DU30 can still change course – for the better

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The first question is one of ethics. Ethics, for beginners, refers to the rightness or wrongness of a human act. Human act is one performed with the aid of will and reason, as distinguished from the involuntary act of man, like talking in one’s sleep or sleepwalking. Now, is it all right for the President to believe that a former justice secretary-now senator is carrying on with her driver and that the two had been protecting certain parties involved in the traffic of illegal drugs? If he is convinced of the evidence, he cannot be faulted if he so believes. But is it all right for him to publicly denounce the allegedly immoral relationship and the alleged criminal partnership, instead of having them charged in court for their alleged crime? This is what many are still trying to figure out.

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De Lima in pictures
Front-page newspapers photos have since captured the lady in a bathing suit, surrounded by her “bodyguards” in some rustic resort. These seemed to document the lady’s “closeness” to her driver-bodyguard, which she had already admitted. There was nothing in the photos though, which would prompt an Italian paparazzo to proudly claim them as his work. But the mere fact of publishing the photos, complained a young reader, was offensive enough; it violated her sense of aesthetics, not just her sense of ethics, she said.

She was not complaining that the lady had made no effort to look like a Dior cosmetic model before being photographed. Rather she was complaining that through those cheap photos the lady’s accusers had lowered the moral quality and tone of the ongoing public debate on a very serious subject. The greater danger, this young person pointed out, was no longer posed by illegal drugs, but by the entire society losing its grip on the value of human life. If the State had to wage a war to save lives, should human life be the first casualty in it?, she asked.

I found this insight from a very young person utterly provocative. I could not quite dissuade her from insisting that the high moral plane had become too high and unreachable for those who seemed to believe that, as happened during the Reign of Terror in France, criminal suspects could be, and should be, eliminated without due process. And she expected this issue to explode at the opening of Sen. Leila de Lima’s hearing in the Senate.

A refreshingly fair hearing
Well, it didn’t. The hearing opened as scheduled, and de Lima, as chair of the Justice and Human Rights committee, conducted herself in a professional manner without any tinge of acrimony against President Duterte, despite their recent bitter exchange. It was refreshingly fair. The only notable reservation about the hearing was expressed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police and chair of the secondary committee, the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, who feared the hearing could have a negative impact on the morale of the police involved in the war on drugs.

De Lima took note of Lacson’s reservation but proceeded nevertheless, pointing out that the inquiry was meant not to stop the fight against drug abuse but simply to make sure that it is not used as an excuse to violate human rights. Under the Senate rules, the lead committee controls the proceedings. The hearing resumed yesterday after this column was written.

Reconciling DU30 and de Lima
Despite the DU30-de Lima imbroglio, many are hoping the protagonists could settle their “personal differences” in peace. Qualified sources said the idea had been broached to the President and that he was not hostile to it. A private meeting was suggested for today, but ran into some technical problem, the sources said. However, the problem is believed to be temporary.

One thing going for a possible rapprochement, according to them, has to do with the ongoing peace talks between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF in Oslo. De Lima is a blood relative of Mrs. Juliet de Lima Sison, wife of Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and current adviser to the National Democratic Front in the peace talks. DU30 would very much like the talks to succeed, and making peace with de Lima could very well become part of his confidence-building measures with his former college professor, and the CPP/NPA/NDF.

Quitting the United Nations?
A quieting down of the DU30- de Lima conflict could lead to a “recalculation” of the President’s recent statements against critics of the spate of extrajudicial killings, including the United Nations.

Stung by calls from some UN bureaucrats to end the killings, DU30 has struck back by calling the UN a “useless” organization and threatening to terminate Philippine membership in the world body.

No serious Filipino observer has taken this threat seriously, but it obviously created its own sensation in the foreign media and in UN circles.

Not only is the Philippines a founding member of the UN in 1945; one of its early statesmen Gen. Carlos P. Romulo (1899-1985) became president of the UN General Assembly in 1949 and of the UN Security Council four times (twice in 1957, then in 1980 and 1981). CPR was one of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt’s active collaborators in framing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The only other name that left its mark from that select circle was that of the Lebanese philosopher and Ambassador Charles Malik, who was the real brains behind the Declaration.

As Professor Mary Ann Glendon narrates it in her book, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Romulo became a good friend of Malik’s. This was confirmed to me in my personal conversations with Malik’s son, Prof. Habib Malik, with whom I used to sit on the international advisory board of World Youth Alliance in New York. The Philippines has such an investment in the UN’s fight for the freedom of peoples around the world and for international peace that many Filipinos could not believe their ears when they heard DU30’s threat to bolt the UN.

Filipinos in the UN
At least a full one-third of the UN secretarial and administrative staff are Filipinos. Were all of them to walk out of their offices, the UN would shut down. Except for B. S. Aquino 3rd who had a stand-up hotdog lunch on a street corner outside the UN Headquarters building, but avoided the Filipino staff on his first visit to the UN, every Philippine President who came to the UN would devote an hour or longer to be with the Filipino employees.

