A ‘Bangsamoro’ in place means a thousand ‘Marwans’


In our grief over the massacred 44 Special Action Force commandos, and our outrage over the incompetence of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who hardly lifted a finger to save them, we have forgotten the obvious:

The main target of the operation, Zulkifli bin Hir aka Marwan, had been given not only refuge but also most probably a training facility by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in its territory.

Marwan had been in MILF territory most likely since August 2003, as hinted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Our armed forces, wittingly or unwittingly, may have even provided him a smokescreen to go deep underground in the insurgents’ lair by claiming that he had been killed in an air strike in Sulu in 2012.

Instead of protesting that an international terrorist was given refuge in MILF territory, what did Aquino and his negotiators complain about after the Mamasapano massacre? That it was the SAF’s fault, they didn’t “coordinate” with the MILF in the raid.

Did they really believe that the MILF wouldn’t tell Marwan to move to another place if they had been told by the SAF that they were going to raid Mamasapano to capture the terrorist?

The MILF has been able to provide refuge to an international terrorist even without the Bangsamoro government stipulated by the “Bangsamoro Basic Law.” What more when the Bangsamoro government has been set up, having sole command of a Bangsamoro police that acts as the only armed organization in its territory?

They will have 1,000 Marwans – global jihadists – training mujahideens from all over the world in Maguindanao. This is especially alarming with the revelation the other day of national security adviser Cesar Garcia, that Marwan was involved with the globally hated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The FBI info on Marwan: Living among the MILF since August 2003?

The FBI info on Marwan: Living among the MILF since August 2003?

“We must understand the role of Marwan. Aside from his previous involvements in numerous activities such as the Bali bombing and the other bombings in southern Philippines, he had a very important role as the facilitator of the movement of some people to ISIS,” Garcia told another daily.

What Garcia didn’t mention is the fact that with Marwan’s link to the ISIS, he could have tapped that organization, known to have a $5 billion war kitty, to provide financial resources to the MILF.

I had always been skeptical about the role of Malaysia in the peace talks with the MILF, since it was Malaysia that had financed its original organization, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and trained its officers corps (including the incumbent MILF Chairman Murad Ibrahim) in a camp in their territory. This was done as a countermove against the country’s claims on Sabah. I’m more skeptical now with a Malaysian like Marwan getting refuge in our territory, rather than in some Malaysian jungle.

I don’t think Marwan had been spending his last two years in MILF-controlled territory farming or hiking the mountains for pleasure. In fact, there are reports that “Marwan’s students” are planning a retaliatory strike. While he most probably would have been training MILF cadres in explosives, he would have also trained international jihadists.

$5 million bounty
This is what angered American security authorities – that the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice Program” had offered $5 million for Marwan’s head, putting him in the same “bounty price range” as Jamel Al-Badawi, brains of the USS Cole attack that killed 17 American sailors. The US apparently was hoping that even the top MILF leadership could be tempted to surrender a highly valued asset for such a hefty reward of P200 million.

One would be so extremely naïve – as President Aquino’s negotiators have been —– to believe that the MILF didn’t know that Marwan, one of the world’s top terrorists, wasn’t living in Mamasapano, or moving around in the insurgents’ territory.

Residents even in a normal rural community know that an “estranghero” (stranger) has entered their neighborhood, and he would in fact immediately become the topic of tsismis (gossip) and speculation by the local wags.

I was the first journalist to enter MILF territory, in 1996, and spent several days at its main camp Abubakar As-Sidique in Barira, Maguindanao.* Even at that time, 18 years ago, I was shocked that the MILF practically had its own territory in Maguindanao, with its troops in full uniform patrolling their areas as if they were the government’s regular forces, and with the rest of the country ignorant of such a formidable force.

I hadn’t expected the hike to the first MILF camp to last until evening, and my worry was that in the blackness of a moonless night, the MILF squad that escorted us might encounter an army unit. I mentioned this to the squad’s commander, and he laughed: “From the highway, nobody enters our area, even the (Philippine) military, without our approval and monitoring.”

