Category Archives: Readings in Politics

“Pero sir, kailangan pa ba ang mga abogado ngayon [But, sir, do we still need lawyers today]?”

It was expected. My own sources told me it was inevitable. And yet when the news broke, half an hour or so ago, that the Supreme Court had removed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from office by granting the quo warranto petition against her, I was still staggered by the enormity of it all. This was eight justices deliberately turning their back on the rule of law, to spite a leader they did not like (and in the process play the witting pawns in a game of authoritarian chess). I also shared the sense of loss and confusion many members of the legal community immediately expressed, and then remembered this letter of Sen. Jose W. Diokno to his son, a month after the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

[Update: Esquire Philippines has the complete version. I didn’t even realize my copy was incomplete!]

“Dear Popoy,

When you asked me about a month ago, for a list of books that you could read to start studying law, I was loathe to prepare the list because I felt that you would be wasting your time studying law in this “new society.”

I am still not sure that it would be worth your while to do so.

A few days ago, while chatting with a soldier, he asked, in all seriousness and sincerity, “Pero sir, kailangan pa ba ang mga abogado ngayon?” And in a way that perhaps he did not intend, he raised a perfectly valid question.

A lawyer lives in and by the law; and there is no law when society is ruled, not by reason, but by will—worse, by the will of one man.

A lawyer strives for justice; and there is no justice when men and women are imprisoned not only without guilt, but without trial.

A lawyer must work in freedom; and there is no freedom when conformity is extracted by fear and criticism silenced by force.

A lawyer builds on facts. He must seek truth; and there is no truth when facts are suppressed, news is manipulated and charges are fabricated.

Worse, when the Constitution is invoked to justify outrages against freedom, truth and justice, when democracy is destroyed under the pretext of saving it, law is not only denied—it is perverted.

And what need do our people have for men and women who would practice perversion? Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Readings in History, Readings in Politics

Doing journalism in a dangerous time

PJRC 2018

The real highlight of the first part of the Philippine Journalism Research Conference, held at the main campus of the University of the Philippines, was the McLuhan Fellows Roundtable with Tess Bacalla, Lynda Jumilla, and new Pulitzer prizewinner Manny Mogato; the thoroughly engaging discussion was moderated by Kara David. They struck the true keynote; I merely picked up the tune, and some of their themes. 

It is a privilege to speak at the Philippine Journalism Research Conference, and a pleasure to be back at the University of the Philippines; I was very happy here, when I taught a class in opinion writing for a few semesters. Some of my students became my colleagues at work and in the industry; I hope some of you will become journalists too. Not just from UP, but from the University of Santo Tomas, from Visayas State University, from Southern Luzon State University, from Ateneo de Manila, from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila, from Wesleyan University, from De La Salle University in Dasmarinas—and I’m just listing the schools where this year’s finalists are from. We certainly need you and others like you in other schools. We need you, in our newsrooms and in the field, in this turbulent, dangerous time.

I would like to raise three baseline questions today, and the first of these is specific to our time: What does it mean to be a journalist, or to do journalism research, in the Duterte era?

It means fighting back against “fake news” and other forms of disinformation. It means doing journalism at a time of hyped-up hostility against journalists. And it means countering the brazen lies about journalism, press freedom, and free speech that President Duterte and his subordinates propagate. These lies become myths, and are used to justify all manner of suppression of dissent and criticism. We must, all of us, each of us, debunk them. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics, Speeches & Workshops

Column: “After the rallies, what next?”

Stride

In which I propose a four-part framework for unified action against Dutertismo. Published on September 26, 2017—but posted only now, in Perugia, Italy, on the fourth day of the International Journalism Festival. (No coincidence that the elements of the framework are based on the active nonviolence approach we learned and practiced during the years of struggle against Ferdinand Marcos.)

