September 12, 2017

macoy 100a

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DRUGS, DUE PROCESS & EJKs

September 5, 2017

More than a week ago, President Rodrigo Duterte made the admission that he gravely underestimated the problem on drugs. No, he said finally with a tone of resignation, he will not be able to solve the problem in a few months as he promised, nor even in his entire term.  From the start, I was quite certain he will fail.  But even so, I gave him the benefit of doubt.  Mine was all theory, after all;  and theories being theories, they could be wrong.

The theory is simple, really.   The Law of Supply and Demand tells us that drug prohibition limits distribution alright,  but, and this is crucial, it also jacks up the market price of the product  sky-scraping high.  What otherwise is a cheap commodity sold freely gets to be sold to, if relatively small, a reliable market of do-or-die drug users and addicts willing to pay at any price.  With profit margins so wide,  it makes for an ultra-lucrative money-making  business certain to draw the greed of man.  And it being an illegal product,  business burrows deep underground, well into the hands of a cabal of men whose qualities belong there— crooks, criminals, outlaws— wanting a piece of the action.     In short, prohibition actually,  if inadvertently, creates a wellspring of abundant riches flowing into the wrong hands.

“…abundant riches flowing into the wrong hands”— this should very well be the focal point of attention.   Unfortunately, this is always lost  in the drug debate.  When the crooks  and wicked ones get that easy access to abundant resources to use and dispense, beware, society is in peril.

A drug lord’s detrimental influence on society should be instructive enough by now. From his millions of daily earnings alone, how much, we could only speculate, goes precisely to procuring, silencing, neutralizing  or eliminating  every component of the so-called due process:  witnesses, law enforcers and state agents, lawyers, fiscals and judges, media, even entire communities,  people of influence, and so on an so forth.  It goes with the business.  If his trade should survive, let alone  prosper, illegal as it is, he must sway the  system to his side,  by hook or  by crook, no ifs, no buts.   Justice system and its foundations effectively corrupted,   he gets control of due process.  In fact, every time the critics of Duterte’s brutal war on drugs go screaming “due process!” I could imagine  a drug lord’s wide and satisfied grin on his face.   “Due process, indeed!”  he might as well be muttering too in chorus.   They are in agreement!

Yet, about due process, who could argue with the critics?  Due process is a well founded concept in any civil society.  You do not go merrily chasing and killing suspects on the pretext that these people are a menace to society.  That’s for barbarians.   We live in the modern world where there is due process to observe at all times, if we even consider our society part of it.    There is human rights to respect.  There is a presumption of innocence accorded every suspect.  All these and more rest on deep-rooted principles long before established by the collective wisdom of modern humanity tracing back from the period of Enlightenment and the great minds of ancient times.  In the modern world, it has long served as one of its solid foundations.

But the world is turned upside down.   System thoroughly corrupted,  strange alliances  you find.  Is  there anything more odd than finding drug syndicates on the same side with human rights advocates, lawyers groups , civil society members, academicians, libertarians, religious groups, etc.?  Even the world leaders and the UN agents who at once joined the uproar against  the President’s brutal war must have gotten some applause from the drug lords.   In fact, to escape attention,  the latter could vanish in the shadows in the meantime and leave the fighting to their accidental allies.  When the smoke of the battle clears up, it’s back to business, a more hospitable atmosphere in place through the effort not theirs but of the ardent due process campaigners.

The President understands it so well, even if he does not admit it openly,  that the system is now compromised, rendered helpless  by the power of the drug syndicates over the system.   Drug lords are running rings around law enforcers and the justice system.   Big-time offenders caught in elaborate and costly trapping operations marching out to their freedom so fast,  is source of  frustration, but nothing he can do about it.  Due process, corrupted as it is by the drug syndicates, is tilted in their favor.  To him and his kind, there is only one option left to save society from them: hunt them bastards down and eliminate them one by one with extreme prejudice pronto— due process be damned, Davao City style. Extra judicial killing, they call it.  Or vigilantism.

