Universality of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) applies universally without distinction as to race, color or nationality. We are all human and under that skin nothing differs much. I feel troubled with this emerging or recycling of the idea that the UDHR is a Western Concept that does not fit or apply to us (Filipinos). It is so alarming that vast number of the population if not majority now considers Human Rights as abhorrent and pro-criminal. It is saddening that they perceive it only as a tool to encourage criminality, they view it as a mere protection for criminals.

UDHR assures that every human being lives under the basic requirements of a dignified life. It is not meant for criminals but rather for the protection of every law abiding citizen, as well as a reminder to law enforcement agencies that they do not become criminals by themselves as they pursue criminals or in the attempt to address the ills of the society, otherwise without these reminders we are as if have opted to burn the house in order to get rid some rodents.

Those who deny the universality of Human Rights simply acknowledge or impose upon themselves the verdict that they do not belong to the humanity of men. I believe we all deserve equally to live a free and dignified life. These Rights transcend national boundaries. Though written by men they are dictated by natural law, thus, above any other laws conceptualized by human legislation, and far above the whims and caprices of self proclaimed all knowing leaders who want to impose their will on the citizenry.

UDHR assures that every human being lives under the basic requirements of a dignified life. It is not meant for criminals but rather for the protection of every law abiding citizen, as well as a reminder to law enforcement agencies that they do not become criminals by themselves as they pursue criminals or in the attempt to address the ills of the society, otherwise without these reminders we are as if have opted to burn the house in order to get rid some rodents.

Those who deny the universality of Human Rights simply acknowledge or impose upon themselves the verdict that they do not belong to the humanity of men. I believe we all deserve equally to live a free and dignified life. These Rights transcend national boundaries. Though written by men they are dictated by natural law, thus, above any other laws conceptualized by human legislation, and far above the whims and caprices of self proclaimed all knowing leaders who want to impose their will on the citizenry.



Supreme Court Decision on Grace Poe’s Citizenship and Residence

In an article published online by Rappler Authored by an election lawyer, he justified the ruling of the Supreme Court stating that Grace Poe has all the laws and jurisprudence on her back. He claimed that under the 1935 constitution Grace Poe is a natural born citizen and that she poses the required residency period.

It is quite intimidating to question a lawyer on matters of law, but I could not stop my self but attempt and refute his position based on how I am learning it in the law school. It might sound to early for me to question a lawyer but that’s how they orient us, to question and refute when there is a good reason to do so, thus my refutation.

xxx first, reading back to the Constitutional Commission’s deliberation, foundlings are not included in the list of who would be considered as natural born, in fact they explicitly stated, “lets leave it to the legislative to decide and clarify” but to this day there was never a law passed to clarify or execute it, thus this provision is not self executing, not even Grace Poe herself bothered to draft a bill for that purpose while in the senate.

