Monday, August 26, 2013

P-Noy chops pork, keeps the bacon

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz

LAST August 23, 2013, three days before the “Million People March” anti-pork barrel rally at the Rizal Park (Luneta), President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, in a seemingly pre-emptive move, announced that its time to abolish the PDAF, the acronym for Priority Development Assistance Fund, or more commonly known as “pork barrel.”   The rally, which was initiated by netizens, demanded for the abolition of pork barrel.  A few individuals using Facebook barely two weeks ago, posted a call for “Martsa sa Luneta” on August 26, 2013.

The attendance, which varies from 65,000 to 100,000, manifested the seriousness of the pork barrel scandal.  The rally could be the “tipping point” of the people’s fight against pork barrel… and corruption.  Many felt that P-Noy reneged on his promise of “Walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

Never before since the EDSA people power revolution of 1986 has an issue galvanized the people to rise in protest.   The social media has taken the place of EDSA as the venue for people to vent their anger against corruption and incompetence in government.  Just imagine how fast “news” travels around.  It’s faster than sound and light; everybody is just a “click” away.  

It did not then come as a surprise when P-Noy called for an unscheduled press conference to announce that pork barrel has to go.  He told reporters that he was not “threatened” by the “Martsa sa Luneta. ” “Why should we be worried? We’ve gained more allies in fixing the system. Thanks a lot to them,” he said.   He blamed the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for all the anomalies the Commission on Audit (COA) found in a three-year study on pork barrel corruption. 

Blaming Gloria

P-Noy should stop blaming Gloria for all his problems.  While it may be true that the pork barrel scam ran by Janet Lim-Napoles started during Gloria’s time, it did not end when P-Noy ascended to the presidency.  In fact, the COA report shows that the pork barrel scam increased in volume and more lawmakers – 12 senators and 180 congressmen – were involved in raiding the PDAF funds and splitting the funds 70-30 with the lawmakers getting the lion’s share. 

But blaming Gloria is not going to work this time around.  Department of Budget and Management (DBM) records show that in 2010, Gloria’s last budget year, PDAF was P6.9 billion.  The following year, with P-Noy having full control of the budget, he could have pared down the PDAF allocations.  But instead, PDAF allocations took a quantum leap.  In 2011, PDAF more than tripled from 2010’s P6.9 billion to P22.3 billion!  In 2012, it was increased to P24.89 billion.  It was for the same amount in 2013.   But in 2014, PDAF will increase to a record P27 billion!

P1-trillion presidential pork 

Recently, it was reported in the news that Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and former Treasurer Leonor Briones “want the executive department to explain the lump sum items in the national budget which they believe are the President’s version of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds.”  Briones estimates the lump sums under the President's discretion to be around P1 trillion.”  She explained that any “lump sum” fund that is under the discretion of an official like a senator, congressman or president, is considered a “pork barrel.”  She defined “pork barrel” as an allocation with no details on how and where it will be spent.”  She also said that the power of the President to redirect or realign funds in the budget would make the whole national budget his “pork,” which he can use any which way he wants.   

The following is a breakdown of the presidential pork by category:

Special purpose funds - P310.1 billion, which includes big items such as PDAF (P25.42 billion), Budgetary support to state-owned corporations (P45.7), and miscellaneous personnel benefits fund (P80.7 billion).

 Unprogrammed funds – P139.9 billion, which include Support to foreign-assisted projects (P16.124 billion), Support for infra projects and social programs (P56.349 billion), AFP modernization program (P10.349 billion), Debt management program (P10.894 billion), and Risk management program (P30 billion).

Under the President’s control - Budget for school buildings (P200 billion).

PAGCOR and PCSO – They contribute to the social fund. PAGCOR will contribute about P2 billion to the President's social fund this year.

Malampaya funds – More than P100 billion will be at the disposal of P-Noy this year.

Miscellaneous – Debt servicing (P352 billion) and Internal Revenue allotment (P341.5 billion) “allegedly” under the President's control.

If you add the miscellaneous items to the P1 trillion that Briones estimated, then you are looking at a whopping P1.45-trillion presidential pork! That would represent 55.7% of the P2.6-trillion budget for 2014.


Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad disputes Colmenares and Briones’ observations.   He claimed that P-Noy “has been prudent in spending.” If so, how much is left over and where did it go?  Perhaps P-Noy should allow COA to audit his P1-trillion pork to the satisfaction of his “bosses,” the people.  The lack of transparency and accountability makes the people suspicious of abuses like the pork barrel scam that Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly pulled off, which defrauded the government of P10 billion from lawmakers’ PDAF in the past 10 years. 

Pork by any other name…

While P-Noy said that the PDAF would be abolished, he instructed the Senate and the House of Representatives to “find a new way to deal with the needs of constituents ‘in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational’ and ‘not susceptible’ to abuse.”  In other words, pork barrel is here to stay; only the name would change. 

In my article, “For the love of pork…” (August 23, 2013), I wrote: “It is interesting to note that the PDAF can trace its provenance to 1989 when P-Noy’s mother Cory created the Mindanao Development Fund (MDF) and the Visayas Development Fund (VDF), with and appropriation of P480 million and P240 million, respectively. In 1990, the MDF and VDF were combined and expanded nationwide as the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) with an appropriation of P2.3 billion.  In 2000, the CDF was renamed PDAF.”

It seems that we are once again going through the rigmarole of renaming “pork barrel” into something else.  But like a lot of people are saying, “Pork by any other name is still pork.”  What is it this time?  As someone suggested, why not BADAF, which is an acronym for “Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund” or BACON, which stands for “Budgetary Allocation for Collaborative Outreach Nationwide”?

I believe it is time to get rid of PDAF, which is the number one cause of corruption.  While P-Noy might be “prudent” in spending his pork barrel funds as Abad said, who knows what the next president would do?   He or she might not be as “prudent” as P-Noy.

For P-Noy to chop the P27-billion pork but keep the P1-trillion bacon is not only unfair, it is unconscionable.  P-Noy is now at the crossroads of his political life; he can follow a “daang matuwid” (straight path) or take a detour to a road that would lead him to ignominy.

Mr. President, it’s time to act… resolutely.


Saturday, July 20, 2013 Foundation presents “Fashion Gala" to help premature Filipino babies

On Sunday, July 21, The Foundation in partnership with Mending Kids International will present “The Spring Collection” of Alan Del Rosario with a special appearance from the candidates of Binibining Pilipinas USA 2013 at SupperClub, in Los Angeles, California.

The Fashion Gala benefits the campaign for Filipino Children, a two- fold project of The Foundation in partnership with Mending Kids International, called “Apl of My Eye”.

The project will provide eye surgeries for premature Filipino babies, at least 30% of these premature babies develop retinopathy, a disease that causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina from excessive oxygenation. If the affliction is not diagnosed and treated within 48 hours of birth these premature babies become permanently blind.


“Heartstrings” is the other project, which will provide heart surgeries for Filipino children with life-threatening heart ailments. The focus on raising additional resources to make more of these heart surgeries available to disadvantaged children at the Philippine Heart Center.

If you would like to help, you can purchase tickets to the Fashion Gala, please text or call 310-968-5911 or send an email to

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Kaleidoscope: By Perry Diaz  
In his 1990 autobiography “An American Life,” Ronald Reagan attributed the rule, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” to Gaylord Parkinson, the state Republican Chairman who introduced it to Reagan when he ran for Governor of California in 1966.  The rule came to be known as the “Eleventh Commandment.”

Since then, Republicans have followed the Eleventh Commandment, religiously.  But today, they have forgotten -- or chose to forget – the rule that had cohered the Republican Party in good times as well as in bad times.  

The 2012 Republican presidential primaries became a cutthroat competition among the 11 presidential wannabes.  One by one, they ganged up on whoever was the frontrunner and besmirched his character until there was only one man standing, Mitt Romney. 

But Romney went to the November elections politically bruised and damaged.  His presidential campaign was preoccupied with defending Romney from President Barack Obama who flayed Romney’s veneer as a successful businessman and exposed his flawed character.  Had Romney and his primary rivals adhered to the Eleventh Commandment, he might have had a fighting chance in beating Obama. 

