[PHOTO AT LEFT - A member of the Philippine Army raises the Philippine flag in front of the Heroes’ Monument at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig during the celebration of National Heroes Day yesterday. - Photo By MANNY MARCELO]

MANILA, AUGUST 27, 2007 (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - Every last Monday of August has been declared National Heroes Day, which is why once again we are enjoying another three-day weekend. Whenever we think of our fallen heroes, foremost in our minds are the soldiers who fought and died in Bataan and indeed, these men died in the midst of a futile battle… only to lose the fight against the superior might of the Japanese Imperial Army… as the Philippines, which was then a commonwealth of the United States of America, was ill-prepared to wage all-out war against the better-equipped and better-trained Japanese Army.

Many Filipino families lost their kin during the Fall of Bataan and my family was no exception… as my maternal grandfather, Capt. Valeriano Jamala Segura, died at the height of that battle and his body was hastily buried somewhere in the mountains of Bataan and was never recovered. Also an uncle of mine, Dr. Manuel de Veyra, was in Bataan and survived the infamous Death March. Dr. De Veyra has already passed away, but he did write a book entitled “A Doctor in Bataan” which recounted the atrocities he got from the hands of our Japanese invaders, which Sir Max Soliven once wrote about.

Today, we are no longer under any threat from a foreign invader or aggressor. However, we still have our internal threats. First from the Muslim separatists who want to break away from the Philippines to establish an Islamic state in Mindanao, and then there’s the 30-year old communist insurgency which hasn’t yet been neutralized.

Of course, the greatest threat to our own security comes from the self-proclaimed messiahs within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who believe that they can solve whatever ails our nation. They are the ones who think that a brigade can occupy a high-end hotel and stage a wildcat coup… believing it would cause the legitimate government to fall.

National Heroes Day ought to remind us that we must resolve all those internal threats and give a timetable in resolving them. By this, we took note of AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s declaration that he would finish the Abu Sayyaf threat in two months! How I wish that in making that declaration, Gen. Esperon wasn’t merely trying to impress his boss… President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo! So let’s take the general’s word and see if by the end of October, the Abu Sayyaf would cease to be a threat.

But what about the other threats to our security? For me, it is time to make bold steps against the New People’s Army (NPA) and its allied fronts, but when can this happen? We can only second-guess. If you ask me, the biggest threat we really face today is ourselves! In truth, there’s still a lot to be desired with all our law enforcement agencies that are seriously lacking in discipline! This is why many of us want the return of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) so that discipline can be taught early in college.

A case in point was what happened in Cebu City last week when agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Regional Police Intelligence Group busted an extortion ring operated by police officers right inside the police headquarters at Camp Sotero Cabahug in Lahug! That entrapment operation bagged SP01 Jaime Otadoy of the vice control section, where even his section chief, Wilbert Parilla, was also implicated in this extort try.

These supposed protectors of the citizenry accosted a certain Reuel Lerio, a video operator, and tried to extort P1.2 million from him. Lerio gave them only P200,000 and promised to produce the rest of the money… but instead he went straight to the NBI whose agents came to the police headquarters to arrest the offending officers. Once again, this is a black mark for the PNP and it will take sometime for them to redeem their tarnished image.

What we need now are military or police officers who are disciplined enough to be always on alert against any threats, especially terrorism. By now you already know that a certain Gino “Noy” Ampuan, an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf was caught at the Cebu Port on board SuperFerry 5 en route to Manila, bringing with him a cache of explosives. Thankfully the SuperFerry officers and crew were alerted by his suspicious presence and didn’t make any move until the vessel arrived in Cebu. We laud the officers and crew of SuperFerry for their alertness, which prevented a terror act that could have happened in Metro Manila.

Lest we already forgot, the more than two dozen Marines who recently lost their lives in the fight against Muslim extremists and kidnappers in Southern Mindanao should also be declared our new heroes… after all, they sacrificed their lives to protect our nation from those extremists.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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