A Catholic Identity

When Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household'” (Mathew 10:34-36), you know the teachings of His Church will be hard to accept for those living in the world. Indeed, the conditions for discipleship are quite heavy as we continue to verses 37 to 39: “Whosever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

I am sure that the struggles of living in the first to third centuries are just as hard as in the 21st and 22nd. There were, as there are now, practices, beliefs and traditions that would be in conflict with Jesus’ teaching. Some of those practices, beliefs and traditions of old — their lifestyles — still linger today. It wouldn’t be hard to picture those living at the time of Jesus trying to marry their lifestyles with those teachings, and, in a way trying to water down the teachings so as to accommodate or excuse that which they cannot do without. My guess is that these watered down or deviant beliefs would eventually be labeled heresies precisely because they are not consistent with Jesus’ teachings and the traditions of the Church.

That’s the same struggle we go through in this day and age. We may look different, act different, or think different but those same lifestyle issues still exist today; and, unsurprisingly, people today also try to water down Catholic teachings in order to accommodate or excuse their lifestyle.

At this point, allow me to disclose that I am not a priest, theologian or even an extraordinary Catholic. I was born and raised a Catholic. Graduated from Catholic schools and universities, except for my law degree, which I got from a state university. I was married under Catholic rites, and in all probability will die a Catholic. So, by way of disclaimer, whatever I write here is not the official stand of the Catholic Church on the matter but my own appreciation of Catholic teaching. I hope that is clear.

One particular issue that is prevalent today is gender identity. In today’s thinking, people are not bound by their genetic genders but are supposed to be free to choose their gender; so, even if you were born with male XY chromosomes (as against the female XX), or, to be blunt, with a penis, it really doesn’t matter because if you identify yourself as a female, then you can be a female, your Y chromosome or penis be damned. Under this theory, male and female genders, or masculinity or femininity, are nothing more than social constructs and as such, may be abandoned. Without having to be Catholic, I am afraid I have to disagree with a theory such as this. As a Catholic, it becomes totally unacceptable.

In the first place, one should readily accept that there are masculine females and feminine men. Not all men are manly, or females girly. It would, therefore, be wrong to simply think of individuals in terms of their masculinity or femininity. Various cultures recognize a broad, and quite acceptable, class between male and female as in some North American native tribes, or those referred to as asog in the Philippines.

However, this does not necessarily mean that you are any less male or female. If you are a gay man, then the fact that you are effeminate does not make you any less a male, even if you don’t see yourself as a man. Even if you decide to “transition” into a woman, genetically, you are still male, even with all the hormone treatments you decide to take.

Let’s take the idea to extremes: there are those who think, or would like to think, that they are dogs. Some even wear fur designed to make them look like a dog. They walk around on all fours, and eat and act like a dog. Does that make them a dog? No, they are still people. We can say the same thing about males or females who transition to females or males. Do the physical changes they go through take away the fact that they were born male or female? No, it does not. It may change the way they look but not what they were at birth. Gender identity is, therefore, an escape. It denies what you actually are in favor of what you believe. Psychologically, that can’t be good. I think acceptance is the better solution.

Moreover, gender identity makes a distinction between your spirit and your body. Your body is not you. Not if you think you are something else entirely. Your body is a mere vessel for your spirit. Unfortunately, it seems that once in a while the stork makes the mistake of putting the wrong spirit in a vessel and you have males thinking they are females, and vice versa. Therefore, we, being free spirits, can believe ourselves to be otherwise, and, as the theory goes, it is so.

This is where Catholic teaching may really be challenged. In my simple Catholic mind, when Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, He was both God and man. He was completely a God as He was completely a man. Therefore, to think that our bodies are nothing more than mere vessels is contrary to what Jesus himself accomplished when He came to earth. He sanctified us. People. He made us holy. Not just our souls but the body that is in His image and likeness as well. To say our bodies are disposable would belittle that which made Jesus a man. Remember, we see the body as the temple of God. It’s a package. Body and soul. That’s us.

