smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Ameril Umbra Kato

 

Umbra Kato is one impressive gnome. 

Beginning at 0:51, Kato denies the status of his unit as a lost command – claiming that his unit has not done anything contrary to his organization’s orders. 

At 2:15, Kato denies that he started the troubles in North Cotabato. He claims that soldiers and CAFGU attacked – unprovoked – MILF cadres in Aleosan (?). The attack, Kato claims, took place on July the first. That ought to be easy enough to verify, eh?

Anyway, Kato goes on to explain that the attack was clearly intended to drive them out. “Where do we go?” he asks. “We can’t go to Luzon or the Visayas.” All in all, he paints his actions as being grounded on a ‘defense of one’s home’ kind of theory. Of the military, he says “You are driving somebody from their own place. Terrorist yun!” Then he asks, how would you like it if we did the same to you?

Starting at 4:53, Kato draws a parallel between himself and the Prophet Muhammad. He says that the 10 million reward for his death or capture is simply an indication that the military has run out of ways to get him. The same thing, he said, happened to Muhammad for whose capture his enemies offered a hundred camels. Shades of a messianic complex?

Asked about the escalation of hostilities in Maguindanao, Kato mumbles something about how that had always been the President’s plan – to ‘invade’ Maguindanao under the guise of preventing the signing of the MOA-AD.

And that’s where part one ended.

Filed under: news, , , ,

Khilafah

Does the MILF represent the Bangsamoro? This question has been asked by me and others, and it was only last night that I realized that the question is really moot when asked in relation to the MOA-AD. The terms of the MOA are so good for the Bangsamoro people in general that they really don’t care who pushes it for them. 

This is why debate on the MOA has cut raggedly across party-lines, with the split cleaving along cultural-religious divides. Muslims want it – regardless of how they feel about the MILF – and Christians don’t want it – regardless of how they feel about Muslims.

So, in theory, if the MOA were to carve out a Bangsamoro homeland without impinging upon Christian occupied lands, there really would have been no fuss. Lobregat and Pinol would have prolly been the first to say ‘Huzzah!’ Unfortunately, these MILF got too greedy and, in their haste to restore the Sultanate, ended up rubbing their Khilafah in Christian noses.

And this, I have to believe, they did willingly. Just as they willingly entered into this MOA knowing full well that it would never fly. For them, what mattered was that the Government gave them the acknowledgement they craved. The issue of whether that acknowledgement would eventually come to fruition as the actual recovery of homelands was something they were willing to work on at a later time. For one thing, they must have known that the current government doesn’t have anywhere near enough social capital to make the MOA operational. And so, they were content to get the recognition now – as effect-less as it might be. At the very least, they can go international with that document. Actual operationalization would be a battle for another day. 

And in exchange for this recognition, they would provide the government with a killer tool to force charter change. Such tangled webs we weave.

Filed under: politics, society, ,

Is it a war?

Everyone and his favorite newspaper all proclaim that there is a war going on in Mindanao. But over in Filipino Voices – this collective I haven’t contributed to in a while – a nice discussion is shaping up about the use of the word “WAR.”

Dean Jorge Bocobo – the blogger behind Philippine Commentary – sets out his argument this way:

I think we really must reserve the word “WAR” for conflicts involving sovereign states unless we want to adopt the neologism “war on terrorism” which would be fine with me. But as far as I am concerned suppression of the MILF is a police action to enforce the laws of the land against, murder, arson, kidnapping and hostaging as human shields and other criminal acts (including possible violations of the Human Security Act, even if it is a Terrorist Bill of Rights).

I’m not just nitpicking words because it is the constant portrayal of this conflict as a war that obscures the moral high ground we must reach: Justice for all in a system of democratic equal protection that is blind to color, creed and gender.

By treating it as war, we actually legitimize the MILF’s staunch refusal to disarm and negotiate in earnest. We must fight as much, if not more for the advantaging of the Bangsamoro people themselves than other Filipinos who would not fall into a new sultanate ruled by sharia law for Muslims only and a different set of laws for non MUslims or cases involving them both.

cvj – he of the Placeholder blog – retorts:

DJB, isn’t that being Orwellian, i.e. reserving the term ‘war’ only for conflicts involving sovereign states? After all, there is such a thing as Civil War.

