MANILA, OCTOBER 14, 2003  (STAR) This great timing must be another case of divine providence. For the Arroyo administration, the killing of fugitive Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi the other day in Mindanao, three months after his daring escape from Camp Crame, couldn’t have come at a better time. Lackadaisical markets perked up. The news eclipsed Chapter 3 of opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s "Jose Pidal" exposé, which he finally delivered yesterday. Al-Ghozi’s death also came barely a week before the arrival in Manila of US President George W. Bush. Too bad his visit had already been cut short partly because of Al-Ghozi’s escape, although everyone will deny this.

Few tears will be shed for a man who had no qualms about blowing up train coaches and shopping malls to snuff out the lives of innocent people. Like other top members of Jemaah Islamiyah, Al-Ghozi never showed remorse for his role in deadly terrorist attacks in this country. There are many Filipinos who don’t mind seeing murderers like Al-Ghozi taken out of action permanently.

Still, the nation would have wanted to hear Al-Ghozi’s story. His fellow escapee, suspected Abu Sayyaf member Omar Opik Lasal, related yesterday his version of the July 14 jailbreak from the headquarters of the Philippine National Police. Lasal’s story had several inconsistencies compared with the official police version and the findings of a special panel created to investigate the escape. All the versions were consistent only on one point: that there was no police collusion in the jailbreak.

Why nitpick about such details, and why insist that Al-Ghozi should have been kept alive? Because he could have enlightened the nation about the people who helped him from the moment he waltzed out of Camp Crame to his days in hiding in Mindanao. How did he even get there? He could have shed light on allegations that he enjoyed the protection of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is set to start formal peace negotiations with the government.

With Al-Ghozi dead, the people who protected him will never be known and may never be punished. And they could be waiting for the next terrorist who can be sprung from police headquarters.

The superduper eight hours of Dubya Bush BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven

So we finally "got" the mad-bomber escapee, Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi. Okay. Let that disgraceful caper be a lesson to us. We had him behind bars – of sorts – but we let him get away to our terrible embarrassment. That our military and PACER police commandos, after great effort (and expense) tracked al-Ghozi down and "terminated" him doesn’t excuse our lawmen’s previous lapse of letting him break out of Camp Crame.

However, let’s rejoice. We mustn’t forget though to never treat captured terrorists with such frivolity and carelessness again.

The Jemaah Islamiyah problem will be a "heads up" topic of discussion at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok which President Macapagal-Arroyo and US President George W. Bush will attend on October 19-21, i.e. beginning this Sunday. Thank God/Allah our troops and policemen managed to gun that cruel bomber down. Saves us the trouble of "explaining" to the Bangkok audience how we let him slip through our fingers.

People in the area, I’m informed, are grumbling that there was no actual "firefight". Sanamagan, who cares? Al-Ghozi was worse than any thugs belonging to the Kuratong Baleleng. His bombs killed babies and children as well as men and women without mercy. What’s most despicable of all was that he showed no remorse while in confinement. What do you do with crazies who claim that Allah ordered them to kill even the helpless and the innocent? I, for one, will weep no tears for that rat.

* * *

The town is buzzing with gossip about the coming of President 'Dubya' Bush, as if it were the Messiah’s second coming. Oh well, although we’ll receive peanuts (billions are needed to rebuild Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan), why should we be so concerned about benefits or aid? Let‘s just give him a dose of good old Filipino hospitality.

Mr. Bush isn’t coming to our neck of the woods simply to see La Gloria, his phone pal and ally – indeed, to endorse her "change of mind" and her candidacy. He’s doing the Grand Tour of the region.

In fact, on his way over from Washington DC, he’ll stop over in California to greet the new Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzegger who garnered 47 percent of the votes to seize control of America’s most populous state, with the sixth biggest economy in the world.

As the French daily Le Figaro in Paris bannered the prospect the day I left that city for London: "Schwarzenegger à la tete de la sixiéme économie mondiale?" The following day, the question mark was eliminated with Californians trooping to the polls to boot out the Democratic Party incumbent Governor, Gray Davis.

Bye-bye, Gray – olé, Arnie! Hasta la vista, Davis – bienvenidos Schwarzie! Can a former Austrian beefcake run California?

Well, Dubya’s going there to get Arnie’s endorsement for his own re-election drive. When he addresses a joint session of our Congress next Saturday, you can be sure, he’ll ask our Senators to pass that pending bill protecting "intellectual property" – meaning protecting Hollywood’s flickers from being peddled here in the form of pirated DVDs. Gotta get that California/Hollywood vote, after all.

When you come right down to it, politicians are the same everywhere.

* * *

Mr. Bush’s first stop will be Tokyo, then he’ll hop down over here to the Philippines next Saturday.

The Bush expedition will cost American taxpayers a pretty penny, for his itinerary, post-Manila, will include Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and then Canberra (Australia). The price tag? A formidable US$50 million or the equivalent of P2.5 billion.

No less than 5,000 US secret service and security officers have been fielded in the countries to be visited to assure the safety of President Bush and his First Lady, Laura Bush.

There is already an advance team of 140 here in Manila, while another 100 will fly in with Mr. Bush aboard US Air Force One, which will land in the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark Field in Angeles, Pampanga).