All this may be viewed as backward or outdated. On the other hand, it is just an example where Catholic teaching is different from worldly views. The world would allow it.  In fact, in some countries, children as old as ten are allowed to choose their identity. 10! We don’t let them contract marriage but they can choose their gender. Wow. However, the very idea is contrary to what the Church teaches. We do not really choose our gender. Man and woman we are born. That’s just how it is, and it’s not as if  it’s based on nothing but faith. It’s based on human experience. The world will try to convince us otherwise; to join them in their belief that gender is something we can choose for ourselves. That is not something the Church can accept. Pope Francis himself was very vocal about that. He sees it as an ideology that seeks to annihilate man as an image of God. (Pope Francis vs. Gender Ideology, The Catholic World Report, August 13, 2016.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Church can just condemn those who are trying to convince them to adopt this concept of gender identity. No, the Chruch is still a Church of love and compassion. Judgement is for Jesus when He returns as King. For our part, we can only lovingly engage these people to rethink their position. People may condemn us for our teachings they think is so outdated and violative of human rights but we don’t get to do the same. We are Catholics. That’s who we are.

 

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Syria on my mind.

On June 28, 1914, shots rang out in the streets of Sarajevo killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His death would plunge nations into the First World War. Millions died.

Fast forward to 2017, Syria is in the middle of a civil war, a war against terror, and a proxy war all wrapped in a single bloody conflict. I will not pretend to fully comprehend its complexities but, for our purposes, suffice it to say that you have those against the Assad regime, you have Assad and his army, and the terror group ISIS in a three-corner fight of sorts. Russia and Iran support Assad, while the US and the Western nations support various groups seeking the ouster of Assad, or hope to be independent like the Kurds.

Normally, the Syrian conflict should be just that: a conflict between Syrians but the presence of Russia, who actually resurrected its mothballed aircraft carrier to join the conflict, the US and its allies, and Iran, is making this a quagmire worthy of 1914 Sarajevo. While Russia and the US rely mostly on their air and special forces to assist their chosen sides, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards openly cross the border to fight for Assad, or against ISIS. The US and Russia may have thousands of troops in or around Syria. Iran has tens of thousands.

Worse, the conflict is starting to draw in other players. Israel bombed Syrian positions when wayward Syrian rockets flew into its territory. Parenthetically, Israel has also sent overtures to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), which is in its own struggle against Iran for dominance in the Middle East. The Saudis, despite the fact that Osama Bin Laden and al-Queida — the terrorists behind 9/11 — were KSA-linked, is also pro-US. The US is also traditionally pro-Israel. The US also recently approved a billion dollar arms deal with KSA and its president’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal entered into by his predecessor, which KSA dislikes, and his threat to abandon it are all common knowledge.

Recently, the KSA and the United Arab Emirates (UAE or Emiratis) with Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar supposedly because the latter praised Iran (and Israel) and supported terrror groups like ISIS. Qatar denied the accusations but, curiously, the emir of Qatar thereafter called on Iran to congratulate its president for his re-election, which naturally pissed off KSA and the Emiratis. Turkey, which is fast becoming distant from the West, is siding with Qatar. The US president, contrary to what US diplomats were saying about the rift claimed credit for KSA and the Emiratis move to stop terrorist financing from Qatar. Russia appears to be sitting on the fence on this one having interests to protect with both KSA and Qatar; however, it appears to be more sympathetic to Qatar as its diplomats and state agencies have been meeting with their Qatari counterparts after the rift. Still, its energy needs require it to keep itself on the good side of KSA.

Then we have the US Senate passing a bill threatening Russia with sanctions for interfering with US elections. It still has to be approved by the US House of Representatives and Trump but, essentially, it seeks to penalize Russia’s energy program and anyone who assists Russia in said program. This does not sit well with the European Union (EU), especially Germany, who have companies involved in those programs. The EU sees the action as contrary to the agreed approach for joint action of the EU and the US when it comes to sanctions against Russia. It’s bad enough that Trump is alienating his Western allies in NATO. This can openly break the tenuous relationship between Trump and the EU-NATO. Germany has already voiced its concern that the EU can no longer rely on the US for leadership. Trump, with his America First byline, couldn’t care less it seems.

Finally, China and Russia, whom many have interpreted to be the biblical Gog and Magog, have recently decided to create a roadmap to military cooperation, among other things. Russia may no longer be as influential as it was at the height of the Cold War but nobody can deny the growing influence of the resurgent China whose efforts to create a new Silk Road is allowing it to create a sphere of influence from Asia to Africa and Europe. If we stick to the biblical interpretation that China and Russia are Gog and Magog, then they will bring with them a third of the earth. At the moment, Turkey and the Philippines appear to be among those willing to join them.