In 1980-81, Rafael M. Salas (1928-1987), the first Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, was mooted as a possible UN Secretary General to succeed Kurt Waldheim of Austria whose term was ending in 1981. But Salas, who had been Marcos’ executive secretary from 1966 but left the country after a falling-out with the President on the eve of the senatorial election in which he had wanted to run, failed to be nominated by his own government, despite the reported readiness of most of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council (US, UK, France, Soviet Union and China) to support his bid. He—not the present Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea—would have become the second Asian to lead the UN after U Thant of Burma who served from 1961 to 1971. The UN elected Peru’s Javier Perez de Cuellar instead, who served until 1991.

Siazon at UNIDO
A number of Filipinos have risen high in the UN system. The late former Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. (1939-2016), who died in Tokyo earlier this year, had served as Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization from 1985 to 1992, before he became the 18th foreign secretary under President Ramos. Officials of the Philippine Commission on Audit have also been elected to examine the books of the UN, showing that no auditors are without honor except in their own country.

Renunciation of UN membership means getting out of the international system and pursuing a course of total isolation. No country has ever done it; it is completely unthinkable. On the other hand, the few non-member states will probably do anything to become full members. These include the Vatican city-state which, because of its unique status and tiny population, is a permanent observer state but not a full member; Palestine, which remains a non-member state because it lacks support in the Security Council; Taiwan, which remains part of the People’s Republic of China under the One-China policy; Kosovo, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Sahwari Arab Democratic Republic, which are partially recognized and have not really insisted on seeking membership.

A chance to reconsider
DU30 has since corrected himself, and withdrawn his threat through Foreign Secretary Perfect Yasay Jr., who said that while the President was “disappointed” with the UN, he had no real intention of withdrawing from the world organization. It is not clear, though, whether this means the UN would now be allowed to inquire into the killings as earlier requested by the Rapporteur on Summary Executions. But it certainly affords DU30 a fresh opportunity to reconsider his position on the whole issue of extrajudicial killings. It is not too late to backtrack on his methods, without necessarily abandoning his ‘war.’ This could stop all speculations that the country has entered the equivalent of the “Reign of Terror” during the French revolution.

It would also give him the chance to raise the quality and level of public conversation across the nation. Since July 1, the history of his first 50 days in office has been written in one running headline about police killings of suspected drug runners in slippers and about his verbal attacks on the most “benign” personalities and institutions—one supposedly gay foreign ambassador, two women officials of the government, the Catholic Church, the media, and the UN. The nation has to have a little more sunlight and breathe some fresh air.

Life in an open society is best lived, in purely secular terms, in search of beauty and meaning. The true and the good make for the beautiful. If we cannot avoid the morally impermissible, we should at least strive to associate ourselves with the aesthetically suitable. Dostoevsky has argued that beauty will save the world, and Victor Frankl has taught us to imitate his own search for meaning. In all of this, the State must be a faithful partner of the citizen. But the mantle of violence and ugliness that now shrouds the nation will prevent this from happening. This must give way to something more humanly fulfilling. This is what people expect when they hear DU30’s promise that “change is coming.” Otherwise, they might simply respond, “Keep the change.”

fstatad@gmail.com

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15 Comments

  1. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    25 August 2016

    If Der Fuhrer Rodrigo Duterte continues with his genocidal policy of the extra-judicial killing of suspected drug lords, drug pushers and even drug addicts as well as those suspected of engaging in corruption, within the first year of his administration, the Reign of Terror that followed the French Revolution of 1789 could very well look like a PICNIC by comparison.

    Mr. Duterte has quickly forgotten that when he took his Oath of Office on June 30, 2016, he vowed to honor, protect and defend the Constitution with its Bill of Rights. As President, he is likewise expected to adhere strictly to the Rule of Law, and also to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. He has wantonly violated all of these constitutional and legal safeguards against tyranny and despotism!. He must truly believe THAT THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS, which by itself is a form of corruption.

    And yet, the silence of the Constitution Association of the Philippines, the legal luminaries, and other sectors of society who have a stake in the country continuing to remain a CIVILIZED member of the world community,is deafening! Are these sectors afraid that they, too, will be made victims of a rampaging tyrant in the person of Der Fuhrer Duterte? And explains why they have chosen to play it safe and thus remain silent?

    There are those who hail Der Fuhrer Duterte virtually as a new “Messiah!” If and when Mr. Duterte’s equivalent of the Roman SEJANUS, General “Bato” de la Rosa, finally goes after them for one reason or another and dispatches them prematurely either to “heaven” or to “hell” in the ongoing wave of extra-judicial killings, that would be the day they will very likely regret not having raised their voices in protest against a genocidal
    maniac like Mr. Duterte.

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  2. CRISPEN OCAMPO on

    duterte change the philippines for worse specially human rights violation… 14 years of macos dictatorship. 4k deaths… duterte 0ne mongth war on drugs. almost 1k deaths..

  3. Just ponder on these 2 issues:

    Naia Tanim Bala:
    Pnoy = 1,000 +++++/ year
    DU30 = just an order = 0 / none / null / nada
    SAF in bilibid
    Pnoy = complex daw, consult, fine tuning, we will study that (6 years wla pa din)
    DU30 = less than a month in office, 300 plus saf already controlling NBP.

