Espying Emergency Rule
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written Oct. 11, 2005
For the Standard Today,
October 13 issue
The espionage scandal involving two Filipinos (Leandro Aragoncillo and Michael Ray Aquino) in the US and three so far unnamed Filipino politicians here (most likely Joseph Estrada and Panfilo Lacson, and a third still indeterminate one) may be the cause celebre that will compel the Arroyo Government to declare emergency rule, short of martial law.
Let me explain.
ABC News called it the first case of spying in the White House. Which has led to back-slapping and self-congratulations from the usual parochial types about ang galing talaga ng Pinoy!
The only reason why Leandro Aragoncillo was able to do his snooping, undetected, even in the White House, is because he is a native of a pre-industrial country that is, additionally, not belligerent – on the contrary, habitually obsequious - towards the US, and was therefore not the least bit suspected of harboring any motivation to snoop around in its most secret chambers.
The Americans would never have placed a Japanese-born American citizen in the White House in 1941 even as US cryptographers were breaking the Japanese naval and diplomatic codes. Nor would they place a Japanese-born American in the White House even now, 64 years after Pearl Harbor, because Japan remains an economic and technological rival even though it is a geopolitical ally.
Would the British have placed a German-born British subject in the inner sanctum of the Admiralty while their cryptographers were unraveling the secrets of the German Enigma encoding/decoding machine? Of course not. Perhaps a Gurkha or a Fijian, to empty the ash trays or sweep the floor, but not a German, even for that. You get my drift.
According to the Oct. 7 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aragoncillo worked in the White House from 1999 to 2001 and was assigned to the Vice-President’s Office. That means he worked under, first, Al Gore, then (from January 2001) under Dick Cheney.
There is no information (so far) on where Aragoncillo was assigned between leaving the White House in 2001 (month unstated) and joining the FBI in July 2004. But in March 2005, when Michael Ray Aquino – former lieutenant of Panfilo Lacson in the PNP – was arrested for a visa violation, it was Aragoncillo, already with the FBI, who interceded for him. This suggests a connection between the two (and three, if you count Lacson) long before March 2005.
Erap has also admitted that Aquino was his godson, most likely in Aquino’s marriage, when Lacson, Aquino’s boss, was a major player in the Erap government and was being groomed by the power brokers (Mark Jimenez, Jinggoy Estrada and the Chinese Mafia) to be Erap’s successor in 2004.
The four major dramatis personae in this drama were/are clearly linked to each other: Aragoncillo, Aquino, Erap, Lacson.
Erap first met Aragoncillo in 1999 when he made a state visit to Washington DC and Aragoncillo was a staff member of the Clinton White House. Since then, Aragoncillo made 15 trips to the Philippines from 2000 to June 2005.
It is my belief, though I have no proof, that it was Lacson, not Erap, whom Aragoncillo met with mostly, during his 15 visits to Manila. For one thing, Erap had been deposed in January 2001 and was no longer a significant player.
For another, Erap has a superficial personality. With Erap, what you see is what you get, which is not much. It is Lacson who has a complex personality: wily, manipulative, secretive, inscrutably poker-faced, basically amoral, able to operate simultaneously at several levels, comfortable working in the darkest shadows. All the ideal personality traits of a master spy. And terribly ambitious.
It is my belief, though again I have no proof, that when Lacson went to Washington DC in December 2000, he established contact with Erap’s friend Aragoncillo, at that time ensconced in the Vice-President’s Office in the White House, in transit between Al Gore and Dick Cheney. This initial contact would explain why Aragoncillo subsequently made so many trips (14) to the Philippines, even after Erap had been removed from power.
When questioned by media on the purpose of his December 2000 trip to Washington, Lacson gave different reasons: to visit his family, to receive an award from an industrial security organization, to ask the US Congress for a $26 million grant for his recently established PNP Foundation. (See my article “PNP: Ping Next President,” Dec. 12, 2000, and subsequent articles, all archived in www.tapatt.org).
Each of these three reasons may have been valid, but the real reason, it turned out, was his apparent attempt to sell himself to the Americans as a fast-track (meaning, by coup d’etat) alternative to both the sinking Erap and the rising Gloria Arroyo. His proposal was supposedly turned down.
What has all this got to do with all the current speculation about an impending declaration of emergency rule short of martial law, supposedly contained in Executive Order No. 467? Plenty.
The revelation in American media (CNN, ABC News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post) that Aragoncillo stole secret documents not only from the FBI but also from Dick Cheney’s office in the White House ratchets up the fall-out from this scandal.
Dick Cheney is the leading figure in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the neo-conservative grouping founded in 1997 that has hijacked US foreign, defense and domestic security policies ever since George W. Bush (and Cheney) moved to the White House in January 2001. (See my article “Uncle Dick and the PNAC,” Sept. 07, 2004.)
Among the priorities of the PNAC, as stated in its policy recommendations of September 2000, one year before 9/11, are: establish full military control of the Middle East, encourage regime change in Beijing, increase US forces in Southeast Asia.
I have mentioned this several times in this space, but let me repeat it here: By withdrawing the tiny Philippine contingent from Iraq, by signing an oil exploration joint agreement with Beijing, and by failing to move decisively against the Jamaah Islamiyah in Mindanao, President Arroyo has unwittingly undermined, however tangentially, those three PNAC priorities, and they want her out.
ABC News has been quoted by the Inquirer that “officials say the classified material, which Aragoncillo stole from the Vice-President’s office, included damaging dossiers on the President of the Philippines. He then passed those on to opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation….”
How damaging? Probably more damaging than those he stole from the FBI database. After all, the FBI snoops are only bureaucrats performing their bureaucratic functions. Cheney and the PNAC that he heads dictate policy and would have more detailed information on anyone whom they want to see removed from office.
How damaging? Possibly details about the dollar deposits, real estate holdings and other assets of husband and wife in the US, and possibly details about his and her (separate) sexual peccadilloes. I cannot imagine anything more damaging than this. All of which may tumble out into the open when the indictments against Aquino are made public soon.
In anticipation of the public uproar that will greet these revelations, the Arroyo government is deliberately sending signals that suggest an impending declaration of emergency rule, short of martial law, to stifle dissent, discourage demos, etc.
The proffered justification is the high price of oil and the need to protect the public from its consequences by government take-over of strategic industries, including oil, power, communications and transportation companies.
But this is a non-sequitur. The price of oil in the world market has been dropping from $69 to $62 per barrel in the past three weeks. Even finance secretary Gary Teves has registered his dissenting opinion that “it is difficult to imagine how a government suffering from fiscal problems would be able to run those (power) firms without aggravating its (own) budget difficulties.” (Inquirer, Oct. 12.) I would not be surprised if the credible and straight-talking Gary Teves is fired or is forced to resign soon.
It is also possible that Lacson already has those damaging dossiers stolen by Aragoncillo from Dick Cheney’s office, but was/is biding his time to make them public until he is ready with his own grab for power, which would be distinct and separate from Binay’s and Morales’ silly Solidarity “caretaker (revolutionary) council” that seeks to restore Erap to the presidency. The Americans may have unwittingly upset Lacson’s plans, but it does not necessarily mean that they are solicitous about GMA’s future either. *****
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