2022 Go-Duterte tandem: another way for Duterte to cling to power

Senator Bong Go holds cellphone for President Duterte

Amidst the disaster of unabated rise of COVID-19 cases (breaching the 5, 000 mark last Saturday, the highest daily increase since Aug. 26, 2020), the Filipino people are being set up for another tragedy: an attempt to bastardize the Constitution for President Duterte to continue being in power after his term ends on June 30, 2022.

Last week, the government Philippine News Agency (PNA) and a few other news outlets carried a story about the result of a privately-commissioned Pulse Asia survey showing that if elections were held today, the winning tandem would be Christopher “Bong” Go for president and Rodrigo Duterte for vice president.

A day after the release of the Pulse Asia survey, which was conducted Feb.10 to 19, Duterte disclosed in Dumaguete-Sibulan airport in Negros Oriental that Go had asked him to tell the people about his desire to be president of the country.

While introducing officials with him, including Go, Duterte shared: “When we were on our way here, he said, ‘please talk to the people, tell them that I want to run for president.’ So, Bong.”
That same day, there was a report about a PDP-Laban resolution calling on Duterte to run as vice president in the 2022 elections.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao, PDP-Laban acting president who is known to be nurturing presidential ambitions in 2022, shot down the resolution as “not authorized.”

We are sure that if the Go-Duterte tandem pushes through in 2022, it will be challenged in court. These are our initial thoughts on the scheme:

The Constitution says: “The President and the Vice President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years, which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date six years thereafter. The President shall not be eligible for any reelection. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.”

Duterte and Go can say that the Constitution does not say that one who has served as president cannot run as vice president, but the Go-Duterte set up would be undermining the essence of the prohibition.
The role of the vice president has been famously described as a “heart beat” away from the presidency.
The Constitution further says: “If at the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died or shall have become permanently disabled, the Vice President-elect shall become President.”

This is reiterated two paragraphs after with this provision: “In case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice-President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term.”

As vice president, would Duterte be contented to be a spare tire to his gofer? Or is the scheme really for “President Go” to resign to pave the way for “Vice President Duterte” to return to the presidency?
Isn’t that circumventing the six-year term cap without reelection for the presidency?

Despite Duterte’s oft-repeated complaints about the burden of the presidency, he wants to cling to the position. His minions in the House of Representatives have been trying in vain to push Charter Change.
The “Bong Go for President in 2022” on its own has not taken off. That’s why they have to resort to this Constitution-twisting scheme, banking on the popularity of Duterte.

This scheme gives credence to talks that Duterte is not enthusiastic about his daughter Sara succeeding him because he can’t control her and her husband.

With Go, he would be the one pulling the strings. And it would be a Duterte presidency Part II.

Guevarra’s speech reveals concern on ICC probe of Duterte

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra (inset) addressed the U.N.Human Rights Council.

Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s bravado that he is not worried about the complaints of crimes against humanity filed before the International Criminal Court (ICC) against him and officials involved in the government’s bloody drug war, the speech of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last Feb. 24 betrayed the administration’s concern about it.

Toward the end of Guevarra’s speech delivered online, he enumerated what the Philippine government has done on the human rights aspect of Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. He said: “The PH strongly emphasizes its legal and judicial system, its domestic accountability mechanisms are functioning as they should. We reject any attempt by any external entity to assume jurisdiction over internal matters which are being addressed more than adequately by our national institutions and authorities.”

Are they concerned that outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s report expected to come out before the end of her term on June 15 would recommend investigation of the more than 50 communications that her office had been examining since 2018 and from which it has found “reasonable basis to believe” that crimes against humanity were committed in Duterte’s drug war?

Guevarra’s assertion that “(the Philippine) legal and judicial system, its domestic accountability mechanisms are functioning” stands hollow beside the track record of insolence that government agencies had shown in their response to cries for justice and accountability by families of victims and human rights groups.

A reliable government source said they have investigated less than 2% of the more than 5,000 drug-related killings admitted by police authorities.

Private firm Center for International Law (CenterLaw), which represents families of the victims of the drug war in 28 barangays in San Andres Bukid, Manila in the cases filed before the Supreme Court, accused in 2019 the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of “underhanded machinations” when they submitted what the lawyers described as “rubbish” documents unrelated to the drug war when they were compelled by the High Court to provide the petitioners’ records of police operations.