The actor Pen Medina* delivered a scorching speech at the Sept. 21 rally in Luneta; he was right to hold to account the so-called “dilawan” for their role in creating an elitist system, but he was wrong to gloss over the militant Left’s participation in the current elite. The truth is: The excessive form of Dutertismo is an attack on our democratic project, on our fundamental Filipino values of fairness and generosity and truth-telling, on our deeply religious culture’s reverence for life — and the Left’s silence on official misogyny, its hypocrisy on the Marcos burial and its failure to fight extrajudicial killings from the start also make it complicit.

But who comes with clean hands to the table of unity? Not even our greatest heroes were free of stain. The people must come together to stop these continuing attacks on life, liberty and the truth that finally sets us free. The objective of this unified action (I wish to be clear) is not ouster; it is to undo the culture of violence, to arrest the drift toward strongman rule, to extract accountability for all the lies, all of which threaten to redefine the Filipino.

In my own view, the most urgent need of the moment is to end the killings. Full stop. We are not, we are better than, a nation of killers.

How do ordinary citizens and conscience-stricken public officers alike resist the violence, the authoritarian tendencies, the lying? Here, the work-in-progress of continuing consultations, is a four-part framework which I find useful, and which I think of by its acronym, SENT. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Politics

Column: “The unfortunate Aguirre: A Filipino tragedy”

Aguirre 101116

In October 2016, Justice Secretary Aguirre was a guest on our radio/Facebook show INQ&A. (We got tired and stopped after some 40 episodes.)

Some readers were puzzled by my seeming sympathy for a justice secretary actively weaponizing the rule of law. But I saw in his descent into the depths the story of many other Filipinos who had lost their way. Today’s scandal over the proposed dismissal of charges against confessed drug lords shows the new lows he and his men have plumbed. Published on September 19, 2017.

At some level, I knew writing this installment in my occasional series on unfortunate appointments was inevitable, but I resisted because I’ve interviewed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and I thought I glimpsed the essential decency in the man. (Teddy Locsin once wrote about this occupational hazard, of encountering the difference between disagreeable policy and agreeable personality.) Aguirre told me, to my face, that he would not file a case against Sen. Leila de Lima without obtaining the necessary bank documentation, what he called a paper trail. He said he knew from 40 years in litigation that he needed that kind of evidence, and he did not want to lose. That he proceeded to file the case anyway — based on what we can call a finding of improbable cause — proved to me that he was under severe pressure from President Duterte to put De Lima behind bars, even if only temporarily. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: “The father of EJKs”

Bulagta

I had forgotten all about this: In response to this column on Ferdinand Marcos and EJKs, some blowhard with a private Disqus account had some dark thoughts about the columnist: me. (Note: “bulagta” means sprawled, lifeless, on the street.)

In which I offer a definition of “extrajudicial killing,” and traced its practice to Ferdinand Marcos. Published on September 12, 2017.

Benigno Aquino III, the former president, was wrong to say last month that the killings that have characterized the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs could not be called extrajudicial. His reasoning is pedantic. “If you say there is extrajudicial killing, then it means there is judicial killing. But I remember, we do not have the death penalty, so there is no judicial killing. Therefore, there is no extrajudicial killing. No judicial, no extrajudicial,” he said in Filipino.

He was not ignoring the bloodbath that is drowning the country; he was merely trying to be precise about terms. But I’m afraid his understanding of judicial killing is too narrow. The “judicial” in extrajudicial does not refer to capital punishment alone, but to the legal exercise of the violence that, in modern societies, is supposed to reside with the state alone.

The troops fighting the Maute Group in Marawi, the police units involved in the raid on Mamasapano, the National Bureau of Investigation agents pursuing kidnap-for-ransom gangs — they and others like them had or have the legal sanction to kill, if necessary. (The more accurate term then is “extralegal.”) Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Politics

Column: “Dutertismo: New Filipino, or anti-Filipino?”

Duterte Nery CDO Debate | GMA

ALL SMILES. I made a courtesy call on Rodrigo Duterte, then the mayor of Davao City, before the start of the first presidential debate of the 2016 campaign. Cagayan de Oro City, February 21, 2016. (Borrowed from GMA News Online | Thank you to Amita Legaspi)

President Duterte is trying to change what it means to be Filipino—by appealing to his countrymen’s worst impulses. Published on September 5, 2017.

