Stubborn streak in strife-torn Libya

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Monday, August 4, 2014


THE winds of Yolanda were howling while television reporter Jinky Bargio was interviewing the fishermen in Hagnaya, San Remigio in November last year. There were five or six of them and they were holding on to the rope tied to their boats, ignoring warnings to move to safer grounds. “If we lose our boats, our families will starve and die,” they told Jinky.

As the winds grew stronger, Jinky and her crew fled to the San Remigio municipal hall, riding out the super typhoon inside a cramped restroom along with town officials, employees and prisoners. She went back to Hagnaya when the winds died down. The boats were missing. So were the men.

We had witnessed similar scenes in the past. Here in Cebu City, for example, people residing along the banks of the Mahiga Creek and other waterways are routinely advised to evacuate just in case the waters swell and eat up their homes. But the same pigheadedness showed up each time. They’d rather risk being washed out to the sea than lose their belongings to thieves.

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And who knows how many lives could have been saved if people had only listened to warnings of a possible storm surge during Yolanda?

Now, we’re seeing the same stubborn streak among our people in strife-torn Libya. The government has warned, cajoled and begged them into leaving that country because it is no longer safe to stay there. But not even the confirmed kidnap and gang-rape of a Filipina nurse could persuade them. As of yesterday, only 831 out of the estimated 13,000 OFWs in Libya have been repatriated.

It is possible that some of them are being held against their will by their employers.

But mostly, the adamance not to leave is dictated by the same attitude that the five Hagnaya fishermen displayed during Yolanda: better die holding on to their posts than lose their source of income and see their families starve.

Our government cannot do anything more than what they have done and continue to be doing. They could not conceivably go to Libya and drag the holdouts home. Until the Libya situation is resolved peacefully, we can only hope that the luck of our OFWs in that country holds.

***

I know very little of international politics and relations but have you noticed that in at least two countries where the United States and its allies intervened, a bloody civil war occurred after they left?

It happened in Iraq and now it is happening in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi was a tyrant and his people suffered from repression but at least he had an organized government and there was some semblance of order in his country.

Same with Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He was a terrorist, who regularly threatened the United States with mayhem. He was a tyrant, too but he was able to hold his people together. But the US saw him as a threat to world stability and peace, invaded Iraq and, just like in Libya, created the situation that led to his death.

The world applauded in both cases, confident that a new and democratic order would emerge after the Western invasion. Sadly, that was not what happened. Iraq today continues to be torn in strife between the Sunnis and the Shiites while in Libya, it seems that every armed group has, by Gaddafi’s death, earned the right to govern. Oh well.

***

I do not know how many of the 2,500 field that competed in last Sunday’s Ironman dropped out of the competitions but I am proud to say that two of my favorite lawyer-athletes were not among them. Former Integrated Bar Cebu President Ramsy Quijano and incumbent Ronda Vice Mayor John Ungab both finished the race and kept the faith of their compañeros who were rooting for them.

Congratulations, Ramsey and John. We’re proud of you.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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