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Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 30, 2018 - Let it be Done for You

June 30, 2018 - Let it be Done for You

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 8:5-17

When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully." He said to him, "I will come and cure him." The Centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." And Jesus said to the Centurion, "You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you." And at that very hour his servant was healed. Jesus entered the house of Peter, and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, the fever left her, and she rose and waited on him. When it was evening, they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.

Introductory Prayer: Lord I believe in you. I believe that you walk with me and accompany me with your power. I come before your holy throne, the throne of your heart. I know you want to bless me today with your friendship and to answer my prayers. Thank you for your faithful, generous love.

Petition: Lord, increase my faith.

1. Humility Moves God’s Heart: Not only does the Centurion have great faith; he has great humility. His humility is not feigned, for the circumstances are too grave for him to pretend to be humble, especially as Jesus has already agreed to come heal his servant. Nor is his humility the result of a low self-esteem, for there is tremendous confidence in his dealing with Jesus. His is the humility born of a faith that understands who Jesus is. It is the humility that the Church invites us to share every time we approach Our Lord during Communion at Mass: “Lord, you are far too great to come to me, but thank you for coming for I will die without you.”

2. When Jesus Heard This, He Was Amazed: Now this is amazing. Consider what it would take to amaze Jesus. Yet here we have the answer: Faith -- faith in his person, his power, his plan for our lives. One day Jesus will rebuke Peter as Our Lord grasps his hand to save him from sinking: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). The import of the question might be better seen if stated differently: “What is there in me that would make you mistrust me?” The answer is: Nothing. Any deficiency is in us, and this must be sincerely resolved in prayer, especially by contemplating the major truths of the faith: Jesus’ incarnation, passion, death and resurrection; the sacraments, especially baptism, confession and the Eucharist. If Jesus is amazed by our faith, we can rightly deduce that he is hurt by our lack of faith and trust in him.

3. It Happens According to Our Faith: Christ’s comment is somewhat similar to what we pray in the “Our Father”: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Here we are saying, “Let my forgiveness of others be the standard by which I am forgiven.” By addressing the Centurion with these words, Jesus reveals that our degree of faith is the standard by which we possess what we ask for from God. In the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass we pray: “You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you.” This is both consoling and alarming. It is consoling in that Christ knows the exact degree of our faith -- he knows the sincerity of our heart. We do not have to explain ourselves to him. It is alarming in that we also know that our faith is not always as strong as it should be. Therefore, we want to repeat what a man once said to Jesus: “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord, you are worthy of all my faith. Like the Centurion and the great saints, help me to focus my gaze on you in faith, confident that what you ask of me is always for my best. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.

Resolution: Today I will take a few minutes to read and reflect upon Hebrews, Chapter 11.

Oops, Duterte’s critics are portraying him as the new Rizal

THE clerics and would-be champions of the Catholic Church who are having fits of apoplexy over President Duterte’s remarks about the Judeo-Christian deity in the Book of Genesis better control themselves.
In their harangue against Duterte for insulting their God, they are putting this President on the same level as our national hero Jose Rizal.
Rizal and now Duterte are the only Filipinos of national stature who did not mince words in attacking the Catholic Church, with our national hero in fact making a name for himself through his compelling and vivid novels against it, which inspired the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Duterte’s critics wouldn’t want that, would they?
Consider the column in this newspaper the other day (“Will excommunication and exorcism help?) of Duterte’s would-be Torquemada, Francisco Tatad. In that kilometric piece with details nobody cares about, Tatad, because of Duterte’s blasphemy, “urges the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities…to study deeply and promptly and firmly act” on whether the President of the Republic should be excommunicated or — hold on to your rosaries — be exorcised.
What other well-known Filipino was threatened with excommunication?
Rizal, for his first novel Noli Me Tangere. Rizal himself disclosed this in his June 8, 1888 letter to one Protestant Pastor Karl Ullmer, who had become his friend during his stay in Heidelberg:
“I have left my country on account of my book. The Filipino public welcomed Noli Me Tangere very heartily; the edition is entirely exhausted. The Governor General summoned me and asked me for a copy of it. The friars were most excited. They wanted to persecute me, but they did not know how to get me. The Archbishop threatened to excommunicate me.”
Indeed, why wouldn’t the Catholic Church in the Philippines at the height of its power during the Spanish colonial period not want — as it succeeded in doing — Rizal not just to be excommunicated, but executed for writing two best-selling novels that not just exposed the abuses of its friars but also questioned Catholic dogma? After all, the Spanish Church had a tradition of executing thousands of “heretics,” by burning them at the stake after torture, condemned by its infamous Grand Inquisition organized by the Dominican Tomás de Torquemada.

