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An impotent yet arrogant President


The front page of The Borneo Post: Note the description, "Sulu terrorists."


The Manila Times, March 11 2013

THE horrific reports have started to trickle in: Muslim Filipinos being rounded up in Sabah, locked up with some without food, “treated like animals” according to eyewitness accounts, sadistically ordered to run and then shot like wild game.

Photos in Kuala Lumpur newspapers depict Muslim Filipinos—clearly unarmed— pinned down brutally by uniformed armed men. Malaysia has brought its entire military force to bear down on the Sulu sultan’s men.

The Philippine ambassador to Malaysia and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jose Brilliantes— three weeks late in action though— were ignored in Sabah, their pleas to visit Filipinos detained there and for Malaysian authorities to allow our humanitarian ship dock at the port were not even given the courtesy of a reply.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario stages a dramatic trip to Malaysia to ask its government to exercise “maximum tolerance” toward the Filipino Muslims who had holed out in Lahad Datu. Even while he waited for his plane, the Malaysians were deploying instead maximum force against the Filipinos there.

His trip turned out only justify the Malaysian onslaught against the Sulu sultan’s men, as his counterpart reported that he agreed that the Filipino Muslims were terrorists. Del Rosario didn’t say the Malaysian foreign minister lied, only that he was quoted: “Outof-context”—the worn-out excuse for officials trying to wiggle away from something they regretted saying.

We have a President impotent in handling the Sabah crisis. Worse, he and his spokesmen have even been issuing statements denigrating Muslim Filipinos who had dug in in Sabah in what they believe is their homeland.

And what is his most recent initiative? He’s gone on a witch-hunt to lay the blame on conspirators, and as his spokesman puts it, the “ring-leaders.”

Where is Mr. Aquino anyway? He seems to be obsessed in his electoral campaign for the upcoming May elections, nearly oblivious to what’s happening in Sabah except for his occasional pot shots at the Sulu sultan’s men, saying theirs is a “hopeless cause,” that they should surrender without conditions to the Malaysians.

“Seems” as Malacañang has stopped informing the public since last year about Aquino’s daily schedule. He might as well be spending his whole day with his Playstation with his nephew Josh, and we wouldn’t know about it

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on March 6 issued a statement that urges an “end to violence and encourages dialogue among all parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.” Ban even was specific, that he urges “all parties to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights, norms and standards” an obvious reference to the reports of police brutality against Filipinos in Sabah.

Does Aquino follow up Mr. Ban’s call? He could have issued a statement: “I am appealing to the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for us to sit down and meet , as the UN secretary general indicated, for a peaceful resolution of the Sabah crisis.” Does he issue a call to Malaysia to allow our navy ship to dock near Sabah deliver humanitarian assistance, as Ban asked for?

Nothing. Aquino nor his spokesman didn’t even bother to comment on the UN secretary general’s appeals.

Former president Fidel Ramos, who has very rarely commented on his two successors’ performance, suggests that he meet oneon-one with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd to avoid more bloodshed. Aquino doesn’t even reply, with his spokesman dismissing it with the curt, “That is not in the discussion.” A national crisis is upon us and he doesn’t convene the Cabinet or the multi-partisan National Security Council, not even the leaders of Congress to consult them for a plan of action.

Perhaps in his mind: “Who is Kiram for me to have to talk to? Who are they to advise a president with high popularity ratings?”

“Noynoy’s behavior isn’t surprising,” one of his former colleagues in Congress claims. “When he’s convinced that somebody or something is black— which the sultan and his cause in his mind are now—he’s too arrogant to change his mind even in the face of facts.” “And then you’ll see him clam up more and more.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda’s regular bouts of verbal diarrhea are even making things worse.

“They just want more money,” Lacierda alleged in his March 8 briefing for the Malacañang Press Corps. that Lacierda is practically saying that the Sulu sultan’s men are not just terrorists— as the Malaysian foreign minister called them. Lacierda is labeling them as extortionists.

Check out for yourself Lacierda’s statements, which is posted at http://www.youtube.com/

user/ edp20111. Translated from Pilipino, Lacierda said: “It was they [the sultan’s people] who said that they just wanted the rent [the amount paid to the sultanate for leasing Sabah] to be increased.” “They were saying that the 5, 300 Malaysian ringgit being paid to them was not even enough to rent an apartment. “

With the spokesman for the Philippine President calling the Filipino Muslims extortionists, what more reason would Malaysia need to massacre the sultan’s men and round up Filipinos in Sabah?

What was Lacierda’s source said for this allegation? The 41year- old Mujib Hataman, who had been based in Basilan yet whom Aquino appointed officerin- charge of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao after its scheduled August 2011 elections were moved to May this year. (Aquino and Hataman got to be close when both were in Congress starting 2011, the latter as a party-list representative.)

Hardly influential outside of his home province of Basilan, Hataman bungled his talks with the Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd’s family, with the sultan’s daughter Jacel claiming that he threatened them with criminal charges at the start of the crisis if their people in Sabah do not return soon.

Hataman has been Aquino’s point-man for the crisis, who has been telling Mr. Aquino that Kiram didn’t have much following and that he’ll “handle them.”

Invoking unidentified radio news reports, Lacierda went on in his briefing to allege that the crisis was due to “ringleaders who deceived their followers.” The fighters in Sabah, he alleged, were even “paid $600 and were promised positions in the sultanate.” Lacierda was closely hewing to the media blitz that Malaysia has launched to discredit the sultan and his followers. Its propaganda war recently had been aimed at alleging that Kiram was not the legitimate heir to the sultanate. That was a claim Lacierda made two weeks ago.

Lacierda indeed has become the Malaysian prime minister’s spokesman, as you will find out—and be shocked—watching the youtube posting of his press briefing. Lacierda was asked by a reporter: Will we ask Malaysia to reconsider their decision to reject Kiram’s offer for a ceasefire?

Lacierda didn’t even say, “We do hope Malaysia reconsiders their decision and not to kill our Muslim brothers.” Without any hesitation at all, and as if he were speaking for Malaysia, he said: “That decision has already been made by the Malaysian government. Prime Minister Najiv has already spoken on that matter.”