March 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Barack-Obama-Nobel-Peace-PrizeIn his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him in December 2009, President Barack Obama said: “I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

“And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.

“But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.

“Still, we are at war, and I’m responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill, and some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the costs of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

Miscalculation

Obama during his college days at Columbia University.

Obama during his college days at Columbia University.

Reading between the lines, Obama seemed to be uncomfortable – and hesitant – of his new role as the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country in the history of mankind. As one who manifested a “peacenik” orientation during his college days at Columbia University in the early 1980s, he found his new role as the leader of the free world to be totally in conflict with what he was perceived to believe in: pacifism.

It did not then come as surprise when Obama decided to withdraw all American forces including “boots on the ground,” from Iraq at the end of 2011. And his only reason why he did so was because he made a promise during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would withdraw American troops from Iraq.

ISIS rebels entering Mosul.

ISIS rebels entering Mosul.

Obama ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq when the Iraqi military was hardly a fighting force. When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rebels crossed the border from Syria and attacked Mosul in 2014, the city fell in four days of fighting when Iraqi soldiers threw down their guns and stripped off their uniforms as the ISIS rebels entered the city. The same scenario was repeated through all the towns and villages that ISIS attacked.

After several months of merciless assault by ISIS against the helpless Iraqis, Obama ordered air strikes against the rebels. However, he refused to send “boots on the ground” to help the Iraqis defend their territory. Many military experts opined that the war couldn’t be won without “boots on the ground.”

And this turned out to be another Obama miscalculation. There is a proverb that says: “If there is a gap, something will fill it.” And true enough; the vacuum that America left in Iraq was filled by Iranian troops fighting side by side with the Iraqis against ISIS. Now, does anybody expect the Iranians to leave Iraq when ISIS is driven out of Iraq? Let me guess. Hell, no!

Putin and World War III

Putin and his generals.

Putin and his generals.

But what’s happening in Iraq is just a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the globe vis-à-vis America’s role as the only superpower that maintains order in the world after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. It was the dawn of Pax Americana or American Peace.

But Pax Americana is being shattered by the civil war in Ukraine. Indeed, what’s going on in Ukraine could be a precursor to World War III. Right now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is making a lot of noise, threatening to use nuclear missiles against members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) if they interfered with the unrest in Ukraine.

The question is: Is Putin going to use nuclear weapons if World War III erupted? While it might seem that there is some sanity to Putin’s mental state, he might start World War III with conventional weapons. However, should NATO or the United States win a conventional war with Russia, Putin is expected to resort to a “First-Strike” nuclear attack on the U.S. But in today’s nuclear technology, neither America or Russia could succeed in a “First-Strike” attack against each other because it would be almost impossible to seek and destroy the ballistic missile nuclear submarines that are moving stealthily in the high seas, ready to launch their missiles against pre-determined targets. It’s interesting to note that more than half of the U.S.’s nuclear ballistic missiles are launched from “boomers” as the nuclear submarines are called. Although Russia has a lot fewer “boomers” than the U.S., she has enough to cause enumerable nuclear damage to America. In other words, World War III could lead to MAD; that is, Mutually Assured Destruction.

Vision of peace

Obama's "Breaking the War Mentality"

Obama’s “Breaking the War Mentality”

And it is because of this that Obama is known to be a strong supporter of nuclear disarmament. While at Columbia University, which was the breeding ground for the anti-war movement, Obama wrote an op-ed, “Breaking the War Mentality,” in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about his vision of a “nuclear free world.”

It was this “vision” that had provided a backdrop for Obama’s foreign policy upon his election in 2008. It was no wonder then that his foreign policy, known as “Obama Doctrine,” is guided by the use of diplomacy to accomplish peaceful resolutions to world problems. He believes that there are no military solutions to every problem in the 21st century. But then, as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had asked Gen. Colin Powell during the Clinton years, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Touché.