And he appeared to be succeeding.   There was strong mass support, with the public terrified of escalating crimes so gory and vicious somehow linked to the drug problem.  Tacit approval was granted perhaps  confident  that it is the bad guys who are being hunted and eliminated.    These were justified  killings, they deserved it, or so they held.   Two mayors and thousands of dead later, the public kept its peace, save for the usual noisy critics.   It must have helped  that the people highly trust the President.

Then came Kian de los Santos.   After his killing, the public  mood has changed so drastically, you can feel it.  The campaign has taken a bad turn. A young boy at seventeen from a poor family,  a student,  he  was ostensibly moonlighting on the side running drugs.  Petty connection with drugs notwithstanding, Kian is not your poster boy of villainy, but rather of innocence forced into the pit by the circumstances of his young life.  You do not kill their kind.  You take them under your care to be steered to a better direction.  Young as he is, he could yet be saved.  But he is dead now, apparently executed by overeager, trigger-happy agents of the law inspired, or perhaps confused,  by the President’s repeated expressions of rage and fierce messaging against drug traffickers.

With Kian, suddenly society is confronted with the appalling brutality of such a war.   Shocked and collective conscience pricked,  the public is forced to ask,  just how many killings still must be perpetrated to defeat the scourge?  Ten thousand?  Twenty?  Thirty…. a hundred thousand more?  Suddenly, the people are asking themselves, can we still stomach this kind of violence?    No doubt, Duterte’s war on drugs has suffered a fatal hit.  Another Kian, Duterte’s political  fortunes could start to take a fatal reverse.  As expected, the political opposition is  milking  the tragedy dry for all its worth hoping perhaps it will lead to his downfall.  As in any war, collateral damage, like Kian, is unavoidable.  As collateral damage piles up, expect resistance to grow and grow until he is forced to stop.  I remember former Columbian President Cesar Gaviria who earlier attempted to counsel Duterte about the war on drugs for he too went along the same pathway.  If he took a pause  and listened  to him instead of launching a hail of curses, Duterte would have profited from a good advice instead.  But that is  all water under the bridge now.

Then too, there’s that P6B drug smuggling caper a few weeks ago.   The President must have been stumped, red-faced.   It is  the biggest haul so far in the history of drug enforcement in the country.  That it transpired right smack into the country’s main port of entry is saying a lot.   Wonder if it is not really meant to mock the President and so send home the message: no you can’t, idiot!

It is a dilemma really.  We are dealing with drug users who think nothing wrong of their vice and drug suppliers who think nothing wrong about supplying  their costumer.    Indeed, if we come right down to it ,  what intrinsic wrong could be attributed to the act of using drugs for which a user must be severely punished?  By extension, what inherent wrong does a seller commit in selling that product to his eager buyer that he must go prison for life or die?  Truthfully, none.  So why should they be getting the same punishment as does a murderer or a rapist?

Society of course sees things from a different perspective.  It sees drugs as destructive to society.  Drug use make people commit atrocious crimes. Drugs destroy the human mind.  And so and and so forth.  And so it must act to protect itself by prohibiting drug use and drug trafficking.  If death must be meted, so be it, if the greater interest of the whole society depended on it.

It’s a total clash of perspective and interest .  And somewhere sometime, something’s gotta give.

As it happens,  market forces prevail by the weight of their own laws.  To illustrate, the tighter and stricter the prohibition is, the riskier the business, and tighter too becomes the supply.  The tighter the supply,  where  buyers pay at any price, the more profitable is the business.  Imagine a grain of shabu selling at the price of a grain of gold and you can imagine a drug lord getting richer even more, richer and more powerful than ever.

There is no winning this war.  The earlier we come to terms with this, the better.

