The forgotten front

This is only a hunch, but the foreign blogosphere seems far more interested in Philippine rebels behead 10 soldiers (see grim photos published by the Mindanao Examiner) than Filipino bloggers, particularly when it comes to commentary (simply reprinting entire news stories doesn’t cut it). What’s particularly interesting is this:

The government initially blamed Abu Sayyaf or renegade MILF militants for the kidnapping. However, the Roman Catholic news agency AsiaNews said criminal gangs were probably responsible for the abduction.

“The theory that Abu Sayyaf is behind the abduction of Fr Giancarlo Bossi does not hold water,” the news agency said. “Rather, from what we know, he is being held hostage by a gang of criminals.”

Among non-Filipino bloggers, the mood among the interested is grim unsurprise, as shown by Little Green FootballsThe Perpetual Malcontent, for one, seems exasperated by the AsiaNews story. doesn’t think the American media is going to give the story the attention it deserves. as Minnesota Central puts it, there is a global war going on but media (including Bush-friendly media) doesn’t want to admit it. PrariePundit points out that while perhaps not very well known to Americans, the American-assisted campaign against the Abu Sayyaf represents “one of the most successful counterterrorism/counterinsurgency effort of the post-9/11period,” although the killing of the marines represents “a serious setback.” The blog relies heavily on Peter Brookes’ “The Forgotten Front,” which says,

The good news?

U.S.-Philippine operations have significantly weakened the terrorist group. Philippines forces have killed two senior ASG commanders since last December. One was sold out by an ASG member-turned-informant, motivated by the State Department’s rewards program.

Once 2,000 fighters strong, ASG’s been whittled down to around 200 to 300 today. As a result, its trademark bus and local market bombings have dropped off, as has its once-lucrative kidnapping practice. The threat has clearly receded.

But why has this operation shown success?

Indirect Approach: The United States isn’t doing the fighting. Philippine armed forces are – 15,000 of them, with 300 U.S. troops “advising and assisting.” Our forces are not only teaching counterinsurgency tactics and nighttime operations, they’re instructing the Filipinos to collect, analyze and fuse intelligence – even when it comes from a high-tech U.S. Predator drone.

This puts the local Philippine forces in the lead – and gives them the training and battlefield experience to provide a lasting capability that will endure long after the U.S. troops head home.

Hearts and Minds: A significant effort has been made to win local hearts and minds. U.S. and Philippine civil-affairs, humanitarian aid and exercises are helping separate the ASG from the general population. During regular joint “Balikatan” military exercises, Americans and Filipinos build roads, schools, water plants and piers that allow locals to build a better future for themselves – and instill trust and confidence in Manila.

Defense Reform: In 2002, the Pentagon undertook a bilateral program to help the Philippines identify much-needed defense reforms and boost our ally’s armed forces’ professionalization.

That extends to unsexy but vital areas such as maintenance and logistics. In 2001, Philippine military helicopters were mission-ready just 15 percent of the time. Today, those helos are ready for counterinsurgency 80 percent of the time.

Stick-to-itiveness: Despite up and downs in the bilateral relationship (especially when Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo withdrew forces from Iraq), Washington stuck to eliminating the ASG. Resolve makes a difference.

But the real question, it seems to me, is whether 10 Philippine Marines died at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, or fell prey to a criminal gang. Philippine Commentary points to TV reporter sees empty houses before all hell breaks loose and gives a rundown of what happened; he’s particularly irked that the MILF issued a statement that the whole thing was in the nature of a command and control snafu, that they bore no responsibility but were quite gleefully willing to pick up weaponry from the battlefield.

if they were slain by the Abu Sayyaf, then did the terrorist group intercept the marines as they actually went after the bandits who have the Italian priest, or are the terrorists in league with the bandits, or trying to grab the bandits’ hostage? Whichever way you look at it, it seems a case of bad leadership on the part of the marines.

Let me say I am not a believer in the “see, people are dead! for their sake, abandon all your misgivings about current policy to fight terrorism!” way of arguing or thinking. I believe that this sort of argumentation strays very close to a terrorist mindset.

The President’s been making fire-breathing statements: 1st targets: Rogue AFP men, Reds, terrorists when it comes to the anti-terror law, which yesterday’s Inquirer editorial said should be reviewed now, rather than later. Study the law before making dire predictions, Palace tells critics of Human Security Act.

