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, July 21, 2012

Was the silencing of the microphone at Phnom Penh Asean meet as Del Rosario began to speak a mere “technical glitch” or deliberate? Good query on eve of SONA: did Ombudsman slap plunder charge on GMA to keep her in jail---in case Mupas is forced to allow bail on electoral sabotage case?

Usec. Erlinda Basilio of the DFA

I read with interest the long article published by Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio of the DFA regarding what she termed the “facts” and the “fiction” in the recent 45th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Usec Basilio’s piece sought to separate the chaff from the grain amid all kinds of speculation about how tense that recent gathering had become and whether the Philippines, in roiling the waters in the West Philippine Sea, was to blame for the disarray of the regional forum.  

But to me the most intriguing detail of Linda Basilio's article is found at the very bottom. She recounted that just as our Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario began to speak on the Scarborough Shoal issue, “his microphone went silent.” The question now is, was that a “technical glitch” as Phnom Penh now explains, or was the mike deliberately silenced so the assembly couldn’t hear what Del Rosario had to say. 

Sec. Albert Del Rosario

In a country like Cambodia which is not up to First World standards, it’s easy to believe that the sudden silence of the mike was a “technical glitch.” The question is, why did it blink when it was Del Rosario’s turn? Why not during ASEAN Director-General Surin’s turn, or Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s? Given how host, Phnom Penh broke a 45-year tradition by refusing to allow issuance of a joint communiqué by the conferees, it’s totally believable that the mike was ordered turned off as Del Rosario was about to speak. But such tactic, if deliberate, is insulting as well as hilarious (found only in slapstick comedies). 

As the wife of the former ambassador to Cambodia I find it hard to believe that Phnom Penh would resort to such “glitch” in order to silence our Foreign Minister at a crucial point in the conference; but then again, weighing the China connection and the strongman tactics of the country's leader,  it’s not that hard to believe.  


On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was queried by Palace reporters as to why Usec Basilio kept referring to China as “the neighboring country” in her article. Lacierda, who seemed to have a tough time trying to handle his own pique at Basilio's oblique reference to China, told the media he would have to query the DFA.

But I think the best way to handle this detail is to trust the judgment of Usec Basilio. She's a career DFA official with ambassadorial postings to a good number of countries, who  was called out of retirement at the start of the Aquino administration to assume the undersecretary’s post at the Foreign Office. Let's trust that she must have a good reason for resorting to this phrase repeatedly (perhaps to defuse current tensions between the two countries).  


Former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Malacañang denies it to high heavens, but few believe that on the eve of the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Palace has nothing to do with the filing of a plunder case in the Sandiganbayan against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in connection with the PCSO intelligence funds. It's in fact vastly anticipated that this new non-bailable case is meant to be the star item in P-Noy's SONA. But so rushed up was this case filed by Ombudsman Conchita Morales that GMA’s camp still had to receive a copy,  yet it was already all over media.

Obviously Malacañang is hewing closely to the script it has been following since Day One of the P-Noy  administration---which is to prosecute GMA and everyone who has been connected with her administration, including Chief Justice Renato Corona who was ousted  by the Senate impeachment court last May 29.  The administration’s major campaign line in this third SONA of P-Noy apparently will still be anti-corruption and the “tuwid na daan” (now grown labyrinthine and baku-bako) and GMA and Corona will be offered as its stellar props of “success.” 

The continued prosecution of GMA and allies becomes necessary for P-Noy in the light of the continuing dismal performance of his administration against poverty and joblessness, and with corruption rearing its ugly head these days in the traditional haunts such as Pagcor, PCSO and the Bureau of Customs, and now the CCT.


The plunder charge against GMA in connection with the alleged misuse of PCSO funds has a deliberate agenda: to continue keeping GMA in jail, in case the electoral sabotage case (which Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes and Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay RTC rushed in November last year to justify DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima's defiant hold-order) fails to stick---and Mupas is forced to grant the petition of GMA’s lawyers for bail. The weakness of that sabotage case lies in the fact that there’s only one witness against GMA, former provincial administrator Norie Unas, who made up his hearsay testimony to escape implication in the Maguindanao mass murder case.


P-Noy will need to continue putting GMA behind bars in his anti-corruption campaign,  in order to divert the people's attention from the worsening poverty and joblessness. But they already see the Unas testimony as conjured and pilit.  As recent surveys note, over 61 percent of the people now agree that GMA should be allowed to post bail and seek medical treatment abroad. This is a far-cry from the negative percentage in earlier months.  

Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz

Moreover, some of GMA’s most severe critics have now turned into the biggest pleaders for bail and treatment abroad for her. Retired Dagupan Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz was quoted in the recent CBCP forum as asserting that “Justice (in the filing of cases against GMA) should come from what is true and not from revenge or vengeance. Let us put a stop to vindictiveness because that will do the country no good.” Cruz opined that “You don’t kick a person when he’s already down,” adding that he prays that GMA gets “compassionate justice.”

Former Sen. Nene Pimentel asserts that GMA should be allowed to seek medical treatment wherever she wants it. On the other hand, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago stresses that the international repercussions of denying GMA bail, even when not a single falsified certificate of canvass has been presented, could be very serious for Ph.


As for GMA’s appointed CJ, Renato Corona, a good deal of the people  viewed his impeachment and Senate trial as dictated by Malacañang in retaliation for the Supreme Court’s 14-0 vote last November 22, 2011 ordering the decades-delayed distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands. Many viewed the trial as fraudulent and violative of the rule of law inasmuch as much of the evidence presented by the prosecution was defective or illegally obtained.  Moreover, Corona invoked as his defense the absolute secrecy guaranteed by RA 6426, the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (FCDA), while his lawyers argued that the rectification of inaccurate SALN declarations is allowed by law.  

P-Noy just has to rely on more solid ground for scoring points in his SONA than persecuting GMA and those associated with her era.

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