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Silence and consent, May 1, 2010

May 1, 2010

Silence and consent

By Manuel L. Quezon III

THE patron saint of politicians is St. Thomas More. Pope John Paul II in his Motu Proprio proclaiming More as such, pointed out “he refused to take the oath [to recognize the king’s rejection of the primacy of the pope] requested of him, since this would have involved accepting a political and ecclesiastical arrangement that prepared the way for uncontrolled despotism.” In this manner, and through his martyrdom, More “distinguished himself by his constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions precisely in his intention to serve not power but the supreme ideal of justice.”

More’s biographer Richard Marius (according to J.D.M. Derrett, in his article, “More’s Silence and His Trial,” in the English Historical Revue) put great emphasis on More’s refusal to make any public statement on King Henry VIII’s decision to take on a new wife and place himself at the head of the Church in England. The king’s councilors, knowing his great prestige, in conducting More’s trial for treason kept giving him chances to somehow publicly state he was adopting the king’s position. Instead, More stubbornly held to his “loud silence.”

At the heart of More’s silence was that silence itself was put forward as an indictable crime by the king’s prosecutors, while More himself maintained it was no crime: in fact the assumption of English law at the time was that “silence implies consent,” the same sort of argument put forward by Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to suggest he enjoys the full support of the President.

Derrett explained the implications of More’s stubborn refusal to publicly endorse the king’s actions as follows: “Now silence was no crime by common law, but the men who developed the law of treason under Henry VIII had civil law at their disposal, whether for their consciences or their contrivances; and indeed if important men were to be allowed to escape punishment for concealing their opinion, and their consultations with dissidents, no statutory enactment of constitutional opinions or principles could have any hope of success. In that world of experiment where, as Marius would have it, the deaths of the Carthusian martyrs, of Bishop Fisher, and of More, were foregone conclusions, the international notion that failure to disclose what was going on — clearly capable of being conceived as within the common-law offence of misprision of treason –was in itself a crime under the lex Iulia maiestatis, could be exploited opportunistically, and be carried (as Henry’s reign showed abundantly) where the needs of the time took it.”

Therefore More could not shield himself by prudently pleading, as a later minister of a head of state, Gilbert Teodoro Jr. tried to do, “privileged information” when asked his opinion and knowledge of President Arroyo’s actions. More, in a sense, argued a medieval version of this; he was a former minister of the Crown; he was being asked to make an explicit endorsement of actions the king undertook; More refused to endorse, but also made no categorical denunciation: rather, the king’s ordering his trial for treason was an explicit statement of the real collision, between the king’s arguments and More’s conscience as a loyal Catholic.

Hence More’s famous statement on the scaffold, that he died the king’s good subject –but God’s first. This is the path all politicians who hold religious convictions are supposed to take; and it is, indeed, one that even those with a wholly secular orientation are supposed to adhere to, when a higher law collides with the whims and wishes of established authorities. Soldiers and statesman alike are supposed to refuse illegal orders, no matter the cost to themselves in terms of career and the bearing the full brunt of the law.

Justice Secretary Agra argues that he did the right thing in ordering murder charges against ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Maguindanao vice-governor Akmad Ampatuan. He says the President, in so far, holding her peace despite the public outrage that’s ensued, is obviously of the same opinion. The authorities have shrugged off the walk-out staged by state prosecutors furious over the instructions they received, saying it’s just a squabble within the Department of Justice. This is a cunning sort of thing to do, because it immediately reduces the outrage of the prosecutors and the families of the victims into an opinion like any other –while upholding the presumption of regularity by executive officials that’s been such a useful tool for the Palace to blunt criticism of its controversial actions.

As Senator Edgardo Angara smoothly advised, the President shouldn’t even intervene because the whole thing is “a purely judicial matter.” Why, after all, even concede an inch to the court of public opinion, when the disposition of the pending cases can be confined to the court of law? Anyone dissatisfied with it is, after all, welcome to take the path of the indignant state prosecutors –they can walk out, and good riddance, as far as the Palace is concerned. Agra said he is allowing the prosecutors to express their sentiments but expects them to follow orders –or else.

And as for allegations he accepted a bribe to take a dive for the Ampatuans –well, the Secretary of Justice says he might have a libel case or two in store for such rumor-mongers.

Our prayerful and hard-working President must be thinking, in a biblical vein, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Our issue for February 27, 2010

Philippines

FREE PRESS

February 27, 2010 Issue

 

Main Features

 

On the Cover: Senatorial candidate Gilbert Remulla

(With eight-page, full-color supplement)

Cover story c/o Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre

 

1.Too Many Cooks

The amalgamation of ideas from various civil-society groups, politicians and volunteers leads to an internal “struggle of perspective” in the campaign of Benigno Aquino III. Now, Florencio Abad, Liberal Party campaign manager, says the camp is brainstorming the effects of the way Aquino’s political strategists and handlers are running the show on his campaign, especially in the wake of Manuel Villar’s catching up with him in the polls. Apparently, the conservatives, among them the former senior government officials who broke away from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 after it became known that she might not have been elected, have had too much say on Aquino’s campaign. They thought there was no need for Aquino to run a “traditional campaign,” Abad says, because it was a “people’s campaign” and people “will go out of their way” for Aquino. As it has turned out, the Liberals need to do it the harder way, including a door-to-door campaign, to get the vote out. The “Cory magic” is still there, but it will not work if you do not fire it. So now Aquino is taking over to run his own campaign and pull away from Villar. The main problem is how to counter Villar’s big-time spending on TV ads, the strategy that has catapulted the Nacionalista candidate to the very front line. And, of course, without violating the Comelec’s obsolete rules on campaign spending. Ten pesos per candidate for the entire three-month campaign?

