My column yesterday, Impotent reassurances, was inspired by blogger Uniffors saying PDI gets it wrong, horribly wrong. The blogger was reacting to what would eventually be reported by the paper as No cut in US military aid. the report insists that an earlier ABS-CBN’s report, which said that the State Department had lowered its proposed funding for projects in, and assistance to, the Philippines, was false. Uniffors says the ABS-CBN report was true, and why it’s true.
I found the debate interesting because it seemed to me (and this is what I wrote in my column) is that too much ado was being made about a fairly low-level junket by US congressmen. The result was that the junket suckered reporters on the ground into thinking it was an important thing for Filipinos, when it may have had some importance for American troops, but was at best, negligibly important in terms of Philippine interests.
the US congressman who hammed it up for reporters was Silvestre Reyes, whose website shows him a master of pork barrel politics (that’s a good thing, for a congressman). But even if he was obliging to reporters, a little background check (and Wikipedia, for all its limitations, is pretty handy-dandy and useful as a preliminary step in this direction) would have tipped off reporters that the guy is something of a joke.The other Democrat members of the Congressional party weren’t very much more impressive, either: Gregory Meeks (D) is a lightweight; Charles A. Ruppersberger III (D) seems a solid party man, but one who doesn’t have clout relevant to Philippine interests, even if he sits in the Committee on Appropriations (and he kept discreetly quiet during his Philippine visit); and boy, oh boy, look at the Republicans: Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R), never mind being a good ole dynast, had the dubious distinction of having a ficus plant run against him (a stunt pulled by Michael Moore); and Heather Wilson (R) is under investigation for an inappropriate politically-motivated call to a state attorney (she should have said “I. Am. Sorry.”).
I think a marvelous opportunity was lost to report on the American equivalent of the kind of congressional junkets Filipino reporters like to skewer our own politicians. But seriously, the nature of the beast determines its place in the food chain, no? If most of the junketeers were members of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (Reyes is the chairman, Meeks, Ruppersberger, Wilson are members), then you know their visit was more about US interests than anything RP-US related: specifically, are American troops getting adequate intelligence, or the means (including equipment) to secure it? If, as Uniffors argues, the group that counts for Philippine interests is the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, and if its appropriations proposals are already at the conference committee level, then we can conclude a couple of things: 1. Reyes isn’t the go-to guy; 2. matters are already at a stage where Senate, and not House, intervention is what will matter; 3. whatever anyone says, the real issue is that the White House has lowered its intended allocations for Philippine-related programs and the only way that can be countered is through earmarks.
The idea of how Earmarking works goes to the heart of what Uniffors pointed out: just because our political system resembles that of the United States, direct correlations shouldn’t be made. This is particularly crucial when it comes to figuring out where our country stands, in terms of White House priorities, and those of the US Congress.
Three pieces, I think, thoroughly explore why the country keeps returning to the issue of the Garci Tapes.See Hello Garci and Philippine democracy by Randy David; Hello again by Conrado de Quiros; and The continuing skirmishes by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ. the best the Palace can do, is trot out its supreme Lackey (the confrontation over the Attorney General of the Unted States, and the aftermath, see With Gonzales gone, US Congress girds for new battle, is instructive: read All the President’s Flunkies; these Republicans are really something else, take a look at their efforts to replace with the Electoral College with a system that taps into their gerrymandering of districts, all the while passing it off as “reform”. It’s in Deformed Reform).
Anyway, the Senate’s Committee on Rules has voted ‘Hello Garci’ sent to Senate committee of whole (one lawyer’s arguments as to why it can do so, in Newsbreak). Senator Lacson has telegraphed the line of questioning that will most likely be pursued:
Lacson surmised that the Cabinet official whom he did not name most likely had a rift with former Cabinet secretary Michael Defensor, who himself was included among those covered by the wiretapping operation codenamed Project: Lighthouse.
“Who ordered Danga? We should find that out. We can only speculate at this time. I can only speculate the order could have come from somebody at the level of Cabinet member, someone who had access to Danga and is close to the President,” said Lacson.
Lacson said that while “we can zero in on a few people,” Defensor’s inclusion among those to be wiretapped was the key to knowing who the master of the operation was.
“What prompted me to have that kind of speculation is the involvement of Defensor. Who among the Cabinet members had a tiff with Defensor? Did Defensor and (Executive Secretary Eduardo) Ermita get along pretty well during those times? Defensor was the odd man out among the group that was wiretapped,” said Lacson….Ermita and Defensor had several run-ins during the latter’s stay in the Palace because the multi-tasking presidential chief of staff encroached into many territories.
“I don’t know if Danga is already retired. Maybe we could get this information from him. If there’s a lot of compartmentalization in this particular operation, only Danga would know who ordered him to do the wiretap operation,” said Lacson.
Lacson said he also believed that President Macapagal-Arroyo was kept in the dark about the covert operation. “No way (that it could have been the President]. They started in 2003, but it went on.”
In other words, now there’s a chief suspect to zero in on, in terms of the wiretapping itself. I suppose the Palace is betting on the President being unable to throw anyone to the wolves on this new line of questioning.