Monday, October 10, 2005

Whose hero is Aragoncillo?
(Beyond fiction and day-dreaming)

The following is part of the transcript of the Q and A that took place in Cebu on October 7, 2005 between the Press and the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, Ambassador Darryl Johnson (The transcript appears on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Manila and therefore I assume it’s NOT fiction, stupid):
Q: Can you address the issue of some of those who are upset about reports by your predecessor over some of our officials here?

Ambassador Johnson: These alleged reports are part of the case that has been brought against these two people (referring to Michael Ray Aquino and Leandro Aragoncillo) and at this stage it would not be appropriate to comment on the distorted portions that have been reported in the Philippine press. It is not appropriate because this investigation is still going on. I would say, however, that the versions of the stories that have been reported here are nowhere close to being accurate.

Q: One of our Bishops here, the Bishop of Lipa, says there might be American involvement in all the political conflicts here. How do you answer this?

Ambassador Johnson: The United States and Philippines enjoy very strong relations, and unfounded allegations of this kind are certainly inappropriate and absolutely not correct.
As above indicated, the Q and A is obviously referring to an intelligence dossier published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The intelligence report was supposedly prepared by Ambassador Johnson’s predecessor, Joseph Mussomeli that was in turn based upon the reports of certain US agents detailed in the Philippines.

It appears the Mussomeli dossier, which could be among the information given away by Aragoncillo to three still-unnamed Philippine opposition leaders, claims among others that –

1.) The Philippines will be worse off under Vice President De Castro because he is inept both on domestic and foreign policy issues;

2.) Returning former president Estrada to power is a better alternative than turning over the presidency to De Castro.

There are other assessments reportedly made in the dossier such as the questionable ascension by Arroyo to the presidency in 2001 and the perception of Filipinos in general that Arroyo cheated in the 2004 presidential elections. The focus however of this blog is really on the above assessments, or more precisely the claim in 1.).

To put the matter in a better perspective, it should be noted that the Mussomelli report was supposed to have been prepared within days following the resignation of the “Hyatt 10” when the momentum for the Arroyo ouster movement was on a crescendo. The agents, it seemed, calculated that there was a clear and present danger People Power III would take place, hence the rush to scout for an acceptable replacement.

It was then logical for the US agents to conduct a job interview with the one who is formally next in line. However, not necessarily bound by constitutional requirements or the rule of law, the talent search has to meet other threshold priorities. How did De Castro fare in the light of those priorities? Well, quite miserably by the interviewers’ own account.

First, De Castro was assessed to be lacking the required sophistication for the job in view, for one thing, of his comments on US-RP trade relations: sounding more like a fair-trader, he complained about the “imbalance” in those relations. De Castro was also quoted in the dossier as saying to the effect that the Philippines is America’s “Number One ally” and our President is its “Number One fan” and yet other countries are favored more.

Second, regarding De Castro’s take on Iraq, the dossier stated: “On Iraq, however, he said he didn’t understand ‘what was behind it.’ He then turned to his real interest in Iraq: jobs for Filipino workers.”

Third, on domestic matters, De Castro was portrayed as naive at best: “We asked about his legislative priorities and waited patiently as he searched for words. His chief of staff, Jesse Andres, broke the silence, noting that De Castro identifies his policy interest as anything that would benefit the masses. . . .”

U.S. can possibly deal with a left-leaning nationalist or a patron of OFWs (a multi-billion dollar industry, anyway). But the third one was the proverbial straw that broke the Camel’s back. Why is that? Because a Filipino leader (or Third World leaders, for that matter) who pays attention to the needs of the masses is likely to ignore the interests of investors, or U.S. investors in particular.

But, what exactly is the nature of U.S. investment interests in the Philippines?

U.S. has been the Philippines’ largest foreign investor, with about $6.3 billion in investment as of end-2004. Also in 2004, U.S. trade with the Philippines amounted to $16.2 billion and some 16% of the Philippines’ imports came from the U.S in the same year. Philippines is ranked as U.S. 21st largest export market.

The Philippines has untapped mineral wealth estimated at more than $840 billion making it one of the world’s highly mineralized countries. In December 2004, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the 1995 Mining Act which allows up to 100% foreign-owned companies to invest in large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, oil and gas. Mining therefore offers enormous potential for U.S. investors in the Philippines. (The Venable deal, deemed to be one of those documents disclosed by Aragoncillo, is apparently intended to “constitutionalize” the decision of the Court.)

The controversial Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 has also opened great opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in the power industry in the Philippines.

A Gloriagate-induced People Power is what threatens the foregoing U.S. interests in the Philippines.

A successful People Power III (of a dimension different from People Power I and People Power II) that will give rise to a nationalist government responsive to the clamor of the people for improvement in their beggared conditions through the distribution of economic resources will not be conducive to the interests in the Philippines of U.S. investors.

It might be more enlightening to backtrack for a moment and access our knowledge of another of those classified documents (now declassified) from the U.S. State Department, the one authored by America's wiseman George Kennan:
Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3%of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction . . . .

We should dispense with the aspiration to "be liked" or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague and--for the Far East--unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
Now, read again the complaint filed by the FBI against Aragoncillo and Aquino. Do you smell a plot or a leak?

Here’s what paragraph 14 of Attachment B to the Complaint alleges in part:
Aquino’s Introduction of Argoncillo to the Public Officials

14. Records from Yahoo! reveal that on or about January 2, 2005, an e-mail was sent from the Aquino Yahoo! Account to Public Official #2's Yahoo! Account along with the following message introducing defendant LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO to Public Official #2:


The other day, Leandro “Lean” Aragoncillo called me. He is the US Marine friend . . . . He already resigned from the USM and is now with the new intelligence unit . . . he is about to finish his training at the FBI NA in Quantico, Virginia.

He wants to talk to you and give you some updates on the political situation in the country. . . . He alleged that last Tuesday during a briefing . . . the recent political situation in the Philippines was discussed. It was the first time that he heard about a briefing on the Philippine situation. He claimed that a change in leadership is boiling and that it is just a matter of time . . . .

He gave me the following information:

. . .

These are all subject to confirmation but I think there’s nothing wrong if we give it a try to confirm/check especially if this will be a catalyst for change in our country.

The number of Lean Aragoncillo is . . . . He is available after 5:00P.M. EST on Tuesday after his class.

For your information.


“That is the problem with the Americans,” said a disappointed Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez in a report by “I wrote them a letter (about the espionage case) and they have not even answered ... maybe it’s been a month now. They meddle with us and then they don’t cooperate with us.”

An unprecendented espionage in the White House and then a plea bargain? Who is Lean Aragoncillo really working for? Whose hero is he?


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