Joker questions U.S. presence in MOA signing

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SENATOR Joker Arroyo wondered why powerful nations such as the United States were interested in the signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He noted that aside from members of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), U.S. Ambassador Kirstie Kenney, Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura, and Australian Ambassador Rod Smith were present during the scheduled signing of the MOA last Aug. 5 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

However, the Supreme Court issued on that day a temporary restraining order stopping the MOA signing.

“Nobody asked the question of why Ambassdor Kenney was there. What is the interest of the United States? The U.S. does not participate in any affair without thinking it over. And their presence there was not for ceremonial lang. Hindi naman nag-cut ng ribbon para sa opening ng flower shop doon, ano,” Arroyo said.

“Can you imagine? The ones who are to witness are all the big guns — OIC, U.S., Japan. That’s the question that should be asked. nobody asked the question,” he said in a chance interview.

However, Arroyo declined to answer questions whether Kenney’s presence has something to do with previous reports that the U.S. is talking with the MILF to put up a U.S. military base within the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) which will be created under the MOA.

“I really don’t know. The thing is that the American presence in the signing, nobody raised a howl. Why? You must remember, iyung Visiting Forces Agreement is for a limited period. Hindi ba matagal na roong may U.S. forces?” he said.

Arroyo also downplayed the Palace statement that it is all systems go for Charter change. “That’s a lie. That won’t happen. Anything about Cha-cha is doomed. I don’t think the republic will go for it.”

“The most pitiful aspect of this development is the fact that the MOA has been taken over by the (Cha-Cha issue.) So it’s part of news management,” he said.

Asked to comment on Press Secretary Jesus Dureza’s statement that the Senate will be blamed if federalism will not push through, Arroyo said: “So what kung hindi matuloy? Cha-cha had always been off and on.”