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.

(more…)

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Lacierda lying on Sabah issue, ignorant, or plain dimwitted

The Manila Times, March 8, 2013

Pardon the harsh words, but more than two  dozen Muslim Filipinos have been killed in Sabah – some, their bodies burned by incendiary bombs. More most probably will be killed in the next few days because of lies, ignorance, or dimwittedness.

President Aquino’s policy stance, which is to let the Malaysians do what they want to do with the Sultan of Sulu’s followers who have dug in in Sabah,  is  due to his view that the Philippine claim on Sabah, at best, to use his words, put it “hopeless cause,” and at worst,  “a weak claim.”

But Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda has demonstrated how grossly misinformed he and President Aquino are on the Philippine claim to Sabah.

Confused spokesman Lacierda

In his March 5 briefing (transcript below) Lacierda was asked by Patricia Chiu, a reporter for GMA News Online,  for his reaction  to Senator Richard Gordon’s statement that Mr. Aquino may be courting impeachment for violating Republic Act 5446 (enacted in 1968)  which affirms Sabah as Philippine territory.  Gordon was referring to the law’s section 2 which reads:

“The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippine Archipelago as provided in this Act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty. (emphasis mine).”

With a mocking smirk on his face, Lacierda replied:  “My goodness Senator Gordon, that has been repealed by Republic Act 9522, the new baselines law.  It repealed section 2,  where the demarcations [sic] of Sabah were removed.”

“So I don’t know where Senator Gordon is getting his legal knowledge but the law he is invoking has already been repealed by the new baselines law.” (more…)

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Almendras: Sabah crisis doesn’t need Cabinet meeting

The Manila Times, March 6, 2013

Here, in the US and elsewhere, the President (or the Prime Minister’s) Cabinet is not just collection of department heads or underlings,  but the “official family”, the collective, as it were, whose combined wisdom and experience the nation’s leader taps for him to arrive at the most appropriate decision on problems and crises confronting the nation.

Convening regular Cabinet meetings is a recognition by the Chief Executive that he does not have the monopoly of leadership wisdom that he needs to consult with those he appointed not only for their expertise in a particular field but because of their appreciation of national issues.  Since Cabinet members have,  or should have , their constituencies, captive audiences, or at least social networks, Cabinet meetings are also make up a mechanism for developing national consensus on  an important issue.

Except for Corazon Aquino and his son Benigno, it has been a practice for Philippine presidents – including the strongman Ferdinand Marcos – to regularly convene their Cabinets, especially to formulate a strategy to deal with a national crisis.

While the Sabah crisis has become a national crisis, one that has taken and will take the lives of many Muslim Filipinos who believe they are fighting for what is theirs and that of the country, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said February 20:

“I don’t think you need to call a full Cabinet meeting. I can assure you that the President is on top of the situation. It is just that there are some things that are best handled in smaller groups so it’s not a full Cabinet issue.” (more…)

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Malaysian spokesman Dato Aquino?

The Manila Times, March 4, 2013

 “Is (Interior Secretary) Mar Roxas now the spokesperson for Malaysia (by claiming) that Malaysia will not talk to us? ”  angrily asked Sultan Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd,  whose men led by the crown prince Raja Muda defied Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd’s ultimatum for them to leave Sabah, or else.

Kiram though should be also asking that question rather to Roxas’ boss: Mr. Aquino, and I’m afraid the answer would be in the affirmative, so much so that Malaysia should confer on him one of its honorific titles that can be given to foreigners, like Dato.

“There will be no compromise; either they surrender or face the consequences,” the Malaysian prime minister was quoted in The Borneo Post the other day.  “Surrender now, without conditions,  Aquino for his part announced.

Check out everything Aquino said since the crisis broke out in February 13 — and you can easily do this in this day and age through the Internet– and you will realize that  he never made even the vaguest reference that the Philippines claims Sabah as its territory, and that is the root of the crisis. (more…)

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Bring Sabah issue to the International Court of Justice now

The Manila Times, March 3, 2013

AS this column last Friday expressed apprehension over it, President Aquino and his officials were throwing to the Malaysian wolves Filipino Muslims digging in what they claimed was their legitimate homeland in Sabah.

Government’s do-what-you-want-to-do-with-them message to Malaysian authorities was made through such irresponsible statements from Mr. Aquino and his officials that the Sultan of Sulu’s claim was dormant, and that they would be even charged for violating our Constitution for the crime of inciting to rebellion.