LISTEN TO THIS BOY GENIUS

March 13, 2017

DUTERTE AND THE LASCAÑAS AFFAIR

March 8, 2017

I’ve spent  perhaps at least an hour watching those Youtube streaming videos on the Lascañas testimony on the Senate hearing.  If any bombshell was detonated, I did not notice or probably I missed.   All in all, the ‘show’ did not appear to have lived up to the expectation of the sponsors.

What took most of the blast away it seems was the impression that it was all staged to destabilize the new government, or at least shave off from its popularity.  From where I sat, there was utter lack of authenticity in the claim that Arthur Lascañas had a recent bout with his conscience leading to a so-called spiritual renewal hence the new revelations and the recantation of an earlier testimony made just a few months before in the same venue.  Now, if there was any truth in his revelations, they were surely drowned by suspicions of ulterior motive and machinations of vested interest.  After all, it was pretty undisguised where all the reinforcement was coming from.  For all their protestations that they were not villains out to destabilize the government,  the Yellows, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, unmistakably looked and acted the part.  (By the way, is it true white men (Americans?)have whisked out the entire family of Lascañas out of Davao City?)

I would not say though that Lascañas was lying through and through.   Give or take some obvious inconsistencies, there must be some truth to some of these, although laced with exaggeration and lies, to make the man he betrayed, President Rodrigo Duterte, an out and out, cold-blooded murderer.  To be sure, the President has on several occasions actually admitted responsibility to some killings of criminals in the past. In fact, his most famous line publicly addressed to the bad guys is a menacing “I will kill you!”  Hence, for all intents and purposes, the revelations somehow jibed naturally with the image that even earlier had earned him the moniker The Punisher.

The point of attack is plain: that Duterte himself was ordering the bloody extrajudicial murders in Davao City where he was mayor for so many years, the implication being that presently as President he is applying the same strategy all over the Philippines.  That the dead were vicious criminals is beside the point, or so their argument goes; that these were done outside the bounds of the law is.  That it sends them rascals scampering away is not the point; that they are being chased not in accordance with the legal system is.  That there is relatively better peace and order situation now is beside the point; that the right to the presumption of innocence of the crime suspects was violated is the point.

A suspect is a suspect, the principle goes; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  And no one and no one has any right to pronounce anyone guilty, let alone mete out punishment, but the courts— after due process of law. We are in a modern society; in modern society, vigilante justice has no place.

Well, no quarrel there, but if this is their strategy to provoke anger and condemnation of the President, it might just be the wrong one.

For, in popular culture, the vigilante is a beloved figure.  Dirty Harry, Rambo, Mad Max, Batman, The Punisher, to name a few from a long list,  are famous characters for hunting down the bad guys and smashing them to kingdom come, surely not with any judicial imprimatur.  Instant justice, swift retribution, no questions asked— it actually appeals to the base instinct of any man.   That thing called due process which demands long, expensive court trials, eventually ending in the acquittal of the criminals— what charm does it have? If anything at all, what the Lascañas revelations did, true or not, was bolster that same image in Duterte.   Indeed,  the The Punisher/Dirty Harry persona may even be part of his charisma given that he won the elections by a landslide even as that image was already appended to him.   Well, unless, people begin believing that indeed the crusading vigilante has gone rogue, targeting his enemies and the innocents instead, as Lascañas  and his sponsors in the Senate were trying to angle the investigation.

The reality is,  especially when the justice system is weak and the bad guys of the world are getting the upper hand, the Rambos and Dirty Harrys get  the applause not the boos, the gratitude not the condemnation.

JIM PAREDES IS THE NEW SYMBOL OF PEOPLE POWER

February 28, 2017

The biggest news about the 31st EDSA celebration is not some message about democracy and freedom or love of country but the sparsity of the crowd that assembled  there for the occasion— and Jim Paredes engaged in a stare-down confrontation with boys. Whooa!  I think, henceforth, the image will be the symbol of this event.  In a way, Paredes’ behavior could well represent what has become of the EDSA People Power celebration: a platform to display the bigotry and self-righteousness of the Yellows, the victors of that historic event. Supremely ironic, since the event is supposed to celebrate democracy and freedom of expression.  From now on, he is to me Jim ‘Lukatmi’ Paredes.