So, we have the US with KSA and its allies, China and Russia with Syria, Iran, Turkey, Qatar and the 1/3 of the world, the EU acting independently of the US and without the U.K. due to Brexit, and, somewhere out there, Israel, which freely bombs anyone that threatens, or it perceives to threaten, its existence.

Even if Syria is not our generation’s Sarajevo, it is certainly one of the falling dominoes leading to an unimaginable war. With all these interconnections, it is not difficult to imagine someone rightly or wrongly deciding to go after Israel and with that one move pull in the nations with all those strings binding them together into another world war, and where nations are armed with nuclear weapons, it just may be the real war to end all wars.

In a land full of oil, it just takes a wayward match to set things on fire. Some may say that it has all been prophesied and it will be impossible to stop it but I am a man of Faith and, therefore, believe that it does not necessarily have to end in Armageddon. My faith may be the size of a mustard seed but I believe it can move mountains, and we are promised that whenever two or more of us agree on Earth, then so shall it be in Heaven. If God can be persuaded by Lot to stay His hand from judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah, certainly places that seem to deserve God’s judgment, then we can also cry out to our Father to spare us from that terrible judgment.

Yes, Syria has me worried but I still choose to be hopeful about our future.

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Bond vs. Bourne

Bond and Bourne began as book characters who made a successful shift to the big screen. Bond has been around longer since the books on which he is based came out between the 1950s and ’60s while the Bourne books came out in the 1980s and 1990, at least those by Robert Ludlum. A new series was started with Eric Van Lustbader after Ludlum’s death in 2001.

The first Bond movie I saw in a theatre was Diamonds are Forever starring Sean Connery as James Bond, his last until he came back in the rather forgettable Never Say Never Again, which was not really part of the franchise but managed to squeeze in there somehow. I saw the rest of the Connery films (along with the solo flick by George Lazenby) on Betamax. Roger Moore took over from Connery and when he retired, Timothy Dalton took over, then Pierce Brosnan, and, currently, Daniel Craig.

Brosnan appears to have been the most spy-like. Craig is more a licensed thug although his run is the most coherent series, although the Austin Powers ending to Spectre was really awful and disappointing for a promising new twist to the old character. Connery was something of a cross between the two. Moore was the most suave, the quintessential Englishman but he was also the most compromised. I often wondered how he could still operate as a spy when everyone knew who he was down to his Walter PPK. Craig has the best choreographed fight scenes. Brosnan next but I guess this is expected with the development in filming over the years. We can expect newer films try to make their scenes more realistic. Compared to theirs, Connery’s and Moore’s fight scenes looked pretty antiquated where a single karate chop or kick is expected to knock a bad guy out. Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the most underrated Bond story.

Jason Bourne came out in the movies in the 2000s. It was miles from the original story in the Ludlum novels except for the amnesia and being picked up at sea. The original story was more like Aidan Quinn’s The Assignment, which came out a year or two before the first Bourne movie. Maybe this forced the producers to come up with a different direction because it could have still been adopted with a few tweaks for the 2000s. The original story had David Webb volunteering to go undercover as a terrorist named Jason Bourne in order to force the real terrorist called Carlos the Jackal out of hiding and kill him, which he finally did in the third book. Bourne of the movies is no spy. He is a killing machine plain and simple. He may adopt cover identities but he had one purpose: kill.

Parenthetically, Carlos the Jackal is a real-life terrorist whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez best known for a series of bombings targeting Jews in France in connection with his espoused aim of liberating Palestine. He has been captured and serving prison sentences in France. Here’s the thing, his nom de guerre was taken from The Day of the Jackal, a novel written by Frederick Forsyth, which was also made into a movie starring Edward Fox, the M in Connery’s Bond comeback film Never Say Never Again. Good movie by the way. The reboot, The Jackal, with Bruce Willis as the assassin is right there with Never Say Never Again as one of the most forgettable movies of all time.