By Wendell Vigilia and Guiller de Guzman

 

2. Ruling Against Reform

Three recent rulings against reformist local officials have made the Second Division of the Commission on Elections suspect. Did those three commissioners in the division—Nicodemo Ferrer, Elias Yusop and Lucenito Tagle—sell out to the allies of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Pampanga, Isabela and Bulacan? The gubernatorial victories of Catholic priest Eduardo Panlilio of Pampanga, Grace Padaca of Isabela and Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan over Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the three provinces have suddenly turned into defeat in vote recounts presided over by the Second Division. It is also this division that has been making those controversial decisions in the qualification of candidates in May’s general elections, including disqualifying a gay-rights party-list group on moral grounds, as if it had never heard of the separation clause, which the Supreme Court threw at the three election officials’ faces. The loss of Padaca and Mendoza in the recount has been suspicious enough, but really suspicious, though it has been widely expected, is Panlilio’s loss to the wife of the alleged jueteng emperor of Pampanga, Mrs. Arroyo’s best friend, Lilia Pineda. Without a party and without money and only with the Pampangans’ determination to reform politics in their province behind him, Panlilio defeated Pineda in 2007. Pineda has been unable to accept that the people of Pampanga’s will has prevailed over her traditional politician’s tactics, and she has been protesting, and has successfully convinced the Second Division that she is the winner. The recount did not include ballots that were burned in a fire in Mabalacat town where Panlilio’s lead over Pineda presumably was also burned. The Second Division is aware of the destruction of the ballots, and yet dismissed all the filings of Panlilio and accepted all those of Pineda, and proceeded with the recount. Now, despite the time allowed for Panlilio to bring a motion for reconsideration, up to the Supreme Court, in fact, Pineda’s camp is in a hurry to put her in the capitol. The reason for the rush is obvious: no reformist and no interfering allies of his must be around to watch the automated vote counters on May 10.

By Guiller de Guzman

 

3. Defying the Court

Those 43 community health-care workers rounded up by the military in Morong, Rizal, last week could only be communist sympathizers and not combatants or NPA “leaders.” But even if they are actually rebels, they have rights and the military is bound by both domestic and international laws to respect those rights. As the Commission on Human Rights has found, however, the military is handling the suspects like Abu Ghraib prisoners. If it could have its way, the military would ignore the courts, too. It has taken a “general order” from the military chief for the Army to obey a habeas corpus writ from the Supreme Court and produce the suspects before the Court of Appeals on Monday. The excuses offered by the Army for its failure to bring the suspects to court last Friday, defended by in-house rightists in Malacañang, are unacceptable and has erased the credibility of the military in claiming that it respects the rule of law. The Army had six-by-sixes to haul the 43 to its camp, but none to transport them to court? All the officers responsible for that defiance of the court should be called to account. There must be consequences when you defy the highest court of the land, even if you are the military. And the military should explain why it arrested those health-care workers. What is their offense? Treating wounded rebels or rebels ailing from malaria in the hills? That is not against the law. Doctors and nurses may not choose patients.

By Guiller de Guzman

 

4. Stand by, if by chance space allows: President Arroyo names a new state prosecutor, the one who will prosecute her if suits rain down on her after she leaves Malacañang. Is this constitutional? We doubt it.

By Guiller de Guzman

 

5. Features (c/o Ricky S. Torre and Erwin T. Romulo)

 

Two editorials

The Defiant Era, January 30, 2010

The Defiant Era

By Manuel L. Quezon III

Forty years ago, the First Quarter Storm rocked Manila, which had not seen anarchy on this scale since the Pacific War. A look back at the movement, where it failed and where it succeeded

 

January 30, 2010-THE thrilling thing about the year “was that it was a time when significant segments of population all over the globe refused to be silent about the many things that were wrong with the world.” “And this gave the world a sense of hope that it has rarely had, a sense that where there is wrong, there are always people who will expose it and try to change it.”

That was Mark Kurlansky writing in his marvelous book 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. From Cuba to China to Czechoslovakia, France, Mexico, Poland and the United States, young people began to rebel against the establishment. Kurlansky believes the postwar generation was prepared to do so, ironically because of the relative security and comfort they enjoyed and their having been born after the privations and traumas of World War II. And so young people in communist countries challenged party dictatorship while their counterparts in the democratic world turned leftward to challenge the bourgeois certainties of their elders, for it was in that year, too, here in the Philippines, that an elite family celebrated a wedding anniversary with heedless ostentation.

Filipinos born after the war, who had no memory of that period or the succeeding era of the Huks, came to share the restlessness and iconoclasm of their counterparts around the world: students demonstrated against the Vietnam War (it was the year of the T?t Offensive), and for social reforms in the Catholic Church and in the schools.

