JUNE 29, 2012 (MANILA STANDARD) by JoJo Robles - The Defense and the Foreign Affairs departments issue contradictory statements on the presence of Chinese ships in the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

The Interior Secretary has declared that he will no longer discuss the abduction of a Jordanian journalist in Patikul, Sulu after he has been made to look like a fool for saying that the victim was an Al Qaida courier.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is all over the media explaining how its billion-dollar loan to the International Monetary Fund is an “investment” of funds that cannot be used by the Aquino government, even if the central bank apparently never thought to consult anyone about its controversial contribution to the European bailout kitty beforehand.

And now, the justice secretary is contradicting the national police’s special anti-kidnapping group by claiming that a rescued child had actually been freed after paying a ransom – something the police never announced.

Listening to the various officials of the Aquino administration talk can make anyone wonder: Who’s really in charge here?

As far as the long-running territorial dispute off our western coast, for instance, it’s becoming abundantly clear that no one is. The Philippine Coast Guard and Edwin Lacierda, the permanently clueless spokesman of Malacañang Palace, cannot even speak with one voice on the matter of the ramming of a local fishing vessel that left one fisherman dead and four others missing.

Now the Philippine Navy (as opposed to the Coast Guard, which is a civilian-led agency under the Department of Transportation) has gotten into the act and has declared that it is investigating the ramming incident.

So far, the Navy can only say that the Chinese vessel that supposedly slammed into the Filipino fishermen’s craft off Bolinao, Pangasinan cannot possibly be the one that the victims said was involved in the incident.

As for Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, he has belatedly said that he would henceforth “shut up” on the matter of the kidnapping (or not) of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani. “In the interest of their safety, it’s best that we leave the issue alone at this time,” the thoroughly chastened Robredo—who had accused Atyani of being an Al Qaida fund conduit for the bandit group Abu Sayyaf—said.

As for the BSP, it has been telling everyone who will listen that the money it lent the IMF was never intended to be spent by the Aquino government in the first place—and that it is really an investment that will earn interest.

But the belated explanations by the central bank (and by Lacierda in Malacañang) have done little to extinguish the anger amongst Filipinos who see something terribly wrong in a situation where the government is trillions of pesos in debt to various local and foreign creditors sending money to Europe to bail out an infinitely richer continent.

Somebody has got to be in charge of all the conflicting information that is emanating from the various instrumentalities of the administration. Unfortunately, not even President Noynoy Aquino himself is immune to the malaise of spewing half-baked, contradictory statements on any of these burning issues.

Aquino has gone on record as mouthing the same lines issued by any agency that seems to have made the last declaration on any matter, whether it be the presence (or not) of the Chinese in our waters and the circumstances of Atyani’s disappearance.

He seems to have been as surprised as every other Filipino, in fact, to learn that BSP has lent IMF a billion dollars that he probably wished he could get his hands on for his pet projects.

About the only thing that Aquino seems concerned about these days is how to time the release of his controversial mining industry executive order—something that he has repeatedly procrastinated on for nearly a year now.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in an industry that has the best chance of uplifting the economy are still in limbo, unable to understand why a presidential order is required when the law covering the industry has long been passed and upheld by the courts.

What has Aquino been up to that is keeping him from acting like the Chief Executive that he is—or at least preventing him from telling his various officials not to keep opening their mouths and feeding the Palace and the public with raw and conflicting information? Is Aquino in charge of anything at all?

* * *

Yesterday afternoon, Malacañang has declared that, henceforth, only the Department of Foreign Affairs would be making declarations about the situation in Scarborough Shoal.

The Navy and the rest of the military, according to a report on the news Web site, has in effect been gagged by the directive.

Aquino has apparently realized that no good will come out of allowing anyone involved in the Scarborough situation to say whatever he wants.

Of course, the military has already contradicted DFA on the matter of the Chinese presence, citing data gathered by its pilots who flew over the area.

Here’s hoping that DFA won’t suffer the same fate as Robredo and just decide to shut up and let Malacañang keep making contradictory statements on its own.

(Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/June/28)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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