EDITORIAL

ISIS not a figment of the President’s imagination

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IT is easy to misread, misinterpret and misunderstand a leader like President Rodrigo Duterte whose public pronouncements are a mix of jokes and serious allegations regarding the extent of corruption in government, the illegal drugs scourge and the spread of terrorist organizations in the country, especially when his speeches are punctuated by a barrage of crisp profanities.

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One thing’s for sure, he is not joking about the deepening infiltration of the southern Philippines by Islamist militants, particularly by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the global terrorist network that goes by the acronym ISIS or IS.

ISIS has big plans for Mindanao, foremost of which is to turn the porous island into an IS nucleus. But more than that, Mindanao will serve as base of operations for an IS East Asia Division.

It is no fantasy, and definitely not a figment of President Duterte’s imagination, when juxtaposed with images and footages of the raging battle between government troops and Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur.

The militants have taken over government buildings, took civilian hostages and probably killed scores of innocent civilians. They are carrying and raising the monochromatic flag of ISIS that has come to symbolize the brutality of jihad in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and southern Philippines.

The situation now in Marawi City was the very topic of a gathering of security experts last month in Singapore, the Milipol conference on homeland security.

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, a security expert discussed extensively the creation of a militant base in Mindanao. “Currently, IS is moving towards creating a territory in southern Philippines. The most recent communication issued by IS has announced that they have formally declared an East Asia division of IS in the southern Philippines,” counter-terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said.

“The instability in the southern Philippines and the availability of weapons, internal displacement, refugee flows … create the ripe conditions for foreign terrorists to come,” he told AFP after his speech.

The siege in Marawi prompted Duterte—on May 23—to issue Proclamation No. 216, Declaring a State of Martial Law and Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Whole of Mindanao.

His critiques were quick to point out the folly of what the President has done. Human Rights Watch has raised the prospect of abuse of authority by the implementors on the ground. Martial law is not a free pass for abuse, according to HRW.

Former President Fidel Ramos, a veteran of the Marcos regime martial law, noted that Proclamation 216 was ill-timed and “unbecoming” of the Duterte administration. “Those in the Cabinet, in Congress, who are very vocal about martial law being good for Mindanao, may not have experienced being shot by someone. Or being forced to evacuate in a safe place, or to lose a job, livelihood, or a loved member of a family,” Ramos said on Friday. He urged Duterte not to expand the coverage of martial law beyond Mindanao.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the president of the opposition Liberal Party, made it clear he would block any move by Duterte to place Visayas and Luzon under military rule, especially in the absence of circumstances similar to Mindanao.

The criticisms are a healthy expression of the people’s constitutional rights and must not be suppressed even if the ISIS threat is as real as the cracks of gunfire ringing out of Marawi City. The body count tallied so far is 11 government soldiers, 31 militants. The response must not only be real, but focused and equal to the exigencies of the situation without harming the innocent and truth.

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7 Comments

  1. Unlike the Arabs , Asians specially Filipinos have balls. It is much bigger than their head. Plus we are an Archipelago. Creating a province of a terrorist in the Philippines is a big mistake..oh no It will be catastrophic for them. Please be reminded that we have more than 200K soldiers, added to that Reservist numbers are far more than that. All of Collage graduate/undergraduate undergoes to 2 years military Science Course.. We will never run out of soldiers. I myself is willing to bear arms to defend my country from those rats..

  2. Ramos, you are not the president anymore and you never had a problem big as this. Get out of sight and zip your mouth. In fact, you were the rebel that caused the headache and a new turn in our history. S. Pangilinan, you are not the appointed president who would handle this headache because your coconut is numb and can’t feel the pain of the people. You are short sighted. You can’t interpret the crystal ball of the past, the present, and the future.

    This is what I see if you 2 clowns are at the helm. The next generation will be wearing turbans, holding Kalashnikov rifles, and big countries like China, Russia, and America will be patrolling our waters because our children turn out to become pirates; just like the waters off of Somalia. Our next generation of children will be holding ISIS flags.

  3. And let us not be so narrow in our thinking that we see this as a problem limited to Mindanao. An examination of the news in Southeast Asia shows a significant growth in ISIS activity in the region. As ISIS continues to lose ground in the Middle East, SE Asia may become a more viable front for them.

    It may be wise now to take a strong and coordinated stance against the growth of ISIS in the region. The problem may not be just Marawi City alone. Recent bombings in Indonesia and arrests in Malaysia show that ISIS is on the move. It may be high time for the ASEAN countries to organize and coordinate efforts against international terrorism. It may be high time to coordinate efforts with the stronger countries in the region (Russia, China, Japan) to prevent the destabilization of SE Asia.

    It would probably be a very big mistake to see this as a problem limited to Marawi City or Mindanao alone.

  4. The Philippines is an island. There is no border to share. No place to run. In the hands of a capable military and brilliant tactician, for an ISIS to build a base here will be a suicide. Of course, they can take refuge and take advantage of a bungling Philippine military for a short period of time, but when world alliance will come they will all be massacred in a week.

    In order not to give ISIS the comfort of that short period of time, compliments by the bungling Philippine military, the government should build a military based on quality not quantity. Try to look at those who have potentials not only to military academy graduates. If there is an excess in the military now, send them to nation building not in combat.

  5. I’d rather have ML all over the country rather than be like Syria and Iraq.