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Deception and dishonesty of Aquino’s ‘Peace Council’

It is so sad that it has come to this. In his desperation to steamroller his “BBL,”* President Benigno S. Aquino has corralled distinguished members of our society to falsely portray broad citizen support for it.

Aquino on March 27 called for the establishment of a “Citizens’ Peace Council,” which he said “will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL. They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness.”

Council or coterie: Extreme left, Jaime Zobel, inset above him is economist Habito, who represented him, even in the presentation to Congress; “Maranao Princess” Usman; Cory’s “balae” Dee, and former chief justice Davide. Inset at right is Fr. Joel Tabora, who represented Cardinal Tagle, who was never photographed with the Council.
Council or coterie: Extreme left, Jaime Zobel, inset above him is economist Habito, who represented him, even in the presentation to Congress; “Maranao Princess” Usman; Cory’s “balae” Dee, and former chief justice Davide. Inset at right is Fr. Joel Tabora, who represented Cardinal Tagle, who was never photographed with the Council.

The “distinguished representatives” of the citizenry he appointed were:

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. His son, Cebu Governor Hilario (“Junjun”) Davide III, a pillar of the Liberal Party in central Visayas, requires all the political and financial help from President Aquino for his re-election in 2016 since he will be competing against strong contenders, not only from Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp but from Cebu’s political clans.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, considered to be one of President Aquino’s closest supporters in the oligarchy. His joint venture with the Indonesian First Pacific Group controversially got the government to change its original plans made many years ago for a common station for the LRT-1, MRT-3 and MRT-7 railway lines. It was supposed to be located — logically — at the SM North Mall. Instead, this administration ordered that it be located at the Ayala Land-owned Trinoma Mall, whose consumer traffic would consequently exponentially grow with the convenience of having the station there. Henry Sy’s group has sued.

Howard Dee, ambassador to the Vatican during the regime of the late President Corazon Aquino and who was her first and favorite “balae.” Her daughter Viel is married to Dee’s son Richard. Dee and his family have been among the biggest registered contributors to Aquino and his allies.

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who worked for six years in the Vatican’s International Theological Commission. The commission was headed at the time by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who made Tagle Cardinal when he became Pope Benedict XVII.

I am sorry I cannot use the term “distinguished” for the fifth member of the CPC, Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, as she is a nobody compared with the other CPC members, although she might be popular among the NGO give-peace-a-chance crowd. She’s good-looking, though, and there is a youtube clip of her walking like a professional model wearing her line of fashion accessories for Muslim women called “Rohaniza’s Hijab and Muslimah Collection.”

Maranao Princess

Her website describes her as “a Maranao born into royalty as a Maranao Muslim Princess.” The biggest accomplishment of Usman (“Honey,” as her website says she is called) is the “Teach Peace, Build Peace” NGO, which she founded, although its website doesn’t even say how many members the group has. I’ll be confirming, though, some interesting facts about her claim in her bio-data that she was a “Princeton Global Network Awardee for the World’s Most Accomplished Individuals for 2009-2010.”

The gall of this President to claim that these people represent us, citizens! By no stretch of the English language can we call this a “council;” it is Aquino’s coterie.

Somebody should explain to Aquino that we no longer live in a medieval era and are no longer awed by princes of the Church and the oligarchy.

Not by an in-law of the “saint of democracy,” not by the patriarch of the newest political dynasty in Cebu, not even by a comely Maranao princess.

I certainly doubt these people’s “wisdom” with regard to the Muslim issue.

Have these people ever in their entire lives read a serious study, or a book on the history and complexities of the situation of Muslims in Mindanao, the political-economic-cultural labyrinth of the “Moro Problem,” the cases of secession of minorities in modern era, the rise of international jihadism?

Have these people ever been to the epicenters of the Moro uprisings, witnessed an MILF guerrilla launch a rocket-propelled grenade? I’m not even sure, since she claims she grew up in Saudi Arabia, whether Bai Usman, an Assumptionista, has ever mingled with poor Muslims in Mindanao.

Does having a high rank in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, being the scion of a century-old oligarchic clan, or being the father of a son who married Corazon Aquino’s daughter endow one with wisdom in endorsing a bill that could forever change the nation’s future?

After reading this coterie’s report, which these five people signed, I now doubt very much even their integrity. Why should they affix their signatures on a report I suspect they haven’t even read, and very definitely had little or no inputs in drafting?

The coterie first convened April 10. According to the report itself, 132 joined the discussions in one or more of the clusters “from 8-17 April before convening for the National Peace Summit on 18 April 2015.” The report was dated April 27, when they presented their findings to a committee on the BBL in Congress. (Note that the report claims discussions started April 8, even as the very first meeting of the CPC, which the media covered, was two days after.)

The coterie’s work involved discussing the BBL with 132 other participants. It would have required reading the references the report cited: 28 position papers, 24 Supreme Court decisions, four books on international and local laws, and four laws. The group had to deliberate the issues among themselves, wait for somebody’s draft of the 167-page report, discuss how to incorporate the points made by each member of the committee, and finally, read line by line the report and sign it. And all these took just 13 working days?

