Wrapped in the flag

But it seems to me questionable whether any government has the right to demand loyalty from its citizens beyond its willingness or ability to render actual protection.
-Quezon To MacArthur, January 28, 1942

For once, I agree absolutely with Bong Montesa: never play the game of chicken. If this recent Inquirer editorial pointed out the administration has so botched up the peace process and is zigzagging so clumsily today, as to make the restoration of peace so much more difficult, the subsequent Inquirer editorial,suggests the MILF finds itself in a bind, because of the hostilities that have erupted and for which it took credit. Pointing to August 22 news item MILF Chair Al Haj Murad raise points in meeting IMT and the from Luawaran.com,’ the editorial suggested that the MILF (or the faction of its leadership that wanted to achieve its political aims through negotiations) was trying to invoke the assistance of its Malaysian sponsors. See –MILF asks Malaysia to convene peace panel – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

Davao City councilor Peter Lavina in his bog, suggests that the Malaysian government officially speaking, is supportive. But the political reality in Malaysia is that the government is in its own version of survival mode. Lip service and a little diplomatic nudging here and there is all very good, but in determining the cost-effectiveness of using a nation’s resources (diplomacy, economics, military, etc.) there is little going for Malaysia if it publicly supports armed rebellion on the part of the MILF.

Militarily, even, the dilemma is there. If you assume, as some do, that the MILF possesses SAM’s in its inventory, it cannot use them now, or even later. For to do so would provide proof of foreign funding or at least facilitation/support; and regionally speaking, Malaysia as the likely culprit would trigger unease in Indonesia and alarm countries like Thailand (both being firm U.S. allies) which is fighting its own Muslim secessionists.

And so it seems the last-ditch appeal, perhaps by the more moderate among the MILF’s leadership, is for the Malaysians to give a sign that they continue to enjoy that country’s confidence and backing, in an effort to convince the other foreign powers to head off full-blown hostilities. Again, here is a confluence of interests: the Americans wouldn’t be too keen on hostilities because as the primary funder of our armed forces it would have to foot the bill and this includes what the Americans know all too well includes lining generals’ pockets (see Who Profits From The War in Mindanao? | Filipino Voices). It wouldn’t even really help the American arms industry. Not much money to be gained with out Korea and Vietnam War-era weaponry.Add to this the possibility that SouthEast Asia, including the Philippines, exists in a kind of policy limbo vis-a-vis Washington: In Asia » Blog Archive » Asian Policy Challenges for the Next President.

But that doesn’t mean that these nations could prevent a shooting war, either.

So when the MILF announced, on August 21, it would hold a press conference on August 23, I had deep misgivings. What would they say? After their former brio, they’d been complaining that AFP uses excessive force in attack pulverizing Muslim communities, which ignores who started the fighting or the absurdity of expecting the AFP not to send in the PAF.

Though they did have a point in saying MILF: CAFGUs, CVOs, plus Pinol, et al=Ilagas which the PNP, for one, validated by the tactic of arming civilian militias (see PNP sending shotguns to Mindanao auxiliaries – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos). The news of state-armed militias is indeed troubling; it is a sign of weakness and does not address the sort of insecurities that led to this: see Iligan City Hall Sights « preMEDitated.

Where did this insecurity come from? On one part, the public being unsure of what, really, the administration’s game plan was concerning Mindanao (in a nutshell: An irresponsible response « Mon Casiple’s Weblog on Philippine Politics). Second, the Palace having to respond to public hostility to its peace plan, and that response being at best, a confusing combination of bluster and appeasement. ALthough RG Cruz puts forward the Palace line of a STRATEGY CHANGE | RG CRUZ which suggests some sort of rhyme or reason, crude zigzaging seems a more appropriate description: Malacañang Backtracks on BJE MoA Even As Supreme Court Set to Rule on Constitutionality » The Warrior Lawyer | Philippine Lawyer.

Third, uncertainty concerning traditional allies such as the United States (see US silent on MILF terrorism « Peter Laviña New Blog) and Fourth, the possibility that the armed forces intervened by mounting operations even when the President hadn’t quite made up her mind on that to do. In his blog, thenutbox actually suggests the President announced offensive operations to retroactively rubberstamp the armed forces’ decision to begin them, regardless of the President’s position on the matter:

What my uncle told me was that Mrs. Arroyo actually ordered the attacks against MILF after the generals have already decided to launch the AFP offensive.

Arroyo’s inability to control her temper, his hypothesis went on, is actually borne out of her fright of the generals’ deciding by themselves without consulting her. She made a complete turn-around in his policy towards the MILF to appease the generals who were clearly pissed off with the BJE deal she made with the rebel group. And she wanted to appease the generals as soon as possible, hence her uncontrolled emotions for the delay of the taping.

At first I dismissed this as another conspiracy theory from a Gloria-hater. But veteran journalist Ellen Tordessillias, in a reply to a comment I posted on her blog, confirmed that, indeed, the anti-MILF mopping operations were actually carried out before the Bitch ordered them.

