POSTSCRIPT / February 13, 2014 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Ruby admits her crime, but fails to nail solons

MIRED: Did pork barrel scam artist Ruby Tuason walk into quicksand when she agreed to testify in the plunder case that Malacañang has been building against opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada?

To get off the hook, Tuason admitted to justice department investigators her having collected pork barrel kickbacks – which is a crime. She then offered to surrender part of the loot and turn state witness against the senators. Will the deal work?

The matron has to navigate tricky legal shoals ahead. She already confessed her guilt but has not presented solid evidence that she passed on to the senators the millions she admitted receiving from suspected pork barrel brains Janet Lim Napoles.

It is just her word against that of Enrile and Estrada. But she has confessed to the crime already.

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DE LIMA APOLOGIZES: The announcement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that Tuason will be a state witness now appears premature considering the long and strict process that still has to be followed.

Vice President Jejomar Binay pointed out in an interview yesterday that the justice secretary cannot unilaterally confer on anyone the status of state witness.

There has to be an approved motion from state prosecutors that Tuason be enrolled in the witness protection program, after showing that she is not the most guilty among the accused and can help the state successfully prosecute the case.

That might be the reason why De Lima apologized to Binay after their touchy exchange over Tuason’s status and value as a witness.

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MARKS OF DEMOLITION: A pattern has emerged in the way the administration goes after marked political targets.

Using demolition tactics, its targets are paraded for public flogging till they are black and blue and ready for execution. The idea is obviously to convict the administration’s foes in the public mind, with the legal niceties to follow.

There are just too many obvious demolition victims, it would be superfluous to name them here. This is not to say that the latest targets, Enrile and Estrada, are clean and innocent.

For all we know, the two senators could be as guilty as Palace propaganda would have us believe. But where have due process and presumption of innocence gone?

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LAST-MINUTE: Down South, President Aquino and his “peace” panelists are working overtime explaining to stakeholders the proposed Bangsamoro state that the administration wants to carve out in Mindanao for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The President focused on the benefits of the Bangsamoro replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which he had rejected as a failed experiment, and how it can usher in peace and prosperity in that neglected area.

At the opening of the 3rd Sagayan Festival in Buluan, Maguindanao, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles discussed the status of the process and urged the people to vote for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (the new state’s Constitution).

The MILF appealed to lawmakers not to water down the proposed basic law when presented to them. The bill has to be approved by the Congress, then submitted to the President for signing into law, and ratified in a plebiscite in the affected areas.

The MILF has said: “It is Congress, as part of the entity called GPH (Philippine government) that the MILF is talking to, now holds the key to solving the Moro question by way of making a good legislation, without watering down the contents of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the four annexes signed by the parties.”

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CART BEFORE HORSE: If De Lima’s statements on Tuason being a state witness are premature, the moves of Malacañang on the Bangsamoro deal are obviously tardy.

To borrow a worn-out expression, the Palace has placed the cart before the horse.

Instead of consulting all shareholders BEFORE starting talks with the MILF, it went ahead as if it were the sole repository of wisdom and good intentions. It is only now, after the Framework Agreement has been roundly criticized that it is engaging in deep and wide consultations.

Now Malacañang has to work backwards and explain to various groups, some of who have expressed objections to giving away a big chunk of Mindanao to a rebel group whose credentials as the legitimate voice of Muslims is in question.

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NOT INCLUSIVE: Some indigenous groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, have not only voiced objections but have spearheaded armed attacks on government targets.

Malacañang was originally dealing with the MNLF headed by its chairman Nur Misuari, but shifted to its splinter group MILF after the White House told it to deal with the latter.

This is another detail that Malacañang has neglected. It made no INCLUSIVE effort to bring to the negotiating table other rebel or Muslim groups of significance. It chose to deal only with the MILF.

Belatedly, now Malacañang is attempting to mollify and bring in the MNLF and other objectors. That should have been done before “peace” talks were opened in earnest.

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NOT GOV’T PANEL: Some friends ask why we keep calling the Bangsamoro agreement a “Malacañang-MILF” contract despite the insistence of the two sides that it is a product of the “GPH-MILF peace talks”.

That point is also related to their having placed the cart before the horse.

Malacañang went straight ahead by itself without formal consultation or policy guidance from the Congress. In the same way that the MILF does not validly represent the Muslim population, Malacañang or its panel is not the Philippine Government.

It is only now that the Executive, which is just one of the three departments of the government, is consulting and asking the Legislature for help and favorable action on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 13, 2014)

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