In that year, Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr. published a commentary in the American publication Foreign Affairs, describing the country as “a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy. Here, too, are a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite. Here is a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Aquino was writing in response to the massacre of Lapiang Malaya ralliers on May 21, 1967. Democracy had survived the Huk rebellion; and yet, even the beneficiaries of the relative stability of the mid-Fifties to mid-Sixties left an increasingly better-educated and cosmopolitan urban middle class in discontent.

The First Quarter Storm came two years after the rest of the world was convulsed by student rebellions in 1968. By all accounts, 1969 was the year in which protesting in the style of the civil rights movement in the United States – peaceful, nonviolent, reformist – gave way to more militant protests and bluntly revolutionary aspirations among the youth, along with the flag hoisted with the red field up.

Ferdinand Marcos won an unprecedented full second term as president toward the end of that year. In those days, when presidential terms began on December 30, a newly elected president delivered his annual State of the Nation at the opening of Congress in January. In 1970, that address to Congress was scheduled on a Monday, January 26. A mere four weeks had passed since Marcos’s inaugural as the [Third] Republic’s first reelected president.

Recalling the era for The Philippine Century, an anthology of writings published in the Free Press, veteran journalist Dan Mariano writes: “Outside the Legislative Building, hundreds of moderate student activists were demonstrating to urge the government to call a constitutional convention.” Jose F. Lacaba, in “The January 26 Confrontation: A Highly Personal Account,” the first of his articles on the First Quarter Storm for this magazine, writes that student leader Edgar Jopson, who was then a moderate, had his group’s microphones kept away from radical student leader Gary Olivar, and the radicals wrangled with the moderates just as Marcos had finished his speech and was stepping out of the Legislative Building.

It was then, Mariano’s account continues, that “a paper mache crocodile (representing government corruption) and a makeshift coffin (symbolizing the death of democracy) flew” in the direction of Marcos and his wife, Imelda. “Security aides quickly hustled Marcos into his waiting limousine and sped away from the angry mob. Moments later, Manila police armed with truncheons and rattan shields attacked the student demonstrators who fought back with empty soft-drink bottles, rocks and the wooden frames of their placards.”

The moderates tried to pacify by means of speeches the radicals, among them the Maoist Kabataang Makabayan. But the radicals, as Lacaba reports, were “spoiling for trouble” with the cops and were “in no mood for dinner-party chatter and elocution contests.”

From the battleground that was the vicinity of the Legislative Building on Burgos Drive, the demonstrations that now launched the First Quarter Storm moved on to the premises of Malacañang, after a relative lull of three days in which student groups still took to the streets to denounce the government. Then came Friday, January 30 – “so far the most violent night in the city’s postwar history,” as Lacaba writes in retrospect about these events.

The radicals were demonstrating again in front of the Legislative Building, as the moderates went to Malacañang for an audience with Marcos that turned into a tense confrontation. By the end of that meeting, the radicals had trooped as well to the Palace. As Lacaba reports in “And the January 30 Insurrection,” “[w]hat specific event precipitated the battle that spread out to other parts of the city, and lasted till dawn the next day, may never be known. The students who came from Congress claim that, as they were approaching J. P. Laurel Street, they heard something that sounded like firecrackers going off. When they got to Malacanang, the crowd was getting to be unruly. It was growing dark, and the lamps on the Malacanang gates had not been turned on. There was a shout of ‘Sindihan ang ilaw! Sindihan ang ilaw!’ Malacañang obliged, the lights went on, and then crash! a rock blasted out one of the lamps. One by one, the lights were put out by stones or sticks.”

Firefighters arrived at the scene, literally to extinguish the political conflagration at the Palace gates, but the hose they aimed at the protesters yielded a “sputtering spurt,” then the comical became tragic as the protesters ran after and roughed up the fleeing firefighters, then rammed the fire truck into Malacañang’s Mendiola gate. The very center of power suddenly became a tear-gassed arena, as the presidential guards at once engaged the protesters who were lobbing Molotov cocktails into the Palace grounds.

Amid the blaze of a parked vehicle that had been set on fire, the presidential guards managed to drive out the mob, and the battle shifted again to downtown Manila where, this time, not just cops, but “constabulary troopers” confronted the protesters, reports Lacaba. There were also looters among this defiant crowd, who exploited the situation, smashing shop windows and spiriting away “jewelry and shoes.” Soon enough, “the soldiers started firing with Thompsons into the ground,” the dreadful staccato intended as warning, and yet some protesters were hit by shrapnel. Lacaba himself became caught up in the frenzy of rushing some of the injured to the nearby hospitals, and it is remarkable, going by his account, that not a few residents in the area helped hide the protesters who, fleeing from their pursuers, had wandered into the maze of Manila’s dark alleys.

By dawn, the revolution of January 30 was quite over, hundreds had been arrested and an eerie, smoke-filled silence was restored in the city. But this was just the beginning of the Storm. Marcos did not immediately issue his infamous dire warnings – his threats to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and declare martial law. He still maintained that air of equanimity, as opposed to the spitefulness attributed to him since. Nevertheless this period became his transition to authoritarianism. Vice President Fernando Lopez resigned from the Cabinet the next day.