It did not then come as a surprise that Obama has consistently refused to send lethal and defensive weapons to Ukraine. He believes that arming Ukraine would infuriate Putin who had threatened to send arms and Russian troops to Ukraine. But Putin is already doing that; there are Russian troops and heavy weaponry in Ukraine right now. Yet, Obama has turned a blind eye to the Russian “invasion.”

Arms race

First and Second Island Chains.

First and Second Island Chains.

And while Obama is trying to decrease U.S. troop strength and military assets, Russia and China have been increasing their military budgets to overcome America’s military superiority. Indeed, Russia now has more nuclear warheads than the U.S. while China’s growing naval power in the South China Sea is pushing America’s naval presence outside the First Island Chain, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In addition, China is building at least five artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. Once these artificial islands are completed and used for naval and air force bases, China would have — for the first time — military bases outside Chinese territory. Yes, it won’t be long before the South China Sea becomes China’s Lake Beijing.

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Hassan Rouhani.

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Hassan Rouhani.

While America’s military brass is aware of what’s happening in Iraq, Ukraine, and the South China Sea, there is not much they can do to convince Obama to use a different tact in dealing with foreign policy and geopolitical matters. Simply put, accommodating – and appeasing – Russia, China, and Iran would only diminish America’s international image and military primacy. It would be the end of the unipolar world of Pax Americana and the advent of a multipolar world order that would divide the world into spheres of influence among the U.S., Russia, China, and Iran.

Surmise it to say, the Obama Doctrine may have contributed to the creation of this multipolar world order, which begs the question: Is Obama Doctrine a legacy or a fallacy?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Imelda Marcos signs the "Tripoli Agreement" on behalf of the Philippine government in 1975 in Tripoli, Libya.

Imelda Marcos signs the “Tripoli Agreement” on behalf of the Philippine government in 1975 in Tripoli, Libya.

For the past 40 years several attempts have been made to create an autonomous government for the Filipino Muslims in Mindanao. In 1975, representatives of the Philippine government and the rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to discuss MNLF’s demand for autonomy. Consequently, the “Tripoli Agreement,” which called for the establishment of an autonomous region in the Southern Philippines, was signed.

But in an attempt to derail the negotiations, the Marcos administration insisted that the local population of the region – which included the Christian majority – should make the decision through a plebiscite. The plebiscite, held in April 1977, rejected the Tripoli Agreement; thus, denying the MNLF’s aspirations for a “homeland” of their own. The MNLF refused to accept the results of the plebiscite and the civil war continued.

The failed attempt to establish a Muslim autonomous region led to a split in the MNLF. A splinter group, called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), broke away from the MNLF. The MILF’s mission was to create an independent and sovereign nation carved out of Mindanao, which they claimed to be their “ancestral domain.”

In 1979, Marcos created the “Regional Autonomous Government in the Western and Central Mindanao” through the rubber-stamp Batasan Pambansa (National Assembly). But that, too, failed to take off.

President Cory Aquino meets MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in Jolo in 1986 to talk peace. Photo - Philippines Free Press (Source: mnlfnet.com)

President Cory Aquino meets MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari in Jolo in 1986 to talk peace. Photo – Philippines Free Press (Source: mnlfnet.com)

In 1989, during the presidency of Cory Aquino, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created through Republic Act No. 6734 in pursuance with the new 1987 Constitution, which mandated to provide for an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. A plebiscite was held and only four provinces – Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi – voted to join ARMM.

FVR’s peace initiative

Nur Misuari and FVR celebrate signing of "Final Peace Agreement."

Nur Misuari and FVR celebrate signing of “Final Peace Agreement.”

In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) and MNLF leader Nur Misuari – who was elected ARMM’s third governor that year — signed a peace agreement, known as the “Final Peace Agreement.” It ended the 24-year secessionist war. The 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) recognized the Misuari-led MNLF faction; however, the MILF opposed the peace agreement and continued the fight for an independent ancestral domain.

But instead of fighting the MILF, FVR pursued an all-out peace, allowing the MILF to hold territories. He even constructed a highway that ran deep into MILF territory including Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s headquarters. But the highway also improved the government forces an easy access to the MILF fronts.

