The Constitutionalists in the Duterte government

PNP Chief Archie Gamboa [Photo source: Rappler]


By Joe America

Let me set the problem up before moving to discussion.

It seems to me there are three different kinds of government officials within the Duterte Government, extended to cover the legislative branches which are of questionable independence. As I put it in a tweet:

  1. Those who keep their soul and do their job respectful of the Constitution
  2. Those who lose their soul and become loyalists outside the Constitution
  3. Those who never had a soul in the first place

My substantially yellow or Constitutionally inclined readership submitted a lot of acerbic comments saying the government is mostly Number 3, and there are few if any Number 1 officials dedicated to the Constitution.

Then I penned another missive regarding Police Chief Archie Gamboa. It said:

  • Reading on PNP Chief Gamboa. Dedicated, decorated, and great depth of service. He got stuck with enforcing quarantine, a job none of us would want or carry out perfectly. He also has to oversee drug ops and cleaning up cop corruption. Seems to be a good guy in a very tough job.

A lot of people took issue with this tweet, as well, citing three cases, in the main:

  1. His blocking of VP Robredo from receiving lists of drug suspects, leading to her eventual removal as deputy director of the drug fighting effort.
  2. His refusal to remove General Sinas from his position after a misguided birthday party, even though it was a clear violation of quarantine laws.
  3. His holding of Senator De Lima without visitors since late April.

As the last material point of “where I am coming from” in my assessment of government officials, I hold to two principles:

  1. Every official is entitled to a personality. Even President Duterte, rough and crude as he may be, is entitled to the personality he has. President Aquino, cerebral and distant as he may be, was entitled to be somebody different than me, or you, or anybody else. We ought not confuse personality with policy decisions.
  2. We are totally outside the knowledge base of the government official. We don’t know what he knows, the pressures, the people, the jobs, the goals, the risks. We know none of that. How can we say our view is more right than his?

With this as background, who are my “constitutionalists” in the Duterte Government. I’d cite four at this time . . . VP Robredo, Secretaries Lorenzana and Locsin, and Chief Gamboa . . . within Executive. And the minority within the Senate. My confidence level is 100% for the VP, 90% for Lorenzana and Locsin, and 75% for Gamboa. For Hontiveros and De Lima, it is 100% and the other minorities are close behind.

There are a lot of “players” who put personal privilege and advantage over the Constitution. The two Cayetanos, Angara, Gordon, Pacquiao, etc, etc. Then move to the House and all its people of fly-by-night allegiance. Lots of players. And there are some who are puzzling. Senator Lacson, for example. He’s hard for me to read.

The best example of the people with no Constitutional soul, in my opinion, are Go, Calida, Panelo, Andanar, Roque. Villar? I don’t know. They have never been able to put the national well-being ahead of their personal aspirations or need to game the truth. These are my personal opinions based on fairly shallow data, but I wouldn’t want to share a foxhole with any of them.

“But Joe. You’re trying to sneak past Gamboa and his three bad decisions.”

Ahhh. Thanks for challenging that point.

I read up on Gamboa’s explanations for each of the three cases: Robredo, Sinas, and De Lima. He is one smart dude. He explained all in terms of policy or need without evading the truth, name-calling, or otherwise playing troll. For example, in denying Robredo the list of drug list personalities, he argued she should define policies, not enforce the law, so she did not need the lists.

Well, we don’t have to like the decision, but we have to respect that he had to enforce the instructions of his boss, and did so without demeaning anyone. Same with Sinas. Same with De Lima.

On Sinas, who is better suited to judge his record, his character, and his value to the Police? Us, with absolutely no knowledge or responsibility for outcomes, or Gamboa? I have to give him the same consideration I gave President Aquino in defending him against all the criticism for Mamasapano, Yolanda, INC, Sabah, or any other unpopular policy decisions.

People who can make unpopular decisions are not necessarily making mistakes.