Both lambasted the Catholic Church in the Philippines and its dogmas
Nobody remembers the name of any Spanish military man character in the Noli. Most Filipinos remember Padre Damaso (Verdolagas), the very hateful villain of Noli who fathered Maria Clara after raping her mother. Did the friars so hate Rizal because he was the first to put in words what probably was so well known during that period, that the friars were sex fiends?
Considering the total hold of the Church at that time on Filipinos’ minds, Duterte’s remarks about the Church and the God of the Genesis myth compared to Rizal’s novels are just harmless, friendly teasing during a round of drinks.
Rizal would be furious
If Rizal were reincarnated in our time and place, he would have thrown not p***ng inas of course but hijo de p***s and cabrones not just against the Catholic Church but the new religious swindlers calling themselves evangelists — or brazenly in the case of Apollo Quiboloy as the Anointed Son of God. He would be furious that more than a century after the Church got him killed, that same Church is still in control of most Filipinos’ minds, and is the pillar of an oligarchy-ruled society.
Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were very persuasive tracts against the Church — made more powerful, and popular, because they were in the form of unputdownable novels.
Don’t take it from me, but from the de facto head of the Catholic Church in the Philippines then, Cardinal Rufino Santos who issued in 1956 a “Statement of the Philippine Catholic Hierarchy on the Novels of Dr. Jose Rizal,” published in all broadsheets, that urged Congress not to pass a bill that required Rizal’s novels to be read in college. (The bill was passed as RA 1425 or the Rizal Law.) Just a small part of Santos’ lengthy letter reads:
“In these two novels we find passages against Catholic dogma and morals where repeated attacks are made against the Catholic religion in general, against the possibility of miracles, against the doctrine of Purgatory, against the Sacrament of Baptism, against Confession, Communion, Holy Mass, against the doctrine of Indulgences, Church prayers, the Catechism of Christian Doctrine, sermons, sacramentals and books of piety. There are even passages casting doubts on or covering with confusion God’s omnipotence, the existence of hell, the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, and the two natures of Christ.
“Similarly, we find passages which disparage divine worship, especially the veneration of images and relics, devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, the use of scapulars, cords and habits, the praying of rosaries, novenas, ejaculations and indulgenced prayers. Even vocal prayers are included, such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Doxology, the Act of Contrition, and the Angelus, Mass ceremonies, baptismal and exequial rites, worship of the Cross, the use of holy water and candles, processions, bells and even the Sacred Sunday obligations do not escape scorn.”
How many Catholic beliefs did Duterte lambast? Just two by my count, the doctrine of original sin and the story that it was Eve who got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit.
The Spanish colonial government in fact cared little for Rizal’s novels. It was the Catholic Church in the Philippines, through the most militant clerical order of that period, the Dominicans, who asked for Rizal’s head.
Dominican pressure
They submitted a report to the governor-general on August 30, 1887 declaring: “The work Noli Me Tangere has been found heretical, impious and scandalous from the religious perspective, anti-patriotic and subversive from the political point of view, injurious to the Spanish government and its proceedings in the islands.” The Dominican pressure on the governor-general eventually led to Rizal’s execution by firing squad, on the trumped-up (and false) charges of his involvement in the secret revolutionary group, the Katipunan. (Have they ever apologised for framing up and having executed our national hero?)
Duterte is so very lucky he didn’t live during Rizal’s time, or that Tatad isn’t a high official in a dictatorship, or he’d be facing a firing squad by now.
Isn’t it ironic — or a case of poetic justice — that a nation still mesmerized by medieval Catholicism has for its national hero one who vehemently criticized that religion?
As Rizal’s novels inspired a nationalist Revolution, I hope Duterte’s words inspire a similar, but perhaps a subtle but more earth-shaking revolution — against the oligarchy that the Church has primarily served.
(For an explanation of why the Catholic Church’s hold not only on Filipinos minds but on the colonial government was so tight, even compared to that in Latin American countries, read my May27, 2016 column, “Duterte’s anti-Church stance: It’s about time.”)
Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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June 29, 2018 - Rock of Peter

June 29, 2018 - Rock of Peter

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles
Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Matthew 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, I believe in you. I believe that you came into this world to suffer and die to give me a chance at eternal salvation. I want to draw close to you in this prayer. May this time I spend with you be an expression of my love.