Two helicopters are already here to ferry Bush around. Although the Sikorskys brought over here are smaller than the real Marine choppers being used in Washington DC, the helicopter Bush will be using is also tagged "Marine One". Also in place by now are the bulletproof cars to be utilized by Mr. Bush and his official party. All these items were ferried over here on two Galaxy "Starlifters".

Mr. Bush will lay a wreath at the Rizal monument, then proceed to Malacañang. Up to now, even after the gate has long been shut to any "additions", people are still fighting tooth and nail to be included in the formal, black-tie State Dinner in the Palace. Don’t look now, but it was to accommodate the scores of hundreds who couldn’t be shoehorned into the dinner that Malacañang hit upon the idea of staging a big Barrio Fiesta in the Palace grounds before the Chosen Few are summoned to sup inside the building.

Mr. Bush will be here for exactly eight hours. At 8:30 p.m. sharp on Saturday night, he’ll take off on Air Force One to overnight in Singapore, then arrive in Bangkok Sunday morning to be greeted by the host country’s leader, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

If you’re planning to fly next Saturday, be forewarned. All aircraft will be banned from the skies along the US Chief Executive’s route from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

As for his staffers and support units, the entire Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel has been completely blocked off beginning yesterday morning until next Sunday morning – meaning 100 percent occupancy by American personnel up to hours after the Bush departure.

As for his Malacañang speech, you can expect it to be along the lines of "I’m glad she changed her mind", "how great a gal GMA is" and "how well our partnership in the fight versus terrorism is going". I don’t believe this will surprise you.

If it’s any consolation, Mr. Bush and company won’t "overnight" in Jakarta either.

* * *

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my old NEWSWEEK Editor, Arnaud de Borchgrave, now Editor-in-Chief of United Press International (UPI), is in town. I made the discovery through an invitation from Secretary Dodie Limcaoco, Presidential Asst. for Media and Religious Affairs, and Press Secretary Milton Alingod, to join a dinner tonight in honor of the above-mentioned.

The last time I saw Arnie was in Moscow some years ago, but after all you’re likely to bump into him in the most bizarre places since he goes everywhere. Indeed, it’s true as Esquire magazine revealed, in 33 years De Borchgrave covered 17 wars and more than 30 countries.

I remember that in the old days, in his apartment, his friends and colleagues used to quip, he had an entire huge closet stocked with the uniforms of the various armed forces, including those of a dozen African countries. When he was headed to cover a "war" somewhere, he’d pop into his closet and frantically try to find, with an anxious eye on his airport schedule, the right uniform to bring with him on his latest foray.

I also recall him telling fellow journalists in Hanoi in the dying weeks of French hegemony in Indo-China: "Hey, let’s parachute into Dien Bien Phu." Those who followed his lead spent some months in Viet Minh prison after that little fortress fell to the encircling forces of General Vo Nguyen Giap. When I interviewed General Giap in his home in Hanoi a few months ago, we spent the good part of an hour reminiscing over the battles of the old days. Giap is wrinkled, and today looks even tinier (shrunken, it seems) than before, but he’s retained his snap and ginger.

It’s De Borchgrave’s bottomless energy, though, which amazes me most of all. He must be as ancient as Methuselah by now, but he still zooms about the planet like a cub reporter. When I joined NEWSWEEK, recruited as a stringer by Bob Trumbull, then promoted by Osborne Elliot to full-blown correspondent, Arnaud was Senior Editor. When I met him in New York, he taught me how to make a Bolshafter, but I’ve lost the recipe.

He couldn’t be held down to a desk job, however, so he asked to be excused from being Editor-in-Chief, then was off again on his endless travels. He did seven tours of duty in Vietnam, where I did barely three, and he was twice wounded. (Even when a bunch of us were blown out of a helicopter by a hand-held Viet Cong rocket in the battle of the Michelin rubber plantation in Dong Xuai, this writer luckily escaped without a scratch, though our American helicopter jockeys – those brave guys had balls of iron – were blown to bits, and the rest aboard either killed or grievously wounded.) I enjoyed reading De Borchgrave’s book, The Spike which he co-authored with Robert Moss, whom we also knew. That outspoken book exposed Soviet KGB infiltration into and "influence" in Western media. It was a courageous volume to author, since Western media had a distinct leftist inclination in those days – and, in a way, still does.

Arnaud became Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Times and Insight magazine in 1985. Those publications belong to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. If you’ll recall, the Reverend Moon is the somewhat controversial, but dynamic Korean religious leader whose fabulous religious and business empire continues to attract worldwide curiosity. Four years ago, my wife and I were invited to a fantastic dinner in the Moon mansion and estate in upstate New York, in which Reverend Moon delivered a fascinating address in which (I sometimes tend to agree) he declared that the most important organ is the sex organ.

I can’t say, now that he’s top honcho of UPI, whether Arnaud subscribes to that concept. However, the sex organ is never to be discounted.

Isn’t UPI also owned by the Reverend Moon now, or at least the latter is the international news agency‘s biggest stockholder? The Reverend must be doing something right: God blesses him with wealth, success, and legions of followers.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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