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Americans who are not ugly

We’ve become so used to ugly Americans, it was a change to meet with Americans who were not ugly. They exist and the more we meet with this kind of Americans, the better we can understand the most powerful country in the world. The question in most minds that evening was whether benevolent missions to which Americans dedicate time and money, are not in themselves also a part of the conquest. Still we have to confront both realities to be able to judge what is good or bad in crafting relations between our two countries.

Our problem with America as a former colonizer is precisely our experience of dependency, that has been nurtured not on evil deeds but on the good they do. As one political pundit said, benevolence is one way of disarming a country. Does that mean we should reject benevolent missions? The answer is clearly no, but it must always be accompanied by political awareness. Filipinos in the meeting asked if this was not a continuation of America’s superpower policy to be everywhere. If the intention were only for the good of recipients through a partnership between American and Filipino NGOs in the Muslim provinces of the south, would it be possible to drop the American label and do it anonymously and without bias? That Americans had done it will be known in time. Still it was great to meet with Amb. Curtin Winsor, Jr (US anbassador to Costa Rica 1983-1985, Al Santoli, Senior Vice-President of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) and Director of the AFPC Asia-Pacific Initiative, and Akram R. Elias, Consultant/Contractor in areas of Cross-Cultural Training International Trade and Political Relations, on the invitation of Fernando O. Pena.

Santoli who thought of the project is a best-selling author, a nominee for both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for history, and editor of the weekly China Reform Monitor and Asia Security Monitor. He is a historian, journalist, soldier, national security advisor in the US Congress, human rights monitor, and a foreign policy expert. A brief given to journalists said Santoli directly participates in seeking solutions to some of the most dramatic and complex events that have shaped US-Asian relations. The benevolent project in Sulu is part of the Asia Pacific Initiative (API) of the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting democratic ideals, strengtheing international security and mediating conflicts that plague the region.

Santoli is convinced community development projects which enhance self-help is the answer to the conflict in Mindanao. Winsor and Elias are freemasons and would get funding from homebase for what they saw of the Santoli projects. Asked how their work will be sustained when they leave, they said they will rely on counterpart NGOs in the region. Did you know there are Islamic freemasons? I didn’t. But there you are there are, Winsor said. There are Christian freemasons as well as Islamic freemasons. We recalled that Jose Rizal, our national hero, was both an ardent Catholic and a free thinker. So was George Washington as well as other founders of the American republic, Winsor echoed. What appears contradictory in textbooks apparently works together in reality. Asked why that kind of view is not being reported in mainstream press, he said because there is money in promoting the view that al-Qaeda operates in the region. "There is no al-Qaeda there. As far as I am concerned (he has stayed long enough in the place to know what he speaks of) what is there are poverty, ignorance and lack of basic facilities that make communities vulnerable to terrorist recruitment. The projects would remove the ground for terrorism recruitment by "combining model humanitarian programs with traditional policy forum and pro-active strategic reports", Santoli added. On an aside, the Tripoli-based Islamic Call Society also told me that the Libyans recently donated medical centers in the same region. The Libyans constructed the health centers and Americans donated the medicines. "Funny, but the Libyans were my friends and companions in the work," laughed Santoli.

Trouble in an FPJ presidency has already begun. It isn’t FPJ’s lack of experience that is worrying, but the people around him," STAR publisher Max Soliven told British businessmen at the regular meeting of the British Chamber of Commerce last Thursday night. Rep. Francis Escudero can deny it as much as he wants but there is trouble in the FPJ camp. FPJ is a movie idol, not a leader. Therefore, subalterns are grabbing their piece of the pie even before elections. Then there is his spokesman, Senator Tito Sotto, who is a liability. The senator is tainted with connections to drug lords. So what is a sincere FPJ doing with Sotto given those connections? A cordon sanitaire around the actor is already in place. No wonder, Rod Reyes was said ready to quit. He tried hard to conceal his problems. "I’d rather not talk about it right now," Rod told reporters. Here is the camp’s media bureau chief who has to clear with "KNP" leaders, the cordon sanitaire obviously, before saying or doing anything. The result is confusion.

I’d give medals to those intrepid reporters who managed to get a word or two from FPJ. They act as vanguard for the public’s right to know. The funny replies were reported in this column last week. KNP leaders do not want that to happen again or their cover will be destroyed. They have put up FPJ as a candidate and hope that he can get through the campaign without talking or being interviewed. He’s a popular movie star, period. Some have said he is not very good with English. Well, then he should speak in Pilipino to convey to the masses what his government will be about.

No wonder the cordon sanitaire blocks interviews, they think his ignorance will slip through. Never mind if he is ignorant, he is naman sincere. Dios ko. How can a sincerely ignorant president run this country? I think the only answer is he will not be running this country and this is not an original observation. There are too many close to the scene aware of his limitations, who persist he should be elected President. There is a difference between being an actor and being the President of the Philippines. An actor does not need to speak. Papogi lang siya. No wonder Rod Reyes is frustrated. He cannot come to terms with a policy that makes him irrelevant. These are signs of what will happen in an FPJ government. His sincerity will not help him when the predators surround his presidency. They are in already and raising mayhem. The FPJ camp is riven with differing factions. Without a a cohesive party program and leadership to see it through, it is Erap all over again. That is why I juxtaposed statements made by a group of pro-globalist economists speaking for FPJ and leftist Rocamora’s statement (roundly condemned by other leftists) that we face disaster in the event of the actor’s presidency. Which is which? Let us ask him.

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E-mail: cpedrosa@edsamail.com.ph

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