I learned later that the MILF had a network of couriers, mostly kids or teenagers in dirt bikes, who served as an information system that allowed each of the MILF’s camps to know any movement of people within their territories. And that was during the pre-cell phone era. Since that time, the MILF, after a brief difficult period when President Joseph Estrada attacked their camps, has undoubtedly built up its forces and territory.

The MILF is taking us for fools if it claims that it didn’t know Marwan was in their territory.

Base commands
According to various accounts, two MILF units, the “105th Base Command” and the “118th Base Command,” had engaged the three SAF companies in firefights in less than half an hour after Marwan was killed.

That means that wherever Marwan was, he was close to MILF bases, and had his MILF-provided security detail. “Base Command” is the MILF’s nomenclature for its military formations of full-time fighters, whose camp is in a certain “base.” These base commands are supposed to be the core around which its part-time guerrillas would rally in order to form bigger formations when war breaks out. It’s preposterous, as the MILF claimed, that its troops were “awakened” by the sound of gunshots. These troops were most likely patrolling the area, as is their routine, and were immediately ordered to intercept the SAF troops.

The MILF’s savagery with which 44 police troopers were killed – not one wounded was captured and several were shot at point blank – was a message to government that it can’t do this again; the Republic must recognize MILF territory, and seek permission for entry. That obviously would allow them to alert international terrorists under its protection in its territories.

Aquino’s propaganda line is that it is a choice between peace and the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The reality is that a Bangsamoro state in central Minandano will mean a thousand Marwans, and thousands of SAF troopers who would have to take them out, and most probably be killed.

(*The reportage from this was published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, September 5, 1996, with the main article entitled, “The fire next time: has Manila let the Moro movement go too far? “

An abstract of the articles reads as if these were written only this month: “While the Philippine government looked the other way for the past two decades, the MILF has grown to an uncertain but formidable size and entrenched itself deeply in Mindanao. The group, which broke away from the MNLF regards its struggle as a crusade, and is unlikely to be bought off as the MNLF was. Manila, unwilling to admit the group’s size, says the MILF has 8,000 troops. The MILF itself claims 120,000 and most foreign analysts estimate 40,000, with half active at any one time.”)

FB: Rigoberto Tiglao


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  1. The BBL is an existential threat to Philippine sovereignty and national security.The gov’t. negotiators are either superlatively naive or outright traitors.Do they think that a piece of paper containing an agreement matter to a half civilized group like the MILF?They are caught pants down harboring an international terrorist and massacring gov’t. forces while sitting down in a peace process.
    Defend national territory,sovereignty,unity and national honor is what the gov’t. should do.That supersedes what they claim as the alternative to war.War will come whether there is a peace agreement or not as long as violent and in this case half civilized groups exists.Because these groups are the ones wanting war.That is why they armed themselves.

  2. While I want peace for Mindanao, I do not want a BBL that will allow terrorists to grow and multiply. I do not agree that parts of Mindanao, should be governed by a different set of laws. We are all Filipinos. We should all be governed by the same laws, regardless of religion. We should all learn to live with one another, tolerate each other’s differences and be bound by the same laws.
    I do not support the BBL and I do not trust the MILF since they have been supporting terrorists in their midst. I do not support Malaysia’s obvious role in all these. What Mindanao needs is a better concentration of money and resources to enable the place to truly become progressive. Make the place better connected and reachable for exchange of goods, people and resources. I lived in Mindanao as a child until the age of 17. We did not experience what Mindanao is experiencing now. We should save Mindanao from being over-ran by unwanted elements. I say no more to Benigno and to his BBL.

  3. Jaime Sandoval on

    Officially to be promptly executed by the PNP or Philippine Constabulary, the Congress of the Philippines must issue a Warrant of Arrest of President Aquino for treason against the Republic of the Philippines.

