Is another military incident in the offing?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-08-30
We heard of tense rumblings in the military barely a week after hostilities had exploded in Basilan and Sulu. Demoralized soldiers and junior officers are reportedly griping about being unduly sent in harm’s way by bad orders of top AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) officers.

It will be recalled that the Oakwood Mutiny was largely the result of similar tensions that emanated from fighting in Mindanao. Foremost in the list of grievances that rebel soldier, now Senator, Antonio Trillanes IV verbalized during the Oakwood siege was the sorry plight of soldiers in Mindanao vis-à-vis the alleged corrupt practices of top AFP officers who sold army weapons and ammunition to the enemy.

It came as no surprise then when Senator Trillanes called for a probe into the conditions that led to the July 10 beheading incident, even hinting that top government civilian officials are responsible for the ambush and mutilations.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon was initially reluctant to conduct that probe – reflecting perhaps an officer's natural tendency to avoid demoralizing soldiers fighting a war. However, upon consulting with Sen. Trillanes, Sen. Biazon turned around and endorsed the probe. No doubt, Sen. Trillanes must have provided Sen. Biazon with sufficient compelling reasons.

In a previous column (“Dangerous reprisal hysteria from the Basilan encounter”) published on July 17, your Chair Wrecker warned that a Mindanao all-out-war could trigger a similar type of tension in the AFP. In that same column, your Chair Wrecker even expressed doubts if the US is really going to support the Philippine government in an all-out-war against the Muslims.

Garci has eroded the confidence of the junior officers and troops in the current AFP leadership. AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon is mentioned in the Garci Tapes.

Per our sources, many of the junior officers and soldiers think that most of the present crop of AFP top officers earned their rank through regime patronage and not through exemplary soldiering. They say that the officers they want to lead them in battle, the officers who enjoy their confidence, are the ones under detention for allegedly plotting the February 24, 2006 coup.

Any army that goes to war under those dispiriting conditions risks more than just losing to the enemy. It also faces the frightening prospect of imploding to non-existence on its own internal problems. That I fear is what this current conflict in Mindanao is provoking.

The front page story of the Inquirer last Monday told of an unnamed high ranking AFP officer predicting a new round of destabilization organized by the Opposition ‑ even suggesting a link to the forthcoming Joseph Estrada trial verdict. This reeks of government psy-war bovine ordure to conceal the real reasons why there is destabilization. Sensing the tension in the AFP caused by the high number of battlefield casualties, the Arroyo regime is likely trying to pre-empt another military incident by blaming it on the Opposition.

You know that Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is once again feeling threatened when she goes around the Mindanao front promising soldiers more benefits. You know that she again fears for the loss of her throne when she engages in this ridiculous boodle fight that has become the staple of insecure Malacanang residents wanting to improve their image with the soldiers.

You know that Madame Arroyo is on survival mode when she suddenly floats the idea of giving the Muslims their "ancestral domain" right after she unleashes battle rhetoric about wiping out the perpetrators of the beheading and mutilation of 14 Marines.

Granting "ancestral domain" sounds eerily similar to the claim made by the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim in his letter to US President George W. Bush dated January 20, 2003. In that letter, Salamat Hashim reminded Bush of the US commitment to provide an independent Moroland in keeping with agreements stated in the 1898 Treaty of Paris and the subsequent Kiram-Bates Treaty of 1899.

The granting of an "ancestral domain" dovetails with reported US plans to fulfill the role of Protector of an independent Moroland which actually suits US geopolitical objectives in the region. Foremost of these objectives are to deal first hand with the feared threat of extremist Middle East Muslims spreading its clout in the region and to reinforce US presence in the South China Sea vis-à-vis an emerging Russo-Sino Alliance.

Since July 10, the behavior of the regime had been mostly erratic and somewhat irrational. First, it provokes conflict by deploying troops in MILF territory. Then, the Arroyo regime rattles sabers and threatens all-out-war. From all-out-war, the regime suddenly offers to grant "ancestral domain" to the same people they wanted to annihilate only a week ago.

Has Madame Arroyo gone the route of Lady Macbeth or is this the case of another Shakespeare classic – that of Hamlet having a method to madness? Isn’t a ruler who is pretending to be mad more dangerous than one who is really mad?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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