Wake Up, Philippines!

Militarization by other means

MANILA, Philippines — Soldiers erecting checkpoints, entering communities, and rounding up and interrogating residents in various parts of the country have become so commonplace in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime that we take for granted their lawfulness. Do soldiers have a right to do these things?

Not being a lawyer, I can only ask questions. The construction of the 1987 Constitution is easy enough to permit its commonsensical understanding by ordinary citizens. I turn to its words and the values around which it is woven whenever I am bothered by the actions of government. The Constitution is the self-defense and is a necessity of any democratic nation. Every citizen should keep a copy of his country’s Constitution in his pocket.

There is a division of labor between the military and the police that is recognized in every modern society and is upheld in the successive constitutions we have had in our country. The maintenance of peace and order within communities is basically the function of the police. Our Constitution states that such a police force is “national in scope and civilian in character.”

The same Constitution declares among its guiding principles and policies that “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.” I understand sovereignty to mean the power to govern oneself. To defend a nation’s sovereignty is to protect the nation against foreign invaders. To secure the integrity of the national territory is to protect it against forces that seek its dismemberment. On this basis, one may understand the active presence of soldiers in parts of Mindanao where secessionist movements operate. But how does one account for the presence of military patrols in the streets of Barangay Commonwealth in Quezon City?

I quote from a report that appeared in the Inquirer yesterday (3/3/07): “The military said the deployment of soldiers in some areas of Metro Manila was part of civil military operations in certain barangays where issues like poverty can be exploited by communist insurgents …. Army spokesperson Maj. Ernesto Torres said the deployments had been going on since November last year and were mostly in depressed barangays. Troops are sent to barangays where they stay and ‘talk to (residents), ask them how they are doing and tell them there are programs of government which they can avail (themselves) of,’ Torres said in a phone interview. Torres said this was a ‘holistic approach’ in addressing the insurgency problem. AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said such deployments were ‘normal’ as it was the AFP-NCRCom mandate to ‘protect Metro Manila’.”

Protect Metro Manila against whom? Against suspected communists? Sec. 18 (1) of the Bill of Rights is clear on this: “No person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations.” Last I heard is that no one can be penalized for mere membership in a communist organization. But as important, if Metro Manila is to be protected, whose function is this? I always assumed this belonged to the police.

There is basis for this assumption. The Constitution takes for granted that the maintenance of peace and order is not the normal function of soldiers but of the police. And so it specifies those exceptional instances when the government, through the President, may call out the military. Art. VII, Sec. 18 provides: “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion, or rebellion.”

The last time Ms Arroyo invoked these Commander-in-Chief powers was on Feb. 23, 2006 when she issued Presidential Proclamation 1017 declaring a State of National Emergency. Recognizing that these are emergency powers, the framers of our Constitution made their exercise subject to very stringent qualifications. The most important of these is the provision that ensures the undiminished validity of the Bill of Rights even during such emergencies.

The Supreme Court held PP 1017 to be valid insofar as it was an exercise of the calling-out powers “to prevent or suppress lawless violence,” but struck it down as unconstitutional insofar as it claimed powers for the President that did not belong to her office. These are: the power to issue decrees, to direct the military to enforce obedience to all laws including those not related to lawless violence, and to impose standards on media.

The question we must now ask is: Does lawless violence exist today in our barangays, towns and cities to warrant the engagement of the military in the everyday maintenance of peace and order in our communities? If there is, what is its extent? What is the basis for this assessment? What limits are there, if any, to what the military can do in the course of “suppressing and preventing lawless violence”?

If one goes by the 1987 Constitution alone, there can be no doubt that with these recent troop deployments, the military has overstepped its mandate. My fear is that the antiterrorism law (now euphemistically titled “The Human Security Act of 2007”) is aimed precisely at preempting these questions. By routinizing an undeclared state of emergency, the government lays the ground for the militarization of our communities.

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By Randy David
First Posted 06:18am (Mla time) 03/04/2007

Comments to public.lives@gmail.com

The hammer of corruption

POLITICAL CORRUPTION is not just harming business; it is damaging the nation. It seeks illegitimate personal gain from bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. It is odious rent seeking where access to politics is organized with limited transparency and competition to promote and protect narrow interests.

