DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 May) – The Save Sulu Movement urged President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare martial law in six of 19 municipalities in Sulu and urged Congress to conduct an inquiry into the alleged links between local politicians and the Abu Sayyaf.
Prof. Octavio A. Dinampo, the group’s spokesperson, told MindaNews at the sidelines of “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape” that these politicians should be held criminally liable.
He accused them of coddling the bandits and receiving a “lion’s share” of ransom money.
The Abu Sayyaf thrives on kidnap-for-ransom activities. Many of its victims have been foreign nationals some of whom were killed after failing to pay ransom on schedule.
“The record of Army, it tallies with our findings that really we have to control the politicians because if we have 10 problems in Sulu, eight of them are created by politicians. Only one or two created by the ASG,” Dinampo said.
He said Patikul, Indanan, Parang, Maimbung, Talipao, and Kalingalan Caluang, the “craters of terrorism” in Sulu, must be placed under military rule immediately.
He said they welcome Duterte’s strategy of sending 10,000 troops to Sulu but maintained it will not address “extremism” there without the collaboration of other groups.
“I would say the Army is making good. We have a new type of Army not only to be warriors but also to be peace advocates. We have no quarrel, no incidents so far because of military,” he said.
Dinampo said it’s either the military take control or the Department of Interior and Local Government “take a stand and control the politicians in Sulu.”
He said a crackdown on erring politicians will put a dent on the activities of the Abu Sayyaf.
“There will be a fear of loss without the politicians. Just imagine, right now you move one battalion, for example, before they can take five steps, a text would reach the ASG, you get out from there, transfer to another hiding place. What can you do?,” he said.
On the issues of human rights violations that may escalate if martial is declared, he said: “Even if we do not have martial law, human rights are violated everyday.”
In a separate statement, the group welcomes the tough stance of Duterte and the military against the bandits, but “the problem with these statements [is they] are only good for media soundbites.”
“On behalf of the Save Sulu Movement, we call on the Senate to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the palpable connivance between local officials and the ASG. We also recommend to Congress to criminalize the giving and payment of ransom and the receipt of ransom when everyone knows too well that ransom is actually being paid and brokered by the local government officials thus perpetuating the business of ASG,” the group said.
The group also urged the kidnap victims to cooperate with authorities so that “they can bring the kidnappers to the bar of justice.”
It urged the committee on Muslim affairs in Congress to conduct public hearings on Sulu and listen to the stories of the people on the ground. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)