Marcos’ PH roadshow and the ICC probe

If you listen closely to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s strident reaction to the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume the investigation into the killings related to Duterte’s war on drugs, he didn’t completely rule out allowing the ICC to come into the country.

“Definitely I do not welcome this move of theirs and I will not welcome them in the Philippines unless they make it clear that they will respect us in this regard,” he said in a press conference.

He added: “I will not stand for any of these antics that will question our status as a sovereign country. We will not accept that.”

Remulla knows his international law. He knows that a state’s sovereignty – the supreme right of the state to command obedience within its territory – allows it to enter into treaties. We exercised our sovereign right when we signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, on Dec. 28, 2000 and ratified it by the Senate on Aug. 30, 2011. Our accession to the treaty took effect on Nov. 1, 2011.
We knew the provisions in the treaty.

The Philippines’ withdrawal from the ICC initiated by former president Rodrigo Duterte took effect on March 17, 2019.

We are sure Remulla is aware of Article 127, paragraph 2 of the Rome Statute which states that a country’s withdrawal “”shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective, nor shall it prejudice in any way the continued consideration of any matter which was already under consideration by the Court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective.”

Last Jan. 26, ICC’s Pre-trial Chamber I (Court) granted Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan’s request to resume investigation in connection with the charge of crimes against humanity arising from the killings that happened during a specific period in Duterte’s war on drugs.

It is understandable that Remulla would be offended by the ICC’s decision and the reason that was given: it doesn’t believe the Philippine government is “undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations on the basis of the complementarity principle.”

It means that the ICC believes that the Philippine government is “unable or unwilling” to prosecute those responsible for the killings, the estimate of which varies from the government’s number of 6,000 to the human rights groups’ more than 20,000.

In their insistence that the country’s judicial system is functioning and ICC’s probe is unwelcome, Remulla’s DOJ as well as during the term of Menardo Guevarra (now solicitor general) points to convictions of policemen involved in the 2017 killings of teenagers Kian de los Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman.

The ICC, however, is not easily impressed by the “deliberate focus of proceedings on low-level or marginal perpetrators.” It wants to make sure that national investigations or prosecutions focused “on those most responsible for the most serious crimes committed.”

The DOJ never investigated Duterte and the chief implementor of his bloody war-on-drugs, now Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

It is noted that Remulla added a conditionality in his public statement on not welcoming the ICC investigators: “… unless they make it clear that they will respect us in this regard.”

There is no reason for Remulla to be worried about it. Since the ICC does not have its own police force, it relies on the cooperation of States and international organizations to arrest and surrender the persons they are investigating.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has not said anything about the latest development from the ICC. During the election campaign, he said that he would only allow ICC probers to come in as tourists.

Many things have changed since then. He is now president, made possible by an alliance with Sarah Duterte, the former president’s daughter.

In the seven months of his presidency, he has been working hard in selling the country as a stable and dynamic investment area. He has impressed the international community as a leader far decent from his predecessor.

In his speech at the 77th United Nations General Assembly last year, he declared: “We need to reaffirm the wisdom of the founders of our United Nations. This means transcending our differences and committing to ending war, upholding justice, respecting human rights, and maintaining international peace and security.”

Surely, he won’t undo all those gains by not allowing the ICC to investigate what has been an extremely traumatic experience for tens and thousands of Filipinos.

No mention of Marcos billions in Swiss bank accounts during 2023 WEF

WEF President Børge Brende interviews President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the 2023 WEF in Davos, Switzerland.

The attendance of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) from Jan. 16 to 20 in Davos, Switzerland was the ultimate redemption for him and his family and a stinging rebuke to the Filipino people.

In answer to the question of WEF President Børge Brende on how has his seven-month presidency been, Marcos replied that it was “pretty much expected” because, he continued: “I have the advantage of having spent years watching my father being president so I had a very good idea of what entailed. Now, of course it’s different from a son watching his dad doing his job than you yourself doing that job. It’s like I’m in the same setting but playing a different role but ,at least, I know what needs to be done. I have a fair idea how it used to be done anyway and so I have models that I can follow, templates that I can follow.”

He was also asked if becoming president was part of the plan when the Marcos family was preparing for their return to the Philippines after they were driven out of power in what is dubbed as a “people power” revolution in February 1986.

