• Miriam is gone, Shimon Peres, too; What do they want to do to DU30?

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    FRANCISCO S. TATAD

    FRANCISCO S. TATAD

    I was out for a week when my friend, next-door neighbor and former Senate colleague, Miriam Defensor Santiago, died in her sleep at 71 on Thursday. I barely made it to her funeral mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Cubao yesterday. Friends and admirers all spoke of her brilliance, her wit, her courage, her ability to make people laugh at their own folly. Even my own young daughter said as much in a moving piece on Miriam in the Philippine Star on Saturday.

    In the Senate, which turns 100 years this week, she aspired to raise the level of intellection among her peers. This is too much for any one man to do, but for as long as Miriam was there, mediocrity had to contend with her intellectual probity. Even when she stood alone on an issue, she behaved as though she was speaking always for the majority. She knew that truth, reason, justice and the law will always win at the end of the day.

    Like the mythical Sisyphus, who carried a heavy stone to the top of the hill only to see it roll down again, she rose to every challenge, every adversity. And like Sisyphus, as the existentialist Camus saw it, she must have died happy.

    Miriam’s humanity
    If there was one quality, though, that dominated all of Miriam’s other qualities, it was her irresistible humanity. She was proud and happy to be human, to submit her restless mind to God, with whom she dialogued like Job, without having gone through the trials of Job. Her search for new ways of understanding the transcendental truths never ceased; despite her awesome workload in the Senate, she managed to find time to enrol in a local theological college.

    One day, she came to the plenary hall, where we sat next to each other, carrying a couple of large books, which she put on her desk. One was by Hans Kung, the other by Karl Rahner, two theologians whom Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI refers to with obvious affection, but whose orthodoxy had lost the fervor of their younger years.

    “These are my books in progressive theology,” she said. Our friendship was strong enough to withstand a playful repartee. I said, “Miriam, from the little that I know about theology, there is good theology, and there is bad theology. This is the first time I am hearing about progressive theology.” She took my banter in good humor, and proceeded to share with me some theological puzzlers you read in Peter Kreeft.

    Together, Miriam and I ran in the presidential elections of 1998. Having nearly become Pesident in 1992, she decided to run again, with myself as her running mate. We did not have a political machinery, nor did we have any money, nor any palpable prospect of overcoming Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s awesome popularity. But we thought we had to run if only to inject some seriousness into the debate, which seemed to focus on the night creature habits of the most popular presidential candidate.

    Miriam delivered the best lines on the trail, and was enthusiastically applauded wherever she spoke. But such was Estrada’s appeal to the masses that he took the nation by storm, for all his known frailties. Despite our reservations, more than 10 million voters decided to install the self-confessed womanizer as President. Miriam and I had the chance of leading the opposition and exposing the folly and incompetence of the new President daily. But we decided the country would suffer if Estrada did not get competent help, so we decided to help him instead.

    Miriam became such a good friend to Estrada that after she adopted two young girls from Iloilo City, she had them baptized at the church outside Malacanang, with Erap and myself as the godparents. She remained true to that friendship, but never at the cost of the truth, reason, justice and the law which remained her dominant values to the very end.

    This wasn’t the time to lose anyone built to her specifications. But the moving finger writes, and at this time of sorrow, we can only console ourselves with Victor Hugo’s words on Voltaire’s centennary: “since night issues from the tombs, let light come from the tombs.”

    Remembering Peres
    We are not alone in our grief. On Friday, the world lost one of its wisest and most enduring statesmen, Shimon Peres, Nobel Prize laureate and former President of Israel. He was many things to many people, but he was a great friend and admirer of Filipinos. I met Peres in his office in October 2012, while traveling with then Vice President Jejomar C. Binay. He spoke proudly of “knowledge” as Israel’s primary world export, and of Filipinos as the first foreign nationals with whom Israel was happy to share its advances in agricultural technology—and the only foreign nationals to whom Israel was willing to entrust its caregiving services. Only Filipinos are allowed to be caregivers in Israel, he said.