These events were chronicled by the Free Press writers in what has since been widely acclaimed as “literature in a hurry.” Lacaba’s articles for this magazine and Asia-Philippines Leader remain in print in a book titled Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage: The First Quarter Storm and Related Events, which harks back to a time when protesting in front of the US Embassy was daringly new and not the ossified ritual that such actions became since; when communism and socialism were daring new thought and not bogged down in debates over whether they’re old cant; when the established social order was besieged and a generation of Filipinos thought it was possible to push it to the wall so that it would either reform or suffer destruction through revolution.

In contrast to Lacaba’s reportage, Kerima Polotan, sympathetic to Marcos where Lacaba was brilliantly antipathetic, recounted the same events but with hardly any sympathy for Marcos’s critics, whether old or young. Instead, she wrote of those in whom the radicalism of the youth inspired not admiration but fear.

“Right or wrong, one had kept one’s children off the streets all their lives, a canon, one had warned them clearly, they were not to break while they lived under one’s roof,” went Polotan’s “The Long Week,” published alongside Lacaba’s accounts of the January 26 and 30 riots in the Free Press of February 7, 1970. “They went to school and then came home. They had duties and chores, and tonight, while the police chased some other mothers’ children down below, one’s own young were at home getting supper for the small ones, washing the dishes, and locking up the kitchen before turning to their books – altogether not a popular kind of activism, not any kind of activism at all, not modern, but one’s personal, though passage, idea of parenthood. Parents surrender quickly these days and pay for their easy abdication with the broken skulls of their sons and the crushed legs of their daughters.”

Lacaba’s book recaptures the ferment, the freshness, of a period of agitation that resulted, alas, in dictatorship and in a generation robbed of their chance to lead. Yesterday’s FQS protesters are today’s middle-aged baby boomers with grown-up children of their own, often ensconced in the establishment, either in business or government. Yet the historical verdict seems clear: Lacaba’s articles have survived, Polotan’s, forgotten; youthful idealism continues to be honored; the New Society generally acknowledged to be a sham.

To read Lacaba’s book is to be able to answer a crucial question about that generation: Have yesterday’s activists-turned-today’s fat cats been able to totally jettison their radical youth, or is there something in them ingrained by that period that bears watching as they now handle the levers of power? I would argue that those FQS veterans now in high places cannot avoid a radically different outlook, with its quiet but perceptible impact on how power is wielded in the present day.

Reading eyewitness accounts of great events also points to the depressing reality that some things never change. The reactionaries remain so; the reformists stuck, too, in a rut of self-doubt; and the radicals in a time warp. And, indirectly, Lacaba’s book raises a question no one has ever been able to answer in a satisfactory manner. Did the agitation of idealistic and romantic youth in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies make dictatorship more appealing? For the shameful fact is that martial law was greeted with relief by a majority of Filipinos, at least from the upper and middle classes, who rejoiced in the curfew, in the cutting of hippie hair, not to mention the padlocking of Congress and suppression of liberties. For, if so, the Filipino may be innately reactionary – with all that such a conclusion shockingly implies.

Recalling that eventful first quarter of 1970, Dan Mariano writes, “Although the country had more roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems than ever before, the economy had begun to nose-dive. The peso underwent a 100 percent devaluation, with the exchange rate going from P2.00 to P4.00, then P8.00. The prices of basic commodities rose out of the reach of the working population, whose wages were not allowed to keep up with inflation.”

By April that year, a general strike was held protesting against increases in oil prices and transportation costs. The next year saw the Diliman Commune, the revolt by University of the Philippines students in February. But the sign of those times was not the Diliman Commune itself, which continues to throb gloriously in the memories of FQS veterans, but a parallel effort overlooked because it’s inconvenient. As students barricaded the campus and broadcast a recording of the President’s postcoital croonings to Dovie Beams, some residents in the area banded together and hunted down the radical students in the defense of order and their property rights.

And it was Ferdinand Marcos, the last product of the American educational system, but a mutant one in that his political maturity took place during the confused, corrupt and corrupting circumstances of the Japanese Occupation, who gambled on form trumping substance. So long as the trappings of legitimacy were maintained, the upper and middle class would embrace his “Revolution from the Center” and tolerate, if not actually accept with enthusiasm, his “New Society.”

The Plaza Miranda bombing took place on August 21, 1971. Two days after, 20 people were arrested as Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus. Martial law followed a year and a month later, restoring order on the surface but fueling the already underground radical movement that Jopson himself would at last join and sacrifice his life for. Yet, when revolution finally came, it wasn’t what the young radicals dreamed of in 1970. It was an entirely different creature, what came to be known as People Power in 1986, and Velvet Revolutions elsewhere since.

Philippines Free Press Special 101st Anniversary Issue

Cover photo by Alexander Loinaz, who recounts,
The cover photo of Cory Aquino which I took on August 24, 1983 was during her press interview after the transfer of Ninoy’s body from their time street home to Sto, Domingo church. There were only a handful of reporters from the various news bureaus probably due to fear of reprisal by the authorities. Only Radio Veritas was bold enough to cover the arrival at the airport thanks to Mr. Harry Gasser who was GM of Radio Veritas in 1983. He assigned Veritas reporters Jun Tanya to cover the arrival at the airport with Ben Paipon stationed in the OB van at Baclaran church where Ninoy was suppose to proceed for a thanks giving mass had he been released on house arrest.

