POSTSCRIPT / April 22, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Why US is not likely to scramble for Phl

EMBRACE: Intended or not, China is pushing the Philippines into the protective embrace of Uncle Sam.

The former American colony does not have the military muscle needed to block or discourage Chinese intrusions into its sovereign territory such as the Panatag shallows off Zambales that international maps refer to as Scarborough Shoals.

With Beijing continuing the pressure, sooner or later Manila may have to seek the assistance of Washington in putting the interloper in its proper place. That move could be quite problematic.

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MUTUAL DEFENSE: The PHL-US mutual defense pact cannot be invoked without an overt aggressive act against one of the parties.

Shots have to be fired first at either of the two Pacific partners to give the other party reason to spring into action.

The Philippines should not have illusions that the US would scramble automatically to its rescue if, say, China escalates its bullying tactics by sending another warship to the Scarborough shoals in brinkmanship fashion.

The US will act militarily only if its action is clearly in its self-interest — and subject to its congressional processes. The US President may be the Commander-in-Chief, but he cannot go to war without the consent of the Congress.

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MORE OPTIONS: Besides, considering geopolitical realities, the US may not be ready or willing to confront or even just to nudge China, an expansive market it is trying to exploit.

One thing Washington could do is offer more military hardware and easy loans to the Aquino administration – sucking Manila deeper into its sphere of influence – like banks luring clients with pre-approved loans/credit cards that they really cannot afford.

 Another likely US action is for it to use its good offices to convince Beijing to agree to a simultaneous (with Manila) withdrawal from Scarborough, to let tempers simmer down while a diplomatic solution is being worked out.

 A half-solution is for China to look the other way while the Philippines files a case with the international tribunal on the Convention on the Law of the Sea, where it will gather dust. No settlement is possible unless there is prior submission by both parties to accept any decision.

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POLL FRAUD: The Commission on Elections has ruled that poll supervisors who rigged the 2007 senatorial elections in Mindanao should not go scot-free by the expedience of testifying against former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

By a 4-1 vote, the Comelec en banc ruled Wednesday that poll sabotage charges against South Cotabato provincial election supervisor Lilian Radam should not be dropped.

The ruling goes against the wishes of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who wants to use Radam and North Cotabato election supervisor Yogi Martirizar as state witnesses against Abalos in the election sabotage case against him.

The supervisors had admitted their involvement in massive cheating allegedly to give a 12-0 victory to the senatorial bets of the then Arroyo administration.

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‘PUZZLEMENT’: To save themselves from fraud charges that they had already admitted, the two supervisors agreed – after four years in hiding — to be used by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as witnesses against Abalos.

The secretary also enrolled them in the DoJ witness protection program, a move that is now in question since it was made without the approval of the Comelec that had initiated the charges.

De Lima has been acting unilaterally on the Abalos case on behalf of a joint DoJ-Comelec panel. In effect, she had put the constitutional poll body under her control, violating the Comelec’s independence.

It has been a “puzzlement” why Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes allows the emasculation of his agency. With only him dissenting, the majority vote was cast by commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph and Armando Velasco.

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REJOINDER: As expected, the lawyer of Radam and Martirizar  defended De Lima against criticisms that  the secretary has been obsessed with putting Abalos behind bars even in violation of due process.

The lawyer also denied being influential with the secretary. She said that while they were schoolmates in San Beda, she was “ahead” of De Lima.

She said among other things in an email to Postscript: “It is not true that Abalos was not given the opportunity to file his counter-affidavit.  All the respondents including Radam and Martirizar were given the opportunity to file counter affidavit by the joint DoJ-Comelec preliminary investigation committee. He has chosen not to file a counter affidavit. He has no intention of filing one because he questioned the creation of the said committee before the Supreme Court.

 “There is no abuse of his constitutional right of due process because Abalos was given the chance to question the jurisdiction of the court over him through a motion to quash, but it was denied. Despite denial of his motion to quash, he filed a motion for reconsideration. Under the rules, an order denying the motion to quash is an interlocutory order, thus, it is not subject to appeal.”

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OTHERS RAPPED: The lawyer continued: “As former judge, he knows the evidence against him is strong.  Abalos and Radam were charged of 11 counts of election sabotage, and 2 other election sabotage cases with Martirizar. It is not 23 cases as reported in your column. They were charged with conspiracy, with Abalos as the principal accused.

“The ISAPF were also included in the charge and the case against Regional Director of Region 12, and other military officials involved are still subject of further investigation by the joint panel created by Comelec and DoJ. This completes the whole picture of the electoral sabotage as the provincial election officers (PES) has no capacity to produce the second authentic copies of the election forms (certificate of canvass) and other election paraphernalia (twin form of same number and paper as that given to the PES) that were used by the ISAPF to produce the tampered result, by filling up the said form.

“It was not Martirizar and Radam who provided those election paraphernalia as the true copies which were accomplished by the provincial board of canvassers bearing authentic election results.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 22, 2012)

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