Marcos said that when he was still in school, he didn’t want to go into politics. But after the family was allowed to come back in 1991 (Marcos Sr. died in Hawaii on Sept. 28, 1989), they realized that they can best defend themselves by going into politics. “Somebody had to enter politics and to be in the political arena so that at least not only (for) the legacy of my father but even our own survival required that somebody go into politics.”

He described the six years living in exile as a “very trying time.”

“Those were dark days for the family, and I dare say, even for the country,” he said.

Brende lapping up the Marcos narrative is appalling to Filipinos who have not forgotten the discovery of secret accounts holding some $800 million stashed in six Swiss banks from among the documents they left behind in Malacañang.

In a show of support to the Filipino people, the Swiss government did something unprecedented – froze the accounts identified by the Philippine government under then president Cory Aquino as belonging to Marcos and members of his family following attempts to withdraw traced to them while in exile in Hawaii. In justifying the “freeze,” the Swiss bankers association said that “banking secrecy is not absolute and does not protect criminals.”

The accounts frozen were only those identified by the Philippine government. It is believed that there were many more accounts that the Marcoses continued to have access to up to this day.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government, created in 1986 to recover the wealth stolen by the Marcoses from the Filipino people, has placed the amount to over P25 billion.

That’s why we are turned off by the snow job that happened in Davos last week even as we acknowledge the hard work that the president did to attract investments to the country.

But no matter how sophisticated, how extensive the propaganda machinery is, truth will find its way to surface.

“Marcos Lies,” a compilation of 31 essays by researchers from the University of the Philippines Third World Studies – Joel F. Ariate Jr., Miguel Paolo P. Reyes and Larah Vinda Del Mundo – discusses in detail the various lies that the Marcoses have parlayed to the public in pursuit of power and plunder. One of the stories (Ferdie and Meldy’s House of Love, Lies, and Loot) talked about the “other Mrs. Marcos” in what was supposed to be the ideal marriage of Ferdi and Imelda Marcos. There was also about the “Who is Your Hero” survey that angered Imelda Marcos.

Marcos was a master of secrecy. There’s an article on how Marcos was able to keep the declaration of Martial Law a secret, as well as the tricks he had to resort to in order to hide his illness.

The articles in the 1.2 kilogram-tome are supported by documents – news reports and diplomatic cables, transcript of congressional investigations and other materials, various fragments of data that, when put together, offer a clear view of the truth that the Marcoses have either hidden or twisted. Some of those articles have been published in VERA Files.

The request for reservation for a copy of “Marcos Lies” is quite long, indicating the interest by many to bring to light what really happened during the dictatorship – the darkest period in the history Philippine democracy.

When Marcos won the election last May, one of the foremost questions in the minds of many was, “How will the Edsa people power revolution be observed under his presidency?”

His reply to Brende is a hint. Let’s see in three weeks.

New Year’s Day epic fail at NAIA

No planes flying over NAIA noontime of January 1, 2023.

I had expected that today would be the usual boring New Year’s Day with everybody allowing themselves to be lazy after last night’s “Goodbye 2022, Welcome 2023” activities.

But not for long. At 12:52 p.m., I got a text message from my friend JB Baylon who was returning from Bangkok. He was asking what’s happening in the Philippines. He said his flight was about an hour away to Manila when passengers were told that “our plane had to return to Bangkok because Philippine airports were not contactable.” He had gathered that “all radars were down.”

I tried checking the website of the Office of the Press Secretary.

The latest story posted was about President Marcos’ New Year message, reiterating his campaign call “for unity, solidarity to overcome adversities.” No mention of any trouble in NAIA.

I checked the president’s social media accounts, which are dynamic with photos of BBM activities. The latest post was his Christmas message inviting everybody to join him in the Palace: “Tara sa Palasyo! Makisalo sa ating munting pagdiriwang ng Paskong Pinoy!”

I called friends who have contacts in aviation-related government agencies. One forwarded to me an Aviation Update Philippines (AUP) issued at 10:23 a.m. It said, “Based on live flights from Flightradar24.com, AUP is reporting multiple flight disruption across airports in the Philippines. Some flights are diverting to nearest airports or are returning to port of departure.”

“According to live ATC transmission from Manila Approach, radio and radar services are down affecting Manila Control which manages Philippine airspace,” the bulletin added.

The Philippines Defense Forces Forum showed an aerial map with a caption: “Bare skies over the PH as international and domestic flights cancel or divert due to technical issues at the Manila ACC/Radar. CAAP has confirmed but did not provide details.”

By noon, NAIA stopped operations. There were no flights operating to and from the country.

Epic fail.