Note that Tordesilla’s military sources are excellent. I’d also heard on my own from a retired senior officer that Camp Aguinaldo had leaked the RP-MILF agreement to the media in the first place, and when I asked the retired officer if the agreement had the sanction of the AFP, the retired officer had emphatically shaken his head and said, “no, the AFP will fight!”

Note that Tordesilla’s military sources are excellent. I’d also heard on my own from a retired senior officer that Camp Aguinaldo had leaked the RP-MILF agreement to the media in the first place, and when I asked the retired officer if the agreement had the sanction of the AFP, the retired officer had emphatically shaken his head and said, “no, the AFP will fight!”

Put another way (see Philippine Politics 04: Arroyo needs to defend and explain the MOA-AD) if the President really did see the deal as an opportunity to display statesmanship, her statesmanlike resolve dissolved quite quickly, indeed. And Fifth, I’d say, a kind of latent nationalism everyone in official circles had assumed wasn’t there anymore (see This is what will happen to the Philippines after signing the GRP – MILF Memorandum of Agreement : OTWOMD | Bluepanjeet.Net)

The President hasn’t given supporters of the peace deal any chance to save themselves or the cause of peace. Which, sad to say, has been the repeated experience of those who still suffer from the delusion that they can achieve their idealistic goals by means of a pragmatic alliance with the President.

So if there are defenders, still, of the MOA: MOA-AD a path to peace, says Archbishop Quevedo « SCRIPTORIUM and refer to Red’s Herring: SC review imperils Mindanao peace process; then see The Palace’s High Cost of Learning | ralphguzman.org.

And refer to GOING IN CIRCLES « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR and PUSONG MAMON « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR to get a glimpse into how people -particularly Filipinos seized by uncertainty in the affected areas of Mindanao- began to send the message to civilian and military officials alike that in the absence of any reassuring information that the government knew what it was doing and would defend citizens seized by panic, that they would then take matters into their own hands.

And the would do so in the manner of their forefahers, see Viva Iligan! « preMEDitated:

In the speech, he appealed for:

And Solidarity.

He also urged community leaders to lead the people under them, to prepare for the worst, and fight if the need arose. He also mentioned the presence of the tanks and the several thousand strong army defending Iligan.
He also mentioned that the people of Iligan should not be afraid because God and Senior San Miguel was on our side. He closed his speech with a, “Viva Senior San Miguel!, to which the people heartily replied a “Viva”.
Although, I’m Protestant and do not agree with Catholic veneration of saints and even angels, I could not help but realize that the Mayor was speaking the heart language of the Iliganon, something that they could understand. He was speaking the old language of the Spanish times at the time when the citizens of the old fort of Iligan defended the fort and even waged battle against the Moros. Historically, even though Iligan was just a doorstep away from the Moro stronghold of Marawi, it was never conquered by Muslims despite the fact that at that time their pirates raided Christian towns as far away as Luzon.

“War,” Clausewitz famously wrote, “is the continuation of politics by other means.” Samuel Johnson also famously warned that “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels,” and yet it is also a time when a formerly divided people can find unity and leaders can tap into a kind of mystical reservoir of national solidarity and idealism:

As Juned Sonido, perhaps one of the most even-tempered bloggers around reflected, in a time of conflict there is the need to be aware of the dangers of jingoism and the imperative that should weigh heavily on all those in authority: to provide protection from those who hold allegiance to the state. What distinguishes the two? A clear and present danger, a compelling need:

At present waltzing around the negotiation table is as useful as cupping a corpse. It is hard to negotiate when one side has not given up the armed option or has no control over its army while the other side seems to be following the likes Neville Chamberlain at Munich – practicing vermi-negotiation or the art and science of negotiations by the worms at Munich.

Meanwhile, the war continues and people are hurt. A few hours ago a bomb was exploded in Zamboanga. Will this again reach the other corners of the country. Another bomb in the MRT or LRT?

Is this jingoism? No. This is a matter of national self defense.

It is the duty of the State to protect the citizens who opt to stay in this country. Otherwise these same citizens will go to other means to protect themselves.


You have to wonder whether such viligantism can view anything other than bloodcurdling hostility as acceptable.

By way of Carl Parkes — FriskoDude: Philippines: The Sulu Zone of Peace who points us to Jolo’s gun culture – Sidetrip with Howie Severino, we catch a glimpse of the complexities of conflict and clan relationships among the Moros. Those like the Catholic bishops clamoring for peace know from personal experience that peace is possible but peace between Christians and Muslims is made doubly difficult as peace among the Moros is difficult enough to achieve. Though it can be done: see A Lesson on Clan Conflict Resolution in the Philippines.

The reality however is that even though it’s always denied it, the Palace is sensitive to public opinion particularly when that opinion starts triggering May, 2001 flashbacks in the President’s inner circle.

