• When will it end, if ever?


    The Cagayan de Oro City blast is just the latest of the series of attacks committed against civilians over the years, and these civilians have nothing to do with ideology or cause of whatever terrorist group that carried it out.

    Newspaper reports tell us that six people were killed, with 48 suffering injuries, some life threatening, in the explosion that rocked Kyle Bistro in Rosario Arcade in that city. The victims were among the 100 physicians and medical representatives having their meal in the restaurant at the time. They had been attending a convention at a nearby hotel.

    Unfortunately, it will not be the last atrocity we will read about or hear of. Why should it be? There have been a lot of the kind in the past, and they were worse—much worse—in the number of people killed and injured.

    Most terrorist attacks occur in Mindanao, with Christians, soldiers and policemen, and foreigners as the usual targets.

    Vice-Chairman Ghazali Jaafar of the MILF branded the bombing “unislamic”. The message he was trying to convey was that his group had nothing to do with it. That may be so, but the fact is, the usual perpetrators—we’re sorry to say—are Muslim militants, with the MILF, as well as the MNLF, implicated in many atrocities.

    Indeed, as far as bombing, ambuscade, and kidnapping are concerned, there is not much difference between the two Muslim secessionist groups on one hand and, on the other, the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah. At least as far as their renegade members are concerned.

    As observed the majority of these incidents take place in the South, but by no means are they confined to that volatile region of the country. In fact, the worst took place in Manila Bay, when, in February 2004, a bomb exploded on a passenger ferry. A total of 116 people, including a number of children, died as a result.

    Ours is not the only country that must endure this problem. Indonesia has its own homegrown terrorists, and so do Turkey and Morocco, the United States and Great Britain, and the Russian Federation.

    However, the number of victims in the Philippines surpasses the total recorded in all these countries combined.

    For that dubious distinction, we only have the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces to blame. It is incompetence that explains why too few terrorists have been brought to justice. That emboldens the rest to commit the same crime again and again.

    Immediately after the blast, the restaurant owner had the premises cleaned up. The owner may not realize the need to preserve evidence, but the police have the responsibility to secure the area, and they should have done so, if they have a modicum of common sense in them.

    Unfortunately, the PNP and the AFP suffer from another defect. They are corrupt as well as incompetent, and these two traits, pervasive in the two organizations, make a potent and deadly brew.

    Following the incident, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas 2nd, placed the police “on heightened alert”, but it sounded too pro forma and, to many people, a meaningless gesture. They’ve heard it before, and it didn’t lead to the capture of criminals or to the prevention of another bombing.

    The oft-repeated excuse is that the police cannot predict where the terrorists will strike next.

    That’s the conventional wisdom, but it is not entirely true. A good provincial commander knows all the shady characters within his jurisdiction. If all commanders in adjacent provinces coordinate with one another they would be able curtail terrorist activities in the whole region.

    A good example is the precinct commander in the city. Every akyat-bahay gang, every pickpocket and snatcher, every robber and hold-upper, every scam artist are known to him. No crime committed within his jurisdiction can escape his notice, or should.

    Criminals are constantly at war with one another, and it is a simple matter for the precinct commander to exploit the division, the fight for turf, the enmity to keep himself on top of the situation.

    That is true in the city as well as in the hinterland, where the MILF and the MNLF regard each other with suspicion. .

    It is for that purpose that the intelligence fund has been instituted. Unfortunately, the top brass keep the money, completely ignoring what’s taking place on the ground, if they bother to find out at all.

    The CDO blast, as similar other incidents in the past, can be directly attributed to intelligence failure.

    In this very space a few weeks ago, we observed that there is no inducement more powerful than money. Not religion, not tribal identification, not ideology, not even blood relations. That enables spy organizations to buy information.

    The CIA traced Osama bin Laden, hiding in plain sight, to Abbottabad, Pakistan, by employing paid spies from that country—and had him killed by Navy Seals.

    Half of the battle is won if you know what the enemy is planning to do. And you can only find out if you pay snitches, and there are plenty of then on both sides.

    The CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, and all military and police organizations the world over pay a hefty sum to keep information flowing in.

    Not the PNP and the AFP. Their intelligence funds go to buy the generals’ condo units here and abroad, to finance their children’s studies in exclusive schools, and to support their wives’ shopping sprees.

    Meanwhile, bombing, ambuscade, and kidnapping occur with increasing regularity.

    Terrorists of whatever stripes indulge in an orgy of violence secure in the thought that they can get away with it, and they are right too, with the top brass pocketing the money intended to identify and neutralize them.


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