    I asked Peres whether, in light of current developments, he felt no need to amend a statement he had made some years ago that “the hunting season was over.” His eyes sparkled and his face brightened, apparently surprised that an obscure individual from the other end of the globe had noted his quote. He gave a calm and wise response, which (if memory serves) said the fight for peace and justice never ceases.

    The last of Israel’s founding generation, Perez was laid to rest amid tributes of statesmen that included US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton and Palestinian President Abbas. Clinton and Obama delivered eulogies where they commended Peres to the memory of the ages. Such men have earned their peace. But amid the troubles of our age, they probably, like the recently canonized Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, cannot yet afford to rest. I first made this rather indiscreet statement, which I hope does not constitute a heresy, inside the Cathedral of Zamboanga City when I was asked a few weeks ago to say a few words, on the spur of the moment, at the wake of the late Archbishop Emeritus Carmelo Morelos, D.D.

    No rest for the good and the just
    Although the Church talks of death as a “falling asleep,” I suggested that we look at death as a “waking up” to God instead. Given the cares of this world, there can be no rest for the good just yet. So much has to be set right. This seems to be our situation today.

    Much of this we owe to President Duterte. Apparently basking in the attention he is getting from foreign governments and the press, DU30 has managed to provide the global market with a steady supply of provocative and offensive epithets. As soon as one epithet uses up its news value, a new one comes up. Thus after calling Barack Obama “son of a whore,” saying “F***k you” to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, flashing the middle finger to the European Union, and threatening to “unfriend” the US and the UN for criticizing his human rights record, DU30 comes up wit this:

    “Hitler massacred three million Jews (sic). Now there’s three million drug addicts (in the Philippines.) I’ll be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines will have (me).”

    To this, his ambassador-designate to the United Nations, Teddy Locsin Jr., has added his own post: “You may find this hard to believe but the Nazis were not all wrong, give or take killing millions of people. Keep an open mind.”

    DU30 would like people to believe that the necessary implication of his war on drugs is a reshaping of the alliances in the Asia Pacific. There is no elaborate discussion of this, but DU30 has spoken, the case is closed.

    The foreign policy muddle
    Unless war has broken out or is about to break out between China and the US, and there is no way of not getting involved, we should do everything to stay out of any such conflict. We do not need it, nor can we afford it. If there were to be a shooting war—which could become thermonuclear—the Constitution does not allow DU30 to involve our country in it, except under the terms of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty, depending on the circumstances.

    In a thermonuclear war, we’re all going to be dead, in a far more dramatic way than Keynes famously put it. DU30 has to rethink it a thousand times. Despite what we hear from the war hawks and freaks, neither the US nor China can afford such a war; and neither of them could revive the Cold War just to oblige the Davao strongman either.

    Yet DU30 appears quite determined and would like to go to China in the next few days, having just visited Vietnam. One obvious purpose is to irritate the Americans. There’s nothing wrong in going to China, which welcomes all types of visitors; but DU30 cannot look too eager to make this visit. Consistent with established diplomatic practice, he should allow the two parties to agree on the details of such visit. It is poor diplomatic manners for one party to announce a visit without the other party’s concurrence, just as it is bad manners to announce an ambassadorial assignment to a foreign post before the Commission on Appointments has confirmed the proposed appointment and before the receiving government has given its agrément, the diplomatic French word for the English ‘agreement.’

    Indecent haste to China
    DU30 has been in office for only three stormy months. He has not had the chance to put his program of government in place, nor even to sign all the important appointment papers. For him to be making a major official or state visit to China, in apparent haste, just to flash his middle finger to the US, could ultimately be counterproductive. He should learn from his recent Vietnamese trip.

    Vietnam is the only country that has defeated two world powers within one quarter of a century—France in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, and the US in 1973, on the city streets and university campuses of America and the conference table in Paris. DU30 might have thought Vietnam could be a natural ally in his proposed shift toward China, and I am sure he was warmly welcomed by his hosts. But his Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser might have failed to advise him that Hanoi has stronger ties with Washington DC than with Beijing or Moscow today.

