Thursday, October 13, 2005

Where Will America Stand As The Iron Fist Falls?

CHAGRIN over the recent posts of Michelle Malkin, Wretchard at the Belmont Club and Manuel L.Quezon III over the Aragoncillo espionage case, has caused me to dust off this ole blog and add my voice to an important conversation.

In the public fallout and surge of commentary over the sensational spy case of Leandro Aragoncillo, the hyphen in “Filipino-American” has been stretched almost to its breaking point, if it had one. Yet the aforementioned writers are significant and substantial thinkers, and they write and publish commentary constantly on everything that is happening in the world affecting Filipinos and Americans.

All have strong and growing readerships on the Internet. In Michelle, Wretchard, and MLQ3 are writers to transcend the Old Guard in the form of Max Soliven and Conrado de Quiros and Adrian Cristobal. These new writers wield the power of a new global but distributed publishing model that is rapidly transforming opinion-making.

Blog-aware people might even agree with me that Malkin is every bit as perspicacious as Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, the quintessential "blogger".

And a Daily Dose of MLQ3 can be as substantial as Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. MLQ3 is also published in the Op/Ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (circ. 300K+ daily) and the Arab News.

Steven den Beste ("BES-TUH") of U.S.S. Clueless once wrote that Wretchard of Belmont Club had been doing a better job than him at understanding the deepest most enduring issues regarding Democracy, Iraq and the War on Terror. Wretchard the Cat (Richard Fernandez) is currently a member of the Pajamas Media Board.

(The deceptively-named starship U.S.S. Clueless is in dry dock nowadays, but if the warblogging community that arose from the ashes of September 11 might be said to have an ideology, a lot of it is formulated and made coherent at this site. Steven den Beste has often been called a Mr. Spock among the bloggers; I prefer to think of him as kind of modern Thomas Jefferson, or even, Benjamin Franklin. He is a fascinating read and I urge anyone who wants to understand "wartime America" to beam up to the holo-deck library of U.S.S. Clueless. Spend a couple of weeks reading his essays. Their modern classics.

Their ample readership in the unfettered marketplace for ideas of the World Wide Web, mark these modern scriveners--bloggers--not just as mere linkers to others in the blogosphere, where instant-publish buttons are ubiquitous, but wielders and creators of memes (which are the true inhabitants of that realm!)
In Fear Your Own MLQ3's regular PDI column, The Long View he savages Malkin as follows:
Of course, there are Right-wing American pundits, like Michelle Malkin, who may be "Filipino-American" but more concerned with pleasing the Great White Fathers and playing a dutiful Little Brown Sister. (She claims to be of Filipino descent of some sort-what sort? Read on.) When the case of Aragoncillo hit the big networks, she commented, "If it means now that the White House will be applying extra scrutiny to naturalized Americans of Filipino descent working at the top levels of government and in the military, well, yes, I support that. It's obviously overdue. And, as I argued in my last book, it's just one small step towards the kind of national security profiling we should have introduced aggressively after 9/11. But didn't." You know the type. A fellow native does something bad? Why, kick all your fellow natives just to keep on the good side of Uncle Sam!

I must confess, I am not surprised at this level of vehemence from MLQ3 over the sometimes gangbanging style of Ms. Malkin. And comments of his blog-audience were less restrained. But MLQ3 usually keeps his powder dry and reserves his most withering fire for the truly craven or devious in our current reign of moral and mental midgets that is GMA-DOS.

Malkin, is however, just being "nationalistic"--a term that perhaps many here in the Archipelago would never apply to Americans. Current Philippine political correctness does not allow or admit a concept like "American nationalism", whereas "Filipino nationalism" is not only a virtue but an ideal. For many, what is perhaps exquisitely irksome about Ms. Malkin's provocative statements is that it is American nationalism being practiced--legitimately, in my opinion--by a Filipina married to a white American.

