Political will or plain discernment?

“WITH all the pressure coming from different directions against the signing of the Anti-Terrorism bill into law, at the end of the day, it is President [Rodrigo] Duterte’s strong political will that mattered most,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the bill’s principal author, said in a message to reporters on the day the law was enacted. “I cannot imagine this measure being signed under another administration.”

Indeed, Duterte in the four years that he has been leading the country has done crucial things that obviously required much political will, all of which you can describe exactly with Lacson’s “with-all-the-pressure-coming-from-different-directions” phrase.

Among these: the prosecution and incarceration of Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Justice secretary Leila de Lima for connivance with drug lords; Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani; the war against drugs; ending the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) owners’ illegal but lucrative hold on a Makati commercial center; the siege of Marawi; the collection of P30 taxes owed by tobacco manufacturer Mighty Corp. and the P6-billion unpaid aviation fees by magnate Lucio Tan’s Philippine Airlines; the “pivot” away from the United States and the country’s rapprochement with China; his refusal to reopen peace talks with the communists; the six-month closure of Boracay island; the clean-up of Manila Bay and Pasig River; and the four-month quarantine (of different intensities) of many major cities in order to contain the coronavirus.

Political will is also demonstrated when a president refuses to intervene in legal processes, despite “pressure coming from different directions,” as in the case of the Rappler head Maria Ressa’s sentencing on libel charges and the House of Representatives’ refusal to grant the oligarch-owned ABS-CBN Corp. another franchise to use the nation’s radio spectrum.

However, I suspect for Duterte, it’s less a matter of exerting political will but more of his realization in the past four years how broken mainstream media is and that noisy personalities and groups who pretend to represent “the people” in reality are simply covert communist and Yellow propagandists who can’t even mobilize their own families for a demonstration. After all, for all their noise, and supposed youth base, all of the opposition Otso Diretso Senate candidates miserably lost in the 2019 elections.

Consider for instance the PDI’s screaming banner headline the day after Duterte signed the bill into law: “Duterte signs terror law amid wide opposition”(italics mine).

A big part of the article was devoted to quotes opposing the law by Ibrahim Murad, head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with which government had struck a peace deal. The MILF form the core of the government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Of course, Murad would oppose the Anti-Terrorism Law as the MILF had been a terrorist organization. If ever he and the MILF decide to return to war, the anti-terror law would be a powerful weapon against them.

Opposition
Who else does the Inquirer quote to justify its banner of “wide opposition”? Only three people: Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, elder brother of the late fiery communist leader Popoy Lagman, who always without fail rants against everything the government does; and Rep. Carlos Zarate, nominee of the communist party-list Bayan Muna.

Philippine mainstream media is indeed broken. In the PDI case, how on earth can its headline say there is wide opposition against the anti-terror bill when it can quote only the head of the MILF, a rabidly opposition congressman, and an operative of the terrorist Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army masking as a congressman?

One lawyer, Edre Olalia, has been quoted very often claiming the Anti-Terrorism Law would be used against ordinary citizens. Even the New York Times (NYT) reported: “Edre Olalia, of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said it is ‘without a doubt the most unpopular and perilous piece of legislation that could ever be pushed by a government that is fixated with the potion of power.’”

As usual, US media don’t bother to check the backgrounds of people they quote. Who is this Olalia?

Olalia, since he became a lawyer three decades ago, has been the official and personal lawyer of Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison and of the National Democratic Front. He is the principal counsel of the Communist Party and its fronts, which is the main target of the Anti-Terrorism Law. Yet he is depicted in the NYT article as a lawyer “representing activist and indigent groups.”

Human Rights Watch is another outfit most quoted by foreign media. “By its broad definition, starting a fight in a bar could technically be classified as an act of terrorism,” said Human Rights Watch, which called the act “a human rights disaster in the making.”

Preposterous
That’s a preposterous claim, intended to make the law look so irrational, exploiting the fact that most readers won’t bother to read the law itself.

Not by any stretch of imagination can “a fight in a bar” be classified as a terrorist act. A terrorist act is very clearly defined in the law as “intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to any person, or endangers a person’s life…and to cause extensive damage or destruction to a government or public facility, public place or private property in order to seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, economic or social structures of the country.” No way can a fight in a bar be considered a terrorist act.

But then Human Rights Watch has totally relied on its researcher, one Carlos Conde. This leftist propagandist in his years as a stringer for US newspapers and a writer in the communist media outlet Bulatlat.com, has written absolutely nothing good about the Philippines in every administration, from that of Gloria Arroyo to Aquino 3rd to the present president. This is because his agenda is to portray any democratic government as a police state, which is the propaganda line of the Communist Party.

One also has to discern that most press releases by organizations do not really represent the views of their membership as the president or writer of such statements do not bother to really circulate the draft among the officers.

One easily spots this kind of press releases when it is not signed by its president or board of trustees. This is the kind of bogus press releases eight business groups purportedly issued in opposition to the Anti-Terrorism bill. Have you read or heard any businessman speak out against the Anti-Terrorism Law?

Philippine mainstream media now is mostly broken and, apparently, Duterte knows that. Be very suspicious when it reports “widespread opposition” to this or that. It’s like Jose Maria Sison saying — for five years now — that the “crisis of capitalism is ever worsening.”


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Felicitas Naguit

    as usual, a good read from you Sir! Thank you for enlightening your readers.

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