THE first signs of a multi-sectoral, multi-pronged challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug killings have finally appeared, and on the “National Day of Protest” proclaimed by DU30 himself to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Ferdinand Marcos’ proclamation of Martial Law throughout the country on September 21, 1972, managed to draw first blood. Despite the mobilization of DU30 supporters nationwide, the protesters managed to dominate the day’s political space, calling for an end to the year-long extra-judicial killings and throwing DU30 slightly off-balance.
DU30 appeared so confident the crowds would be eating out of his hands that he suspended work and classes throughout the country so that everyone could join the day of protest. He apparently believed the masses believed in his alleged popularity, based on the pollsters’ interviews with people who knew the risks tof stating their honest opinion about the drug killings, the gutter language, and the irrational policies.
The latest unofficial count has placed the extra-judicial killings at 14,000. But the Philippine National Police admits no more than 3,800, and an official Philippine statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which had earlier condemned the killings, said no human rights violations exist. This means you and I and everybody else have simply been imagining things; we all need to have our heads examined.
The September 21 event was the biggest and most significant outpouring against DU30 since he came into power on June 30, 2016 and started killing alleged drug dealers without documentation or due process. Previous to this, only a few disgruntled elements of the Left, who are otherwise DU30’s favored allies, have had the courage to stage small, lightning rallies against the killings and other grievances.
In last Thursday’s rallies, however, the Left was clearly overshadowed by the multi-religious sector led by members of the Catholic clergy, religious and laity. While professing different religious creeds, Catholics, Aglipayans, Born Again Christians and Evangelicals marched with upraised fists, denouncing tyranny in general and the extra-judicial drug killings in particular, which, they pointed out, were a direct affront to God.
Prayer has always worked
This meant one big bold step beyond the earlier Church response, which focused on prayer, the lighting of candles and the pealing of bells for 15 minutes at 8 p.m. everyday. These acts have a profound effect on the practice of the Christian faith, and were known to have played a special role in some big events in world history.
In the 1571 Battle of Lepanto between naval forces of the Holy League and the Ottoman Empire, and in the five naval battles in Philippine waters between the Spanish fleet and the invading Dutch fleet in 1646, the victors said they won because they had prayed intensely to God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother. Even the end of Soviet communism in 1991, 74 years after the Russian revolution, is believed by many to have been the fruit of Mary’s prayers.
Nonetheless, some have wondered whether our bishops could not think of a stronger medicine than lighting candles, etc. They doubt that prayer alone, which elevates the business of men to the business of God, can ever be effective without some accompanying muscular “action”. This seems perfectly reasonable. Would the Israelites have prevailed if Saul had simply offered prayers at the temple instead of sending the young David to meet the Philistine with his sling and five smooth stones?
The bishops must guide
But while the bishops can denounce moral evil and tell the faithful not to cooperate with it, they cannot and must not decide for them how to act. From Saint Augustine comes this rule—in necesariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas—unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things. The faithful must listen to their shepherds proclaim what is right and what is wrong, but they must decide for themselves how to pursue the right and the good, once it is known.
From here on, they should no longer allow DU30 to abuse the Church, the clergy, the religious, the laity, and God himself, without a prompt response. If we would like to see a more militant Church, we must ask for it not from the priests and the bishops but from ourselves. We also, the hierarchy, must peovide the real opposition to despotic rule.
For the past 13 months a speeding van could plow into a crowd of politicians without harming a single opposition member. True, there were nominal minority groups in the two Houses of Congress, but they avoided any clash with Malacañang or the police on any important question. That needs to change. But will the “Yellows” provide the change?
The Yellows are back
Last Thursday, former President B. S. Aquino 3rd, defeated presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas, Vice President Leni Robredo and other ranking Liberal Party members turned out en masse for the inauguration of a monument to the late Sen. Jose Wright Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights compound in Quezon City.
It was a shot across the bow, and it unduly politicized the otherwise apolitical affair. This reportedly prompted 20 European ambassadors to withdraw at the last minute, leaving only the Dutch and the Belgian ambassadors to grace the occasion. Shortly before that, Leni Robredo seized the opportunity to make an unwanted political statement at the end of the Holy Mass concelebrated by 15 priests at the university chapel of the University of the Philippines.
She spoke against Marcos whose 1972 martial law proclamation prevented the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army from overrunning the state. But in her apparent haste to excoriate the long dead father of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is contesting her vice presidency before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, she ended mindlessly attacking all the other administrations that followed after Marcos—from Cory Aquino to her son B.S. Aquino 3rd—when she denounced “apat na po’t limang taon ng karahasan”—“45 years of brutality”.