Okay, let’s assume that Cardinal Tagle didn’t honor the Sabbath and worked even on Saturdays and Sundays and Ayala went on a three-week leave from his conglomerate that earns him about P1 million peso a day, that means the coterie produced the report — which bears only their signatures and nobody else’s — in 19 days, including the time for its printing.

Aquino’s disease

Aquino must have contaminated the people behind this farce with this illness that makes him think Filipinos are stupid.

These five “distinguished” members of this coterie are lying through their teeth in claiming responsibility for the report, accomplishing it in record 13 working days.

Somebody or some office must have written it — most probably the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process — and asked them to sign it. I wish they could be honest and answer these questions: Who wrote the report? Have they even read it?

How can I not lose respect for this cardinal, this tycoon, this presidential in-law, and this former chief justice, even this Prince of the Church, when they stamp their imprimatur on a report that they did not really write, and support a bill that could lead to more violence and even civil war?

I suspect that when Davide read parts of the report before the Congress committee, it was the first time he saw the text of the document.

Tagle and Ayala didn’t bother to attend the only official presentation of the coterie’s report, which was to the Congress committee. There is no photograph, in fact, of Tagle with the “Council.” Was he really a member?

Cardinal Tagle was, instead, represented, apparently in all of the CPC activities, by Jesuit priest Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao. I suspect it was Tabora, whom a source claims is the father-confessor and ideologue of Ateneo de Davao alumna Teresita Deles, who attended every single activity of the CPC, even reading it, for Tagle.

But Tabora has long been a big supporter of the BBL and all the various agreements of this government with the MILF. In one of his articles in his blog (taborasj.wordpress.com) he claims the Mamasapano massacre shouldn’t derail the enactment of the BBL as the raid was undertaken for “thirty pieces of silver.”

Tabora even had his university publish an anthology of articles involving BBL, all of which sang hosannas to it. He wrote the introduction to the anthology, which in effect claimed that Pope Francis supports the BBL.

More than that, Tabora is a big Aquino fan and even uses the Bible to exhort his readers to follow this President blindly.

Obey your leaders

In his article on Aquino’s second address on the Mamasapano incident, Tabora thrice quoted Hebrew 13:17: “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their tasks with joy and not with sorrow.”

I suspect Tabora had a big part in writing the report: Its main argument why it supports the BBL is a tautology, a favorite trick of Jesuit scholastic thinking.

What a deception involving a prince of the Church. Aquino tells us and the world Cardinal Tagle is a member of a “Citizens’ Peace Council.” But it is a big Jesuit advocate of the pacts with the MILF and his fan who was really in that Council.

In Ayala’s case, it was economist and former economic planning secretary (under Ramos) Cielito Habito who represented him. I suspect — since it has been mostly his occupation to write long socio-economic reports for this or that agency — Habito wrote much of the coterie’s report. Habito had been pathetically trying to popularize in his newspaper column his contrived term “Aquinonomics,” which most economists thought ridiculous. For transparency’s sake, I hope Habito discloses his professional fee for representing Ayala.

“The peace council is not a real citizen’s summit as the poorest of the poor has no representation and voice in the council,” said Christian Monsod, who was listed among the participants in the purported discussions for the coterie’s report.

Monsod was grossly understating things. Not even the rich and middle-class citizens were really represented.

Although it did include a few independent personalities, many of the so-called 132 citizens were Aquino supporters and relatives that were the warm bodies for the “Koalisyon ng Mamamayan Para sa Reporma,” which convened last year to supposedly advocate reforms independent of Aquino.

Of course, we never heard about this group again, as it was quickly exposed as an Aquino farce. (See my column “‘Kompre’ convenor David, a highly paid Aquino official,” August 26, 2014)

These citizens were supposed to meet, according to Aquino, in a National Peace Summit. For such a very important assembly, there wasn’t a single report in the media on it. The only time we ever heard again of this coterie, this Peace Council, was when they lectured the Congress on its supposed consensus.

I know our congressmen wouldn’t get fooled that citizens, especially the distinguished ones among them, were supporting the BBL and telling them what to do. They were just masks, and behind them were Aquino and Deles, laughing their hearts out.

On Monday: The inanities of the CPC report

* * * *

Bangsamoro Basic Law. I refuse to use that term “Bangsamoro,” which I will refer to hereon as “BM” in my future columns. As I have explained in several columns, BM is a fiction, a term invented by the Moro National Liberation Front in the 1960s, which even most of the Muslims and non-Muslims in Mindanao do not accept, and much less, embrace.

To continue to use it is to allow the MILF worldview — that there was once upon a time a Moro nation that was conquered and oppressed by a Christian Luzon — to dominate our discourse. This Administration’s embrace of the term in the bill that it is pushing represents its capitulation to the MILF worldview. I shudder at the very thought that what is now called the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao would be called “BM.”

BM has been the MNLF’s and MILF’s term for what they still believe is their citizenry, in opposition to Filipino. Those who would be living in that new BM political entity as envisioned by the bill would be called BMs, not Filipinos