Falling from grace

In the old days, politics was synonymous to public service. That was at least what we were taught in school. But judging from what is going on not only in this country but other places as well, this may no longer be the case. There are still people who enter politics wanting to do good but there are others who look at politics as a vehicle to gain power and wealth.

When this happens and the politician falls from grace, it is often painful, brutal and traumatic.

For example, we are now witnessing this unfold in Malaysia. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the son of the second Prime Minister of Malaysia who ruled the country for almost ten years, went down in a stunning defeat in the hands of coalition between his former mentor and ally Mahathir and jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Now, there is a great possibility that he will go to jail amid allegations of corruption which also involves his wife, Rosmah Mansor. Both of course are denying any wrong doing but now that he is out of power, a lot of issues that were previously suppressed when Razak was in power about corruption and the murder of a Mongolian model rumored to be his mistress will now be investigated.

The most serious of the charges is a missing US$4.5 billion allegedly laundered by 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a government unit set up by the Razak government in 2009. It has been alleged that a sizable portion of that amount found its way to the personal bank account of Razak. Razak’s problems are compounded by the unpopularity of his wife who is apparently fond of signature bags, expensive suitcases and jewelry.

Razak’s fall from grace was immediate. He and his wife were barred from leaving the country and his residence and other apartments that he owns were raided by the police confiscating about 284 bags and suitcases, many filled with cash and jewelry. It is an unfolding political drama that has caught the imagination of many Malaysians.

If Malaysia does end up sending Razak to jail, Malaysia will be joining three other countries and territories in the region that have sent former leaders to jail. The first is South Korea which sent four of its former presidents to jail including its first female President. A former president, Roh Moo-hyun, jumped to his death when an investigation was opened against him thereby avoiding the ignominy of going to jail. The common denominator of all these presidents going to jail is corruption. Taiwan also has sent two of its former presidents to jail. Thailand did sentence two former Prince Ministers to jail, the siblings Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra but both were able to leave the country before their sentences could be carried out which the military probably preferred than both staying in the country where they can create political mischief. Both are now living in exile.

We here did send two of our former presidents to jail. Former President Benigno Aquino III is currently being investigated for various offenses which could still lead to his eventual detention but President Duterte does not seem so determined to send him to jail. Mr. Aquino will be one lucky fellow.

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Those who follow the developments in the South China Sea are in anguish due to the stance taken by the administration of President Duterte in relation to what China is doing.

In spite of the country’s clear-cut victory in our arbitral case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Duterte administration has not filed any diplomatic protest of China’s continuing militarization of the South China Sea. In the words of the current United States Pacific Commander in Chief Admiral Harry Harris, China is now for all intents and purposes in control of the whole of the South China Sea and there is a need for the US to increase its military capability to be able to deal with the situation more forcefully.

On our side, no one is more frustrated than Justice Antonio Carpio who has been urging the government to at least file a diplomatic protest to officially express our disagreement with what China is doing and avoid the appearance of acquiescing to the activities of China which might affect any legal actions that future governments would want to take.

Another former official who is scratching his head is former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, a former naval officer and a product of the US Naval Academy. He believes that the country is now in mortal danger due to the ability of China to threaten the whole country in a matter of minutes from its island bases in the South China Sea.

Unfortunately for all other critics, the one person who matters most in this country has a different take of the situation. The President honestly believes that officially protesting China’s actions might provoke a war that the country cannot win. Regardless of what we think with this argument, there is very little that anybody can do. No one in government is prepared to tell the President that this is not necessarily the case.

The question is, why this belief? Since the President has not elaborated why he believes that a diplomatic protest against China will trigger war, we can only speculate on the real reasons. Perhaps, he and President Xi have a secret agreement. If so, he should convene the National Security Council to discuss the issue. No matter how well-meaning the President is, sovereignty is bigger than any one person to be deciding all by himself without the benefit of informed counsel.

Topics: Najib Razak , Rosmah Mansor , Antonio Carpio , Permanent Court of Arbitration , Benigno Aquino III
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