By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star
WHAT’S ‘ALL-OUT’?: The raging debate over whether or not the armed forces should launch an “all-out war” against marauders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is generating more heat than light, because nobody has bothered to define what “all-out-war” is.
Emotions have been running high since MILF fighters ambushed on Basilan island last week an army contingent and left 19 soldiers dead and mutilated, then followed up in machine-gun fashion with more terror attacks that claimed more victims, including civilians.
As we write this (Monday morning), more reports of MILF depredations could be burning the wires.
Contrary to assessments of peace advocates, the terrorist attacks are far from being isolated cases. It is obvious to many of us that the atrocities are being directed by the MILF leadership for calculated tactical gains and bargaining leverage.
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FLAT REJECTION: A wide spectrum of officials and citizens has demanded the launching of an all-out war to wipe out these enemies of the state — but without saying exactly what is meant by all-out war.
President Noynoy Aquino flatly rejected suggestions of an all-out war — but also did not say clearly what he was rejecting.
The President’s failure to clarify what he was ruling out has given the wrong impression that he had no clear plan in mind, or did not care enough for the nation’s fighting forces and for civilian communities caught in the crossfire.
Another embarrassing take is that the Commander-in-Chief rejected waging an all-out war because the military machine did not have the capability, and the civilian leaders the will, to win such a war. The buildup of the negative impression could be politically disastrous for President Aquino.
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RETALIATION: If “all-out war” means mobilizing all land, air and naval forces to capture or annihilate the MILF rebels on Basilan and wherever they may flee, the President is correct in rejecting it.
An all-out retaliatory campaign is not in proportion to the enemy provocation. It may cause untold collateral damage and is likely to derail ongoing efforts to bring the peace talks back on track.
What the President should order, then, is the immediate pressing of proportionate, calibrated, reaction to the MILF murderous rampage.
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NO IDEA: What sort of action would that be? The distressed nation can only guess. One full week after Basilan, we have not seen any proportionate and timely reaction both in the field of combat and at the negotiating table.
The President’s advisers and operatives should go cracking before more lives are lost to the insanity of the rebels and the incompetence of the authorities.
(Note: It is possible that appropriate retaliatory action has been ongoing except that the Palace Hydra has not yet communicated a comprehensive picture of the operations. This column, btw, was written before the President’s press conference yesterday in Malacañang.)
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SECURITY RISK: Probably for lack of anything thrilling to do, a soldier-turned-senator is proposing the usual Senate public inquiry into the Basilan massacre and its aftermath.
His more mature colleagues should not play along, even with the temptation of gaining publicity points in aid of legislation.
They should realize that opening up the matter to public scrutiny, with the usual TV coverage, will necessarily lead to the disclosure of matters of national security.
What the senator can do, if he wants to make a difference, is don his uniform again, pack his weapons he last brandished during the Oakwood mutiny and volunteer for active duty in MILF-infested areas in the South.
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ALTIMAX: Another kind of war is raging between Globe Telecom and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. over the much-delayed PLDT-Digitel (Smart-Sun) deal.
For months now, the two companies have been slugging it out in the press, accusing each other of illegal/improper behavior. But in recent weeks, Globe has been silent on an issue that cropped up in the hearings of the National Telecommunications Commission on the Digitel deal.
This has to do with the revelation by a senior Globe official during the hearings that their company has leased the radio frequencies of Altimax Broadcasting Inc. and is using them to offer wireless broadband services.
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SILENT GUNS: Last September, PLDT’s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications complained to the NTC that Globe was illegally using Altimax’s frequencies although the broadcasting company had long lost its franchise for gross violation of its terms and conditions.
Smart asked the commission to revoke these frequencies and offer them up for application by qualified telecom players. The guns of Globe’s lawyers, led by Rudy Salalima, suddenly fell silent.
Instead, Globe and Altimax twice sought postponements of NTC hearings on this case, saying in both instances that they needed time to respond to the Smart complaint.
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VOIDED FREQUENCIES: Smart’s line is that Altimax was granted a congressional franchise in 1998 and a provisional authority by the NTC in 2000 to set up and run a commercial broadcasting service. Over a decade later, Altimax is still not offering broadcasting services.
Smart pointed out that Altimax’s failure to operate a broadcast service had rendered its congressional authority null and void. Having lost its franchise and its provisional authority, Altimax also had forfeited its rights to the radio frequencies previously assigned to them.
So, according to Smart, when Altimax leased out those frequencies to Globe in 2009, it was renting out frequencies that it no longer owned. Smart is now asking the NTC to stop Globe from using the Altimax frequencies.
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