Today's Sunday PDI for example has the banner headline: Bush to GMA: Good job
This follows a telephone call from the US President congratulating the Philippines for ending the careers of Abu Sayyaf "spiritual leader" Khadaffy Janjalani and its "overall commander" Abu Sulaiman.
Now when you read the article and look through the White House dispatches, you find out that the President George W. Bush never actually used the words "Good job." The PDI consigliere-ombudsman, Raul Palabrica, or its editors and publishers, would probably counter that the paper didn't put these words in quotation marks, but the malicious intent of the headline is pretty clear. The paper wants its readers to think that their President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is really just a Lackey of America--which has been their mentally unbalanced editorial position, especially with respect to the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Subic Bay rape case, and any number of issues affecting Philippine American relations.
The newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer, which styles itself as nationalistic and patriotic, makes the contention that the War on Terror is just America's war, and that we don't really have a stake in it. Their take since 9/11 is that the Philippines is vulnerable to America's enemies only because the Philippines is America's friend. To them, the reasons terrorists have attacked the Philippines is because of our close relations with the United States. The paper has consistently opposed anti-terrorism legislation as subject to abuse, misdirected, or a danger to civil liberties. (As if life were not civil right of terrorism's victims!). The broadsheet has never quite grown up about Philippine American relations, which they still regard in victimological terms.
Now if anything galls me about what is happening in Mindanao, it is the fact Gloria and not the soldiers and officers responsible for the severe degradation of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group (which PDI used to portray as a mere kidnap for ransom and bandit gang, and which even in today's article they describe as "extremist"--as if there were "moderate" terrorists in Mindanao.) gets the glory. I seem to recall an interview by Pia Hontiveros last week of a newly decorated Marine who participated in the firefights that killed Janjalani and Sulaiman. He mentioned one Col. Angel Querubin as a role-model of Filipino insurgent fighters, being only one of two Medal of Valor awardees. Ironically, Querubin is currently charged with rebellion in Court Martial proceedings along with the Oakwood mutineers, who were also our most sterling defenders in battles with Muslim and communist insurgents. They are actually in trouble with GMA and the AFP hierarchy for battling endemic corruption there and trying, perhaps ineptly, to expose it. I think this aspect of it is the most painful -- that the Just, and the Brave, are punished to keep the Wicked in power.
The authoritative analysis of recent events in Mindanao is at the Belmont Club (Part 1 and 2) and Pajamas Media, whose Sydney, Australia editor, Richard Fernandez, has been writing from the Archipelago the last few months, in case you haven't noticed.
By the way, I got an interesting email from The Hillblogger (Anna de Brux) who blogs from Europe, on CSAFP Hermogenes Esperon's fashion sense--
An 'official picture' of the military with GMA and General H Esperon, CSAFP and DND Sec E Ermita appeared on the front page of of The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
I was shocked to see in that picture, the chief of staff AFP in a formal pose in the middle of the troops fresh from a battle front in the South sporting civilian attire. The chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines seriously committed a breach of military protocol.
If for the sake of argument, General Esperon was caught in the middle of two engagements requiring him to don a civilian attire, (1) he should have refused to pose in an official military pictorial that he knew would be published in a major broadsheet; it is very unlikely that he didn’t know that it would be published, he needn’t have joined the pictorial (2) if he, as CSAFP, agreed to pose in the middle of the valiant uniformed troops in civilian attire, he should have made sure that the picture would remain in the bottom drawer of the AFP official archives, unpublished in any of the nation's broadsheets.
All said, Mr Esperon committed grave indescretion vis a vis the Philippine military - he was UNECESSARILY LAX. There COULD HAVE BEEN NO EXCUSE, absolutely NONE!
I’ve met many chiefs of staff, Philippine and foreign, and allow me to tell you that a military officer in that position, cannot allow himself the slightest error particularly over something that could have been EASILY avoided, i.e., appearing in OFFICIAL pictorials with troops fresh from the battlefront… This wasn’t a birthday party - this was an official military PICTORIAL that would reverberate the world over because the picture will have been picked up by the various military attachés assigned in the Philippines and forwarded to their home office! As we speak, a few foreign military officers who saw the published picture would be surprised to see the AFP leadership so lax and I suspect, given the AFP's not too outstanding reputation in the military world, they would think the Philippines as having a 'second rate' military just because General Esperon had been lax.
Could you imagine, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief UK Army posing in civvies in an official function with uniformed troops who had just got back from the battle front? Firstly, it would never have happened, secondly, he WOULD BE SACKED if it happened -there would be great public clamor to replace him, he would be severely criticised and relentlessly so in the British press, virtually roasted alive.
The chief of a nation's military cannot BE LAX, particularly when it could be easily avoided. No ifs, no buts! If the military chief is lax, the troops become lax. If General Esperon wants an excuse to be lax, then he must resign and return to civilian life.
No wonder the Philippine military is in shambles! Its chief is lax…