Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tawdry Tales

If there's one form of diversion on which Philippine culture thrives, it's sensationalism, and the more melodramatic the better—especially if it involves well known show business celebrities and political figures.   An example is a recent incident involving the high visibility and troubled Revilla family which boasts of  members in both of these professions.

Bad feelings that had been brewing among the young adult siblings in this huge clan finally boiled over, the eldest, Ramgen, was shot and stabbed to death allegedly at the instigation of his sister, Ramona, and his brother, Ramon Joseph (RJ).  Ramgen's girlfriend was also wounded in the attack.  The motives supposedly were jealousy and conflicts over such matters as the allowance amounts that Ramgen doled out to his younger sibs. (Keep in mind these people are post-adolescent. Yet they still rely on family handouts for support. But such over-age dependency  is common in the Philippines).,

RJ was apprehended, but Ramona fled the country before she could be arrested and will likely never return.  She  headed for Turkey where her husband resides. However, she has also left Turkey as well and is now a fugitive. To add to this telenovela-like tragedy Ramona was already in her father's bad books for marrying against his wishes.

Then there is the drama of the former Philippines president and now congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Mike who want to leave the country for treatment of Gloria's medical condition for which she claims to need specialized care that's not available in this country. Yet because of  allegations that both of the Arroyos committed various acts of corruption while Gloria was in office—not to mention the illicit methods by which she supposedly attained  her term as president in 2004— there is concern that they will also pull a "Ramona" and not return to face the music. The Arroyo's legal petition to be allowed to depart has pitted the executive and  the judicial branches of government against each other over who has the right to make the decision.  The Supreme Court had approved their plea, but President Aquino is opposed to their departure. At this writing, the executive has won the latest round by filing charges against Arroyo and placing her under arrest while she is in a local hospital.  The Arroyos aren't going anywhere, at least for a while.

As an aside, Gloria Arroyo may well be  trying to play on the sympathy of the Philippine people even though she was almost universally scorned while president for her corrupt deeds.  But she just might win them over anyway. Former first lady Imelda Marcos did it, and it's just as though Imelda was never the wife and part of the hated martial law administration of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. She has regained her popularity and like Gloria was also elected to Congress. BTW,  before the arrest warrant on Gloria was served,  Mike's attorney,  Ferdinand Topacio,  asserted that he is so certain that if the Arroyos are allowed to leave and then fail to come back home, Topacio will castrate himself. He should be careful about putting both his eggs in one basket.

Finally,  I want to make it clear that this post is strictly for the purpose of acquainting newcomers to the Philippines with local cultural mores.   By my relating such stories, it should not be construed that I regularly follow such gossip-ridden events. Not me. Honest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Second Thoughts

I have long believed that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is  part of the Philippines and should not be allowed to secede (see my post  Disaster Averted for Now).  But as time passes, I'm becoming doubtful that it's worth the ever increasing political, social, and financial costs for the country of trying to pacify and hold on to this territory.  Maybe it's time to let the ARMM go it's own way as a separate state after all. It seems that control of this locale by the MILF  (Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a faction of the original Moro National Liberation Front guerrilla movement)  is a fait accompli anyway.

First some background about my 180° shift in opinion. I recently wrote a post "The Two-State Solution: A Risk Worth Taking"   in my other Blog site "Towards a Rational America and Enlightened Judaism" regarding the Israel-Palestinian issue and why I feel that it's better for  Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to have for their own state. In my opinion Israel is paying too high a price by holding these people back and  that it's better for the two sides to deal with each other as equals.  

In this regard there is a somewhat of a parallel between the Palestinians and the Moros in that both groups claim rights to their own land and national sovereignty. And there is some legitimate justification in their demands.  Also, for decades both groups have been violently resisting and refusing  to recognize the respective central governments that rule their regions. And  significantly  in both cases there is no end in sight for these hostilities which just become a vicious cycle of death and destruction for all concerned.

There have been cries for a declaration of  all-out war against MILF for their attacks on the military in Basilan that resulted in the death of 19 soldiers  a few weeks ago.  Yet a full-out military campaign against the MILF was carried out in 2000 by then President Estrada. Ultimately, it achieved nothing. The conflict is back to square one.   

Also I had previously justified retention of the ARMM by the Philippines on the grounds (no pun intended) of the region's abundant natural resources. Yet when considering all the thousands of people on both sides who have died in this rebellion and for the thousands more who will likely be killed in future struggles, no amount of minerals is worth such a toll in human lives. Moreover, in granting independence to the ARMM, perhaps some kind of trade agreement could be negotiated that would ensure continued access by the Philippines to these materials, along with a United Nations peace-keeping force to enforce a security treaty that would protect non-Muslims living in the Region. The UN troops would also guard against  incursions by the MILF and the Philippines Government across each others borders. In addition the Government could offer resettlement into the Philippines to non-Muslims.  The expenses for this relocation would be at least partially borne by the MILF.

One might ask why I as a foreigner am sticking my nose into the complex political affairs of this country. Very simply, the violence throughout Philippines and especially in Mindanao is equally lethal to Filipinos and non-Filipinos who are here. However, I readily acknowledge that I am not a political science or international relations expert.  The dissolution between the Philippines And the ARMM that I'm proposing along with the details to carry it out probably sounds amateurish and naive.

But I contend that far reaching changes have to be made to the present state of affairs in order to bring about a permanent peace  between the two sides. Nothing else has worked so far, and to believe that the status quo can continue to abide indefinitely is just magical thinking.