second, on the re-acquisition of nationality, what is there to recover if she does not poses it at all? thus, the answer to the second argument rest on the outcome of the first point which unfortunately SC ruled that indeed she was a natural born citizen relying on statistics and probability alone instead of DNA or more reliable basis.
Third, preparation to move to Philippines alone does not prove residence. In fact CJ Sereno in the case of Jalosjos vs. Comelec stated that “The mere purchase of a parcel of land does not make it one’s residence.” Be it remembered that the primary reason why Grace Poe returned to the Philippines was to attend to the wake and funeral of his father and not to transfer her residence. In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the SC also explained that the fact that Ugdoracion still poses his green card proves that his residence is still in the United States. If green cardholder is disqualified how much more for a person who has refused or procrastinated the renunciation of her foreign citizenship? It is unlikely also for Grace Poe to have validly established her residence in the Philippines while her husband and children are residing in another place. Article 68 of the Family Code states that Husband and wife are obliged to live together… and Art 69 states that Husband and Wife shall fix the family domicile…, which in the case of Grace Poe is indisputably established in the US. In the case of Limbona vs. Comelec, SC disqualified Limbona citing this two Family Code Provisions stating that there is no valid reason for Limbona to establish a residence separate from her husband, and that the presumption is that which that they have established which to that day her husband resides and where she constantly returns. In the case of Grace Poe, the fact that her family was still in US in 2005, one cannot conclusively presume that Grace had animus manendi (intent to stay) in the Philippines, rather the clear presumption under the family code would be that what she has is animus revertendi (intent to return) to the US where her family still resides at that time.
As to the case of Romualdez vs. Comelec, I fully agree with the other justices that it cannot be applied in this case, Imelda never renounced her residence compared to Grace Poe. SC in that case clearly applied Art. 68 and 69 of the Family Code wherein her stay in Manila was by implication of her marriage to Marcos and that Manila was simply her residence by operation of law, while she has never abandoned her domicile by nature which is Tacloban. SC reasoned that Imelda has that animus revertendi as exemplified by her constant vacation and stay in Tacloban, and animus manendi when after the death of Marcos stayed for good in Tacloban. Contrary, Grace Poe abandoned her residence in the Philippines and renounced her citizenship, and while she returned in 2005, she only took her oath for acquisition of citizenship in 2006 and renounced her foreign citizenship in 2010, all of which clearly points to the fact that she was not totally committed on staying much more letting go of her foreign status.
Lastly, false declaration in a public document is perjury. Now with the decision that one can simply dismiss a false declaration as honest mistake, what then will be the measure and extent of honest mistake? In the case of Ugdoracion vs. Comelec, the discrepancy in the duration of his residence was ruled by SC as material misrepresentation. In the case of Imelda Romualdez, she committed mistake but was otherwise qualified, thus the correction was made to reflect the truth, as opposed to Grace Poe who stated a fact which is in fact not true.

Duterte and the Question of Substitution

We all know that Duterte did not file his certificate of candidacy during the filing period. Instead he kept denying any interest in running in the Presidential race.

Whether this is genuine or simply trying to play with the people’s mind and the loopholes of the law, they tried to play around, to which it has its own possible consequences.

Martin Diño played the safety net by filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) for the office of the President. On the day of his filing every one is well aware that there is no inherent intention for him to run but merely to secure a slot for and in behalf of Duterte who would later substitute him under Section 77 of the Omnibus Election Code which states:

“SECTION 77. Candidates in case of death, disqualification or withdrawal of another. – If after the last day for the filing of certificates of candidacy, an official candidate of a registered or accredited political party dies, withdraws or is disqualified for any cause, only a person belonging to, and certified by, the same political party may file a certificate of candidacy to replace the candidate who died, withdrew or was disqualified. The substitute candidate nominated by the political party concerned may file his certificate of candidacy for the office affected in accordance with the preceding sections not later than mid-day of the day of the election. If the death, withdrawal or disqualification should occur between the day before the election and mid-day of election day, said certificate may be filed with any board of election inspectors in the political subdivision where he is a candidate, or, in the case of candidates to be voted for by the entire electorate of the country, with the Commission.”

Now, the question as to the validity of the substitution by Duterte is inevitable, considering the factual situations. COMELEC decided to declare that the question as to whether Martin Diño was a nuisance candidate was now moot and academic since he has withdrawn his Certificate of Candidacy already.

I do not possess the qualification to question comelec, however, I could not convince myself to agree that the comelec need not rule anymore whether Diño was a nuisance candidate or not. Since the validity of Duterte’s candidacy is rooted on the validity of the certificate of candidacy of Dino, then comelec must still decide on this matter, for if Dino falls under the category of a nuisance candidate, and is therefore disqualified then the validity of substitution is at stake.

Now for us to understand what is a Nuisance Candidate, Section 69 of the Omnibus Election Code state that:

Nuisance candidates. – The Commission may, motu proprio or upon a verified petition of an interested party, refuse to give due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy if it is shown that said certificate has been filed to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.