Rodrigo Duterte ran on a simple promise; it is in the nature of political slogans to be conveniently vague, and “Change is coming” was short-term specific (get ready for an untraditional politician) but long-term ambiguous (change was however one defined it). He did stand for something in the public mind: He would be tough against crime and drugs, ready to fill Manila Bay with 100,000 corpses; he would be firm against China, flying the Philippine flag in the Chinese coast guard’s face while riding on a jet ski; he would take care of his people, the same way he paternalistically took care of Davao City; he would negotiate an honorable peace with communist insurgents and with Moro separatists, because he understood their struggle; not least, he would be decisive, unlike President Noynoy Aquino.

Today we can say that the President has kept his promise: Change is here. And it is soaked in blood, submerged in uncertainty, saturated in the brine of betrayal. (I have previously noted that the three main changes under “Dutertismo” were the unprecedented wave of extrajudicial killings, the underprepared pivot to China and the unjust rehabilitation of the Marcoses.) Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: “Shepherds, your sheep are being slaughtered”

082517 Arzobispado

At the Arzobispado, the office of the Archbishop of Manila, I saw this fascinating chart tracing the “evolution” of the country’s first diocese.

On August 25, 2017, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle convened an assembly of his fellow bishops and priests,  joined by police officers and public officials, politicians and journalists (I was one of the two newsmen who showed up) to discuss the drug problem and the extrajudicial killings. This column appeared four days later, on August 29. It elaborates on the remarks I made at the assembly. 

I sympathize with the Archbishop of Manila, whom I esteem greatly, and the other Catholic bishops who are struggling with the consequences of President Duterte’s brutal war. Their continuing attempt to see the complete picture of the trade in illegal drugs is deeply Christian; it is an instructive example of what the historian Horacio de la Costa, SJ, called a “reasonable faith.”

But it’s been over a year since the so-called war on drugs was launched; thousands of people have been killed — in our history, the most in such a short span of time since the end of World War II. Persistent public anxiety about this war, reflected in survey findings that have been overshadowed by the President’s personal popularity, burst into the open with the senseless, targeted but documented killing of Kian delos Santos, a 17-year-old schoolboy. (I wrote on this on Twitter.) That only 6 percent of voting-age Filipinos believe the police are definitely telling the truth when they say a suspect resisted arrest helps explain the outrage. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion

Kian’s story

Kian.png

The PCIJ Story Project on the tragedy of Kian delos Santos started as a (deeply moving) children’s book. ABS-CBN then made an animated version, hauntingly narrated by Agot Isidro.

The link is here: http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/multimedia/video/09/21/17/si-kian

Leave a comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: “Tama na!”

082117 Protest

On my way home from the August 21, 2017 protest action at the People Power Monument, I snapped one more photo of a single lit candle (there were many, scattered around the monument like luminous seeds)—lit in memory of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.

This on-again, off-again blog is on again—even if only to serve a much more modest aim, as an archive of columns (I’m about 30 behind) and speeches (only a handful, since I don’t write everything down). As it happens, this first instalment was personally important; it was a turning point in my own column-writing, centering my criticism of the continuing calamity that is the Duterte government. It was published on August 22, 2017—six days after Kian delos Santos was killed.

The killing of 17-year-old Kian D. delos Santos has stirred us out of our intimidation-induced stupor and shaken an administration built, built, built on fear. From his initials (how do you like them, mga ka-DDS?) to his surname (the same as that of the thoroughfare that birthed a revolution), from the circumstances of his life (a boy with the simple dream of becoming a policeman) to the circumstances of his death (a cynical, cruel dance of death choreographed by policemen), from the courage of the witnesses (who have taken considerable risks to speak in detail) to the character of his parents (who have spoken boldly and with utmost candor), Kian has struck fear among the very people for whom fear is a strategy.

