By Manny Villar
As I write this piece, the country is gripped in a series of events that threaten our peace and security. Our armed forces have engaged the Maute Group — a local terrorist group that pledged loyalty to ISIS, an international terrorist organization—in deadly gun battles in the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur.
This happened when the commander-in-chief, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was on an important state visit to Moscow, Russia. I was fortunate to have been a part of the delegation. Given the seriousness of the security threat brought about by the conflict, President Duterte declared martial law in the whole Mindanao and rightly decided to cut short the trip and return to the Philippines.
Let me state here that I believe that the President always has the interest of the country in his mind and his heart. I am sure that this is the most important factor in his decision to declare martial law. This is a decision that should be supported simply because it involves our peace and security which is being threatened by this terror group.
I know some sectors are worried about the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. I fully understand where they are coming from. But those fears are unfounded for two reasons.
First, I do not believe that the President’s action is motivated by some sinister desire to abuse power. His actions since taking office have always been to protect the peace-loving citizens he serves with passion. And he is sincere in his desire to eradicate the crippling cycle of violence in Mindanao. And the nation should support his endeavor.
Second, the 1987 Constitution has numerous provisions that were precisely designed to counter any attempt to abuse the military powers of the president. The Constitution remains in operation, especially the Bill of Rights, Congress and the courts continue to function. These will prevent any abuses on the part of those assigned to implement martial law.
What we need to do is to be very vigilant and to unite behind the President and the men and women of our armed forces as they battle the destructive terror group whose only mission is to wreak havoc and destroy our country. We should be glad that we have a commander-in-chief who is prepared to defend the country.
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In my previous column, I discussed the so-called decline of American dominance amidst its weakening stature in global politics and economics. US power is still there but the emergence of China, Russia, and other global power players has signified the end of a unipolar world order.
This shift in the global balance of power was in full display during the Belt and Road Forum held in China. Prior to his trip to Russia, President Duterte attended this important forum in Beijing where he joined Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Belt and Road Initiative spearheaded by Chinese President Xi Jinping envisioned to connect Asian and European markets by pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure projects such as railways, ports, and power grids.
This is why it is important for the Philippines to have actively participated in this forum, especially given the economic agenda of President Duterte anchored on a massive and aggressive infrastructure strategy that is designed to achieve the country’s “Golden Age in Infrastructure.”
The historic initiative takes its inspiration from the ancient Silk Road trading route, and “aims to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa.” It consists of the so-called “Silk Road Economic Belt and the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road.”
During the forum, President Xi announced an additional $14.5 billion to the Silk Road Fund, which provides support for Belt and Road projects, and $8.7 billion in assistance to developing countries.
This is truly a global initiative as it involves 68 countries and the equivalent of up to 40 percent of global GDP. As the United States under Trump shifts its focus to “America First,” China is attempting to assume the role of global leader.
It is too early to tell whether this initiative will succeed, along with China’s other project — the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is a multilateral development bank set up to address the infrastructure needs in Asia. But it is safe to say that as America retreats to a protectionist, inward looking position, China has become the champion of global trade that has resulted in its expanded role as the world’s leader not only on economic issues but on political as well.
It is also for this reason that President Duterte’s pivot to closer ties with China and Russia should be appreciated. His understood and saw this impending shift and realized that it is for the benefit of the Philippines not to be tied down by the so-called “special relationship” with the US but rather an expanded foreign policy involving our other regional partners.
The visit has also further strengthened the alliance between the Philippines and China. Despite the controversial dispute over territories in the South China Sea, the Asian partners have forged four new agreements on strengthening cooperation on economy and trade, human resources, energy, and communications.
The President said it perfectly in his remarks during the visit “We must certainly continue to strengthen our bilateral relations. I am pleased to be back in China to renew our nation’s ties of friendship.”
(For /feedback email to: MBV.secretariat@gmail or visit www.mannyvillar.com.ph.)
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