October 23, 2017, 5:44 pm
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Invading Jolo

CLEARLY in a fit of exasperation, President Rodrigo Duterte said in Bohol last Wednesday that if there is a need to finish the Abu Sayyaf group, he will invade Jolo.

Being still a part of the Philippines, there couldn’t be an invasion of Jolo; but what the President meant is that he will order an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf, a military campaign the likes of which was never seen in the southern Philippines, one that would make President Erap’s full-scale war against the MILF that resulted in the fall of Camp Abubakar like child play.

We wonder why Duterte still had to qualify his statement with “if there is a need...”

Definitely, there is a compelling need, for the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF -- and who knows, perhaps rogue members of the MILF and MNLF -- have pursued their religious war called jihad to the detriment of the whole Philippine society in general, not to mention the ASEAN region.

From their lairs in Sulu and Basilan, their tentacles have reached Bohol and the Central Visayas, and soon they would reach Metro Manila where the real damage to the nation can be dealt.

However hard the Palace and Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto assure the public and the foreign tourists that Bohol is back in business and that they can enjoy Panglao island, the Chocolate Hills, and the tarsiers the way they used to, local tourism will find it hard to recover.

It’s because the ASG insurgents proved without doubt that they can operate in Bohol, and probably also in nearby Cebu, too. How can tourists flock there as if nothing happened when the President had just offered P1 million for every Abu Sayyaf head still on the loose?

Duterte recognized the role of Bohol residents in the initial success of military action against the Abu Sayyaf there. Because of this, he urged the arming of civilians, the announcement of the bounty, and assurances of full and unconditional presidential support if and when they kill the terrorists.

In his vintage Digong, the President said: “I encourage civilian(s) to kill. Dead or alive yan may reward mas gusto ko yung dead kasi yung alive magpakain pa ako.”

In this early stage, the skirmishes in Bohol have claimed the lives of four ASG members including their leader Abu Rami, two couples in their 60s, three soldiers, and one policeman.

With Duterte’s controversial statements, more killings are expected. For poor and easily swayed farmers, who would not want to receive P1 million, medals, and accolades for killing just one Muslim terrorist?

The problem here is that while there is a need to neutralize the radical Islamists, who would discern whether they are genuine ASG members or just ordinary Muslims?

Obviously, it is the same Oplan Tokhang all over again.
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