If this were the 19th century, it would be as if Maria Clara abandoned the nunnery and ran off with Linares to write Hispanic columns for El Pais in Madrid! But then again, it is the 21st century and Maria Clara--and Ms.Malkin--are empowered by human progress to be citizens of America and Australia, or Mars, when it comes to that. And to marry whatever piece of the skin-variegated human race is willing to give them the permanent solace of love and belonging during this, our temporary tenancy on the planet.

Dual Citizens of America and the Philippines

I must say she is not alone. Four million Filipinos are now, in every operational and historical sense, Americans. They live and work and build families all over America, and every child that is born to any one of those Filipinos, even when they marry outside the race, is in fact a natural born dual citizen of BOTH countries. Under both the US and Philippine Constitutions, such Filipino-Americans are potentially eligible to run for the Presidency of either nation, this curious fact being due to the jus sanguinis (law of blood) citizenship rule of the Philippine charter and jus sine (law of place) citizenship rule of the US Constitution.

I myself am such a dual citizen. We Filipino-Americans are already distinguished as doctors, nurses, teachers, musicians, scientists, community leaders, (and yes--one spy, in Leandro Aragoncillo). But our families have also given up their treasure of young men and women as soldiers in a global war. The blood of Filipino-American soldiers fighting side by side with other Americans waters the deserts of Babylon and the desolate gorges of the Afghan-Pakistani hinterlands.

What are they fighting for? They are fighting for freedom, freedom from fear which is terror. They are fighting so that all our families may be safer in New York and Minneapolis and San Francisco and Manila. Safer, to live long lives of prosperity, creativity and freedom to reach for the stars, instead of having to devote their energies to endless war and destruction and thus fall prey to the mind-limiting effects of hatred and discord.

As President Bush said in his recent speech at the National Endowment for Democracy, because it is freedom-loving peoples who believe in the future, the future will belong to freedom-loving peoples.

Of course it is statements like that which allow people like me to believe that full participation in the war on terrorism is not incompatible with free and democratic societies. In fact, as Bush says time and time again, it is the spread of free and democratic societies that will finally remove the scourge of terrorism.

I think that the hurt and angry response from the Filipino side of the hyphen in the Leandro Aragoncillo case, results from a parital failure to fully appreciate that America IS at war, and that intelligent people in America might ignore the legitimate grievances of the Filipino people aginst Mrs. Arroyo because they are more concerned about a nuclear bomb being shipped through the ever porous Port of Manila.

And otherwise analytical people like Malkin and Wretchard may indeed seem all too willing to accept the Palace line that there is no one who could effectively and beneficially replace her, which is a patent falsehood. It is what I call the fallacy of lesser of two evils. She's just not because there is far, far more choice than Gloria or Erap, and Gloria or Ping. We have Constitution after all and laws enough to handle such a personnel change. Of course, the Filipino side cannot legitimately expect this to be the top concern of American side of that hyphen. For it is, as Wretchard gently reminds me,wartime in America and there are greater concerns around than the civil liberties of a bunch of rambunctious and raucous Pinoys.

On the American side of that mark however is a similar blindness to what currently consumes and concerns the Filipino side of it. It appears that neither Malkin nor Wretchard fully appreciate the depth of feeling against Presdident Gloria Macapagal
that has arisen among forces here that are neither Leftist nor allied with deposed President Joseph Estrada. Nor do these feelings have anything to do with America or the global war on terror.

I refer of course to Gloriagate, the 2004 vote-rigging scandal that came to light as a result of wiretapped conversations between President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and a Commissioner of the Commission on elections at the height of last year's election and canvassing of votes for President and other national offices. That Commissioner, Virgilio Garcillano, has had a warrant for his arrest issued by no less than the House of Representatives for over two months, yet the authorities have never lifted a finger to find him. His whereabouts are officially unknown. There is a 5 million peso reward for his capture. He is known to have left via Subic Bay in July bound for Singapore. From there, sightings of him have been reported in Hong Kong, London, Liechtenstein, California, and points in South America. Some think he's pushing up sampaguitas in the Malacanang Palace gardens...

Although Gloriagate has been cast by the Palace as an Erap-Opposition destabilization plot, the simple fact of the matter is that the fuse was lit by no other than Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the President's Press Secretary and erstwhile spokesman.

Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano's continued absence is a silence so deafening that it constitutes the most poignant proof that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did indeed steal the 2004 elections, that she has lied about it since then and has engaged in a massive coverup that has precipitated the current political crisis.

Social Weather Stations (SWS), the country's highly respected public opinion pollster, found in its August-September National Surveyof Filipinos that as of August 26-September 5, 2005:

79% Pro-Impeachment, 64% Pro-Resignation,
51% Pro-People-Power If GMA Not Impeached

Four out of five Filipinos want the President out is not a statistic that can be ignored for very long.

It is a matter of some importance that one of the principal players trying to push that impeachment process forward ever since the Garci tapes came to light last May, was and is, Independent Rep. Roilo Golez of Paranaque, graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, and the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, and formerly GMA's very own National Security Adviser.

It was Golez, as an Administration stalwart and chairman of the House National Defense and Public Security Committee who first broke with President Arroyo last May and called for the Congressional hearings that got the Garci-GMA taped conversations into the Congressional Record.

It was Golez who subpoenaed the most unfortunately named agent of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), a certain Sgt.Richard Doble, he with the two or three wives and the most implausible tale of how the Garci tapes just magically appeared from nowhere when he allegedly sold them to Laarni Enriquez, girlfriend of Erap...Confused? Well, the tale certainly has gotten long and involved in the details, which you can find more competently organized here and here.

But I want to emphasize the role of Rep.Golez so that everyone, especially Americans, will have a bit of information about who some of the people are that are shaking the Philippine coconut tree of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

They are not all Leftists or Lacsonites or Erap supporters. In fact,they are not even mostly those forces at all. Here is a short list of some of the people who are presently lined up against the administration and have called for RIO - Resignation, Impeachment or Ouster -- of Gloria:

Former President Corazon Aquino

Senate President Franklin Drilon

Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.

Former Senate President and an old guard Civil Libertarian, Jovito Salonga

TEN of President Arroyo's closest personal friends and resigned cabinet secretaries, led by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima; Education Secretary Florencio Abad; Social Welfare Secretary and personal confidante to GMA, Dinky Soliman; and seven other cabinet level officials who quit with them two months ago.

The so-called "Hyatt Ten" secretaries quit the Cabinet after the President delivered her notorious "I am sorry" speech, reminiscent of Nixon-era sliders, in which she insincerely apologized for something she trivialized as a mere lapse in judgment.

The latest of these defections from what were the heroes of Edsa Dos, the campaign against the corrupt regime of Erap Estrada, is that Simeon Marcelo, presently the Ombudsman, who has resigned ostensibly for emergency health reasons. But the resignation that was announced last week will be effective on November 30. Huh?? The inside talk is that there is too much pressure on the poor State Prosecutor to engage in vindictive vendetta on behalf of the Palace that his conscience is keeping him up nights. Poor Atty. Marcelo! He's had just about enough of the monumental mockeries of the Law so rife in this era of a Naked Empress.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors have called for GMA to resign and though the Philippine bishops have not done so themselves, they have declared that it is not "against the Gospels" for others to ask her to do so and for her to consider their appeal in an examination of her conscience.

The heads of the major universities and schools, such as the Ateneo, De La Salle College, University of the Philippines, UST, and many others have joined calls for the President's resignation or a resolution of the crisis in a just and truthful manner, as opposed to sweeping it all under the rug as the Palace is bent on doing.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that really was a scientific result from the Social Weather Stations, and all of the above empirical information merely confirms and reflects the true state of the Philippine body politic.

How it came to all of this is the breath-taking story of the last six months. It was easy for even Filipinos living in America to ignore all of these developments because it all happened so fast.

