Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A Study in Contrasts

The Philippines has nerved itself to summon the Australian ambassador to the Philippines to protest against the accusation that it encouraged hostage taking in Iraq by caving in to terrorists. The Australian reports:

The Philippines government was today expected to summon Australia's ambassador in Manila to express its anger over Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's criticism of its Iraq policy. ... The Philippines ambassador to Australia, Cristina Ortega, said her country was deeply hurt by the comments. "We are very, very disappointed with this harsh criticism," Ms Ortega has told ABC television. ... "It's not very diplomatic language, but Mr Downer is not a diplomat, he is a politician."

These fighting words can be compared to Philippine Deputy Foreign Secretary, Rafael Seguis' bowing and scraping before the Khalid Ibn al-Walid brigade (who held the Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz) on Al Jazeera. According to Reuters:

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of Philippine deputy foreign minister Rafael Seguis reading out a statement, which the television station translated into Arabic, shortly after the expiry of a new execution deadline set by the militants. "In response to your request, the Philippines ... will withdraw its humanitarian forces as soon as possible," Seguis said according to the translation of the statement, addressed to the Islamic Army in Iraq group holding 46-year-old de la Cruz. "I hope the statement that I read will touch the heart of this group," said Seguis. "We know that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy."

It is bravery or the certainty that Australia cuts no heads that makes the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs so bold?


In the meantime American missionary Gracia Burnham returned to the Philippines to confront and testify against 8 Abu Sayyaf rebels who participated in the murder of her husband. This from the BBC:

American missionary Gracia Burnham has made an emotional return to the Philippines to testify against her suspected former kidnappers. Mrs Burnham and her husband Martin were kidnapped with 18 others from a Philippine beach resort in 2001. ... Mrs Burnham is said to have identified six out of the eight suspects on trial as being her erstwhile captors.

"Gracia gave a very smooth narration of her ordeal. It was the strongest corroborative evidence," said state prosecutor Aristotle Reyes. "She cannot forget them because she ate and lived with them for almost a year," he said. Mr Reyes said he had shown her a rusty dog chain used by the militants to restrain her husband, as well as a pair of blue rubber boots she had worn during her captivity.

Gracia Burnham has caused controversy since returning to the US, by claiming that Philippine military officials were colluding with her captors. She made the claim in a book about her experiences called In the Presence of My Enemies.

Will the Philippines ask Mrs. Burnham to apologize for those remarks the way the Australian ambassador has been asked to explain why the reputation of that country's government has been besmirched?