Zamboanga hostaging: Palace sees no need for national focus

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2013 - 12:00am

Nur Misuari’s armed loyalists are at it again. Imagining their leader to be mistreated by “imperial Manila,” 180 of them have been staging since Monday a most inhuman, criminal “protest.” They took hostage 40 seaside slum villagers in Zamboanga City in symbolic defiance of the central government. Using the captives as human shields, they sniped at encircling government troops. Hundreds of panicking villagers have fled the free fire zone.

Compounding the situation, the soldiers indiscriminately fire back at the general direction of the snipers. To date, nine persons have been killed: one policeman, one storeowner, and seven “rebels” from Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front. There’s a problem with the body count, though. The slain rebels could well be hostages. In Muslim tradition they are buried by sundown, leaving little time for thorough identity verification. There could be more dead inside the trapped villagers’ unlit shanties. Only after the smoke clears — nobody knows when and how — will the fatalities be classified with certainty.

Versions are confused why the MNLF loyalists went on a rampage. Founder Misuari had forged a peace pact with the governmnt in 1996, after a quarter of a century of separatist rebellion that left 50,000 dead across Mindanao. Misuari has since served till 2000 as governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, then retired to sire more offspring by third and fourth wives.

MNLF legal counsel and spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla says only Misuari can solve the impasse. But such solution allegedly would need a meeting of his beloved “Maas” (elder brother) with President Noynoy Aquino. That’s because they believe that only the highest official of the land can right the wrongs done to Misuari in the past 17 years of uneasy peace. Fontanilla would not elaborate during frequent press interviews.

Observers forward various versions of the issue. One supposed slight against Misuari was Manila’s refusal in 2000 to let him stay for another gubernatorial term to finish his job of peaceful development of Muslim communities.

Phooey, says presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos Deles. She recounts dozens of correspondence and meetings of her office with Misuari in recent months, precisely to identify the pending items. All this, she says, while Misuari is briefed about developments in ongoing talks with the MNLF’s breakaway Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Deles opines that the hostage-taking is Misuari’s way of posturing for some yet unknown agenda.

What makes the tart exchange between Fontanilla and Deles odd is Misuari’s very reaction. Word from his headquarters in Jolo across the sea from Zamboanga is that he knew nothing of the armed plot — and that he was uninterested in solving it.

Meanwhile, however, Malacañang is treating the situation as a local police matter. It watches from a distance as the city mayor strives to negotiate with whoever would come forward as leader of the disowned armed band. By implication, Malacañang sees no need to activate the national hostage crisis committee headed by the Executive Secretary (Paquito Ochoa) — much more for Mr. Aquino to meet with Misuari.

Meanwhile the killing goes on.

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Theater buffs must catch the last performances of “Lorenzo,” the rock opera on the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz. That’s Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14, 1 and 8 p.m., at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, Manila. The “off-Broadway” run is only all of six days, starting last weekend.

Not since the “committed plays” against the dictatorship in the ‘70s-’80s had I watched a production so gripping. “Lorenzo” is so Filipino because of the story and characters. Not political as the protest theater then, the theme is fate and faith — of an accidental martyr, as told by an accidental hero. The music, verse, and performance build up to a riveting climax, of a sinner transformed into a saint. Geniuses are behind the work: script by Paul Dumol, music by Ryan Cayabyab, lyrics by Chris Vallez, direction by Nonon Padilla.

In “Lorenzo,” 21st-century OFW Laurence contemplates his fate as a death convict who had killed his employer. In search of himself and God, he finds inspiration in eerily similar straits and sacrifices of 17th-century Lorenzo. Laurence researches Saint Lorenzo’s life, to write a play while in prison awaiting execution. So unfold vignettes about the parish assistant of old Binondo Church who escapes from a crime against a Spaniard in Manila.

Fate brings Lorenzo into the company of friars in Okinawa, and then Nagasaki, where Christian worship was forbidden. Arrested for ministering to Christians in Japan, the missionaries undergo untold hardships. Amidst it all, Lorenzo too re-examines his options and faith.

In the end Lorenzo (and the audience) grasp the meaning of Matthew 10: 16-20: “I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves. Watch out for people who will take you to court and have you beaten in their meeting places. Because of me, you will be dragged before rulers and kings to tell them and the Gentiles about your faith. But when someone arrests you, don’t worry about what you will say or how you will say it. At that time you will be given the words to say. But you will not really be the one speaking. The Spirit from your Father will tell you what to say.”

Starring Lorenz Martinez and OJ Mariano, “Lorenzo” is the first stage production of award-winning actor-director Christopher de Leon. It will be tightened and enlivened with a full orchestra for the commercial run at the CCP in July 2014. Trial runs are being worked out before then in Metro Manila, Pampanga and Batangas. This early, plans are to adapt it for a TV miniseries.

One wonders, when “Lorenzo” becomes a hit, how its sets, lights, choreography, huge cast, musical backups, and crew can be transported for provincial demand. The challenge for de Leon, this early too, is to design it for staging in cathedrals and churchyards.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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