Defend the land! PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 July 2017 11:27

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — You were created to endure the anguish of terror, survive a depression and witness the reconciliation of political and religious differences. ZAMBOANGA! You are warmhearted, devoted to the Nuestra Senora la Virgen del Pilar, and gracious to visitors.

You have a dialect unspoken by other people, thus the label as “Asia’s Latin city” , though the people don’t speak Latin — except probably by the Jesuits — but a tinge of Spanish  and Mexican.

Along Mayor Climaco Ave. (Guardian Nacional), the middle-class folks still shop at decades-old bazaars, partake of donuts and sip instant or brewed coffee between breaks and glance at their cell phones for updates — which they did a minute ago.

At Plaza Pershing, the poorman’s town plaza, students of the “Best school in town” chat on concrete benches during recess. At night, the  park becomes the “standbayan” of people looking for “suerte”.

Zamboanga. Your museum with excellent artistic standards lures visitors to the Fort, one of the city’s preserved jewels that was venue, at one point, of college stage plays and oratorical contests.

Zamboanga prays that a September 9, 2013 harrowing incident would not be repeated. We fear that as ISIS begins to lose territory in Iraq and Syria, it might gain a strong foothold in Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and specifically Mindanao.

According to a Singapore-based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, more than 60 groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS in the Asian region. ISIS has been specific in making Southeast Asia as one of its major sites for operations, recruiting members from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

A USA Today report said that ISIS has been linked to several deadly attacks in the Philippines that include the Davao night market bombing that killed more than a dozen civilians. The report also credited to ISIS a bus station bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia last May that killed three policemen.

The over-extended “war of Marawi” is exposing some weaknesses of the military and police in urban warfare which could have some dire effects on Mindanao’s security. Zachary Abuja, professor of national security strategy and a Southeast Asia expert at the National War College in Washington, D.C. said: “I think Marawi is showing the absolute limits of what the armed forces of the Philippines is capable of. After years and years of U.S. counterterrorism assistance, I think we (U.S.) should be very concerned.”

During a security forum in Singapore known as the “Shangri-La Dialogue”, defense ministers in Southeast Asia expressed concern about the rise of terrorism in the region and pledged closer cooperation in patrolling the sea lanes around the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Singapore’s defense minister Ng Eng Hen was quoted by USA Today as saying that the Philippines is becoming a magnet for extremists. “All of us recognize that if not addressed adequately, it can prove (to be) a pulling ground for would-be (extremists) who can launch attacks from there.”

There is no confirmation by the AFP about the number of Islamic terrorists in the Philippines that are linked to the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, but Indonesia’s defense minister Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu was said to have estimated that there are about 1,200 ISIS operatives in the Philippines and about 40 from Indonesia.

In 2016, ISIS recognized Isnilon Hapilon, head of the Abu Sayyaf terror group, as leader of the Southeast Asia regional operations and vowed to create a “wilayat”, or an Islamic province, in Mindanao. This was confirmed by the AFP high command. Hapilon is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI)  Most Wanted Terrorists list, with a $5 million reward for his capture.

For the moment, the grand plan of ISIS to create an Islamic province in Mindanao has failed, as the AFP is about to retake the whole of Marawi from the grip of the Maute Group. Therefore, our American-trained soldiers, with a mix of American and Chinese weapons and war materiel, plus good intelligence, should strengthen our defenses to make sure that another Marawi incident is prevented.

For our sake, Zamboanga, though City Hall and the Internal Defense Command, to include our tanods and militia, should take our own side of the fight — not as Liberals or PDP-Laban or Independents — but as Zamboanguenos. We must stand firm about defending our God-given land, our liberties and democracy.