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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Sept) – Wars have been too long in between. This generation of power players forgot what war is really like. Or maybe they never had a memory of it. They remember with envy that those who came before had wars to call their own.

In my lifetime, I lived through Marcos’ war, Cory’s war, Erap’s war, and Gloria’s war. The only time we turned serious about peace was when a former soldier who understood war sued for peace and got it. We could have preserved the gains from the 1996 Final Peace Agreement hammered between Tabako and Nur Misuari, if only the succeeding administrations did not buy into the notion that the FPA effectively reduced the Moro National Liberation Front to a “spent” force.

Pnoy’s war is Pnoy’s very own virtual reality theater. With martial fantasies fed largely by the borrowed machismo from playing with his personal arsenal of high-powered toys, he takes time off to autopilot the running of this country and chasing after the PDAF scammers to fly south and play combat commander. Really now – I was drowsy from allergy meds when I attended his long-winded SONA two months back. I jerked awake when he lambasted, “Ubos na ang pasensiya ko!” I really thought he meant he’ll go after all the leeches bleeding off taxpayers’ money!

I cried when I saw the anticipatory smile playing on his lips as he sent off our soldiers to war. I cried harder at that part when he gave out menthol candies and chocolate bars – much as you and I are wont to do when our kids ask to go to the last full show at the mall. Like, this’ll hold your hunger because it’ll be all over in a couple of hours.

Because two hours is how to run a war.

Wallop decisively and wallop hard, and make sure you got them all because a protracted war is a lost war.

On the MindaNews egroup, Keith started a thread last night on the cost of war. For a while, I jumped in now and then to clarify matters of hazard pay and subsistence allowance for soldiers and how units have food during combat deployment covered from their operational funds. It’s not true that our soldiers are waging war on a hungry stomach. It’s just that when they are engaged they don’t have time to cook regular meals. But it’s true that they have only PhP400 a month added to their basic pay when they are assigned in conflict areas. That’s like PhP0.56 per hour to elude bullets and shrapnel and friendly fire.

Boymords ends the discussion with a laundry list of unquantifiable costs – trauma for war – affected civilians and re-ignition of anti-Moro sentiments. There too is the possibility of a dangerous shift in the thinking of war theater directors who perceive themselves to be under siege. Their collective thoughts are likely to spiral into what would be tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Countless wars have MindaNews journalists covered in Mindanao. Keith and Boymords know what they are talking about. And if Carol and Froilan don’t have their hands full down in Zambo, that thread would have gone on longer. As it is, we’re all just holding our breath waiting for when that part of the Zamboanga coast that now eerily resembles Beirut of a few decades back would turn into a scene straight from Vietnam of the 1960s.

The only thing that’s of this era really would be the mounting loads and loads of styropacks. There must be a law that says caterers should use biodegradable packaging. And don’t look now but the DSWD must have breached the PhP1M mark for today’s catering for the internally displaced. It was at PhP800,000 when we were just feeding 69,000 IDPs the other day. Tomorrow, who knows how many? The DSWD must know what it’s doing and where it’s going to get the next meal.

Unlike Pnoy and his cronies, the rest of us do not have the temerity or the luxury of insinuating our right to practice someone else’s profession. So it’s deplorable that the AFP at this moment is being commanded by a scarecrow roleplaying at being a commando, lining up whoever goes next in the line of fire. The AFP’s combat commanders studied for years and years before they were sent off to the battlefields. They read and studied and recreated battle scenarios, and they are required to do it some more so long as they remain in service. They apply SOPS like military decision making when planning for the next one – most probably aiming to have it over and done with within two hours. They know that a protracted war is a lost war.

And since January of 2011 when the AFP implemented the Internal Peace and Security Plan to give the military a new image that the ostensibly peace-loving, human rights-abiding, newly-minted Pnoy administration could proudly call its very own, they were also told that the military option is the last option; that soldiers should exhaust all peaceable means at their disposal to uphold the primacy of the peace process. Why give this up? What is Pnoy avoiding in the capital that made him choose to take off and run a war in Zamboanga?

Why is his administration deflecting blame for this fiasco and demonizing Misuari for refusal to talk to them? It’s not true that Misuari is not talking. He’s just not talking to those who have obviously said their unacceptable piece many times over. But he’s talking to Duterte and to many others besides. So, ha! – he’s talkable to he who is acceptable.

His impressive safari arsenal notwithstanding, Pnoy doesn’t know war. At the moment, I am really hard pressed to think of what he indeed knows, let alone conceive of that which he knows best. And as he bumbles and fumbles, he takes Zamboanga and the rest of the country with him.

A protracted war is a lost war. He lost me. He lost many more of us. Whatever he does, it’s over. And like our soldiers recently dead, there’s no coming back.

(Gail Tan Ilagan, PhD, Director of the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services at the Ateneo de Davao University, writes the column, “Wayward and Fanciful” for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews.)

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