Saturday, 28 November 2009

Unacceptable risk

THIS last week was a sickener, to say the least. While people in the United States were celebrating Thanksgiving, the traditional holiday for showing gratitude for one’s blessings, all we could do for ourselves was to engage in national mourning on an unprecedented scale.

For down South, in that part of the Philippines which has known little peace for as long as most of us can remember, dozens of innocent civilians were massacred, in what has to be a monstrous act of barbaric proportions, so savagely calculated in its intensity, and yet so mindlessly inane in its execution.

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Whoever the perpetrators of that massacre were, and whatever their motivations for doing so happen to be, there has to be no escaping their utter disregard for public opinion, let alone the laws of the country in which they reside. For how else could they have imagined that an entire nation—not to mention the families, relatives and friends of the victims—would not look after an entire convoy that just disappears from the face of the earth?

Reports say that the assassins planned everything in advance—from staking out the convoy’s route, to digging mass graves in which the bodies and even the vehicles of those they were going to murder, were to be buried. But what were they thinking? That people would just accept the newfound existence of some kind of “Bermuda triangle” in Maguindanao, which is able to swallow people and vehicles without a trace? Would no one come looking? And would no one notice the freshly turned earth just a few kilometers up the road, and start wondering how on earth asuch haphazard diggings could just have sprung up for no apparent reason?

Most of all, what about national, and even world, opinion? Did the perpetrators simply think that killing dozens of people would not attract any attention outside their little enclave in the South? That nobody would speak out against the heinousness of their deed, and the world would just continue turning on its axis, as if nothing ever happened at all?

The problem is, the perpetrators knew. They were fully aware that the nation would know. They knew full well the world would know. But they just did not care. Too drunk with power, they disregarded everything—our nation’s laws, our people’s customs and traditions, and our national honor and pride—just to be able to show who is boss.

Somewhere along the line, the current administration has to share in the blame. Its practice of “business politics”—of paying back political IOUs, regardless of how these IOUs were incurred—is mostly to blame.

The part of the world where this all took place was a haven for the current administration during the last elections, with some places registering zero votes for the president’s opponents.

Zero votes? Hell, even statistical error tells us that there must be someone out there, from among the thousands of voters, with a dissenting opinion, or even just someone who ticked the wrong box. But it was a perfect delivery, which demands no less than the perfectpayback.

But in business, as in politics, there is something called unacceptable risk. This is what happened in the recent financial crisis, when banks and other financial institutions suddenly began to realize that not all was well with the US mortgage market, and that they had better jettison the assets they were holding, which were backed up by these mortgages.

Our only hope for justice to prevail, is that the current administration would realize that its alliances in that part of the country have now become an unacceptable risk, that even the dangers of not paying back political debt are now far outweighed by the consequences of coddling criminals and fugitives from the law.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 28, 2009.