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Suu Kyi: ‘I will make all the decisions’

/ 12:08 AM November 16, 2015

MY EARLIEST awareness of a place called Burma was sometime after World War II, in connection with a Hollywood movie on the famed “Flying Tigers.” With John Wayne in the starring role, the movie was about an American Volunteer Group of fighter pilots commanded by Gen. Claire Lee Chennault. The group defended Burma and China with their shark-faced P-40 Tomahawk aircraft in the opening months of the Pacific War. The group became part of the Chinese Air Force. It consisted of recruits from the US Army Air Corps, the Navy and the Marine Corps.

Through the years, mainly from news reports, I came across some famous Burmese personalities like U Thant, the third secretary general of the United Nations and the first from Asia (our own Gen. Carlos P. Romulo was the first Asian president of the UN General Assembly); Gen. Ne Win, an army officer who staged a coup in 1962 and initiated decades of military rule in his country; and to a lesser extent, Gen. Aung San, considered as the “Father of the Nation” of modern-day Burma (Myanmar).

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Aung San is better known as the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, perhaps the most famous individual in Burma today, after leading her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide victory in last week’s parliamentary elections.

My only visit to Burma was in 1976, when I was part of a mission headed by Ambassador Felicidad Gonzales to arrange President Ferdinand Marcos’ brief stopover in Rangoon on his way home from a UN conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The short stay afforded me the opportunity to take in the famed Shwedagon Pagoda along with other scenic attractions of the capital city.

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While the government under President Thein Sein, as well as the military under army commander Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, have acknowledged the NLD victory in the polls, it remains to be seen how much power will actually be transferred to the NLD nominee for the presidency.

According to the Burma constitution that was written by the military, no individual with a foreign spouse or offspring can assume the presidency. This particular provision was aimed directly at Suu Kyi to prevent her from becoming president. (If Sen. Grace Poe were running in Burma, her American husband would be ground for her automatic disqualification.)

Some notes on Aung San Suu Kyi.

She is the youngest child of the revolutionary hero, Gen. Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947 when she was only two years old. She spent much of her early life abroad and studied at Oxford University, where she married a British academician, Michael Aris. They have two children, Kim and Alexander, both British subjects.

Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988 and led her party, the NLD, to victory in the 1990 elections. The military ignored the results and instead held on to power while placing Suu Kyi under house arrest and sending to prison thousands of her supporters. For more than 20 years, she remained under some form of detention. In 1991, Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was lauded as an “outstanding example of the power of the powerless.”

Of the 664 seats being contested in parliament, 166 are filled up by military appointees, while the remainder go to those who are elected. This arrangement ensures that the military has veto power over any constitutional amendment that seeks to change the rules on the presidency. For any amendment to pass, it would require a 75-percent approval by parliament.

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Nevertheless, in spite of these obstacles, the 70-year-old Suu Kyi, known in Burma as “The Lady,” said that she will lead the country. A BBC news report also quotes her as saying, “I will make all the decisions” and will be “a rose by any other name.”

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Leni Robredo, Liberal Party vice presidential candidate, has hit the nail on the head: Sen. Grace Poe’s citizenship controversy is more of a moral rather than a legal issue.

At a meeting with Inquirer staff, Robredo pointed out that Poe renounced her Philippine citizenship to take on American citizenship. She later reassumed Filipino citizenship and, four years later, renounced allegiance to the United States, just in time to assume as chair of the

Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. That was in 2010.

Edcel Lagman, in an earlier commentary titled “Shattered loyalty” (Opinion, 9/8/15), put it this way: “Loyalty cannot be discarded and retrieved like apparel in one’s wardrobe. Severance of loyalty is almost irredeemable. No legal fiction can restore fractured loyalty to its original whole.

“Loyalty must never be trivialized. It must endure the most compelling vicissitudes. Once loyalty is forfeited for reasons not insuperable, its retrieval is peripheral, its restoration incomplete.”

Lagman goes on to say that “although loyalty to the Republic is not one of the enumerated minimum legal qualifications for the position of president, it permeates and is ascendant to all qualifications.”

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Notes for Philippine National Police Chief Ricardo Marquez.

The children of retired brigadier general Sergio Isada, PMA Class 1942, wrote to report that recently they visited the grave of their father at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They could not help but notice the sad state of the grave of Gen. Rafael Crame, the first Filipino chief of the Philippine Constabulary, which is adjacent to that of their father. The headstone was filled with dirt and mildew and the name was barely readable.

Perhaps the PNP can devote a little effort to clean up the Crame gravesite as a token of remembrance and respect for their first Filipino chief.

Bonifacio Day is only two weeks away. Let us remember all who fell while in the service of country and people.

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