Well, you may know Gamboa or the others better than me, and can cite evidence that my assessment is wrong. But do take note of some argumentative fallacies, like the appeal of the anecdote, or calling things black and white when they are not.

Individual decisions you don’t like are not good enough to define a person’s character and commitment to the Constitution. You have to show multiple incidents of clearly bad thinking or bad character, and cite how you know it is bad.

If you know of other Constitutionalists in the Administration, I’d welcome knowing of them as well. I think the conclusion that the Administration is stocked 100% with crooks and incompetents is statistically a non-starter with me. We should strive to be less political and more analytical, I think.


26 Responses to “The Constitutionalists in the Duterte government”
  1. Pablo says:

    Thank you for putting things in perspective and giving some rays of hope. In my area, there was a very decent, dedicated, patient, brave and intelligent chief of police. He actually did implement the drugs policy without loss of life and his efforts were appreciated by basically the whole community, even most druggies as not only offences were stopped but also help was given. 2 years of hard work. He even was recommended by Duterte. But when he stopped a high ranking official for corruption, he was removed from his position and the municipality was unable to save the man.
    That indicates that the higher the position, the more pragmatism and duties converge and at some point, there is little tolerance. Like Bush said: “the bug stops here”. There is nothing we can change anyway, Gamboa is in place and we will have to see where this ends. I just wonder….. Working for a self-confessed murderer as a COP is a very strange position to start from and conflict of interest is inevitable… Interesting times..

    • Yes, working for Duterte must certainly stretch the Constitutionalists. And it’s a long way until 2022.

      • kasambahay says:

        I am woefully biased and I say, pnp chief gamboa’s bestest qualification is that he’s from dabaw. and much like ex pnp chief bato, good fit po siya ni duterte: dabaw inc.

        I recall when I was up for interrogation, I was told to put meself in kapolisan’s shoes. susmaryosep! manna from heaven. can I have a gun? a badge? an airconditioned office, mahogany desk, ergo chair, computer and uniform size 10. I can fit into size 8 but 10 would be ideal for I expect a lot of movements, chasing crooks, lawbreakers, etc., so I want a uniform with lots of give. and next thing I knew, I was talking to a psychiatrist!

  2. NHerrera says:

    Good assessment of the Constitutionalists in the Government and in PNP Chief Archie Gamboa in particular.

    Frequency of good judgement/ actions combined with few errors in judgement/ actions but based on some understandable reasoning – sapagkat tayo are tao lamang – should be the norm. Not the calculating moves with malice and the frequency with which they are done.

    • kasambahay says:

      tao lamang? por dyos, por santo, nherrera, I cannot look at chief gamboa without staring at his eye gauging chest decorations! nasilawan ako ng todo and would need sunglasses with highest UV protection.

      and I supposed the chief’s decisions would be heaps better than mine considering the yrs he has spent at polis academy. highly schooled and better informed siya, may access to top secret intel, may power to influence govt, even create his own ninja cops if he so desire. he is now at esteemed position and much sought na bilang ninong at high class baptisms, sponsor at well publicized weddings, occupying seat of honor at banquets of celebs, etc.

      then he’d be accorded free overseas travel all the while he’s in office. to enhance personal development , attending courses and discussions about crime prevention and better policing. he’d rubbing shoulders with fellow chiefs around the world, exchanging and gathering ideas, sharing info. getting and familiarizing himself with latest policing trends.

      chief gamboa cannot just be tao lamang, he has got to be more, a lot more. already he’s clemented and was clement to general debold sinas. okay kuno for sinas to break iso and social distancing dahil birthday boy. uhm, I have to stop now, baka madampot na naman ako.

  3. J says:

    Thank you Joe for having the open mind to assess people based on their behavior in the world as it is rather that as it ought to be.

  4. Joe, something I will forever be grateful to you is in introducing this viewpoint on judging leaders. I have learned to not judge leaders based on how different one decision they have made against my judgment. This makes me keep my initial misgivings but at least create an internal counter or weighting wherein the intent of where a leader is coming from is fully taken into consideration. I think this is why we still think positively of Locsin, dirty mouth, and all.

