Preparing to cross the line

President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he will defy the Supreme Court if the high tribunal does not toe his line in relation to his declaration of martial law last week is the clearest indication that he will perpetuate himself in power, even if he is fully aware that he does not have too many good years left.
Very likely, he plans to follow in the footsteps of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but at a different pace. Where the former strongman first set the stage for the imposition of martial law by first suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Mr. Duterte didn’t even bother to prepare the people for the worst.
What he did was to declare martial law in all of Mindanao, but immediately followed this up with a statement that he was prepared to place the entire country under his one-man rule on the vague condition that he will take the draconian measure if terrorists enter the Visayas and Luzon.
Under the current regime where fake news proliferates, it will come as no surprise if fake terrorists are spotted in Metro Manila, who will then commit some unspeakable act of terrorism and voila! The regime has a perfect excuse to declare martial law nationwide.
This was done before by Marcos, who had then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile fake an assassination attempt just before Presidential Decree 1081 placing the Philippines under martial rule was signed. Enrile himself admitted that the supposed assassination attempt on his person was faked.
The way Mr. Duterte has been acting, it will not be impossible or even improbable for his regime to dictate to Congress to legitimize his version of 1081, and to switch from legitimately elected Philippine president to illegitimate dictator for life.
He can then do one of two things: prepare his anointed successor during this period, which can either be his daughter Sarah, or worst, defeated vice presidential bet Bongbong Marcos.
Being a lawyer but nowhere near possessing the admitted brilliant legal mind of the older Marcos, Mr. Duterte will have to have his subordinates legally justify the soon-to-be permanent state of martial law in the country. Unfortunately, the lawyers in his Cabinet are a most unimpressive bunch.
And with an independent-minded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in the person of Lourdes Sereno, the Duterte legal cabal are overmatched. It is for this reason that the president said he would defy the SC if it rules against his martial law, or any of the acts committed by the administration related thereto.
For Marcos, his justification was to “save the republic and reform society,” which was later the basis for his ridiculous New Society.
Mr. Duterte is more blunt. He says he will declare marital law nationwide “to save the people,” whatever that means. The only people who need saving are the unfortunate poor suspected of using drugs who continue to be killed extrajudicially on a daily basis.
As expected, Mr.Duterte’s apologists tried to tone down his “I will defy the Supreme Court” stance by saying he did not exactly mean what he said. 
Yeah, right.
Just like his telling the Armed Forces that he would “allow” soldiers to rape up to three, but never four or more women while doing their duty. At least this is better than Ferdinand Marcos’s martial law, when soldiers and even policemen could do as they wish. Literally tens of thousands of Filipinos were raped and/or killed.
By perpetuating himself in power, Mr. Duterte is setting the stage not only for a repeat of the rampant abuses during the Marcos martial law period, he all but guarantees that the situation will be much, much worse. The country’s economy which was left in good shape by former President Noynoy Aquino will be the first victim. Foreign investments will disappear, while those who are part of the Duterte regime will commit brazen acts of plunder from the highest to the lowest levels.
In 1986, the Philippines found a savior in a small group of reform-minded officers of the Armed Forces who inspired millions of Filipinos to force the Marcoses and their cronies out of the country. Perhaps it is within the same Armed Forces of the Philippines that another group of young officers will recognize the evil that is martial law and take whatever measure is necessary to end it and restore the country’s democratic institutions.
It must begin with the head of state unconditionally accepting that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is his co-equal, and not his subordinate.

