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.

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Duterte’s revulsion towards drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte

Actually it is not only President Rodrigo Duterte who loathes the seemingly endless proliferation of drugs in the country.

The over 6 million people that made a big difference in his winning the presidency and the many more that supported also abhors the extent that illegal drug is being distributed and/or used in this country.

What is even more alarming and disturbing are the involvement of some generals, police other government officials in the illegal drug trades as he has pointed out.

Some eyebrows may have been raised when Duterte asked for another year to combat the drug menace in the country, this, after failing to keep up with his promise to eliminate it in six months after getting elected, and again being unable to contain it after an extension of another six months.

But is this a measure of an unsuccessful campaign on Duterte’s war against drugs?

For many who have seen the repercussions of drug use and the intelligence reports Duterte has been getting about the illegal drug trade in the country, I think the consensus is that the president is right is his assessment of the magnitude of the drug problem in this country and is the reason why he signed a memorandum allowing the Philippine National Police (PNP) to participate anew in the government’s drug war.

So it cannot be said, therefore, that Duterte has failed in his war on drugs, but the fact is that a continuity of the relentless campaign is needed involving a greater number of anti-illegal drugs personnel to prevent the resurgence of the menace.

Duterte was right in listening to the clamor of the public that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) shall take over from the PNP the anti-illegal drugs operation because of the extrajudicial killings brouhaha, but the agency’s inferior number simply rendered them inadequate to be at the critical place in the most opportune time.

What was happening though is that while there may not have been any killing, the proportion of crime committed and illegal drug trade increased.

Thus, Duterte has ordered the PNP to return to the government’s war on illegal drugs but in a supporting role, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) keeping the lead overall in the campaign.

Not only that. Other law enforcement agencies, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Postal Corporation were also directed to provide support to the PDEA in the conduct of the anti-narcotics campaign.

In a statement, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said:“The President recognizes the significant strides PDEA has made in the government’s anti-illegal campaign but it has been seriously hampered in performing its huge mandate by lack of resources, specifically agents and operatives who can penetrate drug-infected areas down to the municipal and barangay levels.”

Indeed, this is a welcome development that will surely make an impact in Duterte’s one year appeal to stamp out the drug menace in the country.

 

LP as resurgent party of the people

 

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan

I am talking of course about the Liberal Party (LP) and the frivolous ambition of its leader, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, of making it a resurgent political party of the people – “bigger in number and stronger in unity”, he declared.

If this is not wishful thinking, I do not know what is.

I am not saying it could not happen again, like reminiscing the heydays of the impotent Aquino administration when the LP was ruling it over.

But look where they are now and what happened to their numbers. Not even the presence of the gracious Vice President Leni Robredo can make a big deal of a difference despite her being the LP chair.

It is not about the practice of changing political colors and affiliating with the party machine that that made Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte president of the Philippines, but this time it is about the trust and confidence the politicians have in the competence and adequacy of Duterte as a leader that they want to be associated with.

Thus, even if Pangilinan is crowing that the LP is now enlisting membership that are not politicians, but rather those belonging to the academe, the private sector and other civic organizations, with Robredo administering the oath of allegiance to the party, I don’t think this will make a dent in Duterte’s popularity and acceptability.

Pangilinan’s sales pitch, saying, that it is “important for Filipinos to fight for and live a life of freedom as well as dignity and respect for all” simply sounds melodramatic, if not senseless, for the truth is that Duterte’s non-traditional style of leadership and his political will, not to mention his iron rule against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality is earning us back the respect and dignity we deserve as a nation.

But what I find most absurd are the questions Pangilinan asked in his speech at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s “Freedom Speech”:

“Today, we ask these questions: Are we free? Does freedom have any value in a society tainted with the blood of thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings and impunity? Is freedom meaningful without security in the home and in the streets?

“How do we reconcile freedom amid the feelings of despair, fear and hopelessness among those overwhelmed by the enormity of our nation’s problems: grinding poverty; widespread hunger; massive unemployment; pervasive graft and corruption; horrible traffic especially in urban centers; neglect and waste of people and their potential?”

As a lawyer Pangilinan should have been more discriminating in his questions.

Why, were these problems non-existent during the term of former Pres. Benigno Aquino, of which Pangilinan was one of the LP’s stalwart?

Were the Filipinos really better off during the salad days of Aquino and his cohorts?

What have Aquino, Pangilinan, and their ilk done after six (6) years in power, and I am not even asking about the scandalous reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Tacloban City after the aftermath of super-typhoon Yolanda and the equally outrageous Mamasapano massacre?

Horrible traffic? Why, what has the Aquino administration, which Pangilinan was part of, done to deserve exoneration, as seemingly implied by Pangilinan, in his speech? Why can’t Pangilinan just ask former Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya about his culpability in Manila’s traffic woes?

Thank goodness for the support Duterte got overwhelmingly from the people or narco-politics would have swallowed us all with politicians, the likes of Pangilinan, continually living the good life, while majority of Filipinos live a miserable life.

