THE WORLD is now a much more dangerous place, after the downing of a Russian bomber-plane by two Turkish F16s in disputed airspace near the Turkish-Syrian border this week. But we are so focused on our narrow domestic cares related to the holding of our 2016 presidential elections that we seem to have no energy left for anything else.
Indeed, these cares are not unrelated to the rule of law and the issue of peace, but we need a broader perspective, in light of fast-breaking global developments.
Maintaining the rule of law and peace in the world will now depend a lot on what kind of restraint Russia could muster after the aircraft downing incident, in which it lost not only one war plane but also one pilot who was machine-gunned to death by terrorists as he parachuted on Syrian soil, and one serviceman aboard the rescue helicopter that was similarly attacked by missiles.
If, by any miscalculation and against its will or best judgment, the world slips into war, all our present preoccupations about our presidential politics would disappear in smoke.
While the world bursts into flames, we would probably end up with a national emergency or an uprising or anarchy of some sort, rather than a rigged national election, which everyone fears. This is why it is absolutely necessary that we try to understand what’s happening in the world: this is the least we can do in the face of events we cannot control.
Our mass media and our politicians would do well to devote a little more time and attention to what’s happening on the broad international front.
As the cornerstone of the former Soviet empire, Russia used to be the “enemy” during the bad, old days of the Cold War. It has since emerged as a most responsible member of the international community of nations, and an emerging world leader in the fight against dysfunctional sexual and family lifestyles. But its decision to fly bombing missions against ISIS targets in Syria in support of the Basher al-Assad government has met with stern US disapproval; and lately, it has had a bad run.
On Oct. 31, it lost all 224 passengers on board the Russian airliner which terrorists bombed off the air above the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula while en route to St. Petersburg. The terrorists’ hand in that incident was confirmed only after the ISIS attack in Paris and Saint-Denis that killed 129 and wounded 300 others on Nov. 13. The ensuing crisis prevented Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending the APEC Economic Leaders Summit in Manila, but it did not prevent him from attending the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey and telling his colleagues there that powerful businessmen in some 40 countries,
including some G20 countries, were among those secretly funding the ISIS.
It was completely ironic that it was in Turkey after Putin denounced some countries’ alleged secret complicity with ISIS that Russia found itself at the receiving end of the incredible incident. Previous to this, in his address to the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations on Sept. 28, Putin called for an international coalition, based on international law, against ISIS. He also vowed to use Russia’s chairmanship of the UN Security Council to vigorously pursue the anti-ISIS initiative.
All this must have marked Russia as an enemy of ISIS, but certainly not of those who were also committed, at least on paper, to fight it.
What happened in whose airspace?
According to Western press accounts, the Russian SU-24 was downed by two US-made Turkish F16 jets after entering Turkish airspace and ignoring warnings, repeated ten times over a period of five minutes. Immediately thereafter, Turkey turned to its NATO allies, notably US President Barack Obama who said, “Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.” He suggested the incident was bound to happen because Russia was operating very close to a Turkish border, and “they are going after a moderate opposition that are supported not only by Turkey but a wide range of countries.” In an emergency meeting, NATO repeated Obama’s standpoint, and said it stood “in solidarity” with the Turkish government.
However, Putin directly contradicted the popular version of the incident. In his press conference in Sochi, Russia, prior to his meeting with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II, Putin said, “Today’s loss is a result of a stab in the back delivered by terrorists’ accomplices. There is no other way I can qualify what happened today.
“Our aircraft was shot down over Syrian territory by an air-to-air missile launched from a Turkish F16 plane. It fell on Syrian territory, four kilometers from the Turkish border. When it was attacked in the air, it was flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters, one (1) kilometer away from Turkish territory. In any case, our plane and our pilots were in no way a threat to the Turkish Republic in any way…
“We have long been recording the movement of a large amount of oil and petroleum products to Turkey from the ISIS-occupied territories. This explains the significant funding the terrorists are receiving. Now they are stabbing us in the back by hitting our planes that are fighting terrorism. This is happening despite the agreement we have signed with our American partners to prevent air incidents, and, as you know, Turkey is among those who are supposed to be fighting terrorism with the American coalition.
“If ISIS is making so much money–we are talking of tens, or maybe even hundreds of millions, possibly billions of dollars in oil trade, and they are supported by the armed forces of an entire state, it is clear why they are being so daring and imprudent, why they are killing people in such gruesome ways, why they are committing terrorist attacks all over the world, including in the heart of Europe…
“Today’s tragic event will have significant consequences for Russian-Turkish relations. We have always treated Turkey not merely as a close neighbor, but as a friendly state. I do not know who benefits from what has happened today. We certainly do not. Moreover, instead of immediately establishing contacts with us, as far as we know, Turkey turned to its NATO partners to discuss the incident. As if we had hit their plane, and not the other way around…”
The Russian general staff denounced the incident as a “flagrant violation of international law with extremely grave consequences, and a direct breach of the memorandum on air-incident prevention and flight safety over the Syrian Arab Republic, which had been signed by the United States and relevant for all countries of the anti-terrorism coalition, including Turkey.” At the same time the Russian defense ministry showed some radar-based videos to support its allegation that the Russian plane did not cross Turkish airspace, that to the contrary it was the Turkish jets that violated Syrian airspace to make the kill.
