Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Haiku 081109

a third call
as the sun sets
a loon alone

Photo courtesy of Greg Harp @www.pbase.com


Recently, we read the following column:

New Straits Times: "Why Arroyo seeks an Obama audience " by W. Scott Thompson

“WHY is the 14th president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, going to Washington for a 30-minute meeting with the water-walking American president? The easy answer is that she's tried four times so far to meet him, to get some burnish off his shine, to help with her rock-bottom image back home.

“She even all but broke into a prayer breakfast in Washington to which heads of state were not invited (other than the host president), in hopes of a meeting. She flew all the way from Dubai on hearing of the breakfast, got herself attached to a congressional delegation, and then didn't get even a minute with Barack Obama.

“She reportedly chewed out the Philippine ambassador for not being camera-ready to show the folks back home how close she came....

“Everyone in Manila is hoping that's the real reason why Obama is receiving Arroyo. She just refuses to commit to ending her term next June peaceably. Oddly, the American embassy thinks she won't make a fuss (something small like martial law, locking up all the opposition, for example) and they may know things that I don't. Or they are asleep on the job.

“There's good reason for her to want to linger at the palace, where she also spent four teenage years during her reformist father's presidency. Believed to be the most corrupt president in Philippine history, according to popular polls, Arroyo knows she can be slapped with multiple criminal charges the minute she surrenders immunity.

“And not just in Manila but elsewhere, like San Francisco, where she and her husband reportedly own properties, and injunctions can be laid against questions of laundered money.

“Now what does Obama know about all this? The president might only get a 15-minute briefing from an assistant secretary in these circumstances, because the president already has a feel for Southeast Asia. But one thing he's sure to hear about is a CIA report alleging that her husband bagged a vast amount of money in the Middle East, intended for Filipino development, and promptly handed over half of it, for safekeeping, to his brother, a congressman.

“He forgot that his sister-in-law is a Phil-Am Californian, where property is divided 50-50 in case of divorce. So what did the wife do? According to this report, she sued for divorce, leaving the ‘First Gentleman’ with the choice of going after the money and thus revealing its source, or just writing it off. But that's just for starters.

“Obama will know of the report of a highly regarded jurist, Phillip Alston, that the almost 1,000 ‘disappearances’ of non-governmental organisation workers and journalists (‘extra-judicial executions’ is the term he used) in the provinces didn't pass the straight-face test at the palace; that nothing like this could have happened without some blessing from on high.

" ‘Soldiers don't go around killing civilians just for the hell of it,’ an elder statesman in Manila commented -- and he's a retired general at that. ‘They'd only do that if pushed from the top.’

“Obama, of course, is concerned with terrorism, and there's revolution still in the Muslim parts of Mindanao, with long arms reaching into al-Qaeda. And the Philippines is an important and long-time ally of the US. But to argue that this is why Obama is seeing Arroyo doesn't pass the straight-face test either. Not for a 30-minute meeting; not even a ‘working visit’.

“What's happened is that, in contrast with Indonesia where high-level prosecution of corruption is moving steadily forward along with the economy, the Philippines is being dragged lower and lower: its place on the world corruption index has fallen precipitously, there's an atmosphere of impunity at the top, and investors are running scared....

“No president has ever had lower popularity ratings. But Arroyo is safe from impeachment by a compliant House of Representatives. Everyone's willing to let her sit out her term, if only because everyone is tired of ‘people power’ in the streets.

“But if she breaks ranks and declares martial law on some trumped-up reason (like the recent bombings, widely believed to have been planted to condition the population) or finds another way to trump the constitution, everyone will once again pour out into the streets -- and this time it will be bloody.”


And we thought:

… Four calls to President Obama, and none returned?! And Ms. Arroyo won't stop calling?
It does look like she's desperate for some “Obama magic” to rub off on her. But for what purpose?

Makes one wonder whether it’s to get the U.S. President's blessing for some plan to help extend her term as President beyond 2010. Or his support in arranging some kind of immunity from multiple criminal charges if she does decide to step down next year. Or possibly support for a “safe haven” arrangement in the U.S. as a political exile…

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