POSTSCRIPT / October 23, 2011 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Miscommunication or leadership failure?

MISCOM: Malacañang initially blamed miscommunication for the killing of 19 soldiers by a superior force of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that ambushed an army platoon last Tuesday (Oct. 18) in Al-Barka town, Basilan.

It can’t be! The Palace miscommunication Hydra operates as far south as Sulu-Basilan?

* * *

NO WAR: Urged by a cross-section of the population from former presidents, to senators, to housewives and sidewalk vendors to retaliate with an all-out war, President Noynoy Aquino flatly and immediately said No.

We concede that to be a wise decision.

The Commander-in-Chief must not order a war he cannot win. Muslim rebels — from the MILF-Abu Sayyaf jungle fighters to their wily ventriloquists at the negotiating table — have proven time and again to be smarter than any team fielded by the government.

Our leaders have been psychologically held hostage by MILF terror tactics. Pressing that advantage, MILF warriors rampage on, killing seven soldiers and policemen in followup ambushes in Zamboanga Sibugay last Thursday.

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LEADERSHIP FAILURE: The Basilan carnage is not so much a case of miscommunication as a failure of leadership. It looks more like a failure from the very top – from the chief, to his peace advisers, to his field commanders.

The main responsibilities of a commander are (1) the attaining of the military objective, and (2) the fulfilling of his obligations to his men. He must achieve both, not one without the other.

On both counts, the commander appears to have failed.

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HIT BACK!: When the enemy waylays your men and kills 19 of them with animal savagery – mutilating and finishing off those captured alive – the commander’s instincts would normally be to HIT BACK INSTANTLY WITH FULL FORCE.

But the reaction this time was not to pursue the killers. The commander wavered and chose to ask around first. He then scheduled – three long days after the carnage – a command conference in the comfort and safety of Camp Aguinaldo.

Is the President still feeling the narcotic effects of his Aug. 4 one-on-one in Tokyo with MILF leader Murad Ibrahim?

* * *

PEACE MANTRA: The MILF has been negotiating in bad faith and without iron-clad guarantees.

With advisers all over him, the President cannot see that the rebels have been talking with a forked tongue — while their blood-thirsty guerrillas stalk and slaughter government troops handicapped by a ceasefire.

Repeating after his peace advisers, the President murmurs the mantra of peace.

Of course, we all want peace. But not peace at any price, not the peace of lumpy body bags and of coffins in the quiet embrace of the flag.

* * *

BACK TO BASICS: We have been asking basic questions in this space. But the administration is afraid to answer them, because either it does not know the answers or is afraid to hear them.

* Is the MNLF the legitimate voice of the Muslim population? By what democratic process was the rebel band chosen to represent the Muslim minority?

* Are the MILF leaders Filipinos or aliens? We have to know with whom we are dealing.

* If Filipinos, do they swear to honor the flag and the Constitution, and commit themselves to abide by Supreme Court rulings on disputes that may arise from the peace talks?

There is no point talking to them until these basic questions are answered satisfactorily.

* * *

TERRITORY: And why is the MILF allowed to hold and control territory? How come they have camps and settlements over which their own flag flies?

Into these territories Philippine authorities and soldiers or policemen may not set foot without permission. Even when permitted, visitors cannot be sure they can step back out in one piece.

Somebody should tell the President that by holding territory over time, the secessionist “Liberation Front” is able to establish in the eyes of the world one crucial element of their envisioned Moro state.

Just by delaying the resolution of the conflict while holding on to territory, these secessionists are able to establish a de facto existence apart from the Republic.

* * *

NO BONDING: For two months now, traffic on the Osmeña overpass over Gil J. Puyat Ave. in Makati has been crawling at 5 kph. Reason: the asphalt paving has peeled off. (We are not talking of disintegration, but of its bodily coming off.)

The Department of Public Works and Highways now seems preoccupied with covering up not the ruts but the apparent repair overprice and technical incompetence.

My impression from documents and my inspection of the overpass is that DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson has been misled into blaming the asphalt instead of his people.

Somebody with connections had convinced them to insert in the bill of materials a polymer fiber sheet that has not been adequately tested.

The polymer is spread between the asphalt binder and wearing course. It is supposed to improve bonding, but the polymer applied between the asphalt binder and wearing course refuses to bond. Hence the peeling off.

* * *

OVERPRICE?: This was reportedly the first time in countless DPWH pavings that asphalt had peeled off, and it happened only when the polymer fiber was used.

The polymer’s own product literature says it is not to be used in inclines, such as a slope or an overpass, as it could slip or move.

Incidentally, the product costs only around $2 per square meter abroad, but the DPWH is being billed reportedly at P9,428.49/sqm. Also, from the 199-sqm area bid out earlier, the area now claimed to be covered is reportedly 8,000 sqm, more or less.

No wonder the repair cost that was P46 million in the bid papers has been bloated to P100 million in the department’s press releases.

The 525-meter overpass may qualify as a tuwid na daan (straight path), but its repair looks crooked.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 23, 2011)

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