The best chronicler of the whole Gloriagate affair is by far the website Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and its associated blog which first released copies of the Garci tapes to a global audience. They are still available for download at PCIJ, along with complete transcripts and months and months of posts as the whole sordid story of voterigging 2004 came tumbling out.

(At PCIJ's site are even available RINGTONES for mobile phones of the President saying "Hello Garci" made by disgusted but cellphone crazy Filipino techies. As they say around here, it hurts so much we have to laugh so we do not have ton weep. There are also recordings of the unbelievably insincere "I am sorry" speech of the President, as well as irate riposte of the widow of Fernando Poe, Jr., the actress, Susan Roces.)

But a personal odyssey, a journey from Gloria supporter to ardent critic is chronicled in the blog of the aforementioned Manuel L.Quezon III and in his writings for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. (I can't say as much for evolutionary powers of our newspapers, radio and TV, but the "Pravda-zation" of Philippine Main Stream Media through organized bribery and other corrupt practices is currently beyond the scope of this post.)

The immediate prospects are grim. When House Speaker Jose de Venecia described their victory in quashing the impeachment complaint in Congress as "crossing the Rubicon," what he was really describing was an act of putting a tight lid on a boiling cauldron of outraged dissent and disgust by the aforementioned "decent folks". By so cunningly outmaneuvering the young whippersnappers in Congress like Minority Leader Chiz Escudero and his pro-impeachment block, the old foxes may nevertheless have gained but a Pyrrhic Victory.

Everybody saw what they did with the Constitutional provisions on impeachment. Heck, they will be chuckling and grimacing, laughing and crying at that Justice Committee Report of Simeon Datumanong for generations of law school students yet to come.

Without an impeachment trial to prove her guilt or innocence, to bring the entire Garci controversy to a peaceful, just and proper ending, we have come at last to the Mexican standoff that is before us today.

The spectre of martial rule--declared or de facto--stares us right in the face in the form of the Palace's steady slide down a slippery slope to authoritarian rule.

First, the Palace rescinded the "maximum tolerance" policy towards peaceful rallies and demonstrations, a policy in place since the time of President Fidel Ramos. In its place is the present policy ominously called the "Calibrated Pre-emptive Response" or CPR, that has produced in the last few weeks, several violent incidents and confrontations between demonstrators and police resulting in arrests and injuries. Duh...

Next, it issued Executive Order 464, which constittutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas has called a "gag order" because it forbids officials of the Executive Department, from cabinet heads down to anyone they deem covered, from testifying before Congress without the President's explicit approval.

Then comes the latest stress-induced light-headedness...a Draft Proclamation of National Emergency by the "bad cop" Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzales, which reportedly involves invoking emergency state powers to takeover certain vital industries "tainted with public interest". Both Filipino and foreign businessmen, notably Chamber of Commerce President Donald Dee has expressed opposition to any such takeover not expressly allowed by the Constitution.

Although a lot of this is theatrical posturing or "trial ballooning" as yesterday's PDI Inquirer describes it, the situation is deteriorating by the day.

It has been little discussed in the foreign press, but what can it possibly mean that the Philippine Senate is keeping under its detention the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales under a charge of criminal contempt? In the words of erstwhile Arroyo supporter Senator Joker Arroyo, the NSC head gave the Senate sitting as whole, "inconsistent answers" in the matter of the Venable contract.

Furthermore, a Brigadier General Francisco Gudani, assistant superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy has come forward and testified before the Senate that he can corroborate at least a portion of the Garci tapes because he was the subject in some of the conversations and therefore had personal knowledge of Garcillano's shindigs in Mindanao last year.

The situation is like a tinderbox. And now a very dangerous development has occurred which ought to concern our allies in the war on terror. There is a clear attempt on the part of the palace to tie its repressive policies against the critics of the President to the badly needed Anti-Terrorism Law.

Opposition Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jinggoy Estrada, who co-sponsored the anti-terrorism bills in the Senate are saying they may withdraw support for the legislation because the apparent danger that a law they pass can easily be used against them. And they are joined in this uncertainty over the measure as administration stalwarts like Joker Arroyo and Manuel Villar.

