They don’t trust us, diplomats say, because our ‘intelligence’ sucks
BY THE WAY - Max V. Soliven () - December 8, 2002 - 12:00am
Who’s in charge there? Many ambassadors and ranking diplomats, even Muslim envoys, failed to attend the hastily-called Malacañang Eid-ul-Fitr or end-of-Ramadan celebration Friday evening because the Palace did not begin calling them up about the affair until Friday afternoon itself.

Is this the way to handle protocol? You don’t summon ambassadors and other diplomats to the Palace at a moment’s notice unless it’s a national emergency. Not even Royal dynasties or Imperial Households do such a thing.

I met several ambassadors who were grumbling about it at the Finnish national day celebration held at the Inter-Continental Hotel ballroom. (I had gone there mainly to greet Santa Claus, whom the Finns claim to have flown to Manila direct from his "home" in northern Finland. There he was – bigger than life – in his red suit, saying, "Ho, ho, ho" and adding, "Bring Christmas cheer by using Nokia)".

Some of the envoys present, however, were less than festive about the last-minute "invitation" to Malacañang for that Muslim-Christian love-fest. One ambassador, in fact, was puzzled since she never received an invitation, despite the fact that her country has 130 million Muslims. "We’re the world’s biggest democracy, with in addition the world’s largest Muslim population next to Indonesia and Pakistan, and even ahead of Bangladesh!"

Why not, indeed? What was the basis of Malacañang’s choice of invitees, and why were the invitations issued so late that quite a number of ambassadors I met had never heard of the Palace affair? If this is the way we’re conducting the "war" against the New People’s Army (thanks, GMA: no "truce" this Christmas), the Abu Sayyaf, and the on-again-off-again fight against the MILF and the resurgent MNLF, it’s no wonder we’re not winning. The last line may sound like a double negative, but our bewilderment goes beyond grammar.

For that matter, somebody in the Palace protocol office must be, to use the old-fashioned expression, "out for lunch". Protocol goofed, for instance, when the President addressed the Diet (Parliament) in Tokyo, since our flag was displayed there with the red in the wrong place, indicating that the Philippines is "at war". What? Are we still at war with Japan? I think we surrendered economically to it long ago.

Such gaffes make foreign countries think less of us – and our efficiency, and sense of purpose. Things can’t be run in a strong Republic on the basis of bahala na, puwede na, and okay lang.
* * *
President GMA’s approval rating dropped to 45 percent in November, according to Pulse Asia. I’m not one to be impressed with the ratings game – survey ratings can go up and down, but success or failure really depends on whether a leader has the constancy, courage, earnestness, intestinal fortitude, and common sense to stay the course, although stormed at with shot and shell.

In his book, LEADERSHIP, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (with co-author Ken Kurson) recounts in his final paragraph how, when he bowed out of the mayorship on December 31, 2001, he decided to revisit the ruins of the Twin Towers of the devastated World Trade Center.

"On January 1, right after attending Mike Bloomberg’s inauguration, I went to Ground Zero – just to walk around with Judith, with no reporters, or dignitaries, or politicians. I wanted it to be the place I visited before I left. I had been there hundreds of times in the three and a half months since the attacks. And yet, walking around the site that day, I felt tremendous anger, as raw and intense as when I first saw the smouldering pile on September 11. Part of leadership is harnessing your passions in a way that serves your goals – my father’s advice: stay calm.
But another part of leadership is retaining your humanity. The anger I felt, and continue to feel, about the attacks on the World Trade Center is healthy. The challenge was to put it to work in ways that would make me a stronger, better leader."

That book, which came out about three months ago (Talk Miramax Books, Hyperion, New York 2002) has been consistently number one on the best -seller lists.

Giuliani’s advice must not be missed by GMA. It’s all right to get angry – as she often does – but that anger must be harnessed by her in productive ways. The trouble is, cowed by her occasional (did I say frequent?) fits of pique, her Cabineteers and courtiers tend to be "yes men" and "yes ma’am" nowadays, lavishly lauding the Empress’s New Clothes, and never gainsaying her missteps and caprices. For instance, didn’t anybody have the guts to remind Super-Gloria before she made that silly announcement she was appointing the First Gent, Mike Arroyo, Ambassador-at-large and Special Envoy to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), of her previous orders and pledges?

When she became President, GMA had assured everybody, including this writer, that "My husband will never have a role in my government". In fact, to cite chapter and verse, she declared publicly to a packed audience at our own Greenhills Walking Corporation Wednesday Forum in the Ristorante La Dolce Fontana (February 24, 2001), in remarks broadcast nationwide, that "my husband not only won’t have any role, but I must declare that nobody should apply to him for a government job. Such an application would immediately end up in the waste-basket." Sus, Madame President: Amnesia is for old people, and you’re still young!

In truth, Mike himself promised me, before GMA assumed the Presidency, that he would have absolutely no dealings with the government. (Luli was present at that private lunch in the "Rotisserie" of the Inter-Con, along with one of our former lawyers, Teddy Cruz, who’d arranged the meeting.) Here’s what Mike Arroyo said: "Uncle Max, when Gloria is in Malacañang, I’ll be out of business. I’ll have nothing to do with the government; I won’t even do business, since that might have to do with government contracts and undertakings. Perhaps I’ll just concentrate on a hobby, like photography."

