Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The tough-talking Gloria

The tough-talking Gloria

by Erick San Juan

In her old rose outfit, which is said to be a cross between a Maria Clara and a terno, fire was written all over her face, as President Gloria M. Arroyo pontificated on her decision to unceasingly levy an expanded value-added tax on oil and oil products.

Her fighting words were loud and clear.

They may seem music to the ears of the greedy globalists, but for those whose feet are on earth, her tirades were all for show – nothing but another spin.

No doubt, it is time that President Arroyo starts telling the truth on why she is betting in just a deal, all the chips she’s got if only to keep EVAT on stream.

She should better be more candid in admitting that her government needs EVAT that badly, because she is being hounded and has been getting nasty calls from creditors, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, JBIC and the Chinamen, for faults not all of her own doing.

Not only that, she should also start exposing the antiques of those crooks who took undue advantage and made her cover their tracks, only to drop her like a hot potato when they were stopped from having their cakes and eat them too. As in the case of the multi-billion US dollar North Rail rehabilitation project which is supposed to be guaranteed by China.

She must always be prepared to confess about getting all the flak for both the misfeasance and maladministration of all the Presidents before her starting from Ms. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.

Perhaps, it is about time that Ms. Arroyo orders an immediate and thorough investigation over all contracts entered into by the government not just during her watch, but also those that were perfected in the past, starting in the yellow administration.

Certainly, money changed hands between the buyers and the officials of the seller Philippine government, in the multitude of sweetheart deals involving the gratis turnover of Meralco and the ABS-CBN to the Lopezes; the sale of the Philippine real estate properties in New York and in California; the Pantranco; PLDT; sale of government prime lands; the sale of Petron Philippines, the Philippine National Bank, and all the assets acquired by sequestration from Marcos and his cronies, including those properties turned-over by the US government upon the expiration of the RP-US military bases agreement. In the first place, an investigation on the large scale larceny in Malacanang, by relatives of EDSA’s conquering heroes deserve to be set in motion as well.

Undoubtedly, Ms. Arroyo’s political survival depends much upon the bonanza her government amasses out of the hefty profits being shared not just by Shell, Chevron and Petron, but also by the so-called small players who have effectively assimilated into the Philippines’ age-old oil cartel.

The time has come for the government to enact a law institutionalizing command responsibility, so that even those leaders who were unable to control the crooked ways of their key officials can also be made to do time and learn his lessons the old-fashion way – pay for it.

MalacaƱang should utilize the expertise of the career officers of the National Security Council in assessing all agreements with hostile groups before the situation in Mindanao gets out of hand. Why the deafening silence of the usually talkative Bert Gonzales?

But retribution is just around the corner. Lately, it is observed that a large sector of Mindanao’s non-Islamic population have started arming themselves in preparation for what could be showdown between ethnic groups with jousting interests. And the sad part of it all is that the Arroyo government stands getting blamed in the event heavy fighting breaks out, due to its failure to heed the call for transparency being aired by the now-majority migrant population of Mindanao.

Whatever would be the fate that might befall the Philippines as a result of whatever joint communiquĆ© that General Esperon will be signing with the Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), blame it to the government’s haste at buying peace at any and all cost to mankind.

Are you aware of the fact that one of the most trusted spokesperson of President Arroyo is actually paddling his canoe over two rivers all at the same time? What do I mean? Well, on one hand he speaks for PGMA, but at the same time, he is the husband of the daughter of MILF Vice Chairman Gadzali Jaafar! Oh, what a shame?

Monday, July 28, 2008

My crystal ball says…

By Erick San Juan

We should read the handwritings on the wall even before the lightning strikes.

Now, we have seen the flash of the light across the sky. In fact, we are just waiting for the thunder’s roar. We are also waiting to hear where it slammed and what it did. But certainly, elusive peace continues to loom over horizons of southern Philippines. Only the Great Architect of the Universe knows until when this volatile and potentially catastrophic scenario can last.

And for as long as the superpowers continue dipping their dirty fingers on Philippine politics and persist on looking at the geography of the Philippines on the context of world economic and defense domination, Filipinos, especially the greedy political species, will never quit donning the mask of a fierce fighter for human dignity, but in real life are tame, cowed and subjugated.

The disclosure made on July 25 by Mojaqir Iqbal, spokesman of the peace panel of the Mindanao Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), came with not even an iota of surprise to us. Since a month ago, our crystal ball has consistently told us that the undue manipulation by several “foreign chefs” is bound to derail the formal peace-talks scheduled on August 5, in Kuala Lumpur.

Outwardly, the MILF only says that it rejects facing President Gloria Arroyo’s minions before the negotiating table, because of the political double-talk that they have been getting from the government panel. They never made public, the truth that the interest of their sponsors in the oil-rich Arab world is to keep the brave Filipino souls Balkanized, so that they may unceasingly avail of a steady stream of intelligently fierce mujahideens.

On the other hand, aided by Australia (which is a proxy of the British empire), the United States finds the geographical position of the Philippines at a crossroad that serves not just as an important sea lane for trade between Asia and the US mainland or its allies, but also as an important line of defense against the terrorists and the military and economic might of China, which is largely regarded as the emerging Asian super-power.

