AT FIRST, the government said it was not pulling out troops out of Iraq until August 20, the day scheduled for the 51 Philippine soldiers to leave their posts in the war-torn country. But now, it’s singing a different tune.

On July 13, Department of Foreign Affairs Deputy Secretary Rafael Seguis said the Philippine would withdraw its troops “as soon as possible” to save kidnapped truck driver Angelo de la Cruz on Arab TV. However, as of press time, Malacañang has neither denied nor confirmed Seguis’s statement.

Nonetheless, since Seguis is a spokesman of the Philippine government, it could be concluded that the statements were made with the blessings of the Chief Executive, unless she says otherwise.

Finally, after days of maintaining a hard stance, the government has decided to pull its troops out of Iraq as soon as possible—the requirement set forth by the Iraqi extremists to release de la Cruz.

The probable release seen in the next few days could be hailed by some sectors as a triumph for President Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. Triumph indeed, but only temporary.

The repercussions of the troop pull-out as demanded by the extremists, though speculative, are just too disturbing to ignore.

The sudden shift from in policy does not augur well for the government’s counter-terrorism moves in the country. Now, the terrorists here might have learned a lesson or two in Coercion 101.

In a few months, God forbid, it would not be surprising if the local terrorists try their own version of the Iraq incident and see if they could squeeze something from the government.

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It is not that the Filipino people should not rejoice in seeing de la Cruz being set free, but it would have been better if he were released not because the government gave in to the demands of the terrorists, but because the extremists had been made to see the folly of their action.

Compromise with the terrorists and submission to their demands should have no place in civilized world. No ifs, no buts. No exceptions to the rule.

Bargaining with terrorists has never been a good idea and never will be. Human nature dictates that once persons attain success through threats and violence, it is most likely that they will repeat those to achieve that high point again. Otherwise stated, if a method is proven effective, they’ll keep on using it till they’re stopped or they find something new or more satisfying to do.

True enough, if the government decides to send its peace-keeping troops home because of extremist threats, a dangerous precedent would surely be set.

Let us just hope that it would be a case of one step backward and two steps forward for the country.

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