POSTSCRIPT / January 15, 2002 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Constitution: Rallying point in political crises

CHARTER SHOWS THE WAY: In the heat of preparations for Jan. 19, the day one year ago when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president in place of Erap Estrada, it seems that most people have forgotten that this nation is governed by the Constitution.

Steering the country away from its constitutional mooring will be disastrous. Disregarding established legal processes, some sectors clamor for snap presidential elections while others beat the drums for another EDSA rally to install a new president.

Then Vice President Arroyo was not installed in January 2001 by so-called People Power, but through a formal constitutional process set in motion by the resignation of then President Erap Estrada upon realizing that he could no longer govern.

Resorting to extra-legal mechanisms such as raucous rallies to install and remove presidents would be inviting chaos. Precisely, we have the Constitution as our unerring guide when mired in political crises. Let’s go back to it.

We repeat the reminder that we cannot legally hold snap presidential elections at this point since there is no vacancy. Even if the incumbent President resigns, there is a Vice President and others down the line of succession ordained by the Constitution.

This is not a brief for the retention of President Arroyo who has a term to serve, but an appeal for a return to the Constitution.

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BRING IN GREEN BERETS: Postscript readers are overwhelmingly in favor (93 percent) of bringing in US Special Forces to finish off Abu Sayyaf terrorists making life miserable for their remaining hostages and mocking our troops chasing them in the jungles of Basilan.

The widespread sentiment was that immediate rescue of the hostages (an American couple and a Filipina nurse) was imperative, and that if our own troops/police cannot rescue them, US forces should be allowed to do it.

Readers were responding to our survey question posed last Sunday: Should we allow American troops to fight the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu-Basilan area? Why? We’re still taking responses.

Other statistical details culled from our survey: 95 percent of respondents were male; 57 percent were writing from abroad (mostly the US); 36 percent were in the 41-50-years age bracket.

We must point out, however, that our survey is not scientific. Neither do the results necessarily reflect the opinion of the adult population in this country, as well as Filipinos abroad.

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SPEAK UP: First to respond was Joe Navidad, executive director of People’s CORE in Los Angeles. His email arrived at 1:25 a.m. Sunday while most readers in the Philippines were asleep and copies of the STAR were still being delivered to distribution points nationwide.

You can send your response and catch our update on Thursday. Please give a clear Yes or No, and limit your explanation to 50 words (around four typewritten lines). For statistical uses, kindly indicate your gender, age and location.

A few readers assailed at great lengths what they said was the incompetence of military top brass, but forgot to say whether or not they favored the involvement of US troops. Since they failed to answer the question, their votes were not counted.

To ensure that your response is not lost with the rest of our mail, please write “US TROOPS” on the subject line if you’re using email, or on the face of the envelope if you’re sending it by regular post or messenger.

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SAMPLE EARLY BIRDS: Here are some of the early responses:

Joe Navidad, Los Angeles, CA — US troops (again) in our land? Hell, no! Don’t make it too obvious. Is the administration’s asinine devotion to implement US policies not enough? Mabuti pa siguro gawing US Undersecretary of National Defense on Philippine Affairs si GMA.

Art Aquitania, San Diego, CA — Definitely, the US forces should be given the chance to try to defeat the Abu Sayyaf and recover the hostages. It should be clear by now that Philippine forces are not able to, even with modern tools furnished by the US.

Adonis Brizuela, Long Branch, NJ — Allow US troop to fight the Abu-Sayyaf destroying our country. Beside that, there are incompetent AFP officers. They talk that they can finish this hostage drama before Christmas. Like a dog, they do much barking.

Ding Deferia, nyc.rr.com — Our distrust over here with our military’s double dealing is perhaps now known to Americans. So it is better for them to get the Burnhams on their own rather than let our false nationalism that only serves the corrupt military officials and politicians.

Ramon M. Sagullo, Candelaria, Quezon — Allowing US troops to fight the ASG is another proof of how our politically-appointed generals are mismanaging our troops. Given the same training, equipment and decent meal allowance (the smoke from cooking steamed rice is a giveaway of our troops’ location), plus competent commanders, Filipino troops can finish off the ASG.

Henry Yu, Jackso Hts., NY — Let’s be honest. We cannot win the war by ourselves, we cannot even solve the garbage crisis and the high rate of robbery and kidnap for ransom syndicates. Filipinos deserve some peace and order and security.

Peter Ane Rapista, Iloilo City – Let’s get this thing over with once and for all! Allow the gringos to help us fight our war in the same way we Filipino veterans of World War II fought their war in 1942.

Cornelio D. Tano, compass.com.ph — Allow American troops to help fight terrorists, not only the Abu Sayyaf and not only in Basilan or Zamboanga, but the whole Philippines. Why? They work straightforward.

Reynaldo I. Ibay, San Andres, Manila — Charges that some military personnel are bribed to allow the Abu Sayyaf to escape still hang in the air. If US troops likewise fail in their quest, such charges will be proven false; otherwise they will be confirmed true.

Del Burgos, San Jose, CA — US Special Operations Forces are well trained and skillful in anti-terrorism combat. They are much younger too, with an average age of 25 years, compared to our AFP soldiers who I bet are in their late 30’s or early 40’s. They have been after the Abu Sayyaf for so many months now without success. It’s about time the terrorists were pulverized!

Joseph S. Gomez, Dagupan City — The best fighting force in the world for commando operations are the American Special Forces (Delta, Army Rangers, SEALS, Marine Force Recon) and the British SAS. They have the best equipment, training, intelligence and experience. You can train the Filipino troops all you want but if they do not have Apache, Cobra and Blackhawk helicopters and fighter planes like the F-18, AC-130, and F-15s with laser-guided instruments, it will be very difficult to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf.

Elmer B. Flores, Multinational Village, Parañaque City — If US troops succeed, that will give GMA a good reason to re-evaluate the military leadership. Giving juicy positions in exchange for promises of loyalty should stop. We’re sick and tired of countless promises of impending rescue and annihilation of these terrorists. If US troops fail, at least the world will know that we are at par with the US military.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 15, 2002)

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