Petition: Help me, Lord, to enter into a deeper, personal relationship with you.

1. Identity Crisis: Jesus isn't interested in what "others" think of him. He wants to know what I think of him. The test of any relationship is how committed people are to each other. At some point a young woman will wonder, how serious is her boyfriend? After a few weeks of class, a professor wants to know, who are the serious students here? On the eve of battle a soldier might wonder, can I count on my buddies when the bullets start flying? Likewise, Our Lord wonders about us. What does Christ mean to me? Is he just a picture on a holy card? A dimly perceived do-gooder from the past? Or does he have a real place in my life? He is, after all, the Second Person of the Trinity who came into the world in order to save us. How does that truth affect my faith?

2. Heavenly Revelation: Peter professes that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. And Jesus in turn tells him that this knowledge doesn't come from the world. It comes from God the Father. Recognition of Jesus as the Christ involves an act of faith. Throughout history skeptics have tried to figure out Jesus, using just their reason and tools of research. But since when do we try to understand the totality of a person with reason? Learning about another person can often require personal contact, above all, listening to him or her. Do I try to listen to Jesus in prayer, in Scripture? Or do I simply try to "figure him out"?

3. Binding and Loosing: Keys were a symbol of authority. Our Lord had all authority on earth (see Matthew 28:18 and Mark 2:10). Authority implies the ability to delegate it; hence, Jesus gave Peter, as the first pope, the power to bind and loose, that is, to make disciplinary rules within the Church. A child who disobeys a licit command from its mother is committing a sin. Why? Not because Mom is God, but because Mom has authority from God. Authority, in this case papal authority, is not an imposition but rather a service. The Pope's unique authority gives us a sure guide on moral questions. The Pope doesn't have the power to make morality but rather to define authoritatively on issues at hand. How well do I know papal teaching? Do I make an effort to learn why he teaches as he teaches? When a difficulty arises, do I consult Church teaching? "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16).

Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to love my faith as an expression of my personal relationship with you. Keep me from ever growing cold in my faith. Grant me a renewed appreciation for the gift of papal authority.

Resolution: I will read a few paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for example, a few about the papacy (880-887, 895, 1559).

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Leni Robredo is a disruptive No. 2

FORMER Solicitor General Florin Hilbay refers to Leni Robredo as a No. 2, one whom her allies and supporters are eagerly awaiting to assume the position of No. 1.

In a television interview with Tina Monzon-Palma who asked her about her response to the fact that President Duterte’s administration appears to be avoiding or ignoring her, Robredo casually answered that she tries to disrupt using her position, which by Hilbay’s nomenclature is as a No. 2.

Leni Robredo publicly admitted that she is a disruptive No. 2.

In a marriage, a No. 2 refers to the other woman. And the other woman always disrupts the harmony and bliss of a marriage.

However, in politics, the No. 2 refers to the position of the vice president who is supposed to be a supportive enabler, and not a disrupter. In fact, in the United States, the vice president does not have a mandate separate from the president, since they are voted as one. In the Philippines, while the president and the vice president can come from opposing political parties, it is expected that the vice president should be at least supportive, and at most a constructive adviser and not a partisan critic.

The Constitution does not stipulate a specific function for the vice president, and membership in the Cabinet, while not subject to confirmation, is not mandatory and is at the discretion of the president. Perceived as a mere spare tire, it is incumbent nevertheless upon a vice president to exude competence and integrity as someone capable of handling the ship of state if something happens to the president.

The declared function of the Office of the Vice President, as spelled out in its official website, pertains to a constructive, and not a disruptive, participation in the process of governance. She is expected to perform ceremonial and advisory functions upon the invitation of the President. She also has some constituency function to conduct consultations with local officials and lend support, including extending financial assistance, to them.

