Converted into bargaining chips

THE NATION certainly rejoices that the execution of three Filipinos—two of them females—in China which had been scheduled this week, has been postponed.

Unfortunately, President Benigno Aquino III’s statements in December put us in a situation now in which China—true to its self-interest as a nation—could very well utilize Filipinos in death row as bargaining chips.

It was solely Mr. Aquino who linked the fate of the death-row convicts to Philippine policy decisions, announcing that he ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony which honored a Chinese dissident in order to convince it not to execute the three Filipinos. Mr. Aquino in effect converted the fate of all Filipinos in China’s death row into bargaining chips in the relations between our two countries. With the intense media coverage of this episode, China obviously very well realizes the political clout it can wield in our country.

But what should our government have done?

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Estrada, Arroyo to the hearings?

SOME PERSPECTIVE is needed over the congressional hearings on military corruption.

A news item by reporter Marichu Villanueva in a daily published on Oct. 29, 2004, or more than six years ago, said:

“The new military chief got his marching orders yesterday from his commander in chief: Stamp out corruption that is destroying the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). President Arroyo, swearing in Lt. Gen. Efren Abu as her seventh military chief, also ordered him to speed up the court martial of Army Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, who was sacked as AFP comptroller last April for alleged unexplained wealth.

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‘Our dreams will never die’

THAT HAS been the slogan of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) when it started out in the early 1980s as a rebel organization in the military aiming to topple the Marcos regime.

The rebels calculated that to announce that their goal, their dream, was the noble one of reforming the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be the best way to recruit officers and men to the mutiny. After all, its aim was to undertake a coup d’ état, the first time ever in the country’s history.

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Aquino claims Arroyo term’s gains

IN A POMPOUS ceremony last Friday in Malacañang, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was smiling ear-to-ear as he handed over to President Benigno AquinoIII checks of P29 billion representing dividends of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) turned over to the National Treasury.

In his speech, the President claimed that these were the result of his administration’s hard work. “As you can see, we are working overtime to bolster our abilities to give back to the Filipino people what they have given us,” he said.

He even insinuated that the huge remittances could not have been made under the previous administration since the GOCCs at that time were “the milking cows of politicians and their wards.”

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No body in charge

EVEN AS the Left and the opposition were very noisily claiming that it was a prelude to the imposition of    martial law, the Human Security Act (actually the anti-terrorism law) was passed in 2007. Its provisions enabled the Arroyo administration to contain terrorism.

One of the law’s key features, intended to create a strong institution that is alert and capable of fighting terrorism, is the seven-member Anti-Terrorism Council. Under the law, the executive secretary serves as its chair, with the justice secretary as vice chair. The other members of the council are the secretaries of national defense, foreign affairs, interior and local government, and finance as well as the national security adviser. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and even his successor who served at that post for only four months, Leandro Mendoza, convened the council every month.

Since President Aquino assumed power nearly seven months ago, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa has not called a single meeting of the council. Not even the warning in November by governments of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of an impending terrorist act in the country in November convinced Ochoa to convene the council.

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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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