Commentary: A perfect plan, July 11, 2009

July 11, 2009

A perfect plan

By Manuel L. Quezon III

PERCEPTION, some say, trumps reality in politics. For that reason, when a politician told me a couple of weeks ago, that large billboards had begun to adorn the second district of Pampanga, bearing the photos of former President Diosdado Macapagal, his daughter President Macapagal-Arroyo, and her son, incumbent Rep. Mikey Arroyo, together with the acronym “PM: Pamlyang Maasahan,” I thought to myself it matters less if any such billboard even exists, and more that people say such billboards have been erected.

Onofre Corpuz, in his book “The Roots of the Filipino Nation,” observed that “It is still a truism in modern-day Philippine politics that no President of the Republic gains anything by interfering in contests between provincial political ‘chieftains’. Nothing romantic in that; but then the legacies of great events are often found in the mundane and in the pragmatic considerations of leadership.” But other observers have pointed out that one of the great levers of power for presidents, is the ability to referee local contests; but it is a risky undertaking, only for the most daring chief executives.

Mrs. Arroyo has never been one to reflect – in public, anyway- on her philosophy of power, if she has one at all. All we have to gage her approach to the presidency -and power in general- is how she’s actually wielded that power. Her approach has been described as “transactional leadership,” and as far as that goes she isn’t particularly different from her predecessors in leaving local politics alone so long as local leaders toe the party line, which is to support her presidency. Inducements to toe the party line are offered in cash and kind, and again, this is not remarkable departure from past administrations, except, perhaps, in her attention to detail, which admirers and detractors alike concede can be breathtaking.

What is different, though again, not unprecedented, in that it harks back to the national divisions over the question of the continuation in power of President Marcos in 1972 and 1986, is how national politics and politicians have been pitted against local politics and politicians on the question of the survival of the present dispensation.

The President made good use of the argument that the rise and fall of administrations shouldn’t be decided by rallies in Manila, which is a flawed argument. In the first place, national capitals are a microcosm of the nation; and second of all, it usually only in the more liberal atmosphere of a national capital that the public can more often than not, fully express itself in opposition to the powers that be (try holding a rally under the noses of a provincial warlord!). Flawed as it was, the argument was a powerful one, and played up the President’s strength – she knew how to take care of the provincial leaders.

The limits of that strength, however, were demonstrated in 2007 when Lakas-CMD and Kampi proceeded to compete with each other, locally, which limited their opportunity to compete, as a ruling coalition, against the President’s critics, particularly in the national arena. In which case, while Lakas and Kampi both edged out opposition rivals locally, they were left where they’d been prior to 2007: controlling local governments, the House, and the Presidency, but bogged down in the Senate and lacking a firm hold on the Supreme Court.

The 2010 elections could, conceivably, end the battle of attrition in which all sides have been bogged down since 2005. In the first place, the Supreme Court will be dominated by appointees of Mrs. Arroyo. In the second place, with the President’s term about to end, the ruling coalition could, conceivably, recapture the Senate, while maintaining its dominance in local politics and the House. It would be, in 2010, where it’d hoped to be, in 2007. Except for one thing: the President, precisely, would be out of office, and she, for one, besides being at the mercy of a potentially vindictive successor, by being out of the presidency, might provoke the typical realignment of forces that accompanies the election of a new president, regardless of where the former ruling coalition actually stands.

But if the ruling coalition were to go into 2010 with a plan that would maintain the cozy local and House arrangements in place since 2001; if that was fortified by recapturing the Senate; and with an obliging Supreme Court in place – and finally, with former President Arroyo still in a position of power, say, as Speaker Arroyo in the 15th Congress, the possibilities would be delightful, indeed, for everybody concerned – in the current ruling coalition, at least.

The President could, of course, run for the Senate, but it might galvanize her opponents and besides, deprive the coalition of a senatorial slot with which to repay past favors to supporters; on the other hand, a congressional race would be much more manageable. It would also solve a pesky problem, in local Pampanga politics.

In 2007, “Among Ed” Panlilio was elected Governor of Pampanga because the Lapids and the Pinedas fought each other, and the President couldn’t – or wouldn’t- broker unity among her local allies. In 2010, there’s the possibility that the President’s son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, might be persuaded to run for governor of Pampanga, allowing the Lapids and Pinedas to coalesce and reclaim political control of the governorship. This would also enable the President to run for the position currently held by her son.

Governor Panlilio, so far, has played, perfectly, into the hands of those who want him out of office so business can go back, to shall we say, “normal.” When Randy David announced he might contest the congressional seat if the President runs for it, Panlilio then made noises about some sort of “search committee” to find a suitable candidate – and then suggested if one can’t be found, he’d consider running for congressman. The inevitable result of this sort of talk would be to alienate a reform constituency already galvanized by the idea of a David vs. Arroyo showdown.

Besides which, if Panlilio – who was already previously flirting with the idea of running for senator or even president- decides to run for congressman, he has no potential successor for governor, and so control of the capitol would return, almost certainly, to either the Lapids or Pinedas or both, under Mikey Arroyo. And Panlilio could still face a debacle at the polls, going head-to-head against Mrs. Arroyo.

