POSTSCRIPT / May 8, 2012 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Impeachment circus has dragged too long

WORLD OPINION: The way Malacañang and its operators talk about marshalling world opinion against China, they seem to think that brainwashing the watching world is as easy as a media-aided demolition job against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

To tilt world opinion against Beijing on the Scarborough issue, Filipino diplomats have been sent to explain Manila’s position in their assigned areas while a complaint is being prepared for filing before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. Back-channel diplomacy is also quietly at work.

Going beyond that well-trodden route, how will Palace propagandists go about managing the foreign press whose word is crucial in forming favorable world opinion?

Can Malacañang operators employ the same friendly persuasion that was used on a willing sector of the local media to portray a vile and corrupt Chief Justice?

A problem is that foreign journalists are likely to react negatively to payola. Neither will they agree to being placed on the board of certain corporations or their wives and relatives appointed to high-paying sinecures.

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LEAN ON UNCLE SAM: Malacañang’s best card is not high-level world propaganda, where it is a clumsy amateur.

Poor Philippines may get faster results by cozying up instead to Uncle Sam and whispering into his ears about increasing her allowance, visiting more often and, on his way out, telling off that neighborhood bully lolling by the Panatag pool.

And if the situation becomes that desperate and she is willing to play deaf to what the neighbors say, she can invite Uncle to occupy the adjoining room and make somewhat permanent his visiting-forces status.

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COSTLY GAME: The US assures that it will never abandon the Philippines in times of mutual defense needs based on treaty commitments. And, as we have not learned from past perfidies, we swallow it all.

We are already being dazzled by an armed forces modernization shopping list drawn up by an entity servicing the Pentagon. It is a long and heavy wish list that includes 48 jetfighters (four squadrons) and several warships and even submarines!

My god, for their fuel requirements alone we would be in hock for three generations. And who will play with those yellow submarines?

The US knows fully well we cannot afford such modern military hardware. We cannot even pay a decent wage to our foot soldiers who face Moro fighters brandishing superior weaponry.

The message here is that catching up with the neighbors is a costly game — but that we might be able to afford it if we play along. Are they hoping President Noynoy Aquino will?

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‘NOYNOYING’ PAYS: Actually this may be one time when “noynoying,” or the art of waiting for a problem to solve itself, will pay dividends.

The situation is that, at this what State Secretary Hillary Clinton calls a “critical juncture,” neither the US nor China wants to start shooting at the other over some shoals that happen to be within the territorial seas of the Philippines.

Washington will not want to be drawn into a war with its biggest foreign creditor ($1.2 trillion and counting) and one of its fastest growing markets. Neither will Beijing want to start a war it cannot win.

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STATUS QUO ANTE: The best option of both powers is to use pacific modes to bring back the status quo ante. If it is their common desire, and I think it is, it shall be done.

Mother Nature might even help along by whipping up a storm or some such weather disturbance in the Scarborough area – and give the naval, research and fishing vessels of both countries a face-saving reason to pull out simultaneously from the disputed shoals.

Let us hope the Philippine Coast Guard vessel there has enough fuel left to make a run for Zambales, the nearest land mass in Luzon, when stormy weather sets in.

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WHAT $10-M?: Day 35 of the recessed impeach-Corona trial resumed yesterday in the Senate with signs that the circus might fold its tent in one month, or in early June.

Everybody seems tired, except for President Aquino who, although he has no constitutionally assigned role in the process, keeps cracking the whip at Corona who he wants to explain where and how he allegedly hid $10 million in the bank(s).

Corona’s former colleague in the Supreme Court, now Ombudsman Conchita

Carpio-Morales, had ordered him to explain the dollar hoard being pinned on him. But he ignored her for having no jurisdiction over him.

How can Corona explain something whose existence has not been established? And why should he when that item is not mentioned in the impeachment charges? The Chief Justice flatly denied he had the alleged $10-million account(s).

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EARLY CLOSING: The Corona camp said it would resist all attempts to put the Chief Justice on the witness stand, where he would be exposed to sniping, if not ridicule.

To make smaller the window of opportunity for the prosecution to rake up more issues and bring up more evidence despite having rested its case, the defense wants to close its presentation in two weeks.

But while it has dropped its plan to call some investigative journalists (who might spring a surprise and turn hostile), the defense insists on cross-examining Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to wreck her testimony against Corona.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who presides over the trial, has expressed a desire to close the proceedings soonest so the chamber can attend to its legislative tasks.

Sen. Miriam Santiago opined that the impeachment court can cut short the trial if in its judgment both camps have substantially presented their sides.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 8, 2012)

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