POSTSCRIPT / March 21, 2002 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Outsider with connections nearly grabbed LRA post

AIM BEYOND ABU SAYYAF?: We asked readers last time if they favored US forces’ helping the Philippine military pursue terrorist groups in Mindanao aside from the Abu Sayyaf.

As of noon yesterday, 77 percent of respondents said “Yes,” a few of them tacking on conditions. The respondents were all male (whatever happened to the womenfolk?). Of those who bothered to give their ages, 43 percent were 41 years old and above. Elsewhere in this column is a sampling of the responses received so far.

Other groups that were sometimes mentioned as justified targets of expanded joint RP-US military operations include the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Pentagon kidnap gang, the Misuari renegade group, and the New People’s Army.

We invite you to speak up and join this opinion survey so the poll results would be more reflective of the thinking of our readers. The survey question is:

“Do you favor US forces’ helping the Philippine military pursue terrorist groups in Mindanao aside from the Abu Sayyaf? If so, what group should also be targeted? Whether in favor or not, please explain your stand in 50 words.”

Please type “US FORCES” on the Subject line if you’re emailing your response. Our computer automatically shunts to a dedicated folder all email whose subject is “US Forces.” Messages with a different subject get mixed with the rest of the email.

Address emailed responses to ManilaMail@pacific.net.ph. If you’re sending your response by post or by messenger to the PhilSTAR office in Port Area, Manila, please write “US FORCES” on the envelope. Address the envelope to this columnist by name.

We appreciate your indicating your Age, Sex and Location for statistical purposes. Such personal details will be held in strict confidence and deleted from the files 14 days after we tabulate the results.

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EARLY RESPONSES: Here are random samples of the responses we’ve received:

Fernando Vicente Reyes, Quezon City: Terrorism, whether committed by individuals or groups, for whatever purpose, is a crime against humanity. It appearing that Philippine efforts at eradicating it within its borders is not adequate, the country must accept the offer of aid from other nations, in any manner, shape or form.

Alfredo Santos, Pasig: I favor US forces helping eradicate all these elements in our society like the Abu Sayyaf, MILF, Pentagon, NPA and Misuari renegade group. These people have no place in a civilized world. Favoring American help does not make me less nationalistic than the so-called “nationalists” in our midst.

Garry H. Davis, hotmail: US Forces should only assist in future actions against the NPA, MILF/MNLF, Pentagon Gang, etc. with “training, intelligence and logistics.” To do more without first being asked to and approved through Congress (both RP & US) would be foolhardy. This is an internal Philippine problem. However, if it is found that any of these “terrorist groups” (for that is what they are) are associated with Al Queda or other forms of international terrorism, then they must be pursued to the ends of the earth and destroyed to the very last man or woman.

ece692001, Seoul, South Korea: US forces are not being helpful when they get involved in pursuing terrorists groups, not only the Abu Sayyaf but all terrorists. It would only escalate the trouble once they (US soldiers) experience casualties. What we need from the US is only logistical support. Once our military is fully equipped with more sophisticated arms and equipment they can pursue those bastards!

Bruce Beare, Bacolod City: No, I’m not in favor. The Abu Sayyaf is an international terrorist group that kidnaps and kills foreigners. Since terrorism knows no border, they should be dealt with foreign support. Other armed groups in Mindanao are entirely different in nature. MILF, MNLF and NPA are political groups, while Pentagon are petty criminals. We have an able AFP and PNP that can neutralize these groups.

Benjamin V. Zabat, Taguig: Yes. The MNLF, MILF, Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon are only one. The NPA must also be included. The different names of terrorist groups are designed to deceive the public. We must be thankful the Americans are helping restore peace in Mindanao. Peace needed for our country’s progress.

Jojo Fence, hotmail: I support US assistance against the MILF. We need military assistance in resolving insurgency. The MILF has never helped the government in resolving the Abu Sayyaf problem. Although war is never an answer to all conflicts, it could very possibly be the effort needed to confront the threat from the MILF. We cannot contain this threat, we have to confront it.

Conrado F. de Lara, edsamail: Yes, include groups like MILF, MNLF, drug syndicates, kidnap syndicates. Our biggest stumbling block to progress is our problem of peace and order. This problem will surely be solved with the help of US forces. I included the MILF and the MNLF only if proved to be aiding and abetting the Abus.

Paul de la Cruz, Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia: Yes, I’m in favor. The other group that should also be targeted is the NPA operating in Mindanao. Our country has been moving backward in the past decades due to these insurgencies. It’s time we let our country move ahead for the sake of the present and future Filipino generations.

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NEW LRA DEPUTY HEAD: On a personal note, we join the rank and file of the Land Registration Authority in welcoming the appointment of Ofelia E. Abueg-Sta. Maria as LRA deputy administrator.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has officially sent to Justice Secretary Hernando B. Perez the appointment of Sta. Maria dated March 4 bearing bar code No. 08986 of the Office of the President. The LRA is under the Department of Justice.

A former judge and an LRA career official — having been a register of deeds of sterling record for 26 years — Sta. Maria fills the vacancy left by Ricardo F. Arandilla. Her current post, until she takes her oath as LRA deputy administrator, is register of deeds of Paranaque.

We heard from DoJ insiders that a lawyer from the Ilocos without any LRA background has been pulling mighty strings to grab the same post, but GMA has chosen Sta. Maria. An excellent choice, we dare say.

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CASE OF VANISHING PASSPORTS: We cannot understand the foreign office’s running out of blank passports for issuance to applicants. Among those affected are the many Filipinos abroad who want to come home on vacation but whose passports had expired or had been lost.

With the foreign office not sure when it could produce blank passports and ship them to Philippine missions, homecoming Pinoys — who compromise a major pillar of the Philippine economy — are stuck where they are.

The number of passport applicants every month every year is a matter of statistical reality. It is so easy to foresee more or less how many blank passports are needed periodically to meet the expected demand. It does not take genius to predict the demand and prepare the supply.

It would be a different story if there were actually enough passports, but that batches of them had been pilfered, again. That would complicate, and make more interesting, the problem.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 21, 2002)

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