To help you figure out whether the opposition is valid or misguided, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of Geronimo L. Sy’s efforts to explain the anti-terror law’s provisions.

Meanwhile, AFP troops back in NCR.

In political news, on the evening of my last entry, the Comelec had already made a sudden volte-face: after Comelec flip-flops on Zubiri proclamation, it became COMELEC defers Zubiri proclamation. And just when the public was already set to cheer or jeer (see Winners make losers. Losers make excuses and starfish hands and Tinkie Fantasy for contrasting views) now Comelec in a bind over proclamation (I don’t buy Sarmiento’s logic). Anyway, for now, Koko Pimentel gears up for final stand.

Also,even as JDV: Secret ballot you want, secret ballot you get, there’s a twist: JdV supporters oppose secret vote proposal in choosing speaker while Garcia: JdV lost moral ascendancy for Speakership (on related matters, De Venecia son hit on broadband deal and GMA presses JdV to make Mikey energy committee chairman); in his column, Efren Danao says he think de Venecia still has the edge, but also goes into an educational description of an oft-used political word, “caucus”:

A caucus is held mainly to prevent a bloody or protracted confrontation on the floor. It is not true that only members of the same political party can hold a caucus. Members of different political parties belong to a coalition, whether administration or opposition, can hold a caucus. It can also involve both the majority and the minority, as in an all-Senate caucus which is held quite often.

Any one who says a caucus to settle the speakership issue is redundant because the official balloting will still take place on July 23 ignores the real nature of a caucus. It is a parliamentary tradition that any decision arrived at in a caucus will be binding on every one present. If Pabling wins at the caucus, JdV’s supporters will go for him on July 23. JdV is being true to parliamentary tradition when he said he would personally nominate Pabling on July 23 should Pabling win in the caucus. Those who do not want to be bound by any decision contrary to their own sentiments usually avoid caucuses like a plague.

Here is an addendum to the issue of secret balloting for the speakership as proposed by the Garcia camp. In my column last Monday, Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City said that secret balloting is contrary to House rules that prescribe roll call voting. Rep. Arthur Defensor explained why the rules called for roll call vote. Art, whom I also covered at the regular Batasan, stressed that a roll call vote is needed to determine who should belong to the majority and to the minority. Those who voted for the winner will constitute the majority and those for the loser, the minority. Definitely, the members of the majority and the minority could not be ascertained in a secret balloting.

Overseas: China executes former food safety chief over fake medicines. And Dr. Enzo von Pfeil gets interviewed on whether and how another Asian financial crisis could take place. Elizabeth Wilner suggests that in American politics, there aren’t any second chances anymore.

My column today is You get what you wish for; my Arab News column for this week is Nuclear Option Is Back on the Table in Philippines.

A brilliant passage from Manuel Buencamino’s blow-by-blow account of how the administration targeted Gringo Honasan and then, when Honasan became cooperative, suddenly pulled a rabbit out of its legal hat:

Susmaryosep! If a finding can be pulled out of a hat to let Honasan off the hook, why couldn’t the same be done for Trillanes?

Was it because rather than doing a Gringo, Senator Trillanes swore he would investigate extrajudicial killings, reopen the Garci case and continue to work for Mrs. Arroyo’s impeachment?

No, said government mouthpieces. Under the principle of equality before the law, Senator Trillanes deserved the same treatment as a pedophile who was twice elected to Congress while in detention and who, recently, received a commutation of sentence from a close family friend, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

There’s no need to detail the absurd Trillanes/Jalosjos parallel. Suffice it to say that mounting an 11-year-old girl to satisfy one’s perverted craving is not the same as mounting a mutiny against corrupt military leaders.

There is a difference between patriotism and pedophilia; between a man who stands for his beliefs no matter what and a trapo who stands principles on their head whenever it’s expedient. There is a difference between “de jure” and “de facto” ; between the rule of law and the rule of outlaws. But this regime wants you to believe “there ain’t no difference.”

Time and time again, this regime has used the law to mock the rule of law. And it has never hesitated to substitute a putative sovereign’s will for the sovereign will of the people. But this regime wants you to believe “it ain’t so.”

The same Justice Gonzalez who pulled that rabbit out of his hat, is the very same Gonzalez in this news story: Justice chief relieves Velasco from Burgos case. More in Burgos prosecutor sacked after tagging Isafp agents.

