Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror January 3, 2007  edition, p. A6

Don’t get angry at America for protecting one of her own. If anyone deserves our rage, it’s the Filipino officials who negotiated and signed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA); the Senators who voted to  atify it as a treaty; the Supreme Court justices who  upheld its constitutionality; and the occupant of Malacañang who is now responsible for its implementation. None of them looked out for us.

The US Congress differentiates between a treaty and an executive agreement. It considers the former to be binding on all three branches of government while the latter commits only the executive. Our public officials ignored that. The custody provision in the VFA is vague. They let it stand.

Mrs. Gloria Arroyo had to choose between “us” and “them”.  The latter prevailed. She’ll get her doggie biscuit.

And speaking of biscuit, we can talk about Richard Anthony Fadullon, the Justice Department employee who exhibited the same canine qualities that earned Mrs. Arroyo her biscuit and got Raul Gonzalez appointed justice secretary, Hermogenes Esperon AFP chief, and Merceditas Gutierrez ombudsman.

Fadullon threw out the 21 counts of perjury, violation of the Philippine Passport Act of 1996, and falsification of public documents against Mrs. Arroyo’s phone pal because “the reasonable probability of his guilt thereon has not been fairly established by the state.”

Reasonable probability of guilt is a movable feast under this regime that’s notorious for being passive about prosecuting friends and active about persecuting  enemies. There’s one set of rules for Garci, Joc-joc Bolante, and Comelec commissioners and another set for party-list representatives, Philippine marines, and journalists that Mike Arroyo does not like.

Fadullon dismissed the perjury charge against Garci because the complainants “did not indicate the specific statement alleged to be false and made under oath.”

Which is it—that he could not find a specific falsehood in Garci’s statements to the House investigation committee, or that Garci was not under oath when he said he never left the country? Or is it both—Garci lied but did not commit perjury?

The government of Singapore sent our government a diplomatic note confirming Garci’s entry into their country. Fadullon said that didn’t prove anything because the note was not authenticated.

What did Raul Gonzalez have to say about Singapore’s note verbale on three occasions last year?

One: “That is something that has to be explained because there is a certification from Singapore that he was there and then he immediately left Singapore on board a British Airways flight. That evidence is really hard to disprove.”

Two: “[This] document says he was in Singapore. That is one piece of evidence which is hard to refute because it passed through diplomatic channels.”

Three: “There is a discrepancy between the certification issued by Singaporean authorities and Garcillano. That must be reconciled by Garcillano. It is his word against the certification of the Singaporean authorities. ”

What did our Department of Foreign Affairs say? “Both countries appreciate the integrity of a note verbale. We have to stand by its integrity because we ourselves issue note verbales.”

Fadullon could have, and should have, asked Garci to reconcile the discrepancy between his unused passport and the note verbale from Singapore. Instead, he said, “between the note verbale from Singapore and the Philippine passport, the latter should prevail.”  Even if the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said Garci’s passport did not conform to standards.

Fadullon explained, “What was merely found therein was that the passport does not conform to standards. The legal terms falsified, forged and fake are terms too strong to be merely defined by the technical people of the BSP as not conforming to standards…the BSP would have stated it in no uncertain terms.”

Fadullon pegs his argument on what he thinks “the BSP would have stated in no uncertain terms”. Why was it not enough for the BSP to say a passport does not conform to standards?

The BSP sets standards for Philippine passports and currency. Who feels comfortable traveling abroad with a passport that does not conform to BSP standards? Who will agree to exchange everything he owns for peso bills that do not conform to BSP standards?  My hi-tech color copier wants to know.

Fadullon cried when he was not spoon-fed with specific statements and bawled when he was given a spoonful of documentary evidence.  I don’t know whether to call him a conniver or a dimwit.

But considering this is the season for reaffirming our faith in the innate goodness of humanity, I think, between calling Fadullon a conniving loyalist and branding him a dimwit who hears nothing, sees nothing and knows nothing, “the latter should prevail.”

Happy New Year!