Hoookay.

I agree with DJB. The offensive against the MILF is a police action aimed at suppressing lawlessness. For one thing, there is a significant consensus that ‘war’ properly refers to a conflict between nations, carried on by authority of their respective governments. I am nowhere near ready to consider the MILF a nation. Hell! Nothing negates their much vaunted claim to represent the Bangsamoro people – which I’ve never believed anyway – than the fact that, in their campaign of retaliation for the scuttling of the MOA-AD, they’ve been victimizing Bangsamoros anyway.

So, I don’t see how anyone can still believe in the fiction that the MILF represents anything more than their own interests. As far as I am concerned, the MILF is nothing more than a group of thugs – bandits, gang-bangers – who are out to use deadly means to force the outcome they want. And so moving against them is really nothing more than an exercise of police power – the inherent authority of a state to regulate behavior and enforce order within its territory.

And with regard to cvj’s retort … might this not be just an instance of an Orwellian strategist, denouncing Orwellian strategies? LOL?

Filed under: musings, , ,

2010 on my mind

As the situation in the south deteriorates by the hour, I cannot help but think that alot of the blame must fall on the President’s shoulders simply on first principles alone. As Commander-in-Chief, the responsibility for war and peace rests in her hands.

Now a Commander-in-Chief can be a shrewd general – like JFK was, when he beat down the hawks who wanted nothing more than to nuke Cuba – or he can be megalomaniac who believes himself the fount of all wisdom but is actually a mediocre general – like Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Il. And they can be surrounded by generals and who can run the spectrum from brilliant to stupid. These generals can offer advice – both tactical and strategic – and the Commander-in-Chief can take it. But at the end of the day, it is the Commander-in-Chief’s decision making, her game plan, that takes precedence. After all, it is not for soldiers to reason why; theirs is but to do and die.

And they are dying over there in Mindanao.

Now it can be argued that the President is no soldier – but then again, neither was JFK. The truth is, being a soldier or not is beside the point because wars can be won away from the battlefield, and avoiding a war is a political game. In fact, the existence of war is conclusive proof of two things: somewhere, somehow, the political process failed; and that both sides have decided that they’ve run out of solutions and have had to resort to brute force to get what they want.

That’s exactly the problem in Mindanao right now.

No more solutions

It is widely said that the ongoing conflict in Mindanao springs from the failure of the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Homeland of the Bangsamoro.

The thing is this – the President’s men (and therefore the President herself) dangled the idea of the BJE in front of the bandits and sold themselves on the idea that it would work. This played them right into the bandit’s hands: by putting all their eggs in the BJE basket, the President’s men gave the bandits the opportunity to set up an ultimatum – give us the BJE or we start shooting again.

When the BJE was scuttled the bandits got their casus belli. Now admittedly its a flimsy rationale for the resumption of hostilities, but it is just solid enough to rile up the cannon-fodder and convince them that they’ve been shafted and therefore need to avenge their slighted pride. It’s Moro psychology 101, if anyone had bothered to check.

And that’s the point: the Commander-in-Chief is supposed to be able to take in the whole picture; to understand how various factors all contribute to the outcome. In this case, because the President’s men were allowed – perhaps even encouraged – to formulate a do-or-die solution, it is clear that there were critical factors that were ignored, not the least of which is the very well known tendency of Moros to exaggerate insults to their pride.

In hostage negotiation, one of the most basic lessons is to never say no to the hostage taker. But then again, this also covers situations where saying ‘yes’ sets you up to say ‘no’ later. Let me clarify: by saying yes to the idea of a BJE, the President’s men were committing to an outcome that was not in their control. It was stupid for them to imagine that the BJE would slip through unnoticed. More to the point, the President’s men simply failed to anticipate a negative outcome, i.e., the BJE would be challenged and stopped. So, by saying yes, to the BJE, they were blindly rushing into a future where – when the Supreme Court invalidates the MOA for instance – they would have no choice but to say no to the BJE. And there you go, they said NO to the hostage taker.