  4. Bagama’t napakagaling ng inyong sinulat, nais kong bigyan ng comment yung sinabi ninyong gagawin ng natitirang observer states (gaya ng Holy See) ang lahat ng paraan na maging member state. Yun pang pagiging member state ng Holy See ay BY CHOICE ng Holy See. Mas preferred po niya ang maging Permanent Observer. Bakit? Mas may BITING POWER sya bilang isang Permanent Observer kaysa maging Permanent Member na kontrolado ang foreign policies ng mas malalaking bansa. Sa katunayan, marami po ang nag-aalok sa kanya na maging full member state pero sa bandang huli mas nakita ng Holy See na mas may ngipin ang kanyang MORAL AUTHORITY bilang isang Observer State. Dahil nga sa lakas ng kanyang moral influence bilang Observer State, binalak ng ibang malalaking NGO’s na patalsikin siya nang 2004. Subalit nabigo sila dahil mismong mga Member States ay hindi pumayag at inaffirm ang pagkakatanggap niya bilang Observer BY ACCLAMATION, hindi po by voting lang.

  5. Pres DU30 is taking his job very seriously and because of his dedication to serve and same time save his countrymen (esp. the innocent children) from the menace of illegal drug use , he may have expressed frustration to one of his critics like U.N who has. misjudged his honest purpose of anti-drug war campaign..Drug Addiction is rampant all over the world, many innocent teenagers even adults fall victims and died due to illegal drug use. Drug Addiction has destroyed many families and the UN rapporteur should be cognizant of the worldwide problem himself .Those innocent children has every right to live and their human rights has been violated by those drug pushers and drug Lords.

  6. President Duterte is a very old public servant, a diciplinarian by nature. He don’t even think of getting rich whilie in service to our people. His only happines is to achieved his plans to clean up our society, and to get rid of the corrupt government which he inherited from the previous administrations, saying, he want to give back to our people a crystal clean government. Although his approached to our present problems is very unorthodox; he is only using the same kind of merciless traits which those people who used to destroy our government, and oppressed our people. Yes, it is pay back time. Our people have found an “Iron hand” (Pres. Duterte). We are happy, and hoping those rotten people in our society, as well as those corruptions in our system in government will all vanished. As a disciplinarian, he will punish them all, bare their evil deeds in public, and restore the good governance in our country. May God bless him always.

  7. “Change is coming” should also gently remind the President and his speechwriters including his Communications Secretary Andanar, that most Pilipinos follow the news with regularity and his speech of a week ago need not be repeated in each of his engagements. Its gets very old fast.

  8. DU30 is still the best president after Marcos despite having a foul mouth and a quick temper. All these people who despise him I just wish you don’t get victimized by some crazy drug addict who will rape your wife, then kill her, then ransack your house.

  9. Its SOP, even during the time of Jesus, the gospels cites shaming was an accepted tool in building a matuwid na daan… John the Baptist shamed King Herod and Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother for their adulterous transgression…… DU30 is on the right path, ….. woe to hypocrite public servants who live in glass houses …..

  10. Guillermo Hernandez on

    Mr. Tatad,
    Our president is ignoramus …..judging by his actions and demeanour…doubt if he
    knows or reads Dostoevsky or Frankl.

    Thanks for educating this DU30 person …..he needs it badly. Hope he is a fast
    learner.

    • What happening in our country now is just cleansing process of all the dirt and rubish made by the previous administration plain and simple. All those people and personalities who perhaps hate and don’t agree of what our president is doing now are possibly involved also or planning to be involved for these drug menace and corruption. I don’t think our president DU is an ignoramus. Just keep up and don’t stop Mr.President DU of what you are doing now. God bless the Philippines.

    • mr. hernandez: why don’t you run for president, get yourself elected and shower us Filipinos with your intelligence? it is for people like you that this country needs a DU30 as head of State…

  11. Jose A. Oliveros on

    ” If the State had to wage a war to save lives, should human life be the first casualty in it?” To this question, I would like to paraphrase the great Abraham Lincoln who said that it is not right to cut a life to save a limb but it is always right to cut a limb to save a life.
    On President Duterte’s tirade against a UN Special Rapporteur, is it diplomatically correct for a low-level UN functionary claiming to be a “Human Rights Expert” to publicly denounce the President of an independent and sovereign nation, like the Philippines for alleged extrajudicial killing without even an iota of evidence that the killings were perpetrated by government authorities or sanctioned by them?

    • Isn’t it obvious that there are some cases of killings by or sanctioned by the police? The father and son killed in Pasay is one example. You ask for evidence but do we have evidence on all those killed by the police? We now invade homes without search warrants and people not proven guilty are killed by police, drug lords or vigilantes.

  12. This is an excellent article written by former Senator Tatad whose brilliant mind continues to impress me on any topic that he had written. Thanks, Mr. Tatad. You’re truly a credit to your profession and I suggest to DU30 that he makes you one of his general advisers !