J. A. DELA CRUZ: A DEAL IS A DEAL

J. A. DELA CRUZMANILA, August 13, 2003 (MALAYA) By J. A DELA CRUZ - MAX Soliven is right. The renowned columnist and Philippine Star publisher has reiterated that the 350 or so soldiers who participated in the July 27 Makati siege led by the Oakwood 'Seven', i.e., Lt. (s.g.) Antonio Trillanes IV and Lt. (s.g). James Layug, Army Capts. Gerardo Gambala, Antonio Baloloy, Milo Maestrecampo and Rommel Somera and Marine Capt. Gary Alejano should be dealt with by the military justice system and tried under the appropriate Articles of War. That was the deal negotiated by and entered into with the rebels by the government negotiators led by Ambassador Roy Cimatu to end the siege. No more, no less.

Manong Max should know whereof he speaks. He was specifically requested by the soldiers to assist in bringing the siege to a peaceful and bloodless end and bear witness to the entire negotiations. Apparently, they got word that he was one of the few persons who has a direct line to President Arroyo, can say things as factually if not bluntly as possible and give advise as forcefully as necessary. They were right. He did serve as an effective channel to the Chief Executive at a time of grave peril to the entire nation and did what was expected of him without regard for his own personal safety. And, together with the negotiators and the cooler heads within the President's circle and the rebel group as well, managed to secure the peace after more than two hours of tense anticipation. The rest is history despite renewed efforts by the squawking crew of Monday morning quarterbacks, in and out of government, to revise or throw it out altogether.

Which is why it is understandable that he and the Cimatu negotiating panel which included Undersecretary Abe Purugganan, himself a former coup participant, Commodore Tirso Danga, also an ex-coup participant but now serving as Camp Aguinaldo/AFP HQ commander, Col. Danny Lim, another ex-coup participant and currently the Scout Rangers regimental commander, Navy Capt. Felix Angue, Lt. Col. Ed Oban of the Air Force, Army Capt. John Jadloc and Lt. Col. (ret.) Gil Maglaque, should be raising hell over the efforts of certain quarters including senior administration officials who should know better to squelch on this deal or mangle it beyond recognition.

Not that Manong Max and the Cimatu group would like the Oakwood mutineers to wiggle their way out of their problems or face up to the consequences of their actions. Far from it. As a matter of fact, from the accounts I have been hearing thus far all of them are of the opinion that the rebels should be meted the appropriate penalties for engaging in that kind of action, something which the leaders have acknowledged themselves. But the deal was that they should be tried and dealt with under the military justice system. Any other initiative or undertaking by either group outside of the arrangement is definitely violative of the terms of the 'return to barracks' agreement. Hauling the entire 350-man crew before the DOJ or the regional trial court to answer charges filed under the revised penal code is in violation of the deal. It is a doublecross.

Now, if the born-again hawks within the Arroyo circle and their civil society cohorts insist on denigrating this "return to barracks" scheme in the mistaken notion that the military justice system is more malleable and thus open to the kind of manipulation they are used to in our now derogated civilian judicial processes, they should be told that the President remains the commander-in-chief and has as much, if not more, authority on the conduct of the trial of the Oakwood mutineers than these people can imagine. Besides, if they only take a closer and more informed look at the entire system they will appreciate that the same can in fact be harsher and less open to long drawn out proceedings than that obtaining under the civilian processes. Too, the penalties can be more stiff and daunting than those available elsewhere to the point that the mutineers themselves may be wishing they never agreed to being governed by it at all.

But apart from this, what the administration should guard against is the derogation of its moral standing resulting from the setting aside or mangling of the agreement it allowed its negotiators to enter into. Already, just the perception that it is squelching on its commitment or monkeying around with it by proceeding with the DILG/DOJ initiative is sending the wrong signals not only to the other armed groups it is negotiating peace with but also with sectors, in and out of the Philippines, it is working out some programs or projects with. The common thread of thought is that if Malacaņang cannot keep the commitment it made to secure the peace and save the Republic what can it do to deserve even a round of talks? No one will ever sit down, ink any agreement or believe any commitments it makes if it proceeds with this double cross. They better believe it.

***

I was supposed to join the family, friends and associates of the late Felixberto 'Ka Bert' Olalia last Aug. 5 on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary. Unfortunately, I was unable to. Not only did I miss the whole-day affair of lectures, exhibits and remembering. I also missed getting updated on the true state of our workers and the labor movement to which Ka Bert dedicated his life.

For if truth be told, the history of the country's labor movement cannot be complete without reference to the life of 'Ka Bert.' A true blue worker, 'Ka Bert' was in the forefront not only of the workers' struggle but of the people's anti-imperialist movement in the early 1920s. He helped found such workers' groups as the NAFLU and together with other labor leaders the Confederation of Labor. He was also the inspiration behind the radical Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) as well as a prominent leader of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN) which was the precursor organization for the many affiliated entities making up the broad alliance of nationalist and democratic groups which took the cudgels for the people not only during the martial law years but all throughout the struggles after - from EDSA Uno to the present. Many of today's hard hitting nationalist leaders as well as those who have taken up people's causes have, one way or the other, been influenced by his simple lifestyle and sacrifices. He will be long remembered and his deeds implanted in the hearts and minds of a grateful people.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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