When the going gets rough…
… the rogues get going.
On Friday, April 17, 2020, at around 3 p.m., 11 soldiers of the Philippine Armed Forces met their untimely death in a firefight with the rogue Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sitio Bud Lubong, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu. Fourteen of their comrades were also wounded in the same ASG attack.
The more than one-hour fiery exchange last Friday afternoon was the second clash with the rogue elements of the ASG led by Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan. The first encounter took place on April 16, Thursday, and caused the death of three soldiers of the 21st Infantry Battalion. This brings the total number of dead soldiers to 14.
Such breaking news also breaks our hearts as we are going through rough times, dealing with an invisible, and deadly “enemy” that has crossed international and domestic boundaries in many parts of the world—the dreaded COVID-19.
Aside from a sketchy note that the Armed Forces of the Philippines inflicted “heavy casualties, both killed and wounded, on the enemy side,” the news report did not provide details on whether the AFP were either overpowered or outnumbered by the enemy. Or were they just outsmarted by the rogue home-grown bandits who have the distinctive advantage of knowing their jungle terrain very well compared to the elements of the 21st Infantry Battalion?
Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, reported that high-powered firearms were recovered in the area where the clashes occurred. If this is the case, then some questions can be asked why this rogue group was able to move around such “high-powered” firearms in a garrisoned island province. And why, despite the presence of military checkpoints in almost all areas in the towns of Jolo and Patikul, the ASG members continue to move freely in their jungle lairs, and able to mount massive attacks on a formidable, state-powered, and more heavily armed enemy?
It is sad to note that roguish elements of our society take advantage of emergencies. Such has always been the case when we go through natural disasters and armed conflicts — thus exposing government’s rough edges and vulnerabilities, especially in dealing with multiple crises on their hands.
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On a more positive note:
For a long time, academics have shunned being engaged in dealing with issues and concerns affecting the communities where their educational institutions are situated, largely because of the fear of treading “uncomfortable” paths. But the current COVID-19 crisis has perhaps pushed some of them out of their ivory towers.
A week after the initial community quarantine, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, in collaboration with a group teaching Foundations for Peace Education (FPE) at the Mindanao State University-General Santos City, pooled their technical know-how to produce liquid soaps, hand sanitizers, and locally made face masks that they have distributed free to local hospitals and clinics as well as to frontliners from both the health and social welfare clusters of the city local government unit. The FPE educators also mounted a city-wide donation drive. The money they collected was used to purchase materials for the face masks, and chemicals and other ingredients for hand soaps and sanitizers; and to pay for volunteer sewers as well as to buy food to be given to those in the frontlines of the checkpoints that are posted in every barangay cluster.
There are other academics initiating something in their own turfs, and I hope their active engagement in helping alleviate the deleterious effects of this crisis will continue even after we slowly move toward the “new normal” of our lives, post-COVID-19.
After all, the academe is not only the hub of theory; it is also the hub of teaching how to make theories real and operational in our daily lives.
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