Blog Posts by Ramon Casiple

  • Ayungin dilemma

    The Ayungin Shoal recently came into focus in the Philippine public mind when Chinese coast guard ships prevented a Philippine civilian government boat from provisioning the marine outpost aboard the derelict BRP Sierra Madre. The latter was intentionally grounded by the Philippines in 1999, four years after the Chinese troops seized the nearby Mischief Reef and started building a permanent outpost. It is now a flashpoint in the current political tussle between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

    The Ayungin Shoal is a small submerged formation that forms part of the Spratly Island group, and about 200 kilometers west of Palawan. The Philippines considers it as part of its continental shelf and within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China, however, claims that it is within its “territorial waters” as indicated in its so-called “Nine-Dash Line” map submitted to the UN in 2009. It has since added a 10th dash

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  • After peace with MILF, quo vadis Mindanao?

    AP Photo/Froilan Gallardo
    The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed last March 27, 2014 by the Chairperson of the GPH Negotiating Panel, Prof. Miriam Ferrer and her MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Malaysian president Najib Razak, and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim witnessed the signing.

    The signing brought to an end the 41-year Moro rebellion undertaken first under the aegis of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and then later, under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It also called for the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity that would replace the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

    The MNLF earlier signed the Jakarta Final Peace Agreement in 1996 and created the ARMM. However, the MILF never participated in the ARMM and President Aquino would later declare it a ‘failure.” The CAB however recognized the Jakarta Agreement and built upon it.

    The MNLF meanwhile split into factions, with the MNLF

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  • The U.S. visiting factor

    United States President Barack Obama will “definitely” visit the Philippines in late April 2014. There are several issues facing him when he arrives. It is also an occasion for the Aquino administration to use the U.S. factor in relation to its domestic and international concerns. Definitely, Obama’s visit will be a crucial moment for Philippine-U.S. relations.

    At the top of the common issues is the strengthening of their response to the destabilizing of the regional status quo, centered on China’s aggressive assertion of what it calls its “core interests” that includes its sovereignty claim over vast swatches of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea.

    The negotiations over the Increased Rotational Presence Agreement (IRPA), as an “enhancement” to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is almost over and may be finished in time for the Obama visit. Under the IRPA, the Philippines will open more of its bases to the establishment of American facilities. The

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  • Heating up

    Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay reportedly resigned from the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino/Laban ng Bayan (PDP/Laban) in order to form a new political party, taking off from last election’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

    Almost at the same time, there were reports of the establishment of a campaign machinery for Senator Alan Peter Cayetano’s presidential bid for presidency in 2016, possibly under the Nacionalista Party (NP). If Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos will not run, he is in a position to fill the gap.

    The ruling Liberal Party (LP), to be sure, will field a presidential candidate in 2016. However, there is a quiet but growing in-fighting within as the perception grew that DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has gotten weaker. At the moment, his camp is still pushing for him to run.

    There is a risk in putting forth lists of 2016 presidential candidates this early. The classic example, of course, is President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino—his name came up only 10 months before

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  • Crisis administration

    AFP photo
    At the end of January 2014, the Aquino administration already has several crises or major problems on its hands. Let us count them:

    1. The ongoing Supreme Court case on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP);

    2. The opposition to the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the stalemated talks with the communist Party of the Philippines;

    3. The continuing natural disasters that are Typhoons Agaton and Basyang as well as the problems of relief and rehabilitation of areas affected by typhoon Pablo, the Zamboanga City crisis, Bohol earthquake, and super-typhoon Yolanda;

    4. The rekindled campaign by Hongkong against the Aquino administration on the Luneta hostage crisis;

    5. The Chinese assertion of sovereignty claims in the West Philippine Sea;

    6. The flight of portfolio capital and rising peso-dollar exchange rate;

    7. The unilateral power rate hikes, oil price hikes, and transport rate hikes;

    8. The fights over

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  • Bangsamoro peace agreement

    The Kuala Lumpur talks between the Government of the Philippine (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ironed out the last of the differences and opened a new chapter in the peace process. The two sides have just signed the fourth and last Annex on Normalization and the addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, thereby completing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

    The signing of the GPH-MILF peace agreement will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous entity that will act as local government, under the auspices of the national government, in areas that would include the present geographical area of the ARMM; the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and all other contiguous areas where

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  • De ja vu politics

    Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla yesterday accused Malacañang of pressuring him to vote for conviction in the impeachment proceedings in 2012 against then-Chief Justice Renato Corona. He also reiterated his complete innocence of the plunder charge levied against him by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and of the charge of conniving with Janet Lim-Napoles on the pork barrel scam.

    The privilege speech yesterday, January 20, was expected. His was the last of the public position of the three senators accused by the Aquino administration, which included himself, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

    What Senator Revilla did in his speech was to follow the trail blazed by Senator Estrada. He narrated the efforts of the Aquino administration to woo him in the Corona case, including a dramatic, cloak-and-dagger meeting in Bahay Pangarap, the president’s official residence within Malacañang. Although he did not mention any bribe, the implication was that there was a negotiation that Read More »from De ja vu politics
  • Political suicide path

    Reuters photo
    At the rate President Aquino is shooting off his opinions on issues of the day, there is already the fear that his stubbornness is turning into a political death wish. Invariably since the Napoles scandal, he has publicly stated his opinions or statements on the wrong side of reforms or the middle class.

    In the case of the pork barrel issue, he turned what might have been a renewed faith in him by announcing the end of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) into a continuing doubt about his sincerity by saying that the twin—Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—is good. The effect, of course, is the current public outcry about the abuse of presidential discretionary funds.

    When the Zamboanga crisis erupted, he forewent the dialogue-negotiation route and opted for a military solution. In the process, he alienated a significant part of Moro and Mindanaoan public. It also awakened hotheads on both sides of the fence who opposed the terms of the Kuala Lumpur negotiations between

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  • Daft over DAP and PDAF

    When the Supreme Court ruled that the law establishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is unconstitutional, it created a lot of disbelief and muted resentment among legislators. It was an expected reaction given the loss of a major source of pork barrel or personal discretionary funds for them.

    The SC decision went beyond PDAF and closed more sources of pork barrel funds, barring similar funds in the future. Its decision cited the fundamental divide between the legislative branch and the executive branch in the republic, thus: the legislature makes laws, the executive implements laws. The constitution, says the Supreme Court, does not countenance the legislators—in their individual capacity—as participating in any way in spending the national budget.

    The SC decision also stipulated that the president cannot spend the off-budget funds that are the President Social Fund (PSF) and the Malampaya Fund (MP) for other purposes other than which these are earmarked for. That is,

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  • Napoles, part 2

    Voltaire Domingo/NPPA Images
    Last November 29, 2013, the Department of Justice filed the second batch of criminal complaints against Janet Lim-Napoles and 33 others, including former congressman and current Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon.

    They were charged as respondents in the malversation, direct bribery and graft and corrupt practices complaints. Among them are seven former congressmen, three heads of implementing agencies, two presidents of non-government organizations linked to trader Janet Lim-Napoles, as well as seven other officials and employees of implementing agencies. Also charged were 12 resident state auditors belonging to the Commission on Audit.

    Biazon is a member of the ruling Liberal Party. Another former Pampanga representative, Zenaida Cruz-Ducut, who is also the current chairperson of the Energy Regulatory Commission, was also charged.

    With the second batch, the Aquino administration expectedly pointed out that the prosecution in the Napoles case will not exclude

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