MARAWI CITY – For more than four years, Norhaima Ditucalan’s family was at her grandparents’ house in Ditsaan Ramain, Lanao del Sur, some 10 kilometers away from Marawi City where they lived for decades.Ditucalan used to live with her three other siblings and their families at a… Read More
Al-Baghdadi’s death does not mean extinction of ISIS: Palace
Malacañang said the death of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was “good news” for countries terrorized by the group but noted that the government should not let its guard down.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that despite the IS leader’s death, the terrorist group still has members around the globe that could wreak havoc at any moment.
“That’s good news for countries that have been terrorized by the ISIS. But then again the leader of one group does not mean the extinction of that band of terrorists and we know that for a fact,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Monday.
Panelo acknowledged the possibility that al-Baghdadi’s death could discourage the terrorist group members from committing more atrocities.
However, he assured the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would be on high alert to foil possible attempts by terrorist groups attempting to ride on al-Baghdadi’s death.
“It may also cause discouragement on the part of the terrorist groups. But as far as we’re concerned, whether the leader dies or not, we will secure that part of our country from them,” Panelo said.
Asked if al-Baghdadi’s death would have an impact on the recruitment of IS members in Mindanao, Panelo said: “Hindi ko mabasa yung magiging response ng mga nire-recruit nila (I cannot surmise what the response of those being recruited will be) if it will affect them or not.”
Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23, 2017, the same day Islamic State-linked Maute terror group laid siege to Marawi City in Lanao de Sur province.
Like Panelo, AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the IS leader’s death will not necessarily mean the demise of the terrorist organizations.
“His death will definitely impact on local terrorist groups but not to the point of its demise,” Arevalo said.
On Sunday (US time), US President Donald Trump announced that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a US military operation in northwest Syria.
Trump said US Special Operations Forces conducted a raid Saturday night targeting al-Baghdadi, during which he killed himself by igniting a suicide vest. (PNA)
Mindanao has large concentration of terrorist groups
DUTERTE: DAYS OF DANGEROUS LIVING AHEAD
President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted a stronger military and police force to prepare for “dangerous times ahead” in the Philippines.
He urged Congress to pass measures that will provide the Armed Forces and the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) with more assets and equipment before the end of his term in 2022.
“I hope that Congress would tide us over to complete the instruments that we need in dealing, especially with terrorism,” Duterte said in his speech during the appreciation dinner for former President and outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday (July 9) night.
Although he was not belittling the capabilities of the next President, Duterte said he simply wanted a completed modernization program before he exits.
“I hope that by the time I make my exit, nandiyan na lahat ‘yan (it’s all there) because I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president,” Duterte said.
“I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police and equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” he added.
The chief executive warned of “dangerous times ahead”, especially in areas of Mindanao where there is a larger concentration of terrorist groups.
“I see very dangerous times ahead. And I hope that we will be able to contain whatever there is to really to… Lumalabas nga ‘yung pawis sa kamay ko (My hands are sweating) just thinking about if it would go awry outside of Sulu and Basilan Islands,” Duterte said.
Duterte further stressed the need to continue acquiring more assets and equipment because of the threats that lie ahead.
“So that I said, I must be prepared. And nabili ko na ho ‘yung mga kailangan (I have bought what is needed), but there are still a few things that I must have for my Armed Forces and the police,” Duterte said.
“And one of these days, I will call for a — just — for a time to talk and we’ll talk about it because it’s really needed by the country,” he added.
PNP spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac, for his part, described Duterte’s remark as an “accurate and honest assessment” of trends in terrorism, transnational crime, and cross-border criminal activity.
Noting that these problems required greater flexibility and capability of military and police forces, Banac thanked the national government for being “responsive” to the situation.
He stressed that since Duterte’s assumption in 2016, the PNP has been provided with not just operational requirements but also morale and welfare services, which have improved living standards of uniformed personnel and their families.
“Over the last three years, the PNP has been able to keep up with our modernization and development plan with the procurement of more and better equipment and recruitment of more personnel,” Banac said.
“Between now and three years hence, the PNP is in a better position to perform its law enforcement and public safety mandate thru enhanced operational capability,” he added. (With reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)
The shining light in Mindanao’s dark tunnel
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Of late, our lawmakers have given assurance that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may be approved by Congress by the end of May.
This assurance made during a recent meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and key leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives is the biggest news to come for Mindanaoans.
The President is pushing hard the approval of the BBL because he strongly believes that giving Muslims of Mindanao limited autonomy in governing their Bangsamoro is the answer to ending the Moro problem; that BBL means closing the door to more violence in the island.
More importantly, the BBL responds to the “historical injustice” committed against the Moros for centuries for which they demand restitution even to this day.
It is this injustice that makes the Moros vulnerable to overtures by terrorists groups to rebel against the government.
President Duterte has warned of doomsday scenarios of a conflagration of pocket wars in Mindanao if the Moros are not given a measure of autonomy in their Bangsamoro homeland.
President Rodrigo has also warned that foreign terrorist groups are piggybacking on the Moro frustration to stir up local Muslim extremists to replicate the siege of Marawi City, held hostage for five months by terrorists last year.
The Middle East-based Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), considered today as the world’s most violent terror group, fired up local terrorists when it exported its brand of terrorism to Mindanao soil and linked up with the home-grown Maute and Abu Sayyaf terror groups in the siege of Marawi City.
The President’s warnings are more than shock-and-awe statements.
They are dire warnings that the threat of terrorism from local terror groups with ties to foreign extremists, could continue to be a monkey in the back of Mindanao.
