• Don’t talk to me now, I’m under surveillance



    ON the day this column said the smoke of corruption has entered certain circles close to the President, Malacañang confirmed it by “firing” Peter Laviña, the chief of the National Irrigation Administration, for alleged “corruption.” The presidential spokesman subsequently corrected President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement by saying that Laviña had resigned for his own self-protection. People I know who personally know Laviña tend to accept Ernesto Abella’s explanation—only by getting out could Laviña, in their view, avoid the illegal pressures from Cabinet superiors. They knew Laviña as a highly principled NDF member; as DU30’s campaign spokesman, he did his job better than his official successors are doing their jobs right now. But the smoke of corruption does not begin nor end with Laviña; it deserves a more focused investigation.

    This is a service independent journalists should now perform. This is not without risk, as it has just been made plain. On the same day of the Laviña incident, I was told I had been placed under military surveillance for my critical columns, on orders from on high. I have become a danger to my friends. One action is not related to the other. The action against Laviña is related to PDU30’s campaign against crime and corruption. The reported action against me on the other hand is directed against independent reporting and free expression in journalism. I have compelled DU30 to admit he had gone to Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou, which he tried to trivialize by saying he had gone there for “circumcision.” I have tried to be constructive and helpful even in my critical pieces, but since he apparently does not read, and the worst people read things for him, even my constructive pieces are anathema to him.

    But I am a law-abiding citizen. I am not involved in any moral or legal scandal, or any plot to oust or destabilize the President. DU30 and his people are fully capable of destabilizing themselves, and that’s what they are doing right now. They have decided to violate my fundamental rights—already my telephone line has been bugged, my internet access periodically attacked, they try to record my private conversations. But my only “crime” is that I write without fear or favor, and though my sins be scarlet my columns are read everywhere, and what I write is believed, especially by overseas Filipino workers, the rank and file in the bureaucracy, the conscience-stricken PNP members, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    A journalist’s tale
    I am now 77. I have been in public life for at least 54 years. Except for the 25 years I have spent in the Cabinet, the interim Batasang Pambansa, and the Senate, I have been a journalist and writer all my life, a public thinker, if you like. In 1969, at 29, I became the youngest Cabinet member on record, performing the job of press secretary, presidential spokesman, information secretary/minister, and writing speeches for a brilliant President. In 1974, while martial law was under fire from the world press and international organizations, TIME magazine named me one of the “150 faces of the future” in an international survey of young leaders around the world. Ninoy Aquino was the only other “face” from the Philippines.

    In 1980, I resigned from the Cabinet—the only one to do so six years before Marcos fell at the EDSA revolt. At the interim Batasang Pambansa, where I held my 1978 elective position until 1984, I joined the parliamentary opposition. I ran the only public campaign against Marcos in the 1980 presidential elections. From 1984 onward, I wrote for various national and international publications, including Business Day, Philippine Daily Globe, Mr. and Ms., the old Manila Times, International Herald Tribune, and Wall Street Journal. For a couple of years, I published and edited Philippines Newsday, which the American author Lou Gleek called “the best daily newspaper in the country, bar none.” Elected to the Senate in 1992, and serving until 2001, I chaired various committees including foreign relations, energy and environment, and ran the Senate Floor as chairman of Rules and Majority Leader through five changes in the office of the Senate President. Fairly or unfairly, the Senate media called me “the Moral Conscience of the Senate.”

    Today I write as an independent columnist on the front page of The Manila Times. I am not a paid employee, I am free to stop writing for the Times for any reason whatsoever any time I like, just as the paper is free to stop using my column for any reason anytime it pleases. But for as long as I write and I attach my name to what I write, I am obliged to use my modest skills as a professional journalist to give my readers the truth that must be told and the analysis and opinion that must be shared, which should never be the same as what they get from the fishmongers. I do not necessarily believe that journalism is the art of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, but if that be the end-result of telling the necessary truth about what’s happening in the world, then so be it.

    Many things have changed
    Philippine journalism has evolved in many ways. There are infinitely more media outlets now—more media time and space—than there are qualified professionals for them. Media owners and gatekeepers have become parts of the political power establishment, exercising what British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, in his famous fight with Lords Rothermere and Beaverbrook, called “power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.” Mediocrity and worse than mediocrity persists. Excellence is a crime. Enterprise reporting is not only dead, but most young and not so young “journalists” have not even heard about it.

