Very Important Persons
HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Leila De Lima, former Secretary of Justice has been in prison for so long. She deserves bail and her day in court. Her case is far more important and relevant than the libel conviction of Maria Ressa.

Salvador Panelo, the Presidential Legal Counsel, can perhaps explain why Leila de Lima is treated this way. Panelo’s rebuttal of Duterte’s critics is logical, and his delivery on TV is cool, low key.

Lucy  Torres Gomez, the Congresswoman from Leyte, deserves attention. She has taken an unpopular stand by supporting the anti-terror bill the President signed into law. Those who opposed it consider it as a threat to democracy and could lead to tyranny and dictatorship. This is what happened to Hitler when he was given tremendous powers after the Reichstag fire. But Filipinos are not Germans. Even in the darkest days of the Marcos regime, there was comparative freedom for so many of us.

Mike Defensor, Party List Representative in Congress, has enemies who don’t like his anti-ABS-CBN stand. His critic traces Mike Defensor’s origin as University of the Philippines libertarian and accuses him of selling out in his reach for power. I disagree; he and the other Congressmen opposing ABS-CBN are the real champions of democracy. I urge my readers to read again my column, “Don’t give your balls to the oligarchy.”

General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is walking more sprightly these days. I think that many in our Armed Forces are happy that President Duterte revoked his earlier decision to invalidate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. The modernization of the Armed Forces continues with the acquisition of new fighter jets and the newly commissioned BRP Jose Rizal, the missile frigate from South Korea. This, at a time when tensions between the United States and China continue to rise in the South China Sea.

Former Justice Antonio Carpio is very much concerned about China’s militarization of the reefs and shoals that China has transformed into bases for its armed forces. Anytime now, if China so decides, it may also militarize the Scarborough Shoal right at our front door. Indeed, with this pandemic and China and India already in armed confrontation in their Himalayan border, we are living not only in interesting times but dangerous times.

Ambeth Ocampo – the historian echoes his teacher, Teddy Agoncillo, when he says no records, no history. In terms of scholarship, records matter. But much of history, even within our time, is not recorded, for which reason there is what is called oral history, undocumented origin of events which explain why they happened at all. But perhaps, Ambeth is right for that oral history known only to a few people who participated in this historical event have to write down what they know.

General Loven Abadia, former Air Force top brass is one such individual who was present and privy to so many events in our history. He is slowly revealing them on the Internet, all of them interesting reading, contributing to our understanding of our past.

Retired General Ramon Farolan is one columnist I always read not only for his intelligence but for his reminiscences. As an Air Force officer, he was the personification of rectitude and the honor that the Philippine Military Academy instilled in its students. His father, Modesto Farolan, was in journalism as publisher of the post-war Philippines Herald.

Gilbert teodoro jr. was formerly Defense Minister in the Gloria Arroyo government. Army officers say he was one of the best Defense Ministers ever. He’s now in private practice, trying to recoup his expenses when he ran for president two elections ago. I hope our talented and upright people, the best graduates of our universities, go into government. This is the ongoing experience in Japan; the best graduates from the Universities of Tokyo and Kyoto join the civil service which explains the excellence and durability of Japan’s bureaucracy. Would the same practice apply to the Philippines? Again, the culture difference which tells us what works in other countries may not work for us.

Conchita Carpio Morales, a short time back, lectured at the Ateneo on the Culture of Corruption in this country. A former Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales is also a recipient of The Ramon Magsaysay Award. Though retired, I hope she will not abjure government service. In her lecture, she traced the origins of corruption and then mentioned examples. In the question period, I asked her why all those crooks – though publicly identified as corrupt, are still very much in power. Conchita answered – I should direct that question to the Filipino people.

Crispin Maslog is an academic who specialized in mass communication and the masa. He has studied small town newspapers and the effects of the Marcos dictatorship on press freedom. The last time I talked with him, he was planning a conference on freedom of communication. I asked him to focus on the non-influence of information on the masa; people know these politicians are plunderers, rapists and killers, and yet they get elected to the highest offices. As Conchita Carpio Morales said, ask the Filipinos.

With this shameful condition, what are we to conclude? How are we to define ourselves? Is democracy for us? What does Duterte tell us? Are we capable of changing our form of government to prohibit crooks from plundering the national coffers and making us poor? Why as individuals do we betray our heroic past? Is religion crucial in the creation of a just and sovereign nation? Our neighbors managed to modernize in one generation with their authoritarian rulers. Marcos was one – why didn’t we modernize under him? Is Duterte the harbinger of a new authoritarian regime? I have written before that given our failures, we are our own worst enemy. How can we reverse this onerous condition?

Lea Salonga is being reviled for saying, it is difficult to love this country. She is absolutely right but it is difficult to agree with her publicly. When, then, can we love Filipinas without reservations?

LEILA DE LIMA
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