As Erap trial judges reach consensus, there’s the view of Billy Esposo that the ads, etc. are actually an Estrada supporters’ plot. He says something I believe to be true:

How many out there will be willing to risk life, limb and fortune to fight and die for Joseph “Erap” Estrada? It is one thing to sympathize with Estrada the jailbird or vote for the candidates he endorses. But to suggest that millions, or nay, even just thousands of people are willing to confront the State’s armed and police forces over a guilty verdict for Estrada is stretching the limits of the imagination too far.

Then he goes on to suggest that

Before the ad came out, no one had really challenged the fairness of the Sandiganbayan in handling the Estrada plunder case. Up to that day, the public had generally given the Sandiganbayan the benefit of the doubt that Estrada will get a fair trial and verdict.

But after the ad came out, the Estrada camp went to town to claim that a guilty verdict has been rigged. This tends to erode the public’s trust in the capability of the Sandiganbayan to render an impartial verdict. It leads the public to conclude that the Arroyo regime had already gone out of its way to force the court to render a guilty verdict.

In a way, the brand of justice that Secretary Raul Gonzalez had accustomed us to expect has conditioned the public to become cynical of court verdicts in the Arroyo era. Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had cast the seeds of that kind of justice that Gonzalez sows, so she only deserves to reap that sort of public cynicism.

But think again – did you really believe that the Arroyo regime would be so stupid to place that kind of an ad? Common sense will tell you that ad creates an information environment that bolsters only the kind of thinking that the Estrada camp would want to promote.

A point to consider, though I’ve never been keen on the “they’d never be so dumb to do that!” argument. You really never know. For every act of brilliance, or at least breathtaking boldness, a political player’s capable off, there’s always the chance that a blunder can take place. Tony Abaya thinks the middle class has been permanently antagonized by the Estrada camp (I agree):

Given Erap’s past history of colluding with the comrades – not out of ideological commitment, but out of his personal desire to be freed from detention and cleared of the plunder charge – whatever violence is generated by a guilty verdict will not elicit support from the middle class, which avoided earlier efforts to entice them in 2003, 2005 and 2006, no matter how unpopular President Arroyo has become.

A not guilty verdict would embolden Erap and his entourage to try again, for the fourth time, to topple the Arroyo government, but such an enterprise is not likely to generate sympathy and support from the middle class, especially since the economy is doing fairly well and very few, if any, would want to do anything to muddy the economic waters, at least not for such undeserving persons as Erap and his communist allies.

Today’s Inquirer editorial says the trial’s been political from the start, but that the court’s handled things fairly well; see also the views of Marichu Lambino. Personally, I think people have made up their mind either way, but that one court people will end up respecting will be the Supreme Court -and the Sandiganbayan verdict will most likely be appealed, anyway.

An interesting column by Connie Veneracion on how she teaches.

In the blogosphere, even as columnists like Nestor Mata weigh in (pro Villar) bloggers ponder the Senate merry-go-round: big mango wonders which matters more, romance or practicality.

Placeholder on how giving up anonymity doesn’t necessarily mean one has to give up privacy.

Thanks to J. Dennis Torres and fmontserrat for the endorsements.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

261 thoughts on “The forgotten front

  1. maybe someday, desaparecidos would only be a word to remember the past…

    i’ve been daydreaming again, and it crossed my mind to write this list and suggest that it be enacted as laws, inviolable, unrepealable and not subject to ammendments.

    as i know i am imperfect, feel free to criticize the things you think are wrong with my list and suggest on how we can further improve or change it to make it better.