Bond is more versatile; however, his tradecraft is pretty sloppy for a spy. At least Craig is. Moore too, of course. Bourne takes the effort to wipe his presence from a scene. Bond leaves it around. Worse, he left an electronic trail that Bourne avoids as much as possible unless he wants you to see it. Knowing that there was a CCTV in the hideout of Mr. White, alias The Pale King, Bond left the footage there for all to find. That placed the life of the daughter of Mr. White in danger, and was even used to torture her in a way. Bond also has a way of lingering at a scene — at times depending on the home government to straighten things out as if it was that easy to straighten out an international incident — whereas Bourne would just disappear. 

Bourne appears to represent an actual spy or operator: low-key, efficient and self-sufficient. Bond’s much more glamorous life isn’t really sustainable. It works for particular operations but over too much time, its value quickly dissipates. It’s more public, therefore, the spy would really have to keep his activities pretty mundane. That’s how you maintain your cover. Avoid publicity as much as possible. Just ask The Americans. I’m sure Ian Fleming knew what he was doing when he created Bond since he served wth British Naval Intelligence. The filmmakers maybe had Hollywood ideas that we know can be farthest from reality. Even for a movie.

Between the two, I prefer Bourne over Bond. I like the Craig series but, on the whole, I think Bourne is much more credible as a spy or operative. Both are lethal but Bond calls to much attention on himself. Bourne will strike from nowhere. Even if you know he’s there. Bourne has, to me, the best choreographed fight scenes in Hollywood. Fantastic storytelling even for Hollywood. That’s how you do a clandestine operation on film. The series definitely has plot holes; however, when everything is said and done, I find Bourne more believable than Bond. Craig is getting there with Skyfall but got derailed a bit by Spectre. Austin Powers as inspiration? Yeah, right. Bourne wins.

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A Nation of Laws not of Men

If the recent spectacle in the US is anything to go by, then it should confirm everything we have known about Donald Trump from the beginning: he believes that his word is law, and everyone should obey him.

When he was just running for the presidency, we heard how he boasted that he would just grab a woman he fancies by the pussy because he believes he can, and for the most part, he was right. His victims were too shocked or scared to do anything about it. It is a totally predatory thing and indicative of his attitude in general, to women in particular. There was even that creepy clip where he greeted a child and said that he would date her when she’s eighteen. 

He fancies himself to be the ultimate businessman (let’s just forget all those bankruptcies he went through in the meantime). A great negotiator. THE man to be reckoned with.

Of course, not everything worked out as planned. He thought he can just ban Muslims from entering the US. The courts thought otherwise.

He wanted to change Obamacare with a single stroke. It didn’t quite work out that way. His first attempt was withdrawn even before it was ever considered by Congress.

Worse, his choice as Supreme Court justice could not get through and so he had to get his Republican lackies to change the rules for it to happen.

He bullied his way in the meeting with world leaders in Brussels and was ridiculed for it.

Now we see him trying to convince the head of the FBI to end the Flynn investigation. I compared that to a mafia don trying to tell a cop to look the other way. When he didn’t, the mafia don made him disappear. He must have thought he was still at the set of The Apprentice. “You’re fired!”

Unfortunately for him, like some of the mafia attempts to off someone that fails, Comey comes back from the dead to haunt him, and his testimony might take the don down.

The New York Times has an article that likened the attempt to have Comey drop the Flynn investigation to sexual harassment. Scary.

His seeming disregard for climate change and human rights are even more alarming. While pulling out of the Paris accord on combating climate change may arguably be a good thing because how can a man who thinks that climate change is a hoax convince the world to take it seriously, it also sends the wrong signal that a developed industrialized country will not help, or might even work against, fixing climate change.

Trump’s economic policy appears clear: make the most money with the least restrictions. Take away all the climate change concerns so big oil can do as they please, and coal can be big again — never mind that renewable energy is actually becoming cheaper and more efficient to operate. Now, they are taking down Dodd-Frank that was enacted to protect investors after the Sub-Prime Mortgage meltdown and the depression that followed in its wake. Chipping away here and there in the hope that money comes in. That’s his vision of a great America. 

Look at all that and you realize he is just about one thing and one thing only: The Donald; and he wants the Donald to have absolute power.