Dino from the start has manifested that he has no bona fide intention to run for the office of the President. Looking at his previous acts, he has no previous declarations, no preliminary planning or any thing that would signify his genuine intention to run for the said office. In fact, he even wrote running for the position of “Mayor” of “Pasay City”, a clear indication of his real intention.

Dino and his party filed the certificate of candidacy as Section 69 mentioned that is to “put the election process in mockery” by fielding another candidate only to be substituted later simply for political tactical maneuvers.

Now lets say, they can now escape this question, Dino is not a nuisance candidate as comelec declares, the next question is, was there a valid substitution?

Dino withdrew his COC on October 29, 2015, while Duterte filed his COC on November 27, 2015, almost 1 month after Diño has withdrawn his COC.

The Supreme Court in the case of Miranda vs. Abaya has clearly declared,

“The Court has no other choice but to rule that in all the instances enumerated in Section 77 of the Omnibus Election code, the existence of a valid certificate of candidacy seasonably filed is a requisite sine qua non.”

What are these instances in section 77? These are the instances when the candidate sought to be substituted died, disqualified or has withdrawn. It must be understood clearly though, that the existence of COC does not co-exist with the person of the candidate, such as when a candidate died, his COC still validly exist, and therefore a substitute COC may be filed as a replacement. Same is true with disqualification, a candidate maybe disqualified but it does not follow that his COC is automatically cancelled, thus substitution of a valid COC but with a disqualified candidate is possible. However, with regard to the case of withdrawal, it is quite tricky, and for an unlearned or careless mind, a fatal mistake may be committed. Common sense will clearly reveal that after withdrawing your COC, there is no more COC to speak of, therefore it follows that there is no more COC to substitute.

The SC in the case cited above simply stated “Even on the most basic and fundamental principles, it is readily understood that the concept of a substitute presupposes the existence of the person to be substituted, for how can a person take the place of somebody who does not exist or who never was.”

How then is substitution possible in case of withdrawal as stated in Sec. 77?

The only possible way is a simultaneous withdrawal of the first COC and filing of the Substitute COC, so that the cancelation and acceptance of the new COC happen on the same time or simultaneously.

After withdrawal of a COC, that COC is cancelled, so that there would be no COC to substitute later on. In the case of Duterte and Dino, the time difference is so huge.

Even with the justification that the party has declared their nomination of Duterte as substitute has no force at all. Filing of a COC is personal, it cannot be imposed upon anybody. Duterte decided to run several days after Dino’s COC has been withdrawn.

Supreme Court on Grace Poe’s Disqualification Case

SC seems to be having a hard time deciding on the disqualification case of Presidential candidate Grace Poe. Aside from the factual and legal considerations, SC has to weigh two opposing forces, the public which is throwing its support to Grace Poe (who is leading the surveys) or to uphold the rule of law and the existing doctrines laid down by the Supreme Court itself.

If SC decides to rule in-favor of Poe’s disqualification, I could only imagine the possible public actions by her loyal supporters. There will be chaos on the streets, and expect horrendous traffic. On the other hand, ruling in favour of Poe will have serious legal implications, this will ultimately mean SC has reversed or over turned the existing jurisprudence that is renunciation of a foreign citizenship is not a mere lip service, and that public documents enjoy presumption of regularity and a person’s declarations in a public document are binding upon the declarant and is stopped from questioning the same.

The requirement that the renunciation must be made through an oath emphasizes the solemn duty of the one making the oath of renunciation to remain true to what he has sworn to. Allowing the subsequent use of a foreign passport because it is convenient for the person to do so is rendering the oath a hollow act. It devalues the act of taking of an oath, reducing it to a mere ceremonial formality (Maquiling vs. Comelec)

If the SC would rule that the subsequent use of US Passport by Grace Poe is compatible with her renunciation made previously would lead to the door of bastardization of our laws. Not only by those politicians wishing to run for public office but by everyone-renunciation will be reduced to merely a non-sense ceremonial act without any material meaning at all.

