The Zamboanga invasion

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - September 11, 2013 - 12:00am

“The Zamboanga invasion” is what happens when people don’t understand the consequence of flawed interpretations of policies such as “maximum tolerance”, “peaceful co-existence”, “pro-active law enforcement” and the purpose of “advanced intel.”

I believe the AFP spokesman was telling the truth when he said there was no failure of “intelligence,” meaning the military was not caught unaware about the MNLF forces in the area. In a country where walls have ears and trees have eyes, the military knew of the MNLF “troop movements.” What the AFP and many people in government won’t admit is that the prevailing attitudes and state of mind regarding “enemies,” rebels and violent activists has led to dangerously relaxed response to potential or actual threats until the last minute when it’s too late to respond correctly and adequately.

“Familiarity breeds contempt”, but in the Philippines, familiarity among combatants and forces on opposing sides actually results in lowering our guard, complacency even to the point of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” without realizing it. Decades of conflict and criticism has resulted in the concepts and ideas such as “maximum tolerance,” respect for human rights even of combatants, and “peaceful co-existence” to the point where people forget that in spite of efforts to arrive at peace, the “enemy” remains an “enemy,” a threat is a threat and should be treated as such. Yes, treat them with respect and afford them their dignity but I would no sooner embrace an “enemy” as I would a venomous snake or a man-eating lion.

If we are to learn something from the invasion of Zamboanga it is this: We have laws and those laws must be followed. I don’t care what army or religion you belong, You are not entering the island much less the city with bazookas, mortars or guns for that matter! That is what law enforcement is all about. It is not about exemptions to the rule or “political” interpretations of the law. It is about enforcement.

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If there is one thing we learned from the PDAF scam it is that if enough of us say NO, many more will follow. Even while the battle against the pork barrel system is just warming up, a number of Filipinos have started to make a list of “wrongs” that they want to correct as well as politicians they want to go after for other sins.

During a wedding I attended, the father of the groom expressed such an opinion. The gentleman slowly turned red as he complained about the abuses of local governments particularly in taxation and threats to auction off properties in a manner that treats property owners more like criminals instead of citizens going through financial difficulties. This trend which was allegedly started by Quezon City has become the business standard for many local governments and mayors to find ways to boost their Internal Revenue Allotments and for the corrupt to fleece taxpayers.

More taxpayers are fed up with ridiculous real estate tax rates that are comparatively higher than in developed cities in the western world and have no rhyme or reason in terms of determining valuation. More than a year ago, I complained about my backyard farm lot in the outskirts of Lipa City, which was reclassified as residential lot without consultation and based merely on table mapping because a golf course was constructed a kilometer away.

I guess that is not as bad as being taxed commercial center rates in an area that was, and still qualifies as wetlands. In the sixties the areas around Araneta Avenue and Sto. Domingo in Quezon City were primarily wetlands, rice lands that were only useful for warehousing. Because land was cheap to rent or buy, Tsinoy businessmen moved there, the workers-squatters followed suit, businesses developed and communities evolved because Tsinoys prefer to live in or near where they do business. What has not changed is that at least two to three times in a year, many streets and properties in the area are flooded from a foot to 3 feet deep average. During Ondoy the water level from the Araneta Avenue canal went as high as 10 feet on inner roads.

So imagine how angry residents and business owners must feel every time some hoodlum from City Hall harasses them with increased tax rates, threats of confiscation and public auction of their property!

Is anyone in the P-Noy administration even paying attention to the fact that some cities are imposing tax rates that are higher than premier cities in the western world? If members of Congress want to pacify taxpayers, the best thing to initiate would be tax reforms both on the national and local level.

Now would also be a good time for Congress to restudy the Local Government Code, which has become license to abuse taxpayers and make laws that often runs counter to national policies and agencies. Now they even go against taxpayers! This is the primary responsibility of Congress: to represent the interest and protect the rights of their constituents.

We tolerated the pork barrel system because taxation was not personal, merely an imposition of law and the BIR. But now that local governments have made taxation personal by threat and intimidation and public humiliation, as well as no-consultation, we the people will have to represent our selves, protect our businesses, our property, and our rights. Start at your level, express your indignation, expose the abuse and then network with others publicly or on social media. There is no doubt that local governance will be the next major challenge after the battle against pork barrel.

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I’m glad that the mayors of Taguig City and Makati City have decided to be civil and show the public that they are capable of being civilized and restrained. Sadly while they were all squabbling about whose police force should be in-charge over Bonifacio Global City, A 25-year-old female executive working and relaxing within BGC disappeared, and was later found brutally stabbed and strangled to death under a bridge in Silang, Cavite, her car presumably carnapped.

Maybe the 2 mayors can agree to form a task force to work on the case and determine if people have real reason to fear that criminals are operating in BGC, targeting women!

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