Reports persist that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Manila to simply ensure clean and credible elections instead of running for any elective post in 2010. And that she gave Sen. Noynoy Aquino at his request a brief private audience.
Are these to be believed?
First, the Arroyo story. For obvious reasons, neither Malacanang nor the U.S. Embassy will confirm this story. But perhaps certain things could help. While Clinton was in town, the Star ran my piece on Mrs. Arroyo possibly running for vice-president. It elicited a few telephone calls. Before the day was out the ruling Lakas-Kampi party announced Edu Manzano, a tv host of modest standing, as its vice presidential candidate.
Some observers noted that although not all politicians are superstitious, they generally avoid making important decisions on the 13th day of the month, least of all on Friday the 13th. They are not likely to build a building with a 13th floor or be photographed in a group of 13. But the ruling party chose the date for Edu’s run as though it could no longer wait.
In apparent appreciation, President Barack Obama put his arm (figuratively) around Mrs. Arroyo at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore. He sat with her at the US-ASEAN summit at the margins of the APEC meeting and asked her to draft a five-year plan for US-ASEAN engagement in trade, security, human rights and climate change.
A heart attack may no longer be called for if at the end of the day, contrary to all previous speculations, Mrs. Arroyo and family finally decide to go on an extended ocean cruise around the world, end up in the Galapagos Islands or Rio, and not run for anything anymore.
What about Hillary’s reported encounter with Noynoy? It is to Noynoy’s credit that if there was such a meeting, he has not made political capital of it by leaking it to the press. But it should be good for all if he could reassure his present and potential supporters that he is not running as an American candidate. It is no longer fashionable or helpful to be called an American boy.
In 1953, the Filipino voters did not mind having a president who was openly managed by the CIA’s Col. Edward Lansdale. Ramon Magsaysay was genuinely popular among the masses because of his anti-Huk campaign, and when he died in a plane crash in 1957, our people interred him in their pantheon of heroes. No Filipino scholar has since dared to reexamine his record, so year after year, several men and women are proud to receive their Magsaysay awards. But times have changed.
Even though the US had figured prominently in deposing Marcos and installing Cory Aquino as president, she tried not to be seen openly as an American marionette. She marched to the Senate to try to persuade her own senators to approve a new treaty that would have given the US bases another ten years after 1991, but no one could persuade her to receive US Defense Secretary Richard Cheney even for a few minutes, for being the alter-ego of US President George Herbert Bush who had made the unfortunate mistake of praising Marcos earlier for his “adherence” to the democratic process.
Those who have heard Noynoy say anything on any subject at all would probably wonder what he could have said to Clinton. A one-way conversation seemed more likely, with the young senator lending his ears. Clinton might have found him eager to support US global policies and programs, whether or not he becomes president.
One program could be “reproductive health.” Aware of the strong moral and constitutional opposition to the RH bill in Congress, Clinton had wisely steered away from the subject in her public statements here. But she remains firmly committed to propagating reproductive health around the world. As she told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives “reproductive health” includes access to abortion, and the Obama administration is resolved to abolish all obstacles to such access around the world.
Noynoy is a proud supporter of the RH bill, even though, like so many others, he has shown very little or no understanding at all of the constitutional, ethical and anthropological issues involved. He says women should be free to choose, completely unaware that they are already free to choose----no law prohibits them from contracepting or getting sterilized. Then he says the State should provide contraceptives and sterilization services to everyone, completely unaware that this is not constitutionally possible---the Constitution says the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.
Like his friends in the RH lobby, the young senator obviously sees no contradiction in the State on one hand protecting the unborn from the moment of conception and the State on the other hand running a contraceptives and sterilization program whose purpose is to prevent women from conceiving.
Face to face with the formidable Hillary Clinton, did Noynoy not reaffirm his support for the US RH policy and promise to pursue it should he ever become president? Or did Clinton choose not to discuss it at all, given her guest’s limitations? US National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200, however, commands the US President and Secretary of State never to let any opportunity pass without taking up the population issue---now codenamed reproductive health---when meeting with foreign leaders.
Hillary does not owe us a statement, but Noynoy Aquino clearly does.