Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez – who was on his way to Moscow to join the President after attending to some personal business in the United States – came home to Manila early this morning following President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao last Tuesday. The President was supposed to be in Russia for a four-day official visit, but he had to cut his trip short to deal with the problem in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, where government troops are fighting terrorists from the Maute group.
Secretary Dominguez has assured the international business community that everything is under control, and that the President himself will personally oversee the operations for major situations like what is happening in Marawi City. Sonny told me that the President is determined to protect the lives of innocent civilians, and will use all legal means at his disposal to crush the terrorist threat in Mindanao.
The finance secretary is known to be very close to President Rody. The two are actually childhood friends since their families lived in the same neighborhood in Matina in Davao City – and so he is familiar with how the President thinks. Sonny knows that when the President is angry, the more he becomes determined to place the situation under his control and see to it that the problem is resolved to his satisfaction. Many people know how Duterte was able to turn a “wild frontier” like Davao City into one of the most prosperous cities in the country today, having the largest economy outside of Metro Manila.
The President has issued appeals and repeatedly warned terrorists not to test his patience, saying that once he declares martial law in Mindanao, the problems would be “finished.” A few months ago, he had also exhorted local executives in Mindanao to use their powers before the violence got out of control. “I can be 50 times more brutal than you,” he told the militants.
The decision of the President to shorten his Russia visit has become even more dramatic in light of the worldwide attention he has been getting from international networks. Our friends in Washington, D.C. who had been monitoring developments were certainly surprised at the recent turn of events and did not expect the President to come home.
Ambassador Khovaev feeling disappointed
Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, who is a good friend of ours, had been so excited about the four-day official visit of President Duterte to the Russian Federation. The ambassador had been preparing for what he described as the “historic visit” for close to six months after President Rody indicated he wanted to visit Russia following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation when the two met during the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru last November.
The success of the four-day visit would have been a crowning glory for the Russian diplomat, but the recent developments in Mindanao made the President decide to shorten his visit. Nevertheless, the two presidents were able to move schedules to conduct a bilateral meeting shortly before President Duterte flew home to Manila.
As a matter of fact, our ambassador friend has also been working hard for us to be able to have an interview with President Putin some time after the official visit, but I guess we will just have to wait for the right opportunity for the interview to happen. During the 2015 APEC Summit in Manila, the Russian president was supposed to attend – with Ambassador Khovaev working to get clearance for me to conduct an exclusive interview. However, Putin skipped the summit due to domestic problems – in particular the crash of a Russian aircraft in Egypt, resulting in the death of all 217 passengers and seven crew members. Authorities believe an improvised bomb caused the crash – with ISIS eventually claiming responsibility for the incident.
Manchester bombing a ‘callous terrorist attack’
The bombing at Manchester Arena in the UK is probably one of the worst terrorist acts ever because it deliberately targeted children and young people whose lives have been snuffed short by a demented, suicidal individual. Latest reports say 22 people have died, among them an eight-year-old girl, while dozens more have been injured. World leaders have also issued their condemnation of this senseless, dastardly attack.
“This was among the worst terrorist incidents we have ever experienced in the United Kingdom, and although this is not the first time Manchester has suffered in this way, it is the worst attack the city has experienced and the worst ever to hit the north of England,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said during her televised statement.
The suicide bomber chose the time and place to “cause maximum carnage and to kill and injure indiscriminately,” with the bomb exploding near one of the exits as the pop concert of American artist Ariana Grande came to a close, just as “young families and groups of children” were leaving the venue.
“All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives,” the British leader said, denouncing the warped and twisted mind behind the carnage, and vowing that the terrorists “will never win.”
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