Apologists are increasingly painting themselves into a corner. They plead “good intentions” on behalf of the people they are apologising for rather than focus on good old-fashioned accountability. 44 officers of the Philippine police’s Special Action Force (SAF) are dead, the victims of a massacre they suffered under the hands of Islamic terrorists in Mindanao as they went about their business arresting a high-profile fugitive there. Yet the “debate” revolves around the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its buddies in the Philippines’ “Central Government” with whom they’ve spent the last several years talking “peace”.
Most Filipinos are now convinced who the real enemy is in this case — the animals who butchered those 44 cops. But to apologists, the “issue” is about how much or how little the “leadership” of the two sides knew about the circumstances leading to the massacre. In the case of the MILF “leadership”, apologists are of the opinion that they are not to blame because their “wanting” peace is not “shared” by the leaders of the other armed bandit groups currently on the loose in Mindanao. In short, the prevailing argument here is that “The deeds [comprising the slaughter of 44 police officers] were the work of clans, of warlords. Not the MILF leadership.”
As for the preferred apology approach for the government of President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III, the favoured argument is not really an argument but, rather, a muddling of the president’s direct culpability for the tragedy by quibbling on petty squabbles between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to serve as a “context” for the failure to “coordinate”. The approach has so far been effective in building a thick smokescreen that now blankets a sensible discussion of how accountable President BS Aquino is. Inquirer columnist Amando Doronilla, in his piece today articulates all the elements of this overhanging haze that leaves BS Aquino “unscathed” by the butchery — elements that Aquino’s apologists invoke liberally to buttress their, well, apologies.
Unfortunately for the Philippines’ burgeoning apology industry, only one thing emerges from this desperate effort to cover-up accountability at the top levels for both the terrorist MILF and the peacenik Philippine “Central” Government — that both are hopelessly inutile entities that exercise very little control over the complete cast of characters in this teleserye.
How then can we expect any real solution to come out of all this if the two central characters — Murad Ebrahim representing the MILF and President BS Aquino representing the Philippine “Central” Government — both claim they have no control over their respective domains?
And that is the real context here.
There is no cheesy history lesson relevant in this circus, only the reality of the present situation — that the Filipino people bet the future of “peace” in Mindanao on two men who, today, are both desperately pleading No control and No knowledge to wipe the blood of 44 Philippine police officers off their hands.
What are Filipinos doing tolerating leaders who, by their own admission, lack any real control over anything?
The real context at work here is really far more fundamental. Ebrahim and Aquino aren’t national-grade leaders but mere warlords. Ebrahim is in control of a bandit group. Aquino is in control of a feudal clan. Outside of Ebrahim and Aquino’s realm lies the rest of the country. Yet, both have presumed to represent vast swaths of the Philippines when they clinked toasts to each other over the negotiation table. The whole enterprise was a disaster by design!!
What to do now?
Well, the real solutions are all but obvious and there really is no point in discussing them here because Filipinos tend to be averse to the most obvious of them.
So let us, for a minute, get down on one knee and try to think at the level of these chattering apologists. What is a “workable” solution that might appeal to those who think at that comfy cognitive level? To be fair, it is a bit difficult considering that the “debate” at this level focuses on the laughable notion that there is still much to debate when it comes to what to do next despite finding one’s self face-to-face with a heinous crime begging to be resolved. Why? Firstly because of politics, paramount over all the rest is because a Vice President who — get this — Filipinos elected to office by popular vote is deemed unacceptable as a presidential option. Moronic enough. So let’s go to the more nuanced second excuse, that altogether dismissing Ebrahim and his band of butchers from future “peace” discussions will bring “all out war” back to Mindanao.
The funny thing with that second excuse is that its espousers actually acknowledge that Murad and his criminal gang are, in fact, strongly-inclined to be at war with the Philippines and see peace as more of an exceptional state. The default for them is war, not peace, because peace, for them, is the exception rather than the rule — a complete antithesis of our side; modern people who aspire to a world where peace is normal. For the MILF, a state of peace is like an egg balanced at the top of a Coke bottle — a fragile state the stability of which is hinged upon a very narrow set of conditions.
The MILF, like all the other armed bandits roaming Mindanao, are, in essence, holding Mindanao hostage, threatening to continue their killing spree, even as they send “representatives” in nice shiny suits to Manila. The scary thing is that we, along with some folk in Hong Kong, are all very well aware of President BS Aquino’s sorry track record when it comes to negotiating with hostage-takers.
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