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Twisting in the wind—again

/ 02:34 AM October 04, 2011

“A Wilderness of Mirrors” is a study that may add insights into the policy confusion over Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) rampages, e-mails Eduardo Ugarte from Monash University in Australia.

A Global Terrorism Research Centre staff member, Ugarte commented on the column “Looking beyond labels.” (Inquirer, 10/1/11) He said the ASG is “part of shifting ‘dark networks”’ of kinship, culture and politics that enmesh many and alter policy responses. The commentary is based on a Pacific Review analysis, written by Ugarte and Mark Macdonald Turner of the University of Canberra.

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Security agencies depict the ASG as a distinct, cohesive jihadist “group.” Ugarte and Turner disagree. “We believe that al-Harakatul al-Islammiyah was a loose movement.” It was incapable of perpetrating all crimes that “have been and continue to be” ascribed to the ASG. “Most of the political violence and criminality, in the southern Philippines, is sponsored and carried out by an array of shifting, dark networks.”

Gunmen involved in the Tumahubong, Sipadan and Palawan kidnapping crises of 2000 to 2002 “talked the Islamist talk.” The evidence shows they had a Moro National Liberation Front background. They were armed, then protected, by senior police and military officials, plus local and regional politicians.

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Military spokesmen blamed the ASG for the abduction of  Fr. Giancarlo Bossi of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions in Payao, Zamboanga. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed his release in mid-July 2007.

Hajarun Jamiri, an ex-MNLF member and former mayor of Tuburan, Basilan, masterminded his abduction, Father Bossi said. (This reflected earlier assessments of Italy’s special envoy Margherita Boniver and PIME regional superior Luciano Benedetti who said, “Father Bossi is held hostage by a gang of criminals.”)

Jamiri was charged with involvement in the assassination of local official Wahab Akbar, among other crimes. Curiously, the police and the military never followed up Bossi’s accusation.

Gunmen are only the small fry. “To eliminate dark networks, arrest and incarcerate their most powerful nodes: rebel commanders, police, military officials and politicians who stand behind the gunmen,” Ugarte said.

In “A Wilderness of Mirrors,” Ugarte found that ASG gangs “had intensive interlocking relationships with politicians, military officers and their men in Basilan and Sulu… (They) operated as patrons.” One of Gracia and Martin Burnham’s captors nonchalantly placed orders for arms and ammunition with an AFP employee—“Ma’am Blanco”—in Zamboanga.

“To focus exclusively on some militants … and their alleged links to international terrorists, while ignoring their local patrons, is perverse. It mystifies political violence and criminality. The credibility of official accounts of  the ASG has been sapped by patent contradictions and hidden premises…”

Peasant leader Charlie Avila offers a different perspective to the Viewpoint column “Age crimp.” (Inquirer, 9/27/11) Theft of coco levies crippled vital replanting  programs and reduced  coconuts into a “sunset industry,” the column noted. Over 44 million trees are now over 60 years old. Senile trees yield 10 nuts at most before conking out for good. So, where will President Aquino get the nuts to cash in on a growing US demand for buko juice?

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P-Noy does not  have to wait for foreign investors. Coconut farmers here have the capital. They do? Where? In locked-up dividends from the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (San Miguel Corp. shares), Avila claims.

Today, this fund amounts to P9.046 billion—“a figure poetically almost equal” to that extorted from small farmers by martial law bayonets. This was supposed to underwrite the Coconut Farmers and Workers Foundation upon suggestion of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

But since September 2009, the Supreme Court tied up this fund into an escrow account upon the request of government. Once again, the small coconut farmer is twisting in the wind.  But now there is a new dispensation in the PCGG, the Office of the  Solicitor General and Malacañang itself. A new day will break?

“Coconut palms planted using seed nuts from selected mother trees can produce 80 to 100 nuts per tree per year,” forester Pat Charles Dugan e-mailed. “Superior seed nuts are available in several places, including the Philcoa seedling nursery at Barangay San Ramon, Zamboanga City.

“Has anyone analyzed the impacts of land reform on the coconut industry? The results have probably been negative. It’s likely that many (perhaps most) small-scale farmer beneficiaries of land reform lack the capital to plant coconuts, then wait five to seven years before they can harvest the fruits. If this issue hasn’t been studied, it should be.”

“Viewpoint” noted that Filipino homes wired through personal computers to the Internet rose to 35 percent in 2009—up from 27 percent two years before,” Angioline Loredo e-mailed from New York. “Great statistic. But has it improved our lot?”

Yes, these tools helped topple authoritarian regimes. But we do not have people power revolutions every day. And the harder part comes  after the revolution: How do you create a just society?

Loredo said: “Computer literacy should be made a qualification for anyone running for public office—from the top down to local government units. Somewhere out there are people and institutions doing something that one can copy or tap. The problem, is simple katamaran.

“In the small town where I was born, councilors are paid P38,000 (probably more) a month (whoa!). The least they can do is find out how their counterparts deal with  problems. Instead nagapa-ugat sa madyongan all day since they have money to gamble. Ay ay ay. No wonder nagpapatayan come election time.  A public office equals a good life.”

(Email: [email protected] )

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TAGS: A Wilderness of Mirrors, Abu Sayyaf Group, security, terrorism
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