The Mindanao martial law brouhaha

 

It simply boggles my mind why critics of the administration, specifically the Commission on Human rights (CHR), are making a big brouhaha of the one year martial law extension in Mindanao being asked by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Note that Duterte, on May 23, placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law after the ISIS-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City.

The initial declaration was supposed to end after 60 days, but Congress, in joint session, approved Duterte’s request to extend it until December 31.

In October, Duterte declared Marawi City free from terrorists following the killings of terror leaders Isnilon Hapilon, Omar Maute and a bunch of other Mautes and their followers.

But, does this mean that the same rebellion will not happen again, or that can it be safely said that we have seen the last of it – an ISIS-inspired insurgency that has practically left Marawi City in ruins?

Lest we forget, we are talking about Mindanao, the second largest island in the country, where it also has the largest concentration of ethnic minorities in the Philippines. Although Muslims are no longer a majority, still the Islamic culture is very evident with the presence of many mosques.

Thus, the elusive peace that government has been trying to establish with the radical Muslims in some parts of Mindanao continues to beacon Islamic extremists that want a land of their own or a caliphate, as they wanted to establish in Marawi City.

If Duterte critics have only the information or intelligence reports that the president has in his hand relative to peace and order and security matters of the nation, I don’t think they will be making a lot of noise about the one year extension of martial law the president is asking Congress to approve.

After Marawi, other places in Mindanao is still vulnerable to extremist attacks as the killing of leaders does not necessarily extinguish the life of their fanatical organization that wants nothing but to dismember a country searching for lasting peace in Mindanao.

Besides this is not an independent decision made by the Duterte alone. The latter had to act on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The AFP had information about an ongoing recruitment by terror groups and an increasing violence from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), which has been tagged as a terror organization.

The PNP’s recommendation, meanwhile, is based on two factors: the need to address continuing threats from terrorist groups and to facilitate the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Thus, for CHR and other political critics of President Duterte to say, therefore, that the one year extension asked is a prelude to a “strongman rule” nationwide is baloney.

Unlike the dictator Marcos, Duterte has selfless, and not selfish, interest for the country.

Advertisements

Hallmarks of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

 

The exodus of the Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

You can consider this as still a sequel to the couple of blogs I wrote about the apathetic Aung San Suu Kyi which can be read at the following links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not/ https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not-part-ii/.

The title I am using is actually part of the descriptive statement issued by US Senator Jeff Merkly about the crisis in the Rakhine State, during his delegation’s visit to Myanmar, when he said: “Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,”

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, after insurgents attacked security forces and prompted a brutal military crackdown that has been described as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s deafening silence and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas caused uproar in the international community, especially that she is a recipient of the prestigious Nobel peace prize. Not only that. She herself suffered house arrest for many years and, thus, she would have clearly understood what injustice and persecution is all about.

Yet, her government has repeatedly rejected claims that atrocities, including rape and extrajudicial killings, are occurring in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence that the United Nations has qualified as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

It seems that Myanmar and Suu Kyi, for that matter, does not recognize the Rohingya and denies them citizenship, referring to them as “Bengali” to imply origins in Bangladesh, the country where the hapless people were escaping to.

“In the case of the Rohingya this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under international law,” rights group Amnesty International (AI) said.

But China’s recognized power in Asia is the saving grace for the Rohingyas.

China’s entry and proposal for a three-phase plan for resolving the Rohingya crisis, starting with a ceasefire, has won the support of Myanmar and Bangladesh. A ceasefire should be followed by bilateral dialogue to find an immediate workable solution of the crisis and the third and final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution.

It is in this light that Suu Kyi expressed hope for reaching an agreement with Bangladesh on the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh in the past three months. She said both Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on a memorandum of understanding for the “safe and voluntary return” for those who fled.

“Nothing can be done overnight, but we believe that we will be able to make steady progress,” Suu Kyi said.

True, but the compelling question Suu Kyi has to answer first is: Do people, no matter how lowly they are in both social and religious stature in your country, deserve to die first before they become part and parcel of your community?

 

Aung San Suu Kyi: a laureate she is not – Part II

Aung San Suu Kyi with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I am not over yet with the appalling Aung San Suu Kyi, the much talked about democracy activist who earned a global reputation as a symbol of defiance and strength in the face of a brutal military junta in her country Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Suu Kyi’s stoicism and her refusal to leave her country, even though it meant forgoing a life with her sons husband, who lived overseas, became, likewise, a symbol of sacrifice, inspiration, hope and freedom for all the peoples in Myanmar.

