BOHOL WENT AGOG when one active, enterprising netizen recorded the audio sounds of the gunbattle in a three-hour encounter in Sitio Ilaud, Bilar town. The storyline was that it was a true-blue “bullet-for-bullet” encounter between the military and the New People’s Army, the armed group of the rebel movement since declared as “terrorists” under then-president Rodrigo Duterte.
The problem why that storyline will not fly with some people is because – in a state of victorious stupor- the military and the government had always proudly brandished the fact that Bohol is “insurgency-free” – that it has been, in fact, since the last days of the late Governor Rico Aumentado. Or are we really insurgency-free?
Lives have been lost. Those are six lives, six too many. But who are they really?
This question was on the lips of citizens who participated in a lively discussion over the popular “Inyong Alagad” over station dyRD.
What people already know is that the communist Bohol Front Committee was already dissolved. But after Thursday’s eruption of hostility, the government claimed they were Bohol NPAs Party Committee, Komiteng Rehiyon Negros,Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor (BPC KR-NCBS) under the command of Kumander Compoc, whose son was allegedly one of the six persons killed.
The use of the word “Committee” raises more questions than answers. A committee is usually set up to effectively manage a far larger group that cannot make decisions without having to deal with the Tower of Babel- many disparate voices, agreeing on nothing.
If they constitute a committee- how big is the group they are managing as a committee-where are they located- in Bohol or the region? It remains an unanswered question -because there was a nary a peep of voice from the so-called NPAS regarding the long encounter.
To our mind, the 6 dead can only be one of the three: communists, bandits, or scapegoats.
If they are communists, they should have issued a statement after the encounter to prove they still exist or at least there are still some of them active enough to make such a statement. Then Bohol is not insurgency-free, after all, we can then conclude.
If there is a “sound of silence”, people might misconstrue that the six were just “plain bandits” out to make extortion moves on hapless citizens in order for them to survive this grinding poverty that faces them in the countryside. Arming themselves was to ensure they got what they wanted. And using the name of the NPAS is a handsome way to legitimize their nefarious operations.
If they are, the government still has the responsibility to make sure that these desperate moves for survival are addressed. A hungry man is an angry man, we all know that.
Or are they just disgusted citizens of the land- who in the past were denied access to real justice to seek redress of their grievances against more powerful people- and caused them to take up arms and do their own brand of justice? This happens not just in the movies.
Or, thirdly, are they just scapegoats? To justify the billions of budget to support a 250,000 army and the so-called expensive campaign to bring the aggrieved folks into the fold of law by offering them livelihood and homes in exchange for their surrender and giving up of arms. Are there government men or the military benefitting from such an “imagined enemy”?
A statement from the group of the “dead fighters” or the claimed Bohol Party Committee is most awaited, accompanied by a justification as to why they continue to operate violently as they do and face daily starvation rather than return to the fold of the law. What are their real grievances?
Unlike previous administrations that were devoted to the goal of annihilating all of them to death, the BBM administration had openly bared itself open for dialogue on the road to genuine peace. Likewise, Gov. Aris Aumentado who, like his departed father, is amenable to a civilized talk over a cup of coffee, tuba, or gin, as the case may be.
Gov. Aris had taken the first humbling step- attending the wake of Jigger Compoc, the slain son of the suspected NPA commander. In that one big step for peace, Gov. Aris showed he was not afraid of his own people and that his intentions for peace were genuine.
The next move is on the part of the friends and families of the victims of the unfortunate encounter. Their silence will not help them any- and can lead to many interpretations and muddle the path to peace and order.
CALAMITIES SPOOK THE WORLD
THE “GHOST MONTH” AUGUST PASSED by only for the world to see yesterday a 6.8 magnitude Earthquake tore up the historical country of Morocco and killed at least 820 people and counting. In the rubble were the ashes of the Kuttubiya mosque in Marakesh, a fabled relic of history and religion.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the High Atlas Mountains and in remote areas -making help scarce and pushing the forecast of the dead to go into the thousands.
Just a month ago- on August 8, a strong forest fire in Hawaii’s second biggest island and tourist mecca almost leveled the beautiful island to the ground by a massive forest fire that got little help from the local government.
Some perished by jumping to the sea on the honeymoon island of Maui and the death figures are expected to surpass the about 500 dead in a Minnesota wildfire in 1919- the largest number of deaths from forest fire in US history. Governor Josh Green estimated the initial losses at $5.5 Billion.
Because of the increasing hot temperature of the earth, wildfires and forest fires are expected to be a major environmental threat to urban and rural folks alike. In the last three years, for instance, some of our well-heeled friends living in mansions on the hills of California left their manicured gardens twice to escape a dangerous forest fire in the vicinity.
One associate said many insurance firms pulled out of California -recognizing the threat- and said he is forced to pay $7,500 (close to P400,000 a year) State insurance premiums that do not even cover insurance damage from an earthquake. Whoa.
Protecting oneself from climate change vagaries can indeed already cost one an arm and leg these days.
Recall the other tragedies these last 20 years.
In March 2011, an earthquake and a tsunami caused the explosion of the nuclear plant Daichi (Fukushima, Japan)- destroying collectively over 1 million buildings at a tragic cost of $187 B, not counting the 19,729 dead (3,000 missing) and 470,000 Japanese evacuated.
It will take 40 years just to clean up the nuclear mess and decommission.
Closer to home, the Yolanda super typhoon claimed the lives of 6,352- twice the man-made disaster at the World Trade Center in 9-11 where about 3,000 people coming from 93 countries perished. The Yolanda damage cost estimate was $ 3-B, the costliest in RP history.
Of course that is a pittance compared to the “9-11” disaster since the latter happened in a highly urbanized city of New York where the damage done was placed at a staggering $ 36 B.
The Yolanda howler which struck in November of 2013 carried a powerful center wind of 315km/hour. When President BBM visited the Leyte site last November, he said that the estimated dead of 6,352 is on the low side and believed thousands of others perished but are unaccounted for.
Here at home, meanwhile, the 2013 Earthquake claimed the lives of 196 Boholanos (total of 222) with 14,000 buildings (homes and offices) brought to the ground displacing 340,000 people. All in all the roads, bridges, and schools destroyed in Cebu and Bohol were placed at P2.25B due to the 6.8 magnitude earthquake – not ot mention the iconic century-old churches that were severely fractured or completely destroyed.
Today, the world is faced not only with man-made dangers like the Ukraine-Russian war but more dangerously by the fight back of Nature which has often been abused by man himself.
Let us all brace for gravely perilous times which can make the issue of the high price of rice – a minor irritant. So, help us God. Shalom!
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