A tale of two deceptions: SWS and Marawi

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RICARDO SALUDO

FIRST, let’s expose the latest Social Weather Stations survey canard, right after last Thursday’s article on SWS untruths in its poll on killings in the anti-drug war (see <http://www.manilatimes.net/net/extra-judicial-killings-surveys-lie/360155/>).

In its news release on the September 2017 survey on public expectations of President Rodrigo Duterte fulfilling his promises, SWS wrongly compared his scores after 14 months in office with those of Benigno Aquino 3rd after just two months.

Naturally, expectations after more than one year would lag behind those for two months into a leader’s honeymoon period.

Yet in its comparison, SWS cited Aquino’s two-month data after reporting President Duterte’s14-month scores.

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SWS should have cited Aquino’s 2011 ratings, if it did such a survey (probably not). Or the pollster should have explicitly cited Duterte’s rating in September last year. It outstripped Aquino’s mark: 63 percent for Duterte vs 44 percent for Aquino, both two months into their terms.

But SWS did not cite Aquino’s year-after mark; nor did it highlight Duterte’s 2016 ratings.

Even media were deceived by SWS’ faulty comparison. Some newspapers just ran its note on Aquino’s September 2010 data word for word.

The man behind this yellow propaganda should be fired for gross incompetence or, more likely, deliberate deception. But he won’t be if he’s the boss.

In Marawi, a dangerous lie
If one is bothered by SWS deception, one should be scared, if not terrified by the falsehood brewing in Marawi. It could feed not just disaffection toward the government and the military, but also terrorist recruitment, funding and attacks.

Here’s the lie: President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are to blame for Marawi’s destruction.

Huh? How can a five-month war ignited by extremists under Islamic State (IS) direction and funding, be the fault of the Commander in Chief and the AFP troops who waged a bitter, bloody campaign to liberate Mindanao’s premier Muslim city?

Here’s how, as rightly warned by knowledgeable figures from Marawi’s central Mindanao region, including a former university dean and peace advocate hailing from Cagayan de Oro, and a Kidapawan, North Cotabato-born poet and broadcaster.

The word on the ground is that Marawi leaders and evacuees believe the government could have negotiated for the terrorists to leave the city, but President Duterte wanted to fight instead. So, Marawi folk blame him and the AFP for its destruction.

This misguided belief is turning into rage as refugees return to their devastated, looted and burnt-out homes, and mourn lost or maimed loved ones. Victims tend to look for outsiders to blame, and local leaders may encourage that perspective if only to escape blame themselves.

President Duterte once castigated Marawi officials for failing to warn security forces about tunnels built by terrorists to escape bombing. Many also wonder how the Maute group could have brought in tons of arms and ammunition, plus material for more than 2,000 explosives without city authorities and police knowing about it and alerting the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

By turning public anger and angst toward the national government, local leaders can evade responsibility for the harrowing death and devastation.

The same blame game has happened in Iraqi cities retaken from Islamic State occupation. And in Mosul and Raqqa as well as in Marawi, the inevitable delays, anomalies and missteps in rebuilding and recovery efforts will further stoke public anger against the government.

Rebuilding homes and trust
That makes the post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation a struggle to restore not just houses and buildings, but also trust and support for the government and the security forces.

Given the scale of the reconstruction—surely the biggest post-war rebuilding in Mindanao’s history —there will be foul-ups in the unprecedented undertaking.

And each and every project mired in delays, defects and corruption will fuel the lie that all this mayhem and suffering are the fault of the government, the military, and the President.

IS-driven propagandists and recruiters will further stoke and exploit this animosity, adding fake news and wild rumors to the cauldron of untruths, which would be further spiced with claims of AFP atrocities, abuses, and torture.

Thus, the struggle to rebuild Marawi and the lives of its people, rising from the rubble and the carnage, is a battle for the hearts and minds of Muslim Filipinos being wooed by extremists and vested interests keen to cast blame on the authorities and the military.

Who will Muslims believe?
With reconstruction difficulties, delays and failings sure to get Marawi and other Muslim Mindanao communities angrier, it is imperative for national and local leaders, including Muslim figures, to join hands and speak as one in countering the blame game over the war. Otherwise, they all lose to Islamic State and its bloodthirsty Maute, Abu Sayyaf and BIFF bandits.

Rather than pointing fingers at one another, the national government and local officialdom should acknowledge that they both could have done more in stopping the terrorists and preventing the war. And they must now join hands in lifting Marawi and its people, while battling terrorist propaganda and recruitment.

The people too, especially family and community leaders, must resist terrorist and self-seeking blandishments and accusations, and just focus on rebuilding and recovery, while letting the authorities do proper inquiries to assess fault, mete out sanctions, and institute preventive measures.

National and local authorities must, in turn, launch serious investigations into the security, intelligence, and other mistakes and failures which allowed IS-driven groups to attack and hold swathes of the city. Those found culpable must be publicly sanctioned.

National and local ulama councils must support the recovery and security efforts by convening and declaring a fatwa against terrorism and its perpetrators. So should Muslim nations, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

In the end, the overarching and true message must ring out: Terrorists had to be stopped in Marawi, even at huge cost in lives and devastation, so they know that they will be destroyed everywhere they rear their heads. That is the only way to keep Filipinos, especially Muslims, safe.

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