Intentional wrongdoing

Consequently, it has sullied society’s integrity and corroded its institutions. Its intentional wrongdoing has derailed the country from performing or conducting itself as envisioned by the Constitution.

Because politics is our country’s daily diet, our social, economic and cultural tattered landscapes testify to corruption’s brutal impact on them.

Last year, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) issued a statement supporting the call of five senior bishops led by CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo to “combat corruption and rebuild our country economically, socially and politically.”

Out of sight, out of mind

The bishops’ clarion call got the people’s attention. But as soon as a new issue arose, it got out of sight and out of mind.

Before it did, MAP issued a public statement expressing its deep concern that the span and depth of corruption has badly shattered trust and confidence in the country because of the way the government has become. One proof lies in the comparative inflow of foreign direct investments and foreign aid to the Philippines vis-à-vis its Asian neighbors, which is a fraction of what the others get.

The world has been increasingly critical of the thriving culture of corruption in government with near-total impunity. The consequences of corruption are direly affecting the country’s competitiveness; business growth; and capacity to survive. It is worsening poverty; compromising public order and safety; mocking the rule of law; and destroying society’s moral fabric.

And there is no let-up.

Corruption indices from Transparency International and the World Bank, for instance, point to a palpable deterioration from where the Philippines was measured 10 years ago, now just a quarter percentile away from the bottom. Yet, despite the consequences, the government remains oblivious, apathetic or intractable, favoring self-good over the national interest.


To stop the spreading malignancy and save itself from a living death, the obvious way out is for society to transform itself into a nation of no-nonsense upright citizens. But then, how can a society wracked with social cancer heal itself? Through radical treatment? By whom? Alternative options? In what ways?

Corporate governance practitioners in the private sector who ensure ethics, transparency and accountability in the workplace, are vital human resources that can be harnessed to help transform the country.

For example, MAP’s growing circle of Management Men of the Year could link up with Ramon Magsaysay, Galing Pook, TOYM, and alumni of other national and international awards to campaign for good governance in their respective fields.

Such an alliance could also reinforce the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC) composed of organizations from the business sector, civil society and the Church. Together they could further strengthen society’s ethical backbone and promote greater public participation in governance in a vigorous bid to stem the creeping tide of corruption, apathy and helplessness.

The absence of effort by society, or vital sectors thereof, to effect self-change invites intervention. Weak societies make iron-fisted rule possible. In cultures where the leadership takes its responsibilities seriously they excise swiftly those deemed to have betrayed the public’s trust like a malignant tumor, more so in bad times when corruption is not only a crime but also an act of treason.

No borders

Corruption respects no borders. Rich and poor societies alike are afflicted, their corrosion differentiated only by the state of their national condition, that is, by the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders, institutions, systems, processes and peoples. But if we inhabit the Hall of Shame, for now, the West merits a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Its bacchanalian orgy of greed and fraud has led to global chaos, inflicting widespread misery and anguish throughout the world. It’s not the first time either that they mess up the planet, to include global warming. Because they enforce the rules that they craft on the weak and exempt themselves when it doesn’t suit them, hell has broken loose time and again. Be it political or financial, the consequences are always deadly.

Black hole

MAP, either alone or as part of a growing coalition, should continually militate against practices that undermine good governance, business excellence and competitiveness. What is good for the nation is beneficial for business. To look askance would be to abet the crime, increase risk and inevitably sink deeper in a black hole that the country can ill-afford.

For the Philippines to have a better quality of life, the line must be drawn on the sand now.

By Rafael M. Alunan III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:07:00 02/01/2009

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines. The author is a member of the MAP board of governors and president of Lopez Group Foundation Inc.. Feedback at map@globelines.com.ph. For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.)

Glimpses: Of traitors and heroes

Posted in Church, Government, Social Issues/Concerns, State, Traitors/Heroes by Erineus on February 1, 2009

It is not difficult to talk about traitors. There are so many of them around, easy to spot because they usually hold positions of power or hold great wealth. The worst traitors come from the Church and the State, both being the dominant and domineering institutions of the country over the past 400 years. The Church and the State are natural sources of vision and virtue, of courage and heroism, of nobility and purity. When they live up to their highest calling, an enlightened society is born and raised.

