NAIA 3: a cautionary tale

THE QUAGMIRE of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3—which would have been our main gateway to the world—is a cautionary tale of an epic scale for our country. It dramatizes questions of paramount importance for our country and, perhaps, for many developing countries as well:

Which should take precedence in terms of state policy and action: the anti-corruption value or realpolitik? Should, or can a compromise be reached between these two different guides to action?

It’s amazing how many have so easily forgotten why the NAIA 3 contract of the Philippine International Airport Terminals Corp. (PIATCo), a consortium dominated by an obscure Chinese-Filipino firm and the German Fraport AG, was aborted.

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Whatever happened to?

A FAVORITE feature of mine in this newspaper had been the occasional “Whatever happened to…?”, which followed up what happened later on to news—controversies, crimes, accusations—that had been reported.

It was a reality-check of sorts, as a follow-up often disclosed that seemingly shocking accusations, for instance, were exaggerated. Often, the whatever-happened-to follow-ups were disappointing, as for instance, it turned out that the only thing that happened regarding a crime story after two years was that “the case is pending in the court.” The feature was also a means to pressure authorities to fulfill their promises.

With the start of a new year, it would be useful to list down several “whatever-happened-to’s” of national interest, and revisit it every six months:

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Rizal, Bonifacio and the ‘masa’ myth

JOSE RIZAL’S death anniversary today and Ceres Doyo’s reference in a recent column to a book titled “The Masses are Messiah” present a good opportunity to discuss the mythicizing in our country of the concept of the “masses.”

It was the historian Teodoro Agoncillo who popularized the myth of the masses with his biography of Andres Bonifacio, “Revolt of the Masses.” Agoncillo claimed that the Katipunan revolutionaries were the masses’ representatives: “despairing spirits, the oppressed, the downtrodden,” from the “lowest stratum of society.” Other writers would expand Agoncillo’s thesis by contrasting the “elite” Rizal against the “proletarian” Bonifacio. Leftist activists have even been brainwashed to hate Rizal and to believe that it was the Americans who just invented him to be our national hero, since he didn’t advocate armed revolution.

However, more up-to-date historians, especially those who mined the archives of the Spanish military, paint an entirely different picture of Bonifacio and the Katipuneros. (See http://kasaysayan-kkk.info).

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A test of the President’s leadership

REVERSING THE Sandiganbayan’s pending decision to let retired Brig. Gen. Carlos Garcia off lightly would be a major test of President Benigno Aquino III’s leadership. And by leadership in this case is not meant simply giving orders or blaming the Office of the Ombudsman, but finding ways and means to use the enormous powers of the presidency to ensure that justice is done.

I realize of course that many would sneer at this, but during the earlier years of the Arroyo administration, there was a determined, organized and no-nonsense campaign against corruption. It was less talk and sloganeering, but hard, quiet work. After President Joseph Estrada’s conviction and incarceration, Garcia’s case was the highlight of that campaign.

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‘China is a hostage-taker’

THAT IS what in effect President Aquino told the world when he announced that his decision to boycott the Nobel ceremony was to convince China not to execute five Filipino prisoners convicted of drug trafficking. I hope I am wrong, but Mr. Aquino’s statements may have put the Death-Row prisoners closer to the firing squad.

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Truths the Truth Commission revealed

IN ITS brief five-month existence, President Aquino’s Truth Commission managed to show us three truths. The first is that the current administration is in a time-warp of sorts. It believes that June 2010 was another Edsa Revolt. The make-believe world of administration officials is that just as his mother toppled a dictator in 1986, the son had overthrown Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in May 2010.

What Mr. Aquino and his inner circle don’t seem to know is that Arroyo wasn’t kicked out as Marcos and Estrada were; she stepped down when her term ended and even ran for a lower post as a member of Congress. Her candidate lost in the elections, but so did the respected President Fidel Ramos’ anointed lose to a popular actor.

Because of that kind of mentality, Executive Order No. 1 that created the commission was nearly a plagiarism of his mother’s Executive Order No. 1 issued on Feb. 28, 1986. “Whereas, there is an urgent need…,” the mother said in his order in 1986. “Whereas there is an urgent call…,” the son said in his 2010 order.

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Secrets of the Communist Party

DR. MARIO Miclat’s “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions: A Novel” (Manila: Anvil Publishing, 2010) reveals in rich detail many of the covert factors that contributed to the growth of one of our country’s biggest problems: the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The “18 mansions” are the buildings in a secret compound in Beijing where the Chinese Communist Party in the 1960s and 1970s housed delegations of communist parties all over the world to facilitate its clandestine aid to their own insurgencies.

Mansion No. 7 housed the living quarters and offices in Beijing of the delegation from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founded and led by Jose Ma. Sison, aka Amado Guerrero. Miclat was a member of the CPP delegation who, with his family, lived and worked in that mansion starting in 1971. He returned to the Philippines in 1986, totally disillusioned with the party, which he says was a monster he “helped create, yet which devoured” him. He has since become an academic with a PhD and is at present dean of the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines.

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‘Stupidity is invincible’

NOT TOO widely known is the fact that the Greek language is not only a precise, nuanced language, but it has a treasury of aphorisms. The beauty of these adages is that one would have to do some thinking to understand them. But when understanding dawns, one realizes how rich the proverb is.

Think of President Aquino’s very first order as head of government, Memorandum Circular No. 1, which would have paralyzed government. It was rescinded, as his officials put it, just “to fine-tune” it. Think of Dinky Soliman boasting that yes, the President was in command during the hostage crisis in August because he had a command post—at the Emerald Garden restaurant. Think of Mr. Aquino antagonizing the United States by saying that its travel advisories warning of terrorist attacks in the country are merely pressure connected to the Visiting Forces Agreement. Think of the incompetent tourism secretary, Alberto Lim, arrogantly saying that there wasn’t any plagiarism in the design of the slogan he wanted since Poland doesn’t have a copyright on it.

I can’t help thinking of the Greek saying, “Stupidity is invincible.”

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Why Pacquiao matters much in the imagining

A WEEK after my wife Getsy and I came back to our country after four and a half exciting years in Greece representing our country, I was fortunate to have a chance to commune in a deep way and in the most unique circumstances with my fellow citizens last Sunday. This was at the fully packed Bubba Gump restaurant at Greenbelt. There I cheered loudly with my fellow Filipinos for Manny Pacquiao as he made boxing history.

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Learning from Indonesia

THE ARTICLE “Why Indonesia outperforms RP” (Talk of the Town, Inquirer 10/30/10) by Ed Tadem gushes as much over Indonesia as it bashes the Philippines. It is however so deeply flawed, and a sorry instance of national self-flagellation.

Still comparing the two countries is extremely useful in understanding the real strengths or weaknesses of our nation.

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