POSTSCRIPT / January 7, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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War veterans' children chide me on US issues

VILLA ESCUDERO, Laguna – I’m in this nature resort with my high school classmates (Holy Angel University HS ’56), many of whom are balikbayan caught in the excitement of our extended 50th anniversary homecoming.

I am on guard when in their company, because many of them are the proud children of gallant soldiers who fought in the last war side by side with Americans.

In our get-togethers, it is not unusual for some of them to ask me why I hold “critical” views on the presence of foreign troops in the country. “Critical” here means “questioning.”

The opinion of these dear classmates, many of whom are now naturalized Americans, is not to be taken lightly. They are, to me, the biggest opinion bloc whose sensitivities I always consider when I discuss things American.

Overall, they understand my public position on RP-US issues, as I understand their individual opinions. (But we do share rather strong views on many other subjects.)

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OTHER VIEW: Seven out of every 10 Postscript readers who had reacted to my discussion of the rape case of US Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith generally agree with me.

Since they share my views, it may not be necessary for me to publish their opinion, Instead, I want to lend space to the minority who would not let go the subject without kicking and delivering a few mean jabs.

To represent that “other” view, I chose an email from one Kasey1907 using an aol ( America-on-Line) address. Too bad Casey did not give his real name. But his opinion is more important than his name.

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AMERICAN SPEAKS: Space limitation forces me to use only portions of Kasey’s email. Here goes, whatever fits:

“I enjoy reading the columns that you write. They are often provocative, informative and make me take second and third looks at many issues. I appreciate your candor and hope that you will accept my thoughts in the same manner.

“I take issue with several matters regarding the adjudication and incarceration of Daniel Smith. Yes, I am an American living in the Philippines. Indeed, I am also a product of a military parent. I mention these things in hopes of transparency, a touchstone for a multitude of current issues here and abroad.

“You dismissed the technology that the United States military affords this country as antiquated and useless. I ask you, why accept them then? The next time a landslide occurs and you require the manpower and technology to rescue and recover fellow citizens, reach out to another country with such resources. I don’t see many lining up or writing the checks the United States has.

“When the Muslim extremists threaten to seize an economically important and strategic island in the south, don’t use the weapons provided by the United States. Metro police officers fail to have sufficient weaponry to protect themselves; it will be tragic to think that the Armed Forces will rely on nationally provided armaments to do their job against insurgents who will fight with more than jungle wits.

“Other countries are watching how the Philippines responds to the VFA. Australia faces a decision on a similar agreement and is approaching it cautiously. The red herring, false dilemmas and ad populum techniques of this column are things that every journalism student learns in his/her freshman year of schooling.

“Tossing the WMD debacle from Iraq into the fray is beneath you. The false prediction made about Smith living a life of luxury is also unconscionable. The headline story of the current edition of the Star would have clarified the conditions of his confinement.

“I dearly love living in your country. My children are taught to adhere to local customs and considerations. We preach that as guests in another country that we must show respect to our hosts and not make broad characterizations about the population.

“The fans you flame about sovereignty and righteousness are also causing ill will towards my family and I. Not all Americans support President Bush’s decisions or act as arrogantly as you portray. Painting with such a broad brush is dangerous. I do not believe that all Filipinos ignore paying their taxes, accept or pay bribes, have adulterous affairs, drive in complete ignorance of the laws or feel the need to leave their homeland for better lives.

“I have many friends here who are exemplary citizens and are ashamed of the politically driven banter and subversive behavior that mocks their beloved land. I have no say in the coming elections and only hope that the voters of this land will understand the dramatic steps this country has taken to become better.

“The peso is doing well, foreign investments are increasing and the unemployment rate is falling. We still have many ills to conquer and need to focus on making lives better. It tears me apart to see children begging in the street and read of political killings in church courtyards. The Philippines deserves better than the lowest common denominator.

“I have nothing invested in Daniel Smith’s guilt or innocence. I am not in the employ of the United States government or associated with the Embassy. If he is guilty (only something the Lord knows) then he will indeed suffer a punishment far worse than any Filipino jail. I have read the allegations and the defense. I saw Father Reuter’s columns and watched Attorney Ursua speak. The arguments of the government and private citizens have become the fodder at Starbucks and food courts.

“The Philippines entered into a treaty that permitted the governments to decide on an acceptable place of detention. The courts are a separate entity and their rights inviolate. However, the executive branch has been charged with the duty of agreeing on Smith’s place of detention. Crying foul now is unfair. The judiciary did the preliminary job — the CA has substantiated both Judge Pozon’s initial rulings and Malacanang’s decision.

“If the Supreme Court finds that Daniel Smith has received a fair trial, was found guilty and should be remanded to the same facilities that other criminals are afforded, then we should all be relieved. However, if they find that he was not adjudged properly, he should be immediately allowed to leave. Again, I offer no judgment on his guilt or innocence.

“Sovereign custody is not the issue; the VFA directs the governments to agree on the facilities. They have and we should move on until the Supreme Court delivers their thoughts. Uninformed people are acting as if GMA has absolved him and granted pardon. While the average Filipino criminal is not allowed such rights, he/she is not protected by the VFA. Those showing unbridled support of “Nicole” need to be reminded that the VFA guarantees extra protection to these soldiers — yes, these men and women are treated differently than ordinary criminals.

“Again, don’t enter into contracts if you are not willing to abide by the agreements. Too often we find that it is easier to complain about an issue rather than work to understand and solve it.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 7, 2007)

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