This turn of events led the hostage taker – the bandits – to now feel backed into a corner. The only way out of that corner would have been a MOA for the BJE. But with no MOA forthcoming, and the additional insult of the ARMM elections being conducted, the bandits embraced the belief that there would be no other solution than to come out with their guns blazing. No solutions. War.

Failed political process

Hand in hand with the loss of viable solutions – or perhaps the direct cause of it – was the failure of the political process. The peace talks – like a hostage situation – should have been more adroitly handled, and the do-or-die scenario would have been avoided. The damned talks have been going on since before I was born, for crying out loud, why was there a need to hurry? The do-or-die solution of the BJE was a desperation shot. One hailmary pass to secure a win. It was a bad gamble, but it was not inevitable or even reasonable; simply expedient.

And that was the failure of the political process. The political process was subverted by the insane legacy-building trip this administration has been on since the start of 2008. And so, instead of drawing out the talks some more, the government negotiators in effect laid their last card on the table, setting up the do-or-die situation that should’ve been avoided like the plague.

Could the President have affected this? Well, hell yeah.

If legacy building had not been prioritized over sound strategy, there would have been no need at all for a quick do-or-die solution. If the President had not boasted that the ARMM elections would be postponed, the added slight to MILF sensibilities would not have taken place at all and the situation in the south would not be as bad as it is now. If the Supreme Court had not intervened in a mere MOA, the process of creating the BJE could have been managed to the satisfaction of all – or if not to the satisfaction of all, then with a least a minimum of abrasiveness.

An aside on the SC ruling on the MOA: I have read neither the MOA nor the SC decision. However, it seems abundantly clear to me that a MOA is not a law but rather just an instrument recording a meeting of minds. Therefore, if the two parties agreed to work for a constitutional amendment, then they cannot be construed to have committed an un-constitutional act. If every intention to change a law were to be considered a contravention of that law, then no laws would ever be changed. It is only the worst form of squirreling that allows the argument that by agreeing to amend the constitution,the MOA signatories (and the MOA) itself have committed an unconstitutional act.

Brute force

The confluence of these two factors has led us to this brute force war. And for that, I accuse the President of being a lousy Commander-in-Chief who now has no choice but to put her soldiers and her people in harm’s way.

2010

Which leads me to think of 2010. I can do nothing about this Commander-in-Chief’s failure, but I can do something about who the next Commander-in-Chief will be. So, I’ll focus on that and make sure that 2010 is ever on my mind.

The next President must not be as one-dimensional as this one. It’d be good if he’s an economist, but he cannot be just a bean-counter. He must understand all facets of statecraft, including the waging of war. Sun-Tzu said something like that and he wasn’t wrong.

The next President must be, in equal measure, a hawk and a dove. He must know when to apply force and not wait for the eve of apocalypse as this President has. He must strive always for principled peace and he must work to strengthen the political power of restive groups like the Bangsamoro. By bringing them into the political arena, solutions can be worked out through words in the halls of power, rather than with guns on the battlefield.

In Ireland, this happened when the Sinn Fein joined the political game; the IRA laid down their arms and peace became possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the peace easily becomes permanent; but at least it gets a chance.

The next President must not trust his alter-egos overmuch. While the ability to effectively delegate is the mark of a good leader, the inability to oversee the exercise of delegated power is a badge of incompetence.

I could prolly go on and on, but I don’t want to be too utopian. These three imperatives are enough basis for me to choose come 2010.

Filed under: 2010 watch, politics, , ,

Renegade Commander

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu blamed the attacks on a renegade commander.

The attacks, of course, refer to the raids on Kauswagan, Maigo, and Kolambugan towns in Lanao del Norte, where the MILF have burned houses and shops, taken civilians as human shields, and left at least eight people dead.

“Our leadership has not sanctioned these attacks. This has to stop if we can confirm the involvement of our forces,” (Kabalu) said.

Which means, I suppose, that if the MILF can’t confirm that it’s their forces – and not some renegade commander who nevertheless claims to be acting on MILF business – behind the carnage, they won’t lift a finger to stop it?