It is not surprising that he would be envious of people like Russia’s Putin and Xi of China because, in their respective countries, their word is law. Laws conform to the leader’s wishes rather than have the duly elected representatives of the people make laws that the president will then execute, which is how a democratic government should work. Trump believes his word should be law because, in his mind, he alone can save the US.

Unfortunately, the US Congress, filled with a Republican majority, is slowly giving him what he wants. There will be hell to pay. Maybe they think that Trump is still manageable and they can make him do what they want then dump him after one term — if not sooner removed by impeachment — or once they can come up with a suitable replacement. 

Here’s the thing, once you give power to a demagogue, and the people are drunk with illusions, it will be hard to reign him in and get the balance of power back among the three co-equal arms of a truly democratic government.

I could say the same of the Philippines with a president some quarters hail as a savior of the nation. His insistence on the supremacy of the executive arm over the others is troubling. His minions in Congress, particularly the speaker of the lower house, shares the view — at least, when the judiciary is taking a contrary view; otherwise, he would be pleading that the people respect the decision of the courts. It’s maddening.

Putin, Trump and their ilk want to have a nation of men, not of laws. There will be a point of reckoning when the people can no longer tolerate the abuses by such men. Even countries such as China know that there is a constant danger from those opposed to such a concept. It is their fear of such an uprising that makes them an oppressive state that belittles human rights allegedly for the sake of the common good.

This is no way to live out our lives living under the dictates of would-be Caesars. We cannot willingly forsake the freedoms that others have paid for with their lives for the covenience of short-sighted solutions to everyday problems. We need to live in a nation of laws where no man can ever be above it even if he is a duly elected president. Allowing ourselves to be lulled to sleep on our rights is not patriotism. It is nothing more than a surrender to absolutism. That is a price too high to pay for an illusion of peace.

We lived through such a hell once. Never again.

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Wonder Woman: We should just let her kick ass.

Spoiler Alert: Do I think that Wonder Woman is the best DC movie so far? No, that honor still belongs to The Dark Knight. Wonder Woman is a good movie but it is just not that good. Here’s why:

1. The Plot. If everything feels familiar, then it’s probably because you’ve seen everything before. Where? Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. The journey of discovery, rise to heroism, and ultimate triumph is a common thread in all origin stories but consider these: the unfortunate reliance on a shield (happily she did not bounce it around as Cap would – maybe in the future?); the participation of a ragtag group of commandos; death of a friend; an ultimate weapon; use of a plane, and the sacrifice play; and, the not-enough-time end to the love story. Admit it, these were all done before in a single movie. They really could have just shifted things to the trenches — that, up to the retaking of the Veld, was the best part — rather than drag the movie the way they did to all those all too familiar end scenes.

2. The CGI Ares. The finale was a let down. After the great, as in really great, assault in the trenches and the retaking of the town — the final showdown was absolutely the opposite. Ares, THE god of war, was out of shape. I mean, the disguise — I just want to say that for my own solace — was understandable for one who does not want to call attention to one’s self while walking in the world of men but when you go fight a god-killer, you want to be at your best. The full armor was ridiculous because we’re talking Greeks here not medieval knights. All that throwing things around using telekinesis or psychokinesis is just total crap. This is Ares! The God of war! Wouldn’t he take pride using his own hands to kill the god-killer? And what was that use of lightning? Ares?! C’mon! Among the pantheon of gods, not even Zeus was god of all the earth. Making Ares an elemental was totally screwed up.

3. The Look. Here’s the real killer. There was too much Zack Snyder in the film. Don’t get me wrong, the direction by Patty Jenkins was good. Maybe not Ant-Man — definitely not Deadpool — level but good, smooth and believable. The shots and effects however made me think it was too Zack Snyder and, sure enough, he was in the credits as screenwriter and producer. He’s not bad but a totally different take would have been welcome. I can imagine Patty wanting to go one direction and Zack nixing it for something more “traditional”. Of course, I don’t really know how much Zack’s hand was dipped in it but I felt it in there and wished it wasn’t.

4. Continuity. Did everyone see what she did to Ares? You wonder why she did not do the same thing with Doomsday in BVS. With the way they told their story, you even ask what really caused the Second World War and all the other wars the world has gone through ever since. I mean if she really killed Ares that is.

The love story was also rushed where “love” might just be “heat” but I won’t touch that further.

