(Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco has had a long and varied career as a politician, government official, civic worker and scholar of Philippine history. She is known for her work among Muslim communities and was involved in the peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front. She contributed this piece on how Filipino jihadists became involved in the creation of a Islamic State in the Philippines, which will be serialized in succeeding issues of the Manila Times.)
MY visit to the Bureau of Corrections Maximum Security Compound on October 25, 2016, gave me the opportunity to interview three “violent extremist offenders” (VEOs), the politically correct and acceptable term for terrorists, under Philippine law. Pressured by the United States government, the Philippine government approved the Human Security Act, the country’s anti-terrorism law.
Terrorists are labeled VEOs in the Philippines because to be legally called terrorist, one must have: a) committed a violation of the Revised Penal Code; b) caused widespread panic or fear; and 3) asked for ransom or any demand from the government.
Otherwise, “if the accusation is not proven, the government must pay the acquitted person P500,000 a day from the day of detention until released,” which is unfair to the government, making me wonder why Congress approved that law.
There are 700 Muslims that have been detained at the Bilibid for nearly a decade. They were radicalized by Ahmad Faisal alias Zulkifli, alias Donny Ofracio, a Jemaah Islamiyah bomb instructor and cleric. Thus, it would seem that the Bilibid is the safest haven for these VEOs.
Zulkifli, an Indonesian, was a bomb instructor. A Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member, he enrolled at the famous Pondok Ngruki in Solo, Central Java, founded by Abu Sungkar and Ba’Ashir. In 1996, Zulkifli made bombs at Camp Hudaibiyah, the exclusive Indonesian camp within the territory of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), behind its Camp Abubakar headquarters. He revealed that the “JI presence in Mindanao was primarily an international jihad cooperation in mid-2000 between al-Qaida, the MILF and Jemaah Islamiyah”. When the government declared an all-out war against the MILF in 2000, these Indonesians fought for the MILF, their fellow Muslims.
On the same day of my Bureau of Corrections interview on October 25, 2016, I saw Hector Janjalani, the third brother of Abdurajak Janjalani, the founder of the Abu Sayyaf. I had firstmet Hector at the Basilan State College when he was in second year high school. He told me that Nur Misuari had visited their family in Tabuk, Isabela, Basilan, where they subsisted on the income derived from a small coconut farm. Abdurajak Janjalani, after participating in the Afghanistan war as a mujaheddin, became a preacher. He declined to join Nur Misuari.
Majority of the Philippine jihadists who became involved in the creation of an Islamic State and Caliphate in the Philippines were part of the Southeast Asian jihadists who had fought with their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion.
In 1980, the United States believed that an invasion in Afghanistan could drive out the Soviets from the eastern hemisphere and agreed to a four-way alliance: The United States and China would provide training and strategic intelligence. The Saudis would provide money and recruitment of mujaheddin. The Pakistanis would provide access to their territory and their intelligence service. The war lasted 10 years. Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida, brought to Afghanistan mujaheddin from the Middle East, to which he included Filipino Muslims. He financed, recruited, transported and trained Sunni Islamic extremists to establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate worldwide.
Until his death, Bin Laden maintained that jihadists should focus primarily on attacking what he termed the far enemies—the United States and its “European crusader allies.” This reminded me of the World War 2 attack on the Americans who made insulting references to the kamikaze pilots. Three hundred fifty kamikaze pilots constituted the first “intelligent” missiles used in warfare no different from the suicide bombers of 9/11 who attacked the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan!
The result of Islamic radical instructions for worldwide Afghan guerillas led to the founding of al-Qaida in 1988 by their mentor-financier, Bin Laden. An interview with Commander Rey Lopez (Philippine Military Academy, 1992) reveals that Bin Laden was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). When America no longer found Bin Laden useful, they dropped him. Bin Laden, feeling forsaken, organized his own militant movement in the US and allied Muslim states. Estimates show that as many as 2,500 fighters received combat training in the Afghan and Pakistani training camps of Bin Laden where radical Islamic, psychological and moral indoctrination, military training and guerilla tactics were taught.
Afghan resistance fighters
Rey Lopez and I discussed that the heroism of Afghan resistance fighters should never be underestimated. They were rock-hard and fanatical. The returning fighters drew these conclusions: Islamic countries were not by nature weak and could win wars, because they defended themselves and Muslim interests in Afghanistan. They could sacrifice fighting with their brother Muslims for an Islamic State against Marxism.
Within a few short, dramatic months Afghanistan was catapulted into the center of the intensified Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. The Afghan mujaheddin were to become the US-backed, anti-Soviet shock troops. But for the Afghans the Soviet attempt to subdue these Muslims and their time-honored religion and replace Islam with an alien ideology and social system was anathema. The Muslim jihad took on a new momentum as the US, China and Arab states poured in money and arms supplies to the Islamic mujaheddins. Out of this conflict 1.5 million Afghan lives were lost and only ended when Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. From it would emerge a second generation mujaheddin who called themselves Taliban (or for the students of Islam).
(To be continued)