Top Arroyo aide pushes for a transition government

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales tells FOCAP his ideas on transition government

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales is pushing for a transition government, citing the lack of credibility of the current Commission on Elections and the likelihood that the coming elections will not only lack credibility, but will not change anything as well.

He is not calling for a transition government, Gonzales says. But he wants people to discuss it, looking at the first Edsa uprising and the changes that the revolutionary government, led by then President Corazon Aquino, managed to institute.

Gonzales discussed the idea recently, during a press briefing with the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines.

Words in parenthesis are questions. The speakers are Secretary Gonzales and Pedro Cabuay of NICA. The sentences are not complete, and the quotes are not always accurate. This is for background information only.

Q&A:

(told me several years you participated in actual bombing during marcos admin…given present terror law now, would you consider that an act of terrorism)
During those days we do not have bombs yet. More incendiary than actual explosives. Okay with me, those are acts that I did in the past…but some of those I participated with are still living and they may not want it.
(under present laws, would that be an act of terror? What disturbs me is that…how can we be assured that gov’t, namely you, is not part of the bombings now) I think one of the things we need to learn is that when we make judgments, we should take into consideration the situation when act happened. This wsas time of martial law…I’m learning from those lessons…during those times, this was the light a fire movement, objective was to raise certain issues and that group decided to do some bombing and some burning operations. Maybe it’s time to…I’m not part of that org really…there because of a friend, this was a time when most groups in phils were really on the run and hiding…so my participation for example has nothing to do with party I represent. I was there as individual doing favor for friend because my own party did not like that kind of operations.

(would you consider amnesty for two milf commanders) considering is one thing. We have specific provisions on who would qualify for amnesty. It depends on the provisions…they will have to face trial. Certain aspects of…we have suspected they have done may not qualify, burning of private establishments, attacking civilians, killing some…I don’t know, it will have to depend on the result of the trial.

(what is your outlook on prospect for resumption of peace talks with milf, anniversary of collapsed moa coming up in few weeks) it’s going to happen. The talks will resume. I remain optimistic when it comes to the milf because I think both parties are sincere in their commitment to have a peaceful settlement.

(tell us about transition council) business of establishing a transition gov’t…going on one proposal after another during last 3 years…indicative of kind of political environment we are having today. Pres said we have a broken pol system…I agree with that. Field of pols, lot that needs to be done in country. What I wanted to do is encourage our people to start confronting this issue of pols, not just as matter of electing officials, but pols as science. When I started floating idea of transition gov’t, just one story that has been brought to public. What I said was that in these times of crises in phils, imp’t for us to review experience as nation, go back in time, look at history, we have been through so many revolutions.maybe imp’t rev we should examine is people power…brief span of nine months, revolution succeeded in topple a dictatorship, the thing that is not emphasized in our history is that pres cory established a revolutionary gov’t…accomplished at least five things: succeeded in…she appointed chris monsod to revamp comelec…established a consti commission, that allows us to have charter within span of three weeks. Two of elements of rev gov’t is a bit messy: she assigned now congressman villafuerte to reorg bureaucracy of gov’t. what he did was dismiss everybody. Other element is revamping our local gov’t. nene Pimentel was made in charge of that. All local gov’t officials dismissed and oics placed.

(proposal espousing…means extending term of gma) white paper on this. Three conditions that I placed on that paper. No extension of any elected president. There should never be. Elections on 2010. Third one I forgot. Definitely no extension, never..

(best for us to have transition council) personal opinion, has to be discussed. Nation ought to explore what is going on in country today. Don’t think change in personality will amount to imp’t changes in country. More of same unless we truly address pol environment. Proposing what we have learned in edsa 1. Seriously evaluate.

Peacefully and democratically. This talk about martial law, don’t think that is the solution. Don’t think we need a martial law in the phils.