With the 2014 primaries fast approaching, the Republicans have drawn the battle line that separates them.  On one side are the traditional conservatives including what is left of the moderate wing.  On the other side are the feisty right-wingers and their ideological allies, the Tea Partiers, Christian evangelicals, and Libertarians. 

The 2014 Republican primaries could be a repeat of the 2010 primaries where the Tea Partiers trounced the traditional conservatives and moderates.  And that year, the Tea Party went on to win in the November 2010 general elections and captured the House of Representatives.
The question is: Could the Tea Party repeat their victory in 2014?  While they would likely come out ahead in the 2014 primaries, it is debatable whether they could win in the November general elections.   And the reasons are:

1) Obamacare – Recently, GOP leaders – who are mostly, state governors and “has-beens” – declared that they would use Obamacare as the main issue in 2014, which they promised to repeal. But wasn’t that one of the key issues that Romney used against Obama in 2012… and lost?  Why do they think that Obamacare would be the “holy grail” to regain control of the U.S. Senate?  They only need to win six Senate seats to become the majority in the U.S. Senate.  However, without a supermajority – 60 seats – they can’t break the gridlock in the Senate. 

Now, assuming that the Republicans win 60 Senate seats, they still have to make sure that the House of Representatives remain under Republican speakership.  But even if the House remained under Republican control, they still have to deal with a Democratic President who could veto any legislation.  And unless the Republicans could muster the number of votes to override a presidential veto, they would probably be luckier flying a kite on a windless day.

It’s interesting to note that the House Republicans had voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times in the past two years!  Why would they keep on repealing it when they know that it won’t even pass in the Senate today?

Honestly, repealing Obamacare could be like Napoleon facing the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.  It would be the Republicans’ Waterloo and that would ensure – perhaps even guarantee – that the Democrats would win the White House again in 2016.

2) Immigration Reform – If Obamacare is the GOP’s Waterloo, Immigration Reform is their Achilles heel.  With the bipartisan Gang of Eight (four Democrats and four Republicans) getting close to passing an immigration overhaul bill the Senate, the bill’s fate in the House hangs by a thread. 

House Speaker John Boehner made it known that an immigration overhaul bill would pass the House only if it ensured the border is secured and that illegal immigrants are not given special treatment.

But here is the stinger: Boehner said that he would not bring a bill to the floor for a vote without a majority of Republicans supports it.  And this is where it really gets very political.  Members of the House Tea Party caucus led by Rep. Michele Bachmann are calling the bill an amnesty for the 11 million illegal immigrants.

If the House does not pass a Senate-approved bill, then the bill dies and that’s the end of immigration reform. 

3) War on Women -- Anti-abortion, which has for so long been the GOP platform’s main plank, has taken a new dimension that covers a wide variety of issue including the definition of personhood, attack on Planned Parenthood, mandated vaginal ultrasound, criminalization of abortion, and ultimately the repeal of Roe vs. Wade.  This war on women has alarmed women’s groups across the nation. 

In the November 2012 elections, women overwhelmingly voted against Romney and senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock because of their perceived anti-women stands.  In Akin’s widely publicized video interview, he said: “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”   From that time on, Akin lost his electoral advantage in a red state, Missouri, and lost to a woman, Claire McCaskill.

Mourdock, who was supported by the Tea Party, defeated six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in the 2012 Republican primary in Indiana.  He was slightly ahead of Democrat Joe Donnelly in pre-election surveys until he explained his stand on rape, saying: “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” He lost the election to Donnelly.

Civil war

Leaderless and rudderless, the straggling Republicans could only blame themselves if they are going to lose in the 2014 mid-term elections.  If they continue to follow the trail the Tea Party took in 2012, they would be defeated in the 2014 mid-term elections with net losses in both chambers of Congress.      

But they – particularly the Christian evangelicals -- should know better; Mark 3:25 says it all: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  Unless the Republicans stop their infighting, they stood nary a chance of capturing the White House in 2016... and worse, ever.   And if the Grand Old Party does not retool its platform and refine its message to minorities and women, it will lose its standing as a viable national political party and would be relegated to a regional partisan entity with limited appeal to voters.

