PRESIDENTIAL spokesman Ernesto Abella’s characterization of President Duterte’s latest rape joke as “heightened bravado” reminded me of Idi Amin ‘s reply to Britain’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with Uganda. He announced that he had defeated the British; he then decided to add CBE to his title as “Idi Amin Dada, CBE.” CBE meaning “conqueror of the British empire.”
There’s a real “CBE” honorific in the UK, bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II on UK citizens. It stands for “Commander of the Order of the British Empire”. You sport the initials beside your name when you are honored. Real CBEs include James Bond, Sean Connery.
Why do I know this trivia? By coincidence, I recently learned a thing or two about the British honors system, which dispenses its awards and lofty titles once a year during the Queen’s birthday. A friend of mine, Ambassador Jesus P. Tambunting, was recently conferred the OBE, which means “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” for his service in promoting the UK-Philippines partnership.
To return to Idi Amin, Idi Amin Dada was a Ugandan political leader and military officer who served as the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. While commander of the army and in danger of imminent arrest, he launched a 1971 military coup and declared himself President.
During his years in power, Amin began as a pro-Western ruler, enjoyed considerable Israeli support, was backed by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, the Soviet Union, and East Germany. Amin had the support of the US Central Intelligence Agency, which helped deliver bombs and other military equipment to Amin’s army and took part in military operations with Amin’s forces in Uganda.
Dissent within Uganda and Amin’s attempt to annex the Kagera region of Tanzania in 1978 led to the Uganda–Tanzania War and the demise of his eight-year regime. Amin then went into exile, first in Libya and then in Saudi Arabia, where he lived until his death on 2003. A polygamist, he had six wives, divorced three of them, and had nine children.
I would be a half- hearted journalist, if I do not add here that Idi Amin inspired a number of films, books and documentaries. The most notable is the critically acclaimed “The Last King of Scotland” (2006); Forest Whittaker won the academy award for best actor for his portrayal of Idi Amin.
I see films and books down the road dogging the footprints of Rodrigo Duterte. I would be surprised if people are not at work now to get a headstart.
National security or law enforcement
I do not know what happened at the briefing given yesterday by top military and defense officials to members of the Senate on the situation in Mindanao. I hope that they provided a cogent review of the republic’s national security strategy in the face of the Maute terrorist group and its linkage with the Islamic State, the Muslim and communist insurgencies, and the tie-up of the AbuSayyaf and Maute.
This is not just a question of whether the declaration of martial law is justified by the current situation. This is a question of whether we are approaching Mindanao as a national security problem or as law enforcement problem, or both.
The prevalent view of security studies since the unprecedented events of September 11, 2001, is that governments must respond to both war and crimes. In an article for the Federalist, four authors contend that there is “a new paradigm of warfare that has blurred the previously more-or-less clear line between national defense and law enforcement. And the idea of national defense is changing to encompass a broader range of threats than historically posed by a warring nation-state.”
Their thesis continued: “Historically, ‘war’ has been only between states. (Every contention by force between two nations, in external matters, under the authority of their respective governments.) Except for civil wars, acts of individuals and groups not qualifying as states have been deemed crimes either against the law of a particular state or violators of the ‘law of nations,’ e.g. piracy (much terrorism has been state-sponsored). This country’s [the United States]initial legal response to terrorism in the 1980s was a law enforcement approach which extended the jurisdiction of the United States to criminal acts against Americans abroad.
“The realization, however, that non-state and clandestinely state-sponsored groups now have the ability and willingness to employ means of mass destruction has dictated the recognition that states no longer have a monopoly on war. Therefore, it has become appropriate to use war powers against foreign terrorist organizations. Using those war powers against foreign terrorists operating within the United States calls for an understanding of when actions of force or terrorism by non-state groups should be treated pursuant to national security powers, rather than within the domain of law enforcement.
“The use of national security powers raises dangers which could result from militarizing the homeland. Nevertheless, as the Framers intended, the Constitution both gives the federal government all the powers necessary to defend the country, and also limits the possibilities for abuse of those powers through separation of powers and federalism. It is understandable that the initial response to the unprecedented attacks within the US by foreign forces on September 11th emphasized centralized command and control.
“As we adjust to the new reality, an effective national security strategy requires a range of responses based on recognizing the relationship between:
1) national security powers and law enforcement powers;
2) the rights of citizens and non-citizens; and
3) centralized and decentralized defenses.”
Constricted martial law powers
Because of our experience with martial law in 1972, the drafters of the 1987 Constitution sought to circumscribe the martial law powers with all kinds of limitations and conditions, principally review by Congress and then review by the Supreme Court. Only in the event of invasion and rebellion can the President suspend the writ of habeas corpus or place the country or a part thereof under martial law.
The concern at the time was that with martial law the President would have too much power.
The concern of the American Founding Fathers was whether the government would have all the constitutional power to defend the nation.
To Alexander Hamilton the issue was crystal clear: “The powers of the federal government to provide for the common defense are complete. These powers ought to exist without limitation: Because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger the safety of nations are infinite; and for this reason, no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be co-extensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils, which are appointed to preside over the common defense.
“This ‘truth’ rests upon axioms as simple as they are universal. The means ought to be proportioned to the end; the persons, from whose agency the attainment of any end is expected, ought to possess the means by which it is to be attained.”
President Duterte echoes Hamilton in his concern about the review by Congress and the Supreme Court of the executive proclamation of martial law. The focus is not on meeting or quelling the danger, but fulfilling legal niceties.
National security strategy a must
In the United States, the law requires every President, on a regular basis, to formulate his administration’s national security strategy.
Shortly after 9/11, George W. Bush formulated his 13,000-word “National Security Strategy of the United States of America.”
It may sound extravagant to say that the Philippines should develop a security strategy similar to that of the United States, a superpower.
Yet Singapore, small as it is, has a fully formulated national security strategy.
With the crisis facing us now in Mindanao and the collapse of peace talks with the communist rebels, the Philippines must not avoid putting down on paper or in whatever, a national strategy for the defense of the nation and the effective enforcement of the law.