As to the issue of declaration in a public document, to agree that the claim with regard to her residency period made on her certificate of candidacy when she ran for senator, is a matter of honest mistake, then everybody can now easy make an excuse that an erroneous declaration, or wilful misdeclaration was made in honest mistake- this simply means perjury is almost inapplicable. The question would be what would be the measure of an honest mistake?

But while the Supreme Court may be caught between two strong forces-they are no less than the Supreme Court who has the last say on what the law is. SC can always get a good excuse/exit by making an exception.

Now for those who would say let the election decide if she is qualified or not, leave the decision to the people. My simple answer is, what then is the use of our laws, then let’s leave everything to the people’s decision…

Who should prevail, the millions of Filipinos supporting Grace Poe or the rule of law? The Supreme Court in the case of Miranda vs. Abaya has answered this question eloquently; “The Court cannot accede to the reasoning that this Court should now acquiesce and submit to the sovereign will of the electorate, as expressed by their votes. We should always be reminded that ours is a government of laws not of men. If this Court should fold its arms and refuse to apply the law at every clamor of the majority of the supposed constituency, where shall order and justice lie? Without the least intention to degrade, where shall people power end, and where shall law and justice begin? Would the apparent results of the canvassing of votes justify this Court in refusing to apply the law instead? The answers to the foregoing are obvious. The Court cannot choose otherwise but to exercise its sacred duty to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the Republic for and under which it exists.”




No Progress Without Nationalism

400 years of Spanish Rule, 45 Years of American and 5 years of Japanese, 450 years of foreign occupation, was there anything left of what really is a Filipino culture, or was there any in the first place.

Philippine Archipelago, said to be composed of 7107 islands, likewise is composed of numerous Indigenous Communities who were never united before, never lived in one community until foreign powers came to gather us, but in gathering the tribes they also used other tribes against the others.

Thanks to the foreigners a sort of high breed Philippine dwellers came into existence, a product of inter-tribal marriage as well as cross marriage between natives and the foreigners.

So much so of history, that we need to move on to present time, we now live in a Republic called Philippines with its inhabitants called Filipinos.

Philippines, in July 4, 1946 took off as a newly liberated young democracy. Full of hope its pioneer pilots aimed towards the skies of endless possibilities. At first the take off is slow but is gaining momentum, and the countries surrounding us looked up in awe, some in admiration some enviously. We are second only to Japan for so many years. But before the Philippines reached the desired altitude, the aircraft encountered some troubles, a new pilot steered the aircraft dangerously. His name is Marcos. Philippines while supposedly still in the take off process, started to take a deep dive. There was social unrest, corruption plague the land. Public funds are transferred from the national coffers to private banks accounts.

We were successful in throwing away that crooked pilot, but then we never had real pilots. Everyone would want to hold the steering wheel not to drive us towards the safe altitudes but only to get what they wanted.

Most leaders of this country from the lowest in the town level to the Presidency have little regard for national interest. They all look forward in getting the most in the pie instead of equally sharing it to all the people.

But then was it the fault of the politicians alone? Not at all. We are all complicit in this sordid situation we are now stacked into. Many Filipinos today have little love for this country. At a young age, idea of getting a better life is to migrate in another country. The idea of intelligence is how well one would speak foreign language. The idea of quality product is anything made outside the Philippines. The idea of beautiful or handsome is how white the skin is or how high the nose bridge is. People never mind the long cue to watch Hollywood movie, or foreign band concert.

We complain of what sort of country we have, what kind of economy we have, when we are all murderers of our own economy. We do not patronize our own so that local products do not find favour even among Filipinos, not that they are of low qualities but simply because of our colonial mentality.

We cannot take pride of what we produce. We think we look better when we wear signature clothes or apparels. Of course our local companies and their products cannot be perfect at first but that will happen only if we help them.

Common Filipino mentality now is focused outside the country. Our hearts and minds do not dwell here. We all are asking what our country can do for us, without us asking what we can do for our country.

