POSTSCRIPT / January 11, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Securing the Pope: Don’t talk, just do it!

POPE IS SAFE HERE: Some of us are uneasy hearing military/police top brass talk about how formidable forces and facilities would be deployed to secure Pope Francis when he comes visiting Jan. 15-19.

This armchair general thinks the military and police officials should simply say – and only if asked — that everything within our means would be done to ensure the safety and comfort of the Pontiff during his pastoral and state visit.

Gen. Gregorio Catapang, armed forces chief of staff, did not have to disclose that some 17,000 soldiers, 20,000 policemen and 100 snipers will be deployed. And neither should details be divulged on how and where the forces and equipment will be positioned.

If any group is plotting to harm the Pope or disrupt his visit, we should not further its plans by giving out security information – unless, of course, it is wrong information and the idea behind the announcements is to mislead or to scare the bad guys.

In security operations, just do it! Do not telegraph details. That could disturb the fact that Pope Francis is safe – and he feels safe — among us Filipinos.

* * *

WADING INTO CROWD: Days ago, a functionary disclosed that Pope Francis would stray for some 30 minutes from his prearranged path into the welcoming crowd.

Why disclose this detail? The expectation the Pope would suddenly wade into a section of the crowd, as announced, could whip up wild guessing as to where he would do it, resulting in jostling along the route.

And then, announcing a deviation deprives the Pope of that element of spontaneity when he reaches to touch the excited welcomers. It could seem that his mingling with the people was planned or scripted.

Disclosing this detail, even if it is likely to happen, could heighten security risks.

* * *

SUBSTANTIVE TALKS?: Days ago a Palace talking head said President Noynoy Aquino may bring up his peace initiatives and how he has been working to improve the living conditions of the dominantly Catholic masses in the country.

How can the President insert in their brief chat these items that are “close to his heart”? Aside from the time constraint, there is the problem of language for both the host and the visitor.

The Pope has been reported to be practising his English in preparation for his visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Despite this, we doubt he could go into substantive talks with President Aquino.

The Pope’s native language, btw, is Spanish and is fluent in Italian. He also speaks Portuguese, French, German, Ukrainian and Piedmontese (spoken in a northern section of Italy).

* * *

OVERKILL?: Catapang said that of the 17,000-strong armed forces security component, 10,000 would be deployed in Manila while 7,000 would be assigned to the typhoon-ravaged areas of Leyte to be visited.

He explained the fielding of a huge military contingent: “Kasi andaming activities. Binilang namin, (they are) about 44 separate activities.” Earlier there was even talk of deploying Filipino peacekeeping forces pulled out from Syria, as if fighting could just flare up during the visit.

Hindi naman ito overkill dahil sa laki ng event. Important ang crowd-control dahil sa eagerness ng tao na makita ang Santo Papa,” AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla told GMA News Online.

(We agree with the colonel on that point about crowd-control, if the Black Nazarene phenomenon last Friday is any indication.)

Asked why the military leadership was making public such details of its security preparations for the Pope, Padilla said, “Simply to inform.”

* * *

ANOTHER ANTIC: Elsewhere, the international pressure group Greenpeace is in trouble – again.

Its latest antic has earned for it the ire of Peru, where the Amsterdam-based group desecrated one of that South American state’s national treasures – the historic Nazca Lines in its coastal desert. The site is said to be about 1,500 to 2,000 years old.

Greenpeace operatives reportedly entered this strictly prohibited area and vandalized it by drawing a supposedly pro-environment message on top of the very sensitive earth markings. The Nazca Lines is not only sacred to the Peruvian people, but is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The Peruvian vice minister for culture underscored that entry to the site is prohibited. Even the president of Peru cannot go there without permission. Trespassing into this archaeological monument is punishable under local laws.

Greenpeace’s desecration of the Nazca Lines has outraged many, but did not really come as a big surprise. After all, this pressure group has time and again attempted to show that it thinks it is above the law, and that it can get away with whatever it wishes to do.

* * *

PSYWAR OPS: The Philippines is no stranger to its antics. This group has been conducting psychological warfare operations in our country since modern agriculture biotechnology was introduced here.

Greenpeace’s psy-war, however, apparently failed to stop Filipino farmers from availing themselves of the benefits of biotechnology. Its operatives here resort to using the courts to stop the scientific method from benefiting the food production sector.

In conducting its psy-war operations, Greenpeace operatives reportedly caused the destruction of government-owned trial farms planted with biotech crops. Several Filipino and foreign Greenpeace operatives are now facing criminal charges as a result.

The group that trampled sacred Peruvian ground is the same band that is now pressuring the Supreme Court to stop permanently the efforts of Filipino scientists to help our farmers through modern biotechnology.

If Greenpeace succeeds in imposing its will on the Supreme Court, our farmers would be handcuffed to using massive doses of expensive chemical pesticides required by non-pest resistant traditional crop varieties.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 11, 2015)

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