But then again – if Panlilio seeks a new mandate as governor, and David runs for congressman, challenging the President, could she possibly lose?

Our issue for April 25, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 25, 2009 Issue

Main Features

Cover: Speaker Prospero Nograles and Kampi President Luis Villafuerte

1. The Enablers

Speaker Prospero Nograles resigns as president of Lakas-CMD and Rep. Luis Villafuerte steps down as president of Kampi to give way to the merger the two parties of President Arroyo. But the merger is an old story and the resignations of Nograles and Villafuerte are only intended to project concentration on next year’s general elections. The two parties will still force passage of a resolution for a constituent assembly that will revise the Constitution for a shift to parliamentary government, which will enable Mrs. Arroyo to run for a seat in parliament, there to be elected prime minister. Their intention is to get a ruling from the Supreme Court by June on whether the House of Representatives can revise the Constitution without the Senate, which refuses to take part in a constituent assembly. With three new justices on the court by June, the administration believes the decision will go its way. If that happens, forget the presidential election.

         By Guiller de Guzman

2. Moral Force

Chief Justice Reynato Puno leads a new movement for the moral transformation of the Philippines, largely aimed at shaming the Arroyos and their allies into leaving public life after next year’s general elections. Supported by the Catholic Church and other religious denominations in the Philippines, civic, legal, and activist groups, the movement will define the characteristics of good leaders and muster 10 million votes to ensure the election of such leaders next year. But will there be elections?

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. The Killers

Human Rights Watch blames the continuing vigilante-style killings in Davao City on President Arroyo. By supporting the city’s tough-guy mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, Mrs. Arroyo, the group says, in effect sanctions the killings. More than 800 people, mostly critics of Duterte, according to House Speaker Prospero Nograles, have been killed since 2001, about the same number of activists, trade unionists, human-rights workers and lawyers who have been killed in various parts of the country since Mrs. Arroyo came to power in that year. But don’t expect anything to come out of the Human Rights Commission’s investigation: the National Police, though ordered by Mrs. Arroyo to support the probe, is daring human rights advocates to prove that there are vigilante killings in Davao.

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Give Earth a Chance

April—Earth Month—is cruel to the United States, which insists predictions of catastrophes caused by climate change are based only on computer models and cannot actually happen. The out-of-season storm system and wildfires that swept from Texas to Tennessee on April really happened, and they were exactly the kind of catastrophes that Europe and Asia, including the Philippines, are asking the United States to help avert by joining the global effort to slow down climate change.

         By J. de Jesus

5. Features

Our issue for April 18, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 18, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Cavite Gov. Eugenio Maliksi

         (with eight-page, full-color supplement)

         By Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre

1.Rattled

With their plan to sabotage next year’s general election by revising the Constitution just waiting to be pronounced dead, the allies of President Arroyo are turning to Plan B: find a strong presidential candidate. But there is no one in their ranks. So Lakas-CMD is trying to pressure unaffiliated Vice President Noli de Castro, who is leading in the all polls, into running for the administration. Kampi, Mrs. Arroyo’s original party, has no one, and it cannot dare to play clown and offer its president, Luis Villafuerte, as even half a candidate. The Nationalist People’s Coalition is in disarray, with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who is said to be Mrs. Arroyo’s choice, vacationing from the party because the boss, Eduardo Cojuangco, prefers to hand the banner to Sen. Francis Escudero for the race. Cojuangco’s choice could send Sen. Loren Legarda, in the top four in most polls, shopping her presidential ambition around for a backer, weakening some more the administration’s chances of retaining power. The worst-case scenario is drawing from the opposition, and here the ruling coalition’s target is Sen. Manuel Villar. But Villar does not need to cross over to the administration to run for Malacañang. If financing for the campaign is the problem, that is for other candidates to worry about, not his. A candidate must be found before November, the advanced deadline for candidates’ registration.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

2. Failed Again

If the House of Representatives fails to swing the revision of the Constitution before the end of the first regular session in June, that’s it for the ruling coalition. Speaker Prospero Nograles is giving the effort only up to the first week of June. After that, the coalition must seriously turn to finding a presidential candidate or Malacañang will go to the opposition, and everybody knows what that means—big trouble, especially for the crooks. But Luis Villafuerte, the Kampi president who reads only the letter of the Constitution and ignores its spirit, insists the revision is still possible if the House can force a confrontation with the Senate in the Supreme Court for a ruling on how a constituent assembly votes. He thinks the new justices on the Supreme Court will vote for the administration in gratitude to President Arroyo. Chances are they won’t, so the better minds in the ruling coalition prefer to allow next year’s general election to go through. After all, there is still Plan C: buy hackers to monkey with the Comelec’s computers if the House fails to pass Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia’s proposal for a hand count of the vote.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

3. Blacklisted

Good news: The IMF will provide $1.1 trillion to help struggling economies combat the global recession. Bad news: the Philippines will get very little, if not exactly nothing, of it. The Group of 20 major economies has blacklisted the country, along with Costa Rica, Malaysia and Uruguay, for its uncooperativeness in the international effort at transparency in tax information. This is going to hurt the Philippines, which is offering all sorts of incentives to foreign investors to come here and help the government deal with the worsening unemployment. Malacañang says the government is committed to comply with the international standards in tax information, and it is now calling on Congress to review the tax laws to speed up the country’s exit from the blacklist. Only the tax laws? How about the banking laws? The secretiveness of Philippine banking has always been an encouragement for offshore tax fraud and even local official corruption. This is not going to be easy. Never mind the foreign cheats. There’s nothing they can do to stop the revision. It’s the local crooks who will surely lobby Congress to go easy on this one—secretly, of course.

