Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Taking the side of the ICRC Hostages in Sulu

Make no mistake about it, government irresponsibility is the reason why Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni, and Mary Jean Lacaba became hostages of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.
First of all, their presence in Sulu came about as a result of the government's inability to address the problems that have led to the rise of the Abu Sayyaf in that problems.
Being workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Andreas, Eugenio, and Mary Jean were assigned and bound by duty to undertake a mission to see to the welfare of prisoners kept in the Sulu Provincial Jail in Jolo. Some of the prisoners were members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, apparently captured by the Philippine Military. In areas of conflict, the ICRC deploys its workers to look after those affected by the conflict and ensure the humane treatment of prisoners on both sides of the conflict.
The prison which the three ICRC workers visited was in an area within the Boundary of Jolo and which was supposedly well under the guard of the Philippine military.
On January 15, 2009, the three workers were abducted by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Their abductors were able to get through several check points of the military.
Two weeks ago, things came to a dangerous juncture.
The military forces in Sulu, under the command of General Juancho Saban made a reckless attact on the Abu Sayyaf. In the process, they managed to inflict casualties on the Abu Sayyaf while suffering the loss of three marines and getting 17 others wounded.
It would have been called a victory of sorts for Sabban, just based on sheer numbers of Abu Sayyaf members killed versus soldiers killed.
But, what they forgot in the heat of the conflict was that the Abu Sayyaf were still holding the three ICRC workers hostage and could very well, kill them in retaliation for the military's attack.
Abu Sayyaf Leader Albader Parad, in fact, threatened to behead one of their hostages. It was at this stage that Philippine National Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon was contacted by Abu Sayyaf Leader Albader Parad.
Now, under the circumstances, what would be the right thing to do?
Do you say, "Sorry, I can't talk with you because the Sulu Crisis Committee is in charge of your situation." Perhaps if you like passing the buck and laying blame, this would be your tact. However, Gordon is one person who believes that the buck stops with him and is ready to take responsible action whenever the task falls on his shoulders, no matter how difficult the circumstances are.
If he had ignored or rejected the communication from Parad it would have in all likelihood assured the beheading of one, if not all three of the hostaged ICRC workers; especially considering that they were placing the call right after they were attacked, apparently with the blessings of the Sulu Crisis Committee.
As the Chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Red Cross, Gordon was responsible if not DUTY BOUND to do all he can to ensure the safe release of the three hostages WHO ARE HIS COLLEAGUES in the Red Cross.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, who has been known to involuntarily put his foot in his own mouth, was reported on April 6 by GMA News dot TV to have said that Gordon should be more CIRCUMSPECT. Apparently, the good Press Secretary should take his own advice first.
In the lead of the article, it was reported that:
MalacaƱang on Monday branded as “illogical" Sen. Richard Gordon’s claim that the safety of the abducted Red Cross workers in southern Philippines lies in the hands of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“What kind of logic is that?" Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in a press briefing in MalacaƱang.
"Those are very unfair... the statements that say the safety of the hostages are in the hands of the President. We should not forget that the ones responsible for this are the bandits who kidnap and take people hostage,"
Remonde added, referring to the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.
I don't know if there is a translation for the tagalog word 'pamimilosopo', but this is what it is. Beyond that, it is shirking responsibility -- something we already have come to expect from the Arroyo Administration.
Mr. Remonde should be aware that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as the highest leader in this land called the Philippines, is ultimately RESPONSIBLE for all actions of the Philippine Military as its COMMANDER IN CHIEF.
Moreover, Remonde also reportedly gave a low blow:

Remonde, despite his claims that he is not backing Teodoro, said he agreed with him when he said that the Sulu situation would be best handled by the local crisis management under Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.

Remonde also warned personalities from using the situation for their personal gains.

“And in a crisis situation like this, dapat iwasan natin ang pamumulitika [there should be no politics involved], trying to gather brownie points because that will not help the cause of freedom and justice. It can only help the cause of terrorists who just want attention," he said.

