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The parallel universe of China and Corona

In the parallel universe of the Philippines last week, the top news story was that China had increased to 92 the number of its vessels encroaching on the shoal of the Senate impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona who, after delivering a brief 3 hour long opening statement, proceeded to excuse himself from his trial and escape to the Nokia Theater in Hollywood to the set of the American Idol finals where he begged his fellow judges—Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler—to save him the same way they saved Jessica Sanchez several weeks before. It was his only hope.

A parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with other realities. In quantum physics, this phenomenon is defined as “universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event.”

In the rational universe, there is no logical connection between China’s “creeping invasion” of the Scarborough Shoal, located just 124 miles from Masinloc, Zambales—and more than 500 miles from China—and the Senate impeachment trial of Corona who is charged with failing to disclose as much as $12 million in assets in his mandatory Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) annual filings.

Individuals can firmly oppose China’s claims to ownership of the pile of rocks known in China as “Huangyan Island” and still believe that Chief Justice Corona is “innocent” because he was not required to disclose his dollar accounts—and pay taxes on them—in his SALNs as he “in good faith” thought they were covered by the confidential dollar secrecy law.

These are not mutually exclusive positions as one involves foreign policy and sovereignty issues while the other relates to domestic corruption and good governance concerns.
But yet somehow in this alternate reality, the denizens supporting China in the Scarborough Shoal dispute are also actively defending Chief Justice Corona.

This reality’s most well known denizen is “Victor N. Arches II” who penned an op-ed piece in the Manila Standard Today on April 28, 2012 arguing that “the Scarborough Shoal does belong to China which discovered it and drew it in a map as early as 1279 during the Yuan Dynasty.”

The Arches’ piece, which was reprinted in thousands of publications throughout China as proof that “Even Filipino admits Huangyan belongs to China” was also published in some other southeast Asian publications under the name “Victor Qi Shi” which, it turns out, is “knight” in Mandarin.

It turns out this “victorious knight” did not express an opinion on any other matter until May 23 when he emailed his thoughts (“the Kangaroo Court”) on the subject of Corona’s impeachment: “Yes, the Filipino people’s vindictiveness is in full view once again as they prejudge Corona even before the court does similar to how they prejudged Former President Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo even before the court rendered a “guilty” verdict. Past witch-hunts did not change the condition of the poor in the Philippines though. It just changed the names of public officials in power.”

Another well-known citizen-denizen of this alternate reality is Inquirer columnist Rigoberto Tiglao who criticized Pres. P-Noy Aquino for deploying a used coast guard cutter purchased from the U.S. (a “warship” he called it) to confront the eight Chinese vessels that were poaching in the Scarborough Shoal waters on April 10.

“With this move,” Tiglao wrote, “Mr. Aquino made the Philippines the party militarizing the dispute. The Chinese must be thanking the President for giving them the higher moral ground in this crisis. It gave the hawks in the Chinese leadership all the ammunition they need to demand military action in Panatag.”

If he is not writing columns like “Scarborough fail: How Aquino blew it” excoriating Pres. Aquino for his handling of the shoal dispute, Tiglao is otherwise busy defending Corona. In his May 17 column, “Colossal deception on Corona’s accounts”, Tiglao wrote: “Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales’ allegation that Chief Justice Renato Corona has $12 million in dollar accounts will go down in Philippine history as one of the biggest and most deviously constructed deceptions ever foisted on the public.”

Tiglao disputed the Ombudsman’s testimony that Corona has $12 million in his dollar accounts claiming instead that Corona only has $687,433 in those dollar accounts. 

Unfortunately for Tiglao, Corona admitted at his trial that he has at least $2.5 million in his dollar accounts which he claims he earned by dabbling in dollar trading since he was 16.
Since the dollar estimates don’t connect, what dots connect Tiglao to Chief Justice Corona?

The answer is former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) who appointed Tiglao as her Press Secretary on April 1, 2002, then as her Chief of Staff on December 9, 2002 and then as her Ambassador to Greece in October of 2005. Corona served as her Chief of Staff before Tiglao, before GMA appointed him to the Supreme Court on April 9, 2002 and then promoted him to Chief Justice on May 17, 2010, less than 1 ½ months before the end of her term in office.

What dots connect GMA to China?

In her June 15, 2011 Malaya column (“China’s intrusions are connected to Gloria Arroyo’s deals”), Ellen Tordesillas wrote: “The current word war between the Philippines and China is another proof of the continuing curse of Gloria Arroyo on the Filipino people. The latest series of diplomatic protests… have its roots in the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) entered into by the Arroyo government with China in 2005 which allowed China… to explore not only the Philippine-occupied islands in the disputed mineral-rich Spratlys but areas that are clearly Philippine territory.”

According to Barry Wain, a researcher with Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, “JMSU was largely a sellout on the part of the Philippines. The Philippines has made breathtaking concessions in agreeing to the area of study including parts of its own continental shelf not even claimed by China or Vietnam.”

Tordesillas added: “The JMSU was initialed during Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 visit to China which paved the way for the signing of at least two graft-riddled deals : North Rail and national broadband network with ZTE agreements.” These deals, alleged to involve hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks and overpricing, have been linked to former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

The constitutionality of the JMSU is pending before the Philippine Supreme Court on the ground that because the Constitution provides that “exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State,” the Arroyo government had no right to enter into this JMSU with China.

When the JMSU was being negotiated in 2003, then Philippine Undersecretary of Justice Merceditas Gutierrez—before she was appointed Ombudsman—recommended a change in the wording from “exploration” to “seismic survey” as she was aware of the constitutional prohibition. With just a change in form but not in substance, the JMSU was signed allowing China to explore Philippine waters.

The JMSU study found that Reed Bank, known in the Philippines as Recto Bank, contains about 3.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 440 million barrels of oil. In his 2011 State of the Nation (SONA) address, Pres. Aquino famously warned China: “If you trample on Recto Bank, you are trampling on Recto Avenue”.

If he is not removed by the Philippine Senate this week, then Chief Justice Corona will preside in the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the JMSU and China’s right to encroach into Philippine territory as provided for in the JMSU.

The 92 Chinese vessels in the Panatag Shoal may soon be approaching the Philippine Senate Building in anticipation of the “single quantum event” of the parallel universe—the decision of the Senate Impeachment Court.

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