National Disquiet: A Beheading In Sulu, A Standoff Over LPG, And Oil Supplies Dwindling (Retitled With Further Update)
Filipinos are being held hostage by two totally unrelated crises: the demonic Moro rebels holding court in the jungle fastnesses of Jolo, where they’ve just beheaded a hapless school principal, and the face-off between LPG retailers and oil companies battling Malacanang’s order putting price caps on petroleum products.
Quite garishly, the suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits decapitated 36-year-old Jolo school principal Gabriel Canizares who was seized last October 20.
National police chief Jesus Versoza says he arrest of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander over the weekend could have spurred the beheading of the abducted principal in Jolo, Sulu.
Verzosa says the police got intelligence reports that Asnawie Addan Salah, commander of the MILF’s 114th Base Command, had contacts with Abu Sayyaf Group members who seized Canizares in Patikul, Sulu.
Most distressing even is the detail that Canizares’ abductors git angry because the school principal’s family was only able to fork over 150,00 as ransom.
Malacanang must be keenly aware that the deheading comes just 72 hours before the whistlestop visit to M anila of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The adjective embarassing is a gross understatement with the beheading giving a lie to Manila’s claims of success in its American-backed war on terror.
Unrelated as it is, the threat of LPG retailers (aware that they control 30-percent of the market including thousand of taxi cabs using auto lpg) to suspend sales is a ransom tactic just the same, designed to force the government to drop its’ good cop-bad cop game’ that paints local oil firms as profiteers.
There is, in fact, truth in the traders’ claim that the national calamity has eased up.
The energy department itself is now sounding the alarm that the country’s supply of petroleum products is good for8 to 13 days while the LPG retailers raised prices by 4 pesos per kilo, in open defiance of the Malacanang price freeze.
Pres. Arroyo used yer Caibinet meeting yesterday to dig in further while commentators poked fun at her energy’s secretary’s incredible statement that “there’s no need to panic even though our oil supply is running out.”
The murmurs I’m hearing is Malacanang will task Petron, where government sstill has shares, to be “the vanguard and make sure oil supplies don’t really run out.”
Malacanang is even passing the decision on the lifting of EO 839 to the National Disaster Coordinating Council that’s headed, ex officio, by defense chief (and Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer) Gibo Teodoro.
A thinly disguidely stunt to project him in a decision-making package, all the better to eke out point to boost his lackluster ratings.
So what the Palace remain content at doing is to exploit the oil pricing issue as a political mahjong piece.
Also at the core of the quarrel is really the absence of good will between the Department of Energy and the LPG retailers with no thanks to the imperious Secretary of Energy, Angelo Reyes.
It also cannot be denied that Pres. Arroyo’s refusal to lift Executive Order 839, which even her economic adviser (Albay Governor Joey Salceda) says is no longer necessary, has turned Malacanang’s stunt into a counter-productive political issue.
The attempt of Pres. Arroyo to score PR points and not look like a lame duck now paints her instead as an enemy of free market forces.
If she really means business, Mrs. Arroyo should now seriously consider a no-nonsense review of the downstream oil industry deregulation regime.
In similar fashion, the non-lame duck iron fist should now really come down against the Moro terrorists.
Absent these two decisive actions as her controversy-ridden presidency winds down, Mrs. Arroyo will really go down in history as a largely unpopular, widely distrusted if not unsuccessful chief executive who left Philippine socuety politically-divided and economically-disempowered.