Leni Robredo, despite the fact that she came from the opposition party, was given the chance to be a part of government during the first few months of the Duterte administration. Appointing opposition figures to the Cabinet is not a new practice. In the United States, Democratic Presidents have appointed Republicans to their cabinets, and Republicans have appointed Democrats. Vice President Jojo Binay held a cabinet-level post during the Noynoy Aquino administration, even if Binay was not a member of the ruling Liberal Party.

However, once appointed, these people ceased to perform their partisan activities. They tried to suspend their being an opposition voice. After all, it is an utter affront to the principle of a unified executive branch —where every member of the cabinet is supposed to act as an alter ego of the President—for any of its members to wear two hats, being his subaltern at one time and his critic at another. Critical engagements are allowed but only during cabinet meetings, after which once a decision is made, each cabinet secretary is compelled to toe the line of the President. This is how mature statesmen do it.

But not Leni Robredo. She accepted her appointment to the Housing and Urban Development Council cabinet-level post but she wanted to have her opposition cake and eat it too, in that she continued to be a vocal partisan.

The President simply did the most rational move to keep the coherence of his administration by politely asking Robredo to leave. Practically, she was sacked. And with her disruptive political inclinations being revealed by her answer to Tina Monzon-Palma’s question, her firing was in hindsight an appropriate response to a cabinet member who had a natural predisposition towards being disruptive.

But even opposition politics, while adversarial, must not be cast in the language of disruption. Rather, it must thrive within the discourse of critical engagement as a responsible opposition loyal less to partisan interests and more to the interests of the Republic. An admission by Robredo that she is engaged in disruptive politics using her position as No. 2 is indication enough that we cannot expect any responsible political engagement from her.

If there is any indication of how disruptive Robredo’s kind of politics could be, one just needs to look at her behavior in the current electoral protest filed against her by former senator Bongbong Marcos. Instead of hastening the process, she has been using all kinds of dilatory tactics. She failed to protest the rule of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that specified a 50-percent minimum-shading threshold, one that was made public at the very beginning, only to later question it when she realized that it would hurt her as it would lead to a massive erosion of her lead. And she mobilized all kinds of support, from asking former justices to argue against legal reasoning to recruiting women scientists to support her unscientific stance.

Recently, she has raised questions about the use of a magnifying lens by one Marcos revisor, even if such had prior approval. A magnifying lens is just a device, like a pair of eyeglasses, that can aid one’s eyesight to perform a role that requires visual acuity, which revisors must in fact possess as they physically inspect ballots. Robredo protests against the enhancement of visual acuity in an electoral protest, thereby leading us to ask how that could put her at a disadvantage, unless she is hiding something.

But perhaps, it is a tall order to expect Robredo to be someone other than a disruptor.

Critical engagement would require a great deal of intellectual resources, and of political gravitas, and a kind of articulateness that can put into words what is not only in the mind but also in the heart. An emphatic and erudite person doesn’t throw a disruptive tantrum to show displeasure. Only immature people unsure of their arguments, and uncertain about their legitimacy, would use the disruptive leverage of a tantrum to make their presence felt.

Hilbay waxed eloquent on how the political opposition awaits the time that the No. 2 Leni Robredo will assume the post of No. 1. In response to being avoided or ignored by the President, Robredo admits that she tries to engage in disruptive activity using her position as No. 2.

She may have been just clueless; otherwise she is just totally careless or has a poor language facility, all of which are far from comforting. She must be told that such an admission has seditious implications.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Lessons from Sereno fiasco, and why Justice Carpio should change his mind

IF there is any lesson to be learned from the debacle that befell Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, it is that the Supreme Court must be insulated from politics.

And if there is anyone who should be blamed for what happened, it should be no other than former President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. Noynoy’s sins are twofold. He used his presidential powers to instigate, and like a puppet-master, direct from his office, the ouster of sitting Chief Justice Renato Corona simply because he didn’t like Corona. And second, he appointed Sereno, his classmate and political ally, to take the post that Corona vacated.

These two acts effectively politicized the judiciary, and worse, Aquino did it by assailing the institution of seniority in the court. Vengeance towards Corona as one whom he perceived to have hurt his family’s business interests in Hacienda Luisita juxtaposed with a preferential treatment towards Sereno who, while the most junior member of the court, was nevertheless a kindred spirit, a classmate who shared his politics, and who happened to have provided the lone dissenting voice in the Corona Court on the Luisita issue.