Despite all that, it was entertaining. Maybe not as interesting and well-put like The Dark Knight but as DC movies go, this certainly makes a good run with 3/4 of a film being so well executed. It was wonderful to see her kick ass with the lasso. They should just have stuck with that. I mean why rely too much on the shield? She is known for her arm guards, which she did use a lot in the movie — the alley scene was greatly executed — and the lasso. Like I said, it was a good thing she didn’t use her shield as Cap did but it still was a lot of deja vu for what was supposedly a different kind of hero. Only Wonder Woman has the lasso, and having seen what they could do with that, they really should have exploited it to the hilt. Maybe they wanted to make her different from Superman but in doing so, they lost a lot of what made Wonder Woman wonderful. The lasso. Use the lasso. Then she’ll really kick ass. You want a big impact ending — it was supposed to be a war between gods — this one just fizzled. Not my cup of tea.

I hope they treat her better in Justice League but based on the trailers, she’s back with the sword and shield. Wake up DC! You could do so much better, and coming from a Marvel fan, that says a lot.

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My Fellow Filipinos

Marawi, in the island of Mindanao, was attacked by the Maute group, which is an ISIS-wannabe in the Southern Philippines. In response, the Philippine Government poured in troops to try to root out the group. Hostages have been reportedly taken and used as human shields by the Maute. Where they proved too well entrenched, attack helicopters came in to pound them into submission, or death. Marawi suffered from the attack that appears to have been compounded by the army’s seemingly scorched earth policy against the attackers. Back in the day, there was a shirt for sale that had the message: “Kill them all. Let God sort them out.” Yesterday is here again.

As if that was not enough, the Government declared martial law on the whole of Mindanao even if the fighting appears to be limited to Marawi. Then worse becomes worst. The president, in exhorting the troops to do all that is necessary to win over the Maute group, quips that if the troops rape anyone in the process, then that will be on him. The president, himself a lawyer and a former prosecutor at that, essentially publicly declared that if the troops commit any crime — like rape — during the campaign to defeat the Maute group in Marawi, then they will not be prosecuted for it.

Flashback to the beginnings of his drug war, and his declaration that any act by the police in pursuit of the drug war will be his responsibility. In essence, he is saying that any crime they may commit during the war on drugs will also not be prosecuted. To date, there are a reported 7,000 deaths related to the drug war. Around 3,000 of these is said to be the result of “legitimate police operations.” The rest are dismissed as random killings. When you read news articles from Al Jazeera and the BBC about how the operations are being conducted with kill quotas and payoffs for every pusher or user killed, then one thinks that while these may actually be police operations, whether or not they are legitimate is far from certain.

Let us be clear, between the criminal and the State, or a terrorist group and the State, we should support the State. Illegal drugs should be prevented from harming citizens, and terror groups should be suppressed. However, how we conduct our wars should also follow the rules laid down in law. When the government begins to wage state terror, the legitimacy of its wars quickly dissipates. We are a nation of laws, and the State should be the first to comply with its demands.

The Philippine experience on martial law was not pleasant. In the end, the abuses of those in power caused a nation to oust a sitting president. The current president declares that his martial law will be as brutal as the old one. If one is knowledgeable enough about how the old martial law was used to abuse the populace, then one cannot readily say that this new martial law will be promising indeed. Far from it.

The newest Philippine constitution — we’ve had three (3) so far — sought to prevent a repetition of this abuse by putting in place the mechanics for the declaration of martial law. It invokes the independence of the legislature to check on the executive. Unfortunately, both houses of congress, peopled as they are mostly by the president’s partymates, supporters, or wannabe-supporters, refuse to convene to study the president’s justification for the declaration of martial law. It is in the refusal of these so-called people’s representatives to do as they are legally obliged that dictators are born.