We should learn at least from our neighbours that nationalism is an important ingredient of progress and development. Japan took 2 atomic bombs, plus thousands of incendiary bombs burning many of its cities. After the war they are made to pay, until they are compelled to pay in kind (Philippines owns a land in Japan as part of war reparations because they have no more money to pay). Japan was reduced to ashes, more devastated than the Philippines, yet the people work hand-in-hand, setting aside their personal interests knowing that if they could rebuild a strong country everything will return to them, and they were right. Japan in few years surpassed the Philippines. Japan now transports its people with bullet train while Philippines was stucked in its old choo choo train. Another example is South Korea, after the Korean war it has no functioning industry but the government together with the people worked together in rehabilitating their country’s industries. And not long they have succeeded.

The truth is, these two countries are not free from corruption. They have corrupt officials just like the Philippines, the difference maybe is that, they never totally set aside national interest. And for the People, they did their part in building their nation. They did not rely on the government, but everyone made sacrifices to make their country better, to which they now reap the fruits.

It is a fact that one cannot prosper without nationalism. One has to love his own first before others will. We have to really ask what is my fair share in the development and progress of this country? Let us for a while stop our dreams of becoming somebody else. You cannot be truly an American or European by bleaching of your colored skin. Let us learn to love this country and work together to make it better. Let us cultivate it, nurture it so that it may bear fruits that will inure to our own benefits.

Let us love this country for regardless of how many passports you have, regardless of how many cosmetic surgeries you undergo you cannot drain out your Filipino blood, and no matter what, this is our best place under the sun, and as the old quote states “there will never be another place like home”. Let us work to make this home, a good home, for all of us.

Continue reading

Political Will or Simply Stubborn?

President PNoy once again on National Television defending or justifying DAP.

13 of the 14 Supreme Court (SC) Justices who voted declared DAP unconstitutional.
Pnoy now tries to justify it citing that DAP is in accordance with the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, trying to suggest that SC erred in overlooking the said code. Well, The SC said 3 schemes under DAP is unconstitutional, meaning it is the highest law or the fundamental law of the land that was violated. Administrative Code of 1987 is not superior to the Constitution but rather Art. 7 of the New Civil Code states that in case of conflict between a law and the constitution, the latter shall govern. Constitution prohibits cross border transfer of funds, Pnoy said the Administrative code is silent, thus offering the idea that it is then allowed under the code. In this case I believe the author of the law considered the constitutional provision, whether the AC did not explicitly mention it, when the constitution said it is not allowed, the ambiguity of an inferior law does not validate what the constitution prohibits.

Pnoy is also insisting that DAP is justified, for the very reason that it benefited many target beneficiaries, and that the authors of DAP acted in good faith and did it out of good intentions. Following this argument of the President, then Asiong Salonga along with the other ala Robin Hood guys out there are justified in breaking the law after all they have good intentions of giving portions of their loots to the poor, or the people behind the numerous summary killings for their intention of getting rid the society of criminals and making our country minus 1 criminal safer. The president is now trying to set a dangerous precedent, that good faith/ good intentions alone render the constitution/laws nugatory.

There are no shortcuts in democracy, the reason why laws/rules are made are to serve as safeguards from arbitrary decisions regardless of the intentions, for who would say one is of good faith and one is not? Of course everyone will claim to be…

The President, now gave a threat, “wag na sanang hintaying pa ng SC na mag banggaang ang mga sangay ng gobyerno” as well as try to discredit the SC by saying minsan na silang nag labas ng maling desisyon, at maari pa rin maulit.

Several acts in the past were declared unconstitutional, congress respected it despite the fact that there are more than 300 brain in congress against 15 of SC, several Presidential acts declared unconstitutional before and they humbly accepted it. Now, Pnoy is waging war against the SC. We now have a super executive, who performed legislative powers, executive powers and now trying to discredit the Highest Tribunal. This is the straight path, truly in its literal sense, keep walking straight never mind everything, lakad lang kahit sino or ano man ang masagasaan.

