It has been a good two-weeks for the Administration.
First there was the stay of execution of the three convicted Filipinos in China. One just wishes the Government would spend as much time, effort and fanfare in solving the murders of the dozens of journalists at home and massacre of innocents in Maguindanao; as they have in helping the three “drug mules”.
VP Binay is credited with this diplomatic victory enhancing the foreign relations credentials of our future president. It is unclear what the Government had to give up in exchange. We already agreed not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo but, knowing the Chinese knack for negotiations, we may also have to give up on the Spratlys and return the deposits paid to local fixers by ZTE Corp. on its failed broadband bid.
Jojo is basking in the glory of his coup. P-Noy is now considering sending the VP off to Somalia to negotiate for the release of kidnapped Filipino sailors. Other than money paid in ransom, we have little trade with this country so the stakes are different. As of last report, in addition to cash, the Somalian pirates are asking for the Philippines’ support in their application for UN membership and for captured Somalians to be accorded prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention.
Not to be seen as favoring one future Presidential candidate, P-Noy dispatched Mar Roxas to Taiwan to apologize for the snafu in deporting 14 Taiwanese to the Mainland where they are accused of financial crimes. Somebody in Immigration obviously thought all Chinese come from one place.
This is partially understandable given the ambiguity of our One China policy: Is Taiwan a sovereign state or not? It is somewhat appropriate that Mar should have been chosen to lead the Philippine delegation since he shares the same ambiguity: Is he a member of the official family or not?
It is logical, I guess, that a ‘dubious’ representative of the Government deal with a ‘dubious’ member of the international community. I hope Taiwan was not offended that the Mainland got a Vice-President while it had to do with an unofficial troubleshooter.
For his part Mar should have questioned the assignment. He is now branded by the People’s Republic as “the Filipino who apologized to its arch enemy Taiwan”. This is not a label you want attached to you by what will be the most powerful country in the planet, particularly if you are running for president. For now, there are reports the PRC is considering revoking Mar’s Mainland visa (but not that of Korina out of respect for the media).
Incidentally, have you noticed the Philippines has been spending a lot of time apologizing to the Chinese? First we apologized to Hong Kong for the Luneta incident, then to the Mainland for the drug mules, and now to Taiwan for the mis-deportation of its citizens. The DFA should perhaps be renamed the Department of Foreign Apologies.
The other Administration victory was the Supreme Court decision allowing the Legislature to pursue impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. It was a close call with the President’s nemesis, Chief Justice Corona, voting against. Nonetheless it proves that, contrary to the bruised feelings in Malacanang, not all the Justices have it in for P-Noy. If the Government presents a thoughtful and fully-formed case, the Court will respond appropriately, so no need too sulk or cast aspersions on its members as the Palace has in the past been wont to do.
The SC decision will hopefully now allow for the long overdue dismissal of Gutierrez and the resolution of the corruption cases against former Government officials. This is a simpler and more direct route than the much-vaunted Truth Commission which was a legal eunuch to start with.
With these recent victories the President must be feeling good about himself. Let us hope he does not get too comfortable as, frankly, in the cosmic view, these accomplishments, while laudable, are modest.
Thus, getting a temporary commutation for three Filipinos should hardly become our standard for diplomatic achievement. One even wonders whether a lifetime of imprisonment in a Chinese jail is a better fate for these individuals. Every life saved is indeed worthwhile but needs to be put in its proper context.
We hope the President does not forget there is also the greater mission of alleviating poverty and generally just making this nation a better place to live.