[PHOTO AT LEFT - Ambassador Kulkumut Singhara Na Ayudhaya of Thailand gestures during a press conference at the Thai Embassy in Makati City yesterday. Joey Mendoza]

MANILA, DECEMBER 4, 2008 (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago - Thailand’s ambassador protested yesterday comments by deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez and Sen. Richard Gordon on the political turbulence in Bangkok, saying they insinuate the Thais lack political maturity.

“I believe the statements made by Mr. Golez and Senator Gordon do not positively contribute to the good and lasting relations between our two countries and people,” Thai Ambassador Kulkumut Singhara Na Ayudhaya said at a press conference. “The statements are not based on facts and may have some implication of a hidden agenda.”

He said the protests in Thailand show that Thais are free to exercise their political rights.

The ambassador said he would not file a diplomatic protest but would raise the issue before the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“I’ll go the DFA to inform about my great concern because you know to protest or something like that is a little bit tough,” he said.

“I tell you I’m a diplomat, I come to maintain good relations even if it’s a little bit unfair to the Thai side. But I have to do everything very politely, very properly,” he stressed.

“I would not use protest. I’ll send my great concern. Some people can commit mistake very easily but if they don’t have negative intention they should do something to make the Thai people understand in the correct way,” he added.

In his protest, he reiterated the basic principle of noninterference among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“I would also like to reiterate the importance of the basic principle of ASEAN which appears in the ASEAN Charter that the member countries will not interfere in each other’s internal affairs,” he said.

Golez said last week the turmoil in Thailand was unlikely to happen in the Philippines “because our people have reached a high degree of political maturity whereby our people respect due process and the rule of law.”

The ambassador also quoted Gordon as saying the crisis could not be replicated in the Philippines. Gordon denied making such a statement and said the turmoil can in fact happen in the Philippines.

When asked how the two officials should remedy the situation, he said that “it depends on the two gentlemen to realize what they have done. I’m not in a position to advise what they should do.”

As an ASEAN member country, the ambassador emphasized that Thailand, the current chair of the regional grouping, pledges to strengthen cooperation among member countries.

Following the temporary closure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airports, Kulkumut said the Thai government has provided all the necessary assistance such as expenses for food and accommodation for stranded passengers as well as transportation to move them to use U Thapao Airport.

The Thai ambassador said the comments may be a warning to Filipinos to avoid similar protests in their country. He did not elaborate.

Massive demonstrations are a staple of rough-and-tumble democracy in the Philippines.

Two peaceful “people power” uprisings toppled two presidents - Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Estrada was succeeded by President Arroyo, who herself has faced down four power grabs and four impeachment complaints on accusations of corruption, vote-rigging and massive human rights violations. She has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, but that hasn’t ended almost daily opposition rallies.

Golez denied saying the Thais lack political maturity. He said he would be happy to talk to the ambassador to explain the context of his statement.

“For the record, I did not say the Thais lack the political maturity,” he said. “I said in my interview that the Filipinos have reached a high level of political maturity.”

Victorious anti-government protesters lifted their siege of Bangkok’s two airports Wednesday after severing Thailand’s air links to the outside world for a week. – With Laelane Pana, AP

GMA orders release of P10,000 Christmas gift for workers By Paolo Romero Updated December 05, 2008 12:00 AM

(STAR) President Arroyo answers a question during an interview in the Orchid Room of Malacañang in this file photo. Willy Perez Government workers, including contractuals, will each receive a P10,000 productivity bonus this Christmas, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya announced yesterday.

Andaya said the bonus for the estimated 1.1 million government employees would cost the government a total of P11 billion.

The productivity bonus is on top of the P5,000 Christmas gift released to them earlier this month.

“I have been authorized by the President to end all water cooler gossip, lunchtime talk, powder room chitchats, evening novenas on what will be this year’s yearend productivity bonus. You can now tell your godchildren and neighborhood creditors that it could be up to P10,000,” Andaya said in his speech at the Philippine Government Employees Association National Assembly in Malacañang.

He said of the P10,000, P7,000 will come from the national government while P3,000 will come from savings of the concerned agencies.

“I have been told that practically all national government agencies have a reservoir of savings it can dip into so the P10,000 is more or less assured,” Andaya said.

To qualify for the performance bonus, the employee must be in service for at least four months. Recipients are permanent and temporary employees, contractuals and casuals who are paid out of the personal services budget of the department or agency they are working in.

The budget chief also gave assurance that the Senate is expected to ratify Joint Congressional Resolution 24 earlier approved by the House of Representatives that would increase the pay of public servants under the Salary Standardization Law 3 (SSL3).

He said the measure is funded in the proposed P1.415-trillion national budget for 2009 that is still being deliberated in the Senate.

He allayed fears that Congress might pass the budget but would not act on the resolution when it is supposed to take effect in July.

“My friends, I don’t want to telegraph our punches but let me assure you that we have prepared for that contingency. The long and short of which is that the executive has residual powers in its legal arsenal it can invoke in issuing an executive fiat authorizing the salary hikes,” Andaya said.

“When it comes to ameliorating your pay, no one should question our resolve,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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