CARAT 2014: Balikatan Extension?
The 20th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the Philippines and the United States started last June 26, a few months after the supposed end of the Balikatan exercises.
According to the US embassy, this year’s CARAT exercise is being held in several strategic locations in the country, including Subic Bay, San Antonio in Zambales, and Sangley Point and Ternate in Cavite.
The exercises are nothing new, as previous CARAT exercises were held in Mindanao, Palawan, Subic Bay, Cebu, and other locations.
“CARAT Philippines is part of a broader bilateral exercise series the US Navy conducts with nine partner navies in South and Southeast Asia to address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance interoperability among participating navies,” the US embassy said in a press statement.
The Philippines has participated since the series began in 1995, and CARAT exercises over the past two decades are considered to be clear examples of the long-standing and close US-Philippines navy-to-navy relationship.
The 2014 CARAT series, which started last May, is also currently being held in other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Timor-Leste.
The exercises, as claimed, are meant to fortify the capabilities of both forces in amphibious operations, special operations and enhancing information-sharing.
“This exercise we are in now, is designed to improve our inter-operability, build our relationships, so we know each other better and be able to do more complex things in support of one another, whatever the event might be,” remarks U.S. Navy Fleet Commander Stuart Musch.
The seeming focus on countries bordering China and Southeast Asia has been described by both critics and analysts as a strategic move by the United States, in response to the military expansion of China in the South China Sea.
This year’s CARAT Philippines will focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance flights.
“Sailors and Marines will exchange best practices and share information with their Philippine Armed Forces counterparts during multiple professional exchanges and seminars ashore,” the US Embassy told the public.
“Civil action projects, community service events and band concerts will facilitate interaction with the local community,” the US Embassy added.
Five warships, including a U.S. guided-missile destroyer and about 1,000 troops will take part in week-long Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises, which include live-fire drills 40 miles (64 km) off Zambales.
The drills are to be held about 80 nautical miles offshore, near a patrol of Chinese coastguard ships stationed at the entrance to Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef.
When Navy Fleet Commander Jaime Bernardino was asked what the Philippine troops would do if there was an invasion, he answered:
“How do you exactly respond? My answer there, is the exact response to any incident out there, is dictated by our national leadership. Whatever they want us to do, we will do,” he said.
The Philippine Navy said the drills were a regular annual event and has no relation to the tensions in the region, but observers and concerned protest groups are not convinced.
News reports verify that tensions have escalated in recent months, with China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
China considers 90 percent of the sea its property, as it is potentially rich in oil and gas and fisheries.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the waters, and China is accusing the U.S. of making moves to provoke tension, by showing support for its regional allies, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines.
The die is cast.
The more the pork scam drags on, the more its money trail leads to the centers of power.
From President Aquino, the collateral damage has spilled over to his inner sanctum led by Budget czar Butch Abad.
Abad, who wields the enviable power of the purse, is believed to be the hidden hand pulling the strings behind the pork barrel drama.
The self-confessed architect of the infamous Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) inexplicably made himself scarce since the scam hogged headlines over the past months.
While his peers turned themselves into Pnoy’s own bunch of apologists, the former solon from typhoon-battered Batanes Island kept himself away from public view – and scrutiny.
His silence on the controversy is not only deafening, but also intriguing.
Finally, he turned gutsy last week, apparently bugged by insinuations that he’s the “pork king” alluded to by reports quoting sources close to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged pork barrel queen.
“These fresh allegations that I tutored Napoles in designing the PDAF scam are simply not true,” Abad said. He has been used to being called names since he served the Aquino administration starting in 2010.
But ‘‘pork king?” Certainly not, he said, describing it as the “most ridiculous” he ever heard. “It would in fact be funny if it weren’t such a blatant lie.”
Inescapably with Aquino and Abad in the eye of the pork scam, dyed-in-the-wool political allies House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon can’t be far behind and turn deaf and blind to mounting calls for them to call it quits.
By: Al Labita
The looming scenario looks dreadful.
Should President Aquino’s push to create a Moro state fizzle out, history would be unkind to him.
At the rate criticisms are heaped on his substate-for-peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Aquino may likely end up on self-imposed exile in Malaysia, his chief backer in peace talks with the rebel group.
Since the deal was inked last month, it has drawn a barrage of flaks, likening it to a sellout of part of Philippine territory, apparently Aquino’s way to put an end to decades of a bloody secessionist movement in the resource-rich region, the country’s second largest island next to Luzon.