Just a thought for the week’s top trending issues (Philippines)

This week is made interesting, if not sad by two events that made it to the top trends of the week, first Nora Aunor being denied for the National Artist award and the priest castigating a single mom.
Concerned people’s attention were called because of the overwhelming public opinion.Nora was denied for the sole reason that she has some drug issues in the past. While the priest garnered public condemnation for such rude acts.
Nora has served the penalty for her past issue, while the priest has issued his public apology, accepting his fault, likewise his congregation has suspended him as a punishment while in depth investigation is being conducted. What I am sure now is that, these two persons have received already the penalty more than what the proper authority can impose on them.
Now in fairness to them, I guess it wont be fair if we define them as a person based on this particular failure which they committed, and true to anybody else.

For Nora, I guess, the National Artist award should not be denied to her if she deserves it based on her artistic credentials. I guess national artist award has different criteria than that for outstanding mother or for sainthood wherein strict values/moral credentials must be observed, in fact as the famous saying states “all saints have a past and every sinner has a future.” If President Aquino thinks that it is unwise to recognize an artist’s contribution to the industry because of past drug issues, he may consider that there are several famous and well commemorated individuals who have dark pasts as well, Robert F. Kennedy went for a brief rehab for drug use, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allan Poe, both famous writers were known alcoholics, Diana Rose, considered by many African-American women as role model likewise was an alcoholic, the famous activist Martin Luther King was said to be with a mistress, and Nelson Mandela was considered for a long time by western countries as terrorist, yet their past failures were put aside, and proper acknowledgement for their contributions on their respective fields were given.
As to the priest, I guess aside from the improper parting of lesson/counseling, I am sure he made some good contributions in the past to the lives of his former parishioners and that he may still amend his ways and do what is expected of him in the future. This failure/mistake of him should not be our basis of defining what he is in totality or much as a basis to condemn the Church as a whole. While exacting standards are expected of priests, we must not forget that they are just humans. The first apostles made same mistakes as well. St. Peter denied Jesus thrice, yet Jesus still chose him to lead his flock. When persecution of Christians in Rome was in its height he attempted to flee, but he met Jesus along the way who told him “I am going to Rome to be crucified”, it was at this point that he realized his mistake and went back to fulfill his mission to bear witness to Christ by dying on the cross. St. Paul was a staunch persecutor of Christians until his encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus. Thomas the apostle doubted that Jesus truly resurrected. Jesus chose weak and former sinners to be his messengers and witnesses, so that the glory of God may be revealed in them as the Holy Spirit provides them the necessary strength to fulfill their missions after submitting themselves to the will of God. They were weak and sinners, yet upon realizing their mistake they made amends and stood as true witnesses of Jesus and sealed it with their blood. Give then this priest a chance to make amends and be a true witness of Jesus.

What is important is that these people accepted their mistakes and faced the consequences and humbly asked for forgiveness. True for all of us, we must do the same, and not fall into the same mistake of Judas Iscariot who doubted the grace of God to forgive. Much more we should not commit Lucifer’s mistake who never had the humility to accept his sin and ask for forgiveness.
As to all of us, truly it is proper that we should all work together to seek justice for those who are disadvantaged/abused. While I am not a Noranian, at some point I understand the sentiment of her supporters, us to all of us who sympathized with the single mom, we should, and we should act as such every time we see abuses around us.Yet on the other hand we should not end only in seeking justice and making sure that justice is served. But we must complete the cycle. After justice is served, we must proceed to the next step that is forgiveness, and then to the final stage which is reconciliation.It is a common failure that we often stop with the stage when justice is served. The reason why many people return to their past sins is that because we condemn them to eternal damnation without any opportunity for making amends. Many ex-convicts fully rehabilitated wishing to leave their dark past and start a new life, end up forced to commit another crime for the very reason that they are left with no choice; society has forever condemned them, we make them feel that they no longer have place in our society. Nobody wants to help them, for many of us the idea is once criminal/sinner, forever criminal/sinner. It is easy to condemn, but hard to forgive, much more to reconcile.