Marcos declared martial law 45 years ago and lifted it after eight years. After he was ousted by the 1986 EDSA military revolt, Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and B.S. Aquino 3rd ran the country successively for the next 30 years. Would Robredo have called them years of brutality if she had a more sensitive mind?
With or without the reappearance of PNoy’s “Yellow Ribbon” crowd, it now appears that DU30 had dire forebodings about the “Day of Protest”.
According to Cabinet sources, DU30 genuinely feared there might be a “power grab,” so, days before the actual day, he said he might declare a nationwide martial law or a revolutionary government should violent disorder mar the marches. He tried to sell the idea to the Cabinet and his military advisers, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ed Año shot it down, the sources said.
What we owe Lorenzana
To these two gentlemen and their patriotic comrades the nation owes so much of its current sanity and peace. The sources did not elaborate on Lorenzana’s and Año’s objection, but I would not be surprised if they had reminded the President, who happens to be a San Beda lawyer, that unless actual rebellion or invasion broke out during the rallies, and public safety required it, there would be no legitimate constitutional ground to declare martial law.
Moreover, as a result of the Maute “IS-inspired” attack on Marawi City on May 23, 2017, martial law remains in effect in Mindanao until December 31, and a state of emergency on account of lawlessness, imposed on Septtember 4, 2016, still holds in the same area until now.
On the merits, the military high command seems unsure that a nationwide martial law or revolutionary government would not weaken their hold on the national security situation in favor of the CPP/NPA/NDF who remain DU30’s staunch allies. Although two major communist Cabinet nominees—Judy Taguiwalo and Rafael Mariano—have been rejected by the Commission on Appointments, DU30’s most trusted Cabinet Secretary cum NDF vice chairman Leoncio Evasco Jr., continues to run the Office of the President.
And the communist party group supporting the former secretaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Agrarian Reform remain intact and in control, the sources said.
Trusting the President
On a much higher plane, according to highly qualified sources, is a question of sovereign trust. Not too long ago, select units of the military and the police had been tasked to track down a secret cache of North Korean war materiel for the CPP/NPA/NDF within the National Capital Region. Despite the high level of preparation, coordination and care, they failed to retrieve the dangerous materiel, these sources said, allegedly because of the “regrettably poor handling” of information from the PNP Chief to the “higher-ups”.
How to rebuild this apparently broken trust is now one of DU30’s biggest and immediate problems.
Until DU30 puts an end to the killings, the scandal will not go away. But the incredible Philippine statement in Geneva, and the recent attempt of the House of Representatives to defund the Commission on Human Rights, for being critical of DU30’s human rights record, can only exacerbate his problems.
A Mindanao lawyer has already filed charges against him before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. As though DU30’s problems were not enough, some of his minions appear to have recently posted a fake news story attributing to the US Ambassador Nikki Haley an alleged speech in which she makes a vigorous defense not of President Donald Trump but of DU30.
Fake praise for DU30
Last Saturday, my esteemed colleague Yen Makabenta ran a celebratory column on the alleged speech entitled, “Superstar speaks: Give Duterte space to run the Philippines.”
The first quote was rather pointed, although poorly phrased: “The Philippines is suffocating. We must give President Duterte the space to run his nation. We must respect their independence. It is not in our purview to decide administrative issues for the Philippines. That is the job of the President.”
Having read a little about Haley, I could not suspend my disbelief. Then reader James Velina from Makati texted me: “Sir, your good friend Mr. Makabenta fell for a fake news website disguised as the website of Al Jazeera in which Ambassador Haley allegedly praised our President. I hope you could remind him that what he did is wrong po.”
On Saturday afternoon I called Molly Koscina, press attache and press secretary of the American embassy to inquire. At 6:06 p.m., she sent me the following text message: “I searched on the USUN web site where official remarks are posted and did not see a recent speech where Amb. Haley mentioned Duterte. I’ve reached back to DC, but they are likely still sleeping. Will let you know what I learn.”
At 8:54 p.m., she sent another message: “I also found it listed as ‘fake news’ on a website.”
At 9:35 a.m. of Sunday (yesterday), I received the final message: “The US Mission to the UN confirmed that the remarks printed in the article were NOT made by Amb. Haley.”
I would not suspect the Russians or the Chinese to have been behind this scam. The culprit/s could be much closer to the Palace. The fake speech is obviously the product of an ignorant mind, a great many of whom have overrun the DU30 government with poison weeds. DU30 must investigate, and suspend from the nearest durian tree the author of this outrageous mischief.
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