My take is that for as long as Duterte has the respect and appreciation of most Filipinos, there could never be a resurgent LP, as Pangilinan envisions.

 

‘Ghost ship’ washed up in Japan

 

The name given to a crew-less boats or vessels with dead bodies on board washing up on beaches in Japan is ‘ghost ships”.

This seems to be a regular occurrence in Japan, especially on its western coast, which faces North Korea.

Evidently, almost always it is a form of a fishing boat manned by ill-fated North Koreans because of some clues, like a pack of North Korean cigarettes and belongings indicating the country of origin.

It has been reported that Japan regularly sees North Korean fishing boats straying into its territory, and its coastguard has occasionally had to rescue fishermen.

In a latest incident, a 23-foot wooden ‘ghost ship’ was discovered on a beach near Oga without navigational devices and a missing rotor blade. Japanese authorities are trying to identify eight people whose badly decomposed remains were found on board.

The discovery is the latest in a string of similar incidents. Not too long before the grim discovery, it was reported that a wooden boat carrying eight men – alive and in reasonably good health – washed up at Yurihonjo city.

The men said they were North Koreans fishing for squid, who had ended up drifting into Japanese waters when their boat experienced difficulties.

Speculations are rife that North Korea has been calling for more seafood to be fished in order to feed a hungry population. The increased demand may be leading its citizens to take boats that are in subpar condition far off its shores.

Government to continue fight against communist insurgents – Part II

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and Netherland-based CPP founder Joma Sison.

When I wrote the first part of this article I was anticipating a sequel to it if only to confirm my foreboding statement of a long, merciless war after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 360 discontinuing peace talks with the self-exiled Maoist-led rebels in the Netherlands led by Communist Party founder Joma Sison.

True enough what followed next was Duterte calling Sison and his ilk criminals or terrorists.

“You are terrorists or criminals,” Duterte said. I will treat you and I will not charge you for rebellion because I am saying to you now, I will brand you as terrorists, plain criminal.”

On Sison, specifically, this is what he said: “If Joma Sison comes here, I will arrest him, or if I were him, ‘wag na siyang bumalik dito (he should not return anymore).”

“Better still, I will not allow him to enter his native land, and that is a very painful experience especially if you’re dying and you think that you should be buried in your own cemetery, in your own town,” he added.

Indeed a very strong warning signaling no turning back until Duterte’s term in office expires. And to think that Duterte was the best chance for a lasting peace with the communist insurgents.

But, an astute lawyer, a no-nonsense politician and a competent leader, Duterte was able to aptly read between the lines what the Netherland-based communist leaders wanted and how they were manipulating the peace talks to go.

“As it was shaping up during our talks, I already noticed the trend of the thoughts of the other side and when I summed it all, reading from all previous working papers, it would sound like a coalition government,” Duterte said.

“That is why I said in the previous days, I cannot give you what I don’t own and certainly a coalition with the Republic of the Philippines is pure nonsense,” he added.

This is how manipulative, devious and self-serving these people supposedly orchestrating the communist insurgency in the country from a foreign soil are, and thank goodness we have a president who puts the welfare of the country and the interests of the Filipino populace first and foremost over political and personal gratification.

Talking about wanting to have the best of both worlds for themselves alone!

Screw you!

 

Government to continue fight against communist insurgents

 

President Rodrigo Duterte and CPP founder Joma Sison: Student and teacher.

With the signing of Proclamation 360 terminating the on and off peace talks with the communist insurgents  in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte is once more declaring war and perhaps a long, merciless war this time.

It must be remembered that making peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF)-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – The New People’s Army (NPA) was among Duterte’s priorities since he became president in June last year, and for good reasons.

Not only are Filipinos fighting one another, but this internal conflict has been going on for 50 years now with over 40,000 people killed already, not to mention the expenses incurred when an entourage of peace negotiators flies to the Netherlands where the suppose Maoist leaders of the NDF-CPP-NPA live.

But what really has been angering Duterte is the fact that even during a declared truce still the NPA, the armed wing of the rebels, stages an ambush that sometimes kill innocent civilians, thus, prompting Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to say this time: “We find it unfortunate that their members have failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations.”

I don’t think there has ever been a president in the past who has earnestly pursued peace with the Maoist-led rebels in the Netherlands the way Duterte has.

Not only has Duterte been a student of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, the exiled founder of the CPP, at the Lyceum University, but Duterte himself has admitted being a leftist and therefore has often said that he understood the plight of the rebels, but his presidency, however, is now about uniting the people and not the dismembering of the republic.

Unfortunately the good intentions of Duterte for peace is not being earnestly reciprocated the same way by Sison and cohorts for reasons only they know, even issuing a defiant statement after Proclamation 360, saying, that the revolutionary forces now have no choice but to intensify guerrilla warfare in rural areas.

Indeed, what a pity and what a forsaken chance that peace has been made even more unreachable now.

 

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?