Monday, October 18, 2021

Wenceslao: In war, all are losers

THE recent death in Pangangan island in Calape town of the two Abu Sayyaf members who were remnants of the group that strayed into Bohol last month was apparently met with a collective sigh of relief by Boholanos. Since the first clash in Inabanga town lat Aprill 11, the hunt for the armed terrorists have been dramatic, punctuated by more clashes and an arrest that decimated the 11 Abus.

I do not totally buy everything that the government announced about the clashes including the latest. Both the police and the military tend to embellish with untruths their narration of what happened for one reason or another. That includes the one in Calape. Did the two terrorists identified as Abu Asis and Abu Ubayda really put up a fight? Or were they really Abu Asis and Abu Ubayda?

That’s not to denigrate the government troop’s effort to end the Abu Sayyaf incursion into Bohol. Going after an armed group is not a walk in the park as shown by the deaths of three military men and a policeman in the Inabanga clash. And hunting those who evaded the police and military dragnet is taxing, considering how wide the area involved is. So thumbs up to all of them.

Those Abus were ruthless but in the end they too were exposed as mere human beings. I could just imagine what those who weren’t killed in the initial clash went through in the weeks that followed considering that they were not only outnumbered but were also lost in a terrain and neighborhood that were stranger to them. What they went through was the worst thing to happen to fugitives.

I remember that time in the ‘80s at the height of the government’s counter-insurgency operation in the mountains of Cebu. I heard many stories of what it was like to be at the receiving end of a pursuit by government troops. Experiences like that were what led a Chinese thinker to warn those who participate in a revolution that “it is not a dinner party, or writing an essay or painting a picture.”

This was also what I told a group of young activists in the ‘90s who handled a paper for the youth that my former employer, The Freeman, published then. Actual armed conflicts are different from experiencing these in a moviehouse. When you die, you die and when you are wounded your blood flows and you feel the pain. The fear of dying is real, especially when you are cornered.

An example. There was this story of how an operation against the notorious gang led by Ulysses “Boboy” Alega in Banawa, Cebu City in 1987 accidentally led to a clash between some elements of the communist armed city partisans, popularly known as “Sparrows” in the hills of Baksan in Sapangdaku. Some of those who were pursued managed to evade the military patrols by staying in the bushes for a couple of days and eating unripe pineapples planted by the farmers in the area.

As what the pacifist former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain said, “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”

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