The story of the Philippines, however, is a story of failure of leadership. In a democracy, the failure of society may mean the failure of the citizenry. “For the people, by the people, of the people” is more than a democratic principle, it is democracy’s fundamental philosophy. That is why I cannot point to the people as the culprit for the massive poverty and corruption that shame the nation. Our poverty is not a choice — it is an inherited status, a curse from birth. Corruption stems from abuse and exploitation of power, and the people are its victims, not beneficiaries.

The State in colonial times used force to rob the people of their land and loot the country of its resources. The Church at that time shared in the loot and cooperated with the State to manipulate the native population into submission. There is little need for me to retell an old story. I am not a historian, only a student of history. And if our history were not so crucial to our present, I would prefer to simply move on in cadence with time.

Today, however, is a special moment when history and the present meet to reconcile and change a course, or agree to continue a path where a people’s soul wallows in slavery and darkness. After more than twenty years, another moment emerges with a special invitation for courage and faith. Once again, change knocks loudly in the hearts of Filipinos, asking to come in, bearing messages of encouragement from America.

When slavery has been one’s reality for centuries, it conditions the mind and spirit to cope by first resigning to it, and eventually by accepting it as a natural state of life. It used to be that parents of poor families would dissuade their children from even imaging a better life. It was, for those parents, simply fantasy to do so as life would never allow such a shift from poverty to comfort or abundance. Ambition was not only useless, it actually was dangerous. Ambition only got the poor into trouble with the Church and the State who were always vigilant against their subjects hoping and dreaming.

We must remember history, not only the events and the special personalities but also the effects of it that we carry to the present. If change seems to come so slowly, this is only a direct result of a history that has so deeply embedded submission and resignation in the psyche of ordinary and poor Filipinos. Those among us who clamor for change would do well to understand the process and effect of colonial times, to understand the exploitative nature of the Church and the State all those centuries. Once we do, we can design a mechanism to deconstruct the imposed horizon blanketing a captive’s mind and ultimately allow the rainbow to inspire a benighted people to follow the light.

In a democracy, government is the one tasked not only to govern but to lead and inspire. In a religion, the church is expected to nurture and to pastor. In the Philippines, however, both government and church have failed miserably as institutions in their mandated roles. What has saved the day for them are pockets of good workers on the ground, public officials who defy the collective look of graft and abuse by their sincere and dedicated service, priests and nuns who shun the pomp of position and protocol and instead take the posture of washing the feet of the poor.

Where government and church as institutions have oftentimes been traitors to their higher calling, ordinary workers among them have been heroes and have carried the day for them. Even when whole institutions become corrupt, the light of a few honest and courageous members can continue to provide hope to an exploited society. Because we have many traitors who keep Filipinos in the dark, who abdicate the empowerment of the many for fear of losing historical advantages, we need the heroes who will stand on firm ground, who will stay rooted in righteousness despite the corrupt environment.

When we have heroes to point to, they become sources of light. I have found many in my life, a “barangay” [village] chairman here and there, a mayor here and a governor there, an honest treasurer, a determined teacher. They have been sources of light. The Church in the Philippines has her own heroes, even a few martyrs. There are those parish priests who defy their own poverty and always have something for the poorest in their areas. And who can discount the many religious orders of nuns who truly mother their flock as their way of life.

Treachery has brought poverty to a land of abundance. It is treachery against public duty, against morals and ethics. It is treachery against the teachings of Christ whose disciples in the Philippines have not been faithful reflections of. How can a godly gift of abundance be cornered by the greedy in a land where religion teaches love and sacrifice giving as its primordial virtues? But in the face of the worst distortion and perversion of democracy and Christianity, heroes have not been bullied to squat and be quiet. To those heroes we owe so much, maybe even everything thus far.

Thus far, only thus far. Heroism is not only for the rich, the powerful, the learned. Heroism is a birthright, a forgotten one for most, but always there as a choice for each of us. We have relied on our heroes for so long but mistook their roles as saviors when they served most of all as inspiration for our own heroism to awaken. Heroes save, but heroes inspire, guide and empower us to be heroes ourselves. This is the invitation of change – for us to be heroes in this moment of history. Change is not a call for higher incomes, for more economic opportunities. Change is a call for heroes to save their motherland. Change is a call to be brave, and then for the brave to serve as models of virtue, of generosity and courage, of faith and patriotism.

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Confucius: “Cowardice is seeing what is right, and failing to do it.”

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
First Posted 23:54:00 01/29/2009