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Realistic deadlines

DEADLINES are best when they are achievable. When, at the end of a period of great effort, a deadline is met, it gives one a great sense of satisfaction. Congratulations are in order and commendations may well be accorded.

The opposite is true when a deadline is missed. The failure to meet it may be due to unexpected problems that came up. Or the deadline was unrealistic in the first place. It should not have been assigned a fixed point on the calendar that would be easy to check.

One such deadline that was not met was the supposed neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by June 30, 2017. In February, they had been given six months to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf and as of April, the AFP said it was confident of meeting the deadline, just three months away.

But then a rebellion erupted in Marawi City and the AFP had to concentrate its forces on quelling the Maute group supported by Islamic State combatants from abroad, intent on setting up a caliphate in Mindanao.

Last Sunday, the regional police of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reported that seven loggers had been killed and beheaded – the standard operating procedure of the Abu Sayyaf – in Basilan. No one may have noticed that the original deadline to “neutralize” the Abu Sayyaf – June 30 – had long since passed, because the nation’s attention was focused on the rebellion in Marawi and the declaration of martial law in all of Mindanao to stop it.

There was another deadline set last Sunday – this one set by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa gave police regional directors in the country, particularly in Metro Manila and Luzon, 15 days to stop “jueteng.” The regional directors were warned that they would be relieved if they failed to comply with the order and the deadline.

Now jueteng has been around for as long as anyone can remember, largely because it is played by small ordinary folk with small bets. The government thought of organizing Small Town Lotteries (LTO) in the hope that these would replace jueteng. But the results have been mixed; jueteng continues to flourish in many parts of the country to this day.

Countless administrations and police forces have tried to stop it and failed.

It is a goal worth pursuing, a moral objective. But if, after 15 days, jueteng continues in the countryside, perhaps under various disguises, the PNP chief should be ready to see if there is need for a little more study, a little more planning. Because 15 days to stop jueteng in the country simply does not look like a realistic goal.