The national treasurer of the Liberal Party, Gov. Alfonso Umali of Oriental Mindoro, was sentenced to 10 years in jail Monday by the Sandiganbayan after finding him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of graft. I won’t be surprised if Umali won’t be the last of the leaders of the party pursuing the “tuwid na daan” to get a jail term – if not during this administration then in the next. Just punishment should also be meted on those who raided the national coffers for pork barrel distribution and those who have made a mockery of our elections.
Umali committed the crime way back in 2004, a good six years before the anti-corruption hero, President BS Aquino The Last, strode to Malacañang. Certainly, BS Aquino should have known that Umali was facing graft charges before making him national treasurer of the administration party. This should further erode the credibility the Man in Malacañang as the stalwart fighting graft and corruption.
I expect the President’s defenders to urge his critics to stop blaming him for the criminal acts of others. Yes, just like they’re saying he shouldn’t be blamed for the Mamasapano massacre. The President is incorruptible, they say. Well, corruption could be committed by those close to him but never directly by him. In the same way, the President is lauded by his admirers for not telling lies. Sure, the President doesn’t lie. He has spokespersons who do that for him. He does speak half-truths and to his admirers, this vice and concealing the truth don’t dent BS Aquino’s armor of “honesty” and “integrity.”
Going back to Umali, he’s the elder brother of Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the former Customs official who was shouting to the whole world his abhorrence of graft during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. I wonder why he saw no graft in his own backyard. Ah, but he might merely have been following the example set by his lily-white president who sees nothing wrong within his administration, especially within his inner circle. Anomalies and incompetence happen only during the past administration but never during his watch, right, Yellows? But when good things happen, the President always claims credit for them, even when the basics were laid by the previous administration and he never did anything to achieve those good things.
House hearing on BBL
The joint hearing at the House Monday on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law was very productive, in the sense that it strengthened concerns about its provisions.
The Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Catapang, said that the military has forwarded intelligence information on violations by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of its ceasefire agreement with the government. Among these violations are illegal recruitment and training, building of camps and abusive acts of MILF commanders. It’s strange that Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s chief peace negotiator, testified with a straight face that she had never heard of complaints of illegal recruitment, training and camps being built.
In the case of the alleged misbehaving MILF commanders, Catapang didn’t even say what had happened to the complaints. I doubt if the MILF leaders had ever disciplined their errant commanders. If the complaints involved abuses against soldiers and civilians, then the MILF commanders should be charged before the courts. I doubt, however, if the MILF would surrender them, so then the government could do nothing. All that the government could do is make endless but useless complaints.
If the government makes a stronger case over these violations by the MILF, the peace talks might be jeopardized and Aquino and his people will never allow this to happen. Why, it has been claimed it could even allow the massacre of the SAF commandos as long as the peace process wouldn’t go unhinged.
Catapang was less than credible when he said that the military may choose not to coordinate with the Bangsamoro to enter its territory once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed. Good luck on that, General. The law still has to be passed yet the military cannot enter the MILF camps without coordinating with them.
Catapang said in a less forceful voice that peace would ensue once the BBL is passed. Well, tell that to the Moro National Liberation Front whose own peace agreement has been thrown to the wastebasket by the Aquino administration.
Oh yes, I can’t appreciate the decision of the House joint panels to hold an executive session on the proposed decommissioning of the MILF forces. This provision of the peace agreement is of utmost importance in stilling doubts that the proposed disarmament will be for show only.