POSTSCRIPT / January 2, 2018 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Year of the Lapdog mars lunar calendar

WE’RE excited to see the pictures of our pet senators and congressmen on the new stamps that the post office has begun issuing to welcome the Year of the Dog in the Chinese lunar calendar that starts on February 16.

The canine loyalty to President Rodrigo Duterte of members of the supposedly independent Congress deserves special recognition on the new stamp series. We’re sure people will know which side of the stamp to spit on, if they are issued by the Philippine Postal Corp.

We dread to see also on the stamps pictures of another canine breed — those members of the press who profess split-loyalty to the administration. They give a bad example to younger journalists who have been taught that they are watchdogs and not lapdogs of those in power.

If only for transparency, we think journalists who moonlight in the administration, or accept juicy positions in government-controlled corporations, should sever their media connection altogether. Having one’s feet planted on two often shifting and conflicting grounds is quite tricky.

Although it was said in another context, we are reminded of the advice of US Sen. Paul Laxalt to a tottering Ferdinand Marcos in a phone call at the height of the 1986 EDSA Revolt: Cut clean.

The counter-flow of government officials and propagandists inserting themselves into op-ed vantage positions in private media is another problem. We won’t be surprised if some of these officials masquerading as columnists use ghost-writers paid with public funds.

In issuing special stamps featuring dogs, PhilPost noted that they are “the symbol of loyalty, honesty and possesses the best traits of humans.” Indeed, many dogs are more than symbols – many times they are more honest and loyal than their human counterparts.

PhilPost said it has printed 101,000 copies of two designs of the regular stamps featuring Golden Retrievers priced P12 and P45 per stamp. Also available are 6,000 copies of the limited-edition souvenir sheets being sold at P200 each.

Whenever we pass the old Post Office building at the Liwasang Bonifacio (formerly Plaza Lawton), we wonder how the Internet and the plethora of electronic communication services, some of them free, is slowly killing it.

We doubt if selling stick-on postage stamps to its dwindling clientele will save it.

• Duterte-Callamard debate rages

SOMETHING has to give in President Duterte’s protracted quarrel with Agnes Callamard, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. But neither of them has indicated any willingness to concede ground.

Duterte insists, rather roughly, that there are no extrajudicial killings under his administration. But with some validated reports in her possession, Callamard says there are such abuses, as alleged, that should be investigated and acted upon by the world body.

To resolve the issue, will either of them have to go? Since Duterte is a duly elected leader of a sovereign state — and with other UN members having their apparent share of EJKs and human rights violations — having Callamard replaced may be easier to do than having Duterte called to account before a UN body.

We have no information if the Philippines is moving for her replacement with the aid of sympathetic UN members and other nations similarly situated on human rights issues. Manila’s more visible move is sending presidential spokesman Harry Roque to argue the Philippine side.

But in a statement fired after Roque criticized her two fellow UN experts, Callamard vowed that they “will not be silenced by lies nor intimidated by anyone’s bully pulpit.”

On Friday, Roque targeted UN special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damar, who happen to be Filipinos, accusing them of using their position to “embarrass” the Duterte administration before the international community.

Callamard took up the cudgels for her colleagues, saying in so many words that when public officials “choose fiction over fact,” one can be sure they have a lot to hide. Duterte has been caught lying in public a number of times,

Roque’s blast came after Corpuz and Damary issued a statement that the ongoing militarization in Mindanao has “massive and potentially irreversible” impact on the human rights of some Lumads or indigenous folk.

The rapporteurs said: “Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed. We fear the situation could deteriorate further if the extension of martial law until the end of 2018 results in even greater militarization.”

Roque said that Corpuz and Damary should “be more circumspect,” noting that their remarks “appeared to be very partisan.” The two rapporteurs, he added, were elected to their post during the Aquino administration, without him showing the relevance of that point.

Callamard corrected Roque, saying that Corpuz and Damary were not elected but appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as independent experts on the basis of their “proven expertise and experience.” They have been performing their mandates “independently, impartially, accurately and courageously,” she added.

She pointed out: “We are not United Nations staff. We are volunteers who serve in our personal capacity and receive no remuneration. We do not take on our roles at the behest of any government.

“We take on our roles with a pledge to uphold independence, efficiency, competence and integrity and to act with probity, impartiality, honesty and in good faith.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 2, 2018)

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