Aquino hits Kiram before new soldiers
MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III criticized the "masterminds" of the Sabah standoff at the commencement exercises of the "Pudang Kalis" class of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio on Sunday, March 17.
Aquino hurled a fresh round of attacks against those who planned the operation in Malaysian-controlled Sabah, where Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram sent some 180 to 400 of his followers in February.
Aquino hit Kiram and claimed the latter's actions were part of a conspiracy. The National Bureau of Investigation has since started its probe of the said conspiracy and has subpoenaed Kiram's political adviser Pastor "Boy" Saycon.
He criticized Kiram as having only thought about himself, which he said was the root of all problems.
"Did its masterminds consider how their actions would affect the majority?," Aquino asked, saying the recent skirmishes between Malaysian authorities and the Sulu army have put the lives of 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah in danger.
"Did the masterminds of this situation consider any of this as they provoked and aggravated the situation—as they gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets?" he said.
Addressing the cadets, he added: "You would know this from your classes in Logistics; you know how much preparation is needed to transport two hundred people across a sea, and to arm a number of them. What was going on in the minds of those behind this incident?"
Aquino said whoever is behind the plan to initiate the crisis in Sabah should have resorted to legal, peaceful means, citing the example of the country's decision to elevate its maritime dispute with China over the South China Sea to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
"Let us look at the situation in the West Philippine Sea as an example. Is it not true that, like in the issue of Sabah, we continue to hold firm to principles founded on a rules-based approach, toward a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Bajo de Masinloc?" he said.
"We have already seen the positive fruits of dialogue with our countrymen who, like us, want the Bangsamoro to progress: earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all, as opposed to pointing weapons at each other."
Aquino asked the soldiers not to let their emotions "cloud" their judgment when they face similar "crossroads."
"As the next leaders of our uniformed forces, you bear on your shoulders a grave responsibility. And as someone who is a little bit older than you, perhaps this is the lesson I can impart: whenever you face a dilemma, you need only put yourselves in the shoes of those that will be the most affected, the most abused, the poorest, those who are in most need of your protection—and I can promise you, what is right and what is wrong will become clearer," he said.
In his speech in front of the 124-strong graduating class, Aquino used similar themes in past political speeches.
He reminded the class the people is their boss and told them to follow the road carved by the people so they don't lose their way, a message he often uses in promoting his political platforms and his idea of "tuwid na daan" or straight and narrow path.
Aquino also challenged graduates to do all they could to find solutions to their problems, rather than passing on their problems to those who would come after them, or onto the next generation.
This is the same theme he has often used to criticize former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom he laments handed him all of her administration's problems.
The President also said he is almost halfway through his term, reminding them he only has 6 years, but is inspired by the people to continue his reforms -- another theme he often employs when campaigning for his senatorial bets for the 2013 midterm elections.
He did not mention any names during his speech -- not even Kiram's -- but used political undertones to deliver his message.
The PMA prides itself for being an apolitical, neutral organization, but ironically has politicians as honorary members, including Arroyo (class of 1978), senator Manuel Villar Jr (1977), senatorial bet Loren Legarda (class of 1969) and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas (1984) among others.
Also present at the graduation ceremonies were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista, and Vice President Jejomar Binay who heads the United Nationalist Alliance -- the opposition to Aquino's senatorial slate. - Rappler.com