(who would make up council) what I’m saying is maybe it’s time that the imp’t leaders of our strategic institutinos in country can get together and discuss. Who are these ones? Executive, legislative, and chief justice to represent the judiciary. Don’t know if afp would want to be part of discussion and some imp’t personalities in civil society like churches. Proceeding from our own thinking of how change can happen in phils. For many years now, we think the best tool is through people power. When we analyze the participation, dwindling in number. Don’t think we can have another people power. We can no longer rely to initiate but maybe they are expecting the leaders to initiate it.

Look at that particular period in country’s history where pres Aquino in 9 months’ time succeeded in toppling a gov’t…succeeded also in calling for a national election…to regular democratic elections.

(what specific immediate reforms are you looking at) the most imp’t is the electoral system. If we are gonna choose whatever exercise…we want a new charter still have to go through plebiscite. Important step is the electoral system. Almost useless to have elections if your electoral system continues to be flawed.

(elaborated on this with pres, stamp of approval) I think she will scold me if I do that. This is not time to…consider even a formal proposal. Issued an idea paper, if we really think something wrong with pol system, then let’s confront it. I talk to guys like bishop tobias…he was advocating establishment of transitional gov’t also but that proposal calls for overthrow. I was telling him if you want change in this country, you think you will succeed think this pres will not fight back? I’m talking theoretically…does that mean we cannot come up with agreement of doing something for country. We can think of some formulations wherein responsible leaders…come up with formula of really putting country right.

(highly divisive at this stage…problems against chacha…)sometimes I believe that fils have capacity to solve problems if only we will begin to focus on problems seriously and remove biases. Think we can really get together despite fact that we don’t trust each other. Trusting each other may not be necessary for us to work together. Mistrusting each other could be key to success, we will really watch each other. Will it be divisive if we tell people let’s start facing our problems. Why are we not confronting issue rather than say this guy is good and not good. Not confronting…really looking at system of politics and facing it. Time to have solutions. Not divide.

(extra constitutional) of course. All I’m saying is this, let’s review our history. What are the models of the efforts of our people. Our people have gone through a series of revolutions through our history, not whether consti or not but provided our nation with the necessary change. Why can’t we look at edsa people power revolution instead of being happy with 2 million people marching in streets…what are the elements of that revolutionary gov’t? what were the results of those moves? Let’s learn from that. We had manual election, but said credible despite fact it was manual. Let’s look at our history and study them.

(those changes resulted in regime changes. how can we have a revolutionary gov’t without regime change) did I say we will not have regime change. In less than 9 months we will have regime change. If we do not do…we will have more of same. Based on present environment we have, don’t think it will amount. Let’s look at what we can do before this happens. Because I’m cabinet member, people think it’s about extending term of president. Nothing to do with her.

(people convinced gma doesn’t want to step down. How propose for people to get over that) introduced formula that we used as a nation that brought us some changes. if not want to do this during pres gloria’s time, propose to the next president…waste of time if we have to wait…don’t think this president is seeking an extension. Think she’s not that stupid.

(as member of cabinet, how do you think this idea will be received by cabinet, what is way forward) some friends of mine say when you propose this kind of plan, can think only of two things about you. Crazy or too powerful you can do away with anything. Think both are not true, up to you if you want to think I’m crazy. Real objective is to trigger kind of discussion that will focus our attention on kind of problem…do you think our politics are okay? Look at the kind of campaigning we are seeing today.

(can transition council order prosecution of gma and husband) don’t know. Assuming those guys are guilty. (Facing court is not question of guilt but of accountability) cannot answer for future council. Think they will have good judgment on this matter.

(where is this council) don’t know. A constituent assembly…you call today, suicide politically. You think we’re crazy? (how can you do that) pres cory appointed a constitutional commission, can we do it today? Let’s discuss it among responsible elements of society. Look at it and examine.

..our bureaucracy is governed based on policy of mistrust. System of governance premised on mistrust. That’s why nothing moves in this country…

(us…assessment on south china sea) I am very optimistic on how we can share resources on disputed areas…hoping to see an asean on par with china and India…(possibility of war in south china sea)…in case of war we have an agreement with US. If there is war of course US will help us. Sometimes we have to look at external defense because US will not help us unless we fight. But do not see war opening in our area.