For leading a non-violent resistance movement, even while under house arrest, Suu Kyi was aptly compared to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Evidently and subsequently she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but received it in person only in 2012, after her release in 2010. Her party swept elections a landslide victory in 2015, making her the de facto civilian leader of her country.

Now her reputation is rapidly disintegrating because of her refusal to speak out about — or take meaningful steps to prevent — the military crackdown targeting the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. An estimated 400,000 Rohingya refugees have streamed across the border to Bangladesh running from what appears to be a crackdown on their villages by the military that still controls crucial aspects of Myanmar’s government, including the state security apparatus.

Because of her silence, insensitivity and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas, dismal things are happening to her and I am citing two here for your information – one is a copy of a letter from Archbishop and former Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and the other is a reprint of an article published in the BBC News, dated 3 October 2017, titled Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’:

My dear Aung San Su Kyi

I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.

My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.

God bless you.

Love

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Hermanus, South Africa

Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’

An honour granting Aung San Suu Kyi the Freedom of Oxford has been withdrawn by the city’s council because of her response to the Rohingya crisis.

The de facto leader of Myanmar was granted the honour in 1997 for her “long struggle for democracy”.

But a motion to Oxford City Council said it was “no longer appropriate” for her to hold it.

More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh following recent violence.

The trouble erupted on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked security posts, triggering a military crackdown.

Ms Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Rangoon as a campaigner for democracy while Myanmar (formerly Burma) was ruled by a military dictatorship.

She became a worldwide figurehead for freedom before leading her National League for Democracy party to victory in open elections in November 2015.

‘Absolutely appalled’

But her failure to denounce the military or address allegations of ethnic cleansing has been criticised by world leaders and groups like Amnesty International.

Other organisations are now reconsidering honours given to Ms Suu Kyi, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said.

“I think it is perfectly natural to look around for ways of saying we disapprove utterly of what you are doing,” he told BBC Radio Oxford.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price supported the motion to remove her honour and confirmed it was an “unprecedented step” for the local authority.

People are “absolutely appalled” by the situation in Myanmar, he said, adding it was “extraordinary” she had not spoken out about reported atrocities in the country.

Last week it emerged St Hugh’s College, Oxford, had removed a portrait of Ms Suu Kyi from display.

 

 

Aung San Suu Kyi: a laureate she is not

 

I have written a couple of blogs in the past about the predominantly Muslim ethnic group called the Rohingyas, in majority-Buddhist Myanmar (formerly Burma), and about human-rights icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which you can read at the following links: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/the-plight-of-the-rohingyas/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/myanmars-suu-kyi-fails-on-the-plight-of-the-rohingyas/

As I am writing about Suu Kyi now I didn’t realize that, incidentally, I am simply and truly answering the question I posed in the last paragraph of my 2014 blog that, indeed, the lady that is always seen to have fresh flower tacked on her hair is far from being a laureate.

I need not write anymore who the Rohingyas are as I think I have adequately described them already in my 2009 blog. Suffice to say that since I wrote about them in 2009 until today their hellish plight has not gotten any better.

Many, including myself, thought that the Rohingyas predicament would change for the better, especially now that Suu Kyi has become the de facto (in reality/in effect) leader of Myanmar’s civilian government, but unfortunately the more they continue to be persecuted and dehumanized because of Suu Kyi’s utter silence and indifference.

Even Pakistani human-rights activist Malala Yousafzai said “the world is waiting” for Suu Kyi to speak out.

The hapless Rohingyas are at present facing a crisis as people which the United Nations human rights head called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Just to give you a better, but somber, perspective of the life of the Rohingyas now and the absolute insensitivity of Suu Kyi, I recommend that you get hold of the October 2, 2017 issue of Time magazine where a report written by Ms. Elizabeth Dias about them is simply unconscionable, as it is uncivilized.

Or you can just open this link and read more about the heart-breaking story that continues to plague the Rohingya people: https://thediplomat.com/2017/09/the-shame-of-myanmar/.

 

 

Sad state of the Catholic Church in the country

 

I saw this article in SunStar Cebu, dated, April 20, 2017, under the New Sense opinion column of Atty. Pachico Seares and I found it a good and factual read worthy to be shared.

It practically explains why many, like myself opt to go to church any other day except Sundays to be in silence and in solitude with God.

