More questions than answers – Lascanas retraction, EDSA people power, Duterte’s ouster


Update: Hours after this post was published, the Senate through a vote of 10 Senators in favor against 7 who opposed, to refer Sen Trillanes’ motion to re-open the hearings on the Davao Death Squad to the Committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen Lacson. The Senate will then meet again to discuss on how to handle Sen Trillanes’ resolution.

Yesterday, in a press conference at the Senate, lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group and Sen Antonio Trillanes IV accompanied former police officer SPO3 Arthur Lascanas where he made public the confession that the ‘Davao Death Squad’ was real, he was its leader and former Davao City Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte was behind the DDS.

A complete turnaround of his previous testimony in a Senate investigation into the Davao Death Squad back in September 2016, that, at that time, he belied the testimony of self-confessed DDS member Edgar Matobato.

Media reports say that ‘in genral‘, Lascanas and Matobato’s testimonies match.

First question that comes to mind: Why has Lascanas retracted his earlier testimony? For sure, his lawyers from FLAG has advised that he will expose himself to perjury charges, not to mention earn the ire of Duterte’s loyal supporters. What made him change his tune? Was he being pressured back in September to deny the existence of the Davao Death Squad? Who was putting the pressure?

Will the Senate re-open its investigation into the Davao Death Squad? Sen Trillanes has already filed a resolution to do so, yet Sen Dick Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee Justice and Human rights which conducted the September investigation has given the thumbs down. For him, this matter should now be brought to before the courts.

Which brings us to the next question, can Duterte be sued for the alleged serious crimes before he became President? In other words, would Presidential immunity necessitate his impeachment first, before he can be properly charged for the murders that the so-called Davao Death Squad committed thru his orders?

This brings to mind a discussion on the Presidential or executive immunity by constitutional expert Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ where he cited landmark cases decided by the US Supreme Court that dealt with its limits. He then moved on to a similar case closer to home: the prosecution of former President Joseph Estrada for the alleged plunder during his term, and whether he still had immunity after he has be removed from office since the alleged crimes took place while he was President. Our own Supreme Court ruled against Estrada but I don’t think it squarely applies to Duterte’s case as the allegations: murder of which he was allegedly the mastermind, are criminal offenses that took place before he became President. It seems this issue will also end up before the Supreme Court.

Going back to the impeachment of Duterte, this will not happen, yet, as he still enjoys the support of the supermajority in the Lower House. Who knows, the ever-reliable Lozano may yet again beat everyone to the punch by filing an impeachment case only to be rejected by Duterte’s allies in Congress giving the President another year of being shielded from impeachment.

What about extra-constitutional means of removing Duterte from power? Talk is ripe about a planned ouster of President Duterte that will coincide with the upcoming celebration of the EDSA People Power’s 31st anniversary. Would this happen? Is this the reason why this year’s program of commemorating the EDSA revolution has been toned down by the Palace and held within the safe walls of Camp Aguinaldo?

And what does Sec Martin Andanar knows that National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana doesn’t that he’s the only government official that’s been vocal about these so-called plans of removing Duterte from the Presidency? The press has already had its field day with Sec Andanar regarding this issue, yet the question still stands: what is the basis for his claims?

Or is this the administration’s tactic of handling the recent retraction and accusation of Lascanas? For now, we don’t know if what he has told yesterday at the Senate, that Duterte was behind the Davao Death Squad after all, or is just really another push by those who want Duterte out of power?

The lawyers from FLAG, now the laywers of Lascanas, are battle-tested lawyers for justice, human rights and accountability. They would not take on Lascanas if they think he doesn’t have the goods or he is not credible.

What will happen next? Only time will tell.

Image by ABS-BCN News

What the Edsa revolution was all about

Last Wednesday, I had the chance to participate in De La Salle University – DasmarinasEDSA Youth Day Candle Lighting Activity – a response to the call for a new People Power to surface in the hands of the youth who shall be the future builders of the country.

Also, that day, February 23 was designated as the Youth Day in celebration of teh 25th EDSA People Power Revolution by the EDSA People Power Commission.

The program was simple enough, DLSU-D invited over students from neighboring school National College of Science and Technology, along with UPAC, an NGO which supported the presidential campaign of Noynoy Aquino, son of the late Cory Aquino who became President because of the Edsa People Power revolution.

Together we marched outside the campus gates and onto the sidewalk, so that people outside would know and remember we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Edsa People Power revolution.

Then we marched back inside, parading around campus to remind our own fellow students of the importance of the occasion and to encourage them to take part in it.

EDSA Youth Day Candle Lighting

It culminated in a short interfaith prayer service and candle-lighting ceremony in which testimonies from DLSU-D’s own ranks who were part of the Edsa People Power revolution were heard, aimed at further reminding the youth of the task now at hand – continuing the revolution until the suffering of the Filipino people have been eliminated.

Though I have my own convictions on the role of the youth in moving this country forward, it is not necessarily rooted in the precepts and doctrines that arose from Edsa People Power revolution. It is the not the revolution I had mind, but it’s part of my history now and make no mistake I am proud of that history.

I just cannot find the words that will help me answer this question with satisfaction – what was the Edsa revolution all about?

So I am thankful to have found refuge in this remarkable speech made by the so-called ‘Dreamer of Edsa’ himself, the late Chino Roces – one of the few who have been in opposition to the Marcos dictatorship long before the late Cardinal Sin made the call to flock on Edsa and bring down that dictatorship.

I share it today believing that every Filipino will find something, if not all of it, in it that will rekindle the fire that has moved our people to greatness.