What made Noynoy’s crime worse was that Sereno presided over the court with such an erratic adherence to procedures, that she even became a recidivist in undermining the en banc by making decisions without its authority, or contrary to what it had decided. She tried to hide her being a political animal, but her partisan biases have never been a secret, and in fact they were eventually revealed in her campus tours, speaking engagements, and during her interview with BBC’s Stephen Sackur. The BBC host took note of the fact that her behavior was conduct unbecoming of a chief justice.

In order to correct the travesty, the only option we thought was available was impeaching Sereno. But going by the confidence of her camp to fight it out in a Senate trial, it was not even certain if we could have found 16 senator-judges who would convict her. In hindsight, had Sereno been impeached by the House, and the articles of impeachment transmitted to the Senate, there was a good chance that she would have been acquitted.

It is indeed a stroke of genius that Solicitor General Jose Calida opened another avenue that is also available but was simply thought to be not legally possible. Before Sereno, no one would have ever thought that a quo warranto could be used to remove a chief justice. In fact, until today, pro-Sereno legal pundits and politicians remain convinced that it was unconstitutional.

But the court has spoken with finality. Perhaps, and in hindsight, it is more appropriate for the Supreme Court, sitting as a collegial body, to have been the one to execute the act that was necessary to correct an anomaly that perverted its own traditions, processes and institutional practices. An impeachment would have been one that looked at Sereno vis-à-vis her actions against the republic. The quo warranto was one where the court told Sereno that she had no right in the first place to be judged as a member, for she simply never acquired authority and legitimacy to be treated as such.
Critics and Sereno herself insist that the President’s hand was behind her ouster. Granting without admitting that this is true, the ouster was still accomplished through a process that existed within the ambit of a judicial proceeding, where the justices decided on the basis of their understanding of the law and the Constitution, and not as an outcome of an impeachment process where partisan senator-judges were influenced to render a decision. President Noynoy Aquino influenced the Senate to oust Chief Justice Corona, even disbursing DAP funds to those who voted to convict him. It is going to be a tall order to prove any allegation that President Duterte influenced, even bribed, the eight justices to oust Sereno.

And now, the position of chief justice is vacant. History is offering us an opportunity to complete the recuperation of the judiciary, by making sure that the time-honored respect for seniority will be reinstated, and to make sure that the appointment will not be politicized.

This is precisely why appointing Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to the post of chief justice would be most fair, just and right. Appointing him as the next chief justice will definitely honor the seniority rule since he is the most senior of the members in terms of rank.

More importantly, a Chief Justice Carpio will dispel any allegation by the opposition of a politicized court and will insulate the President from any criticism that he is turning the court into a subservient rubber stamp. On key issues, Carpio has in fact voted against the President. He voted against the Marcos burial and the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

People who oppose Carpio point to his previous association with a law firm about which many do not hold favorable opinions. Others also raise issues with his alleged association with the political opposition.

But as chief justice, Carpio is only one vote of 15. It is doubtful that he can twist the arms of his colleagues to yield to whatever imagined agenda he would have, if any. Carpio may be a persuasive, erudite justice, but he has found himself on the dissenting minority on many key issues, including that of the quo warranto ouster of Sereno.

The position of Chief Justice embodies an institutional symbolism that speaks of the principle of the judiciary as an independent, co-equal branch of government. Certainly, one should not consider political affiliation as the force that should determine who should take the post.

Sereno’s invalid appointment besmirched the judiciary for its sheer partisanship. It will be foolish for us to ask the President to confine his choices only to those who hold views that are politically acceptable to him. If he does, then the republic will once again lose the opportunity to ensure the independence of the judiciary, and we would have squandered the chance to learn a lesson from Sereno’s ouster.

I certainly hope that Justice Carpio would reconsider his decision not to accept any nomination, his reason being the fact that he finds it improper for him to benefit from a decision he disagreed with. In fact, and with all due respect to Justice Carpio, it is more principled to benefit from a decision that he disagreed with. It will only highlight that his vote on the quo warranto was not a self-serving move.


Aquino, Del Rosario and media hid the loss of Panatag to China from the nation

Third of a 4-part series
IT’S a cliché for sure, but I can’t help using it in disgust over the episode: “Only in the Philippines.” Indeed, where else could a nation’s loss of its territory be hidden for so long by its President, with the help of a media that claims to be independent?