This whole ‘renegade commander’ bullshit doesn’t really fool people, I hope. History is replete with examples of people going beyond the conventions of war (and that’s putting it lightly) being disavowed by their sovereigns, even as the fruits of their banditry are enjoyed by the very same people who publicly denounce them. It was bullshit when Elizabeth did it, and it’s bullshit now, when EId Kabalu is the one doing the bullshitting. At least Elizabeth let her privateers loose on the Spaniards. Kabalu and his MILF dogs are killing their own countrymen.

And still, we talk about giving them land; and continue to engage in even more talking about how we’re going to make them pay.

Enough talking already.

Although I had doubts about the wisdom of creating a BJE, I subsequently arrived at the opinion that since Moro aspiration for a homeland was an inevitable thing, it might be more … enlightened to pursue the process with an open mind and not just dismiss the idea out of hand. But now, even if I were to accept – which I don’t (a position that more and more people seem to be verbalizing now) – that the MILF did represent the Bangsamoro people, I believe that they have lost whatever moral high ground they might have had with these vicious attacks in MIndanao. While it is true that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, I’m no longer ready to give the MILF even that little credit.

And while I cannot possibly shape history, I say that it is way past time to excise the MILF from the body politic, with extreme prejudice. I think we’ve done enough ‘reaching out’ and all that feel-good, politically correct, Oprah-esque bullshit. It’s time to educate them on what it means to defy the state, eh? Like Duterte once said: the government isn’t here to give you a fair chance; it is here to overwhelm you.

Unfortunately, no matter how aggressively the military goes after these vermin, they will never be one hundred percent effective for as long as people like that moron Pimentel – yeah, the Senator – continue to yap about constituionalizing the grant of a state-within-a-state to these bandits. If you think about it, the move towards federalism is just the large-scale equivalent of congressmen breaking up their home provinces at the end of their third term. Remember sugbuak? Because, come down to it, that’s what this federalism crap boils down to: giving little fiefdoms to all petty provincial kingpins in order to justify giving the terrorists their own sultanate.

With Pimentel hogging the headlines about what a good idea it is to federalize, what will the military really be fighting for? Fighting men are most effective when they are fighting for a cause that they can rally behind. That was true for the Spartans at Thermopylae; that was true for the Israelis when Arab nations ganged up on them; and that will be true for the troops in Mindanao – whether they’re fighting the coward Eid Kabalu, or some renegade commander whose name might well turn out to be Snuffleapagus.

Filed under: musings, , , , , ,

What price for peace?

I remember reading a work on Marcos that has him saying something like ‘I did not become President to preside over the death of the Republic (anyone who has the correct quote, please share).’ And I bring that up now because of this: the creation of a ‘homeland’ for Moros.

The “projected” territory referred to as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is the “current” Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which may be expanded to include 712 barangays (villages) in five provinces in Central Mindanao, Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.

He said the five provinces were Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga-Sibugay and Palawan.

Now I understand how desperately we want peace, but I for one want a principled peace; not the peace of capitulation. What we have now is practically peace of the second kind – the kind of peace that descends upon a defeated people who have finally accepted their inability to win the war. As DJB said, this is nothing but The Biggest, Most Stupid Ransom Payment of Them All.

And besides it seems clear to me that this desire for a ‘homeland,’ first, isn’t necessarily something that the Moros want; it’s obviously something that the gun-toting MILF wants and I’ve never accepted that the MILF actually speaks for the Moros.

Look, the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is really nothing more than an expanded ARMM; the pleb to create the BJE then would be nothing more than another attempt to lasso those areas that have already previously rejected membership in the ARMM. Incidentally, those areas that rejected the ARMM are the biggies in terms of productivity, infrastructure, and resources – like Palawan, Lamitan City, and Cotabato. So it’s no surprise that the movers behind the idea of the BJE should try once again to get their claws on those places. So its all about access to wealth, I say, despite the MILF’s insistence that their desire for a homeland is motivated by the noblest ideals.

Filed under: politics, society, , ,

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