WORM’S EYEVIEW: Playing cozy: Guingona-NPA entente cordiale?

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) – It’s amazing to contemplate what seems to be a mutual-admiration society composed, on one hand, of a former vice president and an incumbent senator, and on the other, of communist insurgents.

At a press conference featuring former VP Tito Guingona (with son Senator TG) in Cagayan de Oro the other day, both sides were effusive about their mutual admiration and warmth toward each other. The Guingonas expressed verbal assurance of their respect for the leadership of the insurgents while the insurgents reciprocated with praise for ex-vice president Tito’s heroic role during Martial Law in their press statements. An episode instructive as it is worrisome.

The exchange took place in the wake of the tragedy that befell Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona (wife of VP Tito and mother of Senator TG) who was wounded in the NPA ambush last week during which two of her bodyguards were fatally shot.

That it took place as it did provoked thoughts of why long-festering problems in Mindanao and elsewhere in our republic just simmer, never resolved. Or why corrupt regimes keep getting elected, allowing dynasties to feed on the community while enabling insurgents to survive on residual support and resources from its peripheries.

A little-noticed sidelight was the insurgents’ cavalier announcement that they would find a way to indemnify the families of the two body guards. Of this, one can say: Sure, why not! It’s not as if they’re still the ragtag, impoverished band of destitute idealists foraging in the hills. As a matter of fact, the dozen or so CPP-NDF front organizations today earn about P1 billion from their pork barrel allocations alone – at P70 million each yearly plus other entitlements resulting from their adoption of parliamentary struggle to aid their armed struggle. That’s how successful they have been in augmenting revenues from revolutionary taxes, permit-to-campaign, and other collections.

Then there’s Jorge Madlos, alias Ka Oris, CPP-NPA spokesman in Mindanao. Despite his apparent visibility and ready availability to media, this cocky fellow rides on like a Robin Hood with impunity, eluding arrest. It’s a disquieting thought that he may be enjoying longevity in his career and life on earth because of political accommodation and patronage. If he is in the AFP’s order of battle, why can’t they find him or arrest him?

If Ka Oris and his group are enemies of society, why are they able to move around freely, fully armed, and free to pillage and plunder? If they are threats to good governance, what are the governments of every jurisdiction they traverse doing to contain them? If they are deadly to legitimate commerce and industry, why are they getting away with kidnapping businessmen, burning offices and equipment, and killing workers?

The local governments, including Gingoog City’s, even let them get away with claiming “exclusive zones” and impose entry permits and fees, setting up checkpoints at will. It was while passing through such checkpoint – within the city of the Guingona administration! – that the night-time encounter with Mayor Ruthie’s convoy took place.

During the press conference, the Guingonas sounded more chastened than outraged by the affront to the mayor’s authority and the city’s sovereignty. No order of pursuit was made, nor a categorical condemnation of the effrontery. There was more talk of “forgiveness” and the need to await the results of an investigation – not by the government but by the raiding force’s revolutionary command! Really! As if such investigations can be trusted! Are the Guingonas ceding territory and authority to them?

Subsequent media reports made the Guingonas’ appear indulgent, even tolerant, towards the insurgents. The ex-vice president pointedly made assurances of his continuing friendship with the movement’s leaders. In wanting to sound reassuring to barbaric insurgents, he seemed unaware that it sounded menacing to the civilized community.

Such handling of violence and insurgency doesn’t augur well for lasting peace in our time. It sounds more like postponing peace, leaving it for the time when the dynasty finally tires of being in power, is through with exploiting it, or moves away beyond the reach of the insurgency. It leaves one musing about unpleasant scenarios.

One wonders, for instance, how Mayor Ruthie Guingona or her son Senator TG would have fared in elections past in that part of Mindanao had they taken an active role in containing the insurgency or in combating terrorism in their backyard. This same question haunts many other places and their respective leaders.

Related question: How did Mayor Ruthie manage to serve three terms unperturbed amid the forces of destabilization surrounding Gingoog City and Caraga? Did she have to play footsie with insurgents… and to what extent so it wouldn’t go beyond the bounds of legality or impropriety?

Finally, and this is one for academic study as well: is there a correlation between dynastic rule, insurgency, and the incidence of injustice as per the record of such communities?

These questions will haunt the administration of Mayor Ruthie’s daughter Marie if she succeeds in maintaining the Guingona Dynasty by getting elected Mayor of Gingoog City on May 13.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at [email protected])

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