POSTSCRIPT / July 10, 2005 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why pick on GMA only? Opposition is blameless?

IS THIS FAIR?: The political opposition keeps attacking and obstructing the administration of President Arroyo to the point that she is unable to carry out in full her economic and reform agenda, resulting in problems growing to crisis proportions.

Then prominent persons and pressure groups, virtually reading from a common script, suddenly call on the President make a “supreme sacrifice” and step down so as to stall the developing crisis.

Is that fair? Why place the burden solely on the victim of the destabilization? Why don’t they also call on those creating trouble and ask them to stop it — so we can have normalcy and the President can work in peace, as she should?

A gang molests a woman in the street. Then we ask the woman to run home to escape harm and so there would be peace in the neighborhood. But we do not bother to do something about the bullies. Is that fair? Is that all we have to do?

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IT’S JUST IN MANILA Until yesterday, I kept calling friends and relatives in the provinces asking about the situation where they live and work.

They told me that everything was normal over there, and that they were watching with interest the congressional inquiries and the protest marches of camp followers of opposition leaders in Metro Manila.

What I said in our POSTSCRIPT of June 28, 2005, is worth recalling:

Without meaning to demean or discredit People Power, I submit that it is high time we reexamined the notion that a few thousand street marchers can reverse what a nationwide electorate has done.

The fabric of nation has worn thin and fragile. Any more pulling here and there would tear it beyond repair.

I have always been uncomfortable seeing, say, 30,000 placard-bearing marchers being allowed to undo what some 30 million voters have decided in a solemn constitutional process.

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U.S. VIEW: The US position vis-à-vis developments in Manila culled from interviews with US chargé d’affaires Joseph Mussomeli has been misinterpreted. To help clear the confusion, we print relevant excerpts from his July 8 TV interview with Ricky Carandang on ANC 21’s “Dateline Philippines.”

RC: Sir, last time you were here, the tape had just come out and you had said that you would, of course, continue to support the democratically elected government of this country. Has there been any change or any variation in your position since all these events, particularly what happened this morning?”

JM: Certainly a lot of things have happened in the last three or four weeks. And I predict that in the next few weeks more things will happen. Our policy though is pretty steadfast and clear. We are supporting the rule of law and the Constitution. In so far as anything that goes beyond the Constitution, the US government will firmly oppose — and that means all sorts of things. That means a military coup. That means the imposition of martial law. That means people power in the streets. Anything that will weaken the institutions that we genuinely believe are the true safeguard for your own liberty and welfare are also against our own interests, and we will do our best to oppose any such actions.

RC : Can you categorically tell us right now, sir, that the United States government supports the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?

JM : I could categorically tell you that we support the rule of law. Within that context, we believe that the President is still the President, obviously. That it is within her legal rights to remove her Cabinet; her Cabinet is hers to do with as she pleases, but that doesn’t mean we’re not disappointed in that. It doesn’t mean that we’re not worried; this is something that distracts from the reforms that she was committed to and we hope is still committed to. You know, I know many of he Cabinet members who have resigned now, and the ones that I know are all very decent, and good people, patriots — people who are concerned for the welfare of the Filipino people. So, it is a worrisome thing, but it is certainly within her rights.

RC : Do you agree with the characterization of some of the President’s allies that these Cabinet members who spoke this morning are “adventurous?”

JM : No, I couldn’t agree with that. I know some of them very well, and the ones I know, frankly, have accepted these posts as an act of patriotism and are concerned for the welfare of the people. They could make a lot more money and have a lot more prestigious roles in the private sector, but they have chosen to be in the Cabinet.

RC : You say that you support the democratic process. If the democratic process led to the President’s resignation, or if the democratic process led to an impeachment of the President, is that something that you would have a problem with?

JM : You know, really it is up to the Filipino people to decide what is best for them. I would only say, and maybe I’m getting too personal on this, and I shouldn’t as a diplomat, but it seems that the focus on both sides is too much on either retaining power or attaining power, and not enough focus on the Filipino people and what is best for them. I think if both sides or all sides — there’s more than two sides to this — would focus more on and discern better what is best for the people, they would be able to resolve this.

RC : Do you think as a result of this ongoing political crisis that the administration may have lost some of its focus on those things that you deem are important?

JM : That’s exactly why we’re disappointed, yes. We believe there has been a loss of emphasis and a loss of focus on economic reform, on the fight against corruption, on reforming the Armed Forces, and all of that as I had warned several weeks this would distract from.

RC : I’m going to ask you a set of questions that pertain… to reports, widespread speculation, that the United States may have had some involvement on this. If you recall when the tapes first came out, Secretary Bunye himself said that there were reports that the Americans had something to do with it, and of course you said that you had nothing do with it.

JM : Right, and that was actually proven true.

RC : …You have spoken to a broad spectrum of people? Is there a consensus to you based on people you’ve talked to? Is there a consensus about how this situation should end? Do most of them feel that the President should stay on and that this is an unfair accusation against her? Do many feel that she should resign?

JM : You know, I wish I had kept a tally. The only thing that I could tell you is that there is a broad deep consensus of worry for the Filipino people and the desire to somehow resolve this in a constitutional way. There are very few people we talked to who want to go beyond the Constitution or what is legally appropriate.

RC : If somebody tried to do something that were unconstitutional. As you said, you will support whatever happens, as long as it’s constitutional. If someone came in and tried do something unconstitutional, would the United States just sit back and let it happen, or would you be constrained to intervene somehow either politically or militarily, or diplomatically…?

JM : Certainly, we would not interfere militarily or in any way such as that. That is not our role here. But certainly it is our role as a friend of the Filipino people to express our disagreement with and opposition to anything that would infringe on their freedom, and we would publicly and forcefully denounce it.

RC : …But how important is it that this gets resolved right away as far as American interests, strategic interests in Southeast Asia are concerned?

JM : You know, I have to say after working on Philippine issues for 21 years, I think the Filipino people have a real genius for resolving these things in their own due time. I would hate to push them to an American timetable of the next 20 minutes. I think over the next few weeks or the next few days, the Filipino people and the Filipino leaders from both the opposition and the government will find a way to resolve this.

RC : Are you in your own way going to encourage a constitutional resolution to all of this?

JM : We are encouraging that constitutionally. You’re asking me what it is? No. We don’t have a specific agenda. We really don’t. We just want it to be peaceful and legal, and the rest is up to the Filipino people.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 10, 2005)

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