Friday, August 29, 2014

The Lipa declaration: An urgent call for national transformation



August 27, 2014 11:47 pm
Adopted on August 27, 2014 by groups demanding the resignation of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
We are Filipino citizens of different personal, professional social and economic backgrounds and political persuasions and religious beliefs. We have gathered here in Lipa City on this 27th day of August A.D. 2014/ 2nd day of DHU AL-QA’DA A.H. 1435, under the auspices of the National Transformation Council, to reaffirm our deeply held convictions and beliefs about the common good and our highest national interests, in the face of the most pressing challenges.
We invite all our compatriots everywhere to reaffirm with us the same convictions and beliefs.
We believe that:
A crisis of unprecedented proportions has befallen our nation. The life of the nation is in grave peril from the very political forces that are primarily ordained to protect, promote and advance its well-being, but which are aggressively undermining its moral, religious, social, cultural, constitutional and legal foundations;
Unbridled and unpunished corruption and widespread misuse of political and economic power in all layers of society have not only destroyed our common conception of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, legal and illegal, but also put our people, especially the poor, at the mercy of those who have the power to dictate the course and conduct of our development for their own selfish ends;
Far from preserving and defending the constitution, as he swore to do when he assumed office, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino has subverted and violated it by corrupting Congress, intimidating the judiciary, taking over the treasury, manipulating the automated voting system, and perverting the constitutional impeachment process; President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has also damaged the moral fabric of Philippine Society by bribing members of Congress not only to impeach and remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice but also to enact a law which disrespects the right to life of human being at the earliest and most vulnerable stages of their lives, in defiance not only of the constitution but above all of the moral law, the customs, culture, and consciences of Filipinos.
Therefore, faithful to the objective moral law and to the universally honored constitutional principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, we declare that President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd has lost the moral right to lead the nation, and had become a danger to the Philippine Democratic and Republican state and to the peace, freedom, security and moral and spiritual well-being of the Filipino people.
We further declare that we have lost all trust and confidence in President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd, and we call upon him to immediately relinquish his position.
And we call upon the National Transformation Council, (Hereafter the council), to assume the urgent and necessary task of restoring our damaged political institutions to their original status and form before we begin to consider electing a new government under normal political conditions.
The role of the council will not be to succeed President Aquino, but solely to prevent the total destruction of our political system, and to rebuild and nourish its institutions back to health so that all those interested could join the political competition later, without the dice being loaded in anyone’s favor.
Like a crew whose task is to put everything in order before a commercial carrier, which had earlier developed some problems in midair, is cleared again for takeoff, the council’s duty will be only to repair the battered tripartite system and to make sure that the people are once again able to freely and intelligently elect their own leaders.
In this connection, we welcome the council’s proposal to open broad public consultations on the need to modify and strengthen the presidential system or to shift from the Unitary / Presidential system to a federal / Parliamentary System, endowing such structure with:
A totally independent judicial department, free from any kind of intimidation or bullying by either the Executive or the Legislative Department, and with the sufficient wherewithal to clear the backlog of the courts and fast-track all cases;
A merit-driven, professional civil and military service;
Totally transparent government budgeting, procurement, disbursement, accounting and auditing systems and procedures; and
An irreproachably independent and completely dependable electoral system, free from the virus that has corrupted the Automated Voting System Since 2010.
Whatever the final form of government the citizenry decide to adopt, absolutely indispensable are the integrity and independence of the courts, and the existence of an incorrupt electoral system by means of which we, the people, are able to freely and intelligently choose our own leaders in free and honest elections. Without these, we cannot speak of a normally functioning democratic and thus we fully support the council’s position that until we have such a fraud-free electoral system, we should refrain from holding any farcical election. But once we have it, we should encourage the best qualified men and women in the country to participate in the open electoral process so that together, we could put an end to the stranglehold exercised by the corrupt and incompetent political dynasties upon our elections.
Finally, we support the council’s proposal that with political reform there must go hand in hand comprehensive economic reform. With one strong voice, we must now say a vigorous “NO,” as Pope Francis has suggested, to an economics of exclusion and inequality, coming from a misguided vision of the human being and of society harmfully acted upon through myopic laws, policies and programs.
As the council prepares to embark upon the necessary reforms, we call upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the constitutional “protector of the people and the state,” to extend its protective shield to the council, and not to allow any armed group to sow violence, disorder or discord into its peaceful ranks.
Adopted in Lipa City, this 27th day of August A.D. 2014 / 2nd day of DHU AL-QA’DA A.H. 1435.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 'revolution' begins in Batangas



