Awakening in Sulu-A A +A
Friday, February 8, 2013
THERE is a perceptible awakening of the people in Sulu and most likely in the other island provinces of Tawi-Tawi and Basilan.
The awakening is the realization of the island residents as to who really are the elements that brought the scourge in their lives and in what used to be the pristine and idyllic islands, which are home to gentle people who love the sea and who live in peace and quiet and simplicity of a fisherman’s life and satisfaction of an uncomplicated barter trade and modest commerce.
But as they say, “these were the times.” When the secessionist rebellion initiated by the Moro National Liberation Front was waged, a lot of changes happened in the lives of the islanders. This became more complicated and radicalized when the Abu Sayyaf Guerillas (ASG) dissociated from the MNLF and staged the infamous hostage taking of foreign tourists from Sipadan, Malaysia followed by serious of kidnap-for-ransom, extortion and other heinous crimes.
Patikol, Sulu was to be the bastion of their operations. Ransoms and extortions were not to be their only source of money ASG was also copiously funded by foreign sources among them the late Libyan strongman Moammar Khadafy and Al Qaeda Chieftain Osama bin Laden.
The moment they associated with Al Qaeda, ASG added one more signature act of terrorism – indiscriminate bombings – as an additional means to establish an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy not only in the three main island provinces but, with the aid of Jemaah Islamiyah, in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
For decades, the islands of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan became battlefields between government forces and the ASG terrorists. The islanders who for many years were cajoled into believing that ASGs and JIs were fighting for a cause soon realized that they too have become hostages of the ogre that ASG had become. Ironically, even as when this iniquitous situation was the case, the MNLF maintained a cautious distance from their erstwhile comrades in arms. This lackadaisical attitude is borne by the rumor that some leaders of the MNLF were also recipients of the largesse from their benefactors from the Islamic nations.
The deaths of their patrons Bin Laden and Khadafy virtually stopped their financial spigot from flowing. In the Middle East, the now famous Arab Spring continued to flourish threatening monarchs, rulers and other chiefs of fiefdoms to establish reforms and justice. They too had stopped being generous to terrorist organizations.
On the other hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines increased its pressure on the terrorist groups. The ASG, in small forces, attempted to conduct kidnap-for-ransom operations but in many parts of the civilian communities where they used to freely roam before had become hostile to them.
It was not for long when the ASGs turned to whoever will bleed and whoever could pay ransom, never mind if they are Muslims or Christians. Thus the enmity between the MNLF and the ASG became a veritable powder keg soon to explode.
And so the battle begins. For certain, the MNLF will triumph as the people who had long been oppressed by the terrorist and kidnap-for-ransom horde of ASG are on their side. The island inhabitants have seen the light of day and even as they are tired and weary they can fight another war to rid themselves of the beasts that are the ASGs.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 09, 2013.