    Aquino as President is now a very clear and present danger to the Philippines and to the Whole Filipino Nation

  4. The Mindanao Muslim Problem has been with us since Spain was not aggressive enough to convert them to Christianity.The only solution to this problem would be to impose Martial Law. Move Camp Aguinaldo to Mindanao and get all these lazy Generals to get on their butts and confront the problem head on.All the foot soldiers should go house to house confiscating guns and ammunition. Declare the whole region as a war zone and our Congress the power to do that Our Government should continue to provide all normal functions and commerce and services will be encouraged., except for the Rule of Law and Order.which will be under the military

  5. The Muslim Problem is not just a Philippine problem, it is like a black plague that has spread all over the world. USA, Europe, Africa and the whole Middle East are in turmoil
    and it seems like there is no end in sight.There is no lasting peace with the Muslim insurgents and terrorists as long they are indoctrinated and brainwashed . Grant them autonomy and pretty soon they will want to form a sultanate complete with their own private armies. They will boot out Christians through intimidation and harassment, burn and bomb christian churches and inflict fear . They will replace our public schools with Madrases and demand to impose sharia laws in their regions.They will build training camps like the ISIS or the Alqaeda. There are several tribes in Mindanao The BBL will just favor and cater to a certain group and not represent the whole Muslim population.The Philippines has 120 dialects and multicultural society.We are a republic with a democracy that grants us the freedom of worship and of speech.There is also the separation between Church and State and we all want to called FILIPINOS.The BBL is a blatant breach to our Constitution and should be scrapped.

  6. Bert O. Romero on

    When Camp Abu Bakr As Sidique , which was controlled by the MILF, was overran by military troops in 2000 under Erap’s all-out war policy, it was reported that about 70-75 foreign passports were found. The passports belonged to Indonesians, Afghans, Yemenis and other Middle Eastern nationalities. It was then established that the camp had been transformed into a training facility years before 9/ 11. Especially convenient for Indonesian jihadists belonging to the Jamaa Islamiya ( JI ) ,the camp provided sanctuary and training to them while fleeing from Indonesia which had become ” too hot” for them after the bombings of Bali and the Philippine Ambassador in Jakarta.
    Most definitely, the enactment of BBL and the expected legal processes that will follow – plebiscite , election of officials and the establishment of a government – will provide constitutional umbrella to the de jure formation of a Bangsamoro Republic . This will mark the formal Balkanization of Mindanao.
    But what is the alternative? The likelihood of a unified and concerted military and political opposition by Muslims belonging to the MILF, MNLF, BIFF, and Abu Sayyaf. If a splintered Muslim secession had already caused and continues to cause havoc in terms of tens of thousands of deaths and socio-economic disruptions in terms of home displacements, lost job/ educational/ health services opportunities and the immeasurable psychological impact . With the 1996 GRP -MNLF Peace Agreement, at least , even if not eliminated, at least these dismal consequences in the absence of a peace agreement have been minimized.
    Which is lesser evil?

  7. Only a fool would trust a terrorist. The PH must stop being fools and adhere to the world wide Axiom, “No negotiations with terrorists”.

  8. Mon Tulfo in Inquirer article says gobyerno-Pilipinas should give 6 or 7 provinces as Bangsamoro. Mon Tulfo does not seem to have heard Pope Francis when Pope Francis requested the world’s help against ethnic cleansing in some Middle East Islam territories.

  9. You cannot trust terrorists in any negotiations, if they want they will hold true to their word but if they choose not to they wont. It will bother their concience not at all. What matters to them is they get what they want. Thats it & by any meansavaiable to them. Deal with them now & give them a little, then later they want a little more, then a little more. They should live like the rest of us & comply with the laws of the land. By people elected by the laws of the land. The laws should be equal to all & fair to all, then people cant say the law is against them. If they have different traditions than those in the country they live & they dont like them then move to live in a country where you like their traditions.

  10. The MILF, MNLF, BIFF or what not are all same dog with different collars. We should all listen to what Mr. Tiglaw has written clearly, pregnant with common sense and act to stop this danger to our nation. The Balikatan exercises should be converted against our real enemy within than a a stupid imagination of an outside enemy if it be, which cannot be won.