Duterte’s fatal attraction

Offhand, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte going to Russia in order, he says, to correct the country’s “overdependence on traditional partners.”
Presumably the Philippines’ chief executive expects to receive the same kind of “friendly” aid that China has committed to the country, specifically billions of dollars in soft loans and outright grants, plus thousands of free firearms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the Philippine National Police.
So off he goes this week to the Kremlin to presumably meet President Vladimir Putin, whom Duterte now calls “my friend” and whom he had previously expressed high admiration for.
By his words and by his actions, Mr. Duterte is hell bent on pivoting the country’s economic, social, and political ties to the two former communist superpowers at the expense of more traditional allies such as the US and Japan.
This may be his prerogative but for one thing. All surveys show that the majority of Filipinos still prefer to side with the US and still have a strong distrust for China. 
And why shouldn’t they? China continues to encroach on Philippine territory and very recently threatened to wage war on the country – you know, it’s the one that Mr. Duterte is supposed to protect with his life -- if it tries to occupy any of the islets the Asian power claims to be theirs, but which are infinitely closer to the Philippine land mass than to China.
At least Russia hasn’t done anything that can even be remotely considered as a threat to the Philippines’ integrity.
Still, the question must be asked: Why Russia, of all countries?
There are no strong ties linking the Philippines and Russia, and the number of citizens of both states living and working in the other is minimal, at best, choosing Russia over such countries as Australia, New Zealand, and India, among others, must be considered as odd, to say the least.
By his own admission, Mr. Duterte admits that he is now addicted to the powerful drug Fentanyl, so this must be clouding his thinking. Maybe addicted is too strong a word, but what else can be said of his imbibing the drug on a daily basis, without which he says he cannot function normally?
                                                Russian “tools”
A story is told about the late Indonesian strongman Sukarno, who once paid a visit to the former USSR (the former superpower centered around Mother Russia). In order to assure that the Indon leader would always toe the communist Russian line, he was gifted with a prostitute or two while there.
Russia’s use of sex as a tool to keep both its friends and enemies in check is widely known. So after his visit, Sukarno was reportedly informed that there were highly incriminating photos of him in the act. The veiled threat was that the photos would become public if he ever did anything that Russia disapproved of.
They did not realize that Bong Sukarno was a man made of sterner stuff. He called the Russian dare, even offering to show the photos over Indonesian television. The Russkies backed off, of course.
More recently, a stunning  Russian spy was uncovered while working for their embassy in the US. The pretty woman did not deny that she was working for Russian intelligence, and had bedded some powerful US politicians.
When she was forced to go back home, she received a heroine’s welcome. Presumably, she is still working for Russian intelligence, but no longer as a spy.
At the very least, Mr. Duterte should be wary of the “gifts” he will receive while paying a visit to Mr. Putin, who he must be reminded was once head of the dreaded KGB. 
The Philippine president is most welcome to receive aid, grants, weapons and whatever else Russia offers the country, but he must make sure that his admitted weakness for the ladies does not put him in a most precarious situation.
Incidentally, rumors were rife some months ago that US President Donald Trump is so enamored with Russia for the wrong reason. In a visit to the Kremlin not too long ago, he was reportedly given the same gift or tool that Russia likes to offer foreign leaders.
The rumor mill says that he and his host/hosts engaged in some bedroom games involving golden showers.
I don’t want to believe that this POTUS has ever done anything that smacks of perversion, but who knows? He remains attracted to Putin and Russia and only he can say why. But just to be on the safe side, maybe he should warn his Philippine counterpart?
Mr.Duterte’s attraction to China and Russia may just turn fatal for him one of these days.

Why the VIP treatment for a plunderer?