By Guiller de Guzman

4. Meaningful Darkness

The Philippines saved 611 megawatts of electricity by turning off the lights for Earth Hour on March 28. That will not dent the impact of global warming on the Philippine environment, but taken together with the energy savings of the rest of the world that switched off the lights for Earth Hour, the savings will add up to one big message for world officials going to the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December: Act now and save Planet Earth.

By J. de Jesus

5. Features

Our issue for April 11, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 11, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Pampanga Gov. Eduardo Panlilio

1. Fr. Eduardo Panlilio, President of the Philippines

Filipinos fed up with politicians and hungry for good government are encouraging Pampanga’s priestly governor, Eduardo Panlilio, to run for Malacañang in next year’s general election. They suggest that he pick Isabela’s reformist governor, Grace Padaca, as his vice-presidential running mate. Panlilio, who has only one supporter on Pampanga’s 15-member provincial board, says he is open to a presidential run, but needs to go through a “period of discernment,” meaning he will study the matter. Meanwhile, he is campaigning for support among civil-society groups and nongovernmental organizations for a reform candidate—who can very well be him, as there is nobody around who can be seen as a real reformist, unless Pope Benedict XIV discovers that he is a Filipino and migrates to the Philippines tomorrow to meet the one-year residency requirement. Not all Catholic clerics are glad about Panlilio’s setting an eye on Malacañang. There are those who like the idea of a priestly president, like Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, who says canon law does not really prohibit priests from going into politics, and those who believe Panlilio must first leave the priesthood before running for the presidency, like Dagupan-Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for whom service to God is the sole vocation of a priest. But that is not really a problem, because if Panlilio really wants to serve as president, then he can leave the priesthood. The real question is his readiness to run the Philippines. As Sen. Manuel Villar, a declared presidential candidate, says, the presidency is not for OJTs.

     By Ricky S. Torre

2. Let the Debate Begin

The Commission on Elections can go ahead and automate next year’s general election—it will need the computers anyway. But the votes to be counted will not be for the usual local and national offices. They will be for local offices and members of parliament. As we have been saying in past issues, the allies of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives will force the revision of the Constitution before June, and sure enough Speaker Prospero Nograles has given approval for the start of the debate when Congress returns on April 13. Mrs. Arroyo says she wants the election to go through, but is doing nothing to stop her allies. Would she say no if this emergency project hurdles the Supreme Court?

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. See, She Is No Coddler

Facing impeachment charges in the House of Representatives, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has brought corruption charges against 17 former officials of the Public Works Department for the rigging of bids for road contracts in projects financed by the World Bank. The impeachment complaint against Gutierrez has stemmed from her sitting on the investigation of this scandal for one year and the likely reason is the involvement of her friend, Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of President Arroyo. Now the complainants can withdraw the charges. She has brought charges against the corrupt officials. The contractors involved will be investigated separately, but, rest assured, charges will be brought against them, too. How about Mr. Arroyo? Well, Mr. Arroyo is a private citizen, right? Is there a complainant?

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Leave No Trace

After the European Union raised a collective howl against the continuing political killings in the Philippines, President Arroyo ordered her security forces to stop unauthorized hits. More than 800 activists, trade unionists and human-rights workers and nearly the same number of journalists have been killed or kidnapped by the military or the police since Mrs. Arroyo came to power in 2001. In addition, more than 800 criminals have been killed in Davao City by groups believed to be vigilantes, although that city’s mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, and his hit men could behind the extrajudicial killings. Mrs. Arroyo’s order for a stop is more likely for the newspapers only. Her national security adviser, Norberto Gonzales, wants to know what killings the European Union is talking about. So don’t expect the abduction, rape and murder of an NPA commander’s daughter to be the last.

         By Guiller de Guzman

5. Holy Week Feature: Apostle to the Apostles

Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel has a literary anomaly. The race between Simon Peter and an unnamed disciple to the tomb of Jesus interrupts the narration of Mary Magdalene’s seeing the risen Lord. Scholars have been quick to notice the irregular position of the race to the tomb between Mary Magdalene’s going there and her seeing the risen Jesus and concluded that the present shape of chapter 20 is not its original form. The final redactor of John’s Gospel interpolated chapter 20 after the death of the evangelist (and also added chapter 21) for a particular reason, which had nothing to do with the Resurrection.

         By Guiller de Guzman

6. Features

Our issue for April 4, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 4, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Fighting Contraband (PASG chief Antonio Villar Jr.)

