I was slightly bemused when our ManilaBulletin paper came the other day with the large front page headline proclaiming: Pray for Peace.

Actually, I do, but one suspects the NYTimes would never put such a headline on their front page.

Actually, after the last coup attempt fizzled it’s been peaceful. The Government proclaimed a Christmas cease fire, without any takers.

Within hours, a couple military who decided to hike into town minus their guns were killed in one province, and there occurred major clashes with both the NPA (i.e. communists) and various terror related Islamicist groups.

So much for peace.

Last week, on the first day of the “Simbang Gabi“, I spotted a military truck and some soldiers at the local Palenke at 4 30 am. Security? Bomb threat? Having breakfast after a long nights work? Looking for NPA sneaking around with the crowds?

I never found out, and they were gone in an hour, but our cook said it might be related to the fact that two major communist “insurgent” leaders had been arrested at the end of November.

Of course, in the holiday season, security is tight. The Palenke mainly has traffic cops to stop fender benders but the security guards still are busy keeping an eye on businesses and banks, and of course our packages and purses are checked when we go to the mall.

But as a whole, things have been quiet here in Luzon. Lots of young folks out in the early morning for the nine day “Simbang Gabi” Mass at 4am, then to the city square to buy food from vendors and flirt with each other.

And now, everyone is going home for the four day Christmas holiday.

There is a lot of worry about bomb attacks against malls, buses, and ferries, but so far so good.

The main bad news is that there have been a lot of clashes in the south, which is bad for families with loved ones in the military.

The latest “carrot” to settle the insurgency in the south is to grant amnesty and land to those still hiding and fighting.

The government will replicate the so-called Quirino amnesty program, where thousands of Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) or post-World War II rebels were granted amnesty and given tracts of land in Mindanao, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said Saturday.

Apostol said the amnesty program of the government would be carried out in the grassroots level to woo some 5,000 armed guerrillas to come down from the hills even without a final peace agreement with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and communist leaders living in exile.

Will it work? I have no idea. The carrot/stick approach worked fairly well here in Luzon.

StrategyPage notes that there is constant military pressure on the Abusayyaf:

Troops have kept the pressure on Islamic radicals on Basilan for over a year. Abu Sayyaf is losing local support because of the constant presence of troops and police, and the economic building projects the government has moved in. The troops prevent Abu Sayyaf from interfering with the economic programs, and locals are more willing to inform on the Islamic terrorists. …

In the mean time, Maligaya Pasko and a Happy New Year to all of you.

And maybe next year the entire Philippines will have peace..


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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