I remember that quite recently word went around that Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro was among those expected to receive the annointment of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as her Presidential Candidate in the 2010 polls.
Who is playing politics and brown nosing here?
I sure hope he really isn't referring to Gordon, who after everything is just issuing appeals to save the lives of his colleagues. Kanino siya magpapalakas? Who is he trying to earn brownie points from for doing what he is duty bound to do?
Instead of taking the side of the hostages, Malacanang is taking the side of an inept Defense Secretary with moist eyes for the Presidency.
And, what galls me at this point, is the thought that the only person (Gordon) in the whole fray who is after the safe release of the hostages (nothing more) is being attacked by the Palace.


Yet Abad said...

Basically, pamimilosopo is being a smart ass.

Admin said...

Oo nga pala! Thanks Yet.

Yet Abad said...

Haha!!! Spot-on translation ba, especially in the context of your post?

Admin said...

Spot-on... Although, after some circumspection, I think dumb-ass would be a better term to use. If not, just plain ass might do.

eric said...

Come on. You go into a dark alley, see all the criminals lurking there, yet you still go in, then you got mugged, you blame the plice?

Stupidity. Don't send the red cross there if they do not want to be held hostage. If they do get held hostage, well, they knew full well what they were getting into.

Stop the red cross. Let the locals suffer, and if they ask for help, then tell them that red cross cannot come because of the abu sayyaf.

You just want to have someone accountable. Since you cannot blame the abu sayyaf, because they are criminals, you blame the government. Maybe you'd like to blame the government for your upset stomach? Or your stubbed toe?

Stupid whiners.

Admin said...

I think your opinion proceeds from a complete ignorance of what the ICRC's role is.

It is the ICRC's job to bring aid to places where there is conflict. Mary Jean, Eugenio, and Andrea didn't go there on a sight seeing tour, adventure, or in the case of some jounalists, bragging rights. They were there because as humanitarian aid workers it is their duty to help the helpless.

It may be easy for you to say they are stupid or that the Red Cross is stupid. It is easy for you to mock them as whiners.

But you know what, inspite of your unschooled opinion, when you or your people are caught in a natural disaster or when for some reason you find yourself in the middle of an armed conflict, it is these bunch of whiners that will carry you to safety.

As for accountability, can you tell me what the Military's job is?

If you don't know, it is the military's job to see to it that our citizens are protected from all manner of threats. They failed to do that in Jolo, Sulu -- right under their very noses.

It would have been a different case had the three ICRC workers were traipsing in the woods of Sulu, far from protection. They were abducted just outside of the Sulu Provincial Jail, right inside Jolo! Police were meters away, so were the military.

And yet, the Abu Sayyaf got away.

Dahil sa kapalkapan nila, napahamak ang humanitarian mission sa Pilipinas. And then they train their guns on the PNRC?

Who else should we hold accountable?

I think, one of the greatest flaws of this government and this society is that no one is held accountable for anything.

Anything goes in this country and this is what is truly sickening.

And to top it off, we have people like YOU!

Look at your own place in this world Eric, try to see if you've done anything to make it a better place before calling people stupid whiners. You may just as soon realize that you have done less than nothing and have entered a comment that betrays your inability to think.

eric said...

hmmm a dissenting opinion is an unschooled one. nice open-minded attitude.

Guess you are so gung-ho to blame everything to the authorities. Wait, who has the red cross people in hostage? the ASG. Who is threatening to behead them? the ASG.

And you. Your part is to blame the military and the authorities, and you probably want them to give in to the demands. Ok, let's give the whole island to these guys. I hope you move there when that happens and try to give aid to these people.

These are bandits. No matter who did or didn't do what before, it doesn't matter. They will keep on doing what they are doing.

eric said...

Oh, by the way, i meant the stupid whiners not for the red cross people. Though that crying senator would be a prime example, gordon. Begging the military to give in to the demands. Why doesn't he go there and give humanitarian aid?

I meant that for people who do nothing but blame everything on the government. they are far from being the best in the world, i grant you that, but instead of whining all the time, people such as yourself should shut up and do something about it.

Actions, not words, accomplish a lot more.

I just hope that if and when the military does kill the ASG, people like you won't go clamoring for human rights violations.

I can only hope... but it's a foolish one.

Admin said...

Eric, you don't know enough to make an intelligent opinion on the matter.