The inept Aquino government on June 3, 2012 gave up Panatag Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal) to the Chinese, yet managed to keep it under wraps, so that the truth came out only in trickles over several years. So much so that many Filipinos, even knowledgeable ones, are unaware of that enormous loss, and how it happened, to this day.
This chapter is also an indictment of how media, especially the most powerful newspaper at that time, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, betrayed the nation by wittingly or unwittingly hiding that loss of Philippine territory which was the result of President Aquino 3rd and his foreign secretary Alberto del Rosario’s bungling.
Chinese and Philippine government vessels had been on a stand-off for seven weeks in May and April 2012 in Panatag Shoal, with each party’s vessels refusing to move. On June 3 though, del Rosario without Aquino’s permission, ordered our three ships to leave the area. The Chinese never left the shoal; that’s how we lost Panatag – forever as it were.

Del Rosario, a corporate executive-turned-foreign-affairs-secretary, obviously didn’t do his homework on this most crucial foreign-affairs issue. In 1975, the Vietnamese had fooled our troops who had been holding Southwest Cay (also in the Spratlys) since 1968, to leave for a party in a nearby island that Vietnam occupied. They returned the next morning to find that the Vietnamese had occupied their island, barring them from landing on it. The Vietnamese of course never left it and even built fortifications on it.
But in that case, it was low-ranking soldiers probably bored out of their wits in a so faraway island, who were fooled and lost our territory; in this case it was our foreign secretary.
Left June 3
The spokesman of China’s foreign ministry Li Weimin issued a statement on Sunday, June 4, 2012 : “The remaining Philippine vessel finally left the lagoon on June 3.” The spokesman even arrogantly warned the Philippines: “China does not hope to see any more provocative behavior that hurts China’s interest,” referring to what it called “Huangyan incident” when starting “April 10, Philippine warships* harassed Chinese fishermen.”

It was Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th who disclosed that del Rosario had ordered the Philippine vessels to leave. Either del Rosario was so gullible that he believed then US Ambassador Harry Thomas’ communication to him that the US got China to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of both countries’ ships. Or, as Trillanes alleged, del Rosario simply wanted the rift between China and the Philippines to worsen. The senator explained that he was still working out with the Chinese details of the simultaneous withdrawal when he was told, to his shock, that the Filipino vessels had already left.

Del Rosario would later claim that the Chinese reneged on its agreement for a simultaneous withdrawal, although even the US has not confirmed that China had agreed to withdraw. He kept on referring to a stand-off over Panatag, never saying that the Chinese control it after our vessels were ordered out.
Banner story
The Philippine Daily Inquirer had a banner story on June 16, two weeks after China took control of the shoal after del Rosario ordered our vessels out: “PH ships leave Panatag.” The banner story’s drophead read: “ ‘Butchoy’ forces end to stand-off with China,” referring to a typhoon with international code name “Guchol.”

The article quoted del Rosario: “Citing bad weather, President Aquino has ordered home two Philippine ships engaged in a standoff with China over Scarborough Shoal.”

TOTAL LIES: Our ships left two weeks later, ordered by del Rosario. China never pulled out its ships.
That was a total fabrication. Typhoon “Butchoy” never even entered the Philippine mainland, and moved on the opposite side of Luzon. And even if it had battered Panatag, its lagoon had been for centuries a refuge for even small fishing vessels to shield themselves from the roughest seas. It was a lie disseminated by almost all print and broadcast media on June 16:
GMA News Online: ”Aquino orders pullout of PHL ships from Panatag Shoal due to bad weather”;
Rappler.com: “PH pulls out ships from Scarborough due to bad weather”;
Philstar: “President Aquino ordered two Philippine ships to pull out of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal due to bad weather Friday night.”
ABS-CBN News’ report though was a bigger fabrication: “China pulls out boats from Scarborough.” The lede paragraph read: “Following a similar move by the Philippines, China pulled out its fishing boats from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal last Sunday due to ‘inclement’ weather.” Chinese vessels of course had remained in the shoal in the lagoon, and leaving only when replacements arrive.
The much bigger smokescreen that Aquino and del Rosario employed to conceal their culpability for the loss of Panatag was the case it filed against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration for violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Even as the PCA’s “award” cannot be enforced – and didn’t rule on who owns Panatag as well as other disputed areas in the Spratlys – the case had portrayed Aquino and del Rosario as boldly fighting for Philippine territory, thus concealing that they lost Philippine territory because of their ineptness.
Trillanes disclosure
To be honest, I myself for two years had been fooled that we hadn’t lost Panatag and that we were still struggling with China over it, although I had written a column during the stand-off explaining that it was Aquino who triggered the crisis when he sent our biggest warship in the area (“Scarborough fail: How Aquino blew it,” May 4, 2012),