The Rome Statute that created the ICC provides that it is the duty of every State to exercise its jurisdiction over those responsible for committing international crimes. The ICC can intervene only when it sees that the government is “unable or unwilling” to “genuinely” carry out the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators.

Guevarra admitted that there were lapses in the police operations against illegal drugs and tried to show that the government is doing something about it.

In that same Feb. 24 speech, the justice secretary said: “Our initial and preliminary findings confirm that in many of these cases, law enforcement agents asserted that the subject of anti-drug operations resisted arrest or attempted to draw a weapon and fight back. Yet, no full examination of the weapon recovered was conducted. No verification of its ownership was undertaken. No request for ballistic examination or paraffin test was pursued until its completion.

It was also noted that, among others, in more than half of the records reviewed, the law enforcement agents involved failed to follow standard protocols pertaining to coordination with other agencies and the processing of the crime scene.

“We have referred these initial findings to our national police authorities and we have been informed that the appropriate internal investigations of thousands of these incidents have been conducted. And scores of police officers have been recommended for administrative and criminal action. It is now the immediate task of the review panel to ensure that these recommendations have been acted upon and carried out by the proper disciplinarian authorities. And that measures are adopted to minimize loss of lives during legitimate law enforcement operations against illegal drugs. “

The ICC has shown that it is not easily impressed. In the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) and former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was arrested in 2008 and convicted in 2016 (overturned two years later) of the charges of crimes against humanity, the international court dismissed as “grossly inadequate and not genuine” the supposed actions that the government undertook.

ICC also said: “Notably the Chamber found that the limited measures Bemba took were ‘primarily motivated’ by his desire to counter public allegation and rehabilitate the public image of the MLC.”
Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Two case dismissals but no release order

Senator Leila de Lima and journalist Lady Ann Salem

The case of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against journalist Lady Ann “Icy” Salem of Manila Today was dismissed last Feb. 5 but she continues to be in jail in Mandaluyong City.

A drug case against Sen. Leila De Lima was dismissed last Feb. 17. She, however, remains in detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City because she still faces two other cases.

Salem’s lawyer, Kristina Conti of the Public Interest Law Center, speaking at a rally of the journalist’s supporters in front of the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court, said last Friday that the Feb. 5 dismissal of the case against Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago was not accompanied by a release order.

Conti said there’s no legal reason for Salem to stay a minute longer in jail for a case that is “walang ka kwenta-kwenta (senseless).”

Salem was arrested last Dec. 10, while the world was marking Human Rights Day, based on a search warrant issued by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

In dismissing the case against Salem, Presiding Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio declared the police officers’ search warrant void for being vague after they confiscated items not listed in the warrant.

News reports noted that instead of confiscating only one laptop and one unit of cellphone, as stated in the search warrant, the police took four laptops and five cellphones of different brands.

“The raiding team did not limit themselves to the items listed in the Search Warrants … The seizure of these items is unlawful as even the ‘plain view doctrine’ is clearly inapplicable to these cases,” said the court that also found substantial inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimonies of informants.

“Since the sole basis of the issuance of the Search Warrants w(as) their (informants) sworn statements and testimonies, the Court finds that probable cause was not sufficiently establish(ed),” the dismissal order stated.

In blocking Salem’s release, the prosecutor was insisting that the dismissal is not yet final because it is under appeal. Conti, however, said it does not hold water because the case can go on without keeping Salem in jail.

Conti said Salem, 35, is holding on admirably in detention. She shares an 8 feet by 3 feet detention cell in the Mandaluyong City jail with five other women detainees.

“To maximize the space, they have hung up hammocks up the steel bars where some of them sleep,” said Conti.
De Lima, on the other hand, is marking her four-year imprisonment by launching two books: “Dispatches from Crame I” and “Faith, Hope & Love: Dispatches from Crame II.”

Reacting to the dismissal of one of the three drug cases against her, De Lima, who investigated President Duterte’s alleged human rights violations when she was chair of the Human Rights Commission and Duterte was mayor of Davao City, said: “To be acquitted even in just one case, in the time of Duterte, is a moral victory. “

In the statement read by her lawyers during a press conference after the dismissal of Criminal Case No. 17-166, she took the opportunity to explain the two remaining cases and her situation in detention.

She said that even if the Demurrer to Evidence and Motion for Bail in her other criminal case (No. 17-165) was denied, she and her lawyers believe that the government does not have a strong evidence to prove their trumped-up charges.

