Grasping at (foreign) straws

By Ellen Tordesillas
August 29, 2008

Gloria Arroyo is leaving abroad this weekend, a source in Malacañang said.

She declined to tell me the destination but it couldn’t be to the United States because her next trip there will be next month. Arroyo is scheduled to leave for New York Sept. 22 to attend the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative conference.

I’m told she will also be going to Seattle to attend a Fil-Am activity.

It is expected that Arroyo will again be accompanied by her usual coterie of junketing congressmen paid for by Filipino taxpayers. At this time economic difficulties and with the uneasy situation in Mindanao, another transatlantic trip for Arroyo reflects callousness.

It was only two months ago when she, accompanied by 65 congressmen, went to the U.S to meet with President George Bush while thousands of Filipinos were being battered by typhoon Frank.
A source in Malacañang said they are also at a loss trying to understand Arroyo’s decisions these days. It looks like she is disassembling.

The embarrassing part about it is she is doing it international. Last Monday, she announced that she will enlist the help of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

I’m reminded of her plan in 2001 to hire former New York Rudolph Guiliani as presidential adviser on peace process. Guiliani was a recent visitor and nothing was mentioned about it.

I presume she has talked to Blair, who played an important role in bringing peace in Northern Ireland, because she was quoted to have said the former British prime minister “ is willing to come help us.”

Blair’s willingness to help, however, is not for free. His advisory fee is reported to be at least $1 million.

Her ally, Sen. Joker Arroyo, calls her plan “injudicious” which means “lacking or showing a lack of judgment or discretion; unwise.”

He correctly pointed out the folly of Arroyo’s idea: the conflict in Mindanao is a “geographical dispute”, not a religious war which was the case in Northern Ireland.

“The Mindanao conflict is not between Protestant and Catholics – both Christian as in Northern Ireland,” the senator said.

Arroyo is not only reaching out to far away United Kingdom. Reports said she has also enlisted the help of Sweden, which drew up the Stockholm initiative on Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-integration. I imagine that’s where she copied her DDR (disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation), her latest tack towards the MILF announced last Thursday after her attempt to ride on the Muslim cause to push her charter change agenda had renewed hostilities in Mindanao killing more than 30 people and rendering homeless more than 250,000 people.

The peace talks with the MILF which produced the explosive Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain was brokered by Malaysia with the United States as one of its main sponsor. Japan, Brunei and Libya have representatives in the International Monitoring Team while the ceasefire between the government armed forces the Muslim rebel forces is in place. By the way, the IMT mandate, which is supposed to expire on August 31, has been extended for three more months.
Arroyo’s actions in recent days indicate lack of control and desperation. With majority of Filipinos registering distrust and disapproval of her, she is turning for support to other countries. Probably she thinks that by involving the international community in the Mindanao problem, she can count on their condemnation when she is ousted from power. That’s grasping at straws

In a briefing of the diplomatic corps on the MOA-AD last Wednesday at the Department of Foreign Affairs, a diplomat asked, “What’s next?”

Presidential Spokesperson Jesus Dureza replied:“The next step would be, we are going to do a lot of consultation with ulamas and stakeholders to help us determine the next step that we will take.”

Translation: we do not know.

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