Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Martial Law: The New Land of Jihad

Now that the Marawi siege is over there remain two pressing concerns: 1. the continuing threat of terrorism and 2. the rebuilding of the city which includes restoring not just the architecture but also all the displaced residents. Previously Duterte had indicated that he might lift martial law anytime "soon after the military was done with its clearing operations in war-torn Marawi City." That is not going to happen.

Of course the defeat of Maute in the Battle of Marawi is not the end of terrorism in the Philippines or in Southeast Asia.

Dinampo said the pronouncement that Marawi City had been freed and liberated from the clutches of terrorism “is far from the truth”. 
“It is just a matter of time under a new leadership when this same cause will be repeated,” he said, referring to IS leaders who were killed on the battlefield of Marawi City – including the Maute brothers, IS “emir” for South-East Asia Isnilon Hapilon and Dr Mahmud.
Just a matter of time? Maute was one of the smaller Islamic militant groups in Mindanao. MILF and MNLF have thousands of members and they have made it clear that if progress is not made on the BBL soon they will be forced to rise up. Who knows where the next attack will come from? Could be from some unknown group training deep in the jungle right this second.
Rommel Banlaoi, a security analyst who heads the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said that other southern cities were at increased risk of attack by energized IS loyalists. 
“They have won the battle strategically, as they have proven how long they can endure the fight against government forces,” Banlaoi said, adding that the Marawi battle will stand as an example of “martyrdom that can inspire others.” 
After the spectacle of the Marawi siege, more foreign fighters will be attuned to the fight in Mindanao, where past government efforts had aimed at ousting Muslims in favor of the Christian majority. 
Mindanao will continue to suffer the challenges of armed conflicts and violence because of many issues associated with the struggle of the people there for self-determination” being advocated by the Muslim forces, Banlaoi said. “It has simply become the new land of jihad.”
The new land of jihad?  Now there's a tourism slogan for you.

Faced with the very real threat of more terrorism from unknown elements the Philippines must ask hard questions. What will it take to really bring an end to the decades of guerrilla warfare and terrorism? More training?  More weapons?  More soldiers?

"We were instructed to organise ten additional battalions," Guerrero told reporters after Duterte installed him to head the 130,000-strong armed forces. 
One battalion comprises about 500 soldiers. 
"We really intend to put pressure and sustain effort to be able to finish all of them and complete the resolution of armed conflict in the country." 
The Philippines has been waging protracted guerrilla warfare for nearly 50 years against Maoist rebels and Muslim separatists that has killed more than 160,000 people, displaced two million and stunted growth in resource-rich rural areas.
That's an extra 5,000 soldiers. All those men will be worthless without being properly trained and equipped for the battle. Enter the Americans and the Australians who have both pledged to train the AFP in urban warfare.
There will be more battles to come. When will the Philippine government realise it must adopt a zero tolerance policy towards the various militant groups? Mollycoddling them with promises of their own Islamic State (the BBL) instead of stamping them out will only prolong the bloodshed. There can be no peace with the soldiers of Allah.

There can also be no peace with traitors which is why Duterte's order to destroy all recovered Maute weapons is baffling.
Sought for clarification on Duterte’s order, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the President was referring to the destruction of the around 1,000 seized firearms in Marawi City and all other arms recovered from the enemies.
“Kung hindi naman natin kailangan, bakit natin itatago? Kung minsan itatago mo iyan sa armory mo, kung minsan nawawala eh and it goes back to the street to be used by criminals. Sirain na lang natin,” Lorenzana told reporters. 
(If we don’t need it, why would we keep it? Sometimes when you hide them in the armory, it disappears and it goes back to the streets to be used by criminals. Let’s just destroy them.) 
Those weapons are evidence of a crime that even Lorenzana recognises. Someone has been giving the Maute AFP issued weapons. 

At the very least the serial numbers of all these weapons must be recorded and traced and the source found out.  There should be no quarter for traitors in the AFP whoever they may be.

All the while the threat of terrorism remains the government and the displaced residents of Marawi will try to do all they can to restore a sense of normalcy to the city.  How long will that take?
“Normalcy siguro couple of months, weeks pa dahil kini-clear pa nila yung mga unexploded ordnance tapos chine-check pa nila kung meron pang mga butas-butas, kung may mga tao pa dyan,” the defense chief said.
A few months?  The city is in ruins, lives are ruined, the whole apparatus has to be built from scratch, there are estimates that rebuilding could take 50 years, and Lorenzana says there could be a return to normalcy in just a few months?? 
Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra said about one-third of the entire city was physically affected by the firefights. However, the entire city population, including about 360,000 internally displaced people, are in need of physical, emotional, and financial help. 
"Wala pa talagang concrete plan (We don't have a concrete plan yet), but a few days ago, we submitted the Task Force Bangon Marawi the consolidated masterplan," Gandamra told CNN Philippines' News Night
He said the masterplan is still subject to changes from urban planning and engineering experts, and will include other towns near Marawi that have been affected by the crisis. 
The mayor said while the rehabilitation proper has yet to begin, they are already building 1,100 transitional homes in Barangay Sagonsongan for the first batch of evacuees, to help decongest the evacuation centres. 
Urban planner and renowned architect Jun Palafox earlier told CNN Philippines it may take up to 50 years to rebuild Marawi because of the extent of the damage. 
Normalcy in Marawi means gangsterism, rido killings, criminality, and shots ringing out constantly. Who wants a return to the status quo? Things must be different if peace is to really descend upon Marawi.
Jobs and housing? What jobs? The specialised construction jobs that will be required to rebuild the city? What housing? The government has already pledged to build temporary housing for all the refugees. It's hard to sympathise with these people who want to blame the government for destroying Marawi when it was they who allowed Maute to build up a presence in the city.

Jobs or not the refugees are beginning the exodus from exile.
The Western Mindanao Command and the Police Regional Office-ARMM have allowed the return of evacuees to areas already inspected by bomb disposal teams.

Bomb experts are still deactivating improvised explosive devices and collecting unexploded ordnance, such as mortar projectiles and artillery rounds, scattered in some still critical areas.

“We cannot compromise the safety of the returning evacuees. We have to protect them from possible accidents,” Lt. General Carlito Galvez, Jr., commander of WestMinCom, told The STAR via mobile phone on Sunday.
Even as the AFP clears all the barangays in the city unexploded ordnance and IEDs might be a problem for a while in Marawi.
Be it ever so riddled with bullet holes or looted of all it's possessions, there's no place like home.

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