Home could be my church, too, where I find my communion with God so peaceful, uplifting and fulfilling, sans dumb lectures by priests.

One cannot help it, but some situation and events happen in your daily life that simply assures you that what you are doing is the most sensible and compelling thing to do.

And the beauty of it all is that there is no feeling of regret and discomfort about what you are doing.

Hope you can relate to what I am saying and what the article is trying to say.

It is the truth and the reality of the sad state of the Catholic Church in the country today.

Thankfully, God is everywhere.

 

Sermons drive Catholics away?

CATHOLICS have the lowest church attendance in weekly mass or service among religious groups in the Philippines: only 41% Catholics, compared to 90% Iglesia ni Cristo, 81% Muslims, and 71% other Christians. Social Weather Stations, whose survey was conducted last March 25-28, found a 48% over-all attendance.

The 2017 record is still embarrassing for Catholics although four years ago SWS reported an even lower figure: 37%. Then, as now, the Catholic Church trailed other religious groups on attendance.

Preached, scolded

Fr. Joel Tabor, SJ, president of Ateneo de Davao, writing in a 2013 blog heaped a lot of blame on homilies: “corny homilies that ramble in inanities that begin and never end and they never end because they should’ve never been begun.”

Churchgoers, Fr. Tabor said, are tired of being “preached to as if they were younger than adolescents.” People are tired, he said, of arbitrary claims to absolute truth “when the thinking world would continue to seek the truth”–and of being scolded and dictated upon.

On brevity: the church has reportedly adopted a time limit to keep churchgoers awake and in focus as well as meet schedules of succeeding masses, more so in urban areas.

Content, tone

But obviously it’s not just length but content and tone. Many homilies keep hammering on faith and doctrine to which the listeners can’t relate, the sermon not being tied to a current subject to make it relevant and useful.

Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz, in a media interview, said there are now many causes of distraction. Msgr. Esteban Binghay, on “Frankahay Ta” (dyCM radio, with Atty. Frank Malilong), agreed, a diversion that Binghay said also afflicts priests (mentioning, for the clergy, “FaceBook, mahjong and “tigbakay”).

Those compete with church activities. But why the heavier toll on Catholics? Why do members of other church groups still, ah, religiously attend the required function?

‘Discipline’

Shorter, more enlightening and interesting homilies must help but a major factor is “discipline.”

Catholics are not punished by the church for not showing up at mass (no one checks attendance and threat of hell and damnation must not work anymore), or not paying tithes (no one records what each puts into the collection net). Parishioners are not compelled to attend mass just as they are not forced by their priest or bishop to vote for or against candidates in elections.

See you in church Sunday. If nothing else comes up.

Robredo UN message slanders the Philippines

 

Vice President Leni Robredo

Some Filipinos might think that Vice President Leni Robredo was doing the country a big favor when she video-taped a message, supposedly coming from the Office of the Vice President, and sent it to the 60th annual meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria.

I actually wrote about this already and you can read it at this link https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/robredos-palit-ulo-allegations/.

The reason why I am writing about this again is simply to show you another interesting link that also criticizes the way Robredo painted an image of the country under the Duterte administration generalizing the belief that the Filipinos now feel “hopeless and helpless” because of the president’s bloody war on drugs.

This link is a good read and an excellent rejoinder of Robredos’s scandalous remarks: http://politics.com.ph/ex-unga-delegate-slams-robredo-misrepresenting-pinoys/.

Many Filipinos, however, think that Robredo’s slander was short of saying that the Philippines is in bad shape and in dire need of help, which is just actually the opposite of where we are today – in the verge of growing and developing faster and optimistic of the future, thanks to the unconventional leadership style of Duterte.

I consider therefore the entirety of Robredo’s message as fake news, at best, and, at worst, a self-serving communication that she is trying to take advantage of because of her sinking credibility and her inadequacy and ineffectiveness as vice president.

Unless Robredo can prove that the extrajudicial killings are state sanctioned and the ridiculous “palit-ulo” scheme exist, then she has got nothing but alternative facts.

That there is now a plan to impeach her because she derided the Philippines in the international scene is good news.

I will not doubt that she is also being used and manipulated by her party mates to advance their political agenda, but the Filipino people had had enough of their inept and corrupt political culture that the change and reforms Duterte is implementing in government is a very much welcomed development.

I am just including here the video Robredo sent for your information and evaluation.