Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Just fight, fight, fight – no more talk! BY THE WAY by Max V. Soliven

Just fight, fight, fight – no more talk!
By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 06/19/2006
The President assured me there will be no more peace talks or attempts to compromise with the Communist New People’s Army or any parleys with the radical Leftists in our midst. We had a private dinner Friday night with only three present in the home of a mutual friend in Makati shortly after she returned from Isabela. The only other person present as a participant was our STAR colleague, Mr. Babe Romualdez. Our host asked not to be identified.
Although a number of matters were discussed at our meeting, almost everything said was "off the record" – particularly those concerning appointments to the diplomatic corps, the Cabinet, etc.
While we were meeting, I received an overseas call from our STAR European Bureau Chief V. Gomez Massart in Brussels. She had just spoken with Communist Party and NPA "Supremo" Jose Ma Sison who’s been the Communist insurgency from his safe bolthole in Utrecht, Holland – thousands of miles away from the Philippine battlefront.
Correspondent Massart, who operates out of Paris and Brussels, got Joma Sison’s "instant" reaction to what President GMA had stated earlier in Manila, and even her remarks in Kauayan, Isabela (talk about Sison having spies and informers in the field here). The Communist-NDF Chieftain had snarled on the phone that GMA was only utilizing him as a hate-object and attacking the NPA to distract public attention from her own sins and "corruption."
Vi was surprised to learn that I happened to be with the President at that moment. With GMA’s consent I handed the cellphone to her and I guess Massart briefed her personally on the "reaction" in Europe.
In any event, La Presidenta is right. No more temporizing with the likes of Joma and his murderous NPA terrorists who’ve cost the lives of thousands, including a majority of innocent civilians, and been bloodsucking hundreds of millions of pesos from people and corporations under the guise of "progressive" or "revolutionary" taxes. It’s blackmail, coercion, extortion – and assassination. That’s all they did while pretending to talk "peace" here and haughtily snubbing our over-eager panelists in Oslo. Enough time, and enough lives wasted. Our government ought to just go – get them!

* * *
That P1 billion GMA boasted she had given the military to boost their capability is just a drop in the bucket.
What the Commander-in-Chief added, however, made some sense. She told me that Friday night that she’d like to give more, and in increasing allocations, but she had to observe the military’s ability "to absorb" each sum, without their wasting it or squandering the new funds away on the wrong "priorities" or procurements.
I’m still for that one-time, immediately allotted P100 billion budget so our armed forces can re-equip, recruit and retrain. Then, with the armed forces in tiptop condition, let’s unleash them on the insurgents and crush rebellion once and for all. Not in two years, or three as so often "promised."
The President responded that she’s trying to mobilize such a sum, but her first priority still must be Education. I couldn’t disagree. Education is a must – and we’ve fallen far behind.
"Back to English" she pointed out is still her goal, she noted. Then, wistfully enough, she added she wished we could also "go back to Spanish."
I informed her that Spanish Ambassador Ignacio Sagaz had said to me just the other week that he had "the funds" to underwrite Spanish teaching in the Philippines. He only wanted to make sure that they are properly applied. To which GMA replied: "Let him get Spain to send us the teachers," immediately proposing that she would get the appropriate support from our government to bring such a program into operation.
Sad to say, we don’t have any Spanish-speaking teachers available here. Okay, we have a few which can be counted on the fingers of four or five hands. Spanish teachers? We’re woefully short of English-speaking teachers. Just give our supervisors, principals and teachers in the public school system a test. Betcha you’d be surprised how many would flunk English 1.

* * *
It’s interesting to note that United States President George W. Bush’s approval ratings have bounced upwards, from their all-time low of 31 percent last May to – sanamagan – 36 percent this weekend. Not only that, a Fox News poll showed a "rebound" in Republican Party support. In short, Bush is up in support within his own party from 71 percent last month to 82 percent this month. And, by golly, even on Iraq: A Wall Street Journal survey reported a big jump in confidence that US involvement in battered Iraq would be successful – up a surprising 11 percent in just a week to 54 percent.
