Nine-Nine: war and peace Print
Sunday, 09 September 2018 15:20



San Jose, CA. — The night before the assault was calm, although cell phones flashed warning signs of an attack by terrorists. Everybody with a working mobile phone was forewarned, again and again: the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was going to stage an attack on Zamboanga city. I was in Manila when I got a call from a friend residing in Pasonanca asking me about the bulletin. I said it could be another case of the “boy who cried wolf.” But, no, it was real. The wolf was at our doorsteps ready to blow us in.

The Muslim extremists came close to taking City Hall during their frenzied rush with guns blazing in three barangays that struck fear amongst the residents who were still in their sleeping clothes, some even half naked. At the time of the assault, there was no line of defense, only small-armed mobile patrols waiting to be relieved by fresh boots.

Five years on, the brave reporters who covered the attack will return to the afflicted — from war-hardened people still grieving for their losses to the embattled mayor — for interviews. To the mayor and the guardians of the peace and keepers of law and order, this question will be asked: “How long will the calm last?”

While we have inked a “Covenant of Peace” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that will subsequently create a Muslim Nation, the government has yet to appease the original Muslim freedom fighters and ideologues — the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It was Prof. Nur Misuari’s strike force that laid siege to Zamboanga at the break of dawn, even beating the cocks to the crow. It was his way of showing discontentment for having been ignored in the peace process by former President Noynoy Aquino and the current Presidente.

As a Muslim Nation rises in the north, there is no such Bangsamoro in the south where Misuari’s people and armed forces are amassed — at least that’s how the Tausogs, Yakans and Samals understand it to be. But its creation is the poison that will kill (hopefully) any move by Muslim extremists and fundamentalists to create a caliphate in Mindanao. The question is: After ratification by the people living in areas of autonomy, will this political layer emerge as a functioning democracy and with all its multi-faceted people relatively united? If it succeeds (a big IF), Maguindanao, Cotabato and the cities and provinces under the Bangsamoro can become a beacon of freedom and independence its founder, Hashim Salamat, fought for. Mindanao has already suffered a great deal — in blood and money — for the liberation of the alleged long-neglected Muslim population.

Besides that, the MILF’s Bangsamoro can act as a multi-ethnic shield among Mindanao’s conflicting groups: the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, Maute Gang and, foremost of all, the three factions of the MNLF. We see in the Bangsamoro the bright future for our Muslim brethren. But, still, the possibility of a conflict remains. If that government runs out of cash (P60 billion is a whale of a lot to spend) and there’s no immediate replenishment, the region can slip back into conflict and El Presidente will play host again to another appeasement.

Very clearly, IS survivors have begun launching terrorist attacks in Basilan and Sultan Kudarat. From all indications, after their defeat in Marawi, remnants of the Maute Gang have regrouped. While the military and police have tried to prevent it, the terrorists managed to strike during unguarded moments. We just have to be ready for any eventuality.

Yes, the military and police are guarding our borders against terrorist intrusions. We have enough soldiers and blue shirts to keep us safe. What El Presidente and the armed forces cannot allow is for other Muslim fundamentalists to metamorphose into another deadly cell such as the Maute Gang with evil designs to create a caliphate. So far, they have not been able to seize swaths of land, thanks to the vigilance and bravery of the men in uniform.

Zamboanga does not want a repeat of the September, 2013 bloody siege that killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, displaced hundreds of poor families and created an economic setback to a prospering city. Had it not been for the bravery of our soldiers, the war tacticians and courageous politicians at that time, Misuari would have achieved his goal of taking Zamboanga.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 September 2018 12:37