Overwhelming – Manila Standard

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With an 82-percent approval rating that cuts across the entire citizenry and all over the land one year into Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, there is little reason to wonder why Congress in joint session last Saturday voted overwhelmingly to grant his request for an extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of this year.

The people trust him; they gave him their thumbs-up.  How can their elected representatives in the legislature void the public sentiment?

The public sees how our soldiers are fighting valiantly, sacrificing their lives on the altar of a virtual civil war in Marawi.  They also see how the Maute and their ilk have destroyed their own citadel of Islam in the Philippines, forcing civilians to evacuate to a safer though more difficult life as political refugees in Iligan and neighboring towns.

The people of Mindanao also see that other than in Marawi and in some parts of Lanao del Sur, their lives have hardly been affected by the proclamation of martial law.  There have been no human rights violations, and but for family members and hard-core followers of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf, no arrests or seizure orders have been issued.

Better this state of things rather than the prospect of terrorist infection all over Mindanao.  Better to contain the virus now, and with determination, extirpate it altogether.

Even those members of Congress who voted against the continued imposition of martial law could only question the length and extent, but clearly could not question the need for draconian measures.

* * *

What started as a sincere desire for peaceful settlement of long-standing grievances by sectors of society marginalized by poverty into the embrace of another ideology, initiated by the new leader elected in 2016, has come to an angry denouement.

In the lexicon of Pilipino movies, it reminds one of a quote from the legendary FPJ:  “Kapag puno na ang salop, kinakalos na.”

President Duterte’s patience has been wearing thin throughout the year of constant parlays, almost all of these held in the foreign capitals of Europe.

Seeing how the “leader” he once admired as a student of political science could neither control the “troops” under his “command,” nor even show enough sincerity to attempt to do so, despite prolonged ceasefire and continued talks of peace, Duterte has had enough.

Pained by the treacherous attacks against the soldiers and police of the Republic that sues for peace, the President now has no choice but to say enough is enough.

“Stop exacting revolutionary taxes even from the poor even in the hinterlands…you get even their food,” an angry Duterte wailed.

Responding to Joma Sison’s charge that he is a bully, Duterte said that he “bullies people who try to topple government and all the enemies of the state…because there is a war going on between us and you.”

“And you are killing my soldiers and policemen, so I bully you. When the time comes, maybe I will kill you if I have the chance,” he said.

These are words from the heart of a pained man who has been commiserating with the widows and orphans of his treacherously killed soldiers.  A cri de couer.

Enough said.  It is time to remove the sword from its sheath.

* * *

A little trivia:  Millennials probably wonder at the meaning of the “salop” that FPJ said needed “kalos.”  They grew up with the kilogram and the weighing scale as the measure of purchased rice.

Senior citizens like this writer recall the days when our mothers would purchase rice by the ganta, which is “salop” in Tagalog.  It was a cubical measure of volume rather than weight, made of wood and open on one side.  Rice was placed in it by the tinder in the wet market, and filled beyond brim, a piece of wood was used to “kalos” or remove the excess rice before it was placed onto a paper bag.

I remember that when I was in grade school, Carlos P. Garcia was defeated  by Diosdado P. Macapagal for the presidency because the price of rice went up from 80 centavos per ganta to one peso.

Four years later, Ferdinand E. Marcos lashed at Macapagal for his inability to temper the rise in the price of rice.  It had gone up to 1.20 pesos per “salop.”

And when he became president, Marcos soon brought down the price to one peso, per “kilo” this time, standardizing the system of weights and measures to the metric.  At a peso per kilo though, the cost of one ganta really went up to 2.20 pesos, almost double.

But that was in the late 60s, well into the declaration of martial law in 1972.   Today, a kilo of rice costs anywhere from P34 to P50 for ordinary, flat-tasting and often broken if well-milled rice. 

Ah, for the good old days.

* * *

Today the people will listen to President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address.

His communication honchos have said that he would speak about how he intends to give us all “a more comfortable life,” and he will expound on his social and economic development plans in order to achieve this.

We have seen glimpses of the plan, from his Build, Build, Build to his safety nets for the poor in terms of better health and better education.

The devil will be in the details of the implementation, and I am sure the President is aware of this.  It is hoped his appointees to the bureaucracy would work as hard as he, and have the capability, let alone the determination, and integrity to see to the fruition of his legacy.

Five years through the sands of time can pass so quickly.

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