Kris-Crossing Mindanao

A state of jihad

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It spread quicker than a bushfire in a season of drought, crossing continents and oceans, erasing racial divisions, unifying varied ideologies and, ominously and terrifyingly, gathering wind enough to fan an inferno. Is this the beginning of World War III? The enemy: the United States of America, still the world’s superpower that has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden, with the primary objective of cornering the world’s oil supply.

As of this writing (Sunday morning), 12 embassies of the United States have been attacked, the early casualties no less than an American ambassador and three others who were killed as they were leaving the consulate at Benghazi in Libya.

All this was triggered by a badly produced film with the title “Innocence of Muslims,” allegedly made by an Egyptian Copt Christian denigrating Prophet Muhammad. Despite the identification and questioning of the individual and group involved in the film, exposing them as bigots with very sinister objectives, it has apparently played right into the agenda of so-called jihadists, Islamic extremists and terrorists, those who have been left out or disempowered by the Arab Spring—and not to forget, the dregs of the fundamentalist movement that was a consequence of the global Islamic revivalism of the 1980s.

The bad news is, among these consequences is the Abu Sayyaf. And the worst news is, this development could not have come at a worse time for the country that is trying to cope with destructive weather conditions, bureaucratic corruption, criminal syndicates in government, inept law enforcement agencies and a national leadership hopelessly divided by a struggle for power.

But what threatens to engulf us in this predicted Armageddon is the fact that this country, despite having what is probably the smallest Muslim minority in the world, is host to elements of the al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah that, to my personal knowledge, have been in Mindanao and Sulu since the mid-1990s.

Now why do they continue to operate here? Why at the cost of so many lives and billions in taxpayers’ money have we failed to eliminate these terrorists in our midst?

That is the question that one hopes well-meaning peace advocates like Sr. Maria Arnold Noel, SSpS, spokesperson of the “Free Cocoy Tulawie Movement” and her equally well-meaning associates should answer because people of Sulu already know why. And the answers cannot be reduced to a question of whether or not Tulawie should be freed, or  Gov. Abdusakur Tan should be “held accountable for unlawfully and illegally declaring Sulu in a state of emergency.”

Whether guilty or innocent, both of them are our own. We don’t want Tulawie jailed or Governor Tan haled to court for his actions, because—this may seem weird to outsiders—Sulu is so small, it is really just one big family. We cannot take sides; good or bad, they are family.

My own relationship with Tulawie goes back to long before either of us were born; with Governor Tan, as far back to our childhood days. His late father was like a brother to my mother. And I witnessed the assassination of his father and uncle by government forces, an incident that has a very significant bearing to the situation in Sulu today.

A press release, published in the Inquirer under an obviously fraudulent  by-line “Mutya Baleleng” and made to appear that it came from the “Free Cocoy Tulawie Movement” headed by Sister Noel, should be disowned by the good sister for no other reason than that any UP MassCom freshman can reproduce it as an excellent example of “how not to write a press release.”

Anyway, here are excerpts:

“GOVERNOR OF SULU MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR UNLAWFULLY AND ILLEGALLY DECLARING SULU IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY

“International lawyers and human rights experts are studying the possibility of filing criminal and administrative charges against Governor Abdusakur Tan of the Province of Sulu for declaring the entire province and its people in a State of Emergency since March 31, 2009. He must be held accountable for knowingly and willfully doing an illegal act that caused a string of human rights violations towards the people of Sulu. It is not enough that the Supreme Court has already declared the State of Emergency as illegal and null and void. The governor must be held accountable for each count of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, unlawful search and seizure committed during the State of Emergency,” Max de Mesa, chair of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), said during a roundtable discussion on Private Armies and Warlordism last Aug. 23, 2012 at the Commission on Human Rights Office in Quezon City. . .

“The decision was promulgated last July 3, 2012, the decision was penned by now Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Serenno (sic) who explained that ‘it is only the President, as Executive, who is authorized to exercise emergency powers as provided under the Constitution’.”

Well, the people of Sulu know what human rights violations are. Probably more than any of the diverse constituencies of this country, the people of Sulu have been the victims of the most brutal, most cruel and most reprehensible human right violations from the time of the Spanish conquest through martial law up to the present—violations perpetrated by the invaders, then by Marcos and now by their own people.

The Tausug are the stakeholders here. The national government has failed them. Nur Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front has failed them. That is why they are still in a state of jihad.

Let them do it their way.

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