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Could a maggot metamorphose into a butterfly?

Once more, our people’s angry cry for transparency in national governance reverberated around the archipelago in the wake of Jun Lozada‘s disclosure on the NBN-ZTE deal. Hardly before its echo could totally ebbed, another highly questionable transaction of the government suddenly exploded before us with a resonating sound. This is the Joint Seismic Marine Understanding (JSMU).

A laundry list of unresolved issues in national governance.

We do not want to belittle the other perceived excesses from that hole by ILOG PASIG such as the hijacking of the presidential election in 2004 with some high placed members of the AFP as the enforcers of the heist; the Joc-Joc Bolante grand scale larceny; the inordinate and illegal use of public funds during the 2004 election; the Hello Garci scandal and the prostitution of the Comelec; the utter disregard for human life in connection with the disappearance and extermination of legal dissenters and young social activists; the malicious application of the Rule by Law for the Rule of Law to smother legal dissent; the unabashed attempt to amend the constitution at all cost to push a system that would obviously firewalled the agents of this government from accountability for their past egregious acts, to name a few. These anomalous acts are not mere pecadillos but egregious transgressions in office that assault our basic notion of decency in public service, both as a people and as individuals. All these questions remain unresolved today as the minions from that hole by ILOG PASIG continue to stonewall the demand for truth and justice in public service.

Now, the JSMU came out booming.

This latest caper from that hole along ILOG PASIG could be the MOTHER LOAD OF ALL CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC OFFICE.

Like other unresolved questions about this administration, it smells so odiously fishy from its usual sub rosa governmental cloak and surrounding loose ends. However, unlike previous unresolved questions, JSMU seems to top the list of what a repugnant and publicly insatiable greed could lead to. This time, the questionable transaction apparently involves the control and enjoyment of our natural resources; our national sovereignty, 3rd party foreign countries and an unconstitutional contract. It is publicly perceived that this agreement by the Philippines with China was in consideration of a soft loan from the latter to the amount of 8 billion dollars, allotted equally for the next 5 years starting in 2005.

Reacting, the Pharisees from that hole in ILOG PASIG and their ATM Journalists automatically replied with their oft-repeated mantra of varying tones. With their usual pious indignation and denial, they claim that the public is being mislead again by lies from opposition people and their communists allies; that the sole intention of this groups, behind their cry for truth, is really to unseat Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; that JSMU is, contrary to the shouts of street parliamentarians, Philippine diplomacy at its best because it could, among others, diffuse if not solve that dispute between neighboring countries over an area known around as the Spratly Islands and its maritime boundaries; that JSMU is but a tripartite business arrangement between business corporations of the Philippines, Vietnam and China pursued to address our over reliance to imported fuel at a time of a rising supply crunch; that as a business arrangement, with only the pre-exploration activity of our natural resources for its subject matter, JSMU is not circumscribed or limited by certain basic constitutional considerations on treaties, both as to their form and substance, and not being a treaty for that matter, the JSMU therefore is well within the discretion of the executive office to enter into, with or without the prior clearance nor ratification by the Senate.

The proof of the cake is the pudding.

Simply, the questions now before us are three fold:

  1. Is the JSMU validly entered into by the Philippines or not?

  2. What was the consideration, if any, for the Philippines, to enter into a joint and EXPENSIVE activity with China regarding a most vital and strategic natural resources of our country?

  3. What happened to this consideration?

The JSMU between the Philippines and China before it was amended to include Vietnam, it appears from its wordings that it is supposed to be an agreement between the parties to conduct, as a pre-exploration activity, a joint research on petroleum resource potential of certain areas of the South China Sea. This provision of the JSMU on joint research, when put to actual practice, appears to consist of seismic surveys done on an area covered by the Spratly Islands, northwest of Palawan by China’s CNOGC.

