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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, March 13, 2013

Though Tagle’s chances are slim, no one can underestimate "Filipino mafia" in Vatican. 1978 year of three popes. Former DFA official makes astounding claim about Ninoy's alleged deal with former PM Mahathir to drop Sabah claim. Negros Or.Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong will lose gubernatorial fight not on RH 'disinformation' but on poor road condition there.


Vatican Sistine Chapel

As far as we Filipinos are concerned, never before has the selection of a new Pope been this engrossing and captivating. What’s great about it is that awareness about the behind-the-scenes workings of the Church has become so high in this country. Nightly, for instance, since the cardinals began arriving at the Vatican to elect the new pope, my inter-denominational house-staff has been tuning into the TV programs and discuss what’s going on in the Vatican.
The main reason for our people’s consuming passion with the selection of a pope is doubtless that one of the ten papabili is said to be our very own Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila. While Jaime Cardinal Sin’s name came up in the balloting decades ago, he only earned five votes, whereas Tagle continuously gets attention not only from the Manila media but the world press as well---keeping hopes high here.
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The reality, however, is that Cardinal Tagle’s chances are almost nil, despite his very attractive intellectual credentials and charismatic and inspiring personality. This is because his colleagues are aware of his relative inexperience in the field of management---perhaps the No. 1 requirement of the office of the Supreme Pontiff of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Moreover, the Asian Church is still quite small (only nine cardinals from this part of the world are eligible to vote in the conclave now) and it’s difficult to imagine an Asian Pope at the Vatican’s helm at this point in history. 
But as a friend who is a keen papacy observer put it, don’t underestimate the “Filipino mafia” at the Vatican---the many religious and secretaries working there, who are conducting a "we bulong" campaign for Tagle to those who matter in the on-going conclave, especially if a stubborn deadlock persists  between  conservatives and reformists.  
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Add this tidbit to your collection of Vatican trivia:  If 2013 is remembered for the resignation of a reigning Pontiff in 600 years,  1978 was the year of three popes: Pope Paul VI had died on Aug. 6, 1978,  and Pope John Paul I assumed the papacy on Aug. 26, 1978, but he reigned for only 33 days and died quite suddenly on Sept. 28, 1978 under what some quarters still consider until today “mysterious circumstances.” Then, the first Polish Pope, now Blessed John Paul II was elected in October of 1978 and reigned for the next 27 years, until his death on April 2, 2005.
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The astounding claim was made by a former national territory division head of the DFA, that Ninoy Aquino had struck a deal with Malaysia in 1983 to drop the Philippine claim over Sabah should he get into power---in exchange for that country’s support to oust dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This is explosive, for it could torpedo the exalted hero status of Ninoy in this anti-Malaysian epoch (already he’s being touted quite unfairly as Ph’s “Benedict Arnold”). The weakness of Hermes Dorado’s claim, however, is that his source for this expose, former Ambassador and Defense Secretary in the Cory era Rafael Ileto is no longer around to verify this “bit of intelligence.”
Dorado asserted at a UP forum that Ninoy had met with Malaysian PM Mohammad Mahathir before his final return to Manila in 1983, where he was subsequently assassinated, to bargain with the PM that Ninoy would drop the Sabah claim, provided Mahathir help him against Marcos.  Proof of this deal, opines Dorado, is that the Cory Constitution of 1987 dropped reference to “all other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title” as originally found in the 1973 Constitution.  He also asserted that this removal of reference to Sabah was sustained in the amended Baselines Law of 2009, which became “disastrous” to the claim of the Sultanate to the oil-rich territory in North Borneo.
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Secretary Rocky Ileto could have been credible on this issue as he was Cory’s defense secretary, but he is now dead. On the other hand, former PM Mahathir is still around to confirm this assertion, but certainly he would not open his mouth on this issue now, as it would make his country look worse than it already is with the ill treatment of Filipinos in Sabah.  As for Ninoy, he had the reputation of being a wily and pragmatic politician and there are those who would easily believe this story about his “double-dealing” with Mahathir.
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It took exactly a month after the royal forces of Sultan Kiram cut across the Sulu Sea to land in Sabah, that the Palace began official communication with the Kiram family, with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas inviting the Sultan’s brother, Esmail, to a dialogue in Crame. It was a frightfully slow, labored response to this issue billed in Malaysia as the greatest security threat to that country in decades.
 On the other hand, Kiram obviously felt quite ignored after firing away three letters to the Palace that went unanswered; but the problem was that he must also have been fully aware of all the on-going negotiations with various other Muslim factions on the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement (these can’t be kept secret in Mindanao). Thus, the incursion into Sabah by his “royal forces” was not as sudden as it appeared to be---talk is that he had contemplated it as early as last August, but Palace intelligence was too preoccupied with the other factions then.
Now, in the face of the “unacceptable” Malaysian inhumane treatment of Filipinos in Sabah, as former GMA peace negotiator Jess Dureza pointed out, the role of Malaysia as a “neutral peace negotiator” between the GPH side and the MILF is effectively scuttled---“blown to pieces.”

Palace officials should sit down to analyze the related issues from the beginning and learn their lesson.
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My former colleague Rina Jimenez David wrote in her column today that Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn “Josy” Sy-Limkaichong faces the “challenge” of “disinformation” about the RH Law in her “uphill battle” for governor of the province in the coming elections there. She is running under the LP banner vs. former GMA Finance Secretary Gary Teves, himself a former multi-term representative of Negros Oriental, who's running under UNA and NPC.

 But I must tell Rina that Josy Limkaichong’s biggest problem in her bid for governor is not the alleged “disinformation” about the RH Law, but the fact that the roads and other infrastructure in the province remain in such awful state of disrepair; unfortunately, repair is being undertaken by her family’s construction firm.  Negros Oriental’s penitential roads are the main issue vs. Limkaichong and she'll lose the gubernatorial race on this account.
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Tess Lopez
This blogger was in Negros Oriental last month at the invitation of my friend, Tess Lopez, whose family owns the sprawling hacienda at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon in the beautiful Heritage town of Valle Hermoso in nothern Negros Oriental (the Assumption-educated Tess is the town “historian,” through whose efforts its history and culture are preserved).  

From Valle Hermoso a group of us drove to Dumaguete for a quick visit, from where we took our plane back to Manila. The three-hour trip to Dumaguete proved to be Good Friday in advance, as the roads were so bad in many parts that it almost broke my neck; the bridge in Gihulngan destroyed by the earthquake nearly two years ago remains unrepaired, necessitating detour.  

But despite the terrible roads of Negros Oriental I was most happy to have been able to visit the historic town of Valle Hermoso, which celebrates this year the centennial of its foundation by Don Diego de la Vina.
(Next: Valle Hermoso’s proud and glorious history of resistance to Spanish and Japanese colonizers. Town played host to President Manuel L. Quezon and his party in 1942, just before MLQ was airlifted to Australia as the Japanese were advancing in the Visayas).  


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