Group says martial law ‘toothless’ as kidnappings, drugs, terrorism continue in Sulu

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Oct) – The civil society organization Save Sulu Movement said the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has been ineffective in putting a stop to terrorism more than four months after President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed the entire island under military rule.

Speaking in “Wednesdays Habi at Kape” forum here, Prof. Octavio A. Dinampo, the group’s spokesperson, described  martial law in Mindanao as “toothless” as terrorism, kidnapping, and narco-politics have not been addressed yet in Sulu.

Dinampo called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, except in six out of 19 Sulu municipalities, known as the “cradle of violence” of the Abu Sayyaf Group with alleged links to some local politicians.

He said the group demands for complete military takeover in Patikul, Maimbung, Indanan, Parang, Talipao and Kalinggalan Caluan in Sulu. Sulu is part of the five-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In this file photo taken May 10, 2017 during hte Habi and Kape at the Abreeza Mall in Davao City, Prof. Octavio Dinampo of Sulu, spokesperson of Save Sulu Movement, said they want President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in six of 19 towns in Sulu and for Congress to investigate the alleged links between local politicians and the Abu Sayyaf. Dinampo returned as guest n the Habi at Kape on October 4 and said they want martial law in Mindanao lifted except in the six towns in Sulu. Photo courtesy of PRIX BANZON

Dinampo said eliminating the terrorists in Marawi City is similar “to cutting the tail of the snake first and then go for its head later”.

“Such approach literally won’t kill the snake and more so could not hurt the Abu Sayyaf group at all,” he said.

Dinampo claimed some police scalawags continue to provide protection to local politicians in Sulu even as the National Police Commission (Napolcom) stripped seven provincial governors and 132 mayors of their power over local authorities in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City.

On June 8, the Napolcom issued Resolutions 2017-334 and 2017-335 cancelling the deputation of these local chief executives from exercising supervision over the police due to the alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

“Nothing much has been done. There was arrest here and there; killing of one or two ASG here, but in its entirety I think we did not achieve the purpose it serves,” Dinampo said.

He said kidnap-for-ransom is not only a cottage industry in Sulu but is also related to drugs.

Dinampo said the group has come up with six recommendations to the Supreme Court, Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Napolcom, and Department of National Defense to win the war against drugs.

He said they want the Napolcom to fully enforce Resolutions 2017-334 and 2017-335 and establish a monitoring mechanism where ordinary citizens can report violation.

Dinampo said they demand the suspension of the pre-identified local chief executives who are allegedly involved in illegal drugs trade as cited by the Napolcom Resolution and prosecute, and put those criminally liable behind bars.

He has also called for the removal or transfer of provincial prosecutor of Sulu and conduct investigation why there is a “dismal track record or zero conviction of drug cases in the past 10 years in Sulu”.

The group wants the government to conduct an inventory on drug cases and account to the last gