.
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, July 23, 2017

President Digong to speak for 2 ½ hours at tightest-security SONA ever, as Palace appropriates 280 tickets (for pala?). SONA to zero in on Marawi recovery and clamor for abrogation of peace talks in the Netherlands owing to renewed hostilities in Negros.


Marawi City, seat of Islam in the Philippines, goes up in smoke.



Peace talks participants in The Netherlands in a jubilant pose




From what I gathered, security for tomorrow’s State of the Nation Address at the Batasan would be the tightest in recent memory—which is expected, given various controversies these days. The buzz too is that invitations to tomorrow’s SONA are as premium as gold (1,800 invites out, delivered by authorized personnel and non-transferable---no changing of seats). Malacanang alone had asked for 280 invites. 

All the guests are asked to be in the Plenary Hall by 3pm. and all entrances to it shall be closed at 3:30 pm. As is customary,  the guests are enjoined to come in Filipiniana attire although, since the President is from Mindanao, spotlight will be on attire from the big island. Ladies of Congress will be mostly in Mindanao-inspired outfits, as they seek to coordinate with the dress design of presidential partner Honeylet Avanceña, who is said to come in a Mindanao outfit.  

XXX

The crowning bit of it all: President Duterte is expected to speak longer than the usual hour and 15 minutes with applause interruptions in past SONAs. In fact the buzz is that he’ll speak for 2 ½ hours, so diabetic guests are enjoined to bring candies or biscuits to assuage hunger. Last year Mr. Duterte peppered his hour and 20 minutes with homey quips that kept the audience rolling on their side; this time, however, the mood is expected to be pregnant with seriousness as he tackles two main preoccupations of the nation: the IS challenge in Mindanao and the incredibly vast damage and proposed rehabilitation of once-beautiful Marawi City, and the lack of progress in the peace talks in The Netherlands between the government panel  (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). PRRD is expected to denounce renewed hostilities by NPA guerillas in some provincial areas.

XXX  

What we’ll see tomorrow is a Congress feeling good about itself over the overwhelming triumph of the side advocating EXTENSION of the martial law proclamation in Mindanao until Dec. 31 this year---261 VOTING FOR, VS. 18 AGAINST. My readers will recall how I castigated both chambers of Congress for passing up their OBLIGATION under the Constitution, TO DELIBERATE JOINTLY on and approve OR reject the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao by President Duterte soon after Marawi was invaded by Maute elements.

What the two chambers did at that time was to meet SEPARATELY to discuss the merits of the martial law proclamation  in Marawi---when the Constitution is very clear: both of them are MANDATED TO MEET  JOINTLY to approve or throw out the President's martial law declaration in Mindanao, and the latter couldn't do anything about it if Congress disapproved it. I called Congress’ failure to hold a joint session a DERELICTION OF DUTY by the honorables. 

In last Friday's jam-packed JOINT SESSION of Congress to approve or disapprove the martial law extension by the President, however, the members of both chambers redeemed themselves and their institution. Congress overwhelmingly approved that extension, and listening to the individual solons recite their stand---and from time to time debate the issue among themselves--I felt proud of Congress, something I don’t feel everyday.  

XXX

Traditionally, on the eve of the SONA, the Center for People Empowerment in Government (CENPEG), an umbrella group of UP professions from various disciplines, would conduct an assessment of the “State of the Presidency” (S0P) over the past years at a forum in UP Diliman. I have always attended these sessions over the years as I have found them quite stimulating. Last Thursday was CENPEG’S “9TH SOP and predictably the two major topics I mentioned above were taken up. I shall deal with them here first, and in the next few days the rest of the topics taken. 

The reconstruction of Marawi and environs might well be the center of attention of Mr. Duterte’s five years in office from hereon, for as Prof. Julkipli Wadi put it, “Apart from war on drugs, the Marawi crisis is THE SINGLE MOST DEVASTATING CHALLENGE THAT IMPACTED HEAVILY ON THE FIRST YEAR OF THE DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION.” I agree with Prof. Wadi on this point. While the drug war preoccupied the Duterte forces and led to the killings of some 7,000 Filipinos as well as protests here and abroad about human rights violations, the Marawi crisis killed thousands of Filipinos on both sides, combatants and civilians, destroyed the mecca of the Muslim faith here and left so many people homeless and the economy ruined. 

XXX

Interestingly, Prof. Wadi opines that the Marawi problem could have been averted had there been “clear and coherent policy and strategy of the AFP in addressing the rise of new Moro radicalism, including the so-called ISI-Maute Group.” He asserts that with the “peace lull” on the Bangsamoro peace process as government became too focused on the war against drugs, the Moro fronts for months remained “in the waiting mode on what the next steps in the peace process (would be)---untapped to serve as government partner in the war vs. terrorism." Thus, Mr. Wadi insists, INTO THIS LULL ENTERTED THE MAUTE GROUP, THE ABU SAYYAF AND THEIR ISI AFFILIATES, TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE "UNCERTAIN SITUATION  IN MINDANAO." 

Prof. Wadi also cites what everybody knows---the failure in AFP intelligence in that conflict area---and he fears that the lack of long-term vision of reform “would politicize even more the bureaucracy in the autonomous region,” even as it could potentially open a void in Moro struggle with more splits to ensue and new radicals fitting in new role.” Wadi asserts that the war in Mindanao will take perhaps another generation to fathom and solve. 

XXX

Prof. Bobby M. Tuason, CenPeg Director for Policy Studies, in his paper titled “Prospects and Intricacies of a Peace Agreement in the GPH-NDFP Negotiations,” laments that while the peace talks resumed last year in an upbeat mood---with both sides agreeing to fast-track the process---the talks lost their steam due to several reasons. Among them, he argued, were “military intransigence and President Duterte’s POOR GRASP OF THE PEACE PROCESS, on one hand, and the NPA holding its ground to resist AFP operations on the other.” 

Prof. Tuason traced the quickening pace to sue for peace in the post-Marcos era, starting with Corazon Aquino in 1986, with the NDFP, which represents the CPP and its armed component, the NPA. Binding the negotiations with the government over the past 30 years of protracted peace talks, as hosted by the Netherlands and later Norway, asserts Prof. Tuason, has been the pressure on the Armed Left to capitulate while launching total wars resulting in human rights abuses, and of late, refusing to honor previous agreements.


XXX

Prof. Tuason paints the two protagonists:  "On one side was the GPH panel representing the state whose role is to preserve the status quo of the dominant class of oligarchs, an unequal alliance with the US, and a political system legitimized in principle by a constitution which is otherwise mocked by the ruling oligarchs themselves."  

On the other side, he argues, "was a revolutionary organization that envisions, so its program claims, to overhaul the class system, implement a genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization en route to establishing a socialist state." 

Tuason asserts that a window was opened under President Duterte when he appointed a few progressives to the Cabinet and released some key political prisoners temporarily to allow them to participate in the negotiations in Europe. The President's panel also agreed with the NDFP to reaffirm previous agreements on human rights, security and immunity guarantees. But as is now evident, all these have come to naught and in the countryside there are renewed hostilities by the NPAs. Thus, points out Tuason, last May the 5th round of talks in The Netherlands was unilaterally put "on hold" by the GPH panel, with President Duterte's consent.  

(More speakers’ views to follow)

No comments:

Post a Comment