Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Thursday, April 14, 2005

CALLS FOR ‘SOBRIETY’ ON US DIPLOMAT’S REMARKS

Senator Richard Gordon today called for ‘sobriety’ in reacting to the statement of US Charge d’Affaires Joseph Mussomeli that Mindanao was “at risk of becoming like an Afghanistan situation.”

According to Gordon, “We Filipinos should not panic just because Mussomeli made such a remark in an interview with a television reporter. His statement does not mean that Mindanao is in flames. Big deal. Just because he is a US diplomat, a big personality, does not make his declarations gospel truth.”

However, Gordon said, “Let’s be sober about the case and focus on doing something about it, He added, “Let’s quell the fire before it gets bigger,’ referring to the Muslim insurgency, Abu Sayaff banditry, New People’s Army rebellion and other threats to law and order in Mindanao.

Mussomeli went to the Department of Foreign Affairs office on Roxas Boulevard yesterday and received a note verbale protesting his remarks made before Australian television. Mussomeli refused to apologize for his remarks. Later, the US embassy website released the transcript of Mussomeli’s remarks made to SBS-TV Australia on April 6.

Answering a question from a TV reporter, Mussomeli had replied: “I think the real danger here, and the danger that has been here since the mid-90s, is that we’re not focused enough on the threat here. It’s not the sort of threat that should be worried about coming here on a day-to-day basis. The threat is more long-term: that Mindanao is such a lawless – certain portions of Mindanao – are so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of it becoming like an Afghanistan situation.”

During a media forum today, Gordon explained that Mussomeli stirred the controversy by making a public remark on internal Philippine affairs to a foreign television station while acting as officer-in-charge of the American embassy. Some quarters believe that coming from a diplomat, the remarks violated international norms of diplomatic conduct.

Gordon observed that Mussomeli failed to mention the substantial progress the Arroyo administration has made in restoring peace and order in Mindanao, in negotiating a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and in fighting the tentacles of international terrorism in the South. “He (Mussomeli) should have balanced his statement with a mention of government successes in confronting the problem, like a seasoned diplomat should have done,” said Gordon

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