What’s Southcom Got To Do With It?

I could not help but write something about what’s happening here in our city---this city of fame and notoriety called Zamboanga. In our town today is House Committee on Defense Representative Roilo Golez along with other house member House Minority Floor Leader Francis Escudero and the ever-affable Zambonga Representative Erbie Fabian. Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza and a horde of high-ranking military officials have been invited also to shed light on the on the dire issues attending.

FYI---President Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo, in supplement to an earlier order to transfer the center of Region IX to Pagadian City---a move which effectively meant the relocation of all government regional head offices from this city to Pagadian---had recently instructed Southern Command officials to pack up their bags and head up north, also to Pagadian City. Soon, the Southern Command, the strongest and biggest military infrastructure here in Mindanao will call Pagadian its home instead of Zamboanga.

Apparently, local residents here headed by no less than Mayor Celso Lobregat himself pushed the panic button and starkly protested this order by President Arroyo to take Southcom away from this city, which for years and years before have served as a bastion of military power that had somehow stave away grave threats and danger to this particular peninsula, a perennial hotspot and troublesome area that includes the nearby island of Basilan and the ever problematic Sulu Province just further down south. Zamboanga residents are up in arms and they have just been to the streets this afternoon to send the clearest message to the President that what she had done was clearly such a bad thing to do and obviously inconsiderate.

We all know how the Basilan and Sulu areas are such notoriously volatile regions, like a volcano always threatening to explode, where terrorists and bandits roam there like they own the streets as well as the mountains. The transfer of Southcom from Zamboanga City to Pagadian City would further embolden these terrorists and bandits to wreak more havoc in a place already scarred by a past so bloody and gory.

So many uncertainties and questions have risen from this unexpected and highly surprising move by the President. Her cohorts reasoned out that relocating the major headquarters of the military here in Mindanao to another city would not really affect the strength of forces assigned and situated here. But they do not get the point, Southcom is more than the actual foot soldiers on the ground protecting this very fragile region, or the definite number of tanks and helicopters that are parked and warehoused here. It actually serves as a psychological military strength here that had effectively controlled danger and harm brought about by terrorists in the past. Without it, troubles in Basilan and Sulu may have been doubly gruesome.

I do not know if this house inquiry could bring the result desired by Zamboanga residents but what I see here is more than the things we see on the outer realms of the issue. You see, Zamboanga City was some place where the President lost to FPJ by an embarrassing landslide and Pagadian City was a part of the Zamboanga del Sur juggernaut that had helped her win the election, winning there with relatively high margins. I am not accusing her anything as of this moment but if my fears and intuitions are true, she may have just been guilty of jeopardizing regional security, as well as national security by fiddling with Southcom and the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents merely on the basis of political revenge or political patronization, the signs and symptoms of old, traditional and stinking culture of politics. It’s a cruel and shameless way of parading how politics in these part of the world works. She ain’t different afterall. She’s just the same animal.
See related news articles and stories here:
1. The Manila Times -
House probe into Southcom transfer to start May 22.
2. Philippine Daily Inquirer - AFP team to study transfer of Southcom to Pagadian.
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