But what’s going to hurt them most is their nasty civil war.  Yes, it’s GOP vs. GOP!  And like any civil war, the only casualty is the GOP.  Can the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln survive a civil war a second time around?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Scandal fever afflicts Republicans

By Perry Diaz

During the McCarthy witch-hunting era, the “duck test” was used to identify a person’s ideological leaning.  It works this way:  “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”  Thousands of people’s lives were ruined during this period that came to be known as the Second Red Scare.  Yes, “red” as in communist.

“McCarthyism,” which was coined after Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It also means making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.  It lasted from 1950 to 1956.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Today, McCarthyism has taken a broader meaning.  In general, it is now used “to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.”  Sounds familiar, eh?

Indeed, the Republicans in Congress are using this modern form of McCarthyism to target their political opponents, particularly President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  And just like McCarthy, they conducted congressional hearings and investigations.  These latter-day followers of the McCarthy creed are trying to make President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton look like ducks, walk like ducks, and quack like ducks.  But this time around, they’re not witch-hunting for communists but how to implicate Obama and Clinton to a number of scandals.    

In my article, “Benghazi Syndrome” (May 18, 2013), I wrote: “Within days of the Benghazi attack, McCain led a smear campaign against U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. They attacked Rice’s Benghazi ‘talking points,’ accusing her of withholding information to cover up the real story. They demanded an investigation and vowed to block Rice’s confirmation in the Senate should President Barack Obama appoint her as Secretary of State. Well, Rice did not give them that chance; she withdrew from being considered for an appointment. 

“The virulent strain of the Benghazi Syndrome spread to the House of Representatives. Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and four other House committee chairmen conducted their own investigations. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey gave countless hours of testimony. The State Department sent more than 25,000 pages of documents to Congress. And yet Issa and the other witch hunters would not let up on their beliefs that the Obama administration is covering up something and they want to hear the true story of l’affaire Benghazi.” Sounds familiar, eh?

Scandal fever

Last May 13, former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on the Sean Hannity Show to discuss the Benghazi attack and the scandals plaguing the Obama Administration.  On the Benghazi incident, Cheney commented: “One of the worst incidents I can recall in my career… If they told the truth about Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack by a terrorist affiliated group it would have destroyed a false image of competence that was the basis for his campaign for reelection.”  Huh?

What was Cheney talking about?  Didn’t Obama call the Benghazi attack an “act of terror” at a press briefing the day after the attack?  Isn’t a “terrorist attack” an “act of terror”?  It’s all semantics.  So, what’s Cheney’s problem?   Perhaps he’s afflicted with “scandal fever,” a contagious strain that mimics the symptoms of dementia.  And contagious it was!  Within a few days, Rep. Darrell Issa used the same “terrorist attack” vs. “act of terror” argument during a media interview on Capitol Hill.  

Ratings up!

Recently, Obama’s rating bumped up from 51% in an April poll to 53% in a poll conducted last May 17-18. With all these scandals, you would think that Obama’s rating would plummet down.  Doesn’t that prove to show that most Americans are not falling for the McCarthyist games the Republicans are playing?

In spite of the scandals that are hounding the Obama administration, the Republicans have yet to find the “duck test” that they could use against Obama and Clinton. 

But they’re not giving up. The witch-hunt has reached fever pitch!  Speaker John Boehner started talking about impeaching Obama.  When he was asked what are the grounds for impeachment, he couldn’t give any specific impeachable offense.  However, he replied that they’d find something to nail him down during the impeachment process.   Sounds familiar, eh?

The question is: Can Obama weather the storm until the spring of 2014 when the mid-term election season kicks off?  In my opinion, I believe he’d not only survive it; he’d thrive on it for as long as they fail to implicate him to the scandals.  And so far, they don’t have an iota of evidence that would prove their complicity to these scandals.

Déjà vu

This whole charade reminds me of the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton in December 1998 for four charges, to wit: two charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, abuse of power.  The charges arose from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones lawsuit.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives impeached Clinton on one charge of perjury and obstruction of justice.  However, the Senate acquitted him in February 1999.  Although the Republicans controlled the Senate with a 55-vote majority, the Republicans were 17 votes short of the required two-third majority for a conviction.

If impeachment charges were brought before the House of Representatives against Obama, the Republican-controlled House would be able to impeach Obama since only a simple majority is needed for impeachment.

The Senate vote would probably mirror the 1999 vote in reverse.  Today, there are 53 Democrats, two Independents, and 45 Republicans.   To convict Obama, the Senate needs all 45 Republican and 22 Democrats/Independents, which is improbable simply because that is political reality.

And the political reality is that unless Obama has really screwed up to a point where Democrats would abandon him and feed him to the vultures, the impeachment process that Speaker Boehner had in mind was nothing more than an exercise in futility. 

Then what? 

In 2000, the Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives.  However, they had a net loss of two seats from the previous elections.  With George W. Bush winning the presidency by five electoral votes; however, he lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore by 0.5% of the vote.

Quo vadis, Republicans?

In the 2014 elections, the Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House while the Republicans need six seats to retake the Senate.  However, unless either party gets a super majority of 60 seats, the Senate would face another unproductive term.

But as far as impeaching and removing Obama from office is concerned, the Republicans should call it quits and concentrate on the 2016 presidential election.  And the candidate to beat is Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Could any of the Tea Partiers – Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan – beat her?  Now, you can see why the Republicans are trying so hard to get their ducks in a row to bring down Clinton.  

At the end of the day, the scandal fever that is afflicting Republicans could relegate the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln to political impotence.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Atrocity against Filipinos in Sabah

PerryScope: By Perry Diaz 

From the get-go of the Sabah incident, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III appeared to be too accommodating to Malaysia.  Recently, a news account reported that P-Noy was bent on extraditing Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his Tausug followers to Malaysia despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries.  The news report attributed the story to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who bared plans byMalacañang to surrender Kiram to Malaysian authorities.   But what is strange is that the Malaysian government has yet to make a request for the extradition of Kiram!  

The truth of the matter is: Malaysia’s Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail is just toying with the idea when he told the media that he would seek a request for the extradition of Kiram “should a case be made against him.”  

Meanwhile, his Philippine counterpart, Justice Secretary de Lima, said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is in the process of building “airtight cases” against Kiram and his followers.  She did not elaborate; however, many people have been wondering what Philippine laws did Kiram violate that would warrant filing criminal charges against him? 

Inciting to war?

For starters, de Lima mentioned “inciting to war” as an applicable charge against Kiram.  But would it not go without saying that a person could only be guilty of “inciting to war” if the Philippines had indeed gone to war against Malaysia, or, conversely, if Malaysia had invaded the Philippines as the result of Kiram inciting war between the two countries? 

While the “invasion” of Sabah by the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu had led to bloodshed, it did not lead to war between the Philippines and Malaysia.  Had P-Noy sent the marines to Sabah to protect Kiram’s 235 followers from the 3,000 Malaysian commandos that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sent to wipe out Kiram’s ragtag group, then it can be argued that Kiram incited P-Noy to war.  

It would seem then that the “inciting to war” angle that P-Noy is weighing to use against Kiram doesn’t make any sense and is nothing more than a legal boondoggle.   

But P-Noy could have done something to influence Razak to go easy on Kiram’s followers.  After all, Kiram’s followers never made any attempt to provoke the police and commandos that surrounded them. 

The 17-day standoff presented an opportunity for P-Noy to use diplomacy to put an end to the standoff peacefully.  Instead, P-Noy sent six naval ships to the waters near Sabah to block further intrusion by members of Kiram’s “Royal Army.” 

Could it be that P-Noy’s diplomatic inaction and naval blockade might have sent mixed signals to Razak, which may have emboldened him to use military force, which includes jet fighters and bombers, to annihilate Kiram’s followers.   And considering that only 30 of Kiram’s 235 followers were armed, the Malaysian commando and air attack was overkill.    

Fear mongering

Several days later, Sultan Kiram ordered a unilateral cease-fire to his followers after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called to end the violence in Sabah.  Razak rejected the cease-fire and ordered the police and military to kill the “terrorists” if they don’t surrender unconditionally. Razak had instructed Malaysian journalists to refer to Kiram’s followers as “terrorists” in their news reports, which is an apparent attempt to sow fear among the local inhabitants.   He said that the military would continue to track them down “for as long as it takes to eliminate them.”

And this is when it turned ugly – very ugly!

Reports from fleeing Filipinos told of police brutality.  Filipino men were dragged out of their homes and were beaten.   The police were looking for Orang Suluk (people who originated from Sulu).  The police would tell them to run as fast as they could and then shoot them down.  They were killed like animals!


Is Razak systematically ridding Sabah of the Orang Suluk and other Filipinos?  Are these killings genocidal?  It seems like it.   If so, then Razak is guilty of crime against humanity and should be charged before the International Criminal Court as a “war criminal.”

Razak should be reminded of the UN Secretary General’s statement that was released to the media earlier.  “The Secretary-General expresses concern about the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region,” said the statement.  Mr. Ban’s statement subtly warned Razak that he should be cognizant and respectful of “international human rights norms and standards.”  He should also be reminded that the international community does not condone acts that could be construed as “ethnic cleansing.”  If he targets the Orang Suluk for extermination, then he is guilty of genocide in every meaning of the word.

Mass deportation 

Last March 11, the Free Malaysia Today reported: “The majority, if not all, of the 800,000 Filipinos based in Sabah may be sent back to the Philippines on the premise that they had acquired their Malaysian citizenship illegally over the past 20 years under a controversial systematic granting of citizenship to foreigners dubbed Project IC (identity cards).

“Project IC, which is blamed on former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, was said to be among the factors that led followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to “invade” Sabah in February. Most of the Filipinos who benefited from the project in the past are Tausugs from the nearby islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.” The report said that out of Sabah’s population of three million, there are about 1.7 million foreigners, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians. 

The following day, the Manila Bulletin published a disquieting account of abuses perpetrated against Filipinos in Sabah.  An official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told the media that the “maltreatment of Filipinos in Malaysia following the outbreak of violence in Sabah is just the “tip of the iceberg.”  “Finally, the sufferings of Filipinos in Sabah drew notice from Malacañang. We got similar, if not harsher, complaints directly from victims and made appropriate reports to higher authorities to no avail years ago,” said the official who requested anonymity.

These reports of massacre and maltreatment of Filipinos in Malaysia should be the number one concern of P-Noy.  P-Noy should protest these atrocious acts in the United Nations in the strongest terms.  There is no excuse for inaction. 

At the end of the day, President Aquino, as the “father” of all Filipinos, is responsible for the safety and welfare of every Filipino citizen.  It is high time for him to come to the aid of those in harm’s way.  To do nothing would be a dereliction of his sworn duty to protect the people. 

Mr. President, you’re now on center stage… and the world community is watching.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A tale of two reefs

By Perry Diaz

In a matter of days, the Philippine government took strong actions against the two most powerful countries in the world – the United States and the People’s Republic of China.  Now, that’s what I call “wow, wow!” Yep, a double wow, indeed.  But as it turned out, the country was hit with a double whammy! 

The first whammy was China’s seizure of the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) that is within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).   Last August, after China tricked the Philippines into withdrawing her vessels from the lagoon, China roped off the only entrance into the lagoon; thus, preventing other fishermen from getting in.  Only Chinese fishing boats are allowed to enter the lagoon.  In effect, China has taken de facto possession of a piece of Philippine territory… without firing a shot.  

Bajo de Masinloc, as Scarborough Shoal was named as far back as 1734 during the Spanish era, is 124 miles west of Masinloc, Zambales in the South China Sea.  The shoal is a triangle-shaped chain of reefs with a circumference of 34 miles and an area of 58 square miles.  Many of the reefs are just below water at high tide.  The lagoon contains a large variety of fish and other sea life including endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks, and giant clams. 


Helplessly unable to defend her territory, let alone recover those she already lost, the Philippines had no other recourse but to turn to the United Nations to resolve the territorial dispute.

Last January 22, the Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario formally notified China that the Philippines is bringing the case before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  The issue is China’s claim to about 90% of the entire South China Sea delineated by an imaginary – and arbitrary – “nine-dash line” drawn by China.    

In reaction, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing, reasserted China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.  However, she said that China supports a negotiated settlement through “peaceful means.”  Well, with several Chinese warships permanently deployed inside the lagoon, “peaceful means” might just be another convenient tool from China’s bag of tricks.   


