Breaking The Rule Of Law, Fighting For The Rule of Justice

NUPL’s 11th Anniversary Forum
12 October 2018, Quezon City


Edre U. Olalia


Aside from another scheming powerplay, Speaker Gloria Arroyo’s disingenuous political move on Charter Change through Resolution of Both Houses No.15 is also an attempt to deny social justice and upend human rights.

The proposed revisions in the 1987 Constitution with apparent self-serving motives had everyone’s attention initially directed on the issue of succession, term extension, no elections and optional federalism. The focus was drawn away from other equally significant changes lurking in the interstices that will affect and diminish the scope of freedoms and protections of human rights.

The State has the primary obligation to defend, protect and promote individual rights and freedoms. However, the latest proposed changes in the Charter imply a diminution of the State’s duty to guarantee respect for these rights.

The inclusion of the seemingly harmless Bill of Duties provides basis to assault and counter the protections of individuals enshrined in the current Constitution and in international conventions. Despite cleverly leaving the Bill of Rights untouched in an attempt to avoid controversy, the Bill of Duties demands for the citizens’ loyalty and defense of the Republic, thus pitting it with the provisions in the Bill of Rights based on its impact on the State.

The inclusion of the Bill of Duties is redundant and entirely unnecessary for there are enough laws that exist to enforce citizens’ duties. More fundamentally, the citizen’s rights cannot be equated or diminished by the State’s vast powers to compel obedience and “cooperation with the duly constituted authorities in the attainment and maintenance of the rule of law.” After all, who defines what is the “rule of law” Isn’t if essentially just the law of the rulers?

Another cause of grave concern is the blatant disregard of all the aspirations of social justice by totally obliterating the whole Social Justice article in the 1987 Constitution as if they never existed, much less mattered, despite its limitations, even if they are given cursory and token treatment in the proposed Declaration of Principles State Policies mentioning social justice and labor.

This appalling deletion by the ruling elite further forsakes the already neglected and oppressed marginalized sectors. Arroyo and her faction of the ruling clique clearly removed these social justice provisions to sell out the economy to foreign powers. This perpetration of penury through economic exploitation and foreign control is the worst national betrayal and threat to our sovereignty and economy.

While Arroyo’s ChaCha is currently in the limelight because of the transitory provisions that distract the public, we must also be wary that the power-hungry proposal not only extends her term but actually affords her and her posse greater power to oppress, dominate, and violate human rights, in synchronization and consistent with the existing multiple violations and attacks on our rights by the present Duterte component of the ruling elite. #

Edre U. Olalia NUPL President +639175113373
Atty. Josalee S. Deinla NUPL Spokesperson +639174316396
Press Statement 12 October 2018

Sonny Africa

Notes On Breaking The Rule of Law in the Economy

IBON Foundation For the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) 11th Anniversary Forum
Sonny Africa
October 12, 2018

‘Rule of law’ and ‘economy’ are not concepts immediately associated with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. But, after even just a little more thought, maybe not because both are so essentially about power. And Pres. Duterte is if anything certainly all about power —about wielding it, using it, abusing it, and expanding it. So on the matter of the economy, as on many other matters, the question about the exercise of power is for whom and for what.

The basic character of the Philippine State (the current government included) is unfortunately to uphold and defend oppressive property relations. It is arguably the single biggest factor responsible for the current system that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few, that perpetuates poverty for the majority, and that keeps the national economy backward and underdeveloped.

Philippine society is often portrayed as a pyramid like the Great Pyramid of Giza with a fat base representing the majority which gradually tapers off going upwards towards the tip representing the elite. Yet after decades of neoliberal economic policies that have so distorted the economy this pyramid or triangle is too generous.

Philippine society today is more like an inverted thumbtack with a very wide flat base representing the majority at very low levels of income and welfare and then suddenly a super-narrow elite at stratospheric levels of income and wealth.

There are some 23 million Filipino families. Those at the wide flat base are the poorest 15 million or two-thirds (66%) of families who have incomes of no more than Php21,000 monthly. The poorest 6.5 million actually struggle with just Php10,000 or much less per month.

At the other end are those at the pointed tip of the thumbtack who are so far away from and above the base. The country’s top 1% or richest 550,000 or so families have monthly incomes from around Php140,000 to a staggering Php8 million pesos or more and have assets of some Php5.4 million to as much as Php1 trillion (as in the number one followed by 12 zeroes).

This gross inequity is not an accidental outcome and, indeed, is the result of the so-called rule of law operating in the economy. In particular the rule of law that makes private property sacrosanct no matter how much exploitation and abuse went into accumulating this. And that covers up how elite private interests have captured the State and use this for their profit-seeking and wealth-accumulation.

Which brings us to the first point about the rule of law under the Duterte administration — the bias for wealth and power is ingrained in the legal and economic system. The application of the rule of law has resulted in land monopolies and reconcentration, repressed wages amid growing worker productivity and bloating capitalist profits, worsening contractualization, decrepit public social services, and more. This is the normal functioning of the reactionary state that Pres. Duterte, for all his anti-oligarch and pro-poor bluster, has not in any way changed.

But there is also the second point about the rule of law under the Duterte administration — its specific measures to make the law even more biased for the rulers at the expense of the people. The administration’s authoritarianism is not just to stay in power but to complete the anti-poor and pro-elite neoliberalism started some four decades ago.

There is the regressive and inflationary TRAIN law forced on the people last year. It took the authoritarian Duterte administration to undertake the most comprehensive and most regressive overhaul in the tax system in the country’s history. The rich pay less taxes because the poor are made to pay even more.

