Only because he has a big job to do for President Rodrigo Duterte, which I used to do for President Ferdinand Marcos from 1969 to 1980, (when I was 29 until I was 40), I have a wealth of sympathy for the Secretary of Communications Martin Andanar, with whom I spoke recently on his 42nd birthday. I continue to pray for his success, next to that of PDU30. But I could never understand why he persists in announcing, almost with alacrity, that there is an active plot to kill or oust DU30. No other government has done anything like it. In a class act of conceding nothing to the enemy, Saddam Hussein’s information minister refused to admit that the anti-Saddam forces were already about to sack his master’s palace and ready to inflict the coup de grace.
“What are they trying to do? It just doesn’t quite add up,” said a young businessman in Zamboanga City, with whom I spoke at the funeral rites for the late Archbishop Emeritus Carmelo Morelos at the Zamboanga cathedral on Wednesday. “Are they trying to build a strawman, which they would eventually put to the torch?
Isn’t this a dangerous game to play?” According to every known manual on governance, you never advertise a threat to the throne if it exists, and the more you never, never do, if no such threat exists.
It’s now the economy, stupid
DU30’s political standing has apparently begun to wobble after his ungoverned tongue created the current messy diplomatic situation with US President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the European Union, whose only mistake was to have expressed official concern about the summary killing of now 3,000 drug suspects in the “war” on drugs. But the killings could not possibly have exacerbated any existing risk of assassination or extra-constitutional ouster much more than they have created serious uncertainty and fear among foreign investors. Stock prices are down, investors are fleeing, the peso is falling, and abroad people laugh in apparent amusement whenever the name of the Philippines or PDU30 is mentioned.
Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings, while affirming the country’s strong external position, has warned against “downside risks” arising from global factors and political uncertainties created by the DU30 administration. The S&P statement is important because of the strong support it lent to the economy during the Aquino administration. In 2013, the economy won investment-grade status from the three international credit rating agencies—first Fitch, then S&P, then Moody’s—because of its “strong external profile, low inflation and shrinking budget deficit,” but it was S&P that raised the credit rating in May 2014 to two notches above investment grade.
Now S&P is sounding the alarm on a possible downturn. The firm is not talking of the prospects of a downgrade—all it’s saying is that no upgrade is foreseeable in the next two years; but so many others are expressing fears about it. Some are even warning about the possibility of economic sanctions, if the “war” on drugs is extended, and extrajudicial killings continue to pile up across the nation. DU30 has given himself another six months to wrap up his “war:” but it could go on much longer, without any clear success.
The longest war
A book by the author Charles R. Miller talks of America’s 40-year war on drugs as “the Longest War” —longer than the famous Thirty Years War in Europe that ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648—but it describes that war as a “failed war,” which ended with the drug cartels evolving into international crime empires destabilizing nations through violence and corruption, and finally linking up with international terrorism. In the present campaign, no illegal drug producer, manufacturer, financier, or mega distributor has been touched, no large drug laboratories have been destroyed; only 3,000 small pushers have been killed and 600,000 users have turned themselves in for fear of getting killed by the police and vigilantes. The summary killings have elicited international criticism, but it is DU30’s foul-mouthed response to the criticism that has created a situation the country has never seen before.
It is not the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but our own PDU30, who has sent “political correctness” cascading to the bottom of the sewer. And this is what appears to have caused Andanar to announce of a plot to assassinate the President and a plot to oust him by extra-constitutional means. Unfortunately, such announcements only provoke disbelief.
What are they cooking now?
As my Zamboanga interlocutor put it, “They must be cooking something. They want to create a casus belli for state counter-action. And it’s got to be something more draconian than Martial Law. Let’s just hope it doesn’t qualify as state terrorism.”
The remark seemed to jibe with what DU30 said yesterday, as reported by the Philippine Star’s banner headline. “I don’t want martial law,” DU30 declared, and with good reason. The 1987 Constitution has completely emasculated the concept of martial law, and we have a new generation of Filipinos whose understanding of Marcos’ proclamation in 1972 seems limited to the claims of the so-called “Martial Law victims,” without any reference to the communists’ violent attempt to take over the government as the most compelling reason for the constitutional proclamation.
On Wednesday, the 44th anniversary of the 1972 proclamation, street protesters and media commentators hardly mentioned the communist insurgency that triggered the declaration. They focused solely on the alleged violations of human rights suffered by innocent victims and the armed partisans who had failed to bring down Marcos. A number of TV stations remembered that, as Secretary of Information, I read the lengthy Proclamation 1081 to the nation, and had wanted me to share some commemorative thoughts on the occasion.
