MANILA, December 3, 2003 (STAR) Now this is impressively accurate information. Security officials tell us that there are 31 Indonesians believed to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah who continue to recruit and train Filipinos for bomb-making and other terrorist skills in Mindanao. The training, reportedly funded by al-Qaeda, is conducted in areas controlled by the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, according to the security officials, who cited intelligence sources. If this serious charge is true, what is the government going to do about it, apart from announcing the story to the public?

Nothing much, judging from pronouncements by the same officials who disclosed the existence of the training camps. The government is simply asking the MILF to turn over any of the Indonesians to Philippine security forces. The training is supposedly conducted in MILF-held areas near Mt. Karanaw in Lanao del Norte and Mt. Vietnam in Lanao del Sur.

Because of the track record of JI in sowing terror, the threat posed by the group cannot be dismissed. If the government is sure even about the exact number and nationality of the terrorists, why can’t they be arrested? But that’s like asking why the Armed Forces of the Philippines can’t neutralize the Abu Sayyaf for good. The government may also want to ask the MILF – seriously this time – why JI members continue their training activities in MILF-held areas. This story has been going around for months, aggravated by reports that certain MILF members gave sanctuary to fugitive JI member and Indonesian terrorist Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi. The story is that another MILF faction turned al-Ghozi in. But that does not diminish the fact that the rebels are providing a haven for a terrorist group blamed for the deadly Rizal Day bombings in Metro Manila and the even deadlier attacks in Bali, Indonesia last year.

President Arroyo is said to be keen on forging a peace agreement with the MILF before the end of her three years in office. And there are MILF commanders who are said to be genuinely interested in peace. But how many of their members do these commanders control? Peace must not come at any price. For any president, peace based on duplicity would be a terrible legacy.

We get only the gov’t we deserve BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven

The kidnap gangs have thrown the gauntlet down at President GMA. They’re now kidnapping a victim practically every day. The abduction yesterday morning of a two-and-a-half-year-old pre-schooler in Muntinlupa is another incident in a mounting tsunami of kidnappings.

The country’s new anti-kidnapping chief, Secretary cum Ambassador and retired General Angelo T. Reyes has egg all over his face – but no one, least of all this writer, is laughing at Reyes’ discomfiture and embarrassment. We are all alarmed. The breakdown of law and order, the helplessness (perhaps even complicity) of our policemen and law enforcers, the growing insolence and bravado of those scum who run empires of crime, from kidnapping, to drug-pushing, to robbery in band, speak of a breakdown in our depraved society, so obsessed with politics that the "Goodhousekeeping" tasks of government – so essential to the safety, security, peace of mind, and welfare of the people – are callously neglected.

What’s clear is that neither the government, the law, nor our corrupt and cowardly courts of justice are not feared by the criminal elements, from the outright goons, kidnappers, murderers, rapists, and cellphone-snatchers to the forgers and grafters. When you step out of your home, you’re taking a risk. When you stay at home, you can’t count yourself safe either from armed intrusion and bodily harm. How can our police generals claim things are getting better, that the KFR gangs are being "neutralized", and the druggies are on the run? The mounting evidence of a rampage of crime is everywhere – provoking mounting despair among our populace.

Those stupid police check-points, for instance, are totally useless. They, in truth, serve to harass and annoy commuters and motorists who’re law-abiding. The lawless simply avoid them. This is so apparent, one wonders about the medieval mentality of those cops and military men who conceive them and constantly set them up. When armed men flag your car or bus down for a "check", how do you know whether they’re cops or robbers – or worse?

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As for that foolish moratorium on implementing the Death Penalty, President Macapagal-Arroyo once again is slavishly following the "bidding" of the Bishops – and, Heaven help us, the Holy Father, the Pope. His Holiness Pope John Paul II may be a living saint, but when it comes to putting the fear of God into the breasts of murderers, kidnappers, and perpetrators of other heinous crimes, what has the Pope got to do with it? The Supreme Pontiff is, by our Roman Catholic doctrine, infallible only when he speaks ex-cathedra on matters of faith and morals. This dictum we imbibed with our mother’s milk, since it coincided with our first Bible Studies. But here he is pronouncing capital punishment wrong, and even warning everybody not to use condoms because condoms are evil. Sus, no wonder somebody in the world contracts AIDS or HIV every eight seconds – at least when those AIDS-sufferers die, they’ll die virtuous.

Was the Holy Father misquoted when it was declared from the Vatican that to use condoms as a protection against contracting AIDS was sinful? I think not. It’s the way Papa Karol Wojtyla has been talking since he was elected in 1979 by the College of Cardinals and the Holy Spirit, the 264th successor to the Chair of St. Peter, incidentally the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. He has always preached that only a return to stringent old-time religion can save Christianity. Remember his earliest statement that husbands should not lust after their own wives? The only modern thing about this holy man is the use of jet planes to facilitate his non-stop travels, for – with the exception of Pope Paul VI who caused a worldwide furor by stepping outside of the Holy See to fly to New York, on a 24-hour visit to visit the United Nations and meet US President Lyndon B. Johnson – all previous Popes had locked themselves up in the Vatican. (Another exception was Pope Pius VII who was dragged off by Napoleon Bonaparte to Paris in 1812 – to "witness" Napoleon crowning himself Emperor.) So, Pope John Paul II has established himself as the Shepherd who jets to his flock – dozens of times a year.