    To the government’s misfortune, it’s the only journalism I know, and I have not lost it with age. I learned and practiced it during my entire reporting career at the Department of Foreign Affairs. To me opinion should always be free and the facts forever sacred. As a young Foreign Office reporter (in fact the youngest), I pounded my beat seven days a week, from the time the first staff officer checked in until the last one checked out. I read every classified document I could get my hands on, and reported every secret the Foreign Office tried to hide.

    This involved the most challenging journalism. Reporting foreign policy is not the same as covering a boxing match or a basketball game where everyone sees who scores and who doesn’t. One has to track the evolution and movement of ideas, which are not as visible as a boxer’s punch or a three-point basketball shot. Even as a tyro, I had to study the issues as assiduously as the Foreign Secretary and his staff, so that I would know what questions to ask, and what stories to look for. I had to develop certain skills, like reading an official document from the back, or trying to mingle unobtrusively with official security or conference delegates in order to have access to a primary source.

    Scoops galore
    As correspondent for Agence France-Presse, this skill enabled me to have a running scoop, which I shared with my friend from Reuters, on the secret deliberations on the founding of the Asian Development Bank. On another occasion, I found myself next to the dinner table of President Diosdado Macapagal and Indonesian President Sukarno at the Pangarap green across the Pasig, where no other newspaperman was present. Told about the newspaperman’s presence, Macapagal ordered that I be given a good dinner and gracefully escorted across the Pasig. On yet another occasion, I was able to provide sustained reporting of the closed-door negotiations on the Laurel-Langley Agreement between the Philippine and American ministerial panels in Baguio City, simply by staying under the window of the meeting room, and asking a few questions afterward. Absent any hard data, I tried to speculate on the proceedings, but my speculations proved highly accurate, prompting the US panel to accuse the home panel of leaking stories outside.

    What I am saying here, without any false modesty, is that I tried to be very good at my job. I came to the point of scooping the competition daily, at will. Writing for the Bulletin after three years of wire service journalism, my biggest scoop was a story coming from the future President Fidel V. Ramos, who was then head of the Philippine Civic Action Group (Philcag). He was recommending that his father, then Foreign Secretary Narciso Ramos, ask Marcos to authorize the Filipino contingent to come home for Christmas, and to keep them on holiday until the US government responded positively to certain urgent Philippine requests. I got this story on a Sunday afternoon, when only the Foreign Secretary and his secretary were working; he had his secret memo typed and sealed and dispatched so that Marcos could read it first thing Monday morning.

    But since I got the story and my paper ran it as its banner headline, what Secretary Ramos got on Monday morning was a bawling out from an angry President who could not understand why the subject of a top-secret memo was already in the headlines. Ramos was understandably angry and refused to see the press for a few days. While his staff investigated how the story leaked, he had the door of his adjoining office walled up to deny entry to the press and outside callers. In its place, he had a small opening built, similar to what some restaurants use to send food from the kitchen. The secretary got more incensed when I had the new carpentry work photographed and printed in my paper, with the caption, “Neither a window nor a door, just a way to keep the newspapermen out.”

    Diplomatic ouster proposed
    The secretary’s next move was to ask for my ouster from the Foreign Office. He asked to see my publisher. Brig. Gen. Hans Menzi, an industrialist of Swiss descent, who was at the time the military aide de camp to the President. Ramos specified that I accompany my publisher. Asked what he (Menzi) could do for the Secretary, Ramos answered that he would like the General to reassign me from the Foreign Office to somewhere else. Asked why he should do this, the Secretary answered, “Because a government must be able to keep some secrets, but this fellow has made it impossible for us to do it.” This was accompanied by some philosophical discourse, at the end of which he repeated his original request.

    Whereupon, Menzi said, “Mr. Secretary, can I ask you something?” “Certainly, go ahead, General.”

    “Sir,” the General said, “supposing I were in your shoes and you were in mine, and I asked you to reassign your reporter for exposing all my official secrets, would you do it?” Ramos, who had been a newspaperman before, looked at the General, then raised his eyes to the ceiling, and chuckled, “Hell, no.” Then he added, “But perhaps you could tell him to be a little less efficient in his job.”