(recent interview with an academician…recent edsa revolts were spontaneous revolts carried out by oligarchs and rich…do you agree) his analysis could be yes or no. if we look at the broad strokes of that revolution…phase one is people power…pres cory introduced a freedom constitution…asked monsod to revamp comelec…organized consti commission to write new charter. Tried to revamp bureaucracy…just impressed by number of months needed and peaceful way of having moved from dictatorship to revolutionary gov’t to regular democratic gov’t. in this particular time, we are not going to imitate but starting point for learning process.

(repetition) my own thinking and perhaps shared by many. Sad that the only reason we are debating on charter change is if this can extend or not extend the president. How shallow can that be?

(asg and ji, is there resurgence) bombing in Jakarta becomes very significant to us because when you look at bombing, manila different from in Mindanao. And in bombings of Mindanao, character and intent of bombs, very JI. Our initial conclusion done by JI elements. Then bombings in Jakarta happened. Premature to jump into conclusions but pattern and character are the same. And both countries now saying JI initiated. Is this a regional thing? We usually take side of caution…beginning to exchange analysis and info with our neighbors. Cannot discount possibility of JI resurgence in region. We should not be caught in terms of who’s doing, but who’s behind the bombings. We can easily conclude the bombings in Mindanao and Jakarta are somehow connected. The character of the bombs are the same.

(main suspect in Jakarta…also suspect in 2002 bombings together with umar patek…indo gov’t given indication patek and dulmatin played role in Jakarta bombing)

Cabuay: no link so far that dulmatin connected to Jakarta

(intense connection bet asg and ji) no new reports yet. But we know for fact that asg only org with formal ties with ji. Bombers could be asg or elements of milf but intention or design of bombs really ji.

(AFP saying asg weakened…but recently two foreign trained asg risen to leadership, what does this indicate, emergence of foreign trained asg) this has…all saying is we have not completed job. Established all time that ji of indo and rp has connection or arrangement of some degree…simply means this group continues to be active in region.

Cabuay: (how many in south) 20 or 30 foreign jihaddists in Mindanao at any given time. Sulu and some part…mobile…reports are while these locals attempted to go back to origins in indon and Malaysia, reports not substantiated and feel they remain in rp.

(same stranded people) yes. They’re not new. From time to time the 20-30 number are not permanent some would come in and go back. Two ones here for a time and not left country.

Cabuay: here for training, assisting our locals train some of them. In these activities.

(afp to crush asg by end of year…what exactly mean by crush) it’s very colorful language. Means we will succeed in reducing asg threat. We cannot completely eradicate at this time. To controlled minimum.

Cabuay: from high of 2000 during sipadan, because of afp operations this is went down to 200-300. Show capability of afp to reduce to number if they will go on operating. To crush mean reducing number that would marginalize group…
(what number) not easy to say that. Not a matter of number, capability to carry out terrorism.

(anti terror council successful in tracking down terror financing…icrc kidnapping, did our gov’t monitor ransom paid for release) cabuay: while true that part of…to go on money trail, so far as kidnaps of icrc are concerned, no reports that ransom has been paid
(not paid through bank) not received anything
(albader parad carrying large amount of money when arrested)…that money would not necessarily say it was ransom money…according to them engaged in business, like barter…

(panetta) briefed him on security situation including JI situation (promised anything) none we have not asked for anything.

(amid connection…any other intel reports we have received that will affect us and will happen in the phils after that blast) what we have to do is on level of analysis based on past encounters with this group, still analysis. No actual reports.

(us defense sec a few months ago, followed by cia director. Few days gma to meet with obama…limited statements and details given about these meetings. What’s going on) I think that…more of us efforts than phils. Think us beginning to look at asia…part of that effort and it’s just that…if I will look at the thinking of the americans, if going to indon, might as well pass through phils, Australia, might as well pass through manila. Most of these visits have been really stopovers, not much to say…gave us summarized briefing of what you have heard about threats in the world. Really just expressed the US…they’re happy with how the effort…cooperation bet us and phil when it comes to combating threats in the region.

