Tsinoy Beats and Bytes

When politics precedes economics

A president is elected to office with a mandate. He is handed stewardship of the nation’s welfare. People place in him their collective trust that he will do right by them.
Yet, the specter of dictatorial rule hovers over the country ever more so. This makes even more poignant the memories of Sept. 21, 1972, when then president Ferdinand E. Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus, declared martial law and held democracy at bay.
By doing so, Marcos betrayed the electorate’s trust. He turned a free country into his personal fiefdom, where things happened and people came and went – or didn’t – according to his whims.
Fast forward to the present: Conflict between government and rebels continues in Mindanao. Lawlessness and kidnapping have reached new highs. Martial law remains in force.
In the nation’s capital, there is a siege against critics of President Rodrigo Duterte. Political persecution of his enemies proceeds full speed. What of his stewardship of the nation?

Inflation continues to haunt and torment ordinary people, wage earners and the poor. Malacañang’s ridiculous response to this: Blame American President Donald Trump for the country’s soaring inflation rate. Duterte said the tariff the United States imposed on Chinese goods, an offshoot of the heated trade war between those two nations, has made products more expensive and resulted in inflation in the country. But the tariff applies to goods entering the US. How does it affect prices in the Philippines? It is just as ridiculous for Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol to say there is no rice shortage. Of course, there is no shortage of commercial rice which ordinary people cannot afford. Cheaper rice from the National Food Authority is what people are demanding.
Another ridiculous piece of news is about the Philippines importing galunggong (round scad). With our 7,100 islands, it is really funny we have to import the fish. It is so ridiculous it hurts. Equally ridiculous is the government’s solution to inflation, the high cost of living and the rice crisis: Import, import and import pa more. This is the easy way out; it is not a long-term solution to chronic problems.
For a change, how about if the nation’s leader uses his clout to make government face the issues head on: Help farmers improve rice production, help local manufacturers bring down production costs. Instead, Duterte spent precious time on television hitting Trillanes and former president Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III’s administration, an easier undertaking than taking on the more important tasks of fixing and improving the economy.

Big scare
Duterte’s announcement that he would address the nation at 3 p.m. on Sept. 11, the 101st birth anniversary of the late dictator Marcos, brought much frenzy. He gave no hint of what his announcement would be about and created a big scare among citizens. The optimist guessed Duterte would announce he is stepping down. He has been saying of late that he is tired and is ready to quit. The pessimist said no, he would declare martial law or, at best, suspend habeas corpus so he could get back at his critics. This happened especially after his failed attempt to have Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV arrested.
Many other scenarios were proposed, which only shows how little trust people have in the president. Because he has blatantly disregarded and disrespected the rule of law, people feel that anything, including martial law, can be possible with him at the helm.
But our apprehensions proved wrong. He had instead a tête-à-tête with his legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, to rehash things he has been saying all along about a range of topics, from the rice crisis, his health, and his war on drugs, to Trillanes and assassination and ouster plots.

Political persecution
Revocation of the amnesty granted to Trillanes has backfired, more against Duterte than against his minion Solicitor General Jose Calida, believed to have instigated the move to revoke the amnesty. The revocation appears indefensible, starting with Duterte’s proclamation.
Proclamation No. 572, titled “Revocation of the Department of National Defense AD HOC Committee Resolution No. 2 (31) dated January 31, 2011 insofar as it granted amnesty to former LTSG Antonio Trillanes IV,” was signed by Duterte and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and announced when both were already in Israel and Jordan on an official visit. The reason given for the revocation was “there is no available copy of Trillanes’ application for amnesty in the file records;” ergo, Trillanes did not file an Official Amnesty Application Form.
Likewise, the proclamation stated Trillanes never expressed his guilt for the crimes committed during the Oakwood mutiny and the Manila Peninsula hotel siege, which disqualifies him from the amnesty ab initio (from the beginning).
Social media had a blast uploading and forwarding videos of Trillanes filing the application form for amnesty at the Department of National Defense in 2011, with clear screenshots of the signed form. Footage also showed Trillanes saying sorry for what he and his soldiers did.

Wrong moves
After the proclamation, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Edgard Arevalo said court martial proceedings will proceed against the senator because they were never terminated. Arevalo said acting AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Salvador Melchor Mison Jr. has already instructed the convening of a general court martial that will hear Trillanes’ case.
Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong, meanwhile, said police and military personnel are already at the Senate, waiting to arrest Trillanes. However, Trillanes presented evidence that he was already a civilian since 2007, having by then left the military service and obtained the required clearances from the AFP.
Trillanes, of course, had no recourse but go to court to seek a restraining order on Proclamation 572. Duterte’s camp, knowing its plans have backfired, then used the convenient excuse that the military arrest for Trillanes is deferred – for now.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has decided to await the issuance of a warrant of arrest by the Makati regional trial court. The DND likewise said in a statement that it “respects the judicial process and will defer to the decision of the court on the matter.”
Let’s hope the military respects the Constitution and the supremacy of the Filipino people over any politician.
Duterte’s revocation of Trillanes’ amnesty shows the depth of his desperation to get back at the senator, who exposed his bank accounts.
Duterte had earlier tried retaliating by fabricating foreign bank accounts allegedly belonging to Trillanes. He failed, and his previous and latest moves have only succeeded in making Trillanes a media celebrity.

Father to son
As we remember the declaration of martial law, let us also remember this letter of a father to his son, even if 35 years have passed since it was written. I still shed tears every time I read it. Just before he died, Ninoy wrote his son Noynoy (Benigno S. Aquino III) a letter, explaining his choice to walk into “the jaws of death,” knowing it meant leaving behind a widow and fatherless children.
It was a touching letter from father to son, in which father beseeched son to look after his sisters and mother, and, more importantly, love his country.
“There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength,” wrote Ninoy.
This letter gives us hope that no matter how dismal the political events around us, we still have people whose overpowering love for the Philippines continues to inspire and remind us that the Filipino is indeed worth dying for.
Read the full text of the letter here: