The wave of terrorism that killed 95 persons and wounded 250 others in Ankara on Oct. 11, killed all 224 passengers of a Russian jetliner that was knocked off the air over the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, and killed 128 and wounded 300 in Paris and St. Denis on Nov. 13, has prompted the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, the APEC summit in Manila, the Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur and the UN Security Council to condemn in the strongest possible terms the menace posed by the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant.
In Antalya, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his G20 colleagues that powerful businessmen from 40 countries, including some G20 countries, were helping finance the ISIL or ISIS, but that not a single major outlet in the Western media had reported or seemed inclined to report his revelation. This has strengthened Putin’s resolve to push his proposed international coalition against the ISIL or ISIS, which he first unveiled in his speech before the 70th UN General Assembly on September 28. He and French President Francois Hollande will be talking about it when they meet at the Elysee Palace tomorrow.
Unbeknownst to the outside world, the ISIS-influenced Abu Sayaff Group struck in Jolo during the APEC summit without much publicity or credible response from the Aquino government. The group, which is responsible for many kidnappings for ransom in the past, beheaded one Malaysian kidnap victim in Jolo after he allegedly failed to pay the demanded ransom of P40 million. Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalalludin Abdul Rahman has identified the victim as Bernard Then Ted Fen, a 39-year-old Malaysian engineer.
According to the commissioner, Ted Fen was abducted at the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah last May 15, together with the 50-year-old restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun. Fun was released under unreported circumstances last Nov. 8 and is now back in Sandakan, the commissioner said.
Unconfirmed reports claimed that Ted Fen had already paid the initially demanded ransom, but that the kidnappers were asking for more. Some analysts suspect the alleged failure to pay ransom was not the real reason for the beheading, but that it could have been inspired by the kidnappers’ desire to echo the cry of “Allahu Akbar” from the jihadists who spread death and destruction at the Bataclan concert hall, Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, and the Stade de France.
All this happened on Nov. 17, while Aquino was trying to bambozzle his APEC ministerial audience with his fat lies and “hambog” (this Filipino word is more descriptive than the English ‘humbug’) about himself, about what he has supposedly accomplished after the allegedly “lost decade” under his predecessor’s watch–an unnecessary attack on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is now detained on politically orchestrated charges, without conviction or trial, at the Veterans Medical Center.
Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed the beheading, and a “shocked and sickened” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded prompt action from the Aquino government. But Aquino tried to shove the incident under the rug, first by ordering a “news blackout” on Nov. 18, and then by ordering the military the next day to retract its earlier statement.
The terrorists obviously sought to disrupt the summit by dumping a headless corpse before the eyes of the summiteers, and Aquino did right to deny them the publicity they wanted to achieve with their brutality. But he failed to do what was necessary to make the ASG pay for their deed.
In the case of France, President Hollande, after declaring a state of emergency at the French capital, ordered a retaliatory air strike against the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, the presumed capital of the Islamic caliphate, had a strongly worded resolution approved by the UN Security Council and initiated a series of top-level consultations with other world leaders on how to contain ISIS extremism.
In terms of numbers, the Jolo beheading was nothing at all compared to those killed in Ankara, Paris or the plane crash at the Sinai. But in terms of sheer brutality and barbarism, it was more than enough to make anyone throw up. The victim was reportedly beheaded by a group led by ASG sub-leaders Alden Bagade and Indang Susukan, his head wrapped in a plastic bag, and his body buried in an unmarked grave, from where it was excavated by the military later.
At the instance of the President and Commander-in-Chief, the AFP General Headquarters prohibited anyone from issuing any further statement on the beheading. The next day Navy Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad, chief of staff of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta, was quoted as saying no headless body was ever recovered by the military anywhere. The gag order may have been justified by reasons of state, but the order to retract the previous statement is not easy to justify. The first conclusion that strikes the observer is that the military officers were asked to violate their honor code and lie.
This must have been a bitter pill–no less repugnant than the military and the police having to suppress the truth about Aquino’s actual accountability in the massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 this year. Apparently Malaysia, with its extensive intelligence operation in Mindanao, was quick to confirm the beheading and was sorely disappointed that it was not informed immediately about the incident.
This threatened to create a rift between Aquino and Razak, who had been working together as partners until then in trying to quiet down the Philippine claim to Sabah and create an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity for the Malaysia-supported Moro Islamic Liberation Front. This finally compelled Malacañang to speak from the other side of its mouth.
Amid the contradictory statements from the military, presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma had to issue a statement saying, “the Philippines extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to the bereaved family (of the victim) and stands in solidarity with Malaysia and the ASEAN in resolutely fighting terrorism.”
Still, Aquino never expressed any regret or apology for the incident. His 44-year-old sister, the polyamorous Kris Aquino, was quicker to apologize to her social media critics for a tasteless Facebook post about the “sunburn” she had allegedly sustained on her bare shoulders from welcoming the Mexican president and accompanying the APEC ladies outdoors, as though this were an injury received in war or in defense of the highest national interest.
But certainly not PNoy.
His statement in Kuala Lumpur about “being there” in the global fight against ISIS terrorism has been hyped by his mealy-mouthed spokesmen, but his questionable conduct on the Malaysian’s beheading may have exposed this beforehand as nothing but “hot air.” The windbag will be out of office in seven months, and it will be the task of the next president (hopefully the country will get one) to prosecute a serious anti-terrorism program.
A number of things need to be done. But a few basic things seem indispensable. There should be an ironclad policy against the giving of ransom; no quarters should be given to terrorists and kidnappers. At the same time there should be a special court, and special prosecution teams for terrorists and kidnappers so that all cases are speedily disposed of, instead of being allowed to lapse into old age like the cases arising from the 2009 Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre.
Mindanao used to be a laboratory for the development of anti-insurgency skills. It has since become the training ground for al Qaeda and other related (ISIS?) cells. The government should now work to reverse the order of things. The military should reclaim the jungles of Mindanao as a laboratory for the development of anti-terrorism skills, not for the export and import of terrorism.