    I had no time to be less efficient. Shortly thereafter, Marcos invited me to the Cabinet. This interrupted my writing career. But leaving the Cabinet 10 years later, I found myself writing an exclusive story about Marcos’s secret kidney transplant. The story was not meant to embarrass Marcos, who had become dear to me, but simply to tell the nation the truth. This is all I am trying to do right now. If my disclosures, which have not been denied, have become a problem to DU30, the only solution is for him and his men to do their jobs exceptionally well, just as I try to do mine.



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    1. There will never be enough evidence to prove that what the pres. is doing is wrong. Fanatics will always defend their idols. Just like the people did to Jesus and chose Barabas. Let’s just hope 6years pass quickly so we can start rebuilding whatever is broken. Sorry for all the lives lost for there are more to lose, whether you voted for him or not. Democracy has ended the day we rejoice when we appreciate killings whether they are addicts or not.

    2. Your phone is bugged just so some people can get their dose of chismis a little earlier than the rest. Otherwise, nothing really matters regardless of what you write. You’re just one opinion in a waterfall that deluges the public daily in both the mainstream and online media.

      One big shrug.

    3. julio madiaga on

      eh even before Peter Lavina entered the government through this present administration, he was already corrupt.
      he was a purveyor of fake news.
      a person with that kind of mindset, he thinks he can get away with that shit, his firing only confirms that peter lavina is corrupt down through and through.
      his being an NDF member does not mitigate anything, in fact he should be held to a higher standard.


      Yonkers, New York
      03 Marc 2017

      The fact that Manila Times columnist FRANCISCO S. TATAD, according to him, is now under surveillance obviously on the orders of Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte is the highest COMPLIMENT a journalist/columnist could ever receive from him. one who has inflicted a blood-thirsty REIGN OF TERROR on the Filipino people which has so far prematurely dispatched to either heaven or hell some 7,200 hapless victims.

      This is good and compelling proof the Mr. Tatad is doing an exemplary job guided by the tenets of a FREE INDEPENDENT AND COURAGEOUS PRESS .

      But Mr Tatad is not alone in this laudable category of Filipino journalists. There are several others who are likewise doing the job a good reporter or journalist is expected to do–and that explains why routinely I make it a point, even from here, to read what they have to write–whether as Reports or as Columns.


    5. When someone speaks the truth about a person,it is unacceptable and hurting the feeling of the followers of that person.They don’t want their master to be spoken about of things unacceptable to them.They only want to listen praises for their master.Being objective to what you written or speak about become negatively subjective issues to them. They never know,neither they want to know..they only want to satisfy their master.

    6. Elpidio Salvador on

      Dudirty is a vengativo. He will not let pass any insult or perceived wrongdoing from anybody. He counters this with a greater insult or or harm to his opponent. His cursing is not part of his flowery language. This just reflects his kind of thinking and method putting down his enemies.

    7. If PRDD indeed has cancer, do you think he would admit it ? Of course not for securing our country against those who want him ousted, like you. So stop making noise that msy disturb our country’s peace.

    8. ang galing po ninyo magsulat. hirap po bitawan ng cellphone ko kapag binabasa ko article nyo. im sure hindi nyo stick out ang leeg nyo kung walang credence sa opinion nyo. so i hope you’ll go on writing.

    9. Amnata Pundit on

      For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, according to Newton’s law. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen is another. I remember that before you were appointed to the Marcos cabinet, you were probably his most vicious critic, using words that one reserves only for his hate object. What caused the overnight transformation? Only you can answer that question, but the fact is you can instantly change from attacker to defender if you want to. We don’t live in an ideal world. Duterte may be seriously flawed, and does not have the brilliance of your favorite president, but he is the right leader for the times. Take note that he won in spite of Smartmatic, which suggests that his ascension is the result of divine intervention. I would choose him anytime over the Pope. I think its your closed mind that is the problem.

      • Boy Millenial on

        I wonder why you said he is the right leader of the times! You said he is flawed. Why consider him the right leader of the times? An elected official is not always the right leader. Do not make it an equation. I would surmise that your definition and belief of a right leader is flawed.
        And yes, there was no issue on Smartmatic and Duterte’s election returns. There was none. So what’s the point in using the word “in spite of Smartmatic”?