A friend, who has a good background in aviation and airport operations, said his sources told him, “There was a power outage.” In common man’s language, brownout.

Since there was no power, the radars became inoperable. No radars, no flights.

Filipinos are no strangers to brownouts. But NAIA is not a neighborhood sari-sari store. It may not be in the list of the top airports in the world but it is still an international airport. Doesn’t it have alternate power supply to ensure uninterrupted service?

NAIA has experienced power outage in the past causing disruption of operations. The last reported brownout, which caused the delay of more than 30 flights, was last September at NAIA3.

My friend JB was at the Bangkok airport at about 5 a.m for his 7:55 a.m. flight back to Manila. He was supposed to have arrived in Manila at 11:55 a.m. At posting time, he is back at the Bangkok airport.

He said: “We cannot leave airport. We have gone through immigration na. And our bags have been checked in. So we wait. For how long? Who knows.”

As of this writing (5 p.m.), still no word from Malacañang. The Manila International Airport Authority, which operates NAIA, apologized for delays that occurred as a result of “technical issues at the Air Navigation Facilities of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).”

The MIAA said the CAAP is now putting in place emergency protocols to address the situation to enable flight operations to resume as soon as possible.

The bridges of Antique and climate change

Photo by Bombo Radyo

While browsing Facebook on Monday, I saw the Paliwan Bridge in Bugasong, Antique had collapsed. Its approaches were washed away so the bridge is now in the middle of a river- a scene that brings back childhood memories of my dangerous and arduous journey through raging rivers during the rainy season.

I called up my niece in Guisijan, a barrio in the town of Laua-an next to Bugasong, just a few kilometers from Paliwan Bridge. Our conversation was brief because electricity had not been restored and her power bank was draining. Nobody could cross the rampaging waters of Paliwan River, she said.

The distance between San Jose de Buenavista, the capital town of Antique – one of the four provinces (Antique, Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan) in Panay island – and Guisijan is about 50 kilometers, crossing at least five rivers. I’m not sure about the exact number of rivers. Some may only be brooks (sapa) but they are all spanned by bridges, some short and others long.

The three known long bridges in Antique are Sibalom Pampang Bridge, made infamous by the ambush and killing of nine supporters of the late Evelio Javier, former Antique governor, on the eve of the 1984 parliamentary election; Cangaranan Bridge, also in Bugasong; and, Paliwan Bridge.

Those bridges are now made of concrete; they used to be made of wood. Walking on those wooden planks when buses were unable to cross the river was always a scary experience for me.

Washed away bridge approaches were a common occurrence during storms and typhoons. A bridge in the middle of a river was a common sight in Antique.

Traveling was an ordeal. We would take the bus up to one river bank, take a boat or ride on a raft, and take another bus on the other side of the river. The ordeal was repeated once we reached the next river. What usually was a one-hour bus ride had become a six to eight-hour agony on the road.

One can imagine the effect of this disturbance on the economic life of the people. Aside from the scarcity of goods, prices were tripled, even tenfold.

Antique roads, with countless potholes, were “abortion highways.” During the dry season, a bandana was a necessary accessory because of the dust that could turn your hair from black to white-gray.

In the past 15 to 20 years, traveling in Antique has greatly improved. Roads had been asphalted or cemented (although there are places where there’s a gap between cemented roads, making us suspect that part of the budget went to some people’s pockets).

Antique was hit hard by typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. After that, if I remember correctly, Antiqueños had a respite from damaging storms and typhoons. Until Paeng came last weekend.

Antique Gov. Rhodora Cadiao said in an interview on GMA-7 last Monday that she did not expect the province to be severely affected because it was not the center of the storm. She reported that Paeng left nine people dead. “Grabe talaga ang ulan (the rain was heavy),” she said, adding that there were places which experienced flooding for the first time.

As we are confronted with the loss of lives and damage to infrastructure and crops due to storm Paeng, we should be reminded that rain does not kill people. Do you know of anybody who died because of the rain?

Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute and the driving force behind Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), said, “Rainfall is not a hazard.”

But, Lagmay said, somebody needs to translate that rainfall amount in the future into hazard maps that will be used by communities to adapt to climate change.

Cadiao’s lament was exactly what Lagmay shared with VERA Files in an interview last Friday, hours before Paeng came.