Marawi City may have been freed from the grip of the marauders after bloody battles that killed hundreds of soldiers, policemen and civilians, and terrorists, and reduced the Muslim city to rubbles; and the ISIS may have lost its bite with its defeat in Iraq and Syria — and Marawi — but terrorism will continue to rear its ugly head in Mindanao.
The strength of the ISIS ideology feeds on ethnic frustration and violence, the lethal combination it used to gain support to control a wide swathe of Iraq and Syria for years before the terror group was defeated by US-led forces middle of last year.
The frustration of Mindnao Muslims over centuries of “historical injustice’ against the Moro people, the root cause of the decades-old Bangsamoro rebellion, is a wound that has not cured.
The frustration fits the ISIS formula to get support from local terrorists in its mission to make Marawi its caliphate and the Philippines as the epicenter of its terrorism in Southeast Asia, and its grandiose aim of global domination by establishing caliphates worldwide.
The ethnic frustration mixed with the ISIS brand of violence in tandem with local terror groups is a deadly brew that could spell doom for the country.
Reports that the Maute Group is regrouping and that scores of foreign terrorists have secretly entered the country are indications that ISIS is not dead in the water in Mindanao.
President Duterte sees limited autonomy, through the BBL, for the Moro people as a final solution to the Mindanao problem that would respond to the search for peace in Mindanao and address the “historical injustice” committed against the Moro people.
Mindanao Muslims, in general, are not warlike, despite perception of many, and would grab at any opportunity to achieve peace in Mindanao through peaceful means.
This is the reason why most of the Moros support BBL and abhor terrorism as a way to address the historical injustice that they suffered for centuries.
For most of the Moros, terrorism is haram and should not be considered as jihad or a tool for Mindanao Muslims to find justice, because terrorism violates the teachings of Islam.
The sooner that the Philippine government responds to Muslim demand for at least limited autonomy of the Bangsamoro through the BBL, the better that we can resolve the threat of terrorism and find peace in Mindanao.
It is not difficult for the government to respond to this demand, seen as the answer to “historical injustice” that the Mindanao Muslims suffered in the hands of “foreign invaders” and the government itself.
It is comforting that the Philipine Congress is responding to this demand, and is wrapping up action on the BBL, the legal instrument that would create a new Bangsamoro for the Muslim minority.
The assurance bylawmakers of the May approval of the BBL is a breathe of fresh air that has come after decades of searching for peace in Mindanao.
Muslims had suffered injustice for centuries in the hands of the Spanish, American and Japanese invaders, including the government through a policy that relocated Christians from the Visayas and Luzon to Mindanao in the 50s that practically stole Mindanao from the Muslims.
The injustices remain as a painful sore in the hearts and minds of the Muslims, particularly the youth who until today could not forget past attempts to subjugate the Moro people and steal their homeland.
But we cannot turn back the hands of time to prevent the 1906 Bud Dajo massacre in Jolo where American soldiers killed hundreds of Moros, including women and children.
We do not have a time machine to go back to the past and help them fight the Spanish conquistadores who tried to christianize the Moro people.
And how many Moros were killed in defense of their homeland during the Japanese occupation?
Christians from Visayas and Luzon, joined the “conquest” of the Bangsamoro homeland, when they carved parts of Mindanao for their own when they were resettled on the island by government in the 50s.
Mindanao today is a land for Muslims, Christians and lumads living harmoniously, but its peace is shattered by pockets of rebellion and terrorists.
Add to this the young generations of Moros. who are the most susceptible to influence by extremists like the ISIS, who could not forget the past and continue to nurse a festering anger and a cry for vengeance until today.
The perception that by nature the Mindanao Moros are war-like and possessed by the culture of jihad is wrong. The culture of jihad was a self-defense mechanism developed during the four centuries that the Moros defended their Bangsamoro from foreign invaders dating back to the 1600 against the Spaniards up to early 1900 against the Americans.
The Moros of today are a peaceful people and live in harmony with Christians and lumads in Mindanao.
If the Moro problem in Mindanao remains today, it is because their demand for independence and the historical injustice done to the Moro people continue to pulsate in the hearts and minds of the 20th century Moro, especially the idealistic among the young.
Today, however, while young Moros could not forget the Bud Dajo massacre and other violence against the Bangsamoro, their elders are willing to face the future by agreeing to government overtures for peaceful co-existence for as long as the Bangsamoro is given a measure of independence.
Muslim liberation movements which have been fighting for Mindanao independence or self-rule for decades, have in fact abandoned their arms for the negotiating table.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guided by their wise leaders had struck in 1996 a final peace agreement with government that led to the creation of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
We look up with great anticipation to to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally making peace with government under BBL that would replace ARMM.
The twin historical pacts were crafted with senior Muslim leaders who are fed up with the seemingly endless fighting that claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
The ideology of the ISIS thrives on ethnic frustration and despair.
Of course ISIS is not a generally accepted ideology among Mindanao Muslims. It was embraced by local extremists not because it offered a window for an answer to the Muslims’ long search for justice, but due to the influence of the violent ISIS and its terroristic ideology.
With ISIS gone, the thirst for independence and justice will continue to linger in the heart and mind of our Muslim brothers and sisters and, if the Bangsamoro will not materialize, will find disastrous expression in the pocket wars that President Duterte had warned erupting all over Mindanao.
We should not allow the alien ISIS ideology to steal away with its violence the breath of fresh air that will descend all over Mindanao once the BBL is approved by the government.
Do we now see the bright light after decades of fighting at the end of Mindanao’s tunnel of violence?