Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Swords or plowshares

Cattle for hostages?

Promises of more cows, carabaos (water buffalos), tractors and development projects helped convince the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers to release Italian Red Cross volunteer Eugenio Vagni, a businessman involved in the hostage negotiations claimed Monday.

Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Armando de Rossi, a Filipino citizen of Italian descent, said reports of ransom payments or that a "prisoner swap" prompted the bandits to release Vagni were "completely a huge lie."

Meanwhile, there are demands for an all-out attack on the Abu Sayyaf.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. Monday said it was time for the military to escalate operations on Jolo island and get its "high-valued" leaders.
A day after the release of Italian Red Cross volunteer Eugenio Vagni from six months of harsh jungle captivity, Teodoro said he had directed the military to intensify pursuit operations against the al-Qaeda-linked kidnappers...

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security, also supported the intensified drive.
"The total destruction of the terrorists or kidnappers will be a great legacy of this administration, even if the total elimination of insurgency cannot be achieved within the remaining term of the President," Biazon said...

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition, said in a statement:..."With Vagni’s release, there should be no more obstacle to neutralizing this terror group. They should be stopped."

Time and again, the government has vowed to eradicate the insurgents and lawless elements in the South. The history of unceasing armed conflict and bloodshed in the South since time immemorial does not inspire much in terms of the government forces succeeding this time around, notwithstanding the fresh bold words coming from the administration.

But Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, urged the Arroyo administration to open the lines of communication with the rebel group.
"The government should talk to the Abu Sayyaf. You cannot say that they are purely outlaws. If an outlaw wants to surrender, you have to talk to him," the senator said....That the Abu Sayyaf released the three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross and was willing to accept government aid point to a breakthrough, Gordon said.

The group, he said, had lost so much during the six months of military offensives against them and were probably tired. He said two brothers of the Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad were killed and another commander, Abu Ali, also lost a brother.

The military suffered 14 dead, Gordon said. "These are not complicated people. They want a life again. Their families are important to them. Maybe it’s time to talk to them," he said.

Maybe Sen. Gordon has a point there. For example, if even half of the money spent so far by the government for this war were used to buy cows, carabaos, tractors and such others to develop livelihood programs in the South, we might be seeing a different scenario. In addition, there are a lot of innocent people displaced by the armed conflict, while the government is already spending so much for resettlement areas that leave much to be desired. We should not tolerate lawlessness, but we also wonder if the people in the South had enough cows and carabaos in the first place. In the news flash early this evening, the incoming army commander said something to the effect - "Armed battle would only serve a temporary victory, we should address the root cause of the conflict". The commander is most likely tired too. We must be all tired...and very sad I should add.

"But if war can end without winners or losers in a suicide of humanity, then we must repudiate the logic which leads to it: the idea that the effort to destroy the enemy, confrontation and war itself are factors of progress and historical advancement" - Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II.

No comments: