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A Mockery of Philippine Sovereignty in MILF-held Areas

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The escalation of kidnap-for-ransom cases in many parts of what is traditionally known as conflict areas in Mindanao do not augur well for the development of the region. In times when the peacenegotiation between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government is setfor yet another round of talks, these incidents do not speak well of thecapability of the MILF capacity to deal with these criminal elements which areoperating with impunity in their territories. Kidnap-for-ransom (KFR)syndicates find veritable havens in secessionist camps. It is also a verifiedfact that terrorist elements associated with Al Qaeda consider theseterritories a veritable recruiting and training grounds.

For as long as the peace negotiations remain inlimbo, government peace keeping forces are at a disadvantage in their pursuitof criminal elements that find protection in the secessionist camps. While manyof the operatives of KFR and terrorists gangs had been neutralized inencounters outside the MILF territories, a lot of them are still lurking inthese territories waiting for the next opportunity to snatch their next victimor plant a bomb where they can create heavy casualties on innocent civilians.Such is the irony because government forces cannot conduct pursuit operationsinto MILF territories without asking permission from them.

This mockery of Philippine sovereignty shouldnot be perpetuated forever. There is reason and lesson to be absorbed from VicePresident Jejomar Binay when he was asked how he would deal with the seeminglyconflict in Mindanao. He said that billions of pesos are being poured into theautonomous region of Muslim Mindanao. Still a lot of things have still to beattended to. The government should come in with more development projects,improve on the ARMM governance, discipline and if these will not work thenimpose an iron hand policy.

Binay is correct in many aspects. Because peacenegotiations do not seem to work, there seems to be logic in dealing with theproblem to once and for all end the poverty and isolationism of Mindanao,specifically the conflict areas, by giving it the maximum delivery ofgovernment services, infrastructure development and educational program. Ifnone of these works then the time has come to deal with the separatists, KFRand terrorist bands with other solutions.

We go with the strategy of Binay because thevast majority of those who wants to live in peace and live normal lives hasgotten tired and weary over the endless talks which seemed to last foreternity. The young generation saw their parents gone waiting for peace to comeand carried that yearning to their grave. These days, the youths are seeing thesame conditions, hearing the same tune of atrocious demands that find nosatiety. Someday soon the Binay solution may be given a try.

by Menardo Wenceslao




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