Duterte on bombing aftermath: “not fair to Muslims”

“They have suspects over there at Tacurong and Makilala. They have mentioned a prominent name, I forgot this name, and he’s allegedly embedded somewhere in the Liguasan Marsh but you know the problem with this is that every time there’s a bomb, we invariably attribute it to the Muslims and to me that is not really fair. That’s not fair to them and it is also unfair to the Muslims in Davao City,” Duterte said in his Sunday television program, “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the Masses, For the Masses).

He urged the public to “just wait for the results of the investigation” because the police and the military “are pursuing the alleged malefactors, perpetrators of the crime.”

Four persons were injured when a bomb exploded at the public market in Tacurong City noon of  Tuesday, October 10. Eight hours later, another bomb exploded on the roadside fronting the Makilala town hall, killing six and injuring 29 others. On Wednesday, another bomb exploded in Cotabato City but no one was injured.

North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel Pinol on Wednesday morning blamed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the bombing, an allegation the MILF denied.

“It would be good to get first hand.. from the military and police. Since we are not really privy to what is going on there, we just have to wait for their word on what is actually happening on the ground,” Duterte said.

Duterte is the only Philippine mayor who has deputy mayors from among the Moro communities. His administration is also credited for having set up madaris (Arabic schools; madaris is plural for madrasah) in the Moro-dominated areas. The city government pays the salaries of the madaris teachers.

Moro residents constitute five per cent of the city’s 1.2 million population.

Duterte recently launched the Ramadhan Cup where 12 teams of young Moro from various tribes compete for the grand prize of P50,000 and 50 sacks of rice. The most valuable player gets to go to Mecca for free.

For several years now, the city government has been distributing food packages for marginalized Moro residents during Eid’l Fitr, the end of the Islamic month of fasting.

The city government also distributes food packages to the city’s marginalized residents for their “noche Buena” during Christmas.

Father Roberto Layson, parish priest of Pikit in North Cotabato, told MindaNews that Duterte’s latest pronouncement deserves commendation.

“The attitude of Mayor Duterte is worth emulating by other local government officials as well. No one has the monopoly of goodness. Neither has one the monopoly of evil. Stereotyping of Muslims or of any group in this country is certainly unfair and divisive. It does not help at all in creating harmonious relationship among people in a pluralistic society such as Mindanao,” Layson said.

A Moro professor and former newspaper editor, meanwhile, is recommending that the military and the police undergo culture of peace seminars.

Professor Rufa  Guiam of the Mindanao State University was asked by MindaNews to comment on the description of suspects cited in the cartographic sketches produced by the 604th Infantry Brigade in Tacurong City.

On the “nationality/tribe” space, one of the suspects, a male, was described as “Filipino/Ilonggo” while the two others suspects, a male and female, were described as “Filipino/Muslim.”

Guiam said “Muslim” is “not a tribe but a religious identity.”

Under “additional information” for the female are “chinita eye/Muslim dress/straight hair/semi babalo/divided chin/semi hunchback/white spoted (sic) face.”

Guiam said the military and police should undergo “culture of peace” seminars because the way they describe or label people is “a function of ignorance, a function of their lack of knowledge on what tribe is, what nationality is, what Muslim is.

“May damit ba na nagsa-submit to the will of God?” (Is there a dress that submits to the will of God?”), she asked, adding, “bakit,  may Christian dress ba?” (Why, is there a Christian dress)?”

Guiam said reporters often end up parroting what the military and police are saying.

“There is no such thing as a Muslim dress, a Muslim language, a Muslim nationality because Muslim transcends nationalities, boundaries. Muslim is a religious identity,” she said.

Guiam’s “Telling the Truth of the ‘Other’: Images of Islam and Muslims in the Philippines,”  a chapter in the book, “The Media and Peace Reporting: Perspectives on Media and Peace Reportage” is a basic must-read for journalists and others who want to avoid improper use of the words “Muslim” and “Islam,” among others. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)