A week of good news had made a difference of 6 to 8 points, declared Stephen Ross, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution exclaimed. "I have been surprised at how much wiggle room there is in public opinion on Iraq!"
In sum, Bush simply hunkered down and rode out the bad spell in his ratings. His improved poll numbers, of course, owes a great deal to the killing of Iraq’s most dreaded murderer, bomb-disperser and scalawag, the Jordanian-born scumbug Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, whose location US planes pinpointed enabling them to attack and bomb the gutter rat into Terrorist Paradise. Bush has apparently reacquired a spring in his step, and his almost shattered poise. It may be a small victory, but small victories are a quantum jump when you’re in the dumps.
La Gloria might take a leaf from her friend, Mr. Bush – who seems to like her a lot despite her abandoning him in Iraq over the threatened beheading of OFW Angelo de la Cruz. Don’t try to please everybody. Just do your best, and God will do the rest.
GMA continues to believe that Divine Providence helps and protects her. She reiterated that thought last Friday during a relaxed moment in our discussions. Yes, God helps – but here on earth we must do our part. Often, the painful part.

* * *
There is an urgent need as I’ve said too often, for one thing: for Filipinos to learn to love one another. We continue to be a nation in the process of fragmentation.
Fortunately, Filipinos gripe more than they really "fragment." Look around you – we’re still a happy people.
But gee whiz! Another "impeachment case?" Have our lawyers got nothing more productive to do? Being a person of limited vision, I tend to confine my judgments to what I personally observe. I observe that we have lost a great many of our Middle Class (that so-called ‘backbone of the nation’) who are now waving their much sought-after Green Cards in the United States of America or are rampantly T.N.T. (tago ng tago) in Canada, or being harassed (unless they’re nurses) by the British Home Office in the United Kingdom.
It’s a "Green Card" no longer. The new "alien" registration cards are white, with a blue stripe in front and a lot of computer numbers at the back. This is because of the many fake Green Cards which have been manufactured by clever forgers in Mexico.
We have lost – at least temporarily – a significant proportion of our Working Class who are toiling away in that magic land collectively known as "Saudi" (which is mostly desert but oozing with Petrodollars). No less than 4 million Filipinos are sweating it out in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Iraq and Iran and sundry unpronounceable barrens of the Middle East – plus Nigeria and other countries of Black Africa – so as to be able to send home approximately $16 billion (by bank or blackmarket) to their struggling families in the urban or rural barrios.
We have not, of course, completely lost our Upper Class. But these "fortunates" belong to that wealthy breed rich enough to hedge their bets: they maintain residences or apartments in both the Philippines and some foreign destination within convenient reach of their Swiss bank accounts, their safety deposit boxes in Liechtenstein and Hong Kong, or their tax havens in the Bahamas, not to mention a number of very visible investments in Taipei. They are the First Class commuters on every outbound jetliner, if they do not own executive jet aircraft of their own, ready for fast refueling and a fast get-away. We have even lost an appreciable segment of our Peasant Class.
Many of our farmers attracted by the proverbial bright lights of the Big City, have abandoned the plow and streamed into Metro Manila, hoping to find the streets paved with gold only to discover festering slums, squatter shanty-towns, and a descending spiral of poverty and despair. They end up too proud or too broke to return to the provinces of their origin.
Yet, we are "better off" than most nations on the spinning surface of this perplexed globe, caught in the vise of terrorism, or fear of terrorism and an energy crunch. But this is because God gave us good green earth, abundant rainfall and sunlight, seven-thousand islands teeming with untapped resources, and an archipelago without Winter or the threat of warlike neighbors right smack against our borders. The tragedy is that we have squandered the gifts of this paradise and the native born talents of our people. What is lacking, I submit, is not opportunity, but love.
I must confess to being old-fashioned. Positively ante-deluvian in many of my beliefs – but I hope not obsolete. In our computer age which worships the "new", I feel there is a pressing need to reaffirm our faith in old values – such as those outmoded and unfashionable concepts of honor, truth and loyalty which appear to have been shoved aside by man’s shining, modern technology. (This technology which so awes us because it advances at an ever-accelerating and dizzying pace.)