How do we know this? Because even some of the administration’s stalwart allies have publicly condemned the killing. Because the trolls as well as the blogger-defenders of the administration, after a lull that recalled their studied silence when President Duterte went missing in June, have returned with prepared scripts and attacking themes. Because the police has belatedly sought to paint Kian as a runner in the illegal drugs trade. (The former solicitor general, Florin Hilbay, has a term for what the police are doing: the “After Murder Identification of Suspects.”) Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

“To the gallant journalists who work in Catholic media and to the Catholic journalists who work in secular media”

Signis 011918

A response to Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s keynote speech at the “Catholic Media in Challenging Times” forum in San Carlos Seminary, Makati City. Friday, January 19, 2018.

The responsible shepherd 

It is an honor to be here; I don’t know if taking part in today’s forum qualifies as a plenary indulgence, but this sinner certainly jumped at the chance when the invitation arrived.

I share Cardinal Chito’s misgivings about not having a female perspective on this panel; I hope we can help cure that in the Q&A. But I look at the panel and I realize—this is not only missing the female perspective, it’s missing other male perspectives too, because we are all graduates of the Ateneo. It’s the Jesuit mafia at work! But keeping our limits in mind is good. We are only offering our views from the limits of our own experience.

My experience is primarily that of a journalist.

Indeed, I am wearing black today because today the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other alliances and associations are marking #BlackFridayforPressFreedom, in support of our colleagues at Rappler, the staff at the 54 Catholic radio stations whose licenses to operate have been I think deliberately ignored, and other journalists on the receiving end of the government’s iron fist.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion, Speeches & Workshops

An assault on press freedom

A 10-part Twitter thread on the SEC decision revoking the certificate of incorporation of Rappler, the social media network. (With a link to today’s column—and an 11th tweet.)

 

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: Bongbong Marcos’ big new lie

Published on August 15, 2017 but, apparently, germane again, now that former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has accused the Presidential Electoral Tribunal of bias. If you believe that, I have a bridge, in San Juanico, that I’m selling. 

I have read the transcript of the first preliminary conference conducted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the Supreme Court convened as an election protest forum) on the Marcos vs Robredo case. I have compared both the direction and the specifics of the discussion with the post-conference statements made by both parties to the election protest—and can only conclude that former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his camp are lying. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

Column: Sex with starlets

In which President Duterte calls his predecessor an idiot, tells a rival presidential candidate to shut up, and (joke! joke!) pimps starlets to soldiers. The new normal. Column published on August 8, 2017.

President Duterte returned to Marawi City late last week. By all accounts, it was a happy, triumphant visit with the troops. But, confronted with a microphone, he again indulged his public persona’s vulgar streak. He called his predecessor names (albeit reluctantly), he dressed down a senator who had the temerity to offer him advice — and to the soldiers on the frontline he offered sex with starlets as a consolation prize. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

Column: Betraying PDP-Laban in China

With today’s “thematic briefing” which the Chinese Communist Party conducted for the ruling PDP-Laban party out of the goodness of its collective heart, it seems like a good idea to post this column, published on August 1, 2017, to this on-again, off-again blog. (Hey, it’s on again!) The theme of the briefing, it turns out, was fighting corruption; I’m sure we all have something to learn from the admittedly effective but highly selective anti-corruption drive Xi Jinping has unleashed in China to consolidate power. 

Here’s the link to the original column: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106004/betraying-pdp-laban-china

The roots of the current ruling party PDP-Laban are as “yellow” as can be. Lakas ng Bayan was founded by Ninoy Aquino and Lorenzo Tañada et al. to contest the April 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa elections in Metro Manila; Laban was winning in the count until a news blackout was imposed, and Ferdinand Marcos engineered a victory for his wife Imelda and everyone on her slate. The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino was founded in 1982 by intrepid civil libertarians, many of them from opposition circles in Cagayan de Oro and Davao, including one of Aquino’s fearless candidates in 1978: Mayor Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Politics

Kay G. Pen Medina, tunay at tapat na konsensiya ng bayan

Pen Medina 092117

The actor Pen Medina “whipping up a storm” at the Luneta rally on Sept. 21.

