“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul”
–From Invictus by William Ernest Henley
This is not an easy decision to make. It is not only surprising, it could be controversial. Since my life has always been colored by one controversy after another, I really don’t mind. One more controversy is nothing to cry about. Besides, one writer called me a maverick and a controversial man. I like the name because it defines me – now and always.
During the presidential campaign, I wrote, based on what came from the irrepressible mouth of PDU30, that he was unfit to be President of our country – uncouth and vulgar language, behavior like that of a village bum or street corner bully, an uncivilized and ignorant person. Based on traditional standards, my judgment on DD was correct in describing him from what came out of his mouth. Any intelligent human being re-assesses his judgments or conclusion depending on changing circumstances. As they say, only fools don’t change their minds and I’m no fool.
Extreme problems demand extreme solutions
But my change in appreciation is not without lingering doubts since it is subject to a non-negotiable condition – PDU30 should stop the extra-judicial killings and hold answerable those who committed the murders. One cannot proclaim with the left hand that he loves the poor and powerless and kills them with his right hand. It is an unacceptable contradiction – one must choose one or the other.
Who am I to make such a condition when I am nothing in the current political equation? Well, a citizen is important in the power game. Why? The beginning of national changes or the toppling of governments originates from the mind of one citizen. Did not Thomas Jefferson write the American Declaration of Independence? Of course he did.
Is it not that his single solitary mind produced this ineluctable truth stating: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness”?
The American Declaration of Independence has become the basis of strategic democratic provisions of many constitutions. The Philippines is one of those democratic countries influenced by this historic document when the following provision was imbedded in Section 1, Article II of the Constitution, thus:” The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
The citizens of this country toppled Marcos and Estrada. That is how powerful the citizens of this country are. They can topple a government based on constitutional grounds. They can also build a country with the leaders of their choice and they don’t have to go through elections to put in place their chosen leaders.
So it is in this spirit that I express my views.
During the campaign and now
When I heard that DD was running for President, I thought it was a joke. When I heard many things from his undisciplined mouth during the campaign, I thought the joker was wild and he was a fraud – unfit to be President. I have been listening to him from his inaugural speech to his speech before the Fifth Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City, I am afraid that I have rethought my previous assessment of the man.
In my current view, PDU30 is serious about national reforms. He is intense and the language can be excused because they pale into insignificance in the light of his noble objectives. More than any President after Marcos, he has shaken the foundations of many of our traditional views and institutions – very revolutionary indeed, even if the institutions have not as yet been dismantled. In time though, they must be dismantled and demolished.
It is not easy for anyone to get my agreement to a particular view or idea because I do not care what the world thinks of me. All I care about, in my work and writings, is to do what is good and right for God and country. Why God and country? If you do right for God and country they cannot repudiate you. You retain their continuing love and affection. But people? They are the continuing sources of ingratitude. I should know, I have met many ungrateful SOBs in my journey in this country – from Presidents to friends and clients.
Some of them are dead, many of them are still alive. But I don’t take umbrage at the ungrateful ones; this is the law of life in this country. And I damn don’t care about their ingratitude. They can rot in hell or enjoy the blessings of heaven, for all I care.
The row with the chief justice
The row between PDU30 and CJ Sereno has tremendous possibilities for a constitutional crisis. But the whole damn thing is a product of misunderstanding. Every citizen, and the CJ is a citizen, has a right to ventilate her views to the President. Since CJ Sereno comes from the UP College of Law, I am sure that the letter was not intended to insult the President. It was a private communication. It was not meant to be publicized in media.
CJ Sereno is correct in saying that the judges should be administratively investigated by the Supreme Court. PDU30 is also correct in holding that since the report involves violation of our criminal laws they should be investigated by the investigative agencies of government – the police and the agencies of the Department of Justice. Each department of government should perform its own functions. They should do their respective jobs because useless debates are like holes in the head. They lead to nowhere except mischief and serious troubles, which do not benefit the country.
I do admire this move of the President to tell everyone that there is finally a President who could put these arrogant judges in the right places. Nobody is beyond the pale of the law when the laws are violated – judges, justices, congressmen, senators, governors, generals, mayors, members of the cabinet, moguls, oligarchs. We should all be grateful to PDU30 with this message that those who define and render decisions should not act as though they are untouchables.
CJ Sereno should take this in mind and in stride. She should know now we have a President who knows his onions and has the balls to do what he threatens to do.
