Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let our leaders speak now on Mindanao

The dramatic dispatch of thousands of troops to Mindanao and the even more dramatic order of the President and Commander-in-Chief to the Army Commanding General to move his headquarters to the war zone suggest that the war with the Moro rebels has entered a new phase that is foreign to us all, and whose outcome is wholly unpredictable.

It is a major development in the history of the conflict, and in the life of the Arroyo administration. Regrettably, there is no sign that the matter has won the serious attention of our political leaders, including those who believe themselves to be presidential timber for 2010. Not one of them has offered any idea on what should be done.

So many more will die in Mindanao. But the body count will not bring the war closer to its end until we find the courage and the good sense to realize that we cannot be at war forever in Mindanao. We must end it now.

From Marcos to Arroyo, every President has contributed his or her own errors in Mindanao. All of them seemed to believe that the conflict can be solved by military means. They also seemed to believe one could buy time by entering into agreements that can not be implemented, or which the government has no intention of implementing.

Whatever is the role of the armed forces, they do not deserve shabby treatment from the politicians. Their political leaders must never undermine their morale. Some of Mrs. Arroyo’s decisions, however, have undermined not just their morale. One such decision split the Southern Command capriciously into two ---the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga, in charge of the Moro rebels, and the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao, in charge of the NPA rebels.

This was done for no apparently good reason, except to give two lieutenant generals two separate commands. The result is an absurd situation which has the effect of telling the troops of the Western command, “you will shoot at Moro rebels only,” and those at the Eastern command, “you will shoot at NPA rebels alone.” Totally lost is the fact that the Moro rebels and the NPA had long entered into a tactical alliance.

While the military counted 14 Marines killed in Basilan last July, and 26 killed in Sulu last week, no one has bothered to ask what kind of intelligence they were getting before they got killed. Obviously, very little or nothing. And why? Because the intelligence funds are habitually “converted” by their bosses? Or because PAGCOR, which does not have to fight a rebellion, has a much bigger intelligence fund than the Armed Forces of the Philippines?

These are just some of the issues which our “leaders” should be looking at. But sadly, they are not there, or they are not looking.

We need to solve the Mindanao conflict once and for all. And we need to do it now. I would earnestly propose that those who think they will be God’s gift to the nation in 2010 now try to justify their delusions by offering some ideas on what to do in Mindanao. Those who have nothing to contribute should permanently disqualify themselves, and withdraw from the swindle being perpetrated by the polling swindlers who are already talking of preferred “presidentiables” even before the people could get to say what kind of president they would need after GMA steps down.

Speak now, or forever be damned.

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