Time for Reckoning

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    PRESIDENT Duterte is now faced with the dreaded possibility of some 4 million OFWs suddenly returning home due to the worsening conflict in the Middle East. But the huge and immediate challenge is bringing them back before they are trapped in the heavy volatile security situation there. Unlike before, DENR Roy Cimatu who is a former AFP chief of staff will lead the mandatory repatriation this time with a military battalion.

    Many OFWs say they are ready to face the danger from war instead of coming home jobless to a starving family. But certainly, no one is prepared for the worst. With his still immense political clout and grudgingly-respected bluntness, the President should not just appeal but order local government executives to provide employment and suitable livelihood for them. The time for reckoning has come for mayors and governors who have prospered themselves in office with various lucrative businesses, not counting their similarly profitable family fringes that remain unaccountable. Political dynasties have long been show windows of politics and business coming together amidst the lavish and decadent lifestyles they characterize. And where else did the abundant capital and subsidies come from?

    How many political families today exemplify the official brashness and scandalous wealth of an incumbent and prominent family in Isabela, sourced out from illegal logging and regular heavily-padded public works projects? (The latest complaint against its patriarch and a son, a sitting congressman, and endorsed by President Duterte to the Ombudsman, was the nearly P2-billion overprice for a farm road near their family’s hometown. Incidentally, a movie is being planned by a multi-awarded filmmaker on the 1971 plane crash in Bulacan reportedly due to sabotage, liquidating the provincial commander and a city mayor then who actively headed the anti-illegal logging drive in the province. More than 80 lost their lives in the crash; no one was caught or held criminally liable.)

    And what about the lady politician from a landed family in Cebu who was the subject of a P200-mililon corruption rap for the alleged overpricing of lampposts and a highway but now holds a senior role at the House of Representatives?

    This is indeed an opportune time for local executives to do their part for millions of OFWs who deserted family and hearth for the dismal failure of traditional politicians and the business sector that coddled them to create meaningful jobs and livelihood.

    Of course, Mr. Duterte thought he could look forward to a dissolved House of Representatives which was a campaign pledge to compel its lamentable and gargantuan budget available instead, for the poor, the teachers, the sick and the OFWs. He promptly disregarded the move due to the imminently strong political backlash of hundreds of disgruntled legislators who have since become turncoats to comprise his expedient super majority in Congress. But, Mr. Duterte is clothed with executive powers under the Constitution to take the necessary severe action against local officials who choose to ignore or defy his directive. His apparent totalitarian mode of governance will be helpful against local executives who will certainly find it tough to comply but will otherwise face suspension or dismissal.

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    From pampering the military and the national police, President Duterte should now take a major confidence-building step that may yet turn out to be a breakthrough for an enduring peace agreement — reorganize numerous provincial commands to allow the more broad-minded and liberal officers to take over even before the peace talks are resumed.

    As it is, many NPA rebels in Bicol and in the Visayas cannot bring themselves to trust the hardened military and police officers who continue to scoff at the government’s peace efforts.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate had warned against “militarists and saboteurs who will do everything to prevent a political, just and lasting solution to the more than five-decade-old armed rebellion.” He is almost sure that numerous counter-insurgency operations will resume with a vengeance after the holiday ceasefire period and will continue to masquerade as so-called police operations against criminals.

    With Mr. Duterte’s avowed and relentless campaign against criminality along with drugs and corruption, there is little hope that the military and the police will let up against the rebels and their leaders, many of whom had been targeted as common criminals. The President should now realize that he must have trusted the regional and provincial officers too much in his earnest efforts to end the insurgency war; the three failed peace talks had predictably collapsed due to a deeper agenda of social and personal reprisals and an extremely seething distrust. The sheer determination of the President, despite his private angst with CCP founding chair Joma Sison, was not substantiated with tolerance, discipline and compassion by the security forces.

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