POSTSCRIPT / January 26, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte on ‘shame’ drive versus Church

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is now using on his detractors in the Catholic hierarchy the same “shame ‘em” tactics he had employed against government officials whom he publicly linked to the narcotics trade before going after them.
He threw Tuesday at the Catholic clergy accusations that included some on sex, corruption, homosexuality, confessional issues, bad breath, and even dirty hands. Sample: He alleged that former Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. has two wives like him.
To what ends will Duterte pursue the “shame” campaign against the Catholic clergy? He did not say what, but it appears he was smarting from the Church’s criticism of his bloody anti-narcotics campaign that had piled up some 7,000 suspects killed extrajudicially.
His anti-clergy remarks were made during a televised dialogue Tuesday with families of the 44 Special Action Force police commandos massacred in 2015 while on a mission to arrest top terrorist suspects in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
(Duterte took the same occasion to sideswipe former President Noynoy Aquino and his Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima [then suspended but still giving orders] for their handling of the botched Mamasapano operation.)
He said the Catholic Church was “full of s***” and that the bishops should resign if sex and corruption scandals involving them are proven. He added that he will also resign if his allegations against the clergy are proven false.
“I challenge you now!” he said. “I challenge the Catholic Church. You are full of s***. Mabaho kayo lahat (You all stink).” As of this writing, we have not heard or read any reply from the Catholic hierarchy, including Bacani.
Displaying a book, Duterte said: “I’ll make you a deal. Read this book and if I feel that almost everyone has read it, then go back to me and tell me binastos ko ang relihiyon at nagsisinungaling ako, and I will resign. I will resign. I will deliver my letter of resignation on bended knees. I will place it on (the monument of Jose) Rizal at Luneta as a Filipino. Pick it up there, provided you bishops will resign.”
He was referring to the 2003 book “Altar of Secrets” by the late journalist Aries Rufo, whom he erroneously described as a “narrator” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. It was a compilation of reports on sex and corruption involving the clergy.
Kim: US backs anti-drugs drive
CRITICISM of Duterte’s alleged human rights violations marring his narcotics campaign also came from the US government during the Obama administration. But it looks like that would change under President Donald Trump, whom Duterte regards as a “friend.”
US Ambassador Sung Kim told chosen journalists days ago that his government would support Duterte’s campaign against drug trafficking despite some “flaws” in the way it is being carried out.
In the waning days of the Obama administration the release of another compact grant of the US-led Millennium Challenge Corp. was suspended “over concerns around rule of law and civil liberties” under the Duterte regime. That angered Duterte. In 2011, MCC gave the Philippines $434 million.
The US envoy dismissed as “total nonsense” reports that Washington was plotting to oust Duterte: “We have absolutely no interest in doing anything to try to undermine President Duterte’s government. Period. I hope you can put that story to rest.”
Reports on the supposed ouster plot mentioned Kim’s predecessor Philip Goldberg as having discussed it in an assessment to his home office.
Kim said that while preparing for his Manila posting, he went over all the cables and reports sent from the US embassy and “there’s nothing that even resembles what’s claimed in that media report.”
He said having worked as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, he understands Duterte’s concern and focus on drugs. This is why his government, he said, wants to continue cooperating with the Philippines without presuming to tell it what to do.
On concerns over human rights violations in the course of the anti-narcotics drive, Trump’s nominee for State secretary Rex Tillerson had said he wanted more information before passing judgment on it.
Kim noted: “While everybody acknowledges that there is a very serious drug problem, there is also concern that some aspects of the anti-drug campaign have flaws.”
Phil caught in US-China SCS row
KIM will have his hands full helping plot Washington’s moves in its rivalry with China for dominance or influence in the South China Sea — what with Duterte having shown earlier friendly inclinations toward Beijing.
The Philippines is one of several neighbors claiming areas within China’s “nine-dash line” boundary of its maritime space. In July 2016, on petition of Manila, an international arbitration court at The Hague declared illegal the Chinese-drawn map.
Admitting lack of military muscle to enforce that favorable ruling, Duterte has been mostly quiet about Chinese expansionism and had, in fact, started to open up to Beijing’s offer of aid and investments.
The US-China rivalry for dominance over the sea lanes through which pass $5 trillion in goods annually has been heating up with the take-over of Trump, who has been vocal about what he called Chinese bullying and trade malpractices.
China has just fired off a warning that its actions in the disputed expanse are legitimate and justified. This was apparently in reaction to a statement from the White House that the US will defend the disputed waters.
The bone of contention, however, is not quite clear. The White House speaks of the US defending areas in international waters, including those in the South China Sea, seemingly focusing on right of innocent passage.
But Beijing says: “China upholds the freedom of navigation enjoyed by countries under international law in the South China Sea, but we oppose intruding navigation that undermines sovereignty and security of coastal countries.”
Malacañang has not butted into the debate of the big boys.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 26, 2017)

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