      • Amnata, i think you are way off mark here. Im a brit living in england & i see from an unbiased eye that if you oppose du30 you are or could be in big trouble. Take de lima, do you believe those accusations from convicted drug dealers who i think coudnt taste the truth if it were forced down their throats. Now im not saying de lima is innocent but with all this supposed money she has supposedly been taking it would be very easy to find the money trail to prove it. I believe she is targeted by du30 because she was against what he was doing & wanted him investigated. Trillanes i believe will be his next target & i think francisco is an excellent fair minded writer ( except when bringing religion into anything as im a non believer ) who im sure will be a target for du30 to aim at for criticising him. Du30 as he is doing with de lima will use any & all methods & the weight of all security services to attack you. Good luck francisco you are a good honest man.

      • Jose Samilin on

        DUSTY, you can never get it right because you lack the proper input. You are just too far where the action is, that you barely relied the foreign media, mostly were biased. For Du30 to go just after the mere critics is not the job of his presidency, but rather, to go after those who destroy the country and his people like Senator Leila M. De Lima, who has done havoc deliberately using her gifted talent and powerful position in the government, directly and indirectly.

        How could you claim unbiased eye if if you have false claim yo have created your own eyes and necessarily, yourself (as unbeliever). You have not shown you have won human temptation, by winning the battle of good conscience that all humans are subjected everyday that makes a person whole, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will. Now, if that is your mere opinion and not claiming truth, there you go, you have it, from a far distance.

        Surely, you lack knowledge of the facts of the true nature, conditions, movement and the proliferation of drugs, business transactions, drug trading, etc.,etc.,inside the NBP under the supervision and control of the then Secretary of Justice Leila De Lima during her incumbency, you have no complete knowledge of the entire Senate investigation and deliberation on De Lima’s case, your lack of knowledge and circumstance surrounding De Lima’s admission of illicit affairs with her driver-boyfriiend in the duration of 7 years period that proved the link to drug proliferation inside the NBP, your lack of knowledge on the highly critical determination by Secretary Aguirre on the merits of the case whether or not the bulk of evidence on hand would be competent to with stand court scrutiny by 5-persons panel of veterans prosecutors of the country, where Secretary Aguirre himself inhibited, before the case in court.

        So tell me frankly, DUSTY that truly are merely trying to spread lies, when you say, you believe she is targeted by du30 because she was against what he was doing & wanted him investigated, when in fact your knowledge is sorely inadequate to be able to make such a conclusion.. Just admit DUSTY it’s just your mere opinion, that you deserve my full respect of that opinion, though that opinion of yours is far from the truth.

    10. I’ll support you sir in your pursuit of what journalism should be. factual based, and unbiased, whether expressly or impliedly. However, I take exception to the view that just because duterte visit a hospital in guangzhou, which may specialize in cancer treatment, would automatically mean he has cancer.
      that is bereft of competent analysis and it is not factual based. that is an opinion based comment, where the conclusion was based on the flimsy thought that since the president went to a particular hospital, then it would mean he has cancer. — this is NOT a mark of a TRUE REPORTER.

      do not conclude. then I will believe you. However, since you made it in an opinon/ feature piece, then I would respect your conclusion based on the ground that you are entitled under the constitution to simply lay claim, even if without basis as long as it is not libelous/ detrimental to the country’s interest.

      • This is in response to jose samlin not you vince but there isnt a reply slot after his response. Jose if delima took all this millions of pesos there would somewhere be a record of it. She wouldnt keep that in her house it would be in a bank, so leaving a paper trail. If they cant show any of this millions & millions of pesos she supposedly received then you have to assume its not true. Now she cant prove she didnt have something as there is no paper trail to show you didnt have something. Do you understand the difference. Also when du30 mentioned about her lover, what on earth has that got to do with anything. What about du30’s girlfriends, i dont see anyone slagging him off for them. If you believe the words of those drug dealers you are an idiot. They will say anything if it will benefit them & i have no doubt they have been promised something from the du30 team.