Last January 28, China’s supreme ruler, Xi Jinping, told the 25 members of the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee Political Bureau (Politburo): “China will stick to the path of peaceful development. No foreign country should expect us to make a deal on our core interests and hope we will swallow the bitter pill that will damage our sovereignty, security and development interests.”  And as before, “core national interest” is not negotiable, peacefully or otherwise. 

As China had demonstrated in the past three decades, her salami-slicing tactics of grabbing other countries’ territories – Paracel Islands, Mischief Reef, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal -- have been successful. And now her biggest – and most ambitious – goal is to annex the South China Sea and the East China Sea all the way to the Okinawa Trough as a prolongation of China’s continental shelf.  That would be the fulfillment of China’s dream.

Evidently, China’s “talk and take” approach is paying dividends… until Japan decided to use force -- if necessary -- to counter China’s aggressive attempt to grab the Senkaku islands near Okinawa in the East China Sea. 

Recently, during Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a “veiled warning” to China not to challenge Japan’s control of the Senkaku islands.  She said that the islands were under Japan’s control and therefore protected under the U.S.-Japan Treaty.  Her remarks instantly ignited a war hysteria in China.  Xi Jinping ordered the People’s Liberation Army to get ready for war, quickly!

Tubbataha Reef

Meanwhile, about 600 south in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reef is getting a lot of attention since an American warship, the minesweeper USS Guardian, ran aground in its vicinity.  The reef consists of two coral atolls five miles apart and each reef has a single small islet protruding from the water.

More than 1,000 species inhabit the reef of which many are considered endangered including manta rays, tortoises, clownfish, lionfish, and sharks.  There are 350 coral species and 500 fish species.  It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Asia and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.  It is called the “Crown Jewel of the Coral Triangle.” 

On January 17, 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.  An initial visual inspection showed that at least 10 meters of the reef were damaged.  Aerial photographs made by the Philippine military showed the “ship’s bow sitting atop corals in shallow turquoise waters, with the stern floating in the deep blue waters.”  The warship was bound for Puerto Princesa after routine refueling and supply replenishment in Subic Bay.  

Initial reaction from Malacañang defended the Guardian’s presence in the protected area. “I confirmed with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that there was such a port call request made for Puerto Princesa by USS Guardian,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.  “There was a request made and the request was granted.”


The following week, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. apologized for the incident.  When the apology was relayed to President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III -- who was attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland at that time – he told reporters who were covering his trip that an apology was not enough.  He wanted a thorough investigation to ascertain how the USS Guardian ran aground on the reef.

But the United States Navy already made its commitment to do everything it can to repair the damage caused by the minesweeper.  Didn’t he know that?  Yet P-Noy continued to question, “How it could happen when the minesweeper, a U.S. made vessel, was supposed to be possessing of high technology military navigation devices?” He said that the U.S. would have to comply with Philippine laws regarding the incident.  “They violated it, there are penalties. Then they will have to address all of these violations of our pertinent laws,” he said.

But P-Noy didn’t realize that the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board (TPAMB) had already fined the U.S. Navy for “unauthorized entry.”  However, it did not disclose the amount of the penalty.  Under Philippine law, the maximum penalty for unauthorized entry is of up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to P300,000 ($7,300).  The TPAMB decided not to include the jail option in the penalty.


When a reporter asked P-Noy about the call of some groups to review the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the U.S. and the Philippines in the aftermath of the Tubbataha incident, he toned down and said that the VFA only governs the conduct of visiting American troops when they're in military exercises in the Philippines.  He explained that the VFA has no connection to the Tubbataha incident; it’s a question about violating the country’s ecological laws. 

Meanwhile, Fernando Hicap, the chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, called for the filing of a “millennium class suit” against the US Navy for damaging the reef, saying that the US should pay the country a considerable amount following the destruction of the reef.  P-Noy was also criticized by Anakbayan national chairman Vencer Crisostomo and Kabataan Partylist national president Terry Ridon for his statements, which they claimed was tantamount to a “whitewash” on the incident. 

But what is interesting to note is that these leftist groups are quick to attack the U.S. for any “infraction” but are quiet about China’s aggression against the Philippines.  What would they do if one day they wake up to see an armada of Chinese warships in the Sulu Sea on their way to Puerto Princesa?