Monday, October 22, 2018
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At Large

Dogs and cats

Days after the ham-handed attempt to crash the celebrations marking the signing of the comprehensive agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the communist National Democratic Front was in the headlines once more over the issue of—cats and dogs.

NDF leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were arrested in Cebu City last week, and in a bid to draw some of the limelight on their arrest, followers clashed with a group of Muslim ralliers in Mendiola. The Muslims were conducting a prayer rally for the success of the peace agreement then being launched in nearby Malacañang.

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One couldn’t have asked for a more ironic development—and one sharply drawing a contrast between the Moro community celebrating the return of peace to Mindanao, and the recalcitrant communists struggling to remain relevant.

And then came the news, released by the military, that in addition to the Tiamzon couple and their companions, the arresting forces had also “captured” two pet dogs and a cat which were

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apparently on board the vehicles the communist leaders were caught in. Though they offered little by way of evidence, the arresting officers said the pets appeared to be “well fed,” an attempt, the way I see it, of contrasting the pampered life led by the animals with the hardships endured by communist partisans in the countryside.

Now we know a little more about these animal companions. The three “arrested” with the Tiamzons have been given new nicknames: Benito, Wilma and Joma (after Jose Ma. Sison, CPP founder), and have been “freed,” into the custody of a Cebu-based animal welfare group. Four other pets reportedly owned by the Tiamzons’ companions were also rescued from their safe house and will likewise be turned over to the Island Rescue Organization.

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SOME niggling questions come to mind: Did the seven animals know their humans were in fact among the most “wanted” insurgents in the country? Were the dogs and cats likewise indoctrinated, or were they equal opportunity animals, caring only if, when and where their next meals were coming from?

Judging from the two dogs who currently run my family’s schedule—they are sticklers for routine and will make their dissatisfaction (loudly) known—the pets sharing the Tiamzons’ existence in all probability cared little for ideology. This, even if the dogs shared geographical roots with the CPP-NPA-NDF’s spiritual leader Mao

Zedong, being part Shih Tzu mix.

But do animals develop a kind of kinship with the humans who look after them? Do they miss their old humans at all? Are they wondering why men in uniform have re-baptized them? And what have they to do with the questions raised by the Tiamzons’ arrest?

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We’re talking about “Benito,” “Wilma” and “Joma” and their companions here because, other than mentioning their apparently ample diets, the authorities have given the public little by way of further information on the Tiamzons’ arrest, on what charges, and how and when they will be brought before the bar of justice.

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ALL I can think of at the moment is that, while the Tiamzons remain in military custody, the negotiations between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF will remain stalled, as they have been stalled in the past few years.

A sticking point raised time and again by the NDF panel, after all, has been the demand to release its “consultants” from government prisons before the negotiations could proceed. This list of qualified consultants, which contains many aliases, has been modified time and again, almost every time an insurgent leader has been captured.

And in at least one instance, a captured “consultant” was duly released on the ground of his alleged role in the peace talks only to promptly go underground and rejoin the rebel forces.

I don’t see the communist insurgents returning to the bargaining table anytime soon, at least not while the Tiamzons and their companions remain behind bars. Maybe we have a better chance of setting the peace process off on the right foot if the freed seven dogs and cats petition to have their liberation taken as a “goodwill” gesture to get their former humans to start talking around the peace table.

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MEANWHILE, the creation of the Bangsamoro entity nears reality.

Between the euphoria whipped up by the Malacañang ceremonies and the dawning of the first Bangsamoro local government in Mindanao lies a road rutted with possible detours and major roadblocks, sudden twists and turns, and turbulence created by self-interested politicians and deluded, paranoid populations.

The air around Malacañang may have been warmed by goodwill all over, but when the Bangsamoro basic law is brought to Congress for discussion and ratification, and then submitted for a plebiscite, the atmospherics may no longer be as comfortable or amiable.

By then, politicians will have made their own calculations about their share of power, their continued enjoyment of perks and privileges, and their future in a changed Mindanao landscape. And depending on how the fruits of development are nurtured and distributed, and how the Bangsamoro entity will be governed, any number of interest groups and communities will have valid issues to raise and demands to make regarding their “proper” share of the spoils.

Already, I take it as a good sign that MILF chair Murad Ebrahim  declared in his speech at the signing ceremony that the Bangsamoro belongs to every Mindanaoan yearning for peace, regardless of what faction of the Moro rebels he/she belongs to, or even if he/she is Muslim, Christian or lumad.

“Spoilers” there may be a-plenty, but they could be as relevant tomorrow as seven dogs and cats are today.

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Benito, cats, Communist Party of the Philippines, CPP, dogs, Joma, MILF, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, National Democratic Front, New People’s Army, NPA, rebels, Wilma
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