Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 35               October 5 - 11, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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The Vice Presidentiables

The next Philippine elections are seven months away yet surveys of presidentiables, declarations of candidacy (or non-candidacy) and slimy exchanges of accusations already bombard the public. Whether we like it or not, the election fever is intensifying and it is best to be prepared rather than be manipulated by unscrupulous media spins and political maneuvers. Thus, Election Watch will feature articles related to the political circus called elections. This week, we are posting brief sketches of the survey topnotchers.

Barbers: From Cop to Vice President?

Alfredo Lim, a police general and mayor of Manila, ran for presidency in 1998 with the support from no less than former President Corazon Aquino. He lost. Now another police official, Sen. Robert Barbers, is aiming for the country’s top position, this time as a vice-presidential nominee. Barbers came into national prominence when he missed the crucial moments of Estrada’s impeachment trial due to his confinement in an U.S. hospital.

By Alexander Martin Remollino

Sen. Robert Barbers is one of those being considered by the ruling Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats party for nomination as vice-presidential candidate in the 2004 election.

The possibility of Barbers being elected to the second highest post in the land does not sit well with cause-oriented groups, however. Among these groups, the senator is known as one of the main proponents of an Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Senate. The bill uses as basis for its introduction the terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001.

The bill echoes the U.S. classification of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF) as “terrorist” groups. Cause-oriented groups and nationalists believe that the classification of the CPP, NPA and NDF, which are recognized in the international community as legitimate revolutionary organizations, are intended to justify U.S. military intervention in the Philippines.

The bill is also not too clear on its general definition of terrorism. Human rights groups have assailed it for virtually classifying even legitimate and legal protest actions as “terrorist” acts.

Barbers recently offered to resign from his Senate seat to lead the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. He even proposed the creation of an anti-drug superbody.

He also considers a highlight of his career as law enforcer the arrest of suspected drug lord Jose “Don Pepe” Oyson.


However, his record as police officer has also been questioned.

Human rights groups have frequently criticized him for not observing due process of law. He has often been hit for resorting to acts that violate human rights to make up for failure in intelligence-gathering and police work.

Also, his willingness to really go after the brains of the illegal drug trade is doubted by some of his critics. He has been questioned on the case of Lawrence Wang, a drug lord who escaped police custody during his term as interior and local government secretary.

Born in Surigao del Norte, a province in Mindanao (south of Manila), Barbers is a nephew of former police general and Manila vice-mayor James Barbers. His uncle, plus readings of crime and mystery novels, are said to have inspired him to pursue a career in the police. He was a policeman for 27 years.

He also took up law at the University of the Philippines, and is also a graduate of the National Defense College of the Philippines.


He takes pride in citations he received from the U.S., such as medals and citations from the U.S. State Department and the Golden Service Award for Outstanding Law Enforcer in Asia from the City of New York.

In 1992, he was elected representative of the 2nd District of Surigao del Norte; he was reelected in 1995. As representative, he chaired the House committee on Effective Law Enforcement and served as vice chairman of the Committee on Public Order and Security.

His second term was cut short however when then President Fidel Ramos appointed him to head the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). As DILG secretary, Barbers concentrated on campaigning against illegal drugs and came up with programs involving the civilian populace in the fight against criminality.

Barbers ran for senator in the 1998 elections and placed fifth. He considers criminality, injustice, and illegal drugs the main enemies of the Filipino people. Bulatlat.com

Related Articles:
The Presidentiables

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