Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

P-Noy could learn lessons from Yudhoyono on fighting corruption

From the Philippine Star
I can see the dilemma of President Noynoy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the case of Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue, former chief of the NCR Command. Not too long ago, it was announced that Angue was being transferred from the NCR, a plum post with three-star rank, to the two-star Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command. The officer had been viewed by his peers as once among the fair-haired boys of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, having gotten his NCR post just before the March 9 ban.
 With the announced reassignment to the Mindanao Command, Angue began to publicly air his disgruntlement over his “demotion.” He also accused the AFP command of punishing him for speaking out on the alleged politicking of top officers close to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in the last elections, and how they helped LP candidate Noynoy Aquino. One of those alleged officers he cited to media is Maj.Gen.Gaudencio Pangilinan, a former intelligence officer and comptroller of Gen. Gazmin when he was still in the active service. Pangilinan replaced new AFP Chief of Staff Ricardo David as Chief of the Northern Luzon Command, a three-star position; the problem is that this two-star officer turned 55 last July and retires next July; but there is a law dating from the mid-90s that decrees that an officer with less than a year in service cannot be promoted. Media focus is now on Pangilinan---whether this law would be bent for him and he'll be accorded his third star, given his alleged role in the Aquino campaign.

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 But back to Admiral Angue. The President, doubtless remembering how his mother was unable to handle military insubordination, which led to several coup attempts, has asserted civilian supremacy forcefully by ordering  Angue to “shut up.” The AFP High Command took the cue by withdrawing the Mindanao assignment and putting the Navy officer on floating status, which further complicates matters.
Perhaps the Angue case is an isolated one, given the current popularity of P-Noy, and not a resurgent trend toward military restiveness, such as what Cory Aquino and GMA have had to contend with. But it's good to remember that ever since EDSA this restiveness has simmered, with just a brief respite provided during the rule of Fidel Ramos because he sprang from their ranks. The problem is that politicking among the AFP corps is real and one reason is that some politicos cultivate their favor during election time, and then reward them after victory is obtained, often at some cost to the career of other officers not in the privileged loop. In GMA’s time the bata-bata system became evident, and now, less than 100 days in the Noynoy administration,  it's the topic again in the cases of Admiral Angue and Maj.Gen. Pangilinan. But also real is the problem that disgruntled elements in the AFP feel they are not given the proper forum---a sentiment that Angue obviously entertains.
 AFP Chief Gen. Ricardo David has to handle both controversial cases judiciously. 

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President of Indonesia
There’s news that President Noynoy Aquino will visit Indonesia and then Vietnam first before going to the United States and the UN General Assembly in September. Reports say this is the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but I suspect he was also encouraged by economist Bernardo Villegas. In an interview over our dzRH program, Dr. Villegas opined that the President should make our huge Asean neighbor the object of his first foreign trip as this would accomplish a number of things. For one thing, he said, the Indonesian economy is very strong and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration is looked upon as a model of governance in the region, having reduced corruption to a substantial degree in a country once notorious for this, especially in the 20-year Suharto regime.

I quite agree that it’s a good idea for P-Noy to visit Indonesia first because of our deep historical and cultural ties with this largest Muslim democracy in the world. It would please our Muslim brothers in the South, especially since Indonesia is being encouraged to facilitate the talks with the MILF, a role that Malaysia did not play too successfully. In addition, if P-Noy is really serious about eradicating corruption as he pledged in his campaign, he could learn a lesson or two from Yudhoyono, the former Army general turned politico, who has made fighting corruption a pillar of his administration.

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In April last year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran a story about how the Indonesian Supreme Court, whose new set of judges have hardly any links to the Suharto regime, reversed a libel judgment won by the former strongman’s family against Time Magazine in 2007, for its 1999 cover story on how the fabled family allegedly used political influence to acquire is vast wealth. WSJ recalled how two courts had ruled in Time’s favor earlier, but the Suharto family appealed to the Supreme Court where one of the judges, a former general, had been appointed by Suharto---a clear conflict of interest. The SC ruled a favorable judgment for the Suhartos which included damages of a gargantuan one trillion-rupiah ($107 million) from Time---deemed the largest libel judgment in history.
But two years later, under the new Yudhoyono regime, the new SC reversed that libel judgment, sending the message that, as WSJ put it, libel disputes should be judged according to Indonesia’s Press Law which accords wide protection for journalists. WSJ also cited prominent anti-corruption victories in recent years by the Yudhoyono government, including the conviction of the former CEO of the country’s largest bank, a former central bank governor and several politicians.

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But there also another reason why P-Noy should visit Indonesia first: by so doing, he would beat US President Obama to the draw. Recall that Obama was born in Hawaii but he spent about seven years in Indonesia as a young boy. Twice, I believe, a trip to that country of his formative years was planned from Washington, but they haven’t materialized until now, reportedly to the great frustration of the Indons who have prepared elaborate welcome receptions for him. P-Noy could well beat him to it.

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Early last month, former Speaker Jose de Venecia and French Ambassador Thierry Borja de Mozota flew out of Manila at 5 am. aboard a small plane bound for Tawi-Tawi. There they inaugurated a mosque that the French Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit Association, of which they are co-presidents, had rebuilt. In announcing the completion of the rehabilitation, the two gentlemen called the structure “a modest Mosque project that symbolizes Christian-Muslim solidarity in a strategic isle of the Sulu Sea, where Islam began” in the Philippines.

But actually the mosque is far from being "modest," as it was first built in the year 1380, or 141 years before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers here, led by Ferdinand Magellan---thus a key witness to the thriving of Muslim culture and religion in our South that early. Over the centuries the mosque had suffered deterioration, but with the cooperation of other officers of the two prestigious French organizations, Ambassador Thierry and former Speaker De Venecia designated French business leader Heussaff to coordinate its rehabilitation with the National Historical Institute, headed by Ludovico Badoy, the Makdum Mosque Foundation under its president, M.A. Bayo, and local officials led by Gov. Sadikul Sahali and Rep. Nur Jaafar. De Venecia’s endeavor to rehabilitate the mosque is very much in line with his advocacy for Interfaith and a Christian-Muslim dialogue which was approved by the UN in 2004.

The Legion of Honor and the National Order of Merit, the highest awards of the French government, were founded by the Emperor Napoleon himself, and given to individuals of distinction, who have promoted French culture assiduously. Its awardees include quite a number of Filipinos, among them Fr. Pierre Tritz, the 96-year old founder of the Erda Foundation for streetchildren and my feisty sister-in-law, Daily Tribune publisher and editor-in-chief Ninez Cacho-Olivares. The Association of Merit Awardees was founded only in 2007.

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