POSTSCRIPT /April 22, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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When readers shoot the wrong messenger

CLARIFICATION: My position on Chinese intrusion into Philippine maritime areas has been laid out clearly enough over several articles in this space.

My exposition has, at times, even veered to my tagging China as a bully, interloper, land grabber, inhuman, etc., not for any reason except that I see the Chinese government as behaving as such.

In one Postscript (April 1, 2014; http://manilamail.com/archive/2014apr/14apr01/) I concluded that Beijing does not want to participate in the arbitration proceedings initiated by Manila before a United Nations tribunal because “China (is) afraid its claim may be found baseless”.

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NOT MINE: I cannot alter the fact that I am a Filipino inclined to side with my country, but professional instincts keep nagging me about fairness and balance.

Last Sunday, in an attempt to somewhat balance my presentation, I used the lower half (42 percent) of my column space to air the Chinese side on the conflicting territorial claims.

I wrote very clearly: “Below are some of the reasons advanced by Zhang Hua, spokesman of the Chinese embassy in Manila:”. Everything that followed that colon (:) was his opinion, NOT MINE.

Some readers, however, missed the point entirely that it was the embassy spokesman talking, not me.

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ATTRIBUTION: This is another of those classic cases of readers missing or ignoring the attribution.

A similar case would be if a reporter wrote “The PAGASA said the weather today will be fine and sunny” — and it rained! Do we blame the downpour on the reporter?

Those who disagree with the Chinese should argue with the embassy and not the newspaper reporting its side. By doing that, the public may even improve the quality of the debate.

Readers who want to know my own stand on territorial disputes with China can review the many Postscripts already written on the subject. Visit www.manilamail.com.

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U.S. BASING: Let me take this opportunity to also clarify my position on the enhanced presence of American soldiers on Philippine bases and on the carving out of a separate Bangsamoro in Mindanao for Moro secessionists.

On these two subjects, I have also written numerous columns in ample exposition of my position. But let me recap before somebody twists it.

On US presence, I hold that the GIs’ being stationed on a fixed Philippine base over an extended period goes against the spirit of the Constitution — if their presence is not covered by a treaty mutually concurred in by the Senates of the two countries.

Nevertheless, I welcome our American allies’ using the bases over an agreed period under a contract marked by mutual respect and reciprocity.

Whatever negative comments I might make about the US government should not detract from this my approval of its forces temporarily being based here.

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BANGSAMORO: As for the Bangsamoro, I have also written extensively on it. But let me recap my position, hoping that any stray comment I might make elsewhere would be taken in the total context of my Postscripts.

Like everybody else, this tired traveler wants peace and the redress of the injustices and neglect that our Muslim brothers have suffered all these decades.

But I have my doubts about the wisdom and the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro deal struck with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Also, I am not so sure of the purity of the motives of some in the dramatis personae on center stage.

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FIX IT!: The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is shot through with legal holes, but these can be plugged by the Congress before the document is challenged before the Supreme Court. The bill should not be rushed or railroaded as a party matter.

I fear that if the Court strikes down the Basic Law, as it did the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain under the previous administration, the violent reaction might tear the delicate fabric of peace in the South.

Concerned citizens must go out to help senators and congressmen see the light on this one, to motivate them not to act as robotic partisans manning an assembly line, but as discerning patriotic Filipinos.

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WEAK TEAM: Let me add another question that people often ask me –how do I regard President Noynoy Aquino? Some people labor under the misimpression that I am blindly against him.

That is of course not true. In fact, I have all the reasons to be supportive of this son of Cory and Ninoy Aquino to whom I was quite close. Being a non-entity, however, whatever I think of Mr. Aquino and his administration is of no moment.

So I beg the Yellow Brigade not to mind me. If they have to react to my occasional negative comments, they should argue on the issues and not engage in ad hominem.

Mr. Aquino means well and he is honest — and that is a good minimum starting point. Unfortunately, I cannot grant the same good faith about many people around him who mess up things to his discredit.

He may not have been that prepared for the presidency, but then who among the candidates in 2010 was?

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WHAT LEGACY?: Mr. Aquino’s shortcomings may be costly, but not fatal. What he could do is reach beyond his small tight circle, then get the best and the brightest to help out.

His team seems to be a collection of second-liners, not innovators and movers. They have wasted more than three years, leading the President on a campaign of persecuting political foes and simply improvising from one crisis to the next.

In May, the President would have used up four of his six years in office and could start sliding down unless he finds the missing road map to deliver the masses from want and arrest the sense of drift.

In terms of something really monumental, what legacy will Noynoy Aquino leave behind in 2016? That question should scare him and his boys.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 22, 2014)

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