OP ED CLOMUN: GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc – Who’s the real ‘threat’ – Opposition or China?

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – JULY 12: Vietnamese nationals mount a protest rally against China’s territorial claims in the Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea on July 12, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. The International Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to come out with a ruling today between the Philippines and China over the dispute in the South China Sea on Tuesday. The case was filed by the Philippines in 2013 since China took control of a reef about 140 miles from the Philippines coast although the People’s Republic maintains it will not be bound by the ruling. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
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GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc

To convince people of a “destabilization plot” against it the Duterte Administration must file appropriate charges. Prosecuting real baddies beats press releases. Otherwise, suspicion will linger that Malacañang is demonizing critics preparatory to imposing a sinister “revolutionary government.” Or that it is diverting public attention – perhaps even seeing ghosts – because of insecurity about its failures.

“Destabilization” is vague, to begin with. More precise is if it’s a “coup d’état.” In which case, a professional, disciplined Armed Force can round up the ringleaders before they can strike. The Articles of War allow preemptive, indefinite detention; soldiers, because authorized by the state to carry arms, have no civil rights.

But if just a “political move,” then it’s normal. It is the duty of any political Opposition to plot to grab power – by peaceful means. The Liberal and Magdalo are legitimate political parties. It is natural for them to bind with other anti-Duterte forces into a coalition, Tindig Pilipinas, to win seats in the May 2019 mid-term election. If they’re smart, they’d even be planning this early to win the Presidency in 2022 – against a Duterte Administration that, on the other hand, should be planning its successor.

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Even the Communist Party is legal, by virtue of the repeal in 1992 of the Anti-Subversion Law. Wise generals, President Fidel Ramos and National Security Adviser Jose Almonte, had proposed it to Congress. The aim was to lure communist rebels from armed into parliamentary struggle. It worked. What remains outlawed is taking up arms against the government, as what the New People’s Army does. NPA guerrillas get charged under the Revised Penal Code with rebellion, murder, kidnapping, and extortion. If “legalized” Communist Party cadres stay underground, it is by habit of ideology. They believe that true communists must be conspiratorial. That’s their pitfall. Averse to genuine alliances, they have not advanced these past five decades of “people’s war” from “strategic defensive.”

Which brings us to the supposed “Red October push” against President Rodrigo Duterte. Because Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison allegedly is involved, it is deemed illegal. Yet if “Red October” consists only of demonstrations to recount the horrors of Marcos’ martial law and portray Duterte as an emerging dictator, then it’s not illicit. Only if soldiers are involved through a coup d’état, in cahoots with armed communist guerrillas, will it violate the law.

No law is broken by Red October “cabals” to celebrate whatever they wish to on the month of communist victories in Russia and China. No wrong too in marking that month of indigenous peoples, some of whose tribes the communist rebels are striving to recruit. No crime is committed in feting 2018 as the 200th birth year of Marx. No sin for Sison to memorialize by December his founding of the Communist Party 50 years ago. Let them party.

Which brings up yet another point. What’s so worrisome about Sison anyway? Has not the Duterte administration been revealing that he’s old, and dying of serious ailment? That means he’s incapable of leading any political or armed action.

Too, has not the government been saying that Sison is so discredited as a communist leader that the NPA no longer obeys him? If so, he has no army, that crucial factor for Maoist revolutionists.

Speaking of which, it’s unlikely for the communists to conspire with the Liberals in any way. Ex-President Noynoy Aquino has said he intends to lead the Opposition. The communists hate his guts. They accuse his clan of blood debts in violent labor clashes at Hacienda Luisita during his Presidency.

It is as unlikely for virulently anti-communist ex-military officers in Magdalo to coalesce with Sison to bring down Duterte then share power. As Magdalo co-founder Sen. Antonio Trillanes reminds, it was Duterte who placed four communists in his Cabinet and freed from prison a dozen underground leaders whom the Armed Forces spent lives and years to capture. All the while, Trillanes belittled any settlement with the rebels through negotiations.

The Presidency is too strong for foes to destabilize by political marches or military strikes. If Duterte looks rattled by intelligence gatherings, it could be for his admitted unfulfilled campaign promises. The drug menace that he said he’d lick in six months would take till term’s end after all. Eradicating corruption was impossible from the start. He has given up on EDSA traffic.

Threats that state security agencies must watch out for may not be from within but outside. Beijing is determined to grab the entire South China Sea, with Manila as the foremost hindrance. It will employ hard and soft power for the purpose. Already it has concreted seven Philippine reefs into island fortresses and occupied Scarborough Shoal.  Among complementary ploys would be to weaken the Philippines through bribery, drugs, and economic sabotage.

Worth looking into is Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s exposé – that tens of thousands of Chinese nationals are now working in Manila. They are not only displacing jobless Filipinos. A good number of them could be spies. Remember how another power had fielded its nationals to the Philippines as businessmen and artists, street vendors and household workers, preparatory to the invasion of 1941.

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The Philippine Star

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