Michael Sinnot's White Lie-Black Lie!
by Erick San Juan
When Irish priest Fr. Michael Sinnott was kidnapped last month, the government through DILG Sec. Ronnie Puno said that it was the MILF who kidnapped the 79-year old Catholic prelate with a $12 million ransom for his release. But then the MILF strongly denied this accusation. Amidst all these, the US Embassy was quiet about the meeting at the MILF camp in Maguindanao by the American diplomats led by the US Embassy charge d'affaires, Leslie Bassett, with the MILF leaders headed by Haj Murad last October 16. The report was confirmed only through the MILF’s website, Luwaran. This gesture of a US diplomat was a breach of protocol and blatant interference in our domestic affairs and should have been declared "persona non grata", but not in the Philippines.
Now that Fr. Sinnott was released in time for the arrival of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he cleared the MILF as his abductors and said that the “original lumad” of Mindanao were his kidnappers and they treated him well during his captivity. He even thanked the MILF Central Committee for helping out for his release. What is the real story behind the release and who were the kidnappers? Was there a ransom paid? Was it really just a coincidence - the arrival of Secretary Clinton and Fr. Sinnott’s release? The kidnap for ransom of Fr. Sinnot had the same pattern of Fr. Bossi's abduction in the past where a MILF group transferred him in another safehouse controlled by the remnants of the Barracuda's allied to the so called MILF "breakaway group" in Caromatan.
There are so many questions that led to speculations as answers to the real intentions of the visit.
The controversial one is the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) wherein Sec. Clinton said that this is important for the US in the fight against terrorism in the region especially that the Philippines is the country coordinator in Southeast Asia. (Translation – no VFA abrogation and no clear definition as for the role of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines in Mindanao, even using our camps as their temporary base and will continue to support the AFP in their fight against terrorism.
Another issue is the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain’s (MoA-AD) BangsaMoro Juridical Entity that was set aside because of its unconstitutionality that could be revived with the help of the US in its efforts for the resumption of the peace talks with MILF as front. Now that both Kuala Lumpur and Washington are interested in mediating in the peace talks, Manila will have to do a balancing act as to which country to continue the talks. This hot issue may put GMA in a very tight position for as we said this could lead to the balkanization of Mindanao. It is believed that the Marshland in Central Mindanao which the MILF claims to be in their control is awash not only of natural gas but of the "black gold" meaning vast oil deposits which is allegedly bigger than Saudi Arabia's.
Lastly, the May 2010 elections seems moving well and I’m sure will be of special concern to the US and PGMA as perceived, will have a special role to see to it that what the US wants, the US gets. But what's in it for us? Let us wait and see as events unfold. May God bless the Philippines!