I am not a lawyer but I see something terribly wrong with the way Janet Lim Napoles is being treated by the Duterte regime, specifically the Department of Justice, but also by the president himself.
When President Rodrigo Duterte opined months ago that maybe Napoles was not as guilty as had been presumed – presumptions based on mountains of evidence – it seemed that it would only be a matter of time when she would be cleared of charges.
This hasn’t happened yet, but the initial steps have been taken, and they have to disturb anyone who still believes that the guilty must be charged and convicted in a court of law, and the innocent set free.
To recall, Napoles and her brother (who remains in hiding) had found themselves an obscene but highly profitable gold mine in the pork barrel allocations that congressmen and senators had been granting themselves for decades.
Since all the country’s lawmakers had given themselves millions every year to dole out to their pet projects, these pork barrel allocations had been a source of graft and corruption.
In many cases, the projects – usually public works -- were overpriced and the results substandard. The lawmakers would award the projects to favored contractors, who then built the low grade roads, bridges, school buildings, basketball courts, waiting sheds and the like, making huge profits in the process.
Naturally, the lawmakers received their share of the pie. Under the table and tax free, of course.
This went on for the longest time, until Napoles came up with one bright idea: Why build projects at all? Why not create ghost non-government organizations concocting impossible-to-audit projects to receive pork barrel funds?
The millions – billions actually – would be shared between the lawmakers who doled out the funds to the NGOs, and Napoles.
Improbable as it seems in this 21st century, this is exactly what Napoles and her cohorts did. But as the saying goes, the truth will eventually come out, and when it did a good number of congressmen and senators were found to have been active and willing participants to the scheme.
In the case of three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla – the amounts doled out and the kickbacks they received were sufficient enough for them to be charged with plunder, meaning they gifted themselves with more than P50 million in rebates. That’s roughly $1 millon in today’s exchange rate.
Estrada and Revilla are now incarcerated, while the court allowed the 90-something Enrile to post bail owing to his advanced years and frail health.
Napoles, meanwhile, was also incarcerated not only for her role in the plunder of pork barrel funds, but also because she had kept a former employee and distant relative imprisoned inside a rest home for Catholic priests in an exclusive Makati village. Benhur Luy was that Napoles employee who revealed the scam after he had been rescued by the NBI.
In my book, if a guy says he was kept against his will, and if his close relatives say he was kept against his will, then in all probability he was kept against his will. A court therefore convicted Napoles for illegal detention.
Under the Duterte regime, the law seems to have become ultra-selective. Janet Napoles has been getting special treatment for unknown reasons, although any fairly intelligent person can guess why. She was recently cleared of the illegal detention charges by the Court of Appeals, at the behest of the Justice department.
We can see where this is going. Sooner or later, she will also be cleared of the plunder raps she is now facing. Naturally, the senators will likewise be set free. This is justice, Duterte style, ladies and gentlemen.
Having amassed billions of pesos, most of which remains unaccounted for, Napoles still wields a lot of clout. And with so many congressmen having been in her payroll in the past, they would rather that their names be kept out of public scrutiny. For this reason, they will do anything to keep Napoles happy.
Very recently, the pork barrel queen requested that she be kept in a cell separate from the hoi polloi criminals she is imprisoned with, citing threats to her life.
Request granted, of course.
It isn’t only now that VIPs get preferential treatment, of course. For the longest time, rich criminals are treated like kings and queens because their jailors are aware of what they can do. They can be generous to their captors, which is the case with too many wealthy crooks to mention.
As for the poor, they don’t even get their day in court. The policy now is to shoot them rather than spend government funds for their capture, detention, trial and incarceration.
Such is the Philippine judicial system, circa 2017.

‘Immigrant festivals’  

Immigrants do not only come with their families and belongings when they arrive in the United States. They bring with them their cultures, languages, and traditions as well.
Immigrants do not only join and enhance the country’s work and labor force and expand entrepreneurship, business opportunities, and the consumer market (which are integral to the nation’s wealth creation). They also share their cultural traditions that enrich the multicultural fabrics and character of the towns, cities, counties, and communities where they live and raise their families.
In San Francisco, notice the many immigrants attending masses in Roman Catholic churches every late Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Imagine if there are no Filipinos, Mexicans, South and Central Americans parishioners who go and attend services at these churches. For sure many of these churches will be empty and they have to be closed.
St. Patrick’s Church in downtown San Francisco is a good example.
The church was originally an Irish parish. The face of the parish has changed and the church is now predominantly Filipino who are recent and new immigrants and who call South of Market as their new home and community. The old Irish parishioners who moved out of the community just come to worship on special occasions and holidays. Other non-immigrant churchgoers are usually tourists and visitors in San Francisco who find the church accessible for religious services and worship as it is a downtown area church.
Tourists and occasional visitors cannot sustain the parish’s religious, community rituals, and traditions. It is the devotion and dedication of many immigrant parishioners that sustain these rites and traditions at churches like St. Patrick’s.
Celebrations such as feasts of saints that are observed and practiced in the old country are also observed and noticed at churches like St. Patrick’s where immigrants worship.
For Filipinos, we celebrate the Sinulog and the Feast of Santo Nino which is popular among Cebuanos, Visayans, and Santo Nino devotees in the U.S. Then there are the celebrations to commemorate the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz in September and the Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan every May of each year.
Irish churchgoers still come to St. Patrick’s to hold their traditional feasts and services like the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day (May 17) on the Saturday of the week when St Patrick’s Day is celebrated. Filipino parishioners usually join Irish churchgoers to celebrate at the church’s social hall. Filipinos also celebrate a feast close to St. Patrick’s Day observance, the Feast of St. Joseph, which is observed every March 19th.
Immigrant fiestas or pistahan celebrations are also not limited to the feasts of patron saints as there are also celebrations and festivals that are non-religious in nature.
At SoMa Pilipinas, there is the annual Pistahan which is held every second weekend of August at the Yerba Buena Gardens and the Barrio Fiesta (Baryo Piyesta) which is held in May at the SoMa Recreation Center.
Pistahan and Barrio Fieasta are well attended and these celebrations have been sustained by the SoMa community for many years.
The Pistahan was an original project of the Filipino American Arts and Exposition (FAAE) and this explains why there are different pavilions that showcase Filipino culture, arts, seniors, and youth-oriented activities.
The Pistahan also features Filipino food and commercial vendors, corporate and media sponsors, and a parade that is held on Market Street in San Francisco. For entertainment, local and Philippine performers and celebrities brought in from the Philippines are usually featured during the celebration.
The Barrio Fiesta in South of Market is more community initiated and oriented. It is the coming together of the families and the community in SoMa to celebrate their neighborhood’s rich immigrant history and heritage.
This year the Barrio Fiesta will be held on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the Gene Friend Recreation Center on Sixth and Folsom Streets from 10am to 4pm.
What is unique about the Barrio Fiesta is that organizers do not only serve lechons (roasted pigs) but they actually showcase and demonstrate to the public how the pig is prepared and roasted.
Let us all give our support to these immigrant festivals and celebrations. Diversity makes this country and our communities richer!