    DU30 apparently feels betrayed that the US, the UK, and the European Union have become the strongest critics of his drug killings, whereas China and Russia have said nothing about them. He probably expected the country’s traditional allies to gloss over his human rights violations in keeping with certain practices of old. “He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabtich,” they used to say, but they have abandoned it, without prior notice.

    Now they want to censure him for every uncontrollable cuss word or invective that flies out of his ungovernable mouth. What do they expect him to do? And what will they do to him next?

    fstatad@gmailcom

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    12 Comments

    1. Hearing upon Mr. President DU30 political slogan during his campaign with Senator Peter Cayetano at the back doing a second demotion of President DU30 himself proposed killing of all illegal drug peddlers and users and as well as his campaign on equity among others of every Filipinos by going after the Oligarchs of the Philippines, I had not been impressed by him in any of those speeches during electoral campaign period to tell you guys frankly. Adding more by his laxity of conscience on many issues and undervalued quality of words he used to express his temper during election campaign period, I started to doubt on the would be president could land to be a good statesman of the Philippines both to his people and to his relation to other nations. I started also to doubt on his campaign on equity among others by every Filipino by going after the Oligarchs of the Philippines knowing the President himself is an Oligarch of Davao. How many years already has been his family playing in politics in Davao City occupying the Mayoral and Vice mayoral position by one and the same family? Is it not Oligarchy? Are not his family members of the Oligarchs of Davao? I feel sad that many people believe those flattering words, which are not seen visibly by the listeners of President DU30. I would believe on President DU30 campaign against the Oligarchs of the Philippine if his family and the President DU30 himself could follow and live completely the way of Mahatma Gandhi, a non-violent leader we have ever admired in the world political affairs.

    2. Where do we go from here? You go Duterte, economy sliding fast, peso devalue. You go the other way, drugs and criminality. An advice to Duterte, do not give speeches anymore. You think you are famous ?you became notorious. Let the crime go down, drugs go down and leave the US and other nations alone. You are making your lifer short, shorter by the day. Do you honestly think they are not planning bad against you ? You are old enough. You know what I mean.

    3. di pa man nag oath taking si duterte naging vocal siya sa bilateral talks to china. ngayon, pinalalabas na naman na iniinis lang ni duterte ang USA?

    4. The general belief that the dead can no longer feel, see, hear or think is something one must rethink about. The dead maybe dead physically but the soul continues to live. Can the soul/spirit feel, see, hear, think? Refer to the story of the rich man and Lazarus as told by Jesus, Luke 16:19-31. But then, of course, that depends on your belief.

    5. karamihan sa sinasabi ni digong ay tama. kung magsalita lamang siya ay walang patumangga. Siya lamang yata ang head of state na ganito magsalita. Pero ang nagpapamalma ay ang ilan sa media na iniinterpret na literal ang mga expression niya na alam naman nila na ang sentence na iyon ay tanda lang ng pagka-inis, pagkayamot at kung minsan ay galit sa mga nangyayari.

      halata sa mga pagkakamali ni mang digong na short siya sa lengwahe ng diplomacy at short din siya sa mga implikasyon ng kanyang mga sinasabi. Matututo rin siya. Kaya nga siya pumili ng mga advisers na beterano na sa larangan. Kaya ko naman nasasabing magaling din ang advisers dahil alam nila kung papaano walisin ang mga kalat ni kuya digong.

      tungkol kay miriam, tama ang daing ng kanyang mga kapatid. Wala nang sasysay ang kanilang mga papuri na halos i-canonize nila siya. isa pang moral lesson ito sa atin. May silbi pa rin ito sa atin ngayong iniwan ni ate miriam. Huli man ito para kay miriam, renewal naman ito ng ating pledge na lumago o maging mature sa ating relasyon sa iba na ngayon ay nabubuhay pa. Lesson din ito sa mag-asawa: “Kung nagka-problema ka sa inyong relasyon, ang hanapin ay solusyon, hindi ang bagong ka-relasyon.”

