Isles of fear

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The unparalleled act of barbarism that was the massacre of November 23 has been described as “politically motivated,” but that phrase imbues its purpose with a meaning it does not have and does not deserve. No price can ever be enough for a single human life, but here is a case in which at least 47 people have been killed, apparently in furtherance of nothing more than the intention of petty tyrants to remain in power and pelf in one of the country’s poorest provinces.

The abduction and murder of some 47 people, more than half of them journalists and media technicians, and many of them women, in Maguindanao is a new low even for Mindanao as well as the Philippines. It speaks volumes not only about the rot in a political system that tolerates brutes and murderers’ occupying public office so long as they can deliver the votes, and no matter if they maintain private armies made up of creatures more animal than human. It also provides the civilized world a sense of the levels of barbarism in these parts, for a precedent to which one has to look long and hard in the history of the planet.

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Looking back

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It’s practically an article of faith among the Muslim separatist groups: the Muslims in the Philippines are not part of the Christian majority, are not even Filipinos, and have their own culture, beliefs, traditions and history. It’s true enough — except in one outstanding respect: with most Filipino Christians, the separatists (the word is used advisedly) share fealty to the idea that the problems of this land can be solved only with US intervention.

That’s the subtext of one of the recent issuances from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Secretariat as well as of the recent history of MILF-US engagement. In a statement issued a day after the visit to the Philippines of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretariat Chair Muhammad Ameen bragged that in response to a letter the MILF had written to US President Barack Obama, the MILF’s chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, had met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel last November 6 in Makati City. Marciel, said Ameen, handed to Iqbal Obama’s reply to the MILF letter.

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House of glass

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is concluding a two-day visit to the Philippines today, November 13. The US- based human rights monitoring group Human Rights Watch has urged Mrs. Clinton to press Mrs. Arroyo to prosecute those responsible for extra-judicial killings (EJKs). Philippine-based human rights and activist groups have also challenged Mrs. Clinton to take up the same issue with Mrs. Arroyo.

We don’t know if the killings have been discussed or will be taken up today by the two ladies. The Visiting Forces Agreement and US security concerns are widely believed to be at the top of Mrs. Clinton’s agenda. But we can assume that the VFA’s remaining in place despite demands for its renegotiation and even scuttling has long been assured during lower-level discussions, and that Mrs. Clinton’s visit would only confirm it.

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Where the trains run on time

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The results of a poll recently released by the US-based Gallup Organization say that some 700 million people worldwide would move to another country if they could.

No, Filipinos didn’t lead the pack, despite the 2007 finding that nearly 20 percent of the population would take the next plane for another country — any country — if they could, and Philippine airports’ being choked daily with the 6,000 people who’re either leaving for jobs abroad or permanently relocating elsewhere. Ahead of everyone else was the population of sub-Saharan Africa, of which 38 percent was most anxious to pack up and go.

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