In my Newsstand column last Tuesday, I wrote:

The actor Pen Medina delivered a scorching speech at the Sept. 21 rally in Luneta; he was right to hold to account the so-called “dilawan” for their role in creating an elitist system, but he was wrong to gloss over the militant Left’s participation in the current elite.

As it turns out, I was wrong to think that the iconic actor had deliberately left out the militant Left from his bracing analysis. He wrote the following comment as a gentle rejoinder to my column:

Pen Medina comment

Mr. Medina posted this in the comment thread on the same day the column was published.

I stand, gratefully, corrected. And I hope to catch Mr. Medina in one or two of those other venues for discussion.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

A series of unfortunate appointments

Without meaning to, I started an occasional series of columns on unfortunate appointments to key government positions. It was prompted by Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s kowtowing (a word with Chinese roots!)  to an aggressive China; I patterned the use of the word “unfortunate” after Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” (Irony, though, sometimes refuses to travel.)

“The unfortunate Mr. Yasay” was published on July 12, 2016, the same day the arbitral tribunal awarded the Philippines a near-complete victory in its case against China. “No one wants to go to war,” I wrote. “[T]hat’s what diplomacy and international law are for, to assert our rights and our claims without recourse to violence. It is unfortunate that, even before he starts, Yasay has surrender on his mind.”

On August 23, 2016, I followed up (that is, it became a series in my mind) with a column on “The unfortunate Salvador Panelo,” then, as now, the chief presidential legal counsel. Many things are unfortunate about Sal Panelo, but I focused on the quality of his lawyering. “He argues like an ambulance chaser …. The great principles that animate the higher practice of the law, not merely to resolve disputes but to discover truth and dispense justice, are inconveniences that must be rationalized away.” Also: “Panelo has … argued, in more than one instance, that basic principles of law do not mean what generations of lawyers have been taught they meant.”

Both Panelo and Yasay (since rejected by the Commission on Appointments because of his American citizenship) were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte. The third column was on an appointee of President Gloria Arroyo’s—Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Diosdado Peralta. His decision rationalizing the burial of the remains of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani provoked great outrage. On November 15, 2016, in “The unfortunate Justice Peralta,” I wrote: “There is none so blind as he who refuses to see. Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta’s ponencia in the Marcos burial cases will go down in history as the cowardly rationalizations of a willfully blind man; he deserves the opprobrium coming his way. He still has six years to serve in the Supreme Court, but his legacy will be forever defined by this badly written, ill-thought-through, deliberately obtuse majority decision.”

The fourth column in the series went back to a Duterte appointee: the solicitor general who told the public, and by extension the Court of Appeals, that he was effectively a member of the Supreme Court. In “The unfortunate Calida, ’16th Justice’,” published on February 21, 2017, I wrote: “it is both unethical and illogical for a solicitor general to assert that he is ‘considered’ as another Supreme Court justice, because in fact he isn’t and because the separation of powers requires that he shouldn’t be.” I concluded: “Calida’s invocation of his supposed stature as the 16th Justice was plainly meant to put pressure on the Court of Appeals.”

The subject of the next column in the series is probably Duterte’s most famous, and possibly most consequential, appointment: In “The unfortunate Bato dela Rosa,” published on May 2, 2017, I gave three reasons (reasons shared, of all people, by Speaker Bebot Alvarez) why “No chief of the Philippine National Police has brought as much disgrace and discredit to the institution he heads as Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, a likeable enough police officer promoted beyond his capacity and competence.”

Who should I write on next?

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics, Spiral Notebook

Column: The transformations of Rodrigo Duterte

Written on the day of the controversial second State of the Nation Address, and published on July 25, 2017.

Since I first met him in August 2015, I have tried to describe Rodrigo Duterte, the man and politician, as fairly, as completely, as I could. In this column and before various audiences—rule of law advocates in The Hague, student leaders on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, Asian news executives in Bangkok, campus writers in Legazpi, journalists in Perugia, even residents of my hometown of Cagayan de Oro—I have sought to give President Duterte his due.

