Have guns, don’t argue

Work consumed my time these past few days, preventing me from even a few bloggin minutes. Whose visits did I miss out on? What news passed without my commentary? To the latter, I’d say quite a few, starting from the abduction of the so-called ERAP 5.

As citizens, we have been quite tolerant of lapses and mishaps in the public sector. Having served in government for 18 long years (an entire teen-aged life!), I know that most of these lapses and mishaps were not intentional but a product of systemic (read: budgetary) problems.

What we cannot and should not tolerate, however, is the contravention of rules and standard procedures by armed personnel of government. The abduction of the five members of the Union of Masses for Democracy and Justice while the group was meeting inside a private home tells us that there is a military group, undisciplined and bold, that believes what they have done was in the realm of the possible.

Unless we, the people, express our outrage over this incident then we can expect more of the same to swoop down on unsuspecting civilians and take them away to days of torture and pain. Unless we, the Boss of bosses, tell our soldiers NOT to believe the rhetoric of politicians – from either side of the fence – and just let the Constitution be the North Star of all, they won’t be as complacent and bullheaded as they are now.

Humility is a virtue precisely because it is not common to all. The rhetoric of momentary delusions governing our national life must not spill over to the military front, giving them a license to act as Gestapos against those who believe that things are not as they seem. The recent abduction by ISAPF members of five civilians in broad daylight, and the non-admission a few days after that the UMDJ members were in fact under military custody is a flag as red as can be, a warning as clear as a flare shot across the evening sky. For the sake of our children, we cannot have more of the same misguided actions. The art of making people disappear is not part of statescraft and it bothers me that none of the civilian top brass knew where the five people were. Despite the hellfire, no one in the military establishment took the pains of briefing the Executive Secretary or the Secretary of National Defense. It wasn’t done — immediately, with utmost sensitivity to public opinion and to the anxious pleadings of the concerned families.

Mr. Soldier, do not take sides in the political drama of our times. Winds blow hot and cold, so place your guns on safety and turn a deaf ear to those who implore you to be politicians more than soldiers. That is not your role. Your role is to defend the people from those who wish them actual harm – not the kind of harm that comes from watching Da Vinci Code. The UMDJ, despite its name, is not the kind of group that could turn this country upside down. But what you did, on that fateful afternoon, transported by a long convoy of cars with fiction plates, those are the things that make our society unwell. Remember, we still have a Constitution. Unlike the sun, it never sets. It is a constant presence in our lives. Do not ignore it. Do not violate it. Because if you do, you will be enemy not protector, foe not friend, creeps instead of the good, courageous and patriotic people that you are at heart.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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