Yet, he condemns condoms. (Is this because the living "sperm" is murdered? Or the availability of condoms makes Christians etc. more promiscuous?) How to prevent AIDS or practice "safe sex"? The Vatican’s answer seems to be: Refrain from sex. I guess the Blessed Mother Teresa wasn’t kidding. When we were together at that mammoth conference in Oxford University in 1988, the late, saintly nun was asked during the open forum how to avoid sexual diseases like AIDS or HIV. She retorted: "Don’t have sex."

Mother T, God bless her soul, had a solemn expression on her furrowed face when she said that but we thought she was being humorous. In the light of the Condom Doctrine, I guess she wasn’t trying to be amusing, but has been completely serious. As for the Holy Father’s condemnation of the Death Penalty (as well as does the European Union, it must be said), my view is "different folks, different strokes". We would all sleep better in this frightened nation if we knew that murderers, kidnappers, drug lords, and their repulsive ilk were sent with finality and dispatch to the lethal gas chamber. (Why give them a chance to escape? Why grant them many more years of life, at taxpayers’ expense, while their victims have long ago been buried in their cheerless graves? Is there a remote possibility those finally convicted after years of appeal to higher courts might be "innocent"? C’mon. Their victims were innocent – and they’re dead with finality.)

Is this writer a Catholic? I hope so. But the Protestant Martin Luther might have had a few good points when he nailed his "protests" on the door of the cathedral at Worms. What’s important is that our fathers, the founding fathers of this free and democratic Republic, fought a bloody revolution to free our people from the heavy hand of the Spanish Friars and the control of the State by the Church. In sum, the separation of Church and State has been enshrined in all our Constitutions. But GMA seems to have surrendered to the Church that hard-won "independence". The law mandates the Death Penalty. The President, as executor of the law, must execute the criminals as the law dictates. Her wimpish "moratorium" is awful. In pursuit of conviction? Or of re-election? It won’t even ensure the latter: Only making our citizens feel secure, safe, protected as they go about their workaday tasks, will get her re-elected.

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Then there’s the Pulse Asia Inc. survey which showed that Senator Noli Castro, Mr. Magandang Gabi Bayan, has run away with 37 percent of the poll, putting him far ahead of everybody else when it comes to the choice of "vice president". (Why, judging from other surveys, if De Castro ran, he might even give GMA, well even FPJ, a run for their money.)

What has Noli done during his short stint in the Senate? Nothing, nada, zero. Yet he’s way on top in the hearts of the would-be electorate. Tailing him, even if quite a bit behind, is his fellow ABS-CBN star, Sen. Loren Legarda – who’s made no bones about hungering for the vice presidency, no matter whose running mate or what party. Loren, at least, has done a few laudable things, but it’s her tele-personality popularity that really garnered her that 22 percent in the Pulse Asia survey. You know the rest. Senate President Franklin Drilon got only 8 percent, Sen. Juan Flavier just 7 percent, while Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (also show biz) got an effortless 6 percent. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando, who’s accomplished the most of all the "contenders", in improving the lot of Metro Manilans, received only a disappointing 5 percent. Of course, he still eked out a one percent advantage over Senators Robert Barbers, Aquilino Pimentel, and Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay – while Vice President Teofisto "Tito" Guingona may not be able to make BANGON, since he got a scanty two percent, along with DTI Secretary (already "absent" on campaign) Manuel "Mar" Roxas.

This, of course, beats former Cebu Governor Emilio "Lito" Osmeña, the fella you saw in the photos raising the hand of ex-Senator Raul Roco in that "Hope" party proclamation convention at the Folk Arts Theater. Lito got just one percent. Will Osmeña be Roco’s vice presidential partner in the drive to bring back "Hope" and "decency" to our nation? If you hear gales of laughter at the suggestion, I trust those guffaws don’t come from Cebu. Yet, there you are. It‘s no surprise we’re in a rut. Show biz people and TV stars appear always to be the people’s choice for leaders – which is why Ate Glo, Gloria Lavandera, Gloria Imperadora, etc. has been trying to look like show biz throughout her reign, not Mrs. Hulk.

As Abe Lincoln warned: A people get only the kind of government that it deserves. We’re getting what we deserve. And, the portents are, after May 2004, we may do no better. I wish somebody could greet us with a booming "Magandang umaga, Bayan!" and guarantee that our day will be bright, and safe, and, when dark comes, equally secure. From morning till night. Otherwise, for our country, it will truly be "Good night".

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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