It is ironic that it was in an interview in November 2014 with Trillanes, in which he alleged del Rosario’s culpability for the loss which he claimed was deliberate, that I realized that our government stupidly lost Panatag to the Chinese.
To this day, it has been only specialized articles on the South China Sea by foreigners that we are told unequivocally that the Aquino administration lost Panatag in 2012. A recent one was an article in a book (Examining the South China Sea Disputes: Papers from the Fifth Annual CSIS South China Sea Conference) which narrated:
“In the Scarborough Shoal incident of 2012, China’s Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) prevented the arrest of Chinese fishers by a Philippine coast guard cutter … The FLEC ships moved between the Philippine cutter and the fishing ships, beginning a standoff that ended when Manila withdrew its cutter and other vessels, and China occupied Scarborough Shoal.”
A report of the Center for Naval Analyses, a think-tank for the US military, explained the implications of such occupation:
“China resolved the sovereignty dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in 2012 when it established control over the shoal. Again, it is unlikely to relinquish it. The government of the Philippines is in no position to even begin to contemplate the use of force to recover Scarborough, and the United States is not going to become involved in any attempt to expel the Chinese.”
On Wednesday: Aquino and del Rosario begged US to intervene in the Panatag stand-off, and were rudely rebuffed.
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Aquino, Trillanes blamed Del Rosario for Panatag loss

Second of a 4-part series
BOTH President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th blamed then Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario for the country’s losing Panatag (Scarborough or Bajo de Masinloc) Shoal in 2012 to China.

Yet del Rosario has to gall to call President Duterte’s Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana a propaganda tool of China for saying in an interview that Aquino mismanaged the sea dispute.
The truth is that if there is anybody who is a propaganda tool, it is the US-educated del Rosario, who by his actions and statements, especially since he was our ambassador to the US, has indisputably proven to be the very reliable mouthpiece of the US’ deep state. This has been crucial for the US since, as it does not have any claim in the disputed seas, it desperately required proxies in the area, roles which Aquino and del Rosario very ably assumed.
It was the reckless deployment by Aquino, del Rosario’s boss, of our biggest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to Panatag Shoal on April 12, 2012 that triggered a stand-off between Chinese and Philippine vessels that lasted for six weeks. According to Aquino and Trillanes, it was del Rosario’s order directing our vessels to withdraw from the area that effectively handed over the shoal to China.
Aquino had blustered that the frigate would defend against the Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS) the vessels of our Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Coast Guard which had arrested a number of Chinese fishermen for “illegal fishing” in the shoal. Aquino, told of his mistake, immediately ordered the frigate to leave the area. It was a boo-boo that couldn’t be “deleted,” and China exploited it to claim that the Philippines militarized the disputed shoal.

Trillanes with Aquino (left); Del Rosario (right) in a photo from the 2017 annual report of Hong Kong-based First Pacific, of which he is a director. Controlled by an Indonesian, some 30 percent of First Pacific’s shares are held by US investors.
Rather than sending its own warships though, China deployed several CMS vessels to escort more than 90 Chinese fishing boats to the shoal in, ironically for us, a seaborne “People Power”-of-sorts tactic against our ships. For seven weeks, there was a standoff, with both Chinese and Philippine vessels refusing to leave the area.
Colossal mistake
However, on June 3, del Rosario ordered our BFAR and Coast Guard vessels to leave the shoal. This was a colossal mistake as it left the Chinese in complete control of the shoal, and they have never left the area. That’s how we completely lost Panatag, the first territory ever that we have lost.