Erap’s folly

President Erap Estrada inspects government forces at Camp Abubakar.

President Erap Estrada inspects government forces at Camp Abubakar.

In March 2000, President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, FVR’s successor, declared an all-out war against the MILF. He attacked and captured Camp Abubakar. However, he failed to stop the insurgency. The MILF merely changed it strategy and went into guerilla warfare.

On January 20, 2001, Erap was deposed in a sham “people power” revolution staged by supporters of Erap’s vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Upon assuming the presidency, Gloria pursued a different tact.

On March 24, 2001, the Arroyo administration and the MILF agreed to resume peace negotiations mediated by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Libya. On June 22, the two parties’ representatives signed the “Tripoli Peace Agreement.” On August 7, they signed a formal ceasefire agreement, which ended the war that Erap waged at a high cost: Nearly one million displaced and 70,000 killed.

Gloria’s gambit

Philippine Supreme Court

Philippine Supreme Court

In my article, “What Price Peace” (September 9, 2008), I wrote: “In her fervent desire to have peace in Mindanao, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo went to the extent of secretly forging an agreement that would virtually cede a huge portion of Philippine territory to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The treaty would have expanded the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into a virtual state within a state replete with all the functions and authority of a sovereign and independent state.

“But, in a twist of fate, the day before the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last August 5, 2008 in Malaysia, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order in response to several petitions claiming that the treaty was unconstitutional. What followed next was a tragedy of error that cost lives and property in Mindanao.

“In the aftermath of the public uproar over the attempt to partition the country, Gloria decided to scrap the controversial MOA-AD. She also dissolved the government’s peace panel negotiating with the MILF. Basically, it’s back to square one for the peace process. And, worst, Mindanao is now in a virtual state of war or, to be more precise, a civil war between Muslim Filipinos and Christian Filipinos. In reaction, Mohaqher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator declared, ‘The peace process is now in purgatory.’ ”

P-Noy’s secret deal

P-Noy secretly meets Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan.

P-Noy secretly meets Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan.

On August 4, 2011, Gloria’s successor, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, left the country unannounced on a “secret” mission to Tokyo, Japan where he met with MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim. Their agenda: Ways to push the peace process forward.

On October 15, 2012, representatives of the government and MILF signed a preliminary peace accord, the “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” which called for the creation of an autonomous political entity named “Bangsamoro.” It would replace ARMM.

On March 27, 2014, the Philippine government and the MILF signed the historic “Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro” (CAB). On September 10, 2014, P-Noy submitted to Congress the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would provide for the basic structure of the Bangsamoro autonomous government. It would supersede the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Finally, peace was just around the corner. And then all hell broke loose!

On the wee hours of January 25, 2015, 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) were massacred in Mamasapano in Maguindanao by joint forces of the MILF and the splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Many believe that P-Noy should be held responsible for the massacre for ordering the nearby military camp to stand down when the beleaguered SAF commandos radioed for reinforcement, which begs the question: Why did P-Noy order the military to stand down and leave the SAF commandos at the mercy of the Muslim rebels? One reason that has gained traction was that P-Noy didn’t want to jeopardize the establishment of the autonomous Bangsamoro political entity and the passage of BBL, which is pending in Congress. In an effort to fast-track the creation of Bangsamoro to replace ARMM, P-Noy had been saying that ARMM was a “failed experiment.”

Recipe for failure

ARMM-expanded
Not too long ago, the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) released a 75-page position paper claiming that the BBL bill was flawed and cluttered with unconstitutional experimental features. But assuming that Congress will approve BBL and P-Noy signs it into law, it is expected that it will be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Surmise it to say, ARMM was a political solution to an economic problem. The region is one of the most – if not the most – impoverished regions in the Philippines. Long neglected by “Imperial Manila,” its per capita is 75% lower than the national average. It is the lowest among the country’s 17 regions, and lower than the second lowest region by one-half. Its poverty incidence is almost twice the national average. It is the country’s poorest region, where the average annual income is less than one-third of Manila’s level.

