DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) — So, what’s all this fuss about MILF’s Chair Iqbal using an alias? Use of many aliases or pseudo-names is a common practice. Consider this. Since I was born December 24, my baptismal records call me “JESUS“. But if you ask the National Statistics Office ( NSO), they officially call me “JESUS VIRGILIO”. My call sign in my congressional radio base before — and up to now — still call me “ALPHA“. My fraternal brods in the Guardians Brotherhood call me ‘BRO ALPHA“. My buddies at the radio group REACT call me “CAPSULEMAN“. Friends can call me “JESS“. And pretty ladies can call me… “ANYTIME”. (Ooooops! ha ha ha!) So, no worries!
CABINET PRAYER — Last Wednesday, I joined many former Cabinet members who gathered at President Arroyo‘s Veterans Hospital detention room in Quezon City to belatedly celebrate her birthday . She looked frail but beaming. When she joined us at the long table, I immediately volunteered by saying: “Happy birthday, Ma’am. We have a quorum now. Do you want me to start by giving the opening cabinet prayer?” The group broke into laughter, recalling my famous controversial cabinet prayer which she obviously was not happy about some seven years ago. No, I did not say the prayer this time. Thankfully, the officiating priest who said mass, did!
REALITY CHECK — Let’s all support the work of the National Peace Council composed of eminent leaders in the private sector. As I earlier pointed out, peace summits or dialogues help clarify — and exorcise — issues. This was what President Ramos did when he talked and forged peace with Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front. This also worked with President Arroyo in order to pick up the pieces shattered by the debacle of the MOA-AD at the Supreme Court. But in the wake of Mamasapano, the eminent persons must first have a reality check. Even with good intentions and their sterling credentials, they have to manage their expectations. Their work is not easy given the overall prevailing sentiment.
NOT ‘DEODORIZER’ — The peace council’s work or mandate must not be restricted or canalized but with some wide leeway so that it can re-direct or re-formulate courses of action as may be necessary. I trust the eminent persons can do well to avoid being perceived, rightly or wrongly, as just being there to “deodorize” the now controversial BBL.
WORLD BANK STUDY — I must hurriedly correct the misimpression given by a news article in the national dailies, where Sen. Chiz Escudero used the recently released World Bank study to oppose the BBL. If you ask me, it is pandering a “half truth” or it lifts or quotes a portion and avoids the whole correct context. I myself have not read the WB report so I had to check with a friend and colleague who is working with WB. In reply, he texted me to clarify that the news story that WB is not supportive or is critical of the BBL is “not true” or is “half true”. He said that on the contrary, the report positively notes a dramatic drop in “vertical conflict”, meaning between MILF and government forces. But it admonishes the MILF and government to attend to the preponderant “horizontal conflict“, referring to clan wars or “ridos“, conflicts by rogue elements like BIFF or ASG or just plain criminals. The report then, in obvious support of the BBL, notes that a good start in addressing the total environment of conflict in the Bangsamoro areas is to put a closure to the MILF-GPH peace efforts through the BBL. In any case the WB report also gives us a reality check: that having a final settlement with MILF will not necessarily result to automatic peace as some quarters would like many to believe, given the disparate players on the ground. Managing expectations, as we all know is important in this serious business of peace settlements.
This again reminds me about someone claiming that “there is no god!” quoting a passage in the Holy Bible. He omitted that part which said: “according to the fool“. So there.
NO HOSTAGE — You know why I could not immediately believe the WB report “spin“? I was at OPAPP when we first organized the development aspect of the peace negotiations. World Bank is a leader institution in the Mindanao Trust Fund in support of the talks so I could not believe what I was reading. I also had a long chat with some of their officials recently. So I had to check. Having said that, my calculated guess is that agencies and institutions like World Bank will not walk away from Mindanao, whatever happens to BBL. Improving the lives of the people is a never- ending effort. For peace talks to indefinitely hold hostage introduction of development for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people must not be allowed to happen. But of course, having a peaceful environment in the conflict-affected areas by peaceful settlements is key.
***The Alsons Power Group is about to commission its first 105MW (of a total 210MW) Sarangani Energy Corp. power plant located in Maasim, Sarangani. It will serve about 3 million Mindanaoans when operational.
*** A breakthrough in health technology. A 69-year old Frenchman with an artificial heart powered by lithium batteries is now even biking around.
*** The Malaysian parliament just passed a tough anti-terrorism law to counter Islamist militancy called “Prevention of Terrorism Act” that can detain terrorist suspects without charges. This came after 17 militants were arrested who are followers of Islamic state extremists planning to form an ISIS-like Islamic state in Malaysia.
*** USA and Cuba are resuming diplomatic ties. For about 50 years, Cuba was in economic isolation. Tourists will flock to Cuba to look at 50-year-old antique buildings, cars, appliances, etc. and to see how life was half a century ago. The US blockade that started 50 years ago has “frozen in time” what has been called a “Forbidden Island“. Now, it’s open to the world.