I have always pointed out that, in private, Mr. Duterte is unfailingly courteous, and thoughtful and responsive in conversation. He makes bold statements (arguing, for instance, that the presidency is not powerful enough) but leavens them with an earnest mien, a healthy sense of humor, even a talent for mimicry. I’ve met him only thrice — a group interview at the Inquirer that lasted for about four hours, a chance encounter at the Naia 2 airport, a presidential debate — but my impressions have found an echo in the recollections of the senators and Cabinet secretaries I’ve interviewed since his election.

I have also always noted that Mr. Duterte is a genuinely charismatic personality; I have seen his effect on an audience of about 50 as well as a massive crowd (the thanksgiving rally in Davao City after his victory) of perhaps 500,000. There is really something there that many people respond to. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has seen this charisma at work, not only in the President’s native Davao but in Tokyo, too, when Mr. Duterte came visiting. It is a mistake to dismiss this talk of mass appeal or reduce it to cult-like conduct. (To be sure, there is that, too.)

But put a microphone in front of him, and (time to look afresh at this tired phrase) all hell breaks loose. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: Why Duterte is defending Marcos

Only one conclusion makes sense. Published on July 18, 2017.

I have nothing against the senators who dined with President Duterte earlier this year; those who castigate them, essentially for showing up for dinner, have forgotten the role of the two political branches in our system of government. It would be a real scandal if the President dined with justices of the Supreme Court alone; recent history tells us that the illegal consultations Ferdinand Marcos sought with members of the Court built the constitutional foundations of his authoritarian regime. But lawmakers are supposed to work with the Executive—that is how our system is meant to function, especially when the senators belong to the administration majority.

I also do not understand the absolutist position that critics of the majority take when administration-aligned lawmakers express their outrage or their disgust over the reinstatement of Supt. Marvin Marcos. Sen. Ping Lacson, for instance, gave vent to his frustration over the special treatment for Marcos, the police colonel who oversaw the execution of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside a Leyte subprovincial jail last November, by resorting publicly to President Duterte’s favorite expletive. But some of the feedback he got from social media took him to task for enabling the President in the first place — without so much as an acknowledgement that this key player in the Senate majority is now on a collision course with the President.

Politics is addition, and the more voices we hear condemning the extrajudicial killing of a politician by police officers, the better. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Politics

About the EJKs: The signs were there; we were warned

Another 10-part Twitter thread, starting here. (You can of course click on the card below.)

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Marcos was the worst (a series)

In the last four years, I’ve written four columns making the case that “Marcos was the worst,” period.

In September 2013, in “Marcos was the worst,” I argued that the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was the most corrupt man in Philippine history. “Compared to Ferdinand Marcos, however, [Gloria] Arroyo and [Joseph] Estrada were rank amateurs. Marcos institutionalized corruption on such a scale we continue to feel its effects today. In his 20 years in power, the country’s foreign debt metastasized from about $1 billion to over $25 billion; in a statement released last year, FDC repeats the estimate that as much as a third of all that debt, about $8 billion, went into his pockets or those of his cronies.” (I also argued that, measured against his own anti-communist standard, he was a colossal failure in containing the communist insurgency he said was the reason for declaring martial rule in the first place.)

In September 2014, in “Marcos was the worst (2): The SC,” I argued that Marcos, who prided himself on his legal acumen and painstakingly constructed a legal facade for his dictatorship, systematically subverted the Supreme Court and the rule of law itself. “Marcos, entering the second half of his second and last term, was anxious about how the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutionality of the suspension of the writ, which had been immediately challenged. So he did what came naturally to him: He subverted yet another democratic institution.”

In September 2015, in “Marcos was the worst (3),” I argued that the Marcos era represented the fourth occupation of the Philippines. “In 1981 Marcos inaugurated what he grandly called the Fourth Republic. But it is closer to the truth to say that his regime was, in fact, the Fourth Occupation. After the Spanish, the Americans, and the Japanese, Marcos used martial law to colonize the Philippines.”

