POSTSCRIPT / March 5, 2020 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can’t be president if not willing to kill!

HAS Mayor Digong Duterte just added another qualification for Filipinos who want to become, like him, president of the Republic?

The Constitution lays down the basic qualifications of the president: A natural-born citizen, registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years of age on Election Day, and a Philippine resident for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election.

Now on the last two-plus years of his six-year term, a psychologically scarred President Duterte is saying that anyone wanting to replace him must be ready to kill and not be afraid to be killed. Better listen to the man who has seen it all.

Duterte said: “Walang mangyari sa bayan (Nothing will come of our country)… That’s why I am scared for the next generation of Filipinos, especially the next batch, our children… I cannot gamble, it’s hard. I have many grandchildren.”

Other veteran politicos have told us similar gruesome things — that one who cannot kill or order somebody killed has no business being in Philippine politics. We thought we have hit the gutter, but we sank deeper hearing the President of the Republic saying that.

We find no comfort in Duterte’s reporting that he has yet to meet the person who in his estimate can lead the country. Either the role of Chief Executioner is hard to fill or the bloody standards have risen sharply.

“We’re getting old and the young are there,” Duterte said. “Wala pa akong nakitang new crop of politicians dito sa ating bayan. Frankly, wala akong nakita na puwede talagang maging president.

Sa totoo lang presidente ka at hindi ka marunong pumatay at takot ka pumatay, eh wag ka na maging presidente. Walang mangyayari sa bayan kung puro utos ka langIn the end, ikaw pa ‘yung kontrabida. Ikaw na ang gumawa para ikaw talaga ang bida!

(We chose not to translate his remarks so as not to aggravate readers who need more peace and quiet in this world already in the grip of the coronaveerus in Duterte’s mind.)

The President came from a meeting Tuesday evening with US Ambassador Sung Kim and Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez when he thought of defending his unilateral termination of the Phl-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

The two-decade-old VFA, which filled the void left by the non-extension of the Phl-US Military Bases Agreement when it expired in 1991, will be gone 180 days after the Feb. 11 notice of termination served by Duterte.

The President recalled telling Kim during their closed-door discussion on the VFA of his wanting to save the country from the scourge of drugs.

He said: “It came to a fore, yung alitan ko sa kanila. Tinanggal ko ang VFA, sila naman ngayon ang lapit ng lapit.” (In my tiff with them, I removed the VFA, now they keep coming to me).”

“I repeated, how could it be wrong? When can it be wrong? If I said, ‘do not destroy my country I will kill you’. Who can debate with that? That is preservation of my people… If you destroy society, what will be left to us? We are poor… I told him.”

We leave it to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo and/or the President’s all-purpose aide cum senator Bong Go to explain further the remarks of their boss who, by the way, turns 75 on March 28.

• SC faces test on VFA, ICC termination

THE PRESIDENT’S unilateral termination of the VFA will test the independence and patriotism of the Supreme Court, which is expected to receive shortly a petition of senators and other parties to rule on the question:

“Is the concurrence of the Senate also needed to terminate a treaty or international agreement that had been entered into by the Executive department with the concurrence of at least 2/3 of all members of the Senate?”

Will supporters and appointees of Duterte in the tribunal vote along political lines? We hope not.

The SC ruling on the President’s abrogation of the VFA would impact on his similarly pulling out in March last year from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court without Senate concurrence.

Article VII of the Constitution provides: “Section 21. No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.”

That section requires Senate concurrence to validate treaties and international agreements entered into by the Executive, but is silent on whether a similar 2/3 Senate concurrence is needed to terminate a treaty or agreement.

Both the VFA and the ICC were concurred in by the Senate upon the affirmative vote of at least 2/3 of its 24 members: (1) The VFA on May 27, 1999, with a 18-5 Yes vote; and (2) the Rome Statute of the ICC, on Aug. 23, 2011, with 17 Yes votes and the solitary No vote of then Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Reinstating the VFA will justify the operational presence of US military personnel in the Philippines. Conceivably, Duterte could live with this rebuff, especially with US President Trump in the White House mollifying him.

But restoring the country’s ICC membership is something else. It could push forward the investigation of Duterte before the world court for alleged crimes against humanity, of alleged extrajudicial killings — a spectacle that he and his followers would not relish.

Since they raise similar questions, parallel SC rulings on the VFA and the ICC terminations without Senate concurrence must be consistent.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 5, 2020)

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