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In harm’s way

NOT a policy statement, not a shift in our defense posture, just a word of caution to the US special forces – advisers – operating in Mindanao, that “they have to go” because it’s not safe for them.

What sounded like headline stuff one day was soon interpreted to mean friendly advice the next day, courtesy of Malacañang’s spokesperson, who nonetheless left a window open: No need to pack up and go, at least not for now. And just like a finely honed diplomat, his US State Department counterpart said there would be no change in the relationship between the two allies of long standing.

I’d translate those four short words of President Duterte differently. As America has made it a habit to issue “travel advisories” warning their citizens against traveling to Mindanao and other parts whenever untoward incidents happen – most recently after the bombing of the night market in Davao City – US military authorities should follow their own advice and keep their soldiers safe also, far from the reach of marauding gangs of kidnappers and criminals inspired by terrorists.

But if the world’s mightiest warriors armed with the most powerful weapons on earth are not safe from strike-anywhere forces, can the innocent inhabitants of our islands sleep soundly at night and go about their business normally during the day? Again speaking for myself, the State Department’s statement soothed my fears. At least for now.

What is troubling is a report on GMA News that the casualties inflicted on our soldiers by the Abu Sayyaf last Aug. 29 need not have been so heavy – 15 dead – if their R-4 assault rifles had not jammed, misfired, gotten stuck. An old story retold with the same pathos, ending the same sad way. The soldiers had no time to clean their guns, so those were rusty. They did not have gun oil, so they used petroleum jelly (!).

The Commander-in-Chief has ordered his defense secretary to buy arms from Russia and China. Nope, he did not mention America. (Jullie Y. Daza)