POSTSCRIPT / December 30, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

Share This

GMA must grab back the mike, set the agenda

OSAMA SLIPS THRU CORDON: It seems that the report in an earlier Postscript is right that terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden has slipped through the tight American cordon. From his new hideout, widely presumed to be outside Afghanistan, he is shown on a new videotape still exhorting his forces to hit back at America.

Looking thinner and haggard, bin Laden appears in a combat camouflage uniform that looks to us as too stuffed. He must be in a place where there is, despite his being able to afford it, no sufficient heating. We would not be surprised if the footage was filmed in a cave, which if true could mean he may have been still in Afghanistan when he sat for the taping.

We would not be surprised also if, under his thick garments, he is nursing serious injuries. With his expansive organization and logistics, merely being on the run would not be enough to make a well-tended person like him look that weak and wasted.

The usual coterie was absent, his only companion being the Russian-made assault rifle at his side. If his close advisers and staff were intact, their being shown would have added more propaganda impact. Their absence may mean that most of them had been killed or had been separated from him by the intense pursuit of avenging American forces.

* * *

HIGH PRICE OF PEACE: We described as American the main posse pursuing him, because if they were all Afghans, bin Laden would not be in trouble now. With his known wise use of resources, the amiable multi-billionaire would be able to play with the native forces.

That’s one problem the US will have to face in battle-scarred Afghanistan, where war is a way of life. Or even a business, big business. The warlords controlling various areas and leading contending tribes, as well as their warriors, will find sudden peace unsettling. And we’re not yet talking of the war merchants hovering over the bloody field like vultures.

Having parleyed war into a lucrative business, sitting around now with like-minded tribal leaders pretending to accept peace would be bad business for them — unless the US subsidizes their “peace” and pays them handsomely and individually to, kunwari, work together.

If he has not found out yet, President George W. Bush will soon discover that peace in Afghanistan can be very expensive for American taxpayers. The trick, of course, is to spread the burden around — like maybe asking its NATO partners to chip in or convincing co-members in the United Nations to participate in the guise of peace keeping.

* * *

PINOYS TO KABUL?: Having jumped in early in the game to show solidarity with the US, is the Philippines expected to play even just a token role in a post-bin Laden Afghanistan? In a show of flags, will our colors be there flying with other US allies and clients?

We should not mind sending a small team. In this increasingly shrinking world, we can’t be loners. We certainly need the others, and when they need us we should be around to show our solidarity with them.

Having developed a reputation as manpower supplier to the world, we should be able to produce the brains or brawns that they may need in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Let the government announce openings for a contingent to Kabul and we would have enough volunteers within the day to comprise a full complement, with enough on the waiting list to organize ten more contingents.

* * *

ERAP 2004 A BIG DEAL: What’s this big deal about ERAP 2004? For the uninitiated, that’s the latest acronym meaning Eddie Ramos Again for President in 2004.

But if Mr. Ramos wants to run, let him. Why do we have to kick the point around and even imagine a supposed legal gray area about whether a former president may be allowed to run for the same office again?

What the Constitution bans is an incumbent president running for reelection. Emerging from retirement, if Mr. Ramos runs for president in 2004 after a clear gap he will not be deemed running for reelection. He knows that.

As for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, it is settled that she can legally run in 2004 because serving less than four years of the six-year term of deposed President Erap Estrada, she is not deemed to have served a full term. If she runs in 2004, as everybody presumes, she will not be running for reelection.

What about Mr. Estrada? Having failed to serve his full term, can he legally run again for president in 2004? That is the gray area that Mr. Ramos should be talking about.

* * *

WHAT IF ERAP RUNS?: Erap has escaped conviction, and consequent disqualification from holding public office, in his impeachment trial last year. He is facing his second judicial test for fitness for public office before the Sandiganbayan.

It is important for Erap to win exoneration, or to defer his conviction (at least until after 2004), in the current trial of plunder and other serious charges against him. Conviction carries with it disqualification from public office.

If he can hold off conviction till the next presidential elections, Erap may be able to justify his challenging GMA for the presidency in 2004. (But he will have to dispose of, too, the other question of whether his more than two years in office is considered having served a term that will disqualify him from running for reelection.)

Erap’s running in 2004 is interesting not only for its legal complications, but also as an Olympic political combat where no winner may emerge to claim a prostrate nation.

* * *

STOP TALKING, START WORKING: But it’s too early to talk about the 2004 presidential elections. We’re a masochist for political talk, worrying in advance and engaging in destructive debates over issues that may not even materialize.

We think that one priority task GMA should impose on herself is to grab back the mike (not Mike who, on the contrary, may want to lie low for a while) and dictate the agenda for this nation.

The trouble with Malacañang, from the point of view of public affairs, is that it has abdicated to the media the important function of setting the national agenda. The Palace should stop simply reacting to points being raised in media.

Instead, Malacañang should choose the topic, the time and the place for a national debate. That should not be too difficult for the seat of power to do. It will simply mean the President doing what she is supposed to do — lead.

With disparate media babbling all over the place all at the same time and kibitzers throwing in their share of inanities, it’s no surprise that we do nothing in this country but talk and go around in circles.

Cannot the presidency grab the mike and dictate the agenda?

* * *

THINK POSITIVE: Our last column titled “Obstructionism won’t pull us out of the rut” reaped a bumper crop of reactions.

We said there that with our economist-president and her team having assessed the situation, reported an encouraging output for the year about to end, and forecast a better year ahead, it is best that we give GMA a chance to lead and make her national program work.

We said that the President is in possession of information that we don’t have and that, unless we have contrary data, it is better that we trust her assessment and cooperate with her.

We said: “Although we seem to be a nation of flagellants, there is no point in further punishing ourselves by wallowing in dire predictions. Why should we worry in advance, and insist on convincing ourselves that the President’s optimism has no basis?”

* * *

RIGHT ATTITUDE HELPS: We’re glad that most readers who wrote agreed with our positive view. One reader, Dr. David Michael Murphy, said in part:

“Few people recognize the critical importance of attitude. Attitude is everything.

“Let me explain it in terms of my own experience. After some 25 years of medical practice I’ve learned that of two patients with the same degree of illness, the one who expects to recover is more likely to recover, the one who expects to die is more likely to die. This has been termed ‘the self-fulfilling prophecy.’

“It’s not a new concept. Philosophers have proclaimed it for thousands of years. The ‘Basic Instruction Book for Living Everyday,’ usually referred to as the B.I.B.L.E., says, ‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ Jesus gave us a hint on the importance of controlling our thoughts in relation to sin; if memory serves he was referring specifically to lust.

“I nominate Pessimism as an addition to the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. Perhaps, though, it is already subsumed under ‘Theft’ because a negative attitude steals your dreams and your future; and if it is published, it steals the dreams and future of your readers as well.”

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 30, 2001)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.