MANILA, February 20, 2004 (STAR) BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - Yesterday – this is written with fingers crossed last night – passed without serious incident. Violence had been expected, with angry pro-FPJ demonstrators expressing their disgruntlement with what they called a government-stirred-up "harassment" of their idol Panday. It didn’t occur.

The problem, I must add as a caveat, however remains. It’s not just hotheads we should worry about, it’s the plot on the part of insurgents to ignite trouble, particularly the Communists – with their New People’s Army and National Democratic Front mobs in full battle-mode despite those deceptive "peace talks" in Oslo. While our GRP or government peace panel was getting the run-around in Norway, pleading for an end to the 35-year old conflict – and being played for fools by Joma Sison and ex-Padre Luis Jalandoni – NPA raiders have been attacking Army and police camps, and murdering civilians.

Withdraw the "terrorist" label? What on earth would that get us? Those NPA bullies and killers are terrorists all right. Even Malacañang had "secretly" acknowledged this by discreetly sending word, through back channels, to the Norwegian government hosts of the peace discussions about the NPA’s continuing extortionist activities. Why is the Palace relying on the "neutral" Norwegians to scold Sison, Jalandoni, and their doublespeak group, on the basis that the NPA’s continued "collection" of large permit-to-campaign fees from various candidates, along with the rebels’ non-stop "progressive taxation", is terrorism in one of its most virulent forms?

Instead of all this doble cara and sneaky back-channeling, the Palace should order our panel in Oslo to deliver an ultimatum to Joma and Louie: If the NPA’s extortion activities don’t stop, there will be no release of "prisoners", no further hypocritical talks, and everybody should pack up and go home.

For the Communists and the NDF may be happy to keep on peace-talking in Oslo, getting the maximum propaganda mileage by having their rantings and ravings published (like the statements of ex-Father Jalandoni, the NDF leader, whose threat to cancel peace talks we obligingly put on our front page yesterday) – but, when all is said and done, why should the NPA lay down its arms and the NDF halt its agitation? This is a terrific moment for them, the opportunity to fan into flames then exploit a "revolutionary situation". What I’m referring to is the Poe conundrum. By just fanning wilder rumors about FPJ being about to be kicked out of the campaign by a "GMA-controlled" Supreme Court they can arouse mobs. (Note please, "controlled" is in quotation marks, meaning that it’s the agitators’ allegation, not a categorical reality.)

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In sum, everybody’s planting rumors of the worst sort. As we’ve said in this corner earlier, Dirty Tacticians from the pro-GMA camp have been spreading hints that FPJ will soon be disqualified in order to discourage businessmen, financiers, and would-be backers from "wasting" their money on him.

Alas, other false rumors are coming from certain FPJ followers – either to impress on candidate Poe their own importance and "loyalty", to intimidate the Supreme Court, or whip up sympathy and mass support.

Some high-profile politicians are even purveying all sorts of stupid reports to FPJ himself. For instance, the other night at the massive FPJ rally in Dagatdagatan, in Caloocan, a former Negros Orienal solon "reported" to Poe that a certain lady member of the Supreme Court had allegedly been seen in the Makati office of – you-know, "The Firm".

One of my trusted sources overheard this guy, so he may deny all he wants, but this is what he "reported". That claim is, of course, utterly ridiculous and preposterous. Everybody knows the LTA building in Makati is under surveillance, from all sides. No court justice, or any "columnist" even, would be insane enough to risk going there, even merely to access an ATM machine. Don’t tell me that prominent lawyer-politician believed such a fable.

Ronnie Poe’s head must be in a spin. There are so many instant Constitutional law "experts" and self-anointed High Court "analysts" pontificating on why FPJ should fear disqualification.

I recall what happened when, two years ago, the Supreme Court was poised to resolve the Constitutionality of the Plunder Law. All sorts of flimsy "reports" were being relayed to former President Estrada, at that time detained in the Veterans Memorial Hospital. A few days prior to the promulgation of the High Tribunal’s decision, the former President was observed by visitors to be in an extra-happy and exuberant mood because some alleged "insiders" had called on him to inform him that the majority of the Justices were "sure" to declare the Plunder Law "unconstitutional". The very opposite happened. The Court ruled that law completely kosher. The statute was upheld by the majority of the justices, including Erap’s own appointees to the Court, who his "sources" assured him would vote against that law.