The records show that since the establishment of ARMM in 1989, the Philippine government failed to infuse development funds into the region; thus, perpetuating – if not worsening — its dire economic conditions.

If P-Noy were serious about achieving peace in Mindanao, he should – nay, must – address the economic well-being of the region. He cannot give autonomy to the Filipino Muslims and leave them to fend for themselves.

At the end of the day, economic prosperity is the surest guarantee that would preserve peace, and no peace plan in Mindanao could succeed without uplifting the lives of the Muslims.  Simply put, economic freedom is the only solution to a political problem.

It’s time to break the chronology of failures.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Aquino-Resign-MovementIn the aftermath of the Mamasapano Massacre, a groundswell is rising for the resignation of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III. This is reminiscent of the time leading to the uprising in 2001 when a citizens’ movement snowballed into another people power revolution, which came to fruition when the generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines withdrew their support for then President Joseph “Erap” Estrada.

Known as “EDSA Dos,” it was a coup d’état disguised as a people power revolution, which many believed was orchestrated by an elite group who wanted Erap’s vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to take over the presidency. Indeed, if EDSA Dos was considered a “revolution,” then it was a revolution of the elite – the oligarchs of the land. And true enough; as soon as Gloria took over, the oligarchs placed their people in key government positions. Indeed, EDSA Dos was all about power.

Gloria’s usurpation of the presidency in January 2001 positioned her to run for president in 2004, which gave her the “power of the incumbent.” Elected amidst charges of election cheating, Gloria was in power for nine and a half years, which made her the longest serving president since 1986, when EDSA 1 deposed the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. As we all know now, Gloria’s reign was the most corrupt since the time of Marcos.

People power

Aquino-Resign-Movement.2Although the Resign Movement was gaining momentum, it didn’t reach a critical mass that could have ignited another people power revolution. And after three people power revolutions – EDSA 3 was a failed attempt to bring Erap back to power after Gloria was sworn into office – the people are now tired of “people power” revolutions. So what we’re seeing now is a different tact to bring down the president: the use of the media. And this includes social media, which in essence is another form of “people power.” But is social media enough to put pressure on P-Noy to resign? Or does it need “boots on the ground,” that is, another EDSA-type people power uprising?

Aquino-US-puppet-rallyBut regardless of what the people – or those behind them — would employ to pursue a regime change, it has all the trappings of a coup d’état. The only difference is that the “players” this time around have a pinkish taint of anti-Americanism, who accuse P-Noy of being a puppet of the Americans. Ironically, the beneficiary of EDSA 1 – P-Noy’s mother, Cory Aquino – was the Left’s chosen leader. However, the two heroes of the revolt against Marcos’ totalitarian rule were his own henchmen, Minister of Defense Juan Ponce and Enrile and Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos — a cousin of Marcos – who were both staunchly pro-American.

Regime change

EDSA Dos: Swearing-in of "President" Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

EDSA Dos: Swearing-in of “President” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

And just like the previous EDSA revolutions, the objective of this attempt to bring down P-Noy is regime change. And this is where it gets real fuzzy; the transition could be anything but orderly.

If the EDSA Dos scenario were followed, then the sitting Vice President, Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, would assume the presidency. But unlike Gloria – who had the commitment of the military’s top brass and then Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. to install her as “president” instead of “acting president,” which was what Erap was assured of – Binay might have difficulty convincing Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to install him even as “acting president.” However, Binay could choose anybody – even a barangay captain – to install him as “president” and that would be it.

Déjà vu

Binay Dynasty

Binay Dynasty

But what if P-Noy resigned? The constitution says that the Vice President takes over the presidency when it’s vacated. And this is where the anti-Aquino forces differ in strategy. Some say that Binay would make an excellent president, but others say, “He’d be the most corrupt president in the history of the country!” More corrupt than Gloria? “Absolutely!”

