The Malaysian government is fooling the Philippines — again. It already freed last month Manuel Amalilio from a 20-month prison term for passport fraud. But it is breaking its promise to deport him to Manila, to face worse charges of scamming 15,000 Filipinos of P12 billion (891M ringgit, $205M). Supposedly its Ministry of Home Affairs has changed its mind about extraditing the fugitive out of "neighborliness." Just like that. So the Interpol, Philippine courts, and Amalilio's victims, mostly working-class Muslims like Malaysians, are left twisting in the wind.
Manila had trusted Prime Minister Najib Razak's word too much. Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Feb. 2013 already alerted the Philippines about impending deceit. He divulged then, through this column, that Amalilio held high influence. The conman is a nephew of Razak's foreign minister, solicitor general, and the Sabah chief minister (see Gotcha, 2 Feb. 2013). They were not mere ruling party mates of the PM; the Sabah politico, one of Malaysia's sleaziest for multimillion-dollar bribes from forestry grants and money laundering in Hong Kong, was Razak's main bankroller. Malaysian sources hinted of the kinsmen's ties to Amalilio's Ponzi scheme in Muslim Mindanao. So it was unlikely they would turn him in to Philippine justice.
Razak's officials were in fact already playing games at the time on Philippine counterparts. Amalilio, since fleeing from Mindanao in Nov. 2012, had been spotted several times partying in Sabah. Informed by Malaysia Interpol, Philippine lawmen flew in to take custody. At the airport, however, Sabah local cops stopped the flight and retook the fugitive. Purportedly he had just been charged with entering his Sabah home state on dubious travel papers, so had to be tried. Whereupon, they checked him into a hospital suite, and in two days "sentenced" him to prison till 2014. Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, who was helping Amalilio's victims file charges, was so stunned that he publicly denounced the odd twist of events. The to-do subsided only after Razak's gofers promised Foreign Sec. Albert del Rosario and Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to deport their criminal countryman after serving jail time.
Last month, upon Amalilio's release, de Lima tried to collect on the Malaysian promise. The Home Ministry gave no reason for withholding Amalilio from justice. That is just Razak's "neighborliness" with a nation of the same Malay race. Implicated years ago in murder and multimillion-euro kickbacks, Razak simply is untrustworthy.
It matters not to Razak that Manila is a major ally, whose help he needs when Malaysia chairs next year the ASEAN economic integration. Forgotten perhaps was Malacañang's all-out war against a titular Sultan of Sulu, whose ragtag army had "invaded" Sabah in 2013. (Razak falsely had linked Anwar to that side issue in a vain attempt to silence him about Amalilio's political and blood ties. Two of Anwar's fellow-oppositionists, MPs Tian Chua and Rasiah Sivarasa, were charged with sedition for meeting in Manila, at the height of the Amalilio furor, with scam victims, prosecutors, and Filipino newsmen.)
Razak's duplicitous treatment of Manila is highlighted by a similar row with New Zealand. Last May police there charged a Malaysian envoy with sexual assault and burglary. Invoking diplomatic immunity the offender fled to Kuala Lumpur and from there slandered the female complainant. New Zealand persisted with its raps, forcing Razak to turn over the envoy last Oct. of course, con artist Amalilio enjoys from Razak more than just diplomatic cover.
* * *
Englishman reader John Denne expounds on the nursery rhyme, "Ring a ring o' roses," which I cited Friday in relation to quarantining:
"When growing up we were told that the rhyme referred to the Great Plague of London, a severe strain of flu. It was thought that heavily scented flowers were a form of defense. Moneyed folk then surrounded themselves with such flowers, especially English roses, and wore flowers on their dress. The first signs of disease in sufferers were sneezing, which turned to fever and death. (This also led to people blessing someone who sneezed.) So the poor children would mock them and sing, 'A ring, a ring of roses, a pocket full of poses. Atishoo! Atishoo!, They all fall down'."
* * *
Filipinos would learn historical lessons from the book, "Panahon ng Hapon: Sining sa Digmaan: Digmaan sa Sining (Japanese Occupation: Art in War: War in Art." Published 1992 in 50th anniversary commemoration of World War II in the Philippines, it features the body of literary and artworks during conflict.
That conflict, editor Gina Barte reminds, began with a militaristic neighbor-state grabbing surrounding islands. Concept was by Bing Roxas, then chief of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Barte was director of the CCP Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino.
Now head of the International Council of Museums-Philippines, Barte sees repeats of history. She endorses map exhibitions and researches on the trueness of the Philippine claim and the falsity of China's "nine-dashed line" over Scarborough Shoal. Foremost scholars on the topic are Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Dr. Jay L. Batongbakal, experts on Law of the Sea.