Is it the same story all over again?

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Yesterday afternoon, just after being interviewed on Straight Talk by popular TV host Cito Beltran, I was having merienda with ABS-CBN friends and executives in the "9501" restaurant on the 14th floor of the radio-TV networks’ headquarters building. Somebody rushed in with the "news" that the Supreme Court had just remanded the FPJ "disqualification" case to the lower courts.

There was a groan from some at the table, including myself (I was stupefied at the very idea). If the FPJ case went to a regional trial court, the decision could be delayed for months, pending hearing after hearing, and other legal calisthenics – and might not even be decided until after the May 10 election. Later, the rumor turned out to be untrue.

What had sparked it? I saw a replay on TV later, in which TV reporters and cameramen had interviewed former Solicitor General, former Ambassador and well-known lawyer Raul Goco, who is supposed to be one of FPJ’s volunteers.

He had just emerged from the hall in which the hearing was going on and, when button-holed in the corridor had voiced the opinion that the Supreme Court is not supposed to "try" cases, or find facts, and that he thought the case ought to be remanded to the appropriate lower court. I quote from memory, so these lines are not verbatim, but that was substantially Raul’s message. I could hardly believe my ears, since Goco is a brilliant lawyer. Did he think such a move would benefit FPJ? Not being an expert, I ask you, Dear Reader.

Sometimes your friends can do more damage than your enemies – without intending to at all. There’s no doubt that Raul is earnestly for FPJ. He’s married to my cousin, the equally brilliant Marietta Primicias-Goco – the second of nine children of the late, great Senate Majority Floor Leader Cipriano P. Promicias.

Marietta, who received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award, the Presidential Order of the Golden Heart (from FVR), the International Peace Award for Development Management (from the World Law Conference) and the First East Asia Women’s Peace Award for Humanitarian Services, is running for Governor of Pangasinan, on the FPJ ticket.

She hails from Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan – not far from San Carlos, the hometown of FPJ.

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The best news we heard yesterday, incidentally, was what FPJ’s wife, Susan Roces, had done. She had gone to Quiapo Church to pray to the Nazareno, then – when she emerged, she had called on the restless crowd assembled in Plaza Miranda to "protest" the FPJ disqualification case – to disperse and go home. This was both a heartwarming gesture and a sensible one.

This is not a time for mob action, with restless demonstrators on the streets – ripe to be stampeded into rash violence by any provocateur.

With the anniversary of "People Power", the first EDSA, approaching on February 25 (Wednesday next), it’s time to remind ourselves that People Power loses its effectiveness and becomes a bother rather than an expression of the people’s "will" when it is misused and over-used. This is what’s been happening in recent years.

I can speak with a good conscience on this, I feel, having been one of the scores of thousands at the EDSA barricades during those fateful days (and nights) in February 1986. Most of us who were there when it counted have never attended any of those self-congratulatory annual celebrations. Those who did what they believed they ought to do – facing the prospect of attack, enduring the privations and risking the dangers – don’t need to celebrate their own glory, year after year. Like the fake guerrillas of World War II, some of those on stage are the poseurs who weren’t there.

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Finally, I failed in yesterday’s column, while criticizing the President for having made a pilgrimage to Iglesia ni Cristo headquarters to solicit the support of INC Bishop Eraño Manalo and his Ministers, to also assail Ka Erdie Manalo for having been so disrespectful as to snub the President of our Republic.

Even in the most primitive Pushtun villages in the Tribal Territory of Northwest Pakistan, the fierce Muslim tribesmen (whose domain spans both Pakistan and southern Afghanistan) observed the law of hospitality. Among the Pushtuns, any person who visited their homes was entitled to hospitality. Even one who was a Pushtun’s bitterest foe, if he sought shelter under the tribesman’s roof was welcomed, dined, given a warm place to rest, and full protection – until he departed, then the two enemies could resume shooting.

What I observed during the time I covered that wild frontier is that each dwelling, including those near Landi Kotal (the Kyber Pass), was built like a little fort, with gun-slits instead of windows. And just outside most front doors was a trench, into which the occupant of the house or a visitor could jump in for "protection", in case any sniper or assailant started firing.

Neither Ka Erdie Manalo nor his INC group showed our President even this rudimentary form of Pushtun hospitality. Not even Filipino hospitality. What about godly hospitality?

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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