Duterte won’t declare martial law; he doesn’t have to
I am absolutely confident that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte will not declare martial law. This confidence is based on the bountiful evidence that the Filipino people seem entirely too willing to voluntarily surrender their fundamental constitutional rights; so there would be no need to formally declare martial law.
This conclusion is drawn from the public reaction to a speech Pres. Duterte delivered at the regional convention of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Nov. 4. In that Manila Hotel speech, Duterte informed his audience of lawyers that there will be a massive demonstration against him in the United States next year and that the moving force behind this protest is Filipino American Loida Nicolas-Lewis.
“Meron next year, a certain financier, mayaman na babae who married a black and is now a millionaire and she is planning to do massive demonstration,” he said.
An online publication, politics.com.ph, reported Duterte’s speech in its Nov. 4, 2016 issue with this sensationalized banner headline: “Duterte unmasks Loida Nicolas Lewis’ plot to launch massive protests to oust him.”
If that report is true, is that a crime? If not, why did Duterte feel the need to “unmask” Loida?
Is organizing a protest rally a crime?
The Philippine lawyers in that convention, as well as Duterte himself, who was a former government prosecutor, are all aware of Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
The IBP members are also familiar with the Philippine case of Jacinto v. Court of Appeal [346 SCRA 665 (1997)] which held that the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances is, together with freedom of speech, of expression and of the press, “a right that enjoy primacy in the realm of constitutional protection. For these rights constitute the very basis of a functional democratic policy, without which all the other rights would be meaningless and unprotected.”
Yet none of the Philippine lawyers at the Manila Hotel on Nov. 4 stood up to defend Loida Nicolas Lewis, who placed 7th in the Philippine bar exams in 1967, and who was the first Filipina to be admitted to practice law in New York state. None dared to assert to Pres. Duterte that Loida has every right to call for a peaceful demonstration against Duterte even if it is “massive.”
One Philippine attorney stood up for Loida. In his Internet post, former Senator Rene Saguisag wrote that he has known Loida since the early 1960s when they were both involved in the Student Catholic Action (SCA) and in the National Union of Students (NUS) and when they “bar-reviewed” together in San Beda in 1967 although Loida went to the University of the Philippines School of Law.
“I know that if Loida wants something done,” Saguisag wrote, “she will do it by the force of reason and never by reason of force. She’ll do it morally and legally… No mean bone in a kind and gentle soul.”
Saguisag expressed concern that a few of Duterte’s followers may be “unhinged” and that therefore “Loida needs to be more careful here, where she spends a lot of time, doing good, or elsewhere.” The former senator wondered “how the lawyers in that Integrated Bar of the Philippines assembly responded when the Prez, willy-nilly, casually put lawyer Loida’s safety in jeopardy, by convicting her by publicity.”
“We have to have a higher regard for human life and dignity,” Saguisag counseled.
Cause for Saguisag’s concern
There is good reason for Saguisag to be concerned for Loida’s safety. After Duterte’s attack against Loida appeared online, Duterte’s numerous supporters in social media immediately began trolling Loida in their Facebook pages.
One such Duterte supporter, Mira Savaria Encabo, an OFW based in Bahrain, posted this Facebook blast against Loida Nicolas Lewis:
“She is the Mouthpiece of America but posturing a facade of Filipino patriot. How can she be a pro-Filipino when all her businesses are in the US and all her allegiance is to the American flag??? Can we let a Fil-Am whose only claim to fame is her being married to a rich African-American and who doesn’t even have the guts to bring or donate even a little portion of her wealth and money to Philippines to help the government and the poor???
“What had she done to help the country and have the guts to organize a destabilization move and to OUST THE BEST PRESIDENT PHILIPPINES EVER HAD IN THE RECENT HISTORY???? ALL SHE DID IS TALKING TOO MUCH and going for TV INTERVIEWS! Pretending to be the voice of the people!!!
“What right does she have to meddle in Philippine affairs when she lives comfortably in US, sheltered from all the trappings of life in the Philippines while she enjoys the luxury of her late husband’s wealth????
“Why can’t she concentrate campaigning against discrimination and racism which the blacks are still experiencing in US? It would definitely make her late husband’s soul to rejoice knowing his money is being spent in something worth fighting for rather than spending it trying to demoralize, destabilize and throw out the government and PRESIDENCY LEGALLY ELECTED by the PEOPLE!!!”
It is evident that the Duterte supporter never bothered to Google search “Loida Nicolas Lewis” and relied entirely on Duterte’s false description of her as simply “mayaman na babae who married a black and is now a millionaire.”
The truth about Loida Nicolas Lewis
If any of them had bothered to do basic research, they would have learned that Loida was already a lawyer when she met Reginald F. Lewis (not “Richard”) on a blind date in New York City in 1968 when he graduated from Harvard Law School, and that they were married a year later in Manila.
They lived in a condo in Manhattan while raising their two daughters with Loida employed as a lawyer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) while Reginald was working for a top New York law firm. After 15 years as a corporate lawyer, Reginald formed his own venture capital firm in 1983, TLC Group L.P., which he then used to purchase Beatrice International Foods in 1987, which became the first black-owned company to have more than $1 billion in annual sales.
In 1993, Reginald Lewis died of cerebral hemorrhage from brain cancer. A year later, Loida was picked by the Board of Directors to be the CEO and chair of the board of TLC Beatrice, a post she held until 2000. As CEO, she cut costs and sold non-core and under-perfoming assets, reduced liabilities and strengthened the management team. In October 1995, Loida was named the top US business executive by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Working Woman Magazine.
Also, contrary to the misinformation being spread on social media by Duterte supporters, Loida has invested heavily in the Philippines including founding and operating The Lewis College in Sorsogon, which offers quality education in accountancy and business as well as in science and technology, providing scholarships to poor students of her home province of Sorsogon.
As chair of US Pinoys for Good Governance, Loida Nicolas Lewis, a dual citizen of the US and the Philippines, has also championed the cause of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea leading global protests against the Chinese invasion in Philippine territorial waters. She has called for a global boycott of goods made in China making her “China’s Public Enemy #1.”
The malicious attacks on Loida Nicolas Lewis by Duterte on November 4 were not aimed at just silencing Loida but were directed at discouraging Filipino Americans from joining protest demonstrations against his administration.
The message for Filipinos in the Philippines
For the Filipinos in the Philippines, the message was delivered the following day on Nov. 5 when more than a dozen fully-armed members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Eastern Visayas (CIDG-8) arrived at the provincial jail cell of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa at around 4 a.m. “to serve a search warrant” on him. They removed all the jail guards and proceeded to shoot and kill Espinosa and his cellmate.
Columnist Solita Monsod described the police officers’ cover story as “so flimsy it was evident that the police were confident that they would get away with it.”
Sure enough, a week later, Duterte announced that he believed the version of events presented by the police whatever it is, as incredible as it may be. Duterte reiterated his promise to protect cops from being charged if the cases filed against them came while they were doing their duty
As Rigoberto Tiglao commented in his Manila Times column on November 13, 2016: “Duterte’s stance means we no longer have a rule of law in this country but the rule of a President and his police who can execute anybody they want, and claim that their target had fought it out and the police didn’t have any choice but to defend themselves.”
“The CIDG-8 demonstrated how the police can undertake such execution with total impunity and brazenness that we should all be outraged, not only at such trampling of our rule of law, but at such ruthless, merciless murder carried out by supposed agents of the law,” Tiglao wrote.
So, it’s good news, bad news. The good news is that Pres. Duterte will not declare martial law. The bad news is that no one would notice it if he did.
(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127).