In the case “conspiracy to engage in illegal drug trading,” De Lima said the prosecution has not come up with any evidence of the alleged crime. “Walang kahit isang testigo na nagpatunay na ako at ang aking kapwa akusado ay nakipagsabwatan sa mga drug lords para maglako o magbenta ng ilegal na droga sa Bilibid. (Not one of the witnesses proved that I and the other accused conspired with the drug lords to sell illegal drugs in Bilibid.),” she pointed out.

According to her, the prosecution’s witnesses whom it described as “drug lords” have denied that they were drug lords and asserted that they had never entered into any illegal deal with the senator.

She underscored the anomaly in the charges filed against her: “Ito lang din ang katangi-tanging mga kaso tungkol sa droga na kahit isang butil o gramo ng droga, ay walang naipresenta. (This is the only drug case in which not a single grain or gram of drugs was presented.”

“Ibig sabihin, puro laway lang ang basehan (It means their basis is all saliva),”she said.

De Lima explained it has been proven that Case 17-165 was not about drugs but about the unbridled corruption and malpractices in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) such as paying prison officials for the return of their privileges which she stopped when she was justice secretary.

De Lima said her accusers have not proven that she received money from the alleged sale of illegal drugs. “Puro tsismis. Puro haka-haka lang. (It was all gossip. Pure speculation.)”

She added: “Mula’t sapul, ang mga kasong ito ay ginagamit lamang na paraan para patahimikin ako at gambalain ang aking paglilingkod sa bayan bilang senador, sa paglaban sa kawalang hustisya at pagtataguyod ng karapatang mamuhay nang marangal at may dignidad ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang maralita. Subalit mula noon hanggang ngayon at sa darating pang mga araw, hindi ko hinayaan at hahayaang magtagumpay ang ganitong taktika.

(From the beginning, these cases were used to silence me and prevent me from serving the people as senator, to fight injustice and for the right of our countrymen to live with honor and dignity, especially the poor. But from the beginning up to now and in the coming days, I did not and will not allow this tactic to succeed.)”

De Lima said if those in power would be allowed to circumvent the law to imprison an innocent senator, what more when their target are the poor and the defenseless. “To jail one innocent person – whoever they may be – is an insult to every Filipino who deserves a better government, and an assault on the future of our country,” she said.

Salem and De Lima are two faces of courage against an insecure thug in power. They need and deserve the people’s support.

Sara Duterte plays ‘jele jele bago quiere’

Sara does the traditional “mano po” to her father, President Dutere. Malacanang photo.

The title of this column is borrowed from Jose Rizal’s masterpiece, Noli Me Tangere, which historian Ambeth Ocampo best explained in his 2016 opinion piece to mean “one is pretending not to appear interested in something, though in reality one is desperate to have it.”

In just two weeks, the response of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, to groups urging her to run for president next year has changed drastically. On Jan. 15, she said: “I am not being coy nor am I doing a last minute. If the whole country doesn’t want to believe that, then I can’t do anything about it. Not everyone wants to be president. I am one of them.” On Jan. 31, she was singing a different tune, saying she was willing to run if the opposition supports her.

This was how news reports quoted Duterte-Carpio as saying when asked to comment on the “Run, Sara, Run” activities: “I am always grateful that I have their trust and confidence. I am pleading to them to please allow me to run for President on 2034, if at that time there is something I can do to help the country. Thank you.”

But the next presidential election is in May 2022. Duterte-Carpio further said: “Ang isang Pangulo may anim na taon lang para tumulong; ‘di ko magagawa maayos ang trabaho kung hindi tayo magkaisa. (A president has only six years to help. I cannot do my job well if we are not united.) We want to lift our fellowmen out of poverty. We need all hands on deck, working hard and not spend the next six years wringing each other’s necks.”

This is a repudiation of her father’s insulting remarks last month when he said his daughter is not running for president after his term because, according to him, the presidency is not for women. “I told Inday not to run kasi naawa ako sa dadaanan niya na dinaanan ko (I told Inday not to run because I feel bad for her that she would have the same experience that I had). Hindi ito pambabae (This is not meant for women).”

Duterte-Carpio leads in Pulse Asia’s survey of possible candidates for the 2022 presidential race.

Her ‘jele jele bago quiere’ is straight out of her father’s strategy in 2016 when he kept on saying he was not interested in running for president while he was going around the country under the guise of a campaign for federalism. He grabbed the headlines by not filing his certificate of candidacy before the deadline set by the Commission on Elections and opted for the substitution provision.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also played that game before. And so did many other politicians. “If the people insist, how can I refuse?” is the tired, old line.