  5. Oswald Magno says:

    Law enforcement, crime prevention and, last but not least, police conduct are matters that are of great concern to organized communities, whether they be towns, cities or provinces. These matters combine to make policing a genuine local concern. While mayors operationally have control over PNP personnel assigned to their towns and cities, they do not have control over their professional conduct/misconduct. This is a major flaw that I believe needs to be corrected. Recently, four police officers in the City of Minneapolis who were involved in the violent arrest and subsequent death of a black man, George Floyd, were fired by the city’s police chief at the behest of the city mayor, Jacob Frey, who appointed the former. This is as it should be. The police should be accountable to the communities they serve. This dynamic is missing with the institutionalization of the PNP as a national police force. Local communities are powerless to deal with errant policemen assigned to their localities. This sense of powerlessness does nothing to inspire confidence in government. To some extent, the PNP has become immune to public outcries against extra-judicial killings. Some people even believe that the PNP has become an instrument of state-sponsored terrorism against citizens. It is no stretch to imagine that under the sponsorship or protection of a lawless president, whoever that happens to be now or in the future, the PNP can commit abuses with total impunity. My personal preference would be to dismantle the PNP and to organize and manage policing at the town, city and provincial levels in order to make police personnel more accountable to the communities they serve. In certain parts of the US, the office of the Sheriff is an elective position. This makes a lot of sense. Policing is really a matter of local concern, and the operation, management and control should be guided by the collective needs and interests of the people in the communities they serve.

    • Thanks for the assessment of a police drifting toward autocratic brutality. It makes me think that this tendency to be abusive or corrupt has been there since 1800 as the police go back and forth between local and national authority. I agree, local would be better.

      • Before Martial Law, police were under the mayor and Philippine Constabuoary was national.

        Police under warlord mayors still common in Luzon and Visayas of the 60s were a danger as they were often part of private armies. So the Integrated National Police was founded.

        The PC-INP of course became the private army of national warlord Marcos. Cory later made that into PNP, demilitarized ranks. Don’t know when the separate police academy came.

        Duterte remilitarized ranks. He also has his clique of PNP officers like Bato, the mayor killer Jovie Espenido, Oplan Sauron implementer Fatboy Sinas, and ominous Colonel Patay.

        Maybe giving police back to local will make mayors warlords again, maybe not. BTW in the old days Spain even sent criminals from Mexico to enforce laws in the Philippines, I read.

        • NHerrera says:

          Thanks for the nuanced recall of the Philippine Police.

        • Oh, my. Criminals from Spain as enforcers. Maybe ours will be from China.

          • NHerrera says:

            Time to practice your American Karate or the Filipino Arnis or stick martial art. But those may not do you good. They fight dirty – if I go by the movies. 🙂

            • sonny says:

              What coincidence NH, network showed 2 iconic Bruce Lee movies: WAY OF THE DRAGON and FIST OF FURY. 🙂 BLee still an electrifying presence in karate sequences, just like then. Took Manila by storm, summer ’72. Ate it all up then and now.

          • kasambahay says:

            ‘Maybe ours will be from China,’ joeam’s jugular observation. I did not wait long for the opening, been dying ako talaga anticipating to butt in, just needed only a wee bit of invitation.

            you got that right, joeam, from china. my wandering mind has picked up drunken smoke signals from across the sea, drifting along determined hongkong protesters and their heavily armed brutal kapolisan. not long after china put hongkong in headlock with the new security law, duterte followed suit and likewise declared as urgent the dreaded anti-terror bill, prioritized the bill too to be passed as law soonest.

            kaya paspasan ngayon silang mga reps, and chief gamboa has new enigmatic shine to his smile. a chance to terrorize more citizens, mayhap? detain citizens for 14days without charge, terrorism given much wider meaning to include critics of govt? pandemic people out and about and asking for alms whose weapons are not guns but hunger?

            china’s imposing of security law sa hongkong and duterte’s soon to be imposed anti-terror law send more than goosebumps on both people across the sea, hongkongers and us alike.

            ah the chinese connection been busy, alive and bristling. monkey see and monkey do as advised. tried to.

