Oh Please, Not the Moro People Again

Jan. 23, 2007

If the accusation that the Arroyo administration was behind the bombings in Mindanao earlier this month turns out to be true, then this has got to be the worst scenario ever cooked up by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos military intelligence experts to justify their agenda of convincing the public of a need to pass an anti-terror measure.

The bombing incidents in the cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato a day before the start of the Asean Summit two weeks ago left seven dead and 32 wounded. And all that AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon could say was that he was embarrassed by the bombing incidents.

To make up for this “embarrassment,” Esperon and Arroyo then gave out an order to “go after the Abu Sayyaf without sleep and without any break.” Days after the incident, they produced names of the suspect, unfortunately to the consternation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro people. The bombings were attributed to 11 of the MILF’s 105th Base Command based in the Maguindanao province that has long been in conflict with the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Maguindanao, the Ampatuan clan.

According to news reports, the 11 are Ustadz Amiril Kato Ombra, Ustadz Wahid Tundok, Sajid Pakiladatu, Sedik Otto, Ustadz Hawon, Peta Otto, Abdul Haq, Ahmad Akmad, Batabol Usman, Basit Usman, Kule Mamagong.

What confuses the public is that the mastermind of the bombing identified by the police is Usman Basit, who was being linked to the MILF either as a former operations chief and as a visitor constantly seen hiding in Liguasan Marsh, a known MILF area. According to news reports, Usman Basit has been arrested and detained before for the April 2002 bombing in General Santos. Unfortunately he escaped. (Or was his escape again a convenient excuse for a manhunt and militarize Moro areas?)

I remember that that same year, three Moro civilians were arrested and detained, one of them a youth member of the Moro Women’s Center in General Santos. Jejohn “Tote” Macalalinsal was accused as masterminding the bombing along with two more Moro men who were sleeping in the Moro women’s day care center in General Santos. Unfortunately for the police, no Moro or Christian would believe that Tote could have carried out the bombing — aside from being so young, his being overtly gay does not fit the image of an Abu Sayyaf member and a terrorist bomber.

Why are the Moros always being blamed for the bombings? Soon a crackdown on Moro areas would ensue, especially in MILF-influenced areas such as my homeland Maguindanao and the newly created Sharif Kabunsuan province. Civilian Moro men would soon be paraded, accused of aiding the terrorists, etc.

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