Response on being awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, Degree of Chief Commander

(Malacanan Palace, Manila, June 26, 1988)

Mrs. President, My Dearest Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I accept the honor you have just given the Filipino people through me. I accept on behalf of countless faceless and nameless souls whose names we do not even know or remember, but whose deeds in defense of democracy, freedom, justice, truth, and peace are now engraved for all time and clime in the memory and in the heart of our nation and of all nations and peoples via the photograph of the Filipino woman slipping the stem of a rose into the barrel of a soldier’s rifle at Edsa. And then there was freedom regained.

To many of us, it was like a sequence from a dream which had its beginning in September 1972 when liberation from tyranny seemed elusive. It was the Impossible Dream, but only for those who accepted defeat out of indifference, apathy and cowardice. But for those who believed, and still do that ours is a nation of heroes, fifthy-eight million strong, it was a dream that would transform into a totally different Philippines of righteousness and hope.

For me, that dream goes on. For Edsa was just the beginning. And the dream of a Filipino nation – of freedom, of justice, of equal opportunity, of peace and brotherhood – must remain in our consciousness and conscience at all times, in all climes, True, it is the dream of the innocent. But it is also the dream of the brave and the heroic. And we must all keep on dreaming because those who never dream no longer have hearts that beat or breath that inspires or faith that overcomes.

Last night, I had a dream.

In that dream, you and I were in this very same room of Malacanan. The dream did not have an honoree. We were just here together – all of us with no defined role. The President was seated just as she is now, between Pacita and me, just as we now are. From what I can now recall of my dream, we were just staring at each other, there was total silence from many minutes until-until the President turned to me and said: “Chino would you please give me some unsolicited advice?”

I then quickly faced the President and repiled: “Cory (if I may call you such now, Mrs President) you know I will, because not even in my wildest dreams will I ever deny you or your littlest wish.”

Being the dreamer that I am, permit me then to go on dreaming in this autumn of my life. And so I give the unsolicited advice to you, Cory, and to all of you, my friends.

Please allow me to remind you, first: That our people brough a new government to power because our people felt an urgent need for change. That change was nothing more and nothing less than of moving quickly into a new moral order. The people believed, and many of them still do, that when we said we would be the exact opposite of Marcos, we would be just that. Because of that promise which the people believed, our triumph over Marcos was anchored on a principle of morality. And that for our people was and is the bottom line.

It was not the rice, roads, bridges, water, electricity and such other mundane things that people expected of us. It was, and is, much more: A moral order led by you Cory, and by you, my friends now gathered here. To our people, I dare propose that the new moral order is appreciated in terms of our response to graft and corruption in the public service. We cannot afford a government of thieves unless we tolerate a nation of highwaymen.

You will also recall that the thirst for justice was and remains the utmost desire of our people.

But even while we do all these, I must remind you again that the most understandable concept of the delivery of justice, in the perception of the Filipino, is the one that clearly implements a system of reward and censure. Yes, the Filipino forgives, and perhaps he has even forgiven those who raped his motherland, butchered his liberty and his sons, and degraded his dignity.

But he will never fogive us if, in the act of “reconcillation”, we fail to exact justice, if in the process of making the criminal pay his debts to society, we instead prove that crime pays because of our compromises and deals with the offender. And most important, if we the victors in the 1986 drama of good versus evil, show the slightest sign that we too adopt one standard for the wrongdoer who is poor and without connections, and another for the criminal who is rich and well-connected, then we would be proven liars.

Then of course, we must talk of Edsa and the struggle before and after Edsa. Let us not speak of Edsa as our franchise, whether we refer to those of us who began the long march with Ninoy in 1969, or those who joined us after Ninoy was murdered in 1983. The franchise, we must remember, belongs and belongs only to our people. The struggle for freedom was not forged on Ayala Avenue. Let us never allow our history to record that what happened in Edsa was planned in boardrooms and executive suites. Let us insist that Edsa was the long-delayed outpouring of the conscience of the littlest man, the littlest wife, and the littlest child – all of them Filipinos – from the littlest house of the littlest barangay. It was the triumph of the Filipino soul.

As we speak of so-called little people, let us not forget either that those who profess to be in their service must at least know them, if not from among them. The burden on the public servant then must be the ability not only to speak for the peple but also to act for the people. Biodata reflect talent. But we must insist that public service – first, last and foremost – place a premium on one’s record of commitment to the common tao of selflessness and dedication versus the all-too-common self-aggrandizement and service to vested interests, relatives and friends.

And this can be achieved only when we decide to see who live beyond the bridge of our nose, the confines of our conference rooms, the clotheslines in our backyard, and the land beyond the river. Somewhere out there are many honest, hardworking, selfless, God-loving Filipinos who may not be a doctor or master of something, or rich, but just the same Filipinos who will labor for love of country and fellow Filipino. They are waiting to be called to serve. Open the door and let them in.

I must end now before I experience a repeat of 1985. We were still trying to gather the one million signatures that Cory said might convince her to run against Marcos. The phone rang and Cory was at the other end of the line. And she told me: “Chino, tama na ‘yang kalokohan ninyo!

Now I must tell all of you that no matter what you say, this old man called Chino will still go out to sea – there to gaze at the sky and the stars – still dreaming the impossible dream but never refusing to sleep.

For in the words of Robert Frost:

“The woods are lovely dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep…
And miles to go before I seep.”

I thank you.

Source: pamphlet, with citation and response, provided courtesy of Ma. Ceres P. Doyo to Manuel L Quezon III for the book 20 Speeches that Moved A Nation. Anvil Publishing 2002