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Why condemn Kristie Kenney for calling Corazon Aquino a “partial icon of democracy”?

Wikileaks’ posting of erstwhile confidential diplomatic cables has both good and bad effects. Some matters of public interest have been disclosed (FVR’s supposed financial connection to ex Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi), and that is a good thing. However, cables containing the private views of foreign missions here in the country need not be sensationalized. First, they may only be speaking for themselves. Second, it is really an envoy’s duty to monitor events happening in their respective assignments for their respective countries, and I think it is inevitable for them to give (typically undiplomatic, er, frank) analysis about those. Lest we forget, a diplomat’s mission is to foment smooth relations between two countries.

Because of Wikileaks, other diplomats may become wary of sharing their candid thoughts – knowing that this can cause embarrassment for themselves in the future. I don’t know how former US Ambassador to the Philippines Ms Kristie Kenney is regarded in Washington (especially by the current political establishment there), but you can’t help but admire how well-esteemed she is by most Filipinos. You can’t be an effective ambassador if you are reviled by your host country’s government (certainly experienced by Ms Kenney’s husband, the ex-US envoy to Venezuela) or by a majority of its people.

The adulation of Corazon Aquino - an instance of "veneration without understanding"?

As the has reported the past few days, Ms Kenney once wrote (http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/07/09MANILA1414.html) that former President Corazon Aquino’s credibility as a moral crusader “was tarnished when she was seen with disgraced former President Estrada in protest movements against President Arroyo.” She noted that the conflict between the two powerful women “continued after President Arroyo’s move to distribute Hacienda Luisita.”

She further expounded: “President Aquino leaves behind an incomplete transition to democratic governance that, while marked by great personal freedom for Philippine citizens, never seems to have properly taken root in the institutions that must handle the difficult task of governing a diverse and divided society.  Her moral leadership, while coming at an important time for the Philippines, never fully compensated for her weak leadership style.

Former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney

Ms Kenney, now the ambassador to Thailand, is being criticized harshly, like by Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2011/08/31/foreign-affairs-chief-slams-ex-us-envoy-over-cable-remarks-176461), because of having unflattering views about the late former Pres. Aquino – a major taboo in our country. Ms Kenney’s views are refreshingly candid and, to me, accurate. Her sentiments merely echo the position taken by many political scientists and historians. Ms Kenney’s comments are not exactly catty, but it still raised the ire of those who venerate the Aquinos. As New York Times reporter Carlos Conde wrote (http://carlosconde.com/2011/02/27/cory-aquinos-betrayal-of-people-power) early this year, Pres. Cory herself betrayed People Power by having an alliance with Joseph Estrada. Mr. Conde wrote:

“Cory, for all her much-vaunted success in restoring democracy and all that, turned out to be one of the worst presidents we have had.

I am not sorry because ousting Marcos was the right thing to do, regardless of how it turned out later, regardless of how Cory and her minions bungled every opportunity to make this country great.

Corazon Aquino, who died in 2009, is viewed as a saint because we often compare her to the monster that was Marcos. But a look at what she had done as president should tell us that she was one deeply flawed saint.”

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