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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

If President acts on mere “whiff of corruption” w/o investigating deeper--as what seemed to have happened with fired DILG Secretary Mike Sueno--fewer good people would care to join the administration as they'd value their good name & honor. Scandals in House almost drowned out major breakthrough in Netherlands peace talks: declaration of ceasefire by both sides. AFP, now firmly held by PMA '83, keenly watching developments.

Of statements of President Duterte that bag headlines daily, I DO NOT PARTICULARLY RELISH WHAT HE SAID YESTERDAY: that he'd not hesitate to remove anyone, even his best friend, from office if even just a “whiff of corruption” were to arise about said official. It doesn’t have to be necessarily true, Mr. Duterte even asserted, as even just a whiff of corruption would be enough cause for an official’s removal.

Apparently this was what happened to DILG Secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno: he was never confronted with the confidential “white paper” supposedly listing his shortcomings. Sueno, in an emotional send-off by his staff yesterday, claimed he was never presented a copy of the October 2016 legal opinion by a DILG undersecretary about the controversial fire-trucks deal with Austria that he had negotiated, which became the basis of his firing owing to “corruption.”

In other words, Sueno appears to have been deprived of due process, which is a cornerstone in a democracy. 


A number of Mr. Duterte’s Mindanao allies such as Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes have expressed sadness over the manner the 72-year old DILG Secretary, a former governor of South Cotabato and very close ally of Mr. Duterte, was dealt with. Daisy Fuentes, whom I have always known to be a straight shooter, asserted that she had always known her province-mate to be a man of integrity.

To be sure, there is a way of handling corruption that would not rankle with the official being fired nor with his supporters. This is so long as the official’s removal is perceived as FAIR AND JUST and supported by thorough investigation. In Sueno’s case it seems Mr. Duterte readily believed the allegations of three undersecretaries who were disgruntled owing to some moves Sueno made in DILG, although the President strongly denied he was “misinformed.” 

If Mr. Duterte is perceived as incapable of being just and fair, and prefers to merely listen to unverified “whiffs of corruption” instead of conducting serious investigation, it’s easy to see that he'd not get the best and brightest in his administration. THIS IS BECAUSE HONEST PEOPLE VALUE THEIR GOOD NAME WHICH, FOLLOWING THE EVALUATION SYSTEM OF MR. DUTERTE, COULD END UP IN TATTERS BECAUSE OF THEIR SUPERIOR'S RASH AND FAULTY JUDGMENT. 


Front-page stories of scandals rocking the House of Representatives about girl friends of erstwhile political allies, and repercussions from their estrangement almost managed to drown out the most significant development so far in the ongoing peace talks---now on its 4th round---between government panel and the leftist bloc in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

This electrifying development is the signing of an agreement between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the PH government panel in that host country that would put in place an interim ceasefire to end the 48-year old insurgency in the Philippines--- the longest running rebellion in the world.


News stories said that the Joint Ceasefire Agreement shall be deemed interim until a more permanent and lasting ceasefire agreement could be reached, in accordance with a “Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.” Thus, while the more lasting agreement still has to be hammered out, this interim ceasefire agreement should hold. Chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III and NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili jointly directed their respective ceasefire committees "to meet immediately even in between formal talks, to finalize the guidelines and ground rules” until a “Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces” is arrived at.

Obviously the participants on both sides of the ideological divide felt the heat from various citizens in our country and abroad about the urgent need to strike peace, and they rose to the challenge. This blogger contributed her bit by calling on my old UP classmate, Jose Ma. Sison, and other NDF leaders to come to the bargaining table and vent out their complaints, instead of shooting it out in the battlefields. 

As it turned out, panel chief Jess Dureza called up Mr. Duterte from The Netherlands to report that Joma Sison is not well,  and the President readily offered to provide him with free medical treatment here. Let’s hope Joma Sison takes up this generous offer.


Mr. Duterte set preconditions for this recent 4th round of talks: namely, an end to the rebels’ revolutionary tax collection and to territorial claims, as well as the release of three soldiers and policemen held by the NPAs. The rebel side, on the other hand, clamored, among other things, for the release of all its nearly 400 political prisoners and the just distribution of lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The ceasefire agreement---which the rebel side insists on calling a “truce”---is only the beginning of the real battle across the bargaining table. Here Mr. Duterte would doubtless be caught in a tough balancing act with the military which is watching developments in The Netherlands with eagle eyes.


Right now the AFP is under tight control of PMA Class ’83, dubbed the “super-class” as ALL THE TOP LEADERS OF THE AFP NOW COME FROM IT.  With AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo F. Año at the helm, Class '83 officers in the saddle are: Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, Army commanding general; Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, Air Force commanding general; Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, Flag Officer of the Navy,  Maj. Gen. Andre Costales, chief of the Marine Corps and Vice Admiral William Melad as Philippine Coast Guard chief. A great number of retired officers of this class, too, have been appointed to various civilian jobs, e.g.,  Maj. Gen. Alexander Balutan (ret.) as PCSO GM.

Mr. Duterte has acknowledged in the past that he’s being watched keenly by the military, and that the alternative to a mishandling of the crisis with the Left might be a coup d’etat---which is easy to pull, given that all the major leadership posts in the AFP are now in the hands of PMA Super-class ’83. Yet it could also be argued that precisely because the President gave this class so much power, it would be unthinkable for them to pull a coup d'etat. Besides, in another year all of them would be retired already.  


As an aside, PMA class '83 is also so closely-knit (and therefore easier to motivate for positive or negative end?). It's the only PMA class that meets EVERY YEAR WITHOUT FAIL, together with their families, at Libingan ng Mga Bayani, to celebrate the anniversary of their graduation from PMA last March 11, 1983. On this occasion they yearly honor all their comrades who have gone ahead to the Great Beyond. I was invited to their anniversary last March 11 and it was truly a most moving experience.

At the Libingan ceremony, departed classmates’ photos were mounted on individual stands, with a lamp beneath each photo and a short recitation of the circumstances of their departure from this life was made. A bell was tolled after each recitation and at the end of the ceremony, TAPS was solemnly played, followed by a volley of fire. Young Filipino classical violinist Chino Gutierrez was invited to play last March 11 and he chose Jules Massenet’s “Meditation” which he followed with the song every Filipino loves, “Bayan Ko.” These hymns, rendered on the violin, enchanced the evocative atmosphere at LNMB.  

In closing, suffice it to say that both sides in the ideological divide are keenly watching the developments in The Netherlands (the 5th round of talks is set for May 22-June 02, 2017). At this moment, let’s just toast the two sides for the progress they have achieved so far in the name of peace. Their moves will be watched with eagle eyes by our citizenry as they tackle one another’s demands. Let us pray that the panelists would all be guided by reason and patriotism, as WE ARE ALL FILIPINOS WHO LOVE OUR COUNTRY AND WANT TO SEE IT MOVE FORWARD AND TAKE ITS RIGHTFUL AND RESPECTED PLACE AMONG THE FAMILY OF NATIONS.  

1 comment:

  1. I watched the entire Sueno presscon. I think I heard enough from both sides and I believe the side of ex Sec Sueno. I think Mike Sueno is a good man. Sayang.