    1. arrests should always have warrants issued by a court

    2. arrests should only be made during the day.
    3. arrests can only be made in coordination and in the presence of a local official, preferably a brgy tanod. if the local official is the one to be arrested, the next official in hierarchy should take his place.
    4. arresting officers should all be in police uniform w/badges and name plates clearly worn and visible to all.
    5. the warrant of arrest should be signed by the suspect and 3 witnesses w/in the vicinity not belonging to the arresting team. the witnesses should then be given a copy each of the list of members of the arresting team w/their corresponding pictures after their names.
    6. all arrests should be documented and videotaped by the arresting team. failure to do so would result in automatic termination w/o appeal.
    7. all arrested should immediately be brought to jail. once in jail, the suspect must immediately be signed-in the precinct’s record and be cleared by the medical officer in duty. a system of timekeeping should be devised so that prior to the arrest, the arresting officers are required to log in the time of their departure (from the precinct) in a tamper-proof machine. failure to return within 6 hours, reasonable travel time not included, w/o a valid and provable cause (burden of proof lies w/d officers) would merit automatic suspension w/o pay and/or administrative sanctions depending on the length of time the arresting officers were late.
    8. once in jail, no suspect may be denied one phone call and their right to a counsel.
    9. w/in 24 hours a counsel must be provided or the suspect shall be immediately released on bail, bail to be taken out on the arresting officers’ pay and if not sufficient, on the precinct’s budget. prisoners may not refuse counsel if they have declined to name a counsel of their own choice.

    all of the above is of course suspended when the suspect is CIA of committing a crime, except for #4 which should always be in effect except in the case that for an arrest to be made, it is necessary to be undercover. in which case, only those officers who are undercover are exempted from #4, while all succeeding officers and back-up arriving to help in the arrest should all be in uniform and conform with #4. undercover operations must always be properly documented and filed in advance.

    writ of habeas corpus

    1. any person missing who is last seen w/d military or police, is deemed to be in their custody unless otherwise proved (burden of proof lies w/d military and police)
    2. once ordered to produce said person, the military or police must produce them within 6 days upon the order. failure to do so would merit termination of the officer in charge of the region where the person purported missing disappeared. within the following every 2 weeks and said person still isn’t produced, general (police and military) in charge of the area, mayor, governor, congressman (subsequently each 2 wks) having jurisdiction over the place where said person disappeared will be charged with negligence of duty and failure to protect their constituency, and will automatically be removed from office w/o a hearing. all benefits and pensions suspended, and disbarment from further govt service.
    3. if said person is produced by the military/police dead, it is within their burden to prove none among their personnel is responsible for the death of said missing person. all personnel that can be reasonably suspected (ie those stationed within the immediate area where missing person disappeared, and those stationed in said area a week before and after said person went missing) must have verifiable and provable alibis and those found without, subjected to court hearing, and if found guilty, sentenced to COD as suffered by missing person found dead. if on autopsy, missing person is found to have been tortured, convicted police/military personnel shall also be subjected to such torture as can be reasonably divined by such autopsy before subsequently killed in the same manner as the victim. carrying out of the sentence must be documented by videotape and is required viewing to all military/police personnel in active service.
    4. a series of disappearances of members of the press, activist/progressive groups, opposition officials, and persons noted for their dissent to current govt, all of whom are not found within the year, would merit an automatic impeachment of the President to be presided on by the SC, senate, and CHR each as indepent bodies, and each voting en banc with each body counting as one vote. a verdict of 2-1 would automatically strip the President of all his/her powers, title, and office, and subjected to sentence as agreed on by the 3 bodies jointly.

    on the extra-judicial killings:

    “a series of disappearances” in #4 with “a series of murders”

    if someone knows how to set-up a wiki, please feel free to set-up one wherein we can further develop these ideas to make this list more realistic in implementation, clearer in writing and wording, and close gaps and any loopholes i certainly know i have overlooked.

  2. Devils, i submitted a wikipedia page, but it’s currently a candidate for speedy deletion. (Maybe DJB works there…just kidding) Anyway, i’ll let you know if i have any luck.

  3. i had this wild thought abt wikis last night. why cnt we make use of it to make citizens active participants in the making of laws instead of relying hopelessly on the congressman and senators they elect?
    the lawmakers would be the ones given authority to change the wiki page, and draft the laws suggested by citizens on the discussions page. citizens may sign up using their TIN no.
    every election (national, local, brgy), citizens would then vote for the laws they want enacted much as the same way we vote for party-lists (it would be expected that quite a number of laws would be drafted thru this method) these bills that garner the required percentage of votes will automatically be deemed passed by congress even w/o convening a session and is not subject to veto by the president.
    details of the administration of the wiki must be formulated so that altho lawmakers are the only ones w/d ability to modify the wiki page, they are not allowed to block suggested laws unanimously agreed upon by the citizens in the discussions page, nor may they be allowed to write it in such a way, that the draft that comes out is not exactly what the participants intended to have.
    this would also show us who among the lawmakers really know their job and industrious enough to bust their ass on it.
    to those that will be saying this is kinda discriminatory (what only taxpayers and those w/pc and internet know how may avail of this?) i only have this to say: i believe that those unable to make use of this wiki suggestion fully can enlist the aid of NGOs and progressive groups to voice out their concerns and ideas for them. and anyway, its not like we’re taking away from them the right to vote their lawmakers and these laws suggested through the wiki.
    then perhaps we can enact laws governing a people’s initiative so that we can use it to kick out govt officials who turn back on their word once they’re in office. we dnt have to wait for elections to boot them out, just launch an initiative and garner the required number of signatures and they’re out once ruled by the SC (for national officals) or RTCs (for local ones. cases raffled, and RTCs covered by the officials jurisdiction in question may not handle such cases) thru the help of other agencies that the signatures collected are verifiable and genuine.

