The case of Maryjane Veloso, the Filipina convicted of drug offense whose execution in Indonesia was temporarily stayed, once more calls attention to the wisdom— or lack of it— of the war against drugs. Maryjane is really just one among the so-many casualties of this war. Indeed, how many thousands have been executed or sentenced to a lifetime in jail since the war started? How much public funds have since been poured into the effort? Yet, illegal drugs trade has steadily flourished over time into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, and is growing more robustly than ever. This alone should compel us to rethink our approach and strategy.
Society, no doubt driven by noble motives, takes it to itself the responsibility to shield its citizens from the menace of drugs. Thus it legislates laws in various degrees of severity in the fulfillment of this assumed responsibility.
The drug user though does not share such society’s concern; he rebels against it. To him, it is simply his right, he exercising his own free will to satisfy his own cravings. It is not for society to decide what pleasures he must indulge in or not. At times, he must be perplexed: what’s the big deal? what wrong is there in his using drugs? He enjoys the highs and the mind-bending effect it has on himself, why deny it to him? It is not like he is causing any damage on anyone or anybody’s property that if caught he must be shot to death or be placed in prison for the rest of his life. If there be any harm, it is only on himself, but then that is his personal business. A lot much like smoking or drinking or skydiving… Absent any moral restraint or bother, there being no inherent evil in his vice, he continues to seek the fulfillment of his desires, plays cat and mouse with the police if need be, and pays the price no matter how high— and to hell with the Government playing Big Brother on his life.
Now, where there is a buyer, at the right price, there is always a seller, count on it. To the seller, it is simply business, no more no less. The merchandise to him is just that, a thing to sell for profit. Does a businessman care if his rope is intended for suicide? Or the knife to kill? Yet even in case he does and shifts to other wares to sell, trust that someone will emerge from out of nowhere to take his place to supply the buyer the merchandise, if under the most forbidding circumstances, at the right price.
The thing is, prohibition accomplishes two things: one. it limits general access of the public to the drug, but, two, it also jacks up the price of the merchandise. The first is the intended result, the second the unintended. From the original unintended consequence emerges a chain of undesirable spin-offs. As prohibition jacks up the price of the product, at times astronomically, peddling drugs becomes an extremely lucrative business. It’s the Law of Supply and Demand, nothing more. And because it is illegal, the criminal types naturally get to take full charge. The kind to whom you would otherwise deny access to riches for the evil that they are, inevitably they get to take control of a business that rakes in cash in overflowing abundance. What happens when criminal minds have billions at their disposal? Of course, limitless power to buy or force their way in and out of every nook and cranny of society. To what extent do they now have control of our society, we could only speculate. But if the occasional cocky display of power and hints of incipient influence be any guide, we could only shudder.
Indeed, it is a difficult dilemma but we must make a choice. Protecting society from the evils of drugs appears to have spawned a greater monster.
It is claimed that the so-called Jabidah Massacre is the one single spark that ignited the Mindanao conflict which continues to pester the country to this day. The formation of the MNLF, a separatist armed group led by Nur Misuari, was the first direct consequence of it, eventually precipitating the costly and bloody wars with the government in the 70s. The continuing violence of the present is still mostly attributed to it. Indeed, the story of the Jabidah Massacre, as written by two prominent journalists, Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda Gloria, appears on the MNLF website as if a constant reminder that the event started it all.
Yet many contend that the story is but a myth. Popular columnists like Rigoberto Tiglao of Manila Times call it a big hoax and Rod Kapunan of Manila Standard considers it a shameful lie. There is just no proof to back it up, they assert. The lone witness, Jibin Arula, was neither reliable nor convincing. Even then Senator Ninoy Aquino, President Ferdinand Marcos’ foremost nemesis who would gain much if he proved the massacre to be true, after conducting his own investigations, stated as much in his privilege speech at the Senate in 1968:
Now, about the so-called Corregidor massacre, Mr. (Senate) President. I would, if there were truth, be among the first to rise and articulate the indignation and revulsion of a nation sickened and shocked by such deliberate, purposeful and wanton killing of helpless and hapless men.
And I would, if there had been truth, be among those to voice my own nausea, my anger and my disgust.
I am afraid that many of us had been too quick to anger, too quick to deplore and denounce. For the truth, as I found it in Sulu, is: the probability of a mass massacre is dim. (emphasis mine)
I could make big political capital out of all of this. I could pillory, nail on the public cross and damn President Marcos and the men who served under him in this operation. I could rouse the people against them, all of them.