Article VII of the Philippine Constitution provides that:

“SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

Clearly, the Constitution allows the president to call on the army in case of lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. The attack by the Maute group constitutes lawless violence; hence, the president can direct the armed forces to destroy the Maute group as the commander-in-chief. However, in order to declare martial law, the constitution names only two causes: invasion or rebellion. Moreover, public safety must require it. In other words, it is not enough that there is an invasion or rebellion. The safety of the public must also be in danger before martial law can be declared. If a large Chinese force occupies a few islands in the West Philippine Sea within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone but no Filipinos are endangered, then martial law still cannot be declared. Since the Maute attack cannot be an invasion, it might be seen as a rebellion, which would then justify the declaration. Under the constitution, the president should have reported to Congress within twenty-four hours from the declaration to prove, first, that it is a rebellion, and, second, public safety requires it, that would justify his decision, and Congress may confirm, revoke or extend martial law…but it must convene to receive the report and pass upon said declaration.

As it is, the president gave no report, and Congress refuses to convene. That, my fellow Filipinos, is dangerous. Filipinos should be free to question its government. When the government is closed to scrutiny even from its own citizens, that is authoritarianism. When Congress, a key component for the system of check and balances, fails to act in accordance with law, it allows absolutism by the president, which the Constitution itself is against. The Constitution, therefore, is slowly eroding. That is something we cannot allow.

Patriotism is never blind allegiance. Patriotism puts the country first before personalities, even the president. To challenge the president is not unpatriotic. Adherence to the rule of law, especially the Constitution, the primary law of the land, must be every citizen’s concern. Holding the government to it, must be the primary duty of every Filipino. We do so not because we hate the president but because that is what the law requires. We are all Filipinos. Whether you are from Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao, all of us are Filipinos. We question the declaration not because he is a Mindanawon but because he did so as president, and in doing so is required by law to abide by certain conditions. To test his compliance with law is a very Filipino thing to do.

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The Mystery of the Three Envelopes

I saw my dad this morning and he asked me what happened to the three envelopes he had last night. According to him, I, together with two of my brothers, Jo and Jim, had just pulled down the roof and, before having dinner, which I had brought with me, dad gave one envelope each to Jo and Jim. After dinner, dad gave me the last envelope to reimburse me for the cost of the dinner, and Jo left immediately after that. Surprised to see me this morning, he called me over and asked me what happened to the third envelope.

This, in turn, surprised me because, last night, I did bring home some dinner but none of the other things happened. Not last night. Not ever. Jo has been living in Davao for some years now and haven’t been around to visit for about a year. Jim has been living in Makati for about the same time. I haven’t seen Jim for about a couple of years. Maybe more. It’s been that long. Dad is living with me in Quezon City. The three of us never worked together on a roof. Ever.

My father, you see, has dementia. He sees things and people, and recalls events, that or who were never there, or happened. My first experience was rather hurtful. He accused my siblings and I of leaving him when he fell asleep after having Christmas lunch at a restaurant in a nearby mall two years ago. I denied it naturally. It troubled me but that was just the beginning.

At another time, I took him out for lunch, just the two of us, and while conversing, he asked me “kamusta tatang mo” (how is your father)? After my initial shock, I replied, “you are my father; how are you?”, he looked at me as if I was mad.

The hardest part is to see him get frustrated trying to work out what is real and what is not. Sometimes, he knows his mind makes things up. He realizes certain images are not real, which I get to reinforce. People beside him that disappear. Even guests or workers. When it’s me he is talking to, he gets to question what he sees. Unfortunately, there are times when he really believes that something or someone was there when there wasn’t. It is those times that he gets really frustrated because I don’t believe him, or having told him otherwise, he couldn’t understand how he could have been mistaken. He frequently asks about the children, which can only refer to my nephews from my third brother, Dan, with whom he was living before he transferred to my house. I have to repeatedly say they were with my brother in their house. At times, I have had to do so three times in a span of ten minutes.

It is difficult to see my father in this condition. He is a lawyer by profession and, as a lawyer myself, I know how much his mind means to him. Again, that may add to his frustration. To realize that your mind may be playing tricks on you must be truly hard. 

So, going back to the three envelopes, I pointed out to him that he gave each of us, Jo, Jim and I, one envelope each. Mystery solved! No, he says, why would he give Jim an envelope when he did not borrow money from Jim. However, I insisted that: first, he cannot change his story and introduce new facts that were not there before; and, second, he clearly repeatedly said that he gave each of us an envelope and, therefore, there was no missing third envelope. After much thought, he finally conceded that I was right. The three of us got one envelope each. What a relief!

As I turned to go, he asks “how much was in each envelope?” 

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