Questions on constitutionality are hounding the envisioned Bangsamoro (Islamic state). These center on the time-honored Constitutional ban on the creation of a state within a state, a provision Aquino appears to have glossed over in pushing the proposed law
What legal experts find revolting, however, are certain provisions virtually diminishing the government’s sovereign powers, relegating some of them to Bangsamoro.
Specifically, they refer to the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).Composed of government and MILF representatives, the BTC would work on amending the 1985 Philippine Constitution, the basic law of the land.
“This is beyond ridiculous,” said Senator Miriam Santiago in a press statement. .“Say again?! Wh a – a – a – t?!”
Santiago, widely regarded as a Constitutional expert, is the first senator to call the so-called peace pact unconstitutional.Overall, she described the Malaysia-backed PH-MILF deal as an attempt to redefine the country’s sovereignty.
Like other legal experts, she questioned the provision in the agreement providing that the powers reserved to the central government will depend upon further negotiation with the MILF.
“Thus, the agreement diminishes the sovereignty of the Philippine government by listing what are the powers that the central government can retain,” the former regional trial court judge said.
In gist, the agreement not only reduces the sovereignty of the central government, but also provides that in the future, such sovereign powers as have been reserved may be further increased,provided the Bangsamoro agrees.
“It will therefore be the Bangsamoro which will determine what should be the remaining sovereign powers of the central government,” Santiago, a member of the International Court of Justice, said.
Bangsamoro, planned to be a new region with wider political and economic powers, will replace the graft-ridden Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, hinted that she will not support the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which, if passed in Congress, will be subject to a plebiscite for approval or disapproval by the public.
“While I am chair, it will be extremely difficult to convince me, as a student of constitutional law, that the Bangsamoro Agreement respects the Philippine Constitution,” Santiago said.
Some groups are poised to question soon the deal before the Supreme Court, despiteassurance by the government and MILF that the proposed Bangsamoro law would comply with the Constitution without the need to amend it.
But on closer look, the PH-MILF pact contained provisions similar to those of the earlier scuttled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
That deal was supposed to be inked between the government of then President Arroyo and the MILF, but in October 2008, the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional because it sought to establish a state within a sovereign state.
Under the MOA-AD, the existing five-province ARMM would have been expanded by more than 700 additional villages, subject to a plebiscite.
The proposed new entity then, to be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, would have had its own police and military force and its own judicial system, among others.
“Both the MOA-AD and the Bangsamoro Agreement appear to facilitate thesecession of the Bangsamoro from our country, in a manner similar to the secession of Kosovo and Crimea,” Santiago warned.
Although the Constitution provides that natural resources belong to the state, in the Bangsamoro territory, only Bangsamoro will have exclusive jurisdiction over them.
Similarly, the pact’s annex on power sharing gives Bangsamoro “exclusive powers,” defined as powers or matters over which authority and jurisdiction pertain to the Bangsamoro government.
The accord also provides that only the Bangsamoro shall be under a ministerial form of government, while the rest of the country will operate under a presidential form of government.
Pundits say that in allowing itself as signatory to the deal with the MILF, Malacanang may have infringed upon the powers of the legislative branch.
As it appears, the agreement should not have identified the executive as the “Philippine government.”
The reality is that only one of the three branches of government – the executive branch, consisting of the Office of the President acting through a peace panel of negotiators – represented the government in talks with the MILF.
It may also be argued that the executive branch alone does not represent the Philippine Government, a fact that the MILF may have just shrugged off to speed up the signing of the accord for its own sake alone.
Simply put, the executive branch, in negotiating the agreement with the rebel group, had no power to bind the two other branches – legislative and judicial — to the controversial deal.
By all accounts, the executive “misrepresented” itself as the government, an error in judgment on Aquino’s part for which he will pay a costly political price – the likelihood of ending up in exile in neighboring Malaysia.
The Unconstitutional PDAF
by Ramon Orosa
THE recent decision of the Supreme Court finding the PDAF unconstitutional is a source of relief to the nation. Sorry that PNoy cannot claim any credit when he had the opportunity to do away with that particular monstrosity. In fact, one might conclude that he resisted every effort to abolish PDAF, which only betrayed his less than sincere commitment to the “matuwid na Daan” and that slogan figures way down in his scale of priorities. Some say he is just so hardheaded, refusing to listen to anybody. Probably true considering that he is surrounded by persons whose values are deeply troubled to begin with and so give advise that they think PNoy wants to hear, playing up to his ego considering his well known obstinacy.