For one, the Presidency of Ms. Arroyo is in a very precarious state. She could be likened to a petit, but mean lady riding on a tiger’s back. She may not like it, but she finds it best to stay. No doubt, she is struggling to cling on to power. In the event she slips, she stands a good chance of getting devoured by her own soldiers.

There appears to be so much truth in the MILF’s charge that the Philippine government has yet to show signs on its sincerity to address the various issues which have stalled the development of the great southern islands for almost a century now. Fact is: the government started on the wrong foot when, in the 1950’s, it made Mindanao a dumping ground of progressive farm hands who felt cheated by Uncle Sam after it subdued Japan in World War II, where they fought, shed blood and left holding the proverbial bag – empty!

Now, Mindanao’s majority of brave, intelligent, ambitious and industrious population of Christians would no longer allow themselves to be placed under the rule of the natives who may be fierce fighters, but whose number and culture is evidently a minority.

But, oozing with braggadocios and the quest for propaganda effects, General Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had to resort to issuing unilateral declarations that the government’s peace panel may now consider issue on ancestral domain and the annexation of five more provinces and 712 barangays in Mindanao, which are being pursued by the separatist movement.

As a result, hundreds if not thousands of men under Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol of North Cotabato, have begun retrieving and oiling the guns they have stashed away for sometime now, while preparing to go to war. Because of mouthful propagandists, Mindanao is starting to experience the resurgence of the “Ilaga,” the “Barracudas,” and the “Sagrado Corazon Senor,” who are better known as the “Tadtad.”

Now that the peace parley is off, all we could do is pray that the volatile ceasefire agreement between the GRP and the MILF will hold. I hope that Mindanao will not be the next Yugoslavia.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Peace in Mindanao: Quo vadis

Peace in Mindanao: Quo vadis

By Erick San Juan

By the time this piece gets out in the open, the GRP-MILF peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, slated on July 24, may have just ended, with the rebels on one hand, still threatening to attack military targets. On the other hand, while the GRP panel engages itself in propagating encouraging remarks (that they themselves hardly believe), the military are already engaged in actual attacks against secessionist strongholds, or, the military does the saber-rattling, while the moors are actually engaged in some pillaging moves.

And this scenario is bound to perpetuate for as long as the foreign players are allowed to dip their dirty fingers into Philippine domestic affairs.

Besides, Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), needs to be extra careful in making unilateral and unprocessed declarations, lest his adventurism could lead this nation into an open and never-ending shooting war between and among brother Filipinos.

No doubt, Mindanao’s Christians are bound to kick over Esperon’s published declaration that the GRP would be willing to include the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga-Sibugay, Cotabato, Shariff Kabungsuan and Palawan into the ARMM territory.

Naturally, the migrants, who have evolved to be more than the population of the Mindanao moors (since their parents were earlier brought by the government to Mindanao), would react furiously over the prospects of being placed under the rule of a numerical population minority.

The issue on ancestral domain needs to be treated in a manner akin to walking the tight rope. Bear in mind that most of the landed Christians in Mindanao today never engaged in land grabbing. They either acquired their properties by purchase, using good money which they amassed the old-fashioned way – they earned them. With eyes focused on the uncertain future for them, their children and loved ones, the pioneers of those early days, with little food and hardly shod, had to forge rivers, overcome the dangers in an unknown environment, cleared forests and developed grasslands.

For one, the Malaysians and the Islamic community are able to influence the decisions of either or both protagonists, by playing both as host and referee in the current exchange of barbs and wits in KL. On the other hand, you have not just the diplomatic force of both “the world’s policeman” and of Australia, who are engaged in pressure politics along the corridors of power, while their paws are into actual intelligence, if not combat operations in the home front.

Fact is: Aside from the US ground forces in the Zamboanga peninsula and the island provinces of the Philippine moorland, both the Celebes and South China seas are littered with US warships other than the escorts of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier, the “USS Ronald Reagan,” which is escorted by several smaller vessels and hundreds, if not thousands of boats.

There is absolutely no doubt that all foreign players in Mindanao have their respective agenda. Whatever their interests might be, they are bound not just to protect, but pursue their national interests as well.

Noteworthy is the fact that both the US and Australia have been financing several development projects in the south. What for? Oh, c’mon, let us not fool ourselves with the thought that they simply want to allow the localities to grow economically. Certainly, building facilities whose standards are tailor-made for their own requirements could raise eyebrows. A case in point is the General Santos International Airport and some facilities in the town of Glan, Sarangani. Why were they built there?

Many are asking if these facilities and activities by foreign interests in Mindanao are beams towards the Peoples’ Republic of China, which is no doubt, the emerging super-power in Asia.

Yes, the declaration by the GRP and MILF some years ago, of a temporary cessation of hostilities (while the peace talks are on-going), is indeed an achievement. But, for as long as the foreign kibitzers are not told to lay-off, this volatile situation could just erupt into a full-blown war at any point of the discussion on the ultra-sensitive issue on the ancestral domain for the Muslims.

When that happens, we can only say quo vadis, good luck.