Philippines: Basilan Bishop request for Martial Law declined - Arroyo sends troops
Isabela,Basilan - In this remote province where over a decade of
scores of kidnappings, be-headings, and, violence - most by extremist
rebels as well as criminal gangs who hide under the cloak of a Islamic
insurgency. Bishop Martin Jumoad, the Catholic prelete of Basilan is
worried as he says guns and violence have grown more rampant since he was first assigned in the province in 1983, speaking to a catholic news agency- Catholic Union of Asian News in Manila Bishop Jumoad says, "I'm asking for protection for everybody, not only Catholics,
because I know Muslims who are also clamoring for gun control in our communities."
President Arroyo's Press Secretary Cerge Remonde allayed fears that Martial Law would be declared in Basilan but said government following request of Bishop Martin Jumoad would send additional troops.
Remonde, "Government will send additional troops to Basilan following the abduction of a school administrator on Thursday night in Isabela City." but stressed there are no plans for either a state of emergency or localized martial law proclamation. “We decided that the imposition of a state of emergency and martial law was not necessary."
Reymonde said that the President spoke with "The military commander on the ground. All he needs is an additional battalion, therefore we are sending additional battalion troops in Basilan," Remonde speaking government-run dzRB radio Radyo ng Bayan said.
The Local Catholic Bishop is speaking out, he says wants Martial rule
in his area - even as the Philippine Military has had a near de-facto
martial rule on the island at times versus the Al Qaeda backed Abu
Sayaf Group. But, this has only been partial at best - guns and
bodyguards are common in the area. Most homes have a weapon or two ranging from old WW2 Carbines to shotguns or in many cases Assault rifles and pistols. Boy's and Girls often have locally made 'paltiks or carry bladed weapons - even the religious carry .45 cal colt automatics for self defense.
It is the wild west - on full auto - and a gun culture that is common across
most of the Southern Philippines.
Basilan is a Island province where by some estimates there are two
guns for every man, woman, and, child. Most are 'loose and unlicensed'
floating around the area where just two days ago a head of kidnapped
factory worker was found inside a backpack in the public plaza. The
Bishops statement is seen by some groups as plea for help in a
province where more than 70 people have been kidnapped in recent
months from all faiths. Christian and Muslim alike have been equally
victimized - mostly children, school teachers and local business
people. Ransoms start at hundreds of dollars - to millions of pesos.
(47.50 pesos = $1 roughly)
The majority of the cases have been blamed on Abu Sayaf extremists.
But, rogue rebels and armed criminal gangs also present an equally
problematic situation on a island that has for decades been a hotbed
of separatist insurgency both moderate factions of rebels and
extremists from Al Qaeda's locally backed factions of Jemaah Islamiah
and the Abu Sayyaf group and the smaller Rajah Soliman movement also operate in the province.
Kidanpping is major source of revenue for rebel groups as is drug
money and narcotics trafficing as well as smuggling. Overall the
situation in the area is one of security nightmare. "Kidnapping is
business that has spawned various smaller businesses." A local
Military official told this writer on condition of anonymity, "You
have grabbers, mostly out of work but armed men who take hostages,
brokers who sell the hostages to other groups, minders who watch over
them and then negotiators who may or may not directly involved in the
trade but take a cut whenever someone is released." grimly adding
that, "If it looks like no one is going to pay they give or sell the
victims to extremists to be used as political hostages." The ranking
officer says the industry is in his description is a 'nightmare' for
police and security forces.
"A nightmare because there have been times when some in local
government are involved even local police or village armed CVO's a few times even rogue troops or people from the so-called legitimate rebel groups who see the kidnapper bandit groups making money so they too try their hands in the crime wave." the officer says so far more than three million dollars, some 130 million pesos has been made in the area per estimates by the KFR or kidnap for ransom groups in the region. "In a place where there are few income or job options - people who have guns use them to make money."
"There have even been cases where a kidnapping is used to fight
kidnapping - one group grabs someones relative so the other group
grabs a child of the kidnappers family." Most of these incidents end
either tragically or in vendetta's that can last for generations. As
Manila's political leaders debate martial law and the national
election season heats up. Basilan may see more violence which has
spilled over beyond the islands deep forests and coastline. Two Years
ago a rogue terrorist bomber attacked the congress building in the
capitol killing the islands congressman and former governor. The
bombing was traced to the slain officials political rivals.
"Basilan's violence goes nationwide - it's kidnappers have spread to
mainland Mindanao." the officer speaking on condition of anonymity
warns that the groups engaged in violence may not take kindly to
efforts to disarm the island. "We've already taken steps towards that
but - whenever we sweep away some lose guns. More flow in from other places.
"We need to stop the criminals, then people won't feel the need
to carry weapons." - But - he stresses martial law is not the answer
alone. "We need to change the culture of the gun, and need for it.
otherwise... the problem will come back anew."
source of quote of bishop...
Tags: Philippines Martial Law
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