How to uproot Abu Sayyaf
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon met the other day with local officials in Sulu province led by Gov. Sakur Tan II.
They should have warned the Sulu officials that continuing to support the Abu Sayyaf would no longer be in their best interests.
And the warning should have been relayed in no uncertain terms: If there are reports that they’re consorting with the bandits, they’re dead.
The bandit group cannot thrive without the support of those local officials, who may even have Abu Sayyaf members as bodyguards.
Security forces have been ordered to wipe out the bandit group responsible for kidnapping foreigners and locals and releasing them only after ransom was paid.
President Digong has ordered the Abu Sayyaf annihilated by June.
There is only one way to completely destroy the bandit group and that is to eliminate its roots.
The roots are the local officials—purok leaders, sitio leaders, town mayors and the governor.
Like weeds that keep growing back after they’re cut down, the Abu Sayyaf must be uprooted and its supporters “neutralized with extreme prejudice,” to use military jargon.
You know why the local populace coddle the bandits?
Because they are Robin Hoods to the local people.
Whenever they earn big money from ransom payments they share the loot among the people.
During the Sipadan hostage incident in the early 2000, the barrio folk in Sulu enjoyed the generosity of the Abu Sayyaf.
Some national and local officials who acted as go-between became instant dollar millionaires because they skimmed money from ransom payments.
Reports about Abu Sayyaf bandits killed in encounters with government troops should be backed up with evidence: the bodies of bandits.
I nearly fell off my chair at a report by the Armed Forces that the number of Abu Sayyaf KIAs (killed in action) totaled 18 in Sulu, but near the end of the report the military said there were no bodies recovered.
I’m reminded of the late Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Canieso who was a nemesis of the Moros in Sulu in the 1970s.
Canieso, then a battalion commander, would not believe that the rifles and ammunition pouches his men brought back to camp belonged to dead rebels.
“That’s bullsh*t! Where is the evidence those rifles belonged to the rebels? For all I know they were left behind by rebels who retreated in haste,” he once told his men.
So, Canieso told his soldiers who killed rebels in an encounter not to bring the bodies back to camp as these were too cumbersome—but only their left and right ears.
The more pairs of ears his troops could bring back (along with the confiscated rifles), the more believable their story, said Canieso.
If Canieso were alive today he, too, would be laughing at reports of rebels killed without bodies being recovered from the site of the battle.
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