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Taking sides in Sulu and Basilan


Peace and development are not the sole responsibility of the government. Government alone cannot achieve these without the peoples’ active participation. This is an unarguable fact and many a community realized this early while others too late. The island provinces of Sulu and Basilan including the conflict areas of Central Mindanao have not realized this yet as such suffer the consequence of the indifference of some of quarters who refuse to cooperate with the government or just suffer in silence. Sulu and Basilan were once islands of peace and stability. Many traders and visitors ventured there. Inter-island vessels docked in their ports bringing goods to and from Manila and elsewhere. Now and then cruise ships dropped anchor in their shores for nowhere else in the world can you find the wealth of the ocean floors, crystal clean waters and richness of culture than in Sulu and Basilan and of course Zamboanga City.

Secessionist adventurers who peddle lofty and utopian dreams damaged the serenity of these islands paradise. Many left the area and settled elsewhere. Others opted to stay for they have so much at stake and cannot leave. But most were silenced by fear and threats, intimidations which until today grip people to the point of paralysis and nonchalance.

Sulu, Basilan and Central Mindanao have become a haven of terrorist and criminals of various breeds because people refuse to be involved in the government’s campaign to weed out these bands who hide in the pretext of extremist Islam. But there is actually nothing Islamic in their barbarism for in the end, as they sow terror and behead kidnap-for-ransom victims not a thing in their hideous deeds are of Islam.

Ironically the terrorists and the dreadful criminals among them are so few compared to the overwhelming majority who had been yearning for peace in silence. In their discontent moreover grows a flicker of hope as some of the people realized the futility of their acquiescence. 

The successful operations against terrorists are attributed to the cooperation of the civilian community. This success is a demonstration of how the people cooperating with the government peace keeping force can promptly eliminate the unwanted elements in the community. If this bravery and cooperation are duplicated in other places in Sulu, Basilan and Central Mindanao, we are certain that the misery of our brother Muslims in these areas will finally come to an end. After all, for now, they must have known which side is truly out to protect them.

by Menardo Wenceslao

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