Mr. Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the July 15, 2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Aaminin kong may pagkukulang kami sa intelligence community, pero lahat na intelligence community sa buong mundo ay nasisingitan din ng mga masasamang loob. E, mas malaki ang budget nila nasisingitan pa rin, at mas malaki ang mga bombang sumasabog sa kanila.
[I will admit we are inept but so are other intelligence agencies in the world.]
– National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez on why he won’t resign despite being caught off-guard by the recent spate of bombings in ARMM.

The Palace said the Sunday morning bomb that killed five and injured dozens in Cotabato City bore “the signature of the special operations group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).”

In the same breath, the Palace pointed out that the matter is still under investigation.  So, maybe it’s the MILF or maybe it’s not.

Meanwhile, the opposition is not doing anybody any good raising alarms that the bombings are part of a Palace plot to declare martial law. They have no proof.

Without evidence, warnings about an elaborate Palace shadow play involving terror bombings are nothing more than shouts of “Theater!” in a crowded fire.

Here’s what I mean:

“We’re only two weeks away from Mrs. Arroyo’s last SONA (State-of-the-nation) delivery and we’re seeing a spate of despicable bombings in Mindanao. It doesn’t take a genius to piece the two together to surmise that something bizarre is going on,” said a leader of the opposition.

In the same breath, he said he was not discounting the MILF’s role in the bombings. So, maybe it’s the Palace or maybe it’s not.

The public will just have to be patient. It may take awhile before it becomes clear whom the Palace boob was alluding to when he urged everyone “not to yield the day to political harlots who wish to profit from the unsettled situation.”

Seriously, there is too much lawless violence in ARMM. There have been 38 terror bombings since January. The governors of North and South Cotabato said people in their area have started to arm themselves.

Gloria Arroyo must prevent the “unsettled situation” from deteriorating into anarchy. She must put a stop to the bombings and bring the perpetrators to justice. And she has the means to do it.

The Constitution says, “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”

What is Gloria waiting for, more bombings and more mangled bodies?

The opposition, for its part, must change tack. They must urge Gloria to declare martial law in ARMM and give her all the tools she needs to deal with the terror bombings. Give her enough rope, as the old saying goes.

How much time does she need, three months? Fine. Does she want to eavesdrop on all communications within ARMM? Fine. Does she want to monitor the movement of funds in that area? Fine. Does she want warrantless searches? Fine, but no suspension of free speech, no torture, and no salvagings.

Give her everything she says she needs so that if she fails to stop the bombings and to apprehend perpetrators, she will have no excuse.

Box her in. If she can’t make martial law work in ARMM, she can’t claim she can make it work anywhere else.

On the other hand, if she stops the bombings and apprehends the bombers, then she has no more reason for martial law, in ARMM or anywhere else.

Either way, whether she succeeds or fails, her option of placing the entire country under martial law because of bombings is off the table.

Hopefully that will put a stop to all the blather about shadow plays. And we can now focus on real issues like where to jail Bonnie and Clyde when the time comes.