    11. The main reason why I read TMT is because of your column. Keep on writing Kit.

    12. Kit, I suggest that you write more on that discussion on the Laurel Langley Agreement especially for the younger generation that they may appreciate the love of country and patriotism of Mr. Marcos. For if my memory serves me right, that discussion resulted in Mr. Marcos asking rental payments for the use of the US bases just as it gave Mr. Marcos the leverage to persuade the aremikans to shorten the lease from 99 to 25 years.

      By the way, since you mentioned that you worked for Mr. Hans, you should know that the gentleman bequeath all his worldly possessions to Bonget. So how come it is the Yaps who controls that newspaper now?

    13. I read that article. He was fed with a wrong information. Any suspects? Pleaselet us see it in your next column.

    14. pablo sanchez on

      keep safe Sir but that surveillance may not be to scare you but to know who is the traitor in his home.

    15. ” and what I write is believed [I wish], especially by overseas Filipino workers, the rank and file in the bureaucracy, the conscience-stricken PNP members, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
      [These (above) are the very people I need so that I could overthrow the Philippine government using my subtly or blatantly seditious writing.
      [I know that loose lips sink ships and I hope this ship or any ship will sink because of the I.]

    16. I wish we have one more like you… or better yet, everybody like you. If only everyone understand that your actions are mostly for prevention and saving them from their own destruction.

    17. Cynthia Estrada on

      Tatad, You are a marcos man. I don’t respct you. However, politics s addition. So right now you are on my list of political allies.

      • Elpidio Salvador on

        I agree with you. I have always despised Marcos and his men especially his family. Since you(Mr Tatad) are now a critique of dudirty and bravely exposing the sheenanigans of dudirty and his men I fully appreciate your exposes.

    18. I read all your columns and they are raking with audacity to tell the truth. Thank you for the much appreciated updates on what is happening in our country. Rest assured we ex-pats are behind you.

      More Power!!

    19. Me, myself and I, you love yourself too much Kit and always think yourself as the center of the world. Can’t you wait for others to do that in your obit?

      • Duterte said he did. Possibly, he doesn’t trust the country’s old pukpok method, the gupit method, and the latest laser hiwa tech. I wonder what the Fuda style is.

    20. Well remember that the Filipino people knows that the Duterte administration is going after those who criticize (constructive as well as destructive) and not in favor of the policies and character of Duterte. Look what happened to the LP senators, DeLima, victims of EJK and next will be you. Just pray and trust God that the downfall of Duterte and his allies will be the soonest.

    21. Well, if Mayor Duterte have cancer, we will find out eventually (if he failed to cure it). But going to a hospital for cancer does not necessarily mean that he have cancer – people are forgetting that Mayor Duterte is surrounded by people with cancer and one of them is his loveones, Elizabeth, his ex-wife. He also donated his house for kids with cancer and spend time there on every birthday of his life. There is a possibility that he might just be curious to know the newest technology for cancer that is why he visited a hospital for cancer.

      And yes, I also noticed na napakasensitive nya kpg ang topic ay cancer.

      • Jose Samilin on

        If that’s the case, which is not too far, we are given a glimpse of his sincere love of our future generations to come, not necessarily for our present generation.

    22. To Kit Tatad, you should be comforted with the TRUTH that in the END, GOOD will always TRIUMPH over EVIL. As our Lord JESUS CHRIST said in the BIBLE, be STILL and know that i am GOD. Is there anybody greater than GOD?

      • If good will triumph over evil it will not be because of god as there is no god. It will be because of the actions that good people take. The sooner the religious world realise the sooner we will have more good in this world. If you are open minded just have a look at the characters christopher hitchens & richard dawkins. Try to listen to them at l;east with an open mind. They talk with more sense than any & every religious person ive ever heard.

    23. Jovelyn Rojas on

      No government worthy of the people’s support conducts surveillance of its worthy critics. If true, the military should explain to the nation the reason for its action; or better still, cease all clandestine operations against Senator Tatad as well as other critics. A vibrant democracy requires a militant press.

    24. Keep on writing Mr. Tatad and keep on telling the truth as it is. Certain people in high up places may not like what you write but that will not deter you from your duty. And be assured that you will be attacked by many supporters of these high ranking people who will only repeat insults and illogical statements to try to discredit you. But for those who seek the truth and decency for the Filipino people, your articles are like a beacon in the darkness. So keep up the good work and do also take care. The nation needs you. God bless.