  11. In retrospect, it appears the all out war policy of Erap Estrada can be considered as the best solution to the MILF problem. He refused to be bullied and wanted to negotiate from a position strength rather than a compromising one. And he was winning the war too. Unfortunately, the US and Malaysia cannot afford to have this kind of scenario as a united Mindanao under the Philippine government connote the following: 1) For the US, it means less dependence on their support and thus, no need more military bases, particularly in Mindanao; 2) For Malaysia, a united Mindanao translates to a more focus reclaiming of our right to Sabah either through negotiations or outright rebellion from within. Note that majority of the residents in Sabah are Filipinos and therefore urising is quite doable. Also, the Malaysian army are not used to jungle fighting unlike their Philippine counterparts. Recall that they had a very difficult time suppressing the rag tag army sent by the Sultan of Siulu. What more if they are dealing with 10,000 well trained, experienced Filipino. And as a result, Erap was removed from office to prevent him from accomplishing his objective.

    On the other hand, the solution of BS Aquino is motivated by personal glory. Operation Wolverine was launched during the birthday of his late mother, the success of which would have been a tribute or dedication to Cory. This would have garnered him world wide attention but then the rest is history. The passage of BBL at all cost was for him to covet the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. He does not care about our country because in a country of his own. That’s how autistic people see the world – according to their own perception.

  12. Leodegardo Pruna on

    The Americans when in bad mood would say “Bull Shit”. The first letters of the two words sounds familiar isn’t it? What a mess this administration has done to our country and for what? God bless the Philippines.

  13. Aquino’s giving away billions of taxpayer’s money to this MILF controlled/terrorists haven province in the guise of development for peace so as he can forge a Peace Pact with his MILF friends as his only legacy before his term ends. So we can conclude that that misencounter as claimed by the MILF resulting to lost of 44 SAF lives is just a collateral damage that what is more important to Aquino is the Nobel Peace Prize after the Bangsamoro Entity is established? What about the calls for justice in the death of our soldiers who were mostly desecrated after being killed in Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga, Cotabato and latest Mamasapano? Can we trust these these kind of rebels after Peace Pact? Only a sick President can do this. Those present leaders in Sri Lanka are laughing at us now.

    • mism0 ang MNLF ang nagbabala na huag mag confianza sa MILF at itong MILF ay hindi rin nagtitiwala sa MNLF… sila sila walang tiwala sa bawat isa, bakit si PNOY ibinuhos ang tiwala sa mga hindi mapagkatiwalaang grupo na may makasariling hangarin upang humiwalay sa bansang Filipinas..

    • He should first ask he Filipino people whether they want a Bangsamoro by holding a Plebecite.

  14. No, to a special law (BBL) or Contitutona Amendment that will grant special treatment and status to Maguindanao region just because most residents have different religious beliefs (Muslims/Koran). It is unconstitutional under the “Equality Protection Clause” of the Constitution, which provides that all citizens must have the same basic rights, duties and obligation and equally protected by the Constitution and the laws enacted thereunder. To surrender some governmental powers like police, military, national security, taxation, judicial system, trade and foreign policies to the Maguindanao autonomous region is tantamount to yielding the philippine Sovereignty which will territorially dismember the country for creating a separate and independent State of Islamic Maguindanao! In fact, even without BBL the MILF is already claiming “prior consent and permission” by MILF to all police or military operations in their alleged autonomous area of jurisdiction, like the PNP launch of Marwan and Usman operation to serve arrests warrants. It is ok to coordinate with MILF to prevent friction from the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement but the secrecy of police action need not be coordinated with them as the PNP is a national force that is over and above the MILF forces. In the first place the MILF should not maintain ARMED forces of whatever type as they are not legally so authorized. Further the PNP is there to serve and protect ALL people in the region regardless of religion. We embrace all our MUSLIM brothers not because we are Christians or Catholic but because we are PILIPINOS and they too are! And the Constitution and the National laws (like the Local Government Units under the Local Administrative Law) that apply to us must also apply to them as we are all PILIPINOS! Hence, No Need for Special law (BBL). What is needed is love, harmony and trust to have PEACE!
    The National Governance from President, members of Congress and Judiciary must recognize promote and serve the social, economic and political welfare of the region under the existing Constitution and laws, not by amending the Constitution or Comprehensive autonomous laws for the region.
    Jun Adan
    New York City

