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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Asean’s deafening silence on China’s bullying of Ph. Would Ombudsman Carpio-Morales be daunted to investigate Miro Quimbo’s role in Pag-Ibig fraud with Delfin Lee, given Miro’s spokesperson role in the prosecution? Surprised about Francis Chua’s uncharacteristic “unruly” behavior. Bro. Roly Dizon---a graceful, classy man of the Renaissance type

Kawawa naman ang Pilipinas. China is bullying us by sending ships to Panatag Shoal (internationally known as Scarborough Shoal) and flying planes over our airspace, obviously knowing full well that we have no capability to counter its might and that all we can do at the moment is to run to the US.  Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin will meet on Monday with their American counterparts in Washingdon, D.C., and doubtless the Chinese threat at Panatag and Recto Bank will be a top talking point on the agenda, despite efforts by DFA to make it look like just another regular bilateral meeting.

It’s easy to predict that the US would seek to calm down Ph’s nervousness and instead encourage us to bring the issue to the UN for mediation, hinged on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). American Ambassador Harry Thomas’ tearing up of his prepared speech at the close of the Balikatan exercises is indication of US unease as well over the possible challenge of having to enforce the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 (for America, no to opening up another war front, vs. China no less, when US President Barack Obama is seeking re-election and his country’s economic woes remain unabated).


The Philippines has asked Asean to intervene in our dispute with China, arguing that its unwarranted presence in our waters violates an agreement that our super-neighbor has signed with the regional bloc. But the silence from Asean has been deafening, and one reason doubtless is that most countries in the region trade heavily with this Asian military and economic superpower, not to mention that several Asean countries have claims as well to the Spratlys and don’t want similar intimidations by China.

Everyone’s frightened by China which has shown little qualms about claiming a territory almost 1000 nautical miles from her shores but only 124 nautical miles from Zambales.  On the other hand the Reed Bank, which Ph has renamed Recto Bank, is only 80 nautical miles from Palawan. But as Brig. Gen. Eldon Nemenzo, deputy commander of the Philippine Air Force’s Third Air Division was quoted in Standard as opining, the Spratlys that count with, among others, Recto Bank and Mischief Reef contain a “gold mine of untapped hydrocarbon deposits” estimated at  $26.3 trillion---far bigger than the estimated oil/gas fields of Malampaya which is a joint venture of three countries.

That’s what the possible shooting war in the region---and in fact, around the world--- is all about---the need to corner the energy that turns economies around (wasn't Iraq's oil fields the reason George W. Bush invaded that country?).


Newspapers report the Court of Appeals’ recent ruling that Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corporation's owner Delfin Lee and his officials should be charged with syndicated estafa (a non-bailable crime) for allegedly having victimized thousands of people through fraudulent housing loans obtained from Pag-Ibig, to the tune of P6.65 billion. It will be recalled that Pasig RTC Judge Pedro Mislang had earlier blocked Lee’s criminal prosecution (for which Mislang is now in trouble himself). The CA has now given the go-signal for the filing of the case, but Lee’s lawyers have appealed it to the SC.

But the equally interesting logic of this case against Delfin Lee is that if he’s going to be prosecuted, so too should the Pag-Ibig executives who connived with him to issue those fraudulent loans be held to task. The DOJ has now referred to the Ombudsman for appropriate investigation complaints against former Pag-Ibig Fund executive and now Marikina Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo and his former officials, for possible violation of the Anti-Graft law in accommodating Lee and his ilk.


Rep.  Quimbo, it will be recalled, has been the most visible among the House prosecution panel’s spokespersons in the impeachment trial of CJ Renato Corona; in fact, he had been quite ruthless in disclosing in media allegations later proved false, such as the 45 properties of CJ here as well as his alleged two US properties.  Rumors about Quimbo's involvement in the Pag-Ibig anomaly have been drowned out by the noise he was making in media on Corona's so-called sins. It would be interesting to see Quimbo try to wiggle out of the Ombudsman's investigation and prosecution.

 But of course, P-Noy owes him a debt of gratitude for being the most obnoxious of the prosecution’s spokespersons. Would Ombudsman Carpio-Morales be daunted? Is the threat of investigation of Quimbo just a moro-moro between DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima and Carpio-Morales? Let's hope not.


A number of friends have passed on to the Great Beyond in recent weeks and one of them was Brother Rolando Dizon, former President of De La Salle University and DLSU System, and former chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).  Bro. Roly, as he was known to everyone, was also quite active in Namfrel, together with Joe Concepcion Jr., and it was in this capacity that I first came to know him as an erudite man with intelligent and well-thought out opinions about issues.

 But I was also privileged to have served with Bro. Roly when he chaired the Edsa People Power Commission during former President GMA’s time (a pro bono job for all of us), and he was always warm and genial and our sessions in Malacanang were always fun-filled work. But he had to cut short his EPPC term when he accepted a professorial task for a year in a leading university in Israel---a shifting of gears he found most challenging and enjoyable.  Bro. Roly battled colon cancer for 10 years, but he never allowed it to take away his enthusiasm for the various tasks he handled for country and people. He was a most graceful and classy man of the Renaissance type.

 May you rest in God’s bosom forever, Bro. Roly.

Next: fond farewell to my dear friend and esteemed media colleague, Raul Contreras.  Also, an encounter with Gani Yambot to square out things a year before he passed away.


Like many people who know business executive Francis Chua personally, including his colleagues in the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce where he has been active, I was quite surprised to read about his “unruly” behavior that led Cathay Pacific to “off-load” him soon after take-off from Manila. 

 According to media reports Chua, who’s a regular on HongKong flights, onH had buckled up his seat belt but asked if he could skip fastening the harness (a belt-like device for the upper part of the torso provided in first-class compartments of some planes, for added protection in accidents), as it induces a claustrophobic reaction in him. The story gave the impression Chua was arrogant and over-bearing as he bandied around his title of special trade envoy and consul and that he tried to barge into the cockpit to confront the pilot after his request about not using the harness was turned down. It said that he had to be subdued and the plane returned to Manila to off-load him.


In another story giving his side and opinions of his colleagues, Chua was quoted as saying he had been allowed not to use the harness in other previous flights for that same reason, but in that particular flight his request was rejected with a touch of arrogance by the flight supervisor. He also denied that he tried to barge into the cockpit (Chua would certainly have known the consequence of such an act as per the Anti-Terrorism Law). 

As I said, I am quite surprised at Cathay’s story as I know Chua to be a soft-spoken, mild-mannered person with a perpetual smile; being rude and arrogant is quite uncharacteristic of him. Perhaps he truly had a problem with claustrophobia, which is quite common inside planes, but that the airline personnel were less than sensitive to it. 

I submit that if the supervisor were a Filipina, this unfortunate episode might not have happened, for we Pinays have far more TLC than other races.

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