There is the hyped Build, Build, Build infrastructure offensive. But this is mainly spending public money and borrowing to build infrastructure that will mainly benefit the foreign-dominated and service-oriented economy that is the hallmark of our domestic economic backwardness. Ultimately it is the people who will pay for all this through higher taxes and user fees.

There is the redoubled drive to liberalize domestic agriculture by removing protections in Republic Acts through a mere administrative order. Under the guise of aiming to reduce inflation, the economy has been opened up to a rush of food imports which threaten not just rural livelihoods but the country’s long-term food security.

There is the reckless pursuit of a United State-Philippines Free Trade Agreement (US-RP FTA) and a China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal. These seek to completely open up the economy particularly to US and Chinese capital and goods as well as enshrine one-sided protections for US, Chinese and other foreign investors.

And there is the mangling of the 1987 Constitution. The only real commonality among all the proposed versions to replace the current Constitution is how they all undermine the existing nationalist economic provisions towards a wholesale opening-up of the national economy to foreign capital and domination.

None of which are just being accepted by the people. Recent months have seen an upsurge in organized groups asserting their economic, social and cultural rights in the cities and the countryside. These are part of the overall surge of Filipinos refusing to be intimidated and rising to dispose of an abusive leader and a government that does not serve their interests. The Duterte administration’s weaponization of the rule of law against dissent and the people will not be enough to put this down. But even this can only be a start. After this is the much greater challenge — though with much greater rewards — of building a political, economic and legal system that upholds people’s rights and welfare and that asserts economic sovereignty and national development. #

Tonyo Cruz

Death Threats For All: Free Speech and Free Expression Under Duterte

Tonyo Cruz
October 12, 2018

“I eat death threats for breakfast.” – Miriam Defensor Santiago

Many years ago, only a select few would receive death threats: People like the late great Senator Miriam and other foes of the corrupt and the greedy. Papadalhan ka ng sulat na may itim na ribbon, bala na nakabalot sa sulat, o kaya ay bulaklak ng patay. Now everyone receives death threats especially online. Not a day goes by that we don’t see death threats online and even offline, sometimes from the president himself.

Just because we speak or express ourselves. Free speech and freedom of expression are among the basis and best defenses of the rule of law in its classical democratic sense. When people are free to talk and express themselves, they become their own defenders against abuse of power borrowed from them by authorities, or if negligence of duty by their representatives. And so on.

President Duterte immediately launched a two-pronged attack on free speech and free expression upon assumption of office.

Let me explain. First, the regime questioned and attacked the media’s right to exist. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Duterte’s use of not one, not two, but up to eight agencies of government to rein in, harass and threaten Rappler and its journalists. Duterte has also lobbed attacks on Inquirer and ABS-CBN, up to the point of threatening to deny the broadcast giant a franchise it needs to operate. The DDS Media Network, which independent researchers have found to have been funded in the last elections, makes use of troll armies and so-called thought leaders to push the narrative that a free press is sabotaging the administration even as they threaten journalists with messages of death, massacre and rape.

The other prong of the Duterte attack on free speech and free expression is on the substance. Not only does the Duterte administration openly question the right of the press and the public — the regime has brazenly promoted and championed historical revisionism. Recently, the police and the military claimed film-showings were occasions to recruit communists in campuses. Doubling down on their claims, General Albayalde went on to preach that the martial law films — which brave filmmakers made despite odds and threats of censorship — were wrong only because the police fears they inspire people to rebel against government.

Such a view reinforces historical revisionism. Instead of investigating, arresting and filing cases against the Marcoses and their fascist troops, the police looks the other way and demonizes the filmmakers who portray tyranny in their films. Over 700 filmmakers, film studies professors and students and movie industry leaders have signed a statement assailing the Red scare and championing their obligation to follow the lessons of National Artist Lino Brocka.

Perhaps the best — or worst — example of this modus operandi is Mocha Uson. Yes, she has been forced to resign by threats of ACT Partylist Rep. France Castro to ask her questions over her corruption at PCOO. Mayon volcano is safe. But she has pledged to continue to the exercise her “rights” to promote Duterte, defend the Marcoses, and other forms of disinformation.

The massive flood of disinformation and historical revisionism under Duterte can not be surprising. Borrowing the language of the youth today, Duterte is a “poser”. He is a poser savior against drugs. He claims to be not corrupt but he has proudly allied with Marcoses and Arroyo, and the worst scum of traditional politicians. The people’s enemies need to be rehab’d and so we have disinformation and historical revisionism. The people need to be color-coded: DDS, Reds and Dilawan. Classic divide and rule. 16M vs 84M. History only began in 2016. We can refer to 2010-2016 as misrule. We can only refer to 1972-1986 in terms of infrastructure.

It is not hopeless. Social media may be a swimming pool or playground of DDS trolls. But we have at least two examples of how we used social media to upend the social order and side with forces of change. Three years ago, we had the campaign Stop Lumad Killings which placed the murders of Lumad and closure of Lumad schools in the national agenda.

And then fairly recently, we witnessed a social media powered political victory of Nutri Asia workers. Without social media use by youth, young professionals, families and labor advocates, NutriAsia would have gotten away with Endo and unfair labor practice. Yes, we can do it.

In closing, allow me to cite a quotation about tyranny that could best express LODI’s stand against Duterte: “The tyrant confuses those he can’t convince, corrupts those he can’t confuse, and crushes those he can’t corrupt.” And may I add: Tyranny is not forever. Walang forever. ###