    and cvj, thanks.

  4. devil,

    I suggest that legal rights as you have posted in the above comments should be instead Imbeded in the Constitutioin than Statute. That way it inviolable and not easily subjected to change and revision by the congress or the administration as the power keep changing hands
    and I would suggest it may have the semblance of the Provisions of Charter of Rights and Freedoms (contitution Act of l982)
    Legal Rights
    7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

    8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
    9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.
    10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention
    (a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
    (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
    (c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

    11. Any person charged with an offence has the right
    (a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;
    (b) to be tried within a reasonable time;
    (c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;
    (d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
    (e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;
    (f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
    (g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;
    (h) if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again; and
    (i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

    12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

    13. A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.

    14. A party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.

    **** these cover the totality of our legal rights and there is no further need of more statutes that most will only contradict the spirit of the Charter and be challenged in courts.

  5. MBW and Bencard,

    Thank you.

    I sometimes get teary eyed myself when I reach the part in quotation marks.

  6. Malaya releases the names of the military casualties in the July 10 2007 Tipo-tipo battle against MILF insurgents and beheaders:

    S/Sgt. Bernard Abes of Tawi-Tawi

    T/Sgt. Noel Bautista of Tagum City

    Pfc. Wilfredo Lamban of Sultan Kudarat

    Sgt. Cayetano Simbajon of Agusan Del Sur

    Cpl. Russel Panaga of Albay

    Pfc. Reuben Doronio Jr.

    Pfc. Freddie Palma Jr.

    Pfc. Elizar Semeniano

    Pfc. Arjorin Alezar

    Pfc. Jhonard Allanza

    Pfc. Emmanuel Beup

    Pvt. Emilio Lachica Jr.

    Sgt. Gerardo Licup

    Sgt. Rey Callueng

  7. If we are to believe the spokesman of the beheaders, MILF spin master Kabalu, there were 29 marines who died in that encounter and not only 14 and that only 7 were beheaded/mutilated so why is Esperon the rat saying that 10 were beheaded?

    I am completely gobsmacked! I believe it’s time to take away command of operations in the South from anyone beyond the rank of major or lieutenant colonel in the AFP.

    Leave the operations command to the ground and true field officers. Those with a ‘star’ brilliantly shining on their shoulders do not and can win the war against the MILF forces of beheaders and mutilators.

  8. MBW:
    The list of the military casualties you mentioned were all an enlisted soldiers. What happened to the Lt. Who’s a platoon leader? Look like a pawn sacrificing to save the Queen.

  9. MBW,

    No one’s pointing it out lest they be seen as sexist. A company of marines with only one officer, a female 2Lt commanding the v-150. She was barely 2 weeks on the job.

  10. Jaxius,

    Is this true? “A company of marines with only one officer, a female 2Lt commanding the v-150. She was barely 2 weeks on the job.”

    Oh my, oh my, if true – then we have a problem! I sympathize with the people who are hesitant to say that the fallen marines were commanded by a neophyte marine and who happens to be a female Marines – not easy! To me, that she happens to be a woman is incidental – that she probably was not up to the task (not yet or whatever) is more like it. Having 5 sgts die under your command is a heavy toll.

    Poor lieutenant! But such is life – she lost the battle there but we can never say that a male lieutenant would have done better; I would put it to inexperience (in the same vein, baptism of fire is the best way to make them seasoned commanders in the future).

    Anyway, I would have expected two officers if there were 2 platoons. So what happened to the other one?

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