(speculations…they might be asking us to approve…like a more permanent arrangement for stay of US troops…may be asking us to accommodate some Guantanamo detainees) issue of bases, think US because of experience that sensitivies triggered in countries where they are, changed global strategy. More into rapid deployment. Not looking for basing arrangements, what they are looking for are hosts. Those are the kind of matter they are looking at.

(csl agreement with us…cooperative security location agreement like Ecuador) not heard but have existing agreements with US.
(how high china as threat) think us considers china as good market. We need to consolidate, strengthen asean and make it on par with superpowers in neighborhood.

(Chinese soft power) it is increasing. Help us strengthen asean by recognizing as block that is on par in terms of china and India. We don’t need to look at china to ask for investments…(promises from us for more assistance, investments, trade) at this point in governance, that is not our emphasis.

(mundos, igasan, how influential within asg, capability to bring in funds from abroad) cabuay: not matter of how influential, it’s because these two guys are looked at as linkage of ji in phils. If they want to bring in funds, normally pass through some of these linkage, dilna arrested few months ago, one of those linkages used by ji to bring in funds…through these linkages that money…are being brought by phils to some of these linkages. Not necessarily through banks (human couriers or through western union) maybe some through human couriers…

(cabuay nica director general)

Cabuay: some documents recovered from milf camp…during time of pres erap…saw some papers which tend to show milf trying to buy arms from north korea…advanced payment of $1m at that time. But because of discovery, transaction never went through.
(never revived) as far as we are concerned, it was never revived (current links that you are aware of) we are not aware of.
(aside from firearms any transaction with north korea like shabu, drugs) so far none.

(papers filled with speech of cruz…he warned about consequences) don’t think there’s such move coming from this admin…(did you feel alluded to) no.

Not calling a council. Floated idea of model, how change can be pursued in phils…cited case in nation’s history. Who are the various elements? Theoretically top leaders of nation…senate pres, speaker of house, chief justice, cbcp…of course pres, afp, imp’t institutions…strategically significant as far as decision making is concerned..talking about…with a lot of people. Whoever wants to listen…change is necessary in phils…
(not credible) my view of comelec is yes.

(why) if we go by last elections, talaga naming maraming cheating
(didn’t pres have hand in it) ibang usapan na yan
(automated, still cheating) in the automated, think that the comelec should isten to views of those opposing it. Called on monsod to present open electoral system, raised many issues. Also summoned officials of …(designed to fail) let’s not be too suspicious. Think comelec is trying best to do something for electoral but we should listne to contrary opinions and not be pressured. why are we forcing automation if really we cannot do it right. Then it could cause failure…against manual elections because abused…why force automation if we are not ready? We should look again into what is feasible…we are a victim of that kind of elections…people suspect we cheated and not have legitimacy…if we do not have credible electoral system…kawawa din susunod na presidente.

(what specific steps will you propose to make elections in 2010 credible) biased on how monsod making proposal…open electoral system…looking into that seriously…do not change manner of elections up to precinct level..makes sense…how do you educate 40m Filipinos…we have not started education process and election 9 months away. If we go by experience of armm…video footages and bumoboto mgaa technician because people don’t know how to do it. Really would not venture into that…respect commissioners but corruption in comelec goes far beyond the commissioners.

(trouble…went around camps…) showed national internal security plan…went around camps introducing nisp…want all soldiers to understand thrust of gov’t in combating insurgency…I know that actively it’s being abused…by both sides.
(how soon is soon) dependent on two parties. Really think going to be soon than later. Importance of resuming the talks and I think they have both agreed. In the end those preconditions will be put aside.
(fighting lawless milf…where are they getting logistics) think they are running low also on ammunition. If you notice the shift of their operations,mostly sabotage more than actual confrontation
(shipments abroad) do not think so. No country in our neighborhood would want an escalation of violence in phils…one way to enter…succeed in getting cooperation of neighboring country
(getting supplies from afp) don’t think so…we have 1.2m loose firearms in phils. That to me is bigger problem.

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