And in September 2016, in “Marcos was the worst (4),” I argued that Marcos succeeded in imposing martial rule because he had manipulated, intimidated, or incentivized the business community into supporting what he called the New Society. “But the Marcos regime lasted as long as it did, not only because Marcos’ Ilocanization of the military had turned it into a pliant tool, but also because many businessmen believed political stability was in their best interest; the Americans, too, found his anticommunism appealing.”

This is the same man a majority of justices on the Supreme Court allowed to be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the very same man honored by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines with a monument and by President Duterte with a province-wide holiday.

For shame.

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in History, Readings in Politics, Spiral Notebook

Column: If Taruc is a hero, what?

Published on July 4, 2017, but perhaps apropos reading for yesterday’s celebration of National Heroes Day. 

The honors paid last month to Luis Taruc, cofounder of the Huks, invites us to think, again and with a greater sense of complication, about our notions of heroism.

An Inquirer editorial tried to anticipate the public’s response to the unveiling of a historical marker at Taruc’s place of birth and to the statement of recognition from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines “that Luis Taruc is a hero” by identifying three types of possible reception. “This pronouncement may strike some as belated but deserved recognition; others may criticize it as insufficiently historical or an affront to the memory of other heroes; still others may wonder what all the fuss is about.”

If not indifference, I would venture that wonder at what all the fuss was about was the majority reaction — but I did see criticism of the Taruc pronouncement. Inquirer columnist Manolo Quezon was one of those who showed his disagreement by circulating a Philippines Free Press cartoon listing Taruc’s many iniquities. I respect Quezon’s position, not only because his grandmother Aurora Quezon was assassinated by the Huks in 1949, but even more so because his work is shaped by a deep understanding of Philippine history.

Recognition of Taruc’s heroism, however, forces us to take a closer look at the different, even conflicting, narratives of heroism we have learned to tell. To make a nation, it takes all kinds of heroes. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Politics

The truth is, Filipinos have long been anxious about Duterte’s #warondrugs

A 10-part Twitter thread, starting here.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: But where is the President?

When the President went missing. Published on June 27, 2017.

I understand, from the official daily schedule circulated on Monday by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, that President Duterte will make a public appearance today for the first time in almost a week. The “tentative schedule” (these releases are almost always classified as tentative) shows the President attending the “Eid’l Fitr Celebration” in Malacañang at 7 p.m.

This marks the second time in as many weeks that Mr. Duterte has been missed. He was not seen in public from June 12 to 16, and again from June 21 to 26 — assuming, that is, that he keeps his appointment tonight. (It is the only appointment on his agenda today, according to the schedule shared with the reporters and bloggers who cover him.)

At a general meeting of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines last week that I was privileged to address, a gentleman during the Q&A noted the traditional media’s “failure” to report on the President’s whereabouts. I understood what he meant, and conceded his point (in a word, the media should dig deeper), but I also noted other factors at work that made the President’s first prolonged absence controversial. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

Column: What would Rizal say (to Duterte)?

The 2nd In the Shadow of the Dragon forum, held at the auditorium of the De La Salle University Rufino Campus, in BGC.

Published on June 20, 2017.

At an Inquirer forum on Philippine independence and the rise of China, the young historian Leloy Claudio said something in passing which generated some Twitter attention. “If Rizal were alive today, he’d be ‘dilawan,’” Claudio said. He was referencing Rizal’s struggle for civil liberties as an indication that he would be, in today’s reductionist, polarized setting, not a Duterte supporter but an Aquino reformist—that is, a “Yellow.”

We mark Rizal’s 156th birthday at a time when the incumbent President is seeking to overhaul Philippine society itself; as Claudio’s remarks suggest, Rizal today seems more indispensable than ever. I think I know why: He reminds us what it means to be Filipino. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in History, Readings in Politics, Readings in Rizal

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Always ahead of the curve, Lourd de Veyra circulated this six-line poem some time ago; it is a reflection on the nature of tyranny. (W. H. Auden wrote it in January 1939, and I believe was referencing Adolf Hitler.) We can listen to Auden himself recite the poem, here.

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Leave a comment

Filed under Readings in History, Readings in Politics