Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Visitors to Lianga are commenting on a number of curious structures being erected around the main public building in the town.

In the case of Lianga, rough wooden barriers and improvised metal fixtures have been placed on the two streets providing access to the town hall that houses the offices of the local officials and the municipal police station.

These structures are not examples of avant-garde modern art commissioned by the local government. They are, of course, barricades haphazardly designed to provide a defense perimeter just in case New People's Army rebels execute another of their daring attacks on town centers similar to what they did in San Agustin town some 26 kilometers north of Lianga last Aug 15.

Most of the local government buildings in the province of Surigao del Sur have taken similar defensive precautions and local police forces have been beefed up with more men and hopefully enough firepower to repulse further anticipated rebel attacks.

This is a sad commentary on the state of law and order not only in Lianga but also all over the country.

Town halls, in one sense, are not just public buildings. They are the most visible manifestations of the democratic ideal, the most tangible and concrete embodiment of the principle of representative government and our firm belief in the supremacy and the rule of law over anarchy and lawless violence.

They do not only provide essential services but they, more importantly, provide a venue for people to interact with their local officials and participate in the actual process of democratic governance. When they are garrisoned and fortified like besieged encampments then they are ludicrous reminders of the surreal conditions the people of Lianga (and many other towns all over the Philippines) are living under.

The tragedy of it all is that the local people have become used to living their lives in the midst of this absurdity. Not that they have any choice in that matter, of course. After all, when you are bombarded everyday with nonsense from a local and national government that is supposed to talk sense at least once in a while, what is one more absurdity after so many others.

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