Imagine this: Gloria had only her husband Mike doing all the “dirty” work during her presidency. But Jojo Binay has a family dynasty – to date, five members — that’s too deep into politics, four of whom have been accused or charged of graft and corruption; some of which dates back three decades ago when Cory appointed Jojo as officer-in-charge – and eventually elected mayor — of Makati City. And with Jojo taking over the presidency, it makes one wonder what would the limit be; that is, how far would his family go in accumulating ill-gotten wealth? Or, would it be like a high rollers’ Texas hold ‘em poker game: no limit? And to think that Jojo would be in power for eight and a half years, there is no limit to what he and his family could do if they were to engage in corruption in a scale far greater than all the allegations of corruption against them when they held unrestrained power in Makati City.

To prevent Binay from ascending to the presidency if P-Noy resigned, the Resign Movement proposed the formation of a “National Transformation Council” (NTC), which would take over the rein of government and ignore the constitutional presidential line of succession. But this would look like a coup d’état, which can only succeed with the full support – and participation — of the military. And this begs the question: who would constitute the National Transformation Council? Right now, it’s anybody’s guess.

What if Binay won?

Is Binay working or campaigning?

Is Binay working or campaigning?

The organizers were saying that the NTC would consist of persons with the following qualities: honesty, integrity, credibility, and efficiency. The question is: where do you find them? And what is the likelihood that it would be filled with opportunistic individuals who belong to the rich and powerful elite? It’s déjà vu all over again… and it could be worse.

Then there is the problem of convincing the international community – particularly the U.S. – that it was not a military takeover. But that would be hard to sell. Anything that comes close to a military coup d’état could compel the U.S. to withhold financial and military aid to the country.

It’s becoming apparent that forcing P-Noy to resign and replace him with a junta wouldn’t dwell too well with the Filipino people, many of whom have horrendous memories of the Marcos dictatorship. Leaderless and rudderless, the Resign Movement is beginning to show cracks on its façade.

The challenge facing the nation is to find an honest and incorruptible leader. There are a few elected men and women who have excelled in the performance of their electoral mandates. Anyone of them could be a better president than Binay. But can they beat Binay who has been campaigning for president since he was elected vice president in 2010?

The question to be asked then shouldn’t be “What if P-Noy resigned?” but it should be “What if Binay won?”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante

Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante

Long after Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante left the Department of Agriculture (DA), the department is still waist-deep in corruption. And four and a half years after Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III was elected president on the crest of a campaign promise to end corruption, DA continues to be one of the most – if not the most – corrupt government agencies.

Indeed, corruption has been ingrained in DA’s operations during the past decade beginning with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency. When P-Noy took over the government in 2010, corruption persisted at DA. It’s déjà vu all over again… with different “players.”

It all began in 2003 when journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat exposed an alleged fertilizer fund scam. In her weekly column, Esperat alleged that Bolante, who was then Undersecretary of DA, engineered the scam. Consequently, Esperat sued Bolante and 10 DA officials for buying overpriced fertilizer without any bidding worth P432 million. Among them were former DA secretaries Luis Lorenzo Jr. and Arthur Yap, and DA’s public accountant Ophelia Agawin.

Fertilizer fund scandal

Happier days: Janet Lim-Napoles and President Aquino

Happier days: Janet Lim-Napoles and President Aquino

The following year, another scam was exposed: the P728-million fertilizer fund scandal that involved Bolante and Janet Lim-Napoles who owned Jo-Chris Trading, which was the second biggest supplier of the liquid fertilizer that was distributed to Gloria’s allies in 2004.

In June 2004, former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez filed plunder cases against Gloria and several DA officials including Bolante for alleged misuse of fertilizer funds. The following year, on March 24, 2005, Garcia-Esperat was murdered in her own home.

In my article,The Joc-joc affair is no joking matter (July 28, 2006), I wrote: “In 2005, the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) initiated a series of joint public hearings to investigate the alleged fertilizer scam. Consequently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism conducted its own investigation and discovered that a large portion of the P728-million fertilizer funds was released to fictitious — or ‘ghost’ — foundations. In December 2005, the Senate joint committees chaired by Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. issued a report which concluded that the fertilizer funds intended for farmers were diverted by Undersecretary Bolante for the 2004 electoral campaign of President Arroyo. According to the report, collaborative testimonies from Agriculture officials, 13 farmer groups, Commission on Audit officials, the Budget Secretary, and alleged “runners” of Bolante indicated that the “farmers did not get a single farm input or implement” in 2004.”

