Duterte wagging another Mindanao war?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte inspects firearms together with Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), during his visit at the military camp in Marawi city, southern Philippines July 20, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES - RTX3C81D

A year from now and we will again troop to the polls to elect our leaders. This up-coming elections is a watershed in our history because it signals either the end or a continuation of the Duterte administration. Obviously, there is a push and pull already happening between and among political personalities in this country. Recently, polls identified the slow yet steady descent of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ratings especially in the National Capital Region and outlying provinces. Though political observers would just shrug their shoulders and say that this Southward trajectory is expected for an exiting administration, the fact is, it is happening during a pandemic, which handling is the core issue now being hotly debated online and offline. Duterte’s group is not entirely assured of an electoral victory. The administration is in serious trouble and is desirous to create a much bigger meat for the ravenous public to devour.

Tyrants in history had always found an entertaining solution during times of pandemic, poverty and hunger. During Roman times, the likes of Nero entertained the crowd by throwing Christians as meat for lions. In Hitler’s time, wars occupied the busy lives of Germans much the same way as modern tyrants do in our age.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is your expert magician—he always has a new rabbit that he can pull straight out of his old bag of political tricks. Never mind if that rabbit would cause a people great damage, for Duterte, a seasoned politician, the important thing right now is survival. He needs to survive the next twelve months unscathed, just like his political ally, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose nine-year administration was wracked with political attacks left and right. Arroyo survived because of her expert handling of the interests of Big Business and traditional political powers and partly credit the communication experts behind her whose advices worked wonders after that Hello Garci debacle.

Right now, Duterte’s reputation is being pulled to shreds by millions of angry netizens, up in arms over the evident bungling of the much needed vaccination programs and Duterte’s unpatriotic stance on the West Philippine sea. The opposition wants these issues to define the 2022 presidential elections. Obviously, the administration wants nothing more than erase these issues from the minds of voters. Traditional political beliefs tell us that the administration must come up with another bigger issue that people would talk about. At this stage, former president Joseph Estrada comes to mind—in efforts to at least recover from the devastating blows of the opposition against his administration—he conjured that long war in Mindanao that he expected to serve as foil over several reputation damaging attacks upon him. Instead of benefiting him, the war actually hastened his fall from power. A year later, Estrada found himself at the patio of the San Juan municipal hall where he began his political career during the Martial law days.

There are talks that Duterte is mulling the same thing. The fact is the script is already ready. Remember that Marawi siege incident? Several days or about weeks I think after Duterte went to Mindanao and gave a speech before Mindanao leaders, this incident happened. Why Marawi? Well, Marawi happens to be the biggest Muslim city in the country and the booty there is, you guessed right, the hectares that once was a military reservation. Why, you ask the Marawi rehab is still not yet finished? Well, sources told this writer that some military officials do not want to give up on that military reservation and the AFP intends to build its own installation there. This plan is nothing short of treachery to the Maranaos.

Ground reports in Maguindanao indicate that the local terror groups there are preparing for another engagement with the military. Be forewarned though—another war might really turn Mindanao into a flashpoint of Jihadist war— something that might affect regional security.

This government must not toy with this war idea—if this war is to be used to deflect attention from the bungling of the COVID-19 response, then, find another one. A war would surely eat much of the state’s resources. A war would further weaken our economy and put us back to the stone age. Worse, this war could turn things around for the Jihadists and could easily attract foreign fighting elements.

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