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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quotas on graft cases being filed vs. past administration--- "parang zona ng panahon ng Hapon"

My esteemed former colleague, Amando “Ka Doro” Doronila, wrote today that “now that there are no new corruption cases blamed on the past administration to bash, the government has to create new demons. It has to show that it has more to offer than flogging dead horses.”  But as a matter of fact, Ka Doro, there seems no end to the flogging of the dead horses, as this administration founders on the economic and investment front and is unable to create “new demons.”
Administration sources say that orders are out to the proper agencies to file 150 graft cases against former GMA-era officials, so that all these will elicit rousing  soundbytes in the President’s SONA this July 25. One year after he took office, this is still his administration’s refrain---the corruption of the old regime and as a source put it, case-filing quotas are being imposed, so that “ngayon parang zona ng panahon ng Hapon ang nangyayari. Sinusuyod ang lahat."


Former President Macapagal-Arroyo and her former key officials such as former PAGCOR Chief Efraim Genuino are getting the lion’s share of the graft cases being filed by this administration, but the amounts being cited in many more graft cases are getting more and more minuscule, e.g., former Antique Gov. Sally Perez was charged for allegedly facilitating a P5 million contract to an entity by the Department of Agriculture, while former OGCC Chief (and later former Solicitor-General and  DOJ Secretary) Agnes Devanadera was charged with having pocketed P100,000 in allowances.  Devanadera is now being ribbed by law colleagues as being so “cheapy.”
New cases, however, have been brought to light involving P-Noy’s own people, e.g., LTO Chief Virginia Torres, whose prosecution has been recommended by the DOJ no less, and Undersecretary Rico Puno, but the President has ignored the opposition’s call for their investigation. Instead, he continues to focus on the past regime even as the “tuwid na daan” is getting more crooked.


The former Republican presidential candidate in the 2008 US elections, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has taken up the cudgels for the Philippines and Asean by urging the US to stand up against what he termed the “bullying” of China in the disputed West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) and to help develop the sea capability of Asean member nations (such appeal could help the Philippines whose navy has only one warship, a WWII-vintage at that). McCain, a senior US senator and senior leader of the Republican Party, made the assertion in a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank.
Sen. McCain’s pronouncements are certain to attract attention in US political and military circles, as he is one of the few US politicians with a military background and a long-standing involvement in the Senate Defense Committee. Graduating from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, he would perhaps have followed the footsteps of his legendary grandfather, the first Admiral John S. McCain, and his distinguished father, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., into the US Navy, had the Vietnam war where he served, and his imprisonment in the “Hanoi Hilton” not cut short that career.  McCain was a Navy lieutenant commander at the time of his captivity, while his father was commander of the entire Pacific Command (CINCPAC), the US Navy’s second most prestigious office, at that time (During the presidential campaign, it was pointed out how POW John McCain III refused to be released from prison, which the Vietnamese authorities were willing to grant in deference to his CINCPAC Chief-father, unless his fellow POWs were released too).


McCain’s service and imprisonment in Vietnam and his recuperation in Clark Air Force Base may have ingrained in him a closeness to Asia that other members of the US Congress may not have.
 My late brother-in-law, former Navy Flag-officer-in-command Admiral Carlito Cunanan, after whom the Western Command’s naval station in Palawan was named, was McCain’s classmate at Annapolis and in fact he met the badly mangled ex-POW at Clark where he was flown in for emergency hospital treatment while en route to the US.  On the other hand, Annapolis graduates Roilo Golez, now representing Paranaque, and former Subic official Vic Mamon relate how McCain once stood up to an upper-class bully cadet who was shabbily treating a Filipino mess hall employee at the Naval Academy. McCain, an acknowledged boxer in his time, challenged the upper-classman to a boxing bout outside over the episode, but the latter dared not take him on.
 Interestingly, now McCain wants his government to address what he terms the Bully in the Asian seas.  But his forceful appeal will doubtless be balanced by Washington in the light of its severe financial constraints that nearly brought the government to a stand-still two months ago. 


Cecile Alvarez and I invited former Undersecretary (and often Acting Secretary) of Foreign Affairs Franklin Ebdalin to our regular 8 pm. dzRH talk-show last Sunday to help enlighten the nation (our regular "Paaralang Bayan" on dzRH) on our current rift with China over the Spratlys.  As former UP Regent Nelia Gonzalez, who recommended Usec Ebdalin as resource person, stressed, we couldn’t have found a better guest as the latter, a lawyer and one of the ten  bar topnotchers in his time, had initiated the Philippine secretariat for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and organized the Cabinet committee on this issue in 1983, a year after the UNCLOS was approved by UN member nations in 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Ebdalin recalled that it was the third such treaty to be signed---a miracle in itself, given the contentiousness of maritime claims around the world--- and in fact, he noted that next to the UN Charter itself, the UNCLOS is often considered the most significant treaty achieved by the UN.


Ebdalin, who retired in 2010 after 36 years of continuous service in the DFA, noted that as the demand for more food and resources among countries in our region rises, the importance of the wealth of its seas, e.g, oil and natural gas and now mining explorations off-shore, rises too.  As a result, conflicts are bound to crop up again and again.  He feels that the US has a strategic interest in keeping the South China Sea open for navigation for itself and its regional allies such as Japan and South Korea, but that despite all the bluster, China is not keen on drawing the US to a shooting war in these waters.
 Ebdalin stressed that the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the encroachment by China into our maritime territory, and that the best thing we ought to do is to “solidify and consolidate our position in the proper international forum, because we do have a valid claim to those disputed islands and the international community would agree with our position, as guided by the UNCLOS.”  He also stressed that we should capitalize on the fact that China and Asean have signed the "2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" and find a way to make it binding. 

I agree. Given our own severe military limitations, there’s no better and valid way to defend our claims to the 53 islets in the Kalayaan Group but on the international negotiating table.


The list of nominees to two Supreme Court vacancies to be submitted by  the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to P-Noy is being awaited, and news is that only six nominees will be submitted instead of the maximum ten. But even if the other nominees would not land in the final JBC list, it could still be said that it was honor enough to have been included in the original list, as the screening was so rigid this time around---a tough winnowing among the best and the brightest. 

To begin with, all the nominees were subjected to psychiatric testing---a first ever in the history of JBC screenings. For instance, in one recent morning, grouped together to undergo the tests were  Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres B. Reyes, CA Associate Justice Vicente Veloso, and UE Law Dean Amado Valdez, current president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools. As an insider related, from the way the nominees in this distinguished group were going through such activities as putting square pegs into square holes, they could have been just a bunch of elementary kids trying to get into high school! 
Does this rigid screening mean that decisions coming out from the SC from hereon will be “sounder?” Dapat, if this criterion were to be cited.


This blog elicits all kinds of reactions (via email to polbits@yahoo.com) to the items I write about, but few items provoked more reactions than two recent ones: on the “doleouts” from the whopping P21 billion cash-conditional transfer (CCT) program of the DSWD and on the perception of rising criminality. Both cases elicited a lot of worry from the citizens that so much cash being doled out without proper screening and accounting would end up as politicians’ tools, e.g., for the LP’s party-building in the grassroots, especially in Mindanao, and that they are no longer safe in their homes nor in the streets. 

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