    • chemrock says:

      “While mayors operationally have control over PNP personnel assigned to their towns and cities, they do not have control over their professional conduct/misconduct.

      Is this the case in Philippines?

      I should think not. I thought it ought to the be reverse. The mayor has administrative and authoritative control over the police, but should have no operational control. The police should have independence in how they conduct their mission — how they organise and perform their duties.

      Case in point — the Manila bus hostage at Rizal park. Mayor Lim should not interfere with the police. He should be on the field to lend support, do some PR. The police are the professionals who will do what they need to do. The mayor is only required if the police need to activate other steps that require his signature. In this case, a crisis management committee was supposed to be activated which Lim did not do. I have no idea how its done in PH> I would have thought it is the position of the police to take, if they need it, they ask for it, and the mayor should so order it.

      On the other hand, It should be the mayor’s job to make the police accountable.

      That’s the I way I always see it done in movies.

  6. arlene says:

    Ah, I only have this to say, they are the worse of the worst.

  7. NHerrera says:

    Tear-gassing peaceful protesters to clear the way for Trump to walk to a nearby church for a photo-op outside the church holding the Bible [he did not go inside the church or host a comforting dialogue] isn’t nice, constitutionally speaking or not. That moment, among many others, will be recorded prominently in history methinks.

  8. NHerrera says:

    I am posting this, if permitted, because it speaks of the Constitution which served in a way as a model for the Philippine Constitution.

    Here is the text of the statement of James Mattis, US Marine General and former Secretary of Defense.


    I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.

    When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

    We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.

    James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.

    Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.

    Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.

    We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

    Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.

    • NH,

      I’ve been closely studying this call to Defund Police lately. And i think it’s doable. LA Mayor Garcetti already supposedly defunded LAPD because of the social unrest, to the tune of 150 million, where that money will then go i dunno, but LA like any big city here is also pretty corrupt, not like 3rd world corrupt where its in your face and obvious but money gets shepherded towards certain coffers the public’s not privy to.

      Defund Police means stopping police contacts that are unnecessary, so just have police answer life threatening emergency calls thru 911, nothing more. Basically, they’ll be like the fire department.

      Just off the top of my head,

      1. stop cops from issuing traffic tickets, this mostly is for local gov’t revenue, not traffic safety.

      2. stop cops from arresting base on warrants, either the courts keep said individuals or not, if they let ’em go, have them get ’em, not police.

      3. stop cops from having to respond to domestic issues, especially things like incorrigible youth or mental illness calls, where the family just wants to use the cops to “scare” their loved ones into submission, because those calls usually end up the opposite of what family members intended.

      there’s more, but those 3 is a good start.

      Just have cops handle react to real emergencies, all other unnecessary calls, just have dispatch not entertain them at all.

      • As for Mattis’ letter, he shouldn’t have to write that letter but he’s right to do so,

        the tradition of the military not being used domestically especially for riots/crowd control is a very touchy subject, and great care should be used when the military is deployed domestically, like having to answer to police as their chain of command, not the politicians.

        in the 1992 riots, a bunch of active duty Marines (this is history ) were deployed and attached to LAPD units, there was shooting from one of the windows in an apartment complex, so the LAPD advanced towards it, and instructed the Marines to cover;

        As the LAPD moved forward, all they heard was gun fire and the whole floor of said apartment was riddled with bullets, and LAPD cops were like we just said cover us. the Marines were like that’s what we did, covered you.

        LAPD ‘s cover is just train your muzzles and shoot if necessary as they advanced.

        Marines’ cover was to lay suppressive fire, so that LAPD could advance safely.

        Therein lies the problem, in one story. scalpel and sword.

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