We must not forget the very example that God has shown to us. He punished our first parent by driving them out of paradise after committing what was prohibited. Yet God did not end by rendering the punishment, He forgave humanity, by sending His only begotten Son, to die for our salvation, so that thru His coming humanity will once again be reconciled to God. God punished humanity, but sent His Son to save us-an ultimate sacrifice made by a forgiving Father and an obedient Son, thru this Humanity was reconciled to God-this is the true cycle of justice and love. God did not wait for humanity, but He extended His hands to offer forgiveness and reconciliation; we too must imitate this example, seek justice, let justice be serve, but forget not to forgive and initiate reconciliation. After all, to err is human, but to forgive is divine.

Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro: Will it bring genuine peace in the conflict torn Mindanao

Finally, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will be signed, I hope it will, as promised will bring the most desired peace in Mindanao, and not a dangerous precedent, that other rebel groups may follow-strengthen, fight the state and it will negotiate with you… I hope history will not repeat itself, as in the case of MNLF that during the signing of the FPA in 1996, MILF splintered, initially declared as a bandit group but as it grew stronger government shifted its negotiating table with the group and declared the 1996 peace accord as a failure, now here comes MILF CAB signing, and a new group splintered the BIFF, I hope the fate of MILF will not follow that of MNLF otherwise there will always be a new group and a new negotiation.

I just hope also that such will not inspire the genuine first nations of the Cordilleras, the Kalingas etc. to demand such status as now awarded to the MILF, for MILF has no greater claim as a first nation than that of the people of Cordillera who came ahead of them. Or if the claim was that they were never subjugated by the colonial Spaniards, then more so that we people of Batanes may also demand such status, for mother Spain was never interested in annexing us, stating that we are but an expensive endeavor, only if not upon the insistence of the Dominicans. More so, Batanes was not included in the longitude/latitude designation of the territory ceded to the US by the Treaty of Paris.

I hope this will bring genuine peace, and at the same time national unity, but should never end up like Kosovo unilaterally declaring its independence, or like that of Crimea, I hope Bangsamoro will not later on call for a referendum, inquiring whether they would stay part of the Philippines or became federated with Malaysia so that finally the land of the moros in Mindanao and that of Sabah will once again be unified not under Philippine Jurisdiction but under Malaysian leadership, whom GRP trusted as disinterested 3rd party facilitator despite the fact that it actively supported the rebels not only in providing weapons but in providing elite military trainings.

I hope this peace will bring tangible benefits, to the Lumads who are the real first nation of Southern Philippines, who are often the casualties of these decades of conflict.

I hope and pray that every party to this peace will stay true to the spirit of this peace agreement, searching for measures efficient unto the people, but never towards the disintegration of this pearl of the orient, for like a pearl it is precious and valuable only when whole but never when splintered…

The Correspondence

To my friend in ZOOLAND,

I was once a mighty bird.

Other feathered birds fear me once I soar to the great skies.

Up in the sky I could see the earth down below. I cross nations, I know no border. I fly over the great mountains, the great Everest? With a few flip of my wide and mighty wings, I am above that great grandeur which is but a rare opportunity to our brother humans.

Under the sea is not off limits either to me, for with the great super-sonic dive I could reach deep under the sea to catch a fish for my meal. I was called the king of the skies, so with my other kin, they are of the royal class of feathered animals. We have our vision ahead of us, a rare quality.

Some of my brothers forged alliance even to humans. Some left the wild to be in companion with falconers. My brothers were employed by some humans, using their long range vision, they could spot preys down below, and with their aid, hunting is made easier. I oppose such alliance, however, I will not deny that most if not all of those who forged alliances were treated well. They take them regularly for flight exercise so as not to destroy the strength of their wings. They also stay in big safe places. But the story isn’t always the same.

Unfortunately, my fate and so with the others was not as great as some of the success stories. Food is becoming scarce, our wives have a hard time to locate a good nesting place. The chemicals that reach even up to the great skies also are impairing our physical health. Making life a matter of survival.

