POSTSCRIPT / February 1, 2005 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush is the real winner in Iraq war-time election

AND DA WINNER IS…: They are still counting the ballots, but whatever vote was cast by Iraqis in their historic national elections last Sunday, the winner was/is/will be US President George W. Bush.

The invasion of Iraq was part of the reelection strategy of Bush, who had to do something drastic to jerk his survey ratings from the cellar where they were languishing before the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers.

Having succeeded in using the 9/11 attacks and his invasion of Iraq to whip up the patriotic juices of the American majority to carry him to victory in last November’s election, it is now time for him to disengage from the bloody Tigris-Euphrates valley.

The Iraqi election for a 275-member transitional National Assembly is part of the phased disengagement that Bush — after having won his reelection — must carry out to give respite to his American constituents and a distressed world.

But whatever happens in Iraq from now on, Bush is the real winner — he has clinched a second term, thanks mainly to his waging war in Iraq and the Democrats’ bungling at the polls.

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PINOY STILL TOPS: But against the bloody record of Pinoy politicos, Iraqi politicians and terrorists combined look like rank amateurs.

The CNN reported that despite their vow to wash the streets of Iraq with “voters’ blood,” dissidents managed to pull off only a little more than a dozen attacks that left at least 28 people killed and 71 others wounded.

Compare that to the record of our homegrown politicos, who killed at least 140 persons during the so-called “election period” that gave Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last May her own six-year term over the protests of the fans of Fernando Poe Jr.

The Americans overseeing the process said more than 14 million Iraqis were registered, 72 percent of whom voted in more than 30,000 polling stations in the first free election in that country in the last half century.

If you believe our own data culled from last May: We had more than 43.5 million registered voters (more than half of the population!), 78 percent of them trooping to the 216,725 precincts all over the archipelago to vote.

The delegates who were elected to Iraq’s National Assembly will write a constitution by August, and pick the next president and two vice presidents. The president, in turn, will select a prime minister. If the charter is approved in a referendum set in October, a new government will be elected in December and assume power by year’s end.

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LOST TO ENNUI: We grope for assurance as we read reports that the foreign office is moving to protect the human rights of some 162,500 Filipinos tagged by Malaysia as illegally staying in Sabah and being processed for expulsion.

The reports had it also that Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo was appealing to the overstaying Filipinos to avail themselves of the Malaysian offer of amnesty to avoid fines, possible imprisonment, and deportation.

Our uneasiness stems from the fact that we have a pending claim on Sabah. If, according to us, that corner of North Borneo is Philippine territory, how can Filipinos be “overstaying” there and subject to deportation by Malaysian interlopers?

Not only that. If Philippine authorities are not careful in their official statements and documentation, and let our claim drag into ennui, Malaysia would be able to tighten its legal hold on the disputed territory and render our claim moot.

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RP CONSULS IN SABAH?: There were earlier plans for Manila to establish a consulate in Sabah to look after Filipinos being harassed by the Malaysian police. Why would we put up a consulate in our own territory (Sabah), if we were consistent and sure of our claim?

Former Ambassador Rodolfo Arizala expressed the same concern over the claim in an email from Santiago, Chile, where he now resides.

He said, “It is hoped that the Philippine government position would go beyond the protection of human rights of Filipinos and include safeguarding of our rights or claim on Sabah.”

He also expressed fear that our issuance of passports or travel documents to OFW’s who wish to avail of the Malaysian amnesty could be interpreted as admission on the part of the Philippines of Malaysia’s sovereignty and exercise of effective control over Sabah.

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SIMILAR CASE: Arizala called attention to a decision of the International Court of Justice rendered on Dec. 17, 2002, on an Indonesian-Malaysian sovereignty dispute over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan.

In its ruling, the ICJ held that said islands belong to Malaysia, because Malaysia was able to show to have been exercising acts of “effectivites” over the territories. It said that while “the activities relied upon by Malaysia (are) modest,” they are nevertheless “diverse in character and include legislative, administrative and quasi-judicial acts.”

The court also observed that Indonesia did not raise objections or disagreements to such exercise on the part of Malaysia.

The Philippine handling of its claim on Sabah appears, at least to me, similar to the careless and neglectful Indonesian handling of its claim on the two islands also claimed by Malaysia.

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RESERVATIONS: The systematic expulsion of so-called “162,500 illegal OFW’s from Sabah” for alleged violation of Malaysia´s immigration laws, if not objected to by the Philippines, could strengthen Malaysia´s hold and claim of sovereignty on Sabah.

Arizala advised: “We should therefore make it clear that in issuing travel documents to OFW’s we are doing it in the spirit of the Manila Accord of 1963 signed by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines which clearly provides among others: ‘that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to North Borneo,’ and that it ‘would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder.’

“We should make it clear aside from protecting the human rights of Filipinos wherever they may be, that in the case of Filipinos in Sabah, the issuance of passports or travel documents by the Philippine government is undertaken in the spirit of the Manila Accord of 1963. This will preclude any misunderstanding that we are abandoning or have abandoned our claim.”

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ANOTHER ST. LUKE’S: Over at Fort Bonifacio today, First Gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo will be the principal guest in the ground-breaking for the P6.5-billion St. Luke’s Medical Center, the second state-of-the-art medical institution of St. Luke’s after the one on E. Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City.

St. Luke’s has maintained its reputation as the most advanced hospital in the country in terms of medical equipment and technology, range of services, professional expertise, quality of patient care, customer service, and medical research. It is reportedly better equipped than 95 percent of hospitals in the US.

It is the only hospital here accredited with the Joint Commission International, the international arm of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) of the US. Today, only five hospitals in Asia have JCI accreditation.

In late 2001, St. Luke’s became an international affiliate of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. This week St. Luke’s will become the only Philippine hospital to be an international affiliate of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Today’s ground-breaking coincides with the first joint meeting of the St. Luke’s board of advisers and the board of trustees. The advisory board includes Dr. William Bicknell, chairman emeritus of Boston University’s Department of International Health; Kenneth Bloem, former president of Stanford University Hospital and former CEO of Georgetown University Medical Center and currently CEO of the Specialty Hospital Project in Qatar; Dr. Thomas Fahey, senior vice president for Clinical Program Development and Director of International Oncology Programs of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Dr. Arthur Klein, EVP and COO of New York-Presbyterian Healthcare Hospital System; Samuel Lehrfeld, president and CEO of Brooklyn Hospital Center; Stuart Pack, CEO of Gleneagles Intan Medical Center; and Dr. Cecil Samuelson, president of Brigham Young University and former dean of the School of Medicine of the University of Utah.

The Filipino members of the board of advisers include former Prime Minister Cesar Virata; former Secretary of Education Andrew Gonzales; mall magnate Henry Sy; and Ramcar CEO Manual Agustines.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 1, 2005)

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