Nothing like this has ever happened since the creation of the NATO or the end of World War II. Russia has since deployed its Moskva warship, equipped with “Fort” air defense systems, similar to the S-300, to the coastal region off Latakia in Syria, where the ill-fated SU-24 was based. It has suspended all tourism, terminated all military cooperation with Turkey, and military-to-military contact between the two countries. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov canceled a scheduled meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Istanbul. The situation is fluid, to say the least.
WE CAN’T AFFORD TO PLAY WITH GRACE POE LLAMANZARES
While the world teeters on the brink of violent confrontation, we play our little games on how to circumvent the Constitution in the name of a constitutionally ineligible presidential candidate, Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares. I was at the Commission on Elections on Wednesday for a “clarificatory hearing” on my petition for the disqualification of Mrs. Llamanzares as a presidential candidate, and I could not believe how surreal the situation has become since the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruled on Nov. 17 on Rizalito David’s petition to disqualify Mrs. Llamanzares from the Senate for not being a Filipino citizen.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio as chair of the SET, together with Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo de Castro, plus Senator Nancy Binay voted to disqualify the respondent for not being a natural-born Filipino under the Constitution, but the five other members, only one of whom is a lawyer, voted in favor of the respondent, for reasons having nothing to do with the Constitution. All three justices explained extensively Mrs. Llamanzares’s constitutional violation, Justice Brion in particular pointed out that the senators themselves violated the Constitution in upholding Mrs. Llamanzares’s unconstitutional occupation of her Senate position.
My petition against Mrs. Llamanzares’s presidential candidacy cites her lack of citizenship and residency, as provided in the Constitution. Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “no person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than ten years immediately preceding such election.” Article IV, Sec. 2 provides that “natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship.”
Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares was born a foundling, of no known parents, and found in the premises of Jaro parish church on Sept. 3, 1968. The parents being unknown, their nationality was also unknown–and remains unknown to this day. Under the jus sanguinis principle, her nationality must follow her father’s bloodline. But since this is unknown, her bloodline is unknown. Now, under international law, every child must have a nationality, so Mary Grace is entitled to a nationality. But such nationality is not automatically awarded to any foundling; the state must first provide the process for the foundling to acquire a nationality, and the foundling must avail herself of that process.
The Philippines has a legal naturalization process, which has been followed by many. Yet there is no evidence to show that Mrs. Llamanzares has ever availed herself of this process. So since she is not natural-born, how did she become a naturalized Filipino? She presents her case in the opposite way: Since she is not naturalized, then she is obviously a natural-born Filipino. She insists on the theory that there are only two types of citizens–the natural born and the naturalized. She overlooks the fact that aside from the citizens, there are the non-citizens, the foundling who are stateless before they are naturalized.
She alludes to the rights and privileges of Filipino citizenship which she has availed of as proofs of her being a natural-born Filipino. Her earliest acts consisted of her registering as a voter and acquiring a Philippine passport, without first having become a Filipino. Her latest act was to “reacquire Philippine citizenship” upon her return to the Philippines from the US, where she ( along with her family) had moved to and lived in as an American citizen by falsely representing herself as a “former natural-born Filipino.” If these prove anything, they merely prove that she has illegally exercised these rights and privileges without first having become a Filipino. This means that she has committed acts punishable under our laws.
At Wednesday’s hearing, I was pleased to see Atty. George Erwin Garcia speak for the respondent Sen. Llamanzares, after he had been sidelined by an older counsel in the SET hearings. He is a well-mannered lawyer, who has been handling election cases from the beginning, and I looked forward to hearing him present his client’s case, while Atty. Manuelito Luna spoke on my behalf.
He exceeded my expectations. His first point was that the Comelec had no jurisdiction over questions of qualifications of presidential candidates, and therefore my petition should be dismissed. The remedy, he said, was to let Mrs. Llamanzares run despite her constitutional infirmities, and should she win, to question her right to sit as president on a quo warranto petition before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. It was a novel proposition delivered with some panache, but my good friend failed to point out how the Comelec could possibly discharge itself from the task of passing on the constitutional eligibility of Mrs. Llamanzares while at the same time exercising the routine duty of weeding out so-called “nuisance candidates” from the list of 130 presidential “candidates.”
Still the best was yet to come. Despite the clear language of the Constitution, and the jus sanguinis doctrine that determines the citizenship of Filipino children, Garcia proposed that every foundling born in the Philippines is a natural-born citizen, without the parentage being known. Upon interpellation by the razor-sharp Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, Garcia melted like butter, forced to say yes even to the absurd proposition that a green-eyed, purple-skinned, blonde foundling could be so declared a natural-born Filipino citizen, fit to become president of the Philippines in forty years.