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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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

P-Noy would badly need his DAP when Congress starts deliberations on crafting Bangsamoro Basic Law to govern the Bangsamoro entity. SC refusal to delay oral arguments on DAP as Palace has sought shows welcome streak of independence. Inquirer should have honored the truly heroic relief workers in Yolanda-stricken Visayas---instead of Luy and cohorts who were neither heroic nor virtuous, as they only broke away from Napoles to save their skin.


Government and MILF panels sign last
annex to Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro
No right-thinking Filipino would be unhappy with the signing in Kuala Lumpur the other day of the annex on “normalization,” the last of four annexes to the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).“ This last annex paves the way for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF.   

For if this CAB works, it could hasten the end---or at least the considerable reduction of the strife that has characterized the relationship between the government and the Moro people for many decades. All the weaponry against the armed Moro warriors and the astronomical defense budget to obtain and maintain the peace in troubled Mindanao could then be marshaled for rebuilding the Muslim communities, among the poorest constituencies in the country.

XXX

But precisely this is where the term “normalization” begins to acquire a deeper meaning, for ahead lies the tougher part---the implementation stage of the comprehensive peace agreement. For this stage would involve the decommissioning of the 11,000-strong MILF forces and tackling the issue of security, as armed MILF groups morph into a “social movement,” as its chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal put it, tough though it is to imagine.

MILF vice-chair Ghazali Jaafar was quoted by the Daily Tribune as asserting prior to the recent signing in KL that the toughest part would be the creation of the Muslim region’s police force and detailing how it would interact with the PNP.

Indeed it’s tough to imagine this decommissioning becoming a reality for hardened warriors whose race has defied subjugation since prior to Spanish conquest of our islands. But it’s even tougher to see them involved in a “social movement.”

XXX

But perhaps the toughest part comes when Congress begins to deliberate the enactment and crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which would finally create the autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that will replace ARMM. Its birth will be subjected to a referendum in Mindanao. The 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission chaired by Mohagher Iqbal is now drafting the BBL for submission to Congress in May this year. 

This stage in Congress is where hard political bargaining comes in and use of presidential pork barrel to soften congressional resistance would be handy---if President Aquino is to enjoy this much-awaited law as the “legacy” of a presidency marred by faulty moral decisions over the past three years.

But it’s also good to remember that pending before the Supreme Court is the petition by many civic organizations for abolition of the President’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).  Could this reality of the future action of Congress on the BBL have been among the reasons for the Palace’s plea for postponement of the oral arguments on DAP, set before the Supreme Court for Tuesday, Jan. 28?  In a laudable show of independence the SC has denied this plea. 

Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte has called for citizens to “keep an open mind” on the peace agreement that both sides are hammering out, and it’s tough not to acquiesce to this request for once. Tell you what, Abigail, I’ll not only keep an open mind, I’ll pray that all goes well with CAB and the BBL.

But perhaps those who will challenge its constitutionality before the SC would be quicker on the draw. And we can't discount the terribly disgruntled MNLF.

XXX

I do not agree with the decision of the Inquirer editors and assistant editors on their choice, as announced last Jan. 19, to honor as Filipino (s) of the Year 2013 the whistle-blowers involved in the P10 billion Napoles scam, led by Benhur Luy.  If I were in the editors’ shoes I would have voted for the relief workers in the huge swathe of calamities wrought by super-typhoon Yolanda, who, I had read, were among the nominees for “Filipinos who made the biggest positive impact on the life of the nation in the year just past.”

The relief workers toiling in the post-Yolanda Visayas and in relief centers in Metro Manila unselfishly came to the succor of their stricken countrymen. Many of them remained nameless and faceless---and therefore publicly un-thanked---but they confronted enormous dangers as they toiled for days and weeks in a race against time and the elements---to save countless lives. Together with millions of survivors of Yolanda these workers displayed the true grit and resilience—as well as the unselfishness and dedication--- that became the toast of the world especially after the CNN team paid glowing tribute to these superlative virtues of the Filipino race.

XXX

By contrast, the Napoles whistle-blowers were neither virtuous nor heroic.  In fact, they were operators of Janet Lim Napoles, some like Luy for more than a decade, supporting her nefarious activities and profiting from those stolen public funds themselves---in conspiracy with corrupt legislators. These whistle-blowers only came to a parting of the ways with Napoles when she locked up Luy in her posh condo suite for three months---after she discovered that her wily operator was allegedly apt to something wicked himself. 

According to reports Napoles became furious when she discovered that Luy was trying to set up a rival organization after he mastered the tricks of their evil trade.

After Luy decided to go to media and tell all about Napoles, his cohorts decided to break away from the big boss too---obviously to save their own skin as the truth was already out and the authorities would hunt them down.

XXX

To be sure, the Napoles whistle-blowers indeed helped break the backbone of the scam, but they did it TO SAVE THEMSELVES---there was nothing noble and virtuous about them that they ought to be honored as “Filipino(s) of the Year.” Had Benhur Luy not been “imprisoned” it’s thoroughly possible, given the huge profits the whistle-blowers were raking in, that the PDAF scam would have continued on and on.

Thus, to compare them, for instance, to Clarissa Ocampo, as some writers have done, is a great disservice to Clarissa and the nation. Clarissa came out in the open and testified to the veracity of former President Estrada’s signing himself as “Jose Velarde” in incriminating bank deposits. She didn’t have to come out in the open about this fact, but risking her life and that of her family, she obviously wanted to serve her country. And for this her alma mater rightly honored her.

By contrast, Napoles whistle-blowers thought only of themselves to the end.

XXX

While on the subject of the JLN scams, whatever happened to the 74 other fake NGOs that Sen. Chiz Escudero had queried about months back?  There was a frightfully huge to-do in media about the eight fake NGOs that were in JLN’s stable, but there were actually 82 such fake NGOs .  As Escudero noted, where are the 74?  Why did the investigation being conducted by COA Chief Grace Pulido Tan and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima appear to have stopped at the JLN-involved NGOs only? 

For that matter, why were only three opposition senators charged before the Ombudsman for corruption in years 2007-2009, when reports indicate there were about 15 senators said to have been involved, including allies of the President? Then too, whatever happened to 371 members of the House of Representatives also said to have been involved in fake NGOs in various years, including close allies of P-Noy such as Niel Tupas and Boyet Gonzalez?  

As a result the opposition has been raising the issue of “selective justice.”

XXX

Confronted about this issue of "selective justice," COA Chief Pulido-Tan complained some weeks back that the Department of Budget and Management has refused to submit records on those implicated. With all the powers assigned to her by the Constitution, including a fixed term and removal only by impeachment, the COA Chief seems helpless about the DBM's intransigence. 

If this is the case, the only way to obtain public documents, it seems, would be to pass the Freedom of Information Act; but despite the open endorsement by Sen. Grace Poe, as chair of the Senate committee on public information, for the FOI bill’s passage, it seems to have little chance of passing in P-Noy’s term---despite his campaign promise to support it.
It all adds up---so many secrets to hide.


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