CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/04 November) — The barbaric Abu Sayyaf has long been violating human rights, our national laws, and other universal laws. Yet it is only now that our Commander-in-Chief barks an order to declare an all-out effort against them—with catastrophic results! Selective law enforcement.
There are the predatory New People’s Army and other dregs of yesterday, today, and, goodness-knows-who-else tomorrow. Then there’s MILF front Umbra Kato and his so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). How about the crop of opportunists riding on the perverse idea of an Islamic Caliphate? Selective law enforcement?
Our government’s failure to confront and combat such defiant scum of society relentlessly is reprehensible and a gross misreading of the bureaucracy’s mandate from us the citizenry.
Not only does the whole thing smack of selective enforcement, it reflects weak political will mixed with incompetence—and reduces the mission of law enforcers as a cat-and-mouse game using expensive hardware as they stage parades by dress-conscious brass. Lousy job!
There’s an attitude here that needs to be corrected for being counter-productive in our quest for stability and political maturity: the cavalier way crime-fighting and law-enforcing is done.
It is reflected in the selective way the law is treated, as if complying with it were a matter of preference. It gives rise to ambivalence in the minds of many about the merits of being a law-abiding citizen—as if it’s debatable!
It makes the law seem negotiable or, worse, optional; as if it doesn’t apply to everyone. Very wrong! Dura lex, sed lex. The law is harsh but it’s the law. Therefore, obey it!
One wonders whether we would be better off using the proven models of the past. Is there any civic education or citizen training today?
The first article of civic discipline and initiative in our citizens today should be the law-abiding sense, as must compulsory compliance with the law. For the uniformed services and the bureaucrats, enforcing the law must be uncompromising and the pursuit of the culprits unrelenting.
For governance in general, dapat daw matuwid na daan! Well, we’d better rebuild our social order and anchor it on political will. Citizens need to be decisive in the face of threats.
Had we such a citizenry during Typhoon Sendong, the devastation in Cagayan de Oro would not have been so great; the missing would have been minimal instead of thousands. Untrained and inexperienced, the Cagayanos could not compensate for the incompetence and inattention of a mayor whose whereabouts then could not even be accounted and who, it turned out, had not even bothered to organize a disaster relief and rehabilitation team as required by law!
After Typhoon Yolanda, the survivors in Tacloban were reduced to aimless wanderers for days on cadaver-littered streets after the storm surges. Had they been prepared, there would have been a modicum of order in their response to emergency.
Years ago, everyone knew the protocol under disaster conditions. Filipinos were familiar with the adrenalin-raising sensation and experience of mobilizing for whatever reason. They had self-confidence borne of preparedness, courage, and an indomitable spirit.
Thus when World War II erupted in 1941, even youngsters readily met the challenge of mobilizing and deploying for war. Guerilla resistance units sprouted, with minimal facilities or equipment.
“Bolos and spears versus guns and cannons!”—Yoyoy Villame might have put it. Filipinos didn’t panic or back down.
Later on, the pre-war training and drills the students underwent conditioned them to respond to contingency or civic demand—from fire-fighting to evacuating earthquake or flood victims, poll watching on Election Day and even traffic management when called upon.
In other words, there was good order and discipline—the result of civic and soldiering programs that were in place since the Commonwealth Period when Pres. Manuel L. Quezon commissioned Gen. Douglas MacArthur to organize and train the reserve officers’ training corps (ROTC).
That was in addition to the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts already in place, and later, the pre-military training (PMT) program for junior high students. Thus everyone was more or less familiar with orderly mobilization and systematic deployment for whatever reason.
Today, how come we’re so ill prepared for crime-fighting and disaster response?
(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected])