Disarm politicians in Sulu to win war vs Abu Sayyaf, Duterte urged

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) – The recent order of President Rodrigo Duterte to “destroy the Abu Sayyaf” is “only good for the headlines but will definitely not work in the jungles of Sulu,” a multisecotral group in Sulu said in a press statement.

Instead, the Save Sulu Movement (SSM) appealed to Duterte to “first disarm the local politicians in Sulu” from Governor down to the lowest barangay official if he wants to win the fight against the terrorist group.

“Much as we want President Duterte to succeed, the recent order to destroy the Abu Sayyaf is nothing new. We have heard those fiery words before but these were only good for the headlines and will definitely not work in the jungles of Sulu. If the President is seriously bent (on) destroying the (Abu Sayyaf), he must listen to the voices of the ordinary people of Sulu who genuinely want him to succeed,” an August 26 press statement from SSM convenor Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie said.

The group which Tulawie claimed is a grassroots-based movement, said disarming the local politicians is the key towards winning the fight against the Abu Sayyaf because doing so will be “akin to the strategy of removing the water at which the fish swims.”

“Disarm the local politicians and you will succeed where the previous Presidents have failed,” the SSM said.

“Unholy alliances”

The SSM said their recommendation to the Duterte is not new but “has long been there but buried deep underneath because of unholy alliances and patronage politics in the past between Malacanan and traditional politicians in Sulu.”

Sulu Governor Abudsakur Tan II dismissed the allegations.

He told MindaNews in a text message Saturday afternoon: “Save Sulu? Sino naman mga yan? Wala ako kilala.” (Who are they? I don’t know them).

When told that Tulawie issued the statement, Tan replied, “Ah yan ba? Nagpapapansin lang yan” (Oh that? He just wants to be noticed).

Tan’s father, former Governor Abdusakur Tan, who lost his bid for Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) referred to Tulawie as “mga human rights advocates kuno na talunan sa election” (alleged human rights advocates who lost in the elections). He said Tulawie is a suspected mastermind in the kidnapping in Samal of three foreigners and one Filipino.

The elder Tan said Tulawie’s group wants to divert the attention from the operations against the Abu Sayyaf “to other things kasi sympathetic and supporters yan ng Abu Sayyaf.”

Tulawie, who ran for Sulu governor but lost to Tan II, denied the allegations.

The Tans and Tulawie have been at odds for several years now.

The elder Tan had sent Tulawie to jail for his alleged involvement in the May 13, 2009 bombing in Patikul, Sulu that injured 12 persons including himself.

Tulawie was detained for three and a half years for a crime the court said he did not commit. He was feed on July 20 last year after the Regional Trial Court of Manila-Branch 19 ruled that the evidence and circumstances surrounding the case “point to a concerted design to focus the prosecution on Tulawie, with the use of rehearsed witnesses to falsely testify against him for allegedly committing multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder.”

“Destroy them”

In a midnight press conference on August 24-25 outside a seafood restaurant here after a late dinner with soldiers bound for Sulu, Duterte said he ordered the military and police to seek out the Abu Sayyaf and destroy them.

“Seek them out in their lairs and destroy them… Ang mga Abu Sayyaf destroy them, period,” hours after the Abu Sayyaf was reported to have beheaded 18-year old James Patrick Almodovar of Sulu who was kidnapped by the terrorist group on July 16. The Abu Sayyaf demanded one million pesos for the release of the son of a court stenographer.

In his speech at the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command late Friday afternoon, Duterte said the Abu Sayyaf “is out of control,” and there is only one way to do it which is to destroy them, especially after beheading Almodovar.

5th President

Duterte is the fifth Philippine President to attempt to destroy the Abu Sayyaf. Former Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III had attempted to do the same but the Abu Sayyaf has remained, its kidnapping and other terror acts even worse than before.

Asked how different his war against the Abu Sayyaf will be from the previous administrations’, Duterte replied: “I’ll be harsh. But mind you, it’s not just a campaign-campaign. Go out and destroy them. So patay kung ano yan. Wag na kayong magtanong human rights.”

The SSM condemned the execution of Almodovar and said it supports the order to destroy the Abu Sayyaf but said past administrations vowed the same “but they all miserably failed.”

It added that even the US government through the Balikatan exercises “joined actual combat exercises in Sulu to destroy the ASG but despite its military advancement and sophistication – it also miserably failed.”

The statement noted that since the Ramos administration “all efforts to destroy, finish, pulverize, neutralize, annihilate and erase the Abu Sayyaf repeatedly failed.”

Where the Philippine government has failed, the Abu Sayyaf has in turned expanded and grown in military strength and numbers, the SSM said.


The statement added that with the billions of money raised from kidnapping, the Abu Sayyaf has managed to influence the highest echelons of government like the Department of Justice under former Secretary Leila de Lima “who under her watch, caused the release of three high-valued Abu Sayyaf inmates namely, Robin Sahiyal, Mohammad Sali Said and Julhamad Ahadi from the Special Intensive Care Area of Camp Bagong Diwa in February 2013.”

The SSM claimed it has “solid evidence to prove this factual information.”

“We hope the President will not repeat history by following the failed route that were used by the past presidents. For the sake of ‘tunay na pagbabago,’ (genuine change) we appeal that the President heed this practical advice. Disarm the local politicians and you will succeed where the previous Presidents have failed,” the SSM said.

“Nawala ang bilib ko sa inyo”

Addressing the Abu Sayyaf during his speech Friday, Duterte said: “Adre, nawala ang bilib ko sa inyo. Eh ako may respeto noon, your fighting for freedom. Tama kayo. Tama kayo. (Brother, I have lost my faith in you. I respected you before, your fighting for freedom. You were right. You were right). There was this historical injustice, committed against the Moro people.”

“Kayong mga Abu Sayyaf noon, medyo sumasaludo ako. (You Abu Sayyaf, I would salute you before). But when you began to slaughter people in front of the camera and then now you kill an innocent boy, anak ng… Nawawala ang respeto ko sa inyo” (son of.. I am losing my respect for you).

He said Tausugs and Yakans want peace “and here you are slaughtering people as if they are chickens in front of the public.”

He said he ordered government forces to destroy the Abu Sayyaf “because they are criminals. And we’ll never have peace in that area there and even if you grant them autonomy, and they maintain to be bandits, we will never have peace in that land,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf’s history is replete with stories of terror, prompting administrations from Ramos to Aquino to wage war against them. The Abu Sayyaf, reported to have been founded in 1993 by Abdurajak Janjalani, was listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization as early as 1997 and by the Australian National Security in 2002. It was also listed by the United Nations Security Council in 2001 as having links with the
Al Qaeda.

The Abu Sayyaf has allegedly expressed support to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a video posted on YouTube in 2014. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)