    6. This is all hypocrisy big time, if you love a person show your respect and love, while she or he, is alive. Showing all this to her funeral, won’t mean nothing to her. A dead person, do not feel, do not hear, do not see, do not think. So from now on all Filipinos should work together for the greatness of the country, and not for self interest.

    7. I think the press should just ignore Duterte and not give him any publicity. Let us see what he will do. Give him the silent treatment.

      He has a rude and scandalous mouth. Ignore him. He is giving BAD PUBLICITY to our country.

      • digong never ask those media local or foreign for PUBLICITY..it’s them (media) who give that damn shit because they are cohorts to hidden agenda of yellowish people like you!!!

    8. Funny how the “rambunctious” (as per PM LKY) press paid accolades to this lady whom they demonized a number of times before like in the impeachment of Pres Erap and CJ Corona. No wonder, Mr. Santiago fumes mad! Why they are praising her now when she cant hear and read it because she is dead?

      Talking bout hypocrisy!

    9. Jose A. Oliveros on

      Mr. Tatad, for the nth time you said that Pres. Duterte had called Pres. Obama a “son of a whore.” Since I am not in a position to correct you, may I just bring to your attention what your neighbor in this paper – Mr. Rigoberto Tiglao – wrote in this paper today:

      “That was also a “lost-in-translation” case one could expect from lazy foreign journalists, since it was clear that Duterte used the P-word not in reference to Obama, but as an interjection — Filipinos’ common use of the P-word to express anger or exasperation, in the way Americans use “fuck” to preface their sentences.”

      • Dont explain the damn thing to him…his a washed out brains…in short zombie and zombies never comprehend any words much more a sentence or phrase…

    10. NOMER OBNAMIA on

      Mr. Tatad: You’ve been under severe criticism in your columns in your comments about the president and the direction that his leadership is leading the country, including his response to allies that are worried about his methods in fighting crime and corruption.
      I understand that our country has been so deep in crime and corruption in the private and public sectors that it takes radical methods to eradicate them. Powerful people are behind and ordinary measures will not stop their collusion since they are connected and protected by powerful politicians.
      The president realizes this dilemma and he took the powers of the government in full force to fight this evil within us. As a result, he is being criticized for using severe measures that endanger the liberty of the people and the Constitution. Where is the balance that would accomplish his goal of eradicating the dregs of society and at the same time maintaining the rule of law and order?
      When criticized by the public, including the media, he lashes out taking it as personal insult. When foreign governments are alarmed of his methods he returns tirade threatening to sever relations and alliance. His comments about the UN and Moon were accurate but the delivery was un-presidential. The same is true with his Obama comment. You don’t call the president of the US a son of b____! And being presidential, Obama did not respond, nor made private comment of it but was conciliatory.
      He was wrong when he accused the Americans of racial prejudice regarding police shooting of black Americans. The truth is that the subjects refused to obey lawful command and taunted police or made moves that could be construed as getting a weapon or pointing a toy gun that looks real, in a shooting stance. Obeying lawful police command is the key to peaceful resolution of a tense situation. Your hands must always be visible to the police- at all times. But this racial divide is prompted by Obama himself who hates white people and always points racial inequality in opportunities and wealth. Well, get a skill that pays, be the best you can and work hard to achieve your goal. That’s the American dream.
      DU30 himself declared that criminals who refuse to surrender peacefully putting the lives of law enforcement can be shoot to kill. In the US, there are criteria imposed by the law to justify the use of deadly force. And the police are held accountable.
      When delivering speeches, he has the tendency to rumble and does not give a hoot of the implications. As president, every word that comes out of his mouth is weighed by the public at large, the media and the world. Too much rumblings could even incriminate or misconstrued that need explaining the next day.
      Be that as it may, and there are many more. I say the existence of critics or opposing view is good for a healthy democracy. The president should be presidential in responding to criticism and there are times when a response is not necessary on matters that are not in the interest of the state or good leadership.
      The president is praised when he does good and great things, and at the same time criticized if he does wrong that violates the constitution. If the Philippines is still a constitutional democracy, the president should allow for healthy debate if he intends to solve the problems instead of creating them.