Oddly, the name Jim Paredes was never a prominent one in anti-Marcos movements and rallies during Martial law and after.  He was popular as one of the Apo Hiking Society, but as an anti-Marcos activist?   In fact, even in their songs, popular hits as they were, there was hardly any hint of activism or anti-government sentiments.  So where must this zealousness be coming from?

It was his mother, Ester Jimenez, who actually fought President Marcos.  She was a core member of the Light-A-Fire Movement, an anti-Marcos group said to be responsible for the numerous bombings around Metro Manila in the early 80s.  She was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death for terrorism.  She was however released by the Cory administration, which probably explains her son’s devotion to the Aquinos.

WIKILEAKS: NINOY AQUINO vs JUAN PONCE ENRILE

January 31, 2017

Wikileaks is proving to be a vast wealth of information and references even for Philippine history buffs. Indeed, I unexpectedly stumbled on the item below, as with the others before,  while browsing the site.

https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978MANILA04022_d.html (with minor edits)

Detained ex-Senator Benigno Aquino’s two recent media events, his March 10 “Face the Nation” interview and his March 11 press conference, prompted swift rebuttal from Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile.  Enrile sent Aquino two letters, with copies to the press, seeking to refute Aquino’s claim that he worked, rather than for the CIA, that he never belonged to the Communist Party, and that he is innocent of subversion and murder charges.

The first Enrile letter, eight pages in length, was reproduced in the Manila dailies March 11 juxtaposed with coverage of Aquino’s TV interview.  The letter cites documents allegedly showing that as early as 1967 Aquino was claiming to be a CIA agent.  Enrile’s letter states, however, that “although Aquino offered to become a CIA agent, he was rejected…”  It alleges that in response to a  1967 inquiry initiated by Rafael M. Salas, then Executive Secretary, “the CIA Station Chief in Manila” revealed that Aquino had attempted to join the CIA but that his request was denied because he was “classified as unsuitable for anti-communist work.”

The Enrile letter disputes Aquino’s contention that his conviction for allegedly ordering the murder of barrio captain Sumat was based on the testimony of a single witness.  Similary, it disputes Aquino’s claim that the subversion charges against him were based on the testimony only of professional anti-Communist Simeon del Rosario.  Enrile argued that this would certainly shock the military, because they had patiently presented a great number of witnesses to actual subversive acts committed by Aquino.  On Aquino’s denial of Communist Party membership, Enrile noted that “you may not have been formally listed as a member but you certainly were active in its leadership.”

Enrile reacted defensively to an off hand remark made by Aquino during his interview that he (Enrile) was one of the lawyers involved in the sale of the Aquino-Cojuangco estate, Hacienda Luisita.  Enrile said he may have been a member of the law firm which handled the sale or have been referred some papers on taxation, but never handled the transaction actively.

Enrile’s second letter to Aquino appeared in the March 12 Manila dailies alongside accounts of Aquino’s Fort Bonifacio press conference.  Full text of letter follows: “I am constrained to write you another note because of the claims you made in your television interview last night.  It is now quite obvious that while you were working with the CIA, you actually were happy to be used by that agency for its purposes, even if it refused to be identified with you by rejecting your offer to train and work with the CIA.  It is also quite obvious that you not only rendered service to a foreign government which could be classified under the nature of espionage, that you actually went our of your way to offer intelligence information to that foreign government.  You likewise claim you were authorized by the late Secretary of Affairs Mauro Mendez and the late Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Carlos P. Garcia to undertake training with the CIA and participate in covering operations with the CIA.  Records of the government intelligence agencies have established that these claims of yours are untrue.  I will send you documents which show up your transparent efforts to escape responsibility for your acts by involving the names of deceased high government officials, which to say the least is unfair to the departed heads of state.  My I reiterate my previous offer to seek authority to declassify documents pertinent to matters that are now of primary concern to you and to place them at your disposal.”