Fugitive from justice

Joc-joc Bolante upon arrival from the U.S.

Joc-joc Bolante upon arrival from the U.S.

The report named Bolante as the “master architect of the scam.” In December 2005, soon after the report came out, Bolante disappeared and became a fugitive from justice after failing to appear before the Senate joint committees.

On July 7, 2006, Bolante was arrested after he tried to enter the United States with a cancelled visa. Unbeknown to Bolante, Senator Magsaysay had previously requested the US Embassy in Manila to cancel his visa. However, instead of refusing him entry into the US, he was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

To avoid deportation, Bolante sought political asylum claiming that he would be persecuted if he returned to the Philippines. On June 25, 2007, an Immigration Judge denied his application for asylum and was ordered deported.

Survival of the “cheatest”

Ophelia Agawin

Ophelia Agawin

Since then, the fertilizer fund scandal had been consigned to the dustbin of history; Joc-joc Bolante unsuccessfully ran for governor; Arthur Yap was elected to Congress; P-Noy was elected president; and Janet Lim-Napoles — the pork barrel queen – is in detention.

How about Ophelia Agawin? What happened to her? Well, it’s either Lady Luck was protecting her or she had mastered the art of survival because she didn’t only avoid losing her job, she was “quietly absorbed” by P-Noy’s new DA Secretary Proceso Alcala in 2010, cleared of the P432-million and P728-million scams, and then promoted to Assistant Secretary for Finance in February 2012!

But no sooner had Agawin taken her new executive assignment than strange things started to happen again. In her new job, Agawin was responsible for accrediting nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to accept state money for livelihood projects.”

When the pork barrel scam was exposed in July 2013, the whistleblower Merlin P. Suñas named Agawin as a conduit to the bogus NGOs controlled by Napoles. Suñas also claimed that Agawin accredited Kaupdanan para sa Manguguna Foundation Inc. even though it was under fire from the Commission on Audit for having been involved in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam, which Napoles allegedly orchestrated.

A DA official also claimed that Napoles was a frequent visitor to the offices of Agawin and her immediate boss, Undersecretary Antonio Fleta, since 2011. Upon hearing the complaint, P-Noy ordered DA Secretary Proceso Alcala to respond to the allegations. And just like during Gloria’s presidency nothing came out of it.

In August 2013, Alcala relieved Agawin as head of the accreditation panel. “We have not ascertained whether she is indeed involved (in the pork barrel scam) but she will no longer handle the approval of new NGOs and projects that may come in,” Alcala said. However, Alcala explained that Agawin would continue to perform her tasks as Assistant Secretary for Finance. In other words, Agawin would still have influence over the accreditation of NGOs since it falls under her turf.

Once again, Agawin survived another scandal.

Coco levy fund

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and President Aquino and Ophelia Agawin (inset)

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and President Aquino and Ophelia Agawin (inset)

Recently, her name came out again in the news. This time around, Nestor Villanueva, a leader of the coconut levy claimants’ movement, “Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin,” complained over the participation of Agawin in a Senate committee’s technical working group (TWG) that is studying several bills on the “coco levy” issue.

And all this begs the questions: Is Agawin untouchable? Who is her “guardian angel” that has been protecting her since the time of Bolante at DA? And what makes her a valuable asset to Alcala… and by extension, to President Aquino?

As the only “player” in the fertilizer fund scams that is still working at the Department of Agriculture, Ophelia Agawin is a living proof of Joc-joc’s legacy of corruption.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

SAF-justice-for-SAF-44In the four and a half years that President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III had been in power, nothing had come closer to torpedoing his administration than the Mamasapano Massacre, which killed 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP). One month after the heinous slaughter of the elite commandos, calls for P-Noy’s resignation continue to grow.

