Mr. Buencamino does political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Yellow Pad column of BusinessWorld, April 4, 2005 edition, p. 21.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s immortal gesture to George W. Bush, “Friends
don’t ask why, they ask how,” is coming back to haunt her. That’s what
she gets for placing her trust in Mr. Bush to guide her through the
who, what, where, why, and how of his so-called global war on terror.

Malacanang’s proposed anti-terror measures read like bastard versions
of the Patriot Act of the United States (US), a law ghostwritten by the
White House cabal that manufactured the lies to justify the invasion of
Iraq and awarded lucrative no bid contracts to its patrons in the oil,
defense and construction industries.

The Patriot Act is supposed to enhance the security of the US against
terrorist attacks. However, its focus on the curtailment of American
civil liberties exposes the law as an instrument of suppression rather
than protection. The Patriot Act is about crushing internal dissent
against Mr. Bush’s agenda of domestic and global hegemony.

Mrs. Arroyo enlisted in Bush’s war party without first checking if he
had any legal grounds for invading Iraq. She continues to support him
even after she has seen conclusive proof that he lied to start a war.

Mrs. Arroyo does not ask whether Mr. Bush’s professed love of freedom
is indeed the driving force behind his war on terror. She does not ask
why he is so eager to topple regimes that sit on or around large oil
reserves, from the Middle East all the way to Venezuela. She does not
ask why he is building permanent bases and maintaining permanent
military presence all around the world. She does not ask why he wants
to rid the non-white world of weapons of mass destruction while he
continues to research, build and deploy ever more powerful and lethal
weapons of his own. She does not ask why he calls for rapid
democratization every-where except in those special states where he
advocates a policy of incremental democratization. She does not ask if
his hegemonic policy is equally driven by his belief that Jesus will
not return to earth until the Jews rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and
accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. She has not even asked the
Department of Health to do a psychological profile of a man who
believes God speaks through him.

Despite the fact that she has her own secessionist war to worry about,
Mrs. Arroyo chose to place herself in the middle of a war between two
forces that are similarly driven by hegemonic ambitions and religious
zeal. Why she chose to involve herself in a global conflict with
religious overtones is a mystery, because her secessionist war is local
and political in nature.

Although its roots go all the way to the Spanish occupation and the
imposition of Manila’s sovereignty over the entire archipelago, the
latest expression of secession, the Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is a direct
off-shoot of the Jabidah massacre in 1968. (Jabidah is the name of a
commando unit com-prising young Tausug and Sama recruits who were
brought to Corregidor for training as part of a plot to destabilize
Sabah. The military plotters massacred the recruits who defied orders
upon discovering the sinister objective of their mission.)

On the other hand, the Bush-Bin Laden war is a child of American
interference in the Middle East, an oil-based policy that has been
interpreted by fundamentalist Muslims as an assault on their religion
and their holy land. It’s no surprise then that many see the jets of
9-11 as “chickens coming home to roost” rather than as an unprovoked
attack on well-meaning “freedom-loving people.”

Islamic fundamentalism became a factor in the secessionist movement
when those who joined the mujahideen in Afghanistan brought home the
teachings of a Wahabi scholar who was Bin Laden’s mentor. They linked
up with other like-minded Afghan veterans from neighboring countries
and established a regional network of Islamic fundamentalists.
Fortunately, the MNLF and the MILF still control the secessionist
movement and their goals remain political. However, religious
fundamentalism within their ranks is growing and will dominate their
agenda if Mrs. Arroyo continues to blindly follow Mr. Bush’s lead
instead of exercising her own judgment.

Mrs. Arroyo’s ham-fisted approach of lumping all violent actions
against her regime as acts perpetrated by terrorists is erasing
differences between the politically motivated and the religious
fundamentalists intent on establishing a caliphate that includes
southern Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sabah and southern Philippines.
Her constant parroting of Mr. Bush’s propaganda adds to the perception
that she is firmly in the camp of Protestant fundamentalists at war
with Islam. Thus, Mrs. Arroyo is hastening rather than slowing down the
evolution of a local political conflict into another front in a global
religious and hegemonic war.

Mrs. Arroyo does not need more police powers to combat terrorism. She
has more than enough laws to do that job. Besides, history has shown us
that the “Moro problem” cannot be resolved through the introduction of
more restrictive laws and more sophisticated weapons.
The solution to the “Moro problem” will come when the underlying causes
of unrest are properly understood and addressed. Congress would do well
not to pass laws that would only grant wider latitude for the corrupt
and inept to practice even more lack of discretion over the civil
liberties of each and every Filipino.