Faster and faster we go. Today’s generation of computers, we know, will be superseded by tomorrow’s as surely as night follows day. Our children learn the difference between "hardware" and "software" with their mother’s milk. The British used to assert that "the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." (A reference to how the Duke of Wellington and his corps of officers were trained as young men in the skills and discipline that defeated Napoleon.) Tomorrow’s battles are being fought by the kids of this day on the fields of iPOD, Apple etc.
Let us bring our children back to earth. To home and the heartland. To the love of this country which Jose Rizal prophetically called "our Eden lost."
What shall we try to teach them?
There used to be an honorable word, "patriotism," which was demeaned during the early Macapagal era by the triumphant Liberals anxious to recruit Nacionalistas to their ranks by decking "turncoatism" out in the bright and gleaming armor of this term. The Nacionalistas, in their turn, destroyed the meaning of "gentleman’s agreement" (which is, after all, only the clumsy English outgrowth of palabra de honor or "word of honor"). A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and gentlemen’s agreements fall flat on their face when one of those involved in the pact is not a gentleman.
Then there is another Spanish term, so familiar to our fathers, which is no longer in use. This is "delicadeza" which defies precise translation but means a "sense of propriety" or a respect for what is right and proper. (Something like that bit about the need for Caesar’s wife not only to be virtuous, but to appear virtuous.
Caesars’ wives nowadays are mainly concerned, it seems, in appearing powerful and rich).
Another idea which has seen better days is "nationalism." The extremists and radicals have stolen it and claimed monopoly of ownership on it so as to proclaim, falsely and unfairly, that everything "native" is good and every thing "foreign" or "alien" is bad. Truth, for instance, belongs to all mankind. Justice is indivisible. Freedom is not negotiable. While "color" is simply an accident of genes and skin pigmentation. And what is the color of the human soul?
Having said this, it only remains to declare that our salvation as a people lies in bringing our children up to cherish those virtues that we seem to have discarded along with our old hand cranked gramophones and our women’s panuelos of pina and sinamay cloth honor, loyalty, patriotism, nationalism – and love of neighbor.
I’ve quoted that philosopher of the paradox G.K. Chesterton ad nauseam, so I might as well be consistent. He put it well:
"They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named;
Men were ashamed of honour; but we were not ashamed."
I pray that we Filipinos will stand up to be counted among the "we" who are not ashamed of honor, and not "they" who twist things beyond decent shape.
I don’t mean to insult those fleeing to America, Europe, or Australia to seek a "better" life. I do not mean to decry those who have left, and those who have plans of leaving. But how shall we progress if, year after year, we lose so many of our best and brightest to the "developed" world where our engineers become auto mechanics, our teachers become chamber-maids, our graduates of commerce or literature become waiters and dishwashers, and our lawyers become insurance salesmen? Who can blame them? The pay is good. If they remain in the Philippines, they are not even paid in the coin of gratitude.
And yet, perhaps that is what patriotism, and love of country, and a sense of nationhood are all about. Among other things we are called on to sacrifice today’s profit as an investment in tomorrow’s aspirations.
In mid-November many years ago while in London, we heard Mass one Sunday in a charming little church just old Oxford street and Edgeware road, the Church of the Anunciation. By coincidence it was England’s Memorial Day in which the British commemorate their dead, those fallen in all their wars. The altar was awash in Bishops and vicars and deacons – there were almost as many people beyond the communion rail as in the congregation. At half-time, the Bishop mounted the pulpit and began his brief but eloquent sermon with a quotation from the Roman poet Horace. "It is noble and fitting that a man should die for his country."
As America’s tragic President, John F. Kennedy (a far cry from Teddy) pointed out in his bestselling book, "Profiles in Courage", it is equally noble and fitting – and even more difficult – for a man to live for his country. Dying in battle, JFK wisely asserted, takes the courage of a moment. Living for one’s country, coping with the challenge and temptations that spring forth to beset and bedevil you from day to day, requires a continuing and persistent courage.