The Manila Times - Digong’s achievable and greatest legacy

3 November 2020

By Reynaldo O. Arcilla | The Manila Times

THE order of President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte for the Department of Justice to conduct a government-wide anti-corruption drive is a bit late.

I fully agree with Sen. Panfilo Lacson that the campaign should have started from day one of Digong’s administration. With the way due process moves in this country, it is most unlikely that conviction of those prosecuted for wrongdoing will be achieved before the end of Digong’s tenure in one year and a half.

What happens to the cases filed when the new leader takes over in July 2022 is a big question mark. Will she/he be like-minded as Digong? Is there any guarantee that even if she/he is of the same mind, she/he will pursue what his/her would-be predecessor is now just starting? Hardly likely.

We have seen it all happen from one administration to the next. First, she/he will have to “repay” those who help him/her get elected through business deals or appointment of “square pegs in round holes” and even corrupt persons in sensitive positions in government. We have witnessed that in the last four years.

I also fully agree with Lacson’s observation that the anti-corruption drive just launched started off on the wrong foot when Digong absolved Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar of any wrongdoing even before an investigation has begun, arguing that both are rich and, therefore, not corrupt. That argument doesn’t hold water. We have seen rich people who are corrupt.

Like Lacson, however, I am not insinuating that the two are involved in corruption. But as heads of the two identified corrupt and graft-ridden departments, they should not have been exempted at the outset by Digong under the principle of command responsibility.

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In view of the foregoing, I do not think that Digong’s fight against corruption will be a lasting legacy of his, as claimed by his spokesman. In all probability, it will crumble the minute he leaves office.

To me, the greatest legacy that Digong can leave this country is to get rid, once and for all, of the military alliance with the United States (the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty or MDT) and its troops and military bases on our soil.

The most compelling reason why I expressed support for Digong in December 2016, before he decided to run for president, was his vow to get rid of foreign troops and military bases in this country.

I have since reiterated that support often enough in this space, expressing the firm belief at the same time that it would be his greatest legacy to the nation.

This is not to say that his crusade against the deadly illegal drug problem and the ever-present corruption in government is less important. Far from it.

In fact, I personally believe that these two scourges may be attributed in large part to the uninterrupted and unhindered dominance and influence of the elite, the oligarchs and corrupt politicians, with the suspected support of a foreign power whose main objective has always been to maintain the status quo and keep our country dependent on it.

I must admit that I felt a sense of personal satisfaction when Digong finally decided to start the process of getting rid of foreign troops and military bases in our land with the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

I was, however, dissatisfied and dismayed when Digong later decided to postpone the abrogation of the VFA from August this year to the end of this month. I await with bated breath if he will once again postpone its abrogation.

As Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Tweeterboy” Locsin, Jr. once succinctly put it, the VFA termination would render the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the MDT a mere “piece of paper.”

EDCA provides, among other things, for the stationing of US troops on rotation basis inside Philippine military bases (five have been reportedly identified). These US troop enclaves will be off limits to our military. Without the VFA, what will govern their behavior while they are here?

Worse, the agreement also requires us to provide the US with a location for the pre-positioning of its arsenal that may include nuclear weapons!

If those US troops and arsenal do not make us a prime target for a potential enemy of the US, I do not know what will.

Nevertheless, I do not believe for even one nanosecond that the US will risk an armed confrontation with China just to defend the Philippines. It will be MAD (mutually assured destruction) for them.

No less than President Digong knows this; that is why he said we should begin to rely on ourselves alone. Can we do it? If other countries in the region can, why ever not?

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Why do some people and institutions contend that scrapping our military alliance with the US would be bad and would mean “subservience” to China?

And “subservience” to the US is, or has been, good?! Naman!

Of course, it will be up to us to see to it that we do not ever again allow ourselves to be subservient to any nation.

I maintain that we should forever be grateful to the Almighty that He gave us Digong who showed the world the real meaning of patriotism and nationalism. His successors will have a difficult act to follow but, hopefully, they would have learned by then a lesson or two from a probinsyano!

I fervently pray that Digong who, unlike his predecessors, is animated by nationalistic fervor, will fulfill his campaign promise to carve for ourselves a truly independent foreign policy and get rid of foreign troops and military bases on our land that, aside from their other negative aspects, are magnets for attack in the event armed hostilities erupt between the contending big powers in the region.

I believe Digong owes it to the Filipino people to now unequivocally fulfill his promise to end foreign military presence on our land before it becomes too late. His failure to do so would mean going back to where we were before he came along — where the oligarchs, the Yankeephiles, the crooked politicians and government officials, the criminal syndicates, the drug lords, among others, made life miserable for the average and law-abiding Filipinos.

If he succeeds, it would be his greatest legacy. If he fails, it would make him the best president we could have had.

SC and Leonen’s SALNs

The Office of Solicitor General Jose Calida has once again requested the Supreme Court to make public the statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN) of Justice Marvic Mario Victor Leonen to be used for possible quo warranto proceedings against him.

The tribunal earlier denied the same request for certified copies of Leonen’s SALNs from 1990 to 2011 without giving any reason.

The denial violated the relevant provisions of the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act 6713 that guarantee that such a request should have been granted. Can anyone imagine that the highest tribunal of the land would do that?! One wonders if they deserve to be called “justices.”

Leonen reportedly failed to file his SALNs for several years when he was still with the University of the Philippines.

It will be recalled that former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno lost her job due to her failure to submit her SALNs.

Let us see what the Supreme Court does with the Office of Solicitor General’s present request which appears to me as fully justified.

Digong’s order to destroy all seized illegal drugs

Two Chinese nationals were recently caught trying to smuggle in some P1.63 billion worth of illegal drugs (shabu) in Cabanatuan City.

The incident brought to mind Digong’s order to have all seized illegal drugs destroyed in one week. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency did destroy, maybe just for show, a very small amount of the drugs about a week after Digong issued his order.

What has happened since then? Nothing, it seems.

As usual, we have this bad trait of forgetting matters that require follow-up or follow-through action.

I believe, therefore, that there is a need for Digong to appoint someone close to him whose job would only be to maintain a list of such matters, including probes he has ordered of this and that person or agency that seem to lead nowhere, to constantly remind the authorities concerned.

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