I was in Zamboanga and could not honor any of the invitations. Moreover, I find it so frustrating that pure partisanship seems to have completely smothered and suppressed any seed of scholarship on this issue. Far too many of those who want to discuss the issue seem to believe that the Filipino communists in Utrecht won the Cold War when the Soviet Union lost it in 1991, and that they are still winning the war in the Philippines. Thus, the armed communists whom Marcos had failed to bury in the ‘70s now would like to prevent his long delayed burial at the Libingan.
The present Constitution has reduced the concept of Martial Law into a shell of its former self. Under Section 10 (2), Article VII of the 1935 Constitution, which was the basis of the 1972 proclamation, “The President shall be 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, insurrection, or rebellion. In case of invasion, insurrection, or rebellion, or imminent threat thereof, when the public safety requires it, he may suspend the writ of habeas corpus, or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”
In the 1987 Constitution, written by Cory Aquino’s appointive constitutional commission, the so-called Commander-in-Chief provision was subjected to severe limitations, which put Congress on top of the President and Commander-in-Chief. Thus, Martial Law may be declared only in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, for a period of six months—no longer when there is an imminent threat of invasion, insurrection or rebellion, and for as long as the actual or imminent danger lasts. What happens if the invasion or rebellion and the threats to public safety last longer than six months? Silly, don’t you think?
Now, within 48 hours from the proclamation of Martial Law, the President must submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress, which, voting jointly, may revoke the proclamation by a majority vote of all its members, and which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. In case of a raging rebellion or invasion, how on earth could you expect the Congress to meet and the President to be going there to make a report, when he should be running the military response to the rebellion or invasion? Absurd, if not stupid, don’t you think?
Martial Law now useless
So DU30 is right in rejecting Martial Law as a possible option. It is no longer a sufficient vehicle for what he may want to do. His daily visits to the military camps, where he promises increased benefits to the troops and delivers “inspirational talks,” during which he gives “the middle finger” to foreign interlopers, (as happened recently), suggest that he may be considering something not written in the Constitution. Some military analysts believe he is preparing to retool the entire Armed Forces, based on new terms of engagement with the CPP/NPA/NDF. He is doing his best to galvanize his personal ties with the troops so that he would meet no resistance when he finally asks them to support the coalition government with the CPP/NPA/NDF.
This sounds like a conspiracy theory, but analysts insist it is not. A coalition government is almost in place. Without the benefit of formal negotiations, and without going through the canonical stage of strategic stalemate, seasoned communists have entered the Cabinet, and been given the most powerful positions with access to virtually unlimited funds and facilities to broaden their mass base. What to call the next step or the resulting extra-constitutional arrangement is not really a problem. A skunkweed by any other name will smell as a skunkweed.
Constitutional dictatorship or revolutionary govt
Salvador Panelo, who has been removed as presidential spokesman and made presidential legal counsel purposely to protect DU30 from any nuisible verbiage, has managed to sneak in the phrase “constitutional dictatorship” to describe what seems to be in the cards, without any attribution to Clinton Rossiter, who first gave us the phrase. Some observers suspect that at the prompting of the Left, DU30 may have decided to finally declare a revolutionary government, exactly as he had promised he would do when he was still a candidate.
As such, a move is not likely to be supported by the nation’s longtime democratic allies, DU30 has apparently decided to “unfriend” the US, the European Union and other allies in advance, using their critical comments on the summary drug killings as the convenient excuse. We are no longer a vassal state, says DU30; we are no longer America’s “Little Brown Brothers,” croons Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr.; nobody lectures us on human rights, even when the government wantonly violates human rights. Not even a dog owner is free to inflict cruelty on his own dog, but as an independent and sovereign state, the government claims the right to treat its people as it pleases, without holding itself answerable to any universal authority or values.
As a finishing touch, the alleged plot to kill the President or oust him from office, as reportedly uncovered and repeatedly announced by the communications secretary, could be used to provide the factual and legal justification—assuming such a justification is still needed—for declaring a revolutionary government. But is this what DU30 really need? I don’t believe so. Strictly by following the Constitution and the rule of law, and all the international norms and conventions on justice and human rights, and by learning to speak a little of the language of statesmen and diplomats, he could still become one of the most successful Presidents the country ever had.