We are a warrior culture, prayer warriors, at any rate, judging from our Hail Mary play to save the three International Committee of the Red Cross volunteers kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf: a call for prayers, and an appeal from the Pope.
And, really, there’s nothing wrong with that. God-fearing as we are, we will turn to God when all else fails. But what the real issue here is this: Why did all else fail?
It’s bad form to make fun of it now, but when you’re dealing with terrorists, a no-negotiations policy is the generally-accepted way to do things.
Government seemed to not hold to that at all, though, as it let its senators, well-meaning as they are, second-guess our troops every step of the way. From telling them to refrain from using force, to criticizing them for “sabotaging” a senator’s attempts to negotiate for the release of the hostages.
When the kidnappers demanded that government troops pull out, the Department of Local and Interior Government tried to hang tough, saying that it cannot risk the lives of more people by leaving Sulu undefended. After a call from the ICRC president, however, our troops repositioned to give the Abus “breathing space.”
And that’s where things started going to shit. Once you give in to terrorists, they’ll have the upper hand until they lose the hostages, either by killing them or after a dramatic rescue mission. The Abus soon asked for another, wider troop pullout from key areas in Jolo, Sulu. Also, probably a pony made out of chocolate. Or anything, really. They could pretty much ask the military to dance for them at this point.
Sen. Richard Gordon had a good point when he said that one life lost is one life too many, and mounting a rescue mission will endanger the lives of the hostages. But, being hostages of a vicious terrorist group, their lives were already in danger by definition.But we could at least have tried.
Bending over backwards in the hopes that the Abu Sayyaf would release them gained us nothing, and made us look like the sort of country that cannot even enforce our own laws.
If we’re going to be pacifists over the whole thing, then might as well dismantle the armed forces, it seems to me. We have no real external defense capability to speak of, and aside from parading on Independence Day and beating up activists, we seem to have no confidence to deploy any of the seven elite units in our AFP. Much less the elite counter-terrorism units in the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard.
Sure, warfare ought to be the last argument of kings (and presidents,) but “please let them go” is not much of an argument at all.