My chat with Digong

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

How ironic our country voted to investigate Israel for alleged human rights violations and abuses in Gaza, where Israeli troops and Palestinian militants are battling for control.

We have the same problem as Israel in Mindanao.

The country’s vote was made before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The Philippine vote was for the setting up of a UNHRC committee to look into possible abuses committed by Israeli troops against Palestinians.

Philippine Ambassador to Israel Macairog Alberto was summoned to the host country’s foreign ministry to protest our country’s yes vote.

“It is unacceptable that a country like the Philippines, which itself endures radical and murderous Islamist terrorism in the south of the country, would support a draft resolution that ignores the Hamas terrorist organization’s war crimes,” said Gilad Cohen, Israel’s deputy director-general for the Asia Pacific.

Israel has a point: why should the Philippines interfere in another country’s internal problem when it has its own problem with the Moros in Mindanao?

Palestinian militants claim Israel violated the human rights of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as a result of the exchange of bombs and artillery fire from both sides.

In war, innocent civilians become collateral damage. Palestine and Israel have both suffered civilian casualties in the exchange of fire.

In Muslim Mindanao, numerous Christian and Muslim civilians have been killed or wounded in the protracted war between government troops and Islamist terrorists.

Some Islamic countries have even accused our government of genocide against the Muslims in Mindanao.

The Philippine vote at the UNHRC to have Israel investigated for human rights violations against Palestinians is not only absurd, it is also hypocritical.

*      *      *

Malaysia scrambled its jets to confront Chinese air force units that flew within 60 nautical miles of the country’s Sarawak state recently.

The aerial confrontation between China and Malaysia took place on May 31.

The country has every reason to envy Malaysia for standing up to China.

The Philippines does not have the capability in the air and on the sea to confront China or any other country over intrusions into our territory, because we don’t have the firepower.

Many Philippine Air Force oldtimers pine for the days when our jets flew over Sabah with impunity.

Those bygone days were in the 1960s, when the country had the best air force in Asia second to Japan.

The words of elder statesman Juan Ponce Enrile should be heeded in our problem with China over the West Philippine Sea.

Enrile, 97, former defense minister and Senate president, said the country should first build up its air force and navy before thinking of confronting other countries that violate our territorial integrity.

The hawkish among us should be reminded of the Filipino saying, “Malakas ang loob, mahina ang tuhod” (courageous yet weak).

We should be able to back up our stout hearts with strong muscles.

*      *      *

I was able to penetrate the thick cordon sanitaire in the Palace recently, a rare chance, and talked with President Digong alone.
I went to Malacañang after I was told the President was upset with me.

I found out he was not.

“You’re free to criticize any member of my official family if you think they’re getting out of line,” he said.

I told Digong point-blank that he is surrounded by corrupt subordinates.

I expressed apprehension over possible repercussions as a result of my exposés, because of what happened to me during the administration of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

GMA and I made a verbal agreement that if I bared the shenanigans in her administration, she would act on them.

Ms. Arroyo called out officials I linked to corruption, but failed to act against her husband Mike, who came after me hammer and tongs after I uncovered the smuggling activities of Vicky Toh, his alleged paramour.

I reminded Digong that Mike’s harassment was so intense he offered me protection if I transferred residence to Davao City, where he was then the mayor. I politely turned down the offer.

“What happened to you then will never happen in my administration,” he said.


I pointed out to the President that I’ve incurred more libel suits during his administration – which I helped put up – than in the previous ones.

I reminded Digong that when he and his people were scrounging for funds in the early days of his presidential campaign, on my own initiative I collected donations amounting to P65 million from big businessmen for his campaign kitty.

I even asked my American friend David Morey, an international political campaign strategist based in Washington D.C., to join the Duterte bandwagon.

Upon my initiative Morey and Digong met twice at the Edsa Shangri-La hotel in Mandaluyong. After their meetings, Morey was assigned to the camp of Sonny and Paul Dominguez during the campaign.

Now, back to my libel suits. I told the President that the libel complaints were filed by administration officials whom I called out for alleged corruption or inefficiency.

I complained that I couldn’t even leave the country because of two hold-departure orders (HDOs) from the courts, because of the numerous libel cases.

I had no HDOs in previous administrations, even if I had many libel suits which were eventually dismissed.

I also reminded the President that I turned down his offer to appoint me secretary of interior and local government two or three weeks before he was to be sworn into office on June 30, 2016.

I said I could help him more “as an outsider looking in,” than as a member of his about-to-be-formed Cabinet.

As a gadfly, I would look over the shoulders of his subordinates to make them toe the line, I told Digong then.

My declining his offer of a Cabinet position made him appoint my sister, Wanda Tulfo-Teo, tourism secretary instead.




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