And indeed, after the Malaysians’ assault that resulted in 12 of the Sulu Sultan’s men and two Malaysian soldiers killed, that country’s Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein in effect said that our government implicitly cleared their move. “The Philippine Government had already said that it wanted those involved to return to the Philippines,” the Malaysian new website thestar.com quoted the home minister as saying.

Especially with blood now on his hands, Mr. Aquino must comply with his oath of office—that he will defend the Constitution and implement the laws of the land—by pursuing our territorial claim over Sabah. The Philippine claim on Sabah is only dormant— as a presidential spokesperson claims it is—if one believes that certain laws, Republic Acts, can be treated as “dormant.” (more…)

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Aquino throwing Sulu sultan’s people to the wolves

As published in The Manila Times, March 1, 2013

Malaysian Home Minister inspecting his troops surrounding Filipino Muslims in Sabah

IF violence erupts in Lahad Datu town in Sabah, and the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd’s men are massacred, the blood will be on President Aquino’s hands. His statements and those of his spokespersons have thrown the Muslim Filipinos standing their ground in Sabah to the wolves.Mr. Aquino should have emphasized publicly that they have a legitimate aim although their means to achieve these are inappropriate, at the very least, and would only weaken their cause.

Instead, the president and his spokespersons have been questioning their motives (that they are being used by saboteurs of the peace talks), that they are being financed by hidden powers, that their claim to Sabah is moribund, and they are violating the Constitution— not of Malaysia— but of the Philippines. (more…)

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Why EDSA changed little of the country (Second of Two parts)

As published in the Manila Times, February 27, 2013

As I explained in this column Monday, the EDSA Revolution was hardly a rocket booster for our economic growth. Using one important economic indicator, gross domestic product per capita, which roughly represents a nation’s prosperity, ours in 1972 was larger than China, Thailand or Indonesia. By 2011, these countries had overtaken us by this economic indicator.

Why?

One obvious answer is that the 1987 Constitution, which People Power President Corazon Aquino ordered rushed to replace that Marcos created in 1973, had two provisions which have been dead-weights to our country’’ growth. The first continued a crucial economic policy since our independence, purportedly to protect our national bourgeoisie, who however were actually monopolists: Restrictions on foreign ownership on certain industries and on land. Certain revisions such as a 25-year lease, renewable for another 25, full foreign ownership of condominium units, and liberal interpretation of common and preferred shares just have not made our country attractive to foreign investments. The spectacular growth of Malaysia and Thailand in the 1980s, and Indonesia’s surge in the 1990s have proven without any doubt the crucial role of foreign capital in a developing country’s growth.

Even nearly xenophobic China with its decades of “anti-imperialist” slogans has been the one of the biggest recipients of foreign capital in recent years, which partly explains its spectacular growth rates. The chart above clearly shows how our foreign investments into our neighbors have surged since 1987, while our level of foreign capital inflow have hardly changed. In 2012, Cambodia and Myanmar in fact have had more foreign capital inflows than ours.

The second provision in the Cory constitution restored the pre-martial law political system, which has been and will be the biggest baggage for our country: the presidential system, which Aquino and her allies most probably opted for as a reaction to Marcos’ move towards a parliamentary system (remember the Batasang Pambansa?).

We are one of the few countries, which maintain a system in which the people directly choose the President, who is both head of state and government. Our system hasn’t been “debugged” in the way that of the US has been, with such refinements and checks as the system of electoral colleges, primaries a strong party system, and one-on-debates among presidential contenders. (more…)

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Economics of Martial Law and People Power

Never forget!

Did Filipinos one day in 1986 suddenly become enlightened to demand the toppling of a dictatorship?  Maybe so, but we forget that there were gut issues that broke out in 1983, which prodded Philippine oligarchs that had supported Marcos for more than a decade, to decide to junk him.  

I wrote the following piece last year in my column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Economics of Martial Law and People Power

Thursday, 04 October 2012 08:08
By Rigoberto Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Every year in September, in a ritualistic way the tale is told: A Dark Lord imposed his will on a hapless people, but then a messiah sacrificed his life to embolden Filipinos to topple the regime in 1986.

That’s a fairy tale, its old, overused storyline that of a Lord-of-the-Rings kind of entertainment, enough for medieval men, and for small minds today to explain the past. But reality is always, and in all ways, complex.  (more…)

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