Likewise Rep. Roilo Golez may oppose the legislation in the House on similar grounds. He of the US Naval Academy!

What this means is that the Philippines might not pass such legislation soon, but the President will get the US and our allies mad at the Opposition and thus ensure her survival by neutralizing any dalliance with the enemy on the part of American authorities. The Palace and its media assets have been drumming up the espionage angle and its connection to Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson. They are trying to tar and feather all of the President's critics as members of that "Opposition" so that they they will all suffer from the public relations fallout of the Leandro Aragoncillo spy story.

She will be able to impose a strong-arm rule without having to declare martial law at all because all repressive measures and operations against the critics and oppositionists can easily be folded into legitimate anti-terror operations.

What this means is that such anti-terror operations will not have all of the already meagre resources being dedicated to the true task at hand of interdicting the plans of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Mindanao and the entire region. (By the way, an excellent source of news on Mindanao and the ongoing anti-terror operations there in cooperation with the US and Australia is Bob Martin at Mindanao.)

And one of these days, something will happen. Perhaps a grenade will explode at some public forum, a la Plaza Miranda, or gas could spike to eighty, the avian flu could hit, or an earthquake, maybe someone will be ambushed like Juan Ponce Enrile was in the prelude to martial law, or a terrorist strike, and a state of emergency could be justified.

Declared or de facto, I think some kind of undemocratic, strong-woman rule is inevitable if the President is to stay in power, given all the factors and components of the present situation.

Where will America stand as that iron fist falls?

In asking this question, it is not so much that I expect America or Americans to help Filipinos with a purely internal matter, since Gloria is something that the Filipino people will surely fix themselves.

Being both a Filipino and an American, I hope that America and Americans will stand by what is right and wise according to her best lights. The Philippines after all was America's First Iraq!

I hope Americans will recall the words of President George W. Bush during his first speech on Democracy and Terrorism at the National Endowment for Democracy on November 6, 2003, when he said that it was wrong for America to have supported dictators and tyrants as the Soviet Union had done and that the safety and freedom of America could not be achieved without moral ascendancy.

Or this...

To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, the following has never been more true, that the world cannot endure being half-slave and half free, for either we shall all be free or we shall all be slaves.


Rizalist said...

"A Warm Welcome, Traveler!"

That was the old greeting I used to have on the old Philippine Commentary website. I guess I shall be keeping it.

We are all pilgrims after all. Let us enjoy each other's company.

Dean Jorge Bocobo

MonaLisa said...

Precious Lara Quigaman, Miss International 2005 and our kabayan, was asked a pretty tough question at that recent beauty contest.
Question: "What do you say to the people of the world who have typecasted Filipinos as nannies?"

Answer: "I take no offense on being typecasted as a nanny. But I do take offense that the educated people of the world have somehow denigrated the true sense and meaning of what a nanny is.

Let me tell you what she is. She is someone who gives more than she takes. She is someone you trust to look after the very people most precious to you - your child, the elderly, yourself. She is the one who has made a living out of caring and loving other people. So to those who have typecasted us as nannies, thank you.
It is a testament to the loving and caring culture of the Filipino people. And for that, I am forever proud and grateful of my roots and culture."

Amadeo said...

Welcome back, it has been a while since I last read Philippine Commentary from the old site.

I find this blog post most apropos. I, too, with my family, left the old country more than a quarter century ago. But we have never forgotten our roots.

I personally believe that having lived on both sides of the Pacific Ocean provided us with added insights that may not be ready discernible by our compatriots who are still there. Call them American perspectives, learned from having lived here.

More power to you on this new start.

Anonymous said...

Don't know with you but as soon as I saw the comment of was it MitaMS
somewhere that the chief of staff of Rove was Filipino

again I saw that(hopefully am wrong again) that we are in for a ride...per Aragoncillo

better stop guessing but don't know how to tactfully articulate what's said above....