The Afghan refugees

The Philippines has been known for its unequivocal hospitality, particularly when she opened her doors to Jews at a time when the Nazis were after their necks, and again when Vietnamese boat people, running from persecution and rejected by a couple of our neighbor countries, were given temporary shelter in Palawan and Bataan.

These historical facticities may have been one of the reasons our treaty ally, the United States of America, turned to the Philippines to host fleeing Afghan nationals who were US government employees and their families.

Indeed those Afghan nationals need support as they are now the subjects of a manhunt by their enemies and their lives are in danger. The US government is ready to give them residence after they are processed accordingly. The Philippines is once again asked to answer the call for support and the country may just do so as she had previously done.

A number of issues, however, have cropped up as to why the US government chose the Philippines as a staging area for the processing of the Afghans for a number of months prior to their entry into the United States of America.

Some pundits are offering Guam, Saipan, the Northern Mariana Islands, Okinawa, New Zealand and Australia, which boast of so much open, isolated and uninhabited areas, as ideal for refugee centers.

Further, questions such as why do they need to be processed when they had been employed and previously processed by the US government? What if those processed are denied entry to the US, what do we do with them? Those employed by the US government who may have been used for special operations work and may have blown their cover are now the subjects of a manhunt by the Afghan government that might possibly retaliate on Philippine shores.

What if the usual lapses in security, to which governments are prone, allow some Afghan to leave the refugee shelters and join groups like the Abu Sayyaf or BIFF. Another conspiracy theory has it that some operatives may be used to engage in a low intensity conflict against China.

Pundits insist that the times and consequences since the 1940s and 1970s have drastically changed with terrorism being more violent, sinister and complicated such that economies around the world have crafted special and more stringent laws against it.

All these theories and apprehensions do have safeguards and solutions using today’s technology.

The decision whether or not to grant the US government’s request to allow the Afghans temporary safe haven in our territory rests on the executive branch of our government. Government should look at all the angles and have the interest of the Filipinos and the country in mind at all times. It should likewise be mindful of our obligation to the community of nations.

In whatever direction they flow, it is imperative that the discussions, negotiations, concessions and/or repercussions are transparent. The public ought to know. They should be able to see the front, center and end of this endeavor. Clarity in such an endeavor mitigates fear, dispels confusion, identifies, ensures and causes prompt and corrective measures by both the US and Philippine governments in addressing the usual challenges of temporary shelters and, more importantly, avoids destabilizing the normal operations of government.

Government should likewise disclose any repercussions, both declared and diplomatically unsaid, for the public to be aware of and to better prepare for — another defining moment.

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