It is important for Duterte to make sure that his successor is somebody who would protect him from the many cases that would be filed against him once he is out of Malacañang for violations of the Constitution that he has committed during his presidency. The families of those killed in his drug war campaign will want him to account for the murder of their kin. There’s the “crime against humanity” complaint filed with the International Criminal Court.

He also has to answer for the more than P100 million deposits at the Bank of the Philippine Islands which he did not report, as required by law, in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth when he was Davao City mayor.

Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a plunder case at the Office of the Ombudsman in May 2016, alleging that one of the sources of funds of Duterte’s BPI accounts was money collected from the city government through the ghost employees scheme.

Duterte’s co-holder of that account is his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio.

This column is qlso in VERA Files, =”https://news.abs-cbn.com/blogs/opinions/02/08/21/sara-duterte-plays-jele-jele-bago-quiere”>ABS-CBN online and Malaya Business Insight

NTF-ELCAC’s continued red-tagging makes AFP apology deceptive

NTF-ELCAC Spokesman Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. PNA photo

Alex Padilla, one of the 28 University of the Philippines students and alumni in the list of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “who became NPA (died or captured),” noted that the unsigned apology of the AFP Information Center that released the erroneous and egregious list is” hardly one.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, whose image as one of the decent few in the Duterte cabinet has been dented with that list, has relieved AFP’’s Deputy Director for Intelligence, Major General Alex Luna for what he called, “an unforgivable lapse.”

“It is a good first step but it may not be nearly enough,” said Padilla whose stint with the government includes having been Philhealth president and chief executive officer and chief negotiator in the peace process with the communist rebels.

Padilla raised several questions that the government should answer: “Why such lists are even made and published? Why the practice of red tagging still persists within the AFP and dossiers still gathered and kept forty years since? Why must lives be endangered, reputations and livelihood imperiled as a consequence of baseless allegations without due process?”

The AFP and Lorenzana’s apology and promise to institute measures to ensure that such blunder will not happen again are not only inadequate but even deceptive because the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) continues its red-tagging spree of colleges and universities.

In an interview on GMA News’ Super Radyo dzBB, following the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND accord regulating police and military operations inside UP campuses. Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr., NTF-ELCAC spokesman, named more schools, aside from UP, that, he said, are recruitment haven for communists.

Some of the schools named have issued statements denying NTF-ELCAC’s allegations:
President Emmanuel Leyco of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) said in a Facebook post that the “The PLM administration is not aware of any recruitment by the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) on campus nor had it been previously advised by the authorities of such activities.”

The allegation, he said, is an “insult” to the PLM community – “a serious disservice to the men and women of the PLM and comes at a very bad time when its faculty, students and staff are struggling with the challenges of online education.”

“Such distraction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed reprehensible,” Leyco said.
The Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and the Far Eastern University released a joint statement Parlade’s latest allegation:

“This charge, though, is really ‘getting old’– a rehash of the public accusation the general made in 2018 –irresponsibly since cast without proof,” the statement said.

“We therefore object to General Parlade’s statement and emphasize that our institutions neither promote nor condone recruitment activities of the New People’s Army and, indeed, of any movement that aims to violently overthrow the government.”

The joint statement said they “value the Filipino’s basic Constitutional rights of speech, thought assembly, and organization.”

“And as institutions of higher learning that are stewards of the youth, repositories and producers of knowledge, and builders of communities, we must retain independence and autonomy from the State and other social institutions.”

They underscored their responsibility “to promote learning and safeguard the rights of the young who are entrusted to our care.”

Bukidnon State University (BukSU) community was most surprised to find themselves in NTF-ELCAC’s list.

BukSU released a statement assuring the public that it is committed to help keep the countryside peaceful and progressive through quality higher education.

“As a state university, BukSU promotes academic freedom and the core values of excellence, professionalism, integrity, commitment and culture sensitivity among its students so they become peace-loving, innovative, and ethical leaders.

“The university does not support any illegal activities and has not permitted any of its offices, faculty and staff to engage in any activity that serves the interest of any party or group such as the CPP-NPA.

“The university has been and will continue to be a safe place for learning. The administration has put in place policies and mechanisms to ensure that the students are allowed only to engage in activities in line with developing competencies in their chosen field,” the statement said.