Another promise

By Jojo A. Robles
Manila Standard Today

There is scant news in the Japan press about President Noynoy Aquino’s ongoing visit there, despite the fevered reports reaching Manila from that country. Apparently, the Japanese, still reeling from the earthquake-and-tsunami combination that hit them earlier this year, found it more important to hear about how a Japan-born wrestler won the important September Grand Sumo Tournament, the first time that has happened in four years, according to one informant.

The only news about the Philippines came from the Japan Times, which ran a story about the suspension of a campaign to secure the bones of the 500,000 Japanese soldiers who died in this country during World War II because of the inclusion of the remains of dead Filipinos in the recovered fragments. The recovery of the dead soldiers’ remains is important to the Japanese, who believe that their souls will not rest in peace until the bones are properly buried.

The visiting Aquino, the report said, “has indicated that if any remains of Philippine nationals are found to have been brought over to Japan, he would seek their return.” That’s about all.

We suspect that even if the respected Jesuit-run Sophia University in Tokyo had decided to confer an honorary degree on Aquino, it would not have made the news. But the Japanese Jesuits of Sophia were apparently not convinced that they had to give an honoris causa to Aquino, like their brethren in New York’s Fordham University did earlier.

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With the cooperation of the Judiciary, President Noynoy Aquino told Filipinos in Japan, his administration may be able to send officials of the previous administration to jail starting next year. Yesterday, the Judiciary showed just how willing it was to cooperate with the Executive branch by staging simultaneous protest actions against Aquino during flag-raising ceremonies at various courts.

But regardless of the current bad blood between Malacañang and the Judiciary, which was brought about by Palace attempts to dictate the use of funds given to a supposed co-equal branch of government, Aquino’s latest promise still seems overly optimistic. Which makes one wonder why, if Aquino is aware of how the justice system in this country works, he had to make the promise of securing convictions by next year at all.

Of course, the prevailing temperament in the courts these days practically dooms Aquino’s promise to non-fulfillment even by the end of his term over four years from now. And despite Aquino’s vow that his administration will make sure that the cases that will eventually be filed against the officials of his predecessor will be strong, it is a fact that such cases often take years and years to be resolved, regardless of the evidence presented.

Given Aquino’s dismal record of making good on his promises since he became President, this new vow practically ensures that even the most guilty of the people he wants prosecuted will not see the inside of a jail cell for many, many years. And, unlike his other unfulfilled promises like passing a freedom of information law, he simply does not have control over a judicial system that he wants to employ to convict his political foes.

It must be said, however, that everyone who stole from government must be jailed, regardless of whether they served in some past administration or even in this one. But it just makes no sense to promise, as Aquino has so boldly has, to secure convictions in a year when the government has not even filed formal charges.

Because the truth is, Malacañang itself has not yet ordered the suing of the people it says it wants jailed. So far, the only cases that have been filed were those lodged by private persons or independent government instrumentalities, not by the solicitor general or the Department of Justice on behalf of the Aquino administration.

How convictions can be handed down by courts on two cases that Aquino cited in Japan—the supposed billion-peso coffee purchases made by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the alleged misuse of helicopters sold to the national police—is incomprehensible. So far, both these cases have only been “heard” in the Senate during investigations conducted by Aquino sycophants in that chamber.

Aquino cannot point to the Judiciary as the source of the delay in the prosecution of cases that he has not even ordered filed yet. And yet he’s already talking about getting convictions starting next year, from the courts whose funds he will not even allow free use of.

It would be interesting to see how Aquino attempts to secure the convictions he promised within the time he has allotted to get them. Or is this just yet another of those moving-target deadlines that he has imposed on himself—with the judiciary as the convenient scapegoat, in case he fails?

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From the new autobiography of former United States Vice President Dick Cheney, “In My Time,” we read this interesting passage concerning the most violent coup attempt during the Cory Aquino administration, when Cheney was still defense secretary of President George Herbert Walker Bush:

“As we monitored events in Panama throughout the fall of 1989, we were also dealing with a potential coup in the Philippines. On November 30 we started getting reports that rebels opposed to the rule of Corazon Aquino had seized air bases belonging to the Filipino government. We also received a request from President Aquino to bomb the rebel positions. I did not believe we should agree to do this— nor did [then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General [Colin] Powell. For one thing, President Aquino made it clear she would publicly deny having made the request. Asking the United States to bomb Filipino citizens, even if they were rebels, would not go well inside her own country.”

If Cheney’s account is true, then Cory Aquino not only sought American help to bomb rebel forces led by then Col. Gregorio Honasan, with little regard for the lives that would be lost. She also wanted “deniability” if the US acceded to her request, doubtless so she could retain her image as a God-fearing Catholic instead of coming across as a desperate leader determined to hold on to power by any means, including American ordnance.

The Americans, of course, didn’t bomb Gringo and his men, using “persuasion flights” to keep the rebel-controlled air assets grounded instead. Cory later responded to the Americans’ refusal to bomb at her behest by snubbing Cheney when the latter visited Manila; she, according to the US, also allowed the bases in Clark and Subic to be “evicted” a couple of years later.

Cheney’s account of Cory Aquino’s vengefulness, by the way, was also related earlier by Bush’s vice president, Dan Quayle, in his own autobiography. Quayle, Cheney and Powell had to decide on Cory’s demands for bombings because Bush was traveling to Malta when the Philippine President started calling.

The accounts could douse cold water on the efforts of the Yellow crowd to canonize Cory as a saint of the Catholic Church. They could also explain the vindictiveness that is fast becoming the trademark of the current administration led by Cory Aquino’s son.

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