Of course, part of the reason for his obstinacy is likely rooted in his own discretionary use of public funds from different sources, like the Maalampaya funds, the road users tax, dividends from government owned and controlled corporations, etc., etc. Not that he steals from them, but these discretionary funds enable him to buy political loyalty and cooperation for what he perceives to be his agenda, which, of course, nobody knows about, except from rather motherhood like statements.
Some critics suggest that the king has been shown naked, bereft of respect, honor and shorn of a sense of dignity except of the wrong kind, being born to a privileged family. I wonder why the story keeps going about that his mother Cory, was rather firm that she didn’t want PNoy to stand for the presidential office. But she passed away and all the other opportunists sensing they could ride the popularity of Cory, bamboozled PNoy into running for office, probably including most of the relatives. I guess they did not know PNoy as well as Cory or saw for themselves exalted “roles” as puppet masters should he win.
Stories abound that when Mar was still the leading presidential candidate, PNoy’s name was proposed as a vice presidential candidate and this was laughed off the table. Okay let us be more polite by saying the idea was given short shrift! Then Cory dies, and all of a sudden from being a rejected vice-presidential candidate, Mar is pushed down so they could ride the sympathy vote for Cory by making PNoy the presidential candidate.
I suppose the “experienced” politicians around PNoy felt they could gather the perception managers well and maneuver PNoy into whatever posture they felt was appropriate and that they could manage the rest of the bureaucracy (and, of course, gain all the unbidden advantages and fruits there from) . Unfortunately, failing to listen to the views of the mother, and substituting their own secret ambitions, they felt they had it in the bag.
The last three years are certainly proof that this rather brief narration is not without merit except that rather than a smooth flow they have found PNoy to be a rather difficult person to deal with but to whom they must pay obeisance or lose their favored positions. So the nation moves in a zigzag pattern, and the lack of capacity and experience of the king have been unmasked. In a continuing series of mishandled events, the evidence is rather telling that while perhaps personally honest, PNoy’s values are rather pedestrian and do not depart from the values of all the other politicians who believe that politics is king and winning the only consideration. Politics is a position of power to be sought and held on to by any means fair or foul and passed on as a family inheritance to succeeding generations regardless of their qualifications. Well, in some respects one could say that since sense of self is the only real enduring value, one does not need to be competent, moral or competent in the position. After all, those positions had already been retooled to become a lucrative sinecure by legal means or otherwise.
These politicians do not have any sense of love of country, a rather esoteric or abstract notion to begin with. Obviously our best schools have not been able to implant these values into them! Probably because the example of their parents were rather dysfunctional to begin with. Our culture is so conducive to contradictions and dysfunctions resulting in a great divide between reality or what is truly going on and the “public” image that is so carefully cultivated at great cost. I really don’t think the hypocrisy is lost on their children but the pressures to conform to such a lifestyle can be great and the conveniences of an abundant way of living hard to resist.
So, no matter how gained, money and power have become the gods. In truth, they suffer from an incredible love deficiency, not the pretended hypocritical kind. Internal images are distorted because if one were to truly analyze what is going on and we are willing to face truth, 80% of our national and local problems may be traced to poor parenting, especially of the “father” kind. So the self identity suffers from loss of worth and dignity, filled with insecurity and founded on fear which they try to overcome with money, guns, and goons. They seek honor and respect not because they deserve it but because of things outside of themselves. Things that never last and in the end don’t really matter.
They can’t add value to anyone and only seek to use everyone otherwise the others are no one! It is a sad realization of what truly ails our country and why there is no real change that takes place. It is only when we see our realities that we can begin the change process. PNoy was seen as the “savior” and most now see that he is not. Let us stop pointing fingers and getting angry. Let us begin with our own selves and realize that darkness is not fought with anger or bitterness. We each have to become a light in our nation to dispel the darkness that is getting darker each day. Our hope lies within us as we set our faces like flint to do good whenever we are given an opportunity to do so, no matter how modest it might be. Then life can begin to change and so will our nation. This revolution of goodness must start now.
- PNoy’s Strange Twist (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- What Is PNoy Up To? (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Acceptance (1rgcruz.wordpress.com)
- SC junks PDAF as unconstitutional (rappler.com)
- Senate not upset by PDAF loss, says Drilon (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- What Took Them So Long? SC Declares PDAF Unconstitutional (vincenton.wordpress.com)
- Netizens on PNoy’s DAP speech: Defensive or necessary? (rappler.com)
- Calls to abolish DAP pressed in Senate (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Snake Pit (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- War in the Palace (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)