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.

Jesus conceived his mission to be that of the Son of Man, who came to offer himself in obedience to God's redemptive plan.


Duterte, Robredo face impeach raps

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Editor-in-Chief

MANILA – In what could be a first in the world, the Philippines’ president and vice president are facing separate impeachment complaints filed within days of each other, which one former president said would only do more harm than good to the country’s image.
Former president and now Manila mayorJoseph Estrada – who was himself the subject of impeachment proceedings before being forced from office via the Edsa 2 revolt – gave his thumbs down to the oddly-timed bids to remove Duterte and Robredo since the pair had been in office for less than a year.
“They’re both in their first year in office. Why not give them a chance?” Estrada told newsmen.
President Rodrigo Duterte and VicePresident Leni Robredo belong to separate political parties, with the chief executive a member of the PDP-Laban while the second highest official of the land is with the opposition Liberal Party (LP). Unlike the US, the Philippines votes for its president and vice president separately.
Mr. Duterte was the first to face an impeachment complaint, which was filed last week by Magdalo Party-list Rep.Gary Alejano. The congressman, a retired military officer allied with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, accused the chief executive of culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption, among others.
In reply, the president said, “They can do their worst. I can do better in my performance as a worker on government. This is a democracy.”
The vice president, on the other hand, was the subject of an impeachment complaint filed by longtime Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano, who has run and lost for senator on multiple occasions.Co-author of the complaint was Melchor Chavez, another losing senatorial candidate identified with the Marcos camp.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had earlier said Ms. Robredo had committed an impeachable offense when she issued avideo message to the UN questioning the irregularities of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign, which has resulted in an estimated 7,000 suspected drug pushers and users killed.
Robredo’s spokesperson GeorginaHernandez said the vice president “will be ready to face it.”
The impeachment complaints were filed against the president and vice president on March 18 and March 20,respectively.
Chances of the House proceeding with the impeachment complaint against the president are considered low, as even the opposition LP has refused to support it.
But while the LP will also not support the complaint against the vice president, chances of it advancing are higher,given the statement from the Speaker.
Mayor Estrada said the Mr. Duterte and Mrs. Robredo should talk and unite “instead of howling at each other.”
Mrs. Robredo,the constitutional successor of Duterte, has been at odds with the President over several issues including the government's heavy handed approach to the war on drugs, possible restoration of the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability.
She served as Duterte's housing chief for five months before parting ways with the administration last December after being barred by the President from attending Cabinet meetings. — With GMA News


A painful lesson from Letty Shahani (RIP)