I think I've given you enough space and lest you harm yourself even further, I'll discontinue publishing your comments.

If you don't agree with me, fine. You can go elsewhere, probably to a blog or website that shares your views.

Try googling Ku Klux Klan or Neo Nazi's.

Admin said...

Again, Eric, study the facts of the issue first before you make an opinion.

It is obvious that you don't know about Gordon's work in Sulu.

It is obvious that you don't know that the Philippine National Red Cross continues to supply much needed aid there.

Anyway, it seems you are more bent on violence rather than the more important objective of bringing peace to Sulu.

Perhaps it wouldn't be a stretch of my imagination to think you'd also favor the complete carpet bombing of Sulu at this point. Nevermind that the hostages are still there. Perhaps you are contemplating genocide too and this is condemnable.

eric said...

:D ok. i'm part of the silent majority who speaks up every now and then, but generally keeps quiet and just keeps about one's business.

i used to deplore the quality of education, the quality of our college graduates, and traced the roots back, not to the students themselves, but to the instructors. Given that situation, I guess you'd spend your time blaming the government. I chose a different route, and offered my services to a local city college, where I teach part time. Salary is peanuts, it's almost inconsequential, but at least I make myself part of the system that I want to improve.

Getting off my soap box.

Ku Klux Klan? Too extreme for me. So who is threatening the hostages? Who are you blaming for their plight? Carpet bombing? The thought has crossed my mind, after all the verified civilians are evacuated. :D

So, I guess your take on the rescue of the American held hostage by the Somali pirates, resulting in the killing of some pirates, is that it was overkill? That the Americans are to blame for the piracy?

In any case, this attention all came about because it was foreigners being held by ASG. Where was the indignation over the countless Filipinos held hostage before?

Haha do not argue. You will lose. Whether out of frustration or being backed into a wall.

Don't publish this, i'm not compelling you to. This is for your consumption. Spend the rest of your days whining. I'm out of here.

Admin said...

Oh well Eric, you got me there.

You're logic completely confounds me. Then again, maybe all you want is attention, like most neurotic people.

You can't lose an argument when there is none.

You contend that it was the ICRC's workers fault that they were kidnapped and yet you didn't bother to explain why, except to point to the fact that they went there.

That's similar to the perennial story of an Overseas Filipino Worker being punished after being it with a Saudi citizen's car. When asked why the Pinoy was punished, the Saudi citizen would reply, 'It's because he came to my country, if he didn't none of this would have happened.'

This is the kind of backward thinking that you possess. (Do you need me to explain what backward thinking is?)

I'm not interested in finding somebody to blame, but I am interested in finding out who is responsible so that that person can be held accountable. The principle in play here is that the person who is accountable has to answer to whatever damage is done and more than that, undertake corrective actions.

Unless, of course, accountability doesn't occur in your very abbreviated lexicon -- if you can call a few hundred words a lexicon of any sort.

In any case, the point is, General Sabban ran amuck and endangered the lives of the hostages.

I suppose that's the kind of action you'd like, reckless action.

Our military is far from the your American heroes who killed the Somali pirates. They're not as well equipped for one and certainly, as the Sabban incident already shows, not prepared -- they didn't even have a plan to carry out. They were shooting from the hip, literally.

I think hating the Abu Sayyaf is understandable and it is the product of a common mind, thinking common thoughts.

What transcends this is a mind that is bent on creating peace in the midst of conflict.

That is the ICRC's role and that is what the ICRC was doing in Sulu -- creating a space for peace to happen.

Much of the problem we have in Sulu and other conflicted areas is not that the Philippine military is weak, but that the government fails to respond to the needs of the people there.

The hand that tills the field yet does not bring food to its owner's mouth can just as easily bear a gun.

The child that does not learn to read and write, just as easily learns to maim and kill.

That is the reality in conflicted areas.

If we bring the peace, peace will come. If we bring war, we get war and beyond that we hold ourselves hostage.

I don't know what good you think will happen by glorifying violence, but I assure you, if it comes into your life, you'll be wishing somebody would be there to help you. Just pray there's a Red Cross volunteer nearby.

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