At the center of the controversy is the question: Who is responsible for the deaths of the “Fallen 44,” as the slain police officers have come to be known? And this was where finger-pointing had obfuscated the truth where lies were allegedly manufactured to absolve those who were responsible for one of the worst – if not the worst – massacres in the nation’s history.

And just looking at all the finger-pointing makes you cry… or laugh. It was a tragic comedy or comedic tragedy, depending on how you view this sad episode. Indeed, it had happened so often in the past that to assuage our pain and frustration, we brush it off as if it was just another incident — just like the Maguindanao Massacre, if you still remember it — that would be forgotten in time.

Does that mean that Filipinos have a short memory? On the contrary, we’re a people that don’t forget anything, particularly those that hurt our feelings. We call this “sama ng loob,” which we take to the grave. Sometimes I wonder if we’re too forgiving to a fault.

Bahala na

SAF-body-bagWhy then do we choose to forget it? The answer is as simple — and common — as yawning when one is having a siesta: “Bahala na.” Yep, “bahala na” is what we say when we’re unable or refuse to solve a problem – we just forget about it and say “bahala na” — come what may.

And when we say “bahala na,” it’s tantamount to absolving – or forgiving — the guilty, whoever they may be, which begs the question: Would the bereaved families of the “Fallen 44” forgive those who were responsible for the deaths of their loved ones? They are probably aware of the futility of punishing the guilty in our judicial system. So, why go after the guilty then when nothing would come out of it? It is easier to say, “Bahala na. Ang dios na ang magpaparusa sa kanila” (Come what may. God will punish them), and get on with our lives hoping that it wouldn’t happen again.

People power

Anti-pork-barrel-rally-Cebu-credit-Tonee-DespojoWhile many believe that “P-Noy” was responsible for the murderous rampage in Mamasapano in the wee hours of January 25, 2015, it surprised no one that the people did not react like the way they did in 1986 when their collective angst against the Marcos dictatorship ignited the EDSA “people power” revolution. Nor did they vent their anger the way they did in 2001 when a sham people power revolution — EDSA II – engineered by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ousted then-President Joseph “Erap” Estrada from power.

It was a bitter lesson learned and since then the people have become wary of starting another people power revolution. And this explains why P-Noy has managed to survive attempts to oust him by similar methods.

The scandals involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – or pork barrel — and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional, merely generated token demonstrations against P-Noy. It’s a sign that the people are numb – too numb — of the chronic corruption in government. They simply don’t care anymore… “bahala na.”

Stand down

MILF rebels

MILF rebels

But the Mamasapano Massacre was not your run-of-the-mill encounter in the rebel-infested Mindanao. The heinous slaughter spilled the blood of 44 police commandos who were left to fend for themselves when their calls for reinforcement were ignored by the military unit that was based only a kilometer away. The military command claimed that they were ordered to stand down. As it turned out, it was P-Noy no less who ordered them to stand down.

The question is: Why did P-Noy order the military to stand down and leave the SAF commandos at the mercy of the Muslim rebels? One reason that has gained traction was that P-Noy didn’t want to jeopardize the establishment of the autonomous Bangsamoro political entity, which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation From (MILF) had agreed to when they signed the historic Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014.

On September 10, 2014, P-Noy submitted to Congress the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would provide for the basic structure of the Bangsamoro autonomous government. It would supersede the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Price of peace

Mamasapano-Maguindanao-mapAs a result of P-Noy’s bloody folly, the approval of BBL by the Philippine Congress is threatened. The day after the massacre, the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) released a 75-page position paper claiming that BBL bill was flawed and cluttered with unconstitutional experimental features to replace the failed ARMM.

At the end of the day, P-Noy has to come to terms with the complexities of peace-making in Mindanao. He cannot achieve peace in the region unless he makes peace with all the players in the conflict. He has to bring the two other groups — Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) – to the table with the MILF to discuss peace — and prosperity — for the Filipino Muslims in Mindanao. That is the price of peace.

If he could do that, then he is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, a dream that had eluded him since ascending into the presidency. Otherwise, he might as well just say, “bahala na.”

PerryDiaz@gmail.com)