The meaning of the word, SURVEY, as appearing in the contract, when contraindicated with the meaning of that other word, EXPLORATION, seems to conjure a solid footing for the validity of the JSMAU. The word, survey, supports the argument that such an activity merely involves a comprehensive appraisal of the potential petroleum resources of the area and holds that what ever data gathered, collected and interpreted would be shared by all the parties of the contract.

Conventional wisdom observes that the problem in passing a lie, one needs to remember always the original story told lest the new yarn contradicts the old version. On the questioned JMSU, the government has forgotten this practical lesson from experience. Thus, what ever arguments of the government might have had on the validity of JSMU, were totally thrown to the back-house by the government’s own previous admission from its repeated use of the term “exploration” on the Philippine Information Agency’s website where a
November 11, 2007 press release quoted Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye as saying that the “first phase or the exploration phase has been completed,” and that the Chinese Premier expressing hope that “the three countries would continue the cooperation on the developmental level.” These admissions were followed on its heels by no less than the latest declaration of the former president of the Philippine National Oil Company, Eduardo Manalac, being a signatory himself on behalf of the Philippines to the embattled JSMU, admitting that the “ seismic studies already form part of the exploration stage”. The gravitas of Mr. Manalac and his admission could hardly be questioned, being a signatory to the questioned JSMU on behalf of the Philippines and a Geological engineer himself, to boot. It is not surprising therefore to note that the corporations doing the surveys and tests in the area in question are corporations actually engaged in the commercial extraction, development and sale of fossilized fuel or petroleum. None of them could be called disinterested scientific legal entity because all of them are basically commercial companies.

Once more, the government could hardly deny the nullity of the JSMU for violating the constitutional injunction against the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources including its marine wealth in archipelagic waters, territorial sea and exclusive economic zone by non-Filipino citizens and or corporations 60% of which are not wholly owned by Filipino citizens without the consent of the Senate.

On the matter of the consideration for the questioned agreement, it seems uncontroverted that this agreement is also premised on our country’s access to the 8 billion dollar soft loan from China. Since 2005, the funding of government developmental contracts such as the Northrail, Southrail, the aborted ZTE-NBN deal and some 27 other contracts since 2005 lead to the doorsteps of China and her 8 billion soft loan. These major and high-ticketed contracts of the government with funding from China’s 8 billion dollar soft loan are characteristically hounded by the same public cry for transparency in view of the questionable and scandalous circumstances surrounding these transactions. JSMU is no different. And as it was then and now, the people’s demand for transparency, for truth in national governance is unjustly muffled and gagged through a combination of government denials, double-talk, stonewalling, deceit and wanton use of executive influence, privilege and power not to mention public funds distributed for envelopmental ends such as to stymie the truth.

And as it was before, the people would like to know the long and short of these anomalies, not so much because they are still uncertain as to this administrations privilege to continue its mandate but precisely because they still want our democratic institutions to work before they take other options.

The fly in the ointment.

It is true. Aayaw pa ng taong bayan na sumuong sa isang hinde matahimik at matiwasay na pagaaklas para sa katutuhan at katarungan kung kayang kuhanin pa ang mga ito ng paupo. This augers well for the people, country and this administration. It shows our people have started to learn from the past and the country for that matter could be spared from an end that we might all regret in hindsight. For this administration, it gives it a breathing spell to make amends for its past sins to the people and country. But there is no true contrition if truth is still maintained deceitfully hidden. To start a new day and to move on at last for POR DIOS Y LA PATRIA, this administration must offer an untrammeled truth with justice on its side.

Will this administration do so? From its past actuation on similar matters, it would appear that it won’t. Ever since this administration assumed power in a historical fashion in 2004, it persistently met with unabashed arrogance every people’s demand for transparency in public office. Why? The answers are as clear as the stars on a moonless night. If transparency would be given liberty, many people will spend the rest of their lives from the opulence and glitz of that hole in ILOG PASIG to that real hole in MUNTINGLUPA even before 2010.

The Filipino people obviously failed to see this.

But the more compelling reason comes from the observation of a wizened man who asks; is it not against the law of nature to expect a maggot to metamorphose into a butterfly?

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