The country lost a most able leader over the weekend with the passing of former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani.
She could have been president were she not the sister of Fidel Ramos. She certainly had the brains and the experience for the job. Sadly, while the country has had two presidents whose father or mother had been president before them, a brother and sister both being elected chief executive is not yet politically viable.
I had always admired Letty Shahani, except for what I saw as her one shortcoming. At her urging, one of her three kids entered politics and became a member of the House of Representatives, where he accomplished little except to flex his muscle by virtue of being the son of a senator as well as nephew of the president.
When Fidel and Letty exited Philippine politics, so did the spoiled kid.
That is neither here nor there. One of the things that Senator Shahani did was to have a study conducted to determine one thing: what was wrong with the Filipino?
Like it or not, there is something wrong with us. And no, I will say nothing about the current mess we’re in due to our wrong choice of president in last year’s elections. He wasn’t the first bad president we’ve had, and I don’t think he will be the last.
If anything, the Philippines seems doomed to have lacklustre, incompetent, corrupt and clueless presidents, vice presidents, senators, congressmen, mayors, etc. Did I mention congressmen? Yes, I did but that group of scum masquerading as human beings deserves special mention.
To quote US President Donald Trump and his perception of Mexicans, some I presume are good people.
We keep harping about how well Filipinos do when they leave for abroad. When they immigrate, they are driven to succeed. Most of the time, they do.
Indeed, Filipinos are a talented people. We can excel at practically anything we set our minds to, be it the arts, athletics, business and even politics. Filipinos are prized workers because they go the extra mile and do not mind working extra hours when needed.
Why then, Senator Shahani wanted to find out, do Filipinos constantly bring themselves and their homeland down at every opportunity? Why the crab mentality? And why our failure to rise to our full potential?
For so long, the Philippines with all its natural resources and wealth of talent had been bogged down by its leadership to the point that the country was deemed “the sick man of Asia”.
The Shahani study answered the question, and nobody liked what it concluded. The Philippines and ergo the Filipino people were a damaged culture, it said.
In the few instances whenever this is brought up, a false sense of nationalism usually surfaces.
Whether in an intelligent and serious conversation, or in idle talk over bottles of beer, I would hear arguments that “the Filipino is better than the rest.” And when the alcohol starts to hit, the argument deteriorates to “the Filipino is street smart.” The Tagalog term is “ma-abilidad.”
Yes, we sure can get one over them damn foreigners, huh? Even when we are living in their countries as guest workers.
Meanwhile, this mentality has made graft and corruption perfectly acceptable in government service, as long as one does not get caught.
You think senators and congressmen have only recently discovered the beauty of pork barrel? Think again. As far back as the 50s and 60s, media, civil society, the academe and the church has been pointing out the evil that is the Philippine pork barrel system, which goes by many names and incarnations, but it’s always the same thing.
Millions intended for projects and programs to benefit the public instead go to the pockets of the country’s elected leadership.
So a group of senators have dinner in Malacanang? Whatsoever for? Why for the perks and pasalubong that the generous host is sure to give when the night ends, of course.
Another now also departed lady senator once pointed to another reason for the culture of corruption that pervades Philippine politics and society. She blamed the Chinese.
She may have been right, but she very quickly retracted her statement.
Hers may have been a claim that may or may not have been spot on, but one that is impossible to prove. I am not mentioning her name because I am still angry at her for foisting the son of a despised dictator as her running mate. She lost badly but he almost won. See how damaged we are?
Everything that’s happening now can be explained by the Shahani report.
But one thing it didn’t say was if there is still hope for the Philippines. Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that one either.


Elected leaders who misunderstand their roles

It would seem that a number of our elected officials have no clear understanding of the roles they have to play under a democratic government.
Foremost of these are US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Philippine Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez.
Messrs. Trump and Duterte both have issues with judges who disagree with their actions. For the American leader, his ill-fated Executive Order banning nationals from seven predominantly Islamic countries from traveling to the US was quickly shot down by federal judges last month. But he is so hell-bent on his anti-Muslim campaign that he has just released another EO that continues to limit nationals from six of the original seven countries from entering the US.
In the Philippines, meanwhile, Mr. Duterte has just said that local government officials such as mayors should not be subject to audit by the Commission on Audit, whose job is to make sure that public funds are spent legally. Speaking in the vernacular this week, Mr. Duterte said something to the effect that the men and women of the CA should just take over as mayors since they seem to know better.

It has been pointed out time and again that Mr. Trump’s lack of experience in governance is one of his biggest weaknesses. He simply does not understand that his heading the executive department does not mean he also heads the legislative and judicial branches of government, or that they are subordinate to him. He feels he is more empowered because he was elected, while everyone else in the two other branches of government are either appointed or promoted.
As for Mr. Duterte, he recently admitted – an apologized for – continuing to act like a city mayor, which he was for the longest time. As president of the Republic of the Philippines, he wields tremendous power and has appeared swamped by the responsibilities of office.
As SpiderMan was reminded by his Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
As President, Duterte still does not comprehend his great responsibility to the Filipino people. Consider that some of his appointees like Mocha Uson (essentially a former bold starlet) and Cesar Montano (a faded matinee star) have been committing acts that show their failure to follow the rules at the local board of censors and a marketing arm of the Tourism department, respectively.
It will get worse in the near future as Mr. Duterte has promised to give a job to publicity hound Sandra Cam (a self-styled whistleblower), who is already acting like a big shot by claiming to be close to the president.

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