POSTSCRIPT / March 4, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Politically-charged milieu unhealthy

THE ATMOSPHERE must be so polluted with internecine politics that not a few readers asked me, after noticing my “Postscript” column missing last Thursday from its customary corner, if it has been censored or what.

The thought of my having been censored is laughable, because nobody will bother suppressing such a minor 950-word essay thrown into the whirlwind of discussion raging on the opinion pages of the Philippine STAR.

But to explain my absence – At 1:27 pm Wednesday, I alerted our Opinion Editor Mon Lim: “Puedeng pass muna ako ngayon? Feeling drowsy. Will nap for a while.” Mon texted back “OK,” meaning he won’t expect my column that day. He is familiar with my physical condition.

At well past the 5 p.m. deadline, I went back to my routine of writing a column. I emailed Mon a copy of my intended “Postscript,” so he would at least know what I had in mind writing that day.

So as not to lose the element of timeliness, I later posted that piece on my website and on Facebook (although I’ve long stopped regular use of FB, on privacy and verbosity issues).

We’re sharing these personal notes, just for the record and to explain away the ridiculous notion that my PhilStar column was censored. I simply did not submit it.

It’s unfortunate that with the divisive and politically charged atmosphere, we now tend to see politics behind curious incidents, especially controversial acts and statements of officials and their allies.

 Out only by death, resignation or conviction

TO KEEP readers in step with us, here are excerpts from our unpublished (slightly edited) “Postscript”:

I’ve not personally met either Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno or Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, but we’re among those who believe that the Supreme Court is in good hands with Carpio as officer-in-charge while Sereno is on leave.

We would even dare say that with Carpio at the helm, an impeached Sereno could stay out – either on leave or ousted after conviction by the Senate – without damage to the institution.

The public was earlier treated to the spectacle of SC justices stepping out of the confines of the court to “make sumbong” (report) to the House her alleged excesses. The scene showed the immaturity of some magistrates and the leadership lack of Sereno.

As shown in the skirmishes in the tribunal and the House where the impeachment complaint is being polished to perfection, only her death, resignation or conviction in the Senate trial can remove the Chief Justice – not via a resolution or a loss-of-confidence vote of her peers.

The hounding of key members of the judiciary and the heads of other independent agencies standing in the way of the pro-Duterte forces makes starker the fact that the institutions people depend upon to nip any budding autocracy or tyranny are crumbling one after another.

The Congress, whose two chambers started with only a few members of Duterte’s victorious PDP-Laban party, is now in the grip of a supermajority ready to execute orders from the top.

House plenary approval of the impeachment charges against Sereno is a foregone conclusion, with their filing in the Senate seen this month. To cure the fatal lack of substance of the original complaint filed by a partisan, the House went out of its way to fish for evidence for him.

Like a railroad station awaiting a train heaving into view, the Senate is already preparing for Sereno’s trial, including the ordering of special toga or robes to make the senator-judges look more judicial-like than the traditional politicians that they are.

• What? Trump to ape ‘Tokhang’?

“TRUMP wants drug dealers executed, like in the Philippines,” said a news headline Wednesday.

(Malacañang goes ecstatic over that head, but the White House may have to officially clarify what US President Donald Trump thinks of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Tokhang”.)

Citing the policy adopted by the Philippines and Singapore on curbing the drug menace, President Trump has expressed a desire to execute drug dealers in his country, news website Axios reported.

That could be interpreted to mean that Trump has been so impressed that he now wants to adopt features of the anti-narcotics campaign of Duterte, or that he was endorsing the latter’s drug war that had killed thousands of suspected drug pushers and users.

The headline should have just said “Trump wants drug dealers executed” without adding “like in the Philippines” and detailing how Duterte’s police raiders do it.

We think Trump and his handlers are not so naïve as to let it be known that he was impressed by Duterte’s bloody style that even now is facing preliminary examination by prosecutors of the International Criminal Court for alleged wholesale violation of human rights.

The US President was quoted saying that Chinese and Filipinos “don’t have a drug problem” because they kill drug dealers. Axios also quoted an unnamed senior official as saying that Trump “often jokes about killing drug dealers.”

We cannot imagine Trump thinking aloud of executing drug dealers outside the lawful process, or telling cops to maneuver suspects into grabbing an officer’s pistol and shooting it out.

Responding to Axios, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump’s focus was only on high-volume drug dealers, particularly those trafficking fentanyl, a synthetic opioid mainly manufactured in Chinese labs that can be lethal in extremely small doses.

Conway told Axios: “The President makes a distinction between those that are languishing in prison for low-level drug offenses and the kingpins hauling thousands of lethal doses of fentanyl into communities, that are responsible for many casualties in a single weekend.”

Duterte himself once disclosed in a rambling speech that he had been using fentanyl, raising concern that his health may have been affected. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has warned that fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 4, 2018)

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