Incidentally, the very capable Teddy Cruz is now chairman, I hear, of the Light Rail Transit (LRT). He was Mike’s classmate in the Ateneo. Just coincidence, really.
* * *
We’ve seen Mary "Rosebud" Ong all over television, and heard her on radio, and read her remarks in print, ululating like some aggrieved "widow" and hinting (blink-blink) that her former lover – with emphasis I should say on very-much-former – Police Col. John Campos – had been assassinated by certain-persons (directly accusing Senator "Ping" Lacson) who wanted to silence him. She has been claiming Campos was going to testify against Lacson et cetera. What nonsense. How can she put words in the mouth of the dead? Makes one want to puke.

To begin with, Campos made it clear months ago he had nothing to do with Rosebud, period. Their former "affair"? With a touch of what some might deride as ungallantry, he said in a television interview that it had just been part of the work. If someone were malicious, which we’re not, and in search of a malicious motive, a critic might dredge up the old adage about "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". So, Rosebud dear, kindly stop throwing stones. You live in a house that is made of glass.

I think the commentators and propagandists should allow the murder of Campos (and, sad to say, the unfortunate lady cashier who died from the treacherous killer’s bullets gone astray) to be investigated without kibitzing from the sidelines. The slain officer’s own family has angrily told Rosebud to shut up, and kindly not come to the wake. In short, the bereaved family wants Mary Ong to leave John in peace. As his eldest brother Sergio "Jing" Campos asserted (I heard him on TV and he was quoted in the newspaper Malaya’s banner headline story): "She is not welcome here. Sana pabayaan na lang niyang magpahinga si John. Huwag na lang niyang dagdagan ng kulay."

As for that ridiculous theory aired by an investigator that the killer must have been a policeman because he used an Armalite or M-16, this is equally the height of absurdity. The allegation supposedly made by "an experienced investigator of the Southern Police District" (as quoted in another daily) that only policemen and soldiers have access to high-caliber weapons like M-16 Armalites is patently hilarious. Everybody has access to Armalites. The Abu Sayyaf have them, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, too; the Moro National Liberation Front, the New People’s Army, the Pentagon Gang, the Kuratong Baleleng – et cetera. Indeed, the murderer could be a policeman. Or he could be Juan de la Cruz. Or Juana Kulasa. Give us a break!

As for Rosebud, and her pal, the Intelligence Chief, Col. Victor Corpuz, what happened to their well-publicized accusations and "revelations" about Panfilo Lacson? They blasted at him with everything in their arsenal, and he’s still standing.

What if somebody asks the question: Did they, in turn, blast Campos? When you throw stones, you’re not immune to stones being thrown back at you.
* * *
Canadian friends – yes, Virginia, there are still a few – tell me that their Ambassador, Robert Collete, is virtually under "house arrest" on instructions of his own government in Ottawa.

Well, he’s not really confined to his residence, but the Home Government has apparently warned him not to stray too far because Ottawa "fears" he is a target for terrorist assassination. Susmariosep: Why this fellow Collete? I’ve never heard him say anything against Muslims, or against Christians, or against anything – except perhaps those who beat him in golf, his eternal passion.

He was spotted furtively attending the Thai national day commemoration (His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday) in the Dusit Hotel ballroom, then sneaking out quickly before anybody pounced on him to demand an explanation of WHY Canada had embarrassed the Philippines (not just those Aussies) by precipitously shutting down its Embassy. Collete must be grateful that Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer are being so noisy, not content with fighting off the brushfires threatening Sydney. They’ve set off such a raging brushfire of resentment among their Southeast Asian neighbors by their rantings about "pre-emptive strikes" (by Ockers and assorted Aussie fuzzy-wuzzies) against terrorists in neighboring states, that even furious Filipinos have forgotten about Canada’s snub and concentrated their ire on the Australians.

Some other diplomats, not to exonerate those unforgivable Aussies and Canadians of course, have told this writer (their theory) why they believe the Australians and Canadians refused to share their own "intelligence" warnings about "clear" and "specific" threats with the Philippine government and our intelligence services. An Asian ambassador bluntly said – in confidence, naturally – that he, too, would be reluctant to reveal anything so vital to Philippine "intelligence" officers. "In the recent past," he confided, "matters we revealed to your intelligence were leaked to the wrong persons!" Mind you, this envoy’s country is very active and effective in the anti-terrorist fight in Southeast Asia.

Is this true? I have no reason to doubt this Ambassador. He’s been up front in all his dealings with us over the past few years – and, besides, what could he gain from this disclosure? He’s leaving soon.

I think the President should take this whispered admonition to heart: She must ream out our faulty intelligence command (ISAFP, included) from top to bottom.

Incidentally where are all those cops? When you cruise the malls, they’re missing. Where have they gone? Christmas carolling? I thought that was prohibited.

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