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At Large

Grief and apprehension

/ 01:24 AM September 06, 2016

THE BOMBING of the night market in Davao City is cause for collective grief and also for collective apprehension. Tensions are not relieved, and are in fact exacerbated, by the declaration of a “state of lawless violence” throughout the country.

Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo admitted that even before the explosion on Friday night, President Duterte was already thinking of issuing such a declaration based on his current antidrug campaign.

Indeed, if we need images to paint a situation of lawless violence in the country, these would be the photos of summarily executed suspects, whose remains are found with dismaying regularity on streets and sidewalks, often with cardboard signs proclaiming them guilty of drug-related crimes.

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Of course, the death toll in Davao is worth mourning. Fourteen dead, with 68 wounded, is a development one would expect in a military operation against rebels, not in a busy city center peopled by ordinary folk who were busy enjoying themselves. It is indeed a terrorist act, aimed at instilling blind fear and nameless horror among a peaceful citizenry. The finger of blame has been pointed at the Abu Sayyaf, which has lately been the target of intensified military operations.

But the continued killings in the past few months of about 1,000 unnamed, faceless and mostly poor drug suspects have numbed our capacity for outrage and compassion. The death of innocents in Davao is thus hitting us as if from a distance, through a cloud of unrequited grief. With so many dying and the rhetoric rising to new heights of insensitivity, we are becoming benumbed as a nation and as persons capable of caring for others.

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IT is the hope of many that the “state of lawless violence” will be used not to further deepen the insecurity of the populace, but rather to perform a “surgical strike” against the Abu Sayyaf and other armed terrorist groups, as well as against drug lords and those who truly profit from the drug trade.

Davao used to be known as some sort of “laboratory” where a low-level war waged by separatist rebels and by rightist private armed groups, with the suspected assent of officialdom, raged for years. I remember that one of Davao-based singer Joey Ayala’s early hits was “inspired” by a grenade explosion in one of the city’s bigger markets. Are we back to those old days of gory killings and free-floating anxiety?

The choice of Davao as the site of this latest bombing is no accident, surely. It was meant to deliver a powerful message to the President, who has come to consider the city his “happy place.”

Our deepest hope is that he uses the anger and outrage that he was meant to feel to go after the real culprits and address the ultimate causes of the violence and mayhem unleashed in his beloved Davao.

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THE “Silk Road” in history refers to an ancient network of trade routes that were followed by traders from Europe and from China, crossing the vast steppes of China, Mongolia, Central Asia, India, Persia, Arabia, Russia and thence Europe, exchanging goods and, in the process, trading world views and cultures, including diseases.

It derives its name from the lucrative silk business with Chinese traders exchanging the precious and rare fabric for commodities like tea, tobacco, precious gems and also technology and culture that resulted in a rich exchange across continents.

Today, Chinese officials have launched what they call the “New Silk Road,” a trade and diplomatic initiative that, it is hoped, will enrich China and its neighbors through the vigorous exchange of goods and technology, knowledge and awareness.

Recently, one of China’s top economists, Prof. Zhang Yuyan, spoke at a forum on “The Role of China in Global Economic Affairs” organized by the Asian Institute of Management in cooperation with the Chinese Embassy.

Zhang, who is the director of the Institute of World Economic and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained that two trade initiatives, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, were first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 and has since spread widely with focus on infrastructure.

The Silk Road Economic Belt will connect China with Central Asia, Russia and the Baltic countries with Europe; and then the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The Maritime Silk Road, on the other hand, is designed to go from China’s coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China’s coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other.

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THESE days, Filipino officials prefer referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea, to emphasize the country’s territorial claim to the islands that lie within the sea’s borders.

The dispute seems to be what causes Filipino officials and traders to look skeptically on China’s “Belt and Road” initiatives, in which more than 100 countries and global organizations have participated, with 30 of them having signed agreements and memorandums of understanding with China.

But setting aside the tensions created by the clashing territorial claims, Zhang says the New Silk Road offers “huge opportunities” for the Philippines, not just for businessmen and investors, but also for artists and cultural workers as it would foster “people-to-people” bonds.

Perhaps, just as the Silk Road of olden times kept the doors of global trade and global culture open, the New Silk Road will keep relations between China and its neighbors focused on a shared dream of prosperity and amity for all.

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TAGS: blast, Bombing, Davao City, Explosion, lawlessness, opinion, Violence
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