Wednesday, March 21, 2007

By Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio


When we regularly give money for a specific purpose such as food for the hungry or medicine for the sick, we want to know that's where the money goes. If not, then we stop the flow.
The U.S. Senate decided to conduct an inquiry into reports that American military aid to the Philippine Military are being used somehow in extra-judicial killings of civilians instead of terrorists. If found to be so, then the U.S. Senate will recommend to control, if not curtail its foreign military aid to an impoverished country like the Philippines.

The idea of certain Filipino legislators, particularly Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago as chair of the Philippine Foreign Relations Committee, to retaliate and conduct a similar inquiry into alleged human rights abuses of the American Military in Iraq, seems to come out from a childish if not a retarded mentality. It's like talking in Tagalog: “Ikaw rin, ganyan ka rin.” (Translation: You did it too , so why bother?)

The Philippines cannot afford to influence the conduct of American soldiers in Iraq because they are not dependent on any Filipino military support. The American taxpayers are the ones who can control the use of American military force in countries where reports of violations of human rights have been committed.

What the de facto Arroyo Administration should have done and could still do is to act on the findings of the MELO Commission, its own investigative body designed to look into the upsurge of extra judicial killings in the Philippines, and bring the perpetrators to justice. If this was done before instead of keeping the fact-finding report from the public eye, the U.S. Senate inquiry would not be needed.
America launched an all-out war on terror after the 2001 terrorists' attack on the World Trade Center in New York that cost thousands of American lives lost and damaged and billions of dollars worth of American properties destroyed. Since then, American President George W. Bush has been thinking of one thing: Keep America Safe from the Terrorists and the battle cry is Never Again.
From a National Security perspective, it is wise to remember that during the Clinton Administration, the American media published a report that most of the officials hired by Clinton to assist him at the White House had no Security Clearances. One such official recommended by Hillary became the White House Chief of Personnel Security who once worked as a nightclub bouncer. Worse still, the media said that this official had access to the presidential attache case containing the pushbutton to start a nuclear war.
I must use this cliché to raise my point come election time again in 2008: TO FOREWARN IS TO FOREARM.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

By Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio


From being branded as second only to Iraq as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, the Philippines recently gained another title of notoriety as the “most corrupt country in Asia” bestowed by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy that conducts an annual survey of foreign business executives in 13 countries of Asia. If this bad characterization of the only Christian nation in Asia is true, then kleptocracy or “rule by thieves” has already replaced democracy in the Philippines.

Here, in America, corruption still persists but not in the same massive proportion as in the Philippines or Indonesia. A watchful American media and dedicated law enforcement agencies have displayed an effective partnership to discourage corrupt practices in government. They show no respect for powerful politicians whenever they misuse their political power for personal monetary gain and other illegal activities.

A once powerful Republican leader in Congress recently resigned from his political post after he was indicted for funneling illegal funds to his political campaign. A former Deputy Attorney General under the Clinton Administration who was a former law partner and close friend of Hillary did resign after he was exposed to have engaged in illegal billing of his law office in Arkansas and a possible target in the government investigation of the Whitewater Real Estate Scam.

The evil of corruption attacks everyone in power. But the weak in character or those who failed to resist the temptation get caught in the web. More often than not, it's the lure of dirty money that hits the scoundrels.

When a judge rules in favor of the guilty party who bribes him or her and punish the innocent, justice is not served because of corruption. When any award is given to a person or group because of some monetary or illegal consideration by a government reviewing panel or board, it is graft and corruption.

When public funds are misused to support political candidates and the amount of money runs into billions, democracy is dying and the people will bleed to death. Is this what happened in the Philippines in 2004? If so, then the Philippines deserves the title of being the most corrupt country in Asia.

I believe the Filipino people can still stop the slow death of democracy this year by electing honest and dedicated candidates for public office whose main concern is public service and whose track record is not tainted with corruption.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

By Gonzalo “Jun” Policarpio


According to a report issued a few days ago by Prof. Harry Roque of the University of the Philippines, the U.S. Immigration Judge denied the asylum application of Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante, former Arroyo government official who was arrested by U.S. Immigration officers last year for making an illegal entry at the Los Angeles airport. Well, it's good news to the Philippine Senate who has still an outstanding warrant of arrest for the fugitive from justice. But it's bad news to the Arroyo administration that tried so hard to get the “fall guy” a safe haven in America.

he Philippine Senate subpoenaed Bolante to appear before an inquiry into charges that he plundered billions of pesos appropriated for the Filipino farmers when he was a top official of the Philippine department of agriculture. He was specifically accused of misappropriating the people's money to go to the campaign fund of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during the 2004 presidential elections. Instead of appearing before a Senate Committee hearing in 2005, he disappeared into thin air with the help of a Philippine passport with a stamped U.S. Visa. When the U.S. Embassy cancelled his visa upon learning that he is a fugitive from justice, he got caught at an inspection booth of the Los Angeles port of entry.

If confirmed that Bolante failed to get asylum in the United States, then it can be said that his extra-expensive immigration lawyers failed to convince the immigration judge that Bolante has credible fear of political persecution in the Philippines. Though he has credible fear of criminal prosecution, it's not a statutory ground to give him the status of a refugee. In fact, he has the status of a fugitive from justice.

If Bolante were a Filipino journalist whose articles and commentaries are critical of the Arroyo administration like Marlene Garcia-Esperat who was killed by unknown gunmen, he could have won an asylum case in the United States.

The Philippines has been tagged as second only to Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists in 2005 by two international media watchdogs, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist(CPJ) and the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders(RSF). Just recently, the Philippine government's “security forces” were recently cited in the U.S. State Department 2006 Country Report on Human Rights Practices as the perpetrators of “abuses against civilians through killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention.”

U.S. Immigration judges normally refer to the State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices before ruling on an asylum application. Given the increasing number of “extra-judicial killings” of journalists and militant political leaders in the Philippines, I would not be surprised to hear of a possible swamp of asylum applications or even refugee applications being filed by those targeted groups of hapless Filipinos.