MARKING yesterday the 119th anniversary of national independence, I cautiously hoped that the entire republic—all 7,100 islands of the archipelago, all 104 million of our people, and all the nation’s politicians—would come together to celebrate the birth of the nation on June 12, 1898.
I fantasized that the AFP would deliver on its vow to liberate Marawi City by Independence Day. But on TV Sunday night, as I was writing this, the AFP spokesman announced that the military was still uncertain whether it could end the crisis on June 12.
Some friends caution that the public should not count too much on an early or happy ending, because the leaders of the Liberal Party and the leaders of the communist insurgency have banded together to push their own agenda. They are working feverishly to establish their own republic to rule the Philippine islands.
The alliance seeks to derail the implementation of martial law in Mindanao by the AFP. They are joined together in a petition before the Supreme Court seeking 1) an order to Congress to meet in joint session to deliberate on the martial law proclamation; and 2) a judicial ruling that Proclamation 216 is unconstitutional.
Many citizens wonder whether these Duterte opponents have taken the side of the Maute rebels against the government. When senators worry anxiously about the plight of Maute combatants, instead of the killing of government troops and civilians, they are sending a dangerous message. When Sen. Risa Hontiveros declares that the Maute uprising should not require the response of martial law, she is both naïve and foolish.
The Liberals will latch on to anyone and anything these days that can help them in their objective of taking down President Duterte.
Bizarre Liberal legislation
This is not the first time that the Liberals and martial-law activists have made common cause in our public life.
In 2013, during the time of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd and the 15th Congress, the Liberals and communists joined together to force the passage of a bizarre piece of legislation: the Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act. It was signed into law by President Aquino on February 25, 2013.
The reparations act provides compensation to victims of human rights violations during the time when the entire country was under martial law. The law is designed, according to Aquino, to “recognize the suffering of many under martial law.”
The law established the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission and authorizes P10 billion (about $245 million) in payments to the victims. The term of the commission will end in May 2018, unless the law is extended by an act of Congress. Letting the law lapse is easier than repealing it.
By what kind of legal reasoning did President Aquino and the Liberals come up with this absurd law to compensate individuals who sought to overthrow the constitutional government of President Marcos?
First, by the logic of “victors’ justice” and as a by product of the Aquinos’ program of demonizing Marcos.
Second, by the same lack of scruples that emboldened Aquino to invent the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), defraud the nation of P155 billion of public funds, and impeach a sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The reparations law benefits only the communist rebels. The law is as bizarre as the creation of the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani (Martyrs’ Memorial) on 1.5 hectares of government land in Quezon City—ostensibly to memorialize the heroes of Edsa and during the Marcos dictatorship.
Obama’s drone war
To understand the absurdity of the reparations act, I draw attention to the debate that took place in America, when President Barack Obama inaugurated his “drone war”, which identified individuals for targeted killings, including American citizens who chose to join the terrorists in the Middle East.
The drone war was not officially announced; Obama did not acknowledge it until 2013. An anonymous whistleblower leaked documents about the US use of drones in Somalia, Libya and Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.
In a 2014 court filing, the government admitted that 469,000 people had been nominated in 2013 for inclusion in a government database of “known or suspected terrorists.” Only 4,900 were rejected. Presumption of innocence it is not. Although Osama bin Laden’s name was in a terrorist database long before he was killed, so too was the name Abdulrahman al-Awlaki — innocent, 16 years old, an American citizen and killed by a US drone strike.
There ensued a noisy public debate on the morality of the drone war. Many excoriated Obama for the killings. Some defended Obama’s policy.
Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer prize-winning Washington Post columnist, came out in support of Obama’s policy.
Krauthammer wrote on February 14, 2013:
“Al-Awlaki was no ordinary enemy. He was a US citizen. By what right does the President order the killing by drone of an American? Where’s the due process?
“Answer: Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protection of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war – no more and no less than those of your foreign comrades-in- arms. (Indeed, David French of the American Center for Law and Justice, suggests stripping such traitors of citizenship, thereby formalizing their extra-constitutional status.)”
Krauthammer’s argument for the killing of Americans fighting against their country may be similarly invoked against the Philippine payment of reparations to Filipinos who fought against our government.
Tough-minded vs tender-minded
Krauthammer was writing of America’s war against terror. He strongly advocates tough-minded government policy toward rebellion.
With Filipino leaders, except for President Marcos, the primary tendency has been one of tender-mindedness. The general policy since 1986 has been to apply due process to rebellion and, when possible, leniency. The hope is always to negotiate peace even up to exhaustion.
Much of this, we can understand and probably defend. But reparations for the rebel or insurgent who falls victim to government forces? Few Filipinos can comprehend this Aquino invention.
Many are asking: How about the soldiers and police who fight for our people and our country.
Our men in uniform also need protection and support, and the reciprocal loyalty of the people.
Marawi battle in decisive phase
The issue has come to the fore because government troops are facing a supreme test of wills with the Maute rebels, who are supported by IS and scores of foreign fighters who came to the country to fight beside them.
The killing of 13 Marines while they were trying to secure villages in Marawi highlights the challenge to the AFP. The news that the remaining Maute rebels, and their foreign supporters, along with Isnilon Hapilon, have holed up in one Marawi village suggests that the battle for Marawi has entered its climacteric or decisive phase.
I’m now monitoring developments as though it were a ballgame —with the stakes infinitely higher.
The nation holds its breath in anticipation of the final outcome of the battle.