But by the blessing of the Lord that sustains, me and my family was able to survive, but the tragedy came one day. I was training my young to fly, when a loud bang rang the forest, I felt pain on my left wing, I could not flap my wings, I was going down fast. I knew something is wrong. I asked my wife and our son to leave the place quick, and find safe grounds, my son insists to grab me hoping he could lift me up, but I am too heavy, I begged him to leave and never look back. I told him that he is the prince of the sky, no place for fear. I showed him how brave his father was but, the truth is, deep inside I was starting to break.

I fell hard on the ground, I was taken to the market, I was sold, and that is what brought me into this cage.

I heard how these humans value due process, equity, and justice. But it is my constant question, why I was shot, without any warning, I was not appraised of my rights, more so I was not informed of what charge is brought against me and upon what judgment I am being jailed. I am hoping that someday I will be accorded with my day in court, and that due process will be accorded on me.

I long to flap my wings, I long to see the great mountains, to dive into the sea, but most of all, I long to see my family. Where are they now, two winters passed since I was in this cage. I wonder how big is my son now. What about my wife?

I heard that there are others like me who are also in prison. I hope that someday justice will no longer be denied upon us, but will be seen as one that is universal, one that has no boundary and one that belongs not only to one species of life but to all.

Justice is not exclusive to one, but it is a gift for all. Only then, we may gain back our freedom.

I hope to hear your story as well, king of the Jungle, oh your highness, the Lion King.

Course your letter to my friend Mr. Pigeon, who by the blessing of the Almighty is free, and was able to snick every now and then to take and deliver my letters for free.

Best regards,

H.R.H. Eagle

King of the Skies

P.S. I am planning to send an appeal to the great leader of the humans. What do you think?

Are we really free?

Today we mark the 115th anniversary of our independence as a nation. Our independence came but with a high cost. Our nation’s freedom and independence was redeemed by the blood of our forefathers. Their blood watered the fertile land of this archipelago.

For almost a century, our banner cannot fly freely; it was a foreign banner that fly over this great land.

We are free, finally we are free. For 115 years we are enjoying this freedom. But are we truly free?

We no longer submit to the authority of a foreign power, we have full control of our government.

We are free from foreigners but not from our own people. Local tyrants today occupy the power. They rule according to their whims and caprices. Law and justice is but an arbitrary matter.  Public funds are ending into family coffers.

The wealth of the nation is divided into roughly 10 families. Repression and oppression did not leave this land. It was only the people who cause the oppression that changed. Tyranny is now Filipinized.

The gap between the few powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor is getting wider and wider. People are no longer dying from the guns of enemies, but from hunger, sickness and from the very guns of their fellow Filipino.

We no longer fear the foreign soldiers, but we fear the local police who are known for their brutality and rob out activities. Many Police officers are at the same time goon leaders. We worry no longer of a fiery battle field, but we fear the dark streets in Metro Manila where heartless criminals roam; in the provinces the lawless rebels who claim to be the champion of the poor, but those who refuse to pay revolutionary tax are executed.

Freedom, we call it freedom, but the bondage that our forefathers denounce remained. Even more troublesome is the fact that fellow Filipinos who cause the suffering of their fellow Filipino. The land that our heroes defended to their death, we no longer care. Corrupt politicians are but more than willing to disintegrate the archipelago by creating sub states, who may through simple act may unilaterally declare their independence.

Today, we believe we are free, and indeed we are. But we can enjoy the fullness of this freedom if only we care for each other. We can once again become a great nation if we unite as one Filipino. Let us end this bondage that plague the country. No other country could help us, none but our selves alone. We can erase the brand that we are the sick men of Asia. The cure lies within, not beyond. The struggle is more of internal.

Wake up fellow countryman! Let us not waste the blood of our fallen heroes. We need not fight any war, we need not die, we need not become martyrs for the fatherland, we only have to care. We only have to think as one Filipino, united for one cause, one goal, one dream, a truly free and progressive nation!