POSTSCRIPT / May 10, 2009 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can RP gov’t, MNLF be both OIC observers?

CONSUELO: When President Gloria Arroyo flew to Cairo so as not to be around for Labor Day last May 1, Malacanang justified the trip by saying that Egypt would facilitate the Philippine admission as observer in the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Egypt must have handed Ms Arroyo a consuelo de bobo. How can her government earn observer status when there is already a Philippine observer in the pan-Islamic body that has frozen the admission of new observers?

The Moro National Liberation Front, whose founding chairman is Nur Misuari, is already the Philippine Muslim observer in the powerful OIC.

In fact, the OIC is smarting from Manila’s failure to fully carry out the 1976 Tripoli Agreement where the MNLF was the recognized voice of Muslim Filipinos. It was under the accord that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao was organized with Misuari as governor.

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MNLF HAS SEAT: Malacanang has shifted its attention from the MNLF to its splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in resolving the generations-old turmoil in the South.

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, has said: “The unsatisfactory implementation of the 1976 peace agreement between the GRP and MNLF is a strong disincentive to the OIC to accept the Philippines as observer.

“How Thailand treated the Muslim issue in the south raised awareness among OIC members that having non-Muslim states in its roster of members does not guarantee that Muslim minorities in these countries will be treated well.

“The MNLF will continue to represent the Bangsamoro people in the world body of Muslims.”

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COMELEC FUMBLE: Watching helplessly as grownup officials bungle the full automation of the 2010 national elections can be draining for a people tired of corruption and dirty politics.

After the Commission on Elections disqualified all the remaining bidders for the P11.3-billion supply-service contract for the polls, there appears no way it can produce within the little time left a credible option for full automation.

A negotiated contract will not work. It appears to the cynical public that the bidding is purposely being made to fail so as to justify negotiating a prearranged deal.

The Comelec has never regained its credibility after the avaricious Abalos commissioners ran it to the ground. It is not fair to Comelec chairman Jose Melo, but for him to now negotiate a contract will be highly suspect.

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STONE AGE: Besides, some of the losing bidders, still groggy from the continually moving deadlines and changing Terms of Reference cannot be expected to sit idly by as one of them is handed the big pie.

They all signed an undertaking not to sue if they lose, but trust their lawyers to come up with justifications for their seeking relief in court. The issuance of one or two Temporary Restraining Orders cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, with Comelec groping to regain its bearings, May 2010 continues to creep up on us.

End result: Back to the Stone Age. Back to mano-mano elections where anything goes.

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COMPROMISE: A desperate compromise would be partial automation.

Question is which stage will be manual and which will be automated? Can this be done considering the mandate in the law for full, not partial, automation? And where do we get enough machines that can do the automated part?

Partial automation will throw us back to holding new biddings and the legendary inability of Comelec officials to conduct credible biddings.

Can the P11.3 billion earmarked for full automation be spent for something less? Do we need another law to finance a process not envisioned in the full automation law? Is there time to reallocate funds?

It is indeed one big mess and the many cooks around the Comelec cauldron of hot soup are to blame.

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TOLD YOU SO: Note this Postscript warning last April 26: “In this land of dime-a-dozen TROs and failed biddings, do not be surprised if after great exertion, the Commission on Elections would just end up with a frustrated attempt to automate the 2010 polls on a stiff bill of P11.3 billion.

“At the rate the TOR (terms of reference) are being revised and some bidders of questionable eligibility are massaged back into contention, there is the likelihood that whoever wins in the bidding, some losers will go to court to stop the award.

“And when that happens, with the poll clock ticking inexorably, this nation of some 50 million voters would be thrown back to the Stone Age of mano-mano elections. And the usual dagdag-bawas artists take over, again.

“When will the government be able to hold public biddings that stick? When will we ever see the end to losers sourgraping and judges selling Temporary Restraining Orders under the pretext of due process?”

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PARTISAN PLATFORM: If senators eyeing the presidency indeed love the Senate, which is their main platform for projection, they better think hard about converting it into a partisan platform and possibly destroying it.

The obsession of presidential aspirants among them to use it to put down their rivals and gain publicity is not doing the institution any good. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile may want to look into this angle.

If the bloc led by Sen. Ping Lacson says Sen. Manny Villar has used public works funds to gain business advantage, he should sue Villar in court and not waste the Senate’s time that should be devoted to legislation.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 10, 2009)

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