CEBU

Briones: A ‘terrorist’ in our midst

THEY come in all shapes and sizes. Ages, too.

And terrorists don’t care what method or soldiers they use or deploy on the field as long as they achieve the desired effect.

According to Peter W. Singer, a former expert, strategist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, an American research group, 300,000 boys and girls under 18 serve as combatants in almost 75 percent of the world’s conflicts.

Some 18 percent of the fighters are younger than 12 years old. They offer terrorist group leaders “cheap and easy recruits who provide new options to strike at their foes.”

Here in the Philippines, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front released hundreds of child soldiers last year as part of the separatist rebel group’s continuing commitment to end the recruitment and use of children within its ranks. This, in turn, is part of an action plan with the United Nations.

I’m not sure about the Abu Sayyaf, though. Its members are more extremists, if you can call them that. Also, they are not all about religion, if you know what I mean.

Since the group was formed in 1991, its members have carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, extortion and drug trafficking, prompting some to question their real motives since they appear to alternate between criminal objectives and ideological intent over time.

Whether they use child recruits or not, the group apparently has no problem deploying people in their twilight years.

That is, if the allegations against Oger Roma Pelonio are true.

The 69-year-old was arrested in his house in Sitio Bonbon, Barangay Ocaña, Carcar City last Thursday.

The military had placed him under surveillance after the bombing in Lamitan, Basilan last July 31. It appears that Pelonio has long been on their radar because of his alleged involvement in extortion in Mindanao, among others.

Pelonio, though, denies being a member of the terrorist group.

“I even served in the army before and now I’m being accused of being part of the Abu Sayyaf? I’m old and I can’t walk properly anymore because of my arthritis and I have maintenance medicine for my diabetes,” he told members of the media.

And looking at his picture, it is hard to believe that he’s responsible for all those things authorities say he did.

But what do we really know about Pelonio?

Well, his neighbors don’t have much to say about him since he never mingled with them, which explains why he has no friends in the area where he and his wife have lived in the last five years.

He may even have lied about his religion. Pelonio had told reporters that he is a Roman Catholic, but a neighbor who sometimes cleaned his house said she didn’t see a crucifix or a statue of the Virgin Mary or the Sto. Niño inside.

But authorities said they found two .45 pistols with live bullets, a loaded Ingram submachine pistol, a .38 revolver with live bullets, a hand grenade, two rifle grenades, bomb-making materials, aerial maps and a printed sketch of a bomb, among others, in his possession during the raid.

You know what? Pelonio wouldn’t be in this position if he drank with his neighbors or sang videoke with them.


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