“Hindi ba kapag nagkakaroon ng mga disaster, tapos may biktima na iinterbyuhin ng media, ano ba sinasabi ng mga tao? Hindi ba commonly, sinasabi nila ay: ‘First time nangyari ito. Hindi pa binabaha dito dati. Ngayon lang namin nakita ito. Ngayon lang kami nakakita ng ganito kalaking storm surge. Ngayon lang kami nakakita ng ganito kalaking baha. Hindi pa nagkakaroon ng landslides’.”

(Isn’t it that whenever there’s a disaster, when a victim is interviewed by the media, what do they say? Commonly, they say: ‘It’s the first time that this has happened. This place had not been flooded. We experienced it just now. It’s only now that we saw that huge storm surge.
It’s only now that we saw such massive floods. Never have we had landslides.)

Lagmay said: “It only tells us that, aba, we failed to anticipate. ‘Yun lang ang (That’s the) collective meaning nun, eh. Bakit lahat ‘yan sinasabi nila na ngayon lang (Why are they all saying), first time, first time. It only tells us that we failed; they failed to anticipate the bigger event than what they have experienced.

“And that also tells us that we need really to change it to prepare for the bigger impacts. The impacts that will be brought about by climate change; those that are predicted by climate scientists from all over the world that can happen in the future … and it may be happening now.”

Zubiri’s misinformation proof of Pulse Asia survey on ‘fake news’

Senate President Migz Zubiri with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.

Pulse Asia’s recent survey on “fake news,” which showed that the majority of Filipinos are confident in their ability to tell whether a political news is true or not, indicates their naivety about the tangled web that is social media.

In its nationwide survey conducted from Sept. 17 to 21 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 sample representatives of the population, Pulse Asia asked, “How confident are you in the ability of Filipinos to detect whether news about government and politics they have heard, read, or watched is truthful or false?”

Fifty-five percent said “confident.” Of the 55%, 8% said they were “very confident” while 47% said “somewhat confident.” Thirty-seven percent were unsure.

This high degree of confidence in the Filipinos’ ability to determine the truthfulness or falsity of political news reminds us of a 2018 study by a market research firm Ipsos MORI which showed that Filipinos was third among 38 countries surveyed with the “least accurate perception” of their nation’s issues. South Africa and Brazil beat the Philippines to that ignominious list.

Yet, the same study said, “Despite being among the least accurate, respondents in India, the Philippines and Peru are among the most confident in their answers.”

The Pulse Asia survey revealed that almost nine out of every 10 adult Filipinos (86%) believe “fake news” is a problem in the Philippines.
According to Ronald Holmes, Pulse Asia president, the term “fake news,” as used in the survey, means “balitang walang katotohanan.” False news.

In the fact- checking community, which VERA Files is part of, we discourage the use of the term “fake news” because it’s an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. An attribute of news is truthfulness. To describe it as “fake” doesn’t make sense and denigrates the value of news.
Also, “fake news” has become a catch-all phrase for anything that one dislikes, whether it’s true or not.

Instead, we use “misinformation” and “disinformation.” “Misinformation” refers to false or misleading information spread through several platforms without an intent to deceive. “Disinformation” is information deliberately created and shared to deceive.

A good example of misinformation is the announcement of Senate President Migz Zubiri during the Oct. 11 joint hearing of the Senate committees on ways and means and public order and dangerous drugs that Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said, “The Philippines now is part of a blacklist of tourist sites because they do not know if the tourists going there will be operating or will be joining POGO operations.”

The Chinese Embassy immediately denied Zubiri’s announcement, correctly describing it as “misinformation,” to which the senator disagreed and insisted that the ambassador mentioned the word “blacklist” several times.

Zubiri’s claim was not supported by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who was also in that meeting with the Chinese ambassador. He said Huang only mentioned the “possibility” that China would “restrict” its citizens from coming to the Philippines.

Zubiri did not directly admit his mistake but his later statement corrected his false announcement. He said, “Maybe it was lost in translation and what the good ambassador meant was we could be possibly blacklisted as he mentioned they do that to countries who promote gambling to their countrymen.”

That’s misinformation. It was a false announcement that stemmed from his misunderstanding of the envoy’s statement. There was no intention to deceive.

Zubiri’s misinformation can also be an example of another public perception revealed in the Pulse Asia survey which says, a sizable number of the respondents (67%) point to politicians – national,37% and local, 30% – as peddlers of false information or “fake news” about government and politics.

The politicians are followed by social media influencers, bloggers and/or vloggers (58%).
Reflecting the decline of the people’s trust in media, journalists were also mentioned as peddlers of fake news (40%).

That hurts!