I DO not normally quote political surveys, knowing how crooked local pollsters have made their fortunes exploiting the gullibility of the gullible in the service of politicians trying to manipulate public perception on various issues. But a survey conducted by Dr. Gil Ramos’ Survey Ng Bayan, whose methodology I have carefully examined, and whose professional pollsters have not made millions from any manipulative polling, allows me to make an exception. The survey shows that if there is one government institution that people would trust above any other institution, the Presidency would command 91 percent, the Supreme Court six percent, the Senate three percent, and the House of Representatives zero.
This polling was done in late August, and by “presidency,” the people polled meant President Rodrigo Duterte. He was then at the height of his visible and raucous popularity. Survey Ng Bayan has not asked the same question again, but I have a feeling DU30’s popular support has since been eroded significantly by what has been coming out of his mouth in relation to the drug killings, his insults against the Pope, Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon, the leaders of the European Union, his pivot away from the United States and toward China and Russia, and many other things. He has thrown away so much of his political capital by his coarse and unprocessed public utterances without any necessity.
The Espinosa killing and the habeas corpus scare
His recent statements on the killing of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte by the police and on the possibility of his suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus are but his latest monumental lapses. These are two issues where he desperately needs his credibility to remain intact, unquestioned by both the discerning public and the independent press. Indeed, with a little more care, he could have done a much better job in both instances. But he chose to be spontaneous and reckless.
Mayor Espinosa was a surrendered drug suspect. He was under the custody of the police. But at four o’clock in the morning of Nov. 5, 2016, he was shot to death at close range inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay, Leyte, by elements of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Eastern Visayas, who had motored all the way from Tacloban, allegedly to serve a search warrant on the detained local executive. What could he have been hiding from his jailers inside his cell, which only the CIDG from Tacloban could uncover through a search warrant?
From the initial assessment of Sen. PanfiloLacson, an experienced police investigator and former PNP chief, the killing had all the elements of a “rub-out.” Lacson could be completely wrong, but many analysts and observers tend to support his analysis. For several days, there was complete silence on the part of the President, but when he finally spoke, he said he stood by what the police did and said about the killing, and that he was ready to go to jail for it.
What DU30 could have said
It was an admirable way of showing a leader’s loyalty to his troops, but no one had suggested that he was personally responsible for the suspected “rub-out.” And since he is immune from suit or criminal prosecution while he is in office, even if he had committed any criminal offense, his offer to go to jail for the killing effectively jammed any further questions about it. What the average level-headed citizen would have appreciated hearing from the President was an assurance that although he had ordered the PNP to go after the drug pushers and users, he would do everything to make sure they did not exceed their lawful authority.
Reports have since surfaced that while the late mayor was supposed to have been a detainee, he was allegedly living outside his cell and pushing drugs in the evening. Whether or not these reports were true we do not know, but it would have given the CIDG a stronger case if DU30 had cited them as part of the reason they had burst into the Baybay jail at that ungodly hour of Saturday morning. All of this is now academic, but there is nothing to prevent DU30 from assuring the public, even at this late stage, that Espinosa’s killers would go through the wringer, and that this type of killing would never happen again. Otherwise, the President would lock himself up in jail, despite his constitutional immunity.
No constitutional basis
On his announced threat to suspend the privilege of habeas corpus should criminality and the illegal drugs traffic go out of hand, this is most unfortunate because he is an experienced lawyer who ought to be familiar with the Constitution, whose language is very simple and very clear. He should have seen that there is no constitutional basis to consider the possibility of a suspension of the writ.
Section 17 of Article VII provides that the President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines. Whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.
Within 48 hours thereafter, he shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress which, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension. This revocation cannot be set aside by the President. Upon the petition of any citizen, the Supreme Court may review the proclamation or suspension. The suspension of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or strictly in connection with invasion. Any person arrested or detained during the suspension of the writ shall be released if he is not judicially charged within three days.
Why is there no basis for PDU30 to be mooting the possible suspension of the writ?
No invasion, no rebellion, public safety does not require it
Because the country has not been invaded, no nationwide rebellion exists, and obviously public safety does not require it. In reality, a communist rebellion exists, and a Moro Islamic rebellion exists. But the government has declared a ceasefire and is now engaged in negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In fact, DU30 has appointed communist rebels to the Cabinet and some agencies even before concluding a formal agreement with the Left.
He has also released communist political prisoners and taken initial steps to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamorodespite a petition filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), some bishops and others, including this writer, questioning the constitutionality of the CAB and FAB before the Supreme Court. In addition, he has announced the creation of the “Philippine Constabulary” where he reportedly intends to put former communist and Moro guerrillas to constitute his personal army.
So no rebellion could be invoked to justify any talk of suspending the writ. The most DU30 could do is to say that some of his security advisers had broached the idea, but that, fully aware of what the Constitution says and the actual situation on the ground, he had quickly quashed it. Since he has not done this, perhaps Communications Secretary Martin Andanar or spokesman Ernesto Abella could come to his rescue. Someone in the Cabinet must take the bullet for him.
Support for revolutionary govt
The problem, though, is that word is already out that Cabinet Secretary LeoncioEvasco Jr., pillar of the KilusangPagbabago and said to be DU30’s communist-in-chief, has already begun the preparatory work towards the establishment of a “revolutionary government” and that the suspension of the writ is supposed to be one of the necessary first steps. If this is true, it needs a serious rethink. On June 30, a quick survey by Survey Ng Bayan showed that 42 percent of those polled were in favor of a revolutionary government, with 45 percent against.
Many of those who oppose the idea are opposed not to the idea of a revolutionary government per se. In fact, many believe that given the right moral leadership and run by competent and upright men and women, it is the only thing that could allow a radical transformation of our hopelessly corrupt government and politics. But they fear the possibility of its being dominated by yesterday’s failed men and women, the communists. That fear is not likely to ebb so long as belief exists that these men and women now control the levers of power in the DU30 government, and their ultimate game plan is to turn the Philippines into a failed “socialist” state.