         With eight-page, full-color supplement

         By Pat Ruaya and Ricky S. Torre

1. Operation: Get Lacson

So, the administration has gotten to Cesar Mancao. Sen Panfilo Lacson has no doubt about that, and no matter what Palace officials say, Lacson sees Malacañang’s hand here. Mancao is pointing to Joseph Estrada as the mastermind and Lacson as responsible under the chain of command for the November 2000 murders of public relations agent Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. It’s been eight years, not really very long, but Mancao, at least as suggested by his statement now in the possession of the Justice Department, appears to have forgotten protocol. He could not have ridden in the same car with the chief of police, so that the conversation about a hit on Dacer that he claims he overheard aboard Lacson’s car could not have happened. Also, nobody in the Presidential Antiorganized Crime Task Force referred to Estrada by his mustache. From Lacson to the lowest-ranking agent, Estrada was simply “Erap.” At any rate, Lacson and Estrada are definitely in trouble—Lacson for keeping on trying to nail the Arroyos for corruption, and Estrada for trying to unite the opposition for next year’s presidential election.

         By Guiller de Guzman

2. Their Hands Are Dirty

The independent group of investigators headed by former Supreme Court justice Carolina Griño-Aquino has reinstated the charges against three wealthy drug dealers that the Justice Department dismissed in December. It seems that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been right: Justice Department officials and prosecutors have been bribed to dismiss the charges. President Arroyo has ordered the Justice Department to bring charges against the three suspects and the Presidential Antigraft Commission to go after the Justice officials involved—Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and Prosecutors Philip Kimpo and John Resado. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has already approved the prosecutors’ recommendation to dismiss the charges, but the Lady Boss, whose ratings are scraping the bottom, has hissed an order. Now he must reverse himself—or he might be suspected of being in on the corruption, too.

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. Still Lacking Power

Congress has approved amendments to the charter of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., among which would raise the insurance on bank deposits from P250,000 to P500,000. The new charter, however, still does not allow the PDIC to determine which deposits are legitimate and may be insured and which are illegitimate and therefore may not be insured. And the PDIC is still not allowed to function as a “bridge bank,” that is, an entity that can run closed banks until they are rehabilitated.

         By Dean de la Paz

4. Features

Our issue for March 28, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

March 28, 2009

Main Features

On the Cover: Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim

         Cover story c/o Dann Fabros and Ricky S. Torre

         Manila City Supplement, six pages, full color

         C/o Dann Fabros

1.The Ghosts of Murders Past

The Justice Department has reopened the Dacer murders case with the expected return from the United States of one of the suspects, former senior superintendent Cesar Mancao later this month. Mancao, who has decided not to contest his extradition to the Philippines, claims to have witnessed the planning of the murder of public relations agent Salvador Dacer and is believed to know who ordered the hit, which also cost the life of Dacer’s driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in 2000. Expected to get in a grand tussle with the Arroyo administration when Mancao comes home is Sen. Panfilo Lacson, commander of the National Police and head of the police organized crime task force at the time. Lacson has been trying to remove President Arroyo from power and jail her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, for corruption since his election to the Senate in 2001. He says he has nothing to do with the murders and he believes Mancao has not implicated him. But the administration can do anything and make things happen, including the rehabilitation of Mancao, who has already asked to be made a state witness. Lacson is definitely in trouble here.

    By Guiller de Guzman

2. Ill Winds from the Sea

Calls from 20 of the senators for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States come at a time when China is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea. Angered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signing a law that defines the Philippines’s base lines as embracing the Freedom Group of islands in the contested Spratly archipelago and the disputed Scarborough Shoal, China has sent patrols to show who is the mightier one in the seas off the Philippines. New US President Barack Obama has finally called Mrs. Arroyo after dodging her for weeks and only because of the increasing clamor for a review of the VFA, an additional agreement to the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. Obama sees the VFA as vital to the US war against terrorism in Southeast Asia, but most members of the Philippine Senate want the agreement renegotiated because of its unfairness to the Philippines. The United States is unlikely to agree to revising the agreement to give equal protection to Philippine troops and can very well cut military aid to the Philippines and leave this country to be bullied by China if Manila abrogates the VFA.

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. The More, the Merrier?

A year before the Filipinos return to the polls, the House of Representatives is considering expanding its membership from 250 to 300. But it seems that 50 more seats seem to be too few considering that the country’s population is now 90 million because Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has introduced legislation that would add 100 more seats to the House. The reelectionists in the House are jumping for joy. The creation of new voting districts will eliminate strong rivals, as the division will make both defender and challenger win without cheating or shooting each other.

         By Guiller de Guzman

4. Shedding Their Jewels

Saddled with billions of pesos in refunds to overcharged customers, the Lopezes sell 20 percent of their holdings in Manila Electric Co. to Pilipino Telephone Corp., the second wireless phone unit of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. The sale relieves the Lopezes of the pressure of having to fend off alone an expected hostile takeover bid by San Miguel Corp., which is aiming for Meralco’s power lines to diversify into broadband Internet. They plan to team up with PLDT chief Manuel Pangilinan to fight off a raid by San Miguel boss Eduardo Cojuangco. Cojuangco, however, appears to have been reviewing his options, as fighting for control of Meralco could prove quite costly and might affect San Miguel’s venturing into other fields, such as energy. An indication that Cojuangco is waiting for better times is a statement issued during the weekend by San Miguel president Ramon Ang saying that San Miguel is willing to let Pangilinan run Meralco. For now, that is.

         By Guiller de Guzman

5. Features

6. Che and Milk, film reviews

         By Makati Rep. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.