Martial Law would be a mistake
PDU30 should learn a lesson from President Marcos. FM declared Martial Law. It was a very serious mistake and it proved to be his undoing. Why? Martial Law does not allow Presidents to reshape Philippine society and institutions. The only constitutional power that is allowed with the declaration of Martial Law is to repel, pursue and destroy the rebels or invaders, “when public safety requires it.” But it is not necessary to declare Martial Law as it is the duty of the President to repel and destroy the rebels or invaders without the need for Martial Law. The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is not automatic with the declaration of Martial Law. As a matter of fact, the President has to make a choice between declaring Martial Law or suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
Civilian authority continues to function – Congress, the courts and other institutions of government. These institutions cannot be reoriented and reshaped. They are impediments to revolutionary solutions to our problems. As a matter of fact, these are the institutions, together with their officials, who constitute our problems – graft and corruption in epidemic proportions.
More than during the time of Marcos, Martial Law now has constitutional limits that make the President beholden to Congress – congressmen and senators, many of whom deserve to be in jail or executed, if the death penalty is restored. The President is not only beholden to Congress but also to the Supreme Court.
Why? Under section 17, with six paragraphs, Article VII of the Constitution, the limits are daunting. This is obvious because this provision is the extreme reaction to Marcos’ Martial Law. Note very well the limits. In paragraph one, the President may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or declare Martial Law for the whole country or part thereof for a period not exceeding 60 days; within 48 hours of the proclamation, the President should report to Congress in person or in writing; Congress in joint session, regular or special, may revoke such proclamation by at least a majority of all the members of Congress; and once revoked the President cannot set it aside.
Paragraph two provides that, if Congress is not in session, within 24 hours from the proclamation, it shall convene without benefit of a call. Paragraph three provides that any citizen may file the appropriate action before the Supreme Court questioning the factual basis of the proclamation and the Court shall promulgate its decision within 30 days from filing. Paragraph four clearly provides that Martial Law “does not suspend the operations of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies where civilian courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.”
Paragraph five provides that “the suspension of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherently in or directly connected with invasion.” Paragraph six provides that “during the suspension of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”
Declaration of Martial Law is not the solution to the problems of drugs, graft and corruption, the oligarchs, the senators and congressmen, the justices and judges, the crooks and corrupt, the criminals, foreign interference and what have you. It cannot be an instrument to build a new order, reform society, rebuild a country and bring better lives for our people.
So what is the solution?
Establish a revolutionary government
The solution is plain and simple – establish a revolutionary government or to please those who are squeamish about doing away, constitutionally, the rule of the current powerful elements, constitute a constitutional transition government, as I have suggested over and over again without let-up since I started a column in The Manila Times.
Why? By establishing a revolutionary or constitutional transition government, you get rid of all the impediments presented by the drug lords, smugglers, economic saboteurs, criminals, Congress, Supreme Court, oligarchs and all existing institutions. Why is that?
When you organize a revolutionary or constitutional transition government, the government is the law and the leader or the leaders are the lawgivers. There are definitive limits to such a government – vision, human values, commitment to God and country, discipline, integrity and conscience.
This is the only way to bring better lives to our people where equality, freedom and justice prevail. It has been long in coming.
PDU30 was correct when he declared during the campaign that the moment he gets to be President he will declare and organize a revolutionary government. He became President but he has retreated from this commitment. I was greatly disappointed. Maybe he has not forgotten. Maybe he is biding his time. But he cannot wait too long. The opportunity is here. He must grab it by the forelock. The time is now so as not to give the counter-revolutionaries a chance to regroup and make their move first. A timely reminder from William Shakespeare, the same reminder I gave to General Angelo “Angie” in the presence of Generals Abenina amd Abat with Commodore Apari, when Angie told our group that he would cross his bridge when he came to it and I replied: “You know General, as William Shakespeare once said, ‘in the plains of hesitation bleached the bones of countless millions.’ So cross the bridge in your mind now so that when you come to that actual bridge, you will not hesitate. I hate to see your bones bleached with the countless millions.” The rest is history.
With this reminder, I hope PDU30 listens. As I keep on saying since the days of President Cory, who was averse to unsolicited advice, the best advice to a President or any person is an unsolicited advice – given without motive except love of God and country.
The right man at the right moment
If PDU30 keeps his present course, minus the unjustified extra-judicial killings, he might just become a great President, not for himself but for God and country. With his determined efforts to pursue worthwhile goals and objectives, he cannot afford to fail. What a legacy that would be!