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Welcoming a good neighbor

/ 01:30 AM February 10, 2015

The country welcomes Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is here on his final stop of a three-country trip that included Malaysia and Brunei. It seems that Widodo puts a premium on being a good neighbor, first visiting the countries in the immediate neighborhood of Indonesia.

Widodo has won the admiration of many because of his humble ways and activist origins, refusing special treatment for him and his family when they traveled, and staying in his old family home despite his rising stature. But his visit to the country is shadowed by the pending execution of a female Filipino drug mule, even if Widodo approved the execution just last month of six drug couriers, all but one of them foreigners.

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The Indonesian leader’s visit also comes at a sensitive time here, since we are in the midst of hearings and investigations on the operation that netted one Malaysian terrorist but resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force operatives of the Philippine National Police, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters as well as some civilians. I am sure, in his conversations with P-Noy, Widodo would have a lot to say about Muslim-Christian relations, as well as the ongoing dispute over sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. We look forward to learning from this most unusual and rare leader.

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Hhe has kept a low profile in recent years, but apparently businessman and one-time politician Mark (Crespo) Jimenez is back to his old wheeling-dealing ways.

If “wheeling-dealing” carries with it rather unsavory connotations, then read it in this context as simply a description of Jimenez’s preferred way of doing things. Once described by former president and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada as a “financial genius,” Jimenez was indicted in the United States for an alleged violation of election laws, specifically by giving donations well beyond the legal limit to the reelection campaign of President Bill Clinton.

The Obama administration, however, “sprung” Jimenez from detention, enabling the businessman-investor to return to the Philippines where he quickly ingratiated himself to the Estrada administration and then to the Arroyo administration, only to run afoul of the Arroyo camp’s other interests.

But Jimenez continues to hold court in his present-day preferred haunts, mainly the coffee shop of Raffles Hotel where he seems to be conducting simultaneous meetings with various groups, including our small coterie of media women.

In the course of our lunch meeting and well on to tea time, Jimenez regales the ladies with stories from his colorful past, including a line-up of past girlfriends, many of them young actresses who were but teenagers when he was going out with them, leading us to conclude that he had run some sort of “finishing school” for aspiring starlets.

As for the Clintons, Jimenez assures that he still supports them and that he in fact is planning to fly to the United States soon to help in Hillary’s expected candidacy.

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Maybe that’s why Jimenez (no relation, by the way) is in the process of rehabilitating himself, or at least clarifying the status of some of the cases filed against him, including charges of kidnapping filed by a former long-time partner, and a petition for guardianship over his person filed by his adult children.

The kidnapping charges were filed by Caroline Castañeda-Jimenez who alleged that Mark Jimenez had her confined in a rehabilitation center in the country on grounds of mental instability. If I remember right, the case landed in the headlines when her lawyer and family members had to conduct a “rescue” operation since Caroline was reportedly being held against her will.

The kidnap charges were subsequently dismissed by prosecutors while a petition for a permanent protection order for Caroline against Mark was likewise dismissed in 2012. Asked where Caroline, Mark’s partner for 30 years who helped raise their children and his progeny by his first wife, is now, Jimenez simply states: “Oh, she’s abroad now,” reportedly after a financial settlement.

As for the petition for guardianship filed by two of his 13 children (as far as he knows, he says) by different women, the case dragged on for six years until it was dismissed in 2013. The petitioners had alleged that the petition had been filed for Mark’s own protection since he was mentally unstable and was a threat both to himself and his minor children. But due to the repeated failure of the petitioners to appear in court, this case was also dismissed.

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What’s in store for this reputed “financial genius”?

“Wheeling and dealing” may sound somehow shady, but it seems to be working in the background—putting together potential investors and companies in need, with not a little support from friends in high places—and is Jimenez’s preferred modus.

It’s not even too farfetched to expect his return to local politics, despite his troubled and stormy excursions in the field. One son, one of those who filed the guardianship petition, once observed that one sign of his alleged “bipolar” state is Jimenez’s penchant for “high-risk” behavior, an example of which was his reported violation of American election laws.

But it’s possible the risky business could stem more from ego rather than instability. Jimenez clearly is one man who feels he deserves a place at the center of things, even if he needs to keep a low profile. “I am a reformed man,” he protests when queried closely about his misadventures, citing among other things his charitable ventures carried out under a quasi-religious movement.

Well, let’s hope the “return” of Mark Jimenez augurs not further intrigue or risk, but simply the good old capitalist pursuit of wealth. Any man, no matter his background or reputation, deserves another shot at redemption.

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TAGS: column, Indonesia, Joko Widodo, mark jimenez, Rina Jimenez-David
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