No visitare a Zamboanga PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 11 June 2017 13:29

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Francisco, CA. — I’m writing from Pier 39, beside the harbor of ferries that take you to Alcatraz, the prison island that housed the hardened criminals like Alfonso “Al” Capon, the moonshiner-tax evader. This is where the vivacious blondes and brunettes, spirited Filipinos, bubbling Europeans and cheerful Asians set out for when they’re in the U.S. It’s a must tourist destination.

The attack on Marawi city, the bomb scares, pockets of skirmishes between government forces and terrorists in Basilian, Sulu and Siocon, a municipality close to the Zamboanga border in the west and other unaccounted atrocities by armed groups in some parts of Mindanao post heightened challenges for politicians, the police and military intelligence. The two bloody barbarity in the “land of promise” since El Presidente assumed office may have prompted him to declare a state of martial law in Mindanao. Tolerance for extremism in Mindanao has gone too far, this time. The “mal hombres” tried to take Zamboanga in 2013 but were repulsed by brave army and police beings. They are trying to take Marawi City and will again be repulsed.

The assault on Marawi by the Maute Group,  claiming to have ties with ISIS, interrupted a state visit by El Presidente in Russia that would resulted to some trade deals with that communist country.

The 1991 dreadful M/V Doulos tragedy that blackened Zamboanga City and eventually drove away potential foreign and domestic tourists serves as an unmitigated experience: tourists are not going to Mindanao. In the case of Zamboanga, as in the past, they’ll shun any revelry, colorful street parades, boisterous festivity that Sarita Hernandez conscientiously arranged for the La Hermosa Festival. Tourism consultant Ric San Juan knows this pretty well. The tourists have Boracay, Palawan and Bohol in their alternative bucket list. If they don’t hide it, the figures will emerge that Mindanao’s tourism industry has further suffered because of the lingering terror threat.

I was watching CNN Philippines and the PTIs uttered by El Presidente as he vowed to “destroy and kill them all” if it took 10 years to do it, or before his term (as president) ends. Pointing to the Maute Group, he says, “that’s all they do, destroy and kill, period.”

The latest assault on Philippine democracy reflects the growing challenge for the military and police against Islamist extremism. The attack on Marawi has claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, soldiers and police and terrorists. Like a swarm of stinging bees, the terrorists came charging from everywhere, creating chaos in the heart of Marawi by setting buildings on fire and raining bullets on whatever resistance the police and military presented.

In the 70s, the government accepted the  conditional surrender of top rebel commanders calling themselves the “Magic 8”. They were the fighting machine of Professor Nur Misuari, an academician-turned-rebel leader. This time, El Presidente offers nothing of peace or ceasefire to the Maute Group. Only their extermination.

Yes, there’s too much freedom from bigotry allowed by the government that more must be done to stomp out extremism. Modern military equipment, costly fighter planes and 21st century-made helicopters will not end the “war” on terrorism. The desire to crush it will.

The reason for the attack on Marawi is unclear, other than it being a terroristic brutality. The challenge remains, though. Our peace-keepers should guard major cities against intrusions by small well-armed terrorists. They are difficult to track because they are constantly on the move. It becomes more difficult for the military and police to secure Mindanao cities because of multi-dimensional threats from many unrelated (?) armed groups, including the reds.

The nature of the threats is complicated and complex. One group is fighting for independence, another for autonomy, still another for an imported ideology and yet another for a socialist state. The attacks in Mindanao aren’t connected. The assault on Zamboanga was perpetuated by Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The Davao bombing had different players. Marawi’s was distinctly Maute. There may be other plots, but the military and police intelligence aren’t ready to divulge them.