Where that opinion is -and how it’s increasingly hostile to any policy other than crushing the MILF- can be gleaned from surveying the blogosphere:

See The Journal of The Jester-in-Exile: Are Yu Dif? Didna Her? then The Philippine Experience, as well as fiesty commentaries from mindanao is the land, promise « Geisha (gay’sya) Diaries and Mindanao « the Scribe in Me and The Art and Science of – Notes from an Apathetic Atenean Doctor. As well as idiosyncratic thoughts: hay.. and A SCENARIO EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH OUT « THE MOUNT BALATUCAN MONITOR.

On a more philosophical note, two entries discuss A Just War | Filipino Voices and A Just War: Road to A Just Peace | Filipino Voices (what is a “Just War”? See Just War – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). The voices raised against war are few and far between, see: Oppose the Mindanao War « Pinoy Observer

And while some will ask (and perhaps hope) Critical Criterion Edition: Peace in Mindanao? Here is A sober reminder that the war is real | Filipino Voices which makes for cautionary reading, as does this entry from General Santos City, in For the Children | HomewardBound:

12:52 PM Our principal called for an emergency meeting, the second meeting we had today that zeroed in on matters of safety and security. The schools has received calls that messages were circulating about schools in General Santos City whose students and teachers were hostaged. We were not very sure of the report but for the reason that we have to secure the safety of our students, we have decided to send them home.

However, we could not simply let them take the public transport, which will drop them in downtown GenSan. So, we arranged for vehicles that will take them to their respective homes. Those who have their own vehicles were fetched by their parents.

What happened in the elementary school is a different story. Panicking parents rushed to the school fetching their kids. Some drivers told us about the chaos in the elementary school.

Some member of the authorities went to our school to reassure us that none of the reported events were true and that we are relatively safer here. That’s a bit of a relief. But who knows what will happen next? Better safe than sorry.

Intuitive: We Need Your Prayers echoes the unreported reality for most Filipinos, worried about loved ones and even their property and livelihoods. Meanwhile, everyone waits to see which side will escalate matters and bring the front lines to other metropolitan centers of the Philippines.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

353 thoughts on “Wrapped in the flag

  1. Managing Philippines thru Federalism( my view)

    I would like to assume Federalism of 11 States as branches rather than provinces or regions. Provinces and regions are too many and too diversified in terms of getting information, auditing financial records and consolidation of data. A State will consolidate all such information in one place. Managing 11 States rather than too many provinces and regions is actually a sound policy in terms of Management. It doesn’t have to be called the “State” . In Business Management, the 11 states are more like the branch offices, functioning with the same rules and regulations ( The constitution) like the head office/malacanang Therefore, understanding the State as a branch office requires a Managers in each branch Office. These Managers are the job description of a Senator. Congressman and a Governor.
    Today… Malacanang cannot monitor all the provinces and regions because senators have no direct access to real issues coming from the bottom- the people. The middlemen- congressmen and governors are supposed to be in the middle to gather information from the bottom and report this information to the top. The Management style of our system has always been from TOP to BOTTOM, instead of bottom to TOP.

  2. You speak of a kind of federalism that is uniquely yours. I’m not even sure if it can classified as one. It appears to be more of a bungled unitary system. You treat a state as a management tool, not as a policy making body. And, you redefined certain positions, WOW!

    Federalism is pushed precisely to address a clamor for a Muslim state. You are against it. Or, at least, you will not allow it to adopt and practice Muslim laws. You said, “It bothers me to see such a great and noble religion dragged through the mud by its own. It is notable how differently Sharia law is implemented throughout the Muslim world. It seems women are more often punished than men. Also, corruption and cheating are seemingly not punished at all.”

    You also wrote, “Lower levels of elective office can constitute an arena for training and recruiting new political leaders, including women and young people who have not previously had a role in political life. And these lower levels of democracy provide a more accessible means for citizens to become active in public affairs, such as to question their local officials, monitor what they do, present their interests and concerns, and learn the skills and values of democratic citizenship.” This is not applicable to states, only to provinces and cities.

    You wrote, “… the revenue of our country is smaller than Orlando and Miami. Both city of Orlando and Miami is only run by a mayor. We don’t need useless congress.” And yet, you want to put up lawmaking bodies in every state. Also departments. Oh, I’m sorry. You said senators and congressmen will not make laws. They will be managers. Right?

  3. Wrapped in the flag. Displaced. Hungry. Angry. BJE.

    Causes: time warp, selective history, failed governance, greed, apathy, stupidity.

    Flawed solutions: Brute force, selective history over reality, gun over reason, a theocratic state.

    Immediate response to on-going atrocities is one thing. Going after criminals is another. It is police work. Not the AFP’s or the PAF’s. Is it worth killing a criminal when an innocent one dies with him? Collateral damage. Are we at war? With whom? Who minds the refugees? The displaced children?

    For decades we have virtually left our people to fend for themselves. Even when people get wrapped in flags, we still do. We are too busy importing rice to notice that Mindanao is not producing enough because nobody is buying its produce at the right price at the right time! Now, how can they farm when they’re on the run?

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