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Twisting in the wind again

/ 08:36 AM October 04, 2011

A Wilderness of  Mirrors” is a study that may add insights into the policy confusion over Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) rampages, e-mails Eduardo Ugarte from Monash University, Australia.

A Global Terrorism Research Centre staff member, Ugarte commented on the column  “Looking  Beyond Labels” (CDN, /Oct. 1).  ASG is “part of shifting dark networks” of kinship, culture and politics that enmesh many and alter policy responses. The commentary is based on a Pacific Review analysis written by Ugarte and Mark Macdonald Turner of the University of Canberra.

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Security agencies depict the ASG as a distinct, cohesive jihadist group. Ugarte and Turner disagree. “We believe that   al-Harakatul al-Islammiyah was a loose movement.” (It was) incapable of perpetrating all crimes that “have been  and continue to be” ascribed to the ASG.

“Most of the political violence and criminality in the southern Philippines is sponsored and carried out by an array of shifting, dark networks.”

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Gunmen involved in the Tumahubong, Sipadan and Palawan kidnapping crises of 2000 to 2002 “talked the Islamist talk.” The  evidence shows they had a Moro National Liberation Front background. They  were armed, then protected by senior police and military officials, plus local and regional politicians.

Military spokesmen blamed the ASG for the abduction of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions in Payao, Zamboanga. Pope Benedict XVI  welcomed his release in mid-July 2007.

Hajarun Jamiri, an ex-MNLF member and former mayor of Tuburan municipality in Basilan, masterminded his abduction, Father Bossi said. (This reflected earlier  assessments of Italy’s special envoy Margherita Boniver and Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions regional superior Luciano Benedetti: “Father Bossi is held hostage by a gang of criminals.”)

Jamiri was charged with involvement in the assassination of local official Wahab Akbar, amongst other crimes. Curiously, police or military never followed up Father Bossi’s accusation.

Gunmen are only the small fry. “To eliminate dark networks, arrest and incarcerate their most powerful nodes: rebel commanders, police, military officials and politicians who stand behind the gunmen.”

In the “A  Wilderness of Mirrors” study, Ugarte found that the ASG gangs “had intensive interlocking relationships with politicians, military officers and their men in Basilan and Sulu. (They) operated as patrons.” One of Gracia and Martin Bunrham’s captors nonchalantly placed orders for arms and ammunition with an Armed Forces of the Philippines employee—”Ma’am Blanco”—in Zamboanga.”

“To focus exclusively on some militants… and their alleged links to international terrorists, while ignoring their local patrons, is perverse. It  mystifies political violence and criminality. The credilibity of official accounts of the ASG has been sapped by patent contradictions and hidden premises….”

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Peasant leader Charlie Avila offers a different perspective to Viewpoint column  “Age crimp” (CDN, Sept. 27 ). Theft of coco levies crippled vital replanting  programs and reduced coconuts into a  “sunset industry,” it noted. Over 44 million trees are now over 60 years old. Senile trees yield 10 nuts at most, before conking out for good. So where  will President Benigno Aquino III get the nuts to cash in on a growing United States demand for buko juice?

P-Noy does not have to wait for foreign investors. Coconut farmers here have the capital. They do? Where? In locked-up dividends from the coconut industry investment fund (San Miguel shares), Avila claims.

Today, this fund amounts to P9.046 billion —“a figure poetically almost equal” to that extorted from small farmers by martial law bayonets. This was supposed to underwrite the Coconut Farmers and Workers Foundation, upon the suggestion of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

But since September 2009, the Supreme Court tied up this fund into an escrow account upon request of government. Once again, the small coconut farmer is twisting in the wind. But now, there is a new dispensation in the PCGG, Office of the Solicitor General and Malacañang itself. A new day will break?

“Coconut palms planted using seed nuts from selected mother trees can produce 80 to 100 nuts per tree per year,” forester Pat Charles Dugan e-mailed. “Superior seed nuts are available in several places including the Philippine Coconut Authority seedling nursery at barangay San Ramon, Zamboanga City.

“Has anyone analyzed the impact of land reform on the coconut industry? The results have probably been negative. It’s likely that many (perhaps most) small-scale farmer beneficiaries of land reform lack the capital to plant coconuts, then wait five to seven years before they can harvest the fruits. If this issue hasn’t been studied, it should be.”

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“Viewpoint” noted that Filipino homes wired through personal computers to the Internet rose to 35 percent in 2009—up from 27 percent two years before,” Angioline Loredo e-mailed from New York.  “Great statistic. But has it improved our lot?”

Yes, these tools helped topple authoritarian regimes. But we do not have People Power revolutions every day. And the harder part comes after the revolution: How do you create a just society?

“Computer literacy” should be made a qualification for anyone running for public office—from the top down to local government units. Somewhere out there are people and institutions doing something that one can copy or tap. The problem is simple katamaran.

In the small town where I was born, LGU members are paid P38,000 (or probably more) a month (whoa!). The least they can do is find out how counterparts deal with  problems.

Instead, nagapaugat sa madyongan all day (since may capital).  Ayayay.  No wonder nagpapatayan come election time. “A public office equals a good life.”

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TAGS: Abu Sayyaf Group, Security, Terrorism
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