But, Mr. President, I say: Let us pin blame only where the blame is. And, by my findings, a wanton massacre is not among the things that we must hang on Mr. Marcos’ conscience and Mr. Marcos’ soul.
For where’s the logic in killing these young recruits?
What would have been the motive for the “massacre”? Some quarters have advanced the theory that the trainees were liquidated in order to silence them. But then, 24 boys have already shown up in Jolo safe and healthy. To release 24 men who can spill the beans and liquidate the remaining 24 “to seal” their lips would defy logic.
In truth, it seems like the only insistent claim that the massacre actually happened is coming from the article written by Vitug and Gloria. Yet, the article itself is not filled with proof that would put the unbelievers to shame, but with holes, conceding that, yes, there are many missing parts. In fact, careful reading of it would show that, aside from the flimsy testimony of the lone witness, the only part seeming to confirm that the massacre was real is this:
When they landed, the teams of soldiers found burned bodies tied to trees, near the airstrip, on the island’s bottom side. The order from Army Chief Gen. Romeo Espino was to clean up the place and clear it of all debris. From afternoon till sunset, they collected charred flesh and bones and wrapped them in dark colored ponchos. They could not keep track of how many bodies there were. They also picked up bullet shells lying on the airstrip. The trainees had been shot dead before they were tied and burned.
It was a swift operation. What the participants remember most is the strong smell of death and decay. That night, these soldiers burned their clothes which had absorbed the stench. At the crack of dawn the next day, they loaded the ponchos in the helicopter and flew over Manila Bay. They tied heavy stones to the ponchos before dumping them all into the sea. The remains sank, weighted down by the stones. The soldiers made sure nothing floated to the surface.
But, as to where this particular testimony came from, there is no clue. Who recounted this damning story with all the shocking gory details, it is not said. Notably though, the narration has an air of all-knowing certainty of a first hand account— which it is not. Strangely, there is not even a mention of “a source” or “a witness” or “an insider” (but whose identity must however be protected, as often invoked) who could have supplied such incredibly detailed blow by blow. It is like, hey, this is what happened, people… take it or leave it. For such a very significant episode of the narrative, this one takes the cake for reckless, gossipy reporting.
It is incumbent upon Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda Gloria therefore, to give account of themselves on how they came to this bits of information because, for one, it alleges a very serious crime, a shockingly horrible one at that involving the country’s armed forces chief himself. It also supplies the core narrative that lends credence to the entire tragedy. How did they put the pieces together? Who were the sources?
The Jabidah massacre— if true— is such a shameful, tragic event for the nation. Thus, it is important to give it closure and heal the wounds. The victims must be identified and families compensated, perpetrators named and the circumstances properly and fully chronicled. Then let it be written in our history. We could build a bigger marker, bigger than that which is already built, by which to commemorate the tragic event. But how could there be any closure if the event’s truthfulness is precisely the same one being given this huge question mark?
We are not taking the risk of erecting a marker for gullibility, are we?
To be sure, at least to me, this part of the narrative has a disturbing feel of unreality to it, like its some contrived and imagined event, like it is too cinematic for comfort… Is it there to explain away the absence of any concrete evidence… and incite anger as well? Or, maybe it is just me and my ultra-cynical self.
But it is disturbing because if it is not true, then, it is a hoax, a hoax invented by a very sinister mind, with a veiled intent. Worse. this hoax that now has assumed the shape of truth!
The so-called massacre is significant because of how it influenced the turn of events in our recent history and how it continues to haunt and affect us in such a profoundly ruinous manner.
In the old days, the involvement of our neighbor Malaysia in the Mindanao conflict was at best speculative. We suspected it but we could not prove it. Now it is an established fact: Malaysia indeed was aiding the MNLF in their rebellion, the purpose being to undermine our claim on Sabah. This new information is providing us with connecting dots that used to be missing, adding dimension to the entire issue. With the new connecting dots, even the case of the Jabidah massacre is gaining renewed attention, given a new perspective and better light.
If this was all fabrication indeed, the implications are stunning. The fact that the event is considered the spark that started it all, it only means that a false story is the cause of all the trouble in Mindanao. That is not all, if we connect the dots. It also means that one with the intent to cause trouble in Mindanao could very well be behind the fake story.
Who invented the story then? Was the intent precisely to start rebellion and destabilize Mindanao?
To be sure, even the credibility of the journalists who originated the story could be placed in serious question: what do Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda Gloria (of Rappler.com) have to do with propagating the ”myth”? The burden of proof that their story is accurate and true is now on them.