    Sent from my iPad

  15. If only people will notice the demeanor of all BS Aquinos speeches, no warmth, insincerity is all over his ugly face he parrots whatever his script writer writes. He is full of himself. I love the Philippines…BUT I HATE THIS PRESIDENT!!!

  16. It seems that the ‘peace’ envisioned by the BBL is a temporary peace and, in no way, a lasting peace wherein members of the MILF or MNLF will eventually be working side by side with the national government, they being Filipinos. While this may be true, proponents of the BBL seems to have a ‘further hidden’ agenda. As stated, how come the Philippine government has to involve the Malaysian government when we know for a fact that Malaysia is predominantly a muslim country; how come coordination has to be made with the MILF in our own country. In other words, how come the government cannot do the right thing to do in its own territory? If the BBL be approved, I won’t be surprised when that part of the country be a separate entity. In short, whatever is the agreement right now, short of the BBL, the Philippine government is already at the losing end, unless, that’s what the Filipinos really want….appeasement for temporary peace.

  17. Roldan Guerrero on

    Since Aquino`s oath of office, he already started giving funds and support for the build-up of MILF. Portions of his DAP had been given to the secessionist group, aside from other foreign sources such that nowadays, they have a formidable army which AFP could hardly neutralize. Aquino must have known at first, that he is playing a very dangerous game, which he might have likened to playing video games, unknowingly that he is putting the lives of so many elements in danger, which he only noticed when the game he is playing is already at its losing ends. He keeps telling the pains he feels of losing his father, which he knows who did it, but why wont he tell? Until now I dont find the right word to describe him, all I can say for now is we are walking on a minefield that could only be detonated if he leaves Malacaniang.

  18. May isang bagay tayong nakakalimutan!
    Lahat ng ito ay gawa ng America! Malamang sasabihin communista tayo!
    Hindi magkakaroon ng peace talk ng Hindi ito inaaprobahan ng US,supportado nila ito hindi dahil gusto nilang maging payapa ang pilipinas!kung hindi upang magamit nila ito, hindi lang against sa atin kahit sa paligid ng pilipinas!
    Mas madali nilang makontrol ang terrorist kung alam nila na nasa pagkukupkop ito ng state! Maging ang pilipinas!
    Ito ay US advance game plan!
    Easy para sa US kung gusto nilang iwipe -out lahat ng mga ito, kung nagawa ni erap ito ng ilang linggo lang,
    Ito ay mga tools na gagamitin nila sa darating na panahon!
    US,devil advocate!
    Walang peace hanggang ang tingin ng US,sa lahat ay pawn para sa kanila!!

    • sonny dela cruz on

      Bakit tinitira mo ang America kapag mayroong pangyayari sa Pilipinas na hindi maganda. Hindi ka mabubuhay kundi sa America, sapagkat nabuhay ang mga magulang mo at naisilang ka at ngayon ay buhay ka. America will do everything for their national interest and this is true to all nations except the Philippines right now where everything is putting being politicized for their own interest at the expense of the Filipino people. Bakit hindi mo atakihin ang namumuno ngayon sa ginagawa sa inyo mga mamayan hindi tumatanggap ng biyaya ng trabajo, pakanin ang mga nagugutom at ikulong ang mga masasamang tao na pumapatay, nanghoholdap. Kaawaan ka ng diyos.

    • Do you mean Marcospolo that the Americans are supporting Marwan and in effect international terrorism as well?I’m not defending the US but does your head contain any logic.

  19. Trust only a dead MILF member…never negotiate through appeasement…trash that BBL before it’s too late.