The ‘revolution’ begins in Batangas

August 26, 2014 11:04 pm


After the widely advertised anti-pork rally in Manila bombed on Monday, when the purported “one million people’s march” turned into an ill-disguised pro-Aquino shindig, we need now to turn and listen more to what Pope Francis calls, “the peripheries.” There is where we could be learning more about the real issues that go beyond President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s “pork”.
From Cebu last Saturday, we heard fresh and stronger drums against the “pork,” which kept on coming back like the cat with nine lives, despite the Supreme Court ruling declaring it null and void. Congratulations to Archbishop Jose Palma for hosting the event, and to all the Cebuanos who supported it.
But in Batangas today, the play goes to a higher plane. We shall be hearing the first unified multi-sectoral and interfaith call not just for the permanent abolition of “pork” but for Aquino’s speedy and gracious retirement. This will be a bold call for change, real change, not just cosmetic or superficial change, but “radical” change.
“Radical” is derived from the Latin word “radix,” which means “root.” “Radical change” then simply means change that goes into the root of things. Not merely regime change, but system change, structural change, cultural change.
It begins with Aquino being asked to step down for his numerous violations of the law and the Constitution and his poor performance in office. But it does not end there: it necessarily entails repairing what has been broken, damaged or destroyed, taking out the rot, and reordering the larger moral and political environment.
This is why we say the need is not to “succeed” PNoy now, but to put in a transition team that would fix the system before we seriously consider electing a new government.
These are brave words, on their face. But with Aquino wholly capable of sinking the nation with his flawed vision of morality, the Constitution, and politics, how is this goal to be accomplished?
This question will be put today in Lipa City. And the assembly, organized by the hitherto unannounced National Transformation Council, will try to answer it. Several highly respected moral and spiritual leaders from the various faith communities will try to contribute to this enterprise. I have been asked to keynote, and I look forward to it.
This is the first time such an assembly under the auspices of the Council is taking place. It is also the first time the Council has decided to make its legal presence felt. For the last three years, the Council, whose membership is purely by invitation, has lived a quiet, unseen existence, self-organizing, and holding private internal meetings to reflect on the rapidly changing moral and political environment after Aquino came to office.
Hosted by the Archbishop of Lipa, the Most Reverend Ramon Arguelles, the assembly will listen to chosen leaders of the Catholic Church, the Protestant sector and Islam on the subject of “national transformation.”
These include Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu, and former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Most Reverend Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Emeritus of Davao, and former CBCP president; Archbishop Arguelles; Father Romeo J. Intengan; S. J., Pastor Arthur Corpuz of the United Church of Manila; and Dr. Kamil Unda, a Muslim scholar who will be coming with a 100-strong Bangsamoro delegation from the South.
It is a most interesting mix. Vidal was the CBCP president who issued the document “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” on Feb. 13, 1986, which declared that “if the government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people, then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so.” That statement, in my reading then as now, provided the moral basis for the EDSA “revolt” that ousted Marcos.
The cardinal was also believed to have advised the embattled president Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2001 to avoid a confrontation with the anti-Estrada forces that could result in unnecessary bloodshed. Estrada decided to step down peacefully on Jan. 20, 2001, to pave the way for the takeover by his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who subsequently ruled until 2010.
The cardinal will most likely be asked to share his insights with the assembly on these two incidents involving the stepping down of a sitting president.
Archbishop Capalla, on the other hand, was CBCP president when the late former President Cory Aquino and some bishops called on then President Arroyo on July 5, 2005 to demand that she step down at the height of her perceived “unpopularity.” Capalla was not aware that such meeting was taking place, but as soon as he learned of it, he issued a statement supported by all the bishops, restating the role of the clergy in providing moral guidance to public servants, but acknowledging its limits. He read his statement to the press, but failed to retain a copy for his files.
I am eager to hear him say whether PNoy’s moral obligation at this point is to defend his office or to relinquish it. I am equally eager to see if the host prelate, Archbishop Arguelles, would repeat a statement he had previously made at a press conference, which I had helped to moderate at Club Filipino, saying that the 2016 election offers no possible relief to the nation’s crisis and should be completely avoided.
A spokesman for the Islamic delegation looks at the Lipa assembly as the beginning of a “peaceful revolution.” He says this is the first time his group, led by Muslim leaders Amir Omar Ali, Alim Saranggani, and Kamil Unda, would be participating in an unarmed and non-violent revolution. It could be a watershed.
The word “transformation” seems to have become some kind of “mantra” of late. Even Aquino used the word in his last State of the Nation Address. But so far the Council alone has decided to accept openly the challenge of non-violent revolutionary change. There is need for the rest to catch up.
We need to believe that unless there is a change in men, a change of men would be meaningless; that unless there is a change in the political system, structure and culture, a simple regime change would not yield much fruit.
In Batangas, we could begin something new, something different. Setting aside our own personal ambitions and self-interests, we could begin to think together, reason together, pray together, work together, and in the words of the Prophet Micah, “do right and love goodness and walk humbly with our God.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." 

Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PMAers speak up


PMAers speak up

9:15 pm | Sunday, October 27th, 2013
 5  481  471

For many years, the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. was largely a social club attending to homecoming affairs held annually during the month of February. Parades, class gatherings, picnics and donations for Fort Del Pilar were the order of the day insofar as homecoming activities were concerned. The association honored silver and golden jubilarians, as well as prominent alumni who distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavor, particularly those that rose to high positions in the military organization. There were programs that aimed to promote professionalism in the service but these were few and far between.

When it came to crucial issues of national concern, the association remained silent as though it had nothing to contribute to the exchange of ideas and views in our society. This state of affairs was the result of an association dominated by officers on active duty who are not allowed to publicly express their views on political matters, especially when they contradict official government policy. Neither are they allowed to air their grievances except through the established chain of command. Any violation of this principle could result in disciplinary action, including a possible court martial.

A good example of this reticence to speak up has to do with the “revolving door” policy of the government as it concerns the term of office of the AFP chief of staff. For more than a decade now we have had AFP chiefs serving, on the average, for 12 months at a time. Because of the rapid turnover at the top, appointments in many key positions below such as the head of the Western Mindanao Command, Eastern Mindanao Command, Central Command in the Visayas, the superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and other major commands are basically short-term assignments. The commander has very little time to engage in meaningful planning of long-term projects that could very well bear fruit in the future.

Incidentally, our barangay chiefs, who will be elected today, will serve for a fixed term of three years.

One glaring anomaly that I have raised a number of times concerns the appointment of the head of the PMA. This premier military institution of the land, an institution that produces most of the key leaders of our armed forces, is headed by officials on the verge of retirement. The current superintendent retires in February after less than a year in office. He leaves without seeing any class graduate. His predecessor had even less time, staying at his post for only five months before retirement.
What was on the minds of our military leaders when these appointments were made? Certainly it was not the best interests of the institution. Just what can one expect from officers who are marking time prior to starting a new chapter in their lives?

And so, it is left to retired PMA graduates no longer in the active service, or in government, to speak up for their fellow alumni who share similar sentiments.
This is their voice.

A CALL FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE

Cognizant of the maxim that PUBLIC OFFICE IS A PUBLIC TRUST;

Conscious of the desire of the Filipino people for reform, transparency, and accountability in government operations;

Mindful of the negative long-term implication to peace and order and national security of the improper use of public funds and the non-adherence to accountability of public officials;


Aware of the current issues against the Congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the off-budget Presidential special funds, consisting of the Malampaya Fund, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Fund, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Fund and the Road Users Tax Fund;

Knowing that the current issues are a result of a systems failure in governance, exacerbated by a breach of ethical standards by some public officials; and
Believing that national progress and the upliftment of the quality of life of all Filipinos, especially the less fortunate in society, can be better achieved if public funds are properly used;

We, the PMA Alumni Advocacy Group, composed of graduates of the Philippine Military Academy who are no longer in active service, hereby strongly recommend that:

1. The Congress and the President of the Philippines totally abolish the Congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel funds” in whatever form;

2. The President of the Philippines discontinue the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP);

3. The President submit all unbudgeted funds, like the Malampaya Fund, the Road Users Tax, and the social funds from the PAGCOR and the PCSO, to the budgetary process and oversight power of Congress;

4. The Congress of the Philippines, in turn, provide the President with enough funds to deal with calamities and other contingencies, subject to its oversight power;

5. The Congress enact a law which provides that all revenues of the government from whatever source, including but not limited to the Malampaya Fund, the Road Users Tax, the PAGCOR Fund, and the PCSO Fund, be deposited in the National Treasury to be spent only as may be provided in the yearly General Appropriations Act, repealing or amending as necessary existing laws and Presidential issuances to the contrary;

6. Public officials who have been implicated in the misuse of their “pork barrel funds,” and/or in amassing wealth illegally in violation of the anti-plunder or anti-graft laws, take a leave of absence or resign from their positions, without prejudice to their prosecution for criminal offense as may be warranted;

7. The Judiciary of the Philippines, led by the Supreme Court, initiate reforms within its ranks to ensure speedy and impartial trial to punish the guilty and clear the innocent; and

8. All public officials, including members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), set the correct example in good governance, perform their duties as protectors of the people and the State, and not use their office as an opportunity to amass wealth illegally.