What a pathetic country we’ve become.
French President Francois Hollande publicly warned Indonesia last week that the execution of a Frenchman for drug offences would “damage ties” between the two nations. His foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has summoned the Indonesian ambassador in Paris to stress his country’s protest against the execution.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, meanwhile, declared he was “revolted” by the scheduled execution of two convicted drug traffickers. I myself saw on world news how his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, eloquently argued in so many ways – even “that it would be a show of strength for Indonesian President Widodo” – for the life of the Australian nationals.
In our case, no one has heard anything from President Aquino himself and from his representative to the world, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario. The two seem to be bold only in cursing China (since the US is behind them in that case?).
For goodness sake, it was Manny Pacquiao interrupting his training for the fight of the century to make an internationally televised news broadcast stating his appeal to Indonesia for the life of his fellow Filipino. Is Pacquiao our head of state or representative to the world now?
Yes, we have heard Aquino’s spokespersons saying he wrote this letter or that message to Indonesian authorities. We were told that he would make a final appeal to Widodo during the Asean summit.
It turned out that wasn’t really a meeting but Aquino intercepting Widodo’s walk along some corridor after an Asean session. Widodo didn’t even stop but carried on walking, with his head bowed as he listened to Aquino talk, looking like some aide.
Since Aquino, through his spokespersons, couldn’t elaborate on the so-called meeting, the only sentence Widodo uttered was most probably “I’ll talk to our attorney general and get back to you.”
But Widodo didn’t appear to have the courtesy, or the respect for Aquino as to express a personal statement that would go something like: “I’m deeply sorry but our laws do not permit us to stop the execution of your national.” Aquino learned the appeal was rejected only after our embassy in Indonesia told him so.
On Malacanang’s website, posted are a “Statement of President Aquino on the Nepal Earthquake,” and a “Speech of President Aquino at the 20th Anniversary and Investors Recognition Night of PEZA.” No statement from Mary Jane Veloso’s President appealing to Indonesia not to execute her by firing squad.
Look at the sum of Aquino’s and del Rosario’s actions and statements: They don’t really seem concerned about Veloso. Why are the appeals, the outrage coming almost solely from NGOs and other personalities such as Pacquiao and Vice President Jejomar Binay?
And where the hell is our foreign affairs secretary at a time the nation is outraged that an OFW is to be executed like a murderer by a supposedly friendly neighbor country?
There was a report that del Rosario visited Mary Jane himself in prison on March 24. It was a strange report, however, made only by Indonesia’s state news agency. Del Rosario didn’t even tell the Philippine press what they talked about, and very strangely, it wasn’t even reported on the DFA’s website.
A really concerned official would have told the world: “I visited Mary Jane today, and I am convinced that this mother of two does not deserve to be executed. I pity her and appeal to Indonesia to spare her life.” No such statement from del Rosario.
The visit was even kept hush-hush. Was del Rosario afraid he might be scolded by Indonesian authorities if he reported to our people what he talked about with Mary Jane in prison?
I haven’t heard nor read any DFA official, not even our ambassador in Jakarta, appealing to the Indonesia government for mercy for Mary Jane – in sharp contrast to the appeals for the lives of their nationals from the French President, the Australian Prime Minister, and their foreign ministers. Didn’t del Rosario even remind Indonesia that 44 of our commandos were killed in a mission to take out the terrorist who trained those responsible for the Bali bombings?
What kind of a country have we become?
A Filipino OFW, the mother of two is to be executed by a neighboring, friendly country and the only official in the DFA talking about Veloso is their inarticulate spokesman, an assistant secretary in rank who hasn’t, after many months on his job, gotten over his stage fright. And what has he been saying?
Defending the DFA, claiming that it had done what it could to legally appeal for Mary Jane’s life. As on Malacanang’s website, there isn’t even a statement posted online by the DFA, neither from its head nor its spokesman, appealing for Mary Jane’s life.
What makes me angry is that of all local officials, del Rosario has served an Indonesian magnate for more than two decades, and helped him control strategic industries in the Philippines.
I am referring to Anthoni Salim, the single biggest stockholder of First Pacific with a 45 percent stake. First Pacific, in turn, controls strategic, public utility firms in this country, among them Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and its subsidiary Smart mobile phone firm, Manila Electric Co., Maynilad Water Services, and Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., the biggest tollway operator in the country.
It was del Rosario who helped First Pacific’s main representative here, in 1981 – one of the many Filipino banking executives in Hong Kong named Manuel Pangilinan (who owns 1 percent of First Pacific, and less than that in PLDT, Meralco, and Metro Pacific) – to establish the Indonesian conglomerate’s networks, which eventually allowed it to capture key industries “theoretically” reserved for Filipino citizens.
It was del Rosario who deployed the PLDT pension fund to be used in capturing Meralco in 2005 and to be spent on setting up ABC 5, as well as buying into the Philippine Star and Philippine Daily Inquirer.
For his services, del Rosario had been a “non-executive director” of First Pacific and regular director of PLDT since 2003, even when he was our ambassador to the US. He stepped down only in 2010 since our regulations ban a Cabinet official from holding a private-sector post.
And who are the other non-executive directors in First Pacific? Indonesian tycoons Sutanto Djuhar, along with his son Tedy and Ibrahim Risjad.
Djuhar, Risjad and Anthoni’s father Soedono Salim were the late Indonesian strongman Suharto’s biggest cronies. With a fourth member, Sudwikatkomo, Suharto’s personal representative, they were dubbed during that era as the “Gang of Four” who established a vast conglomerate in Indonesia because of the monopolies and other rentier-capitalist types of business support Suharto gave them when he was in power. The “Gang” founded First Pacific in Hong Kong in 1981 as one of its vehicles to move wealth outside the country.
I report the roots of First Pacific to point out that although these cronies have fallen out of the sphere of influence after Suharto fell in 1998, they were among the most powerful businessmen in Indonesia for the 33 years that Suharto was in power, and therefore had extensive links to the highest levels of Indonesian politics and business.
Did del Rosario bother to ask his colleagues at First Pacific, especially Salim, whom he helped gain control over strategic industries here for help in saving the life of Mary Jane?
I doubt it very, very much.
What a pathetic country we have become, with such people representing us in the world arena. France and Australia have raged against the execution of their citizens. Our officials have, at best, just whimpered about it.