I have not found any Aquino’s reply just yet.

 

THE CASE AGAINST NINOY

January 23, 2017

Because opinions about the case against Ninoy Aquino have always been tainted with bias, for and against, it would be interesting to know how the then-US Ambassador to the Philippines actually viewed the matter.

The case against Ninoy Aquino according to classified US cables (with minor edit)

Summary:  Former Senator Aquino, who has been incarcerated without charges for eleven months, will be tried beginning August 27 at public sessions of Military Tribunal for illegal possession of firearms, murder and subversion.  Subversion accusations against Aquino are not new and may have some basis in fact.  While maximum penalty is death, it is doubtful that Marcos would go this far against his principal former political opponent.

Department of National Defense announced August 23 that military trial of former Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., imprisoned Secretary-General of Liberal Party (LP) and Marcos arch-rival, will begin August 27.  Aquino is charged with illegal possession of firearms, murder and four counts of violating the Anti-Subversion Act, and further charges are reportedly under study.  He will be tried by Military Tribunal No. 2 headed by respected Brig. Gen. Jose Syjuco, at National Defense College at Fort Bonifacio, of which Syjuco is president.  Local press reports that Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile said trial will be open to the public.  Aquino will be defended by widely-respected former LP Senators Roxas, Tañada, Salonga and Rodrigo among others; initial action of lawyers was to file petition before Supreme Court requesting restraining order and/or injunction against military trial.

Trial will open on August 27 with arraignment of Aquino on weapons charge and will continue on thrice-weekly schedule until completed.  Aquino is accused of illegally possessing various arms, including machine guns, high-powered rifles and hand grenades.

There are four counts of subversion.  In one, Aquino is charged with providing weapons, ammunition and other supplies to the New People’s Army (NPA) head Bernabe Buscayno (aka Commander Dante) and other NPA leaders between 1965 and 1969; giving shelter and medical assistance to ten HMB/NPA personnel in 1970 and 1971; and donating P15,000 in April 1969 to the NPA to organize demonstrations which took place same month before  Congress, Malacañang Palace and American Embassy.  Two other subversion cases also charge Aquino with providing weapons to NPA members.  Fourth subversion case charges him with giving former Philippine Constabulary Lt. Victor Corpuz P500 to rent car used in December 1970 raid on Philippine Military Academy armory.  Subversion charges are also brought against Dante, Corpuz and several other NPA personnel, in addition to Aquino in these same cases.

On murder charge, Aquino is charged with conspiring to kill a barrio captain in 1957 in his home province of Tarlac; there are reports this charge may have been dropped.

Comment: Accusations against Aquino for plotting with and assisting communist dissidents are not new. President Marcos aired similar allegations after August 1971 suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and in mid- September 1972, only a few days before declaring Martial Law; however, this is the first time that actual charges have been filed.  While Aquino consistently denied charges of subversion publicly before arrest on September 23, 1972, he made numerous statements in private, to (US) Embassy officials and others, that suggested he had close connections to the NPA.  Dante and Corpuz to be tried in absentia; strategy in involving Aquino in their trial designed to strengthen impression he is a subversive and to undercut his political popularity.

Lawyers for Aquino are highly qualified and they and the former Senator himself can be expected to make a strong defense.  It will be interesting to see how long trial remains public.

Maximum penalty under the 1957 Anti-subversion Act, which outlaws communist party in the Philippines is death.  However it is unlikely Marcos will risk making martyr of Aquino.  Marcos’ intentions appear to be tarnishing of Aquino’s political image and legalizing his continued detention.

SULLIVAN*

*US Ambassador to the Philippines 1973 to 1977, William H. Sullivan