Asean terrorism: Expect the worst before it’s solved

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GIL H. A. SANTOS

FROM the obvious and undeniable fact that our Asean allies, primarily Indonesia and Malaysia, plus Australia, the US, Japan, South Korea, India, Russia and China have cooperated with the Philippines in different ways—from sending spy planes to sharing military intelligence information, actual maritime security operations and exercises and “commitments to cooperate” a number of horrible realities emerged:

This Maute attack and killing rampage and destruction of peaceful Marawi City—international terrorism of extremist Muslims or the Islamic State of Syria and Iran (ISIS or IS for short)—is actually a regional and international problem that will be worse before it gets fixed or solved. It all started from the war in Afghanistan in 1988-991.

The current IS losses in the Middle East, Europe and other Western countries—despite the increased violence in the United Kingdom and other European nations—have forced these murderous Muslim extremists to relocate their center of recruitment, training and violent attacks to Southeast and South Asia. We should not discount Africa and wherever there are poverty and weak governments.

Our so-called human rights advocates, whom we must presume to have “good intentions” (but I cannot ignore the fact that they are more concerned about the “rights” of the offenders and almost dismissive of the rights and grief of the victims’ families because they hastily presume governments “abuse State powers”) are grossly mistaken in their condemnation of martial law in Mindanao.

It was—and still is—clearly necessary to ensure economic activities, peace, political stability and national security.

The information and communication technologies or the Internet and modern miniaturized mobile devices such as cell phones, laptops, robots or air or water drones are secretly and extensively used by the international terrorists in addition to their international banking network facilities to carry out their global rampage—and particularly fake information on social media to sow disinformation, propaganda and confusion.

These terrorists prey on the poverty-stricken populations of Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike to recruit young people into their ranks.

When faced with defeat, these terrorists join the families (whose innocent members they have killed and homes they have destroyed) as “refugees” to escape capture. And they deliberately use innocent children and women as human shields to kill the defenders of our peace, security and economic progress.

The fact that the Maute group took years to build their store of arms and ammunition in Marawi way before they launched their May 23 killing and annihilation spree proves they manipulate Muslim culture and family values for their evil deeds. They bank on the filial love of parents for family members that the terrorists have recruited, so the foreign members of IS or Mautes are allowed to operate within the community, safe from, and undetected, by the military and the civilian police forces.

I could go on enumerating several reasons—based on Muslim culture and the historical past of the Muslims in Mindanao—why rebellions like the Maute movement go on and be protracted affairs. These issues have been addressed since the Commonwealth era when President Manuel L. Quezon commissioned Brig. Gen. Paulino Santos of the old Philippine Constabulary to plan the development of our “land of promise”—Mindanao.

But our political practices have always been personal and transactional by nature, which guarantees, and ensures, the discontinuance of any development plan lest the predecessor and not the new elected President gets the credit. We Filipinos incorrectly have this abhorrent mindset of the “compadre system or extended family mentality.”

Thus we abuse our freedoms under our democratic socio-political system that we inherited or accepted from American colonial governance without completely understanding that while the duly elected government leadership has the duty to serve the people, the citizens themselves have obligations to the government in exchange for the services they get.

We have been brainwashed that government “must serve the people” but the duties of the citizens to their government and country have never been emphasized lest the political leadership is branded a dictatorship. Majority of our people therefore have not understood the true meaning of a democratic and popularly and duly elected government and elective officials.

Admit it, democracy has been abused by the majority of our people either by their ignorance or lack of formal education and poverty, and by the smaller number of elite and feudalistic families that have controlled our national economy and politics since 1898.

This is one reason our poor rural workers feel inferior. We must change mentally if we want to be in step with the global economic race and prosper with our Asean neighbors who were at least 10 years behind us in the late 1950s and 1960s.

There is a need to support proposed legislation to criminalize disinformation or intentional distribution of false/fake information as news because the current international campaign of the IS has proved that fake news cause confusion, destabilization and even help the violent cause of international terrorism.

Unless we start these cultural changes now—and such revisions are generational in time frames—the prediction that the Philippines will lead the Asean as the fastest growing global region in the next decade will be a very tough struggle.

This anti-terrorism fight will get worse before it is solved unless economic progress is attained in parallel with it. Let us not deny that politics, economics and education are inseparable triple factors in human progress.

and reactions to gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com



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