Among the many similar accounts on the Philippine blunder is a November 2014 report of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA)—a think-tank for the US military—that concluded:
“China resolved the sovereignty dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in 2012 when it established control over the shoal. Again, it is unlikely to relinquish it. The government of the Philippines is in no position to even begin to contemplate the use of force to recover Scarborough, and the United States is not going to become involved in any attempt to expel the Chinese.”
Both in an interview with Trillanes with me in 2015, and in his aide memoire “Backchannel Talks” that he gave me, the senator claimed it was del Rosario who was responsible for the boo-boo, with Aquino himself blaming his foreign secretary. He was so angry at del Rosario that in my talk with him and with a television network, he said what del Rosario did was treason.
“PNoy called me to inform me that our two BFAR vessels already left the shoal but China reneged on the agreement of simultaneous withdrawal of their ships, so two of them [were]still inside the shoal,” Trillanes wrote in his aide memoire.
“I asked him who agreed with what, since I was just hammering out the details of the sequential withdrawal because the mouth of the shoal was too narrow for a simultaneous withdrawal. The President told me that Secretary del Rosario told him about the agreement reached in Washington,” Trillanes wrote.
Trillanes continued: “This time I asked PNoy, ‘If the agreement was simultaneous withdrawal, why did we leave first?’ PNoy responded to this effect: “Kaya nga sinabihan ko si Albert kung bakit niya pinalabas yung BFAR na hindi ko nalalaman.” (“That’s why I asked Albert [del Rosario]why he ordered the BFAR vessels to leave without my permission.”)
Fu Ying meet
According to my government and diplomatic sources as well as to the report of Ellen Tordesillas, who was the most knowledgeable diplomatic reporter at the time, what transpired was as follows:

Fu Ying, vice minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Asia (who had been ambassador here from 1998 to 2000) met on June 1 with Kurt Campbell, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in Washington, to discuss Aquino and del Rosario’s request for the Americans to intervene—even militarily, my sources claimed—in the crisis. Campbell relayed President Obama’s position that the US cannot intervene in the dispute, and instead suggested a simultaneous withdrawal of vessels from Panatag Shoal to de-escalate the tension.
The Chinese official told Campbell that she would relay the suggestion to her superiors in Beijing. However, for some unexplained reason, then US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas told del Rosario that China had already agreed to a simultaneous withdrawal.
The gullible del Rosario immediately ordered, in the middle of the night, the BFAR and Coast Guard vessels to pull out, leaving the Chinese in complete control of the shoal. Aquino would only find out about the pull-out when he woke up—a bit late—the following morning.
That this was what happened is bolstered by a DFA statement released in July 2012 to explain why the Philippines failed to convince the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to condemn China’s takeover of the shoal:
“On the reference to ‘duplicity and intimidation,’ the Philippines forged an agreement with China for the simultaneous pullout of all vessels inside the shoal, which we undertook in good faith on June 4. Furthermore, China agreed to remove its barrier at the entrance of the shoal.
“Yet to this day, China has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement and has maintained its ships inside and outside the shoal, as well as its barrier, in its aim to establish effective control and jurisdiction in the shoal and surrounding waters.”
Neither US nor China
Neither the US nor China, of course, have confirmed that there was such an agreement. If there was, and it was the US that mediated the pact, wouldn’t it have condemned China for violating it?

Among the questions raised by this account:
1. Did Campbell really tell their Ambassador Thomas, to tell del Rosario that the Chinese had agreed to withdraw from the shoal? Or did Thomas misinterpret his superior’s communication? Or worse, did the 73-year-old del Rosario hear what he wanted to hear, as the standoff had lasted for seven weeks, and he was crumbling under the tension?

2. Or, as Trillanes alleged, was del Rosario’s real intention was to worsen the rift between China and the Philippines, which he claimed was the agenda of the foreign secretary’s business boss, Manuel V. Pangilinan, so the US itself would eventually protect one of his firm’s oil-drilling projects in the Reed Bank, also claimed by China?
3. How could del Rosario go over the head of Aquino that he could order the BFAR and Coast Guard ships to leave Panatag?
Del Rosario should give his side on these questions in the planned Senate investigation on our territorial dispute with China.
Or he could ask the Philippine Star, which his boss Pangilinan (whose boss in turn is the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim) controls, to devote a whole page to explain his side on how we lost Panatag.
On Wednesday: How Aquino and the Yellow Media hid the loss of Panatag from the nation
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