Peace is a condition most desired, always the ideal. Who the hell ever wants war? War is a most horrible thing. It destroys. It kills. It is hell on earth. Only war freaks and arms makers and dealers would welcome it.
Yet peace must be found on solid ground. Peace at all cost is laying it on thin ice. It is cowardly. It is dangerous.
Now, the way I see it, this peace being relentlessly pursued presently in Mindanao by the government with the insurgent MILF is of this kind: peace at all cost. Step back and you see a government practically begging for it on its knees. It is like we are prepared to offer anything in the altar of peace just to earn the good side of the rebels and so peace we get. It looks so like we are too bloody scared they get offended lest they go on a rampage and woe unto us all. Look how the President, the government peace negotiators, and the political allies have banded together in defense of the dissident group from all issues, and they are many, against all comers: the bloody Mamasapano massacre, its connections with terrorists, its dubious links with Malaysia, its veiled threats of war if it does not get what it wants, the clandestine buildup for war, the belated discovery of the use of aliases and refusal to reveal their true identities, issues of unconstitutionality of the proposed BBL, suspicions of nationality, doubtful leadership standing over Mindanao being a small minority, meddling foreign interests and other disturbing issues. Nothing it seems should get in the way. Each time, the government takes to lecturing on how important peace must be had instead— and quickly now. Then accuses everyone opposed to it as enemies of peace.
This is the way to peace?
Negotiate from a position of strength always, wise men say. From any angle, it looks like we are negotiating from a position of weakness. And the other side seemingly smells it that from a mile away and so is exploiting it to the hilt by pushing harder and harder still.
In the name of peace, for the sake of peace, that is all we are hearing. Peace. Peace. Peace. No to war. War is terrible. War is costly. Yet I recall, in older times, did not the collaborators go into traitorous act of sleeping with the enemies, even ratting on the revolutionaries because peace to them was far more desirable than anything else? It seems like we are prepared too for the break up of the Republic IN THE NAME OF PEACE.
Know thy enemy. Here is how ‘Iqbal’, the MILF peace negotiator ( he whose true name must not be known) regards the ongoing peace process:
If war uses the force of arms to achieve both military and political objectives, negotiation pursues the same goals through the skillful use of language and diplomacy. If war, as once aptly put, is an extension of politics, and negotiation is an aspect of war, then negotiation is war in another form.
And what exactly is the ultimate objective of the MILF? Is it not to establish an independent Islamic state? Negotiating for peace with the government is part of the strategy. Every gain it gets from the peace deal is but a strategic advancement towards the ultimate objective.
Ahh, when cowards mistake their cowardice for some sort of passion for the cause of peace…
Even for me, this is kind of a pleasant surprise and I suppose, so with most other Filipinos: the Philippines is actually a big country! No kidding.
Is the Philippines, in fact, geographically small? With a land area of 343,448 square kilometers (higher than the common estimate of 300,000), our country is bigger than Italy (294,140 sq km), and is significantly larger than Britain (229,848 sq km). Mindanao alone, at 97,530 sq km, is by itself bigger than Ireland, which measures 84,421 sq km. The Philippines, moreover, is bigger than North and South Korea combined. Indeed, ranked among all the nations of the world, the Philippines belongs to the upper one-third in terms of land area.
Our perception of our country being small probably has much to do with our smallmindedness, our timidity and non-assertiveness as a people.
The moves are calculated. He has not made any categorical announcement yet but the teasers are meant to test the waters. His survey ratings are not impressive at 6-7% but these could dramatically change once he makes the declaration. Right now, only Jejomar Binay has made the declaration and is leading the pack by a mile. As it is, who would eventually take the plunge remains a big guessing game even now.
It’s a different story altogether online. Ranking.com has started a survey since over a year ago with the question: Who is your most trusted to become our next Philippine President 2016. Take a look at the surprising results:
This may be far from correctly predicting his real prospects but it proposes a good base to target and cultivate in the youth, the gullible youth as the anti-Marcos forces are wont to call them
Last March 18, a group of people (peace advocates they are called) trooped to Corregidor to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre, acknowledged as the catalyst of the Moro rebellion in Mindanao. There, they shed heartfelt tears and offered prayers for the victims, spoke of the brutal injustice, pondered on the significance of the event on the ongoing peace process and the well-being of the nation, and unveiled a marker in recognition of the tragic affair that they attribute to President Ferdinand Marcos.
All the fitting drama makes for a compelling spectacle, except that the event they are commemorating could be just one big hoax.
The so-called “Jabidah massacre” has been the biggest hoax foisted on this nation.
If it is, all this is but one spectacular comedy.
Photo above grabbed from Rappler.com