Patriot games
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Antonio T. Carpio is arguably the most patriotic Filipino of the 21st century. His bona fides in nation building are unassailable. The esteemed career in the legal profession; in the Executive branch where, for his exemplary services, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit; and in the Judiciary with his long and distinguished tenure as the reliably judicious and scholarly benchmark of the Supreme Court (at turbulent epochs in history). These accomplishments are surpassed only by his personal crusade to take the lead in the defense of our patrimony in the Philippine Sea. There is not an iota of danger that anyone in control of his faculties would view him with lens other than that applied to the great men of our times.

Yet here comes Sal. Secretary Salvador Panelo has always understood the law in his own inimitable way. His lens on life is by no means rose colored. Its more psychedelic. Or as colorful as his sartorial palette.

But it is myopic. He denigrates Justice Carpio’s conscientious warning about the vulnerability to seizure of our natural gas deposits in the Chico River Pump Irrigation Loan Agreement. It seems more like a conspiratorial hoodwink than the moral outrage of a “patriot”. Seriously, is the  argument to say “ssshhh, lets hope China refuses to see that we’ve surrendered every-thing, including the kitchen sink?”

Asset trap. Justice Carpio clarified that the terms of the loan make our patrimonial assets susceptible to China in the event of default. The gas fields at Recto bank are patrimonial. 

Pointing out our own weakness doesn’t make us weaker. It strengthens us and provides the opportunity to scramble at correction so as to improve our position. In fact, the good Justice has cautioned that, for future loans, we should veer away from this template’s collateralization of patrimonial assets as well as the resort to arbitration under China’s International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission. Awards of this commission are final and binding and, under the loan agreement, the Philippines expressly waives sovereign immunity on the enforcement of arbitral awards. 

Pane-law. Sec. Sal also manacles us with a special interpretation of constitutional theory as understood, well, only by him. He specifically called out Carpio who, as a Justice, he says should be protective of our interests. The unspoken premise of his “Panelo doctrine” is that independence and impartiality are not really ideal qualities of a magistrate and, also, that these interests he would have the Justice protect do not include forthrightness and fairness.

It’s not Carpio who should have kept silent and not risk being thought of as a traitor. It should have been Panelo. By speaking up, he removed all doubt as to how different he was from his fraternity brother.

Public executions. A police officer was gunned down at 3:30 p.m. right in the heart of EDSA. Senator Panfilo Lacson compares the situation on the ground as being a lá “wild, wild west”. Immediately, memories of TV’s James West and Artemus Gordon and their James Bond, cowboy style comes to mind. What the good senator really referred to was the no holds barred, no rules image of the frontier. Perhaps, he recalled shoot outs like that at the OK corral. 

This reputation of the old west was historically inaccurate, a product of dime novels and pulp fiction and good old literary license. But what he really meant to say was that its not good if officers of the law can be assassinated on the most public thoroughfare in the country. Just over a month back, another cold blooded murder in broad daylight was perpetrated at the same EDSA. This avenue of the people’s power is fast gaining the reputation as the dying grounds of individual freedom. Senator Ping was referring as well to the killings with impunity of lawyers, prosecutors, journalists, politicians. 

Loose control. Yes, it is way past timely that we revisit our gun control laws. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte  himself committed to eliminate loose firearms as a campaign pledge. One of his first public statements just days after his election was that he was not going to allow the licensing to the public of heavy firearms. Last year, however, the PNP acknowledged an increase in gun ownership owing to the rationalized process of applying for permits. 

The latest statistics show around 1.7 million licensed firearms. There are more than twice that number illegal. This is shocking when you consider that the PNP and AFP combined have less than 500,000 guns. 

Already, NGOs point to this proliferation of illegal firearms making it possible for Islamic jihadists to wage war against the government. PRRD, in pushing for only the most stringent conditions in licensing civilians, expressed the concern that ramping up armory quantities of arms was inherently dangerous. Stolen firearms will invariably end up being used by enemies of the state. We wish though that he just avoid the intermittent threat to arm civilians to fight the drug war, the communist rebels and even idlers on the street. 

Days of reckoning. We continue to watch idly as Mexico demands an apology from Spain and the Vatican for the long episode of colonial occupation. Spain has predictably rejected any such ultimatums. The sins of the past cannot be judged using contemporary considerations.

Popes have actually asked for forgiveness from nations and indigenous peoples victimized by the conquest of the new world, in the name of evangelization. John Paul II famously apologized and so has Pope Francis. Not God, but Glory and Gold reigned. 

The wounds of the occupations (including that of the US and Japan) have caused a collective scar of consciousness on the generations. All Filipinos know that we were victimized by these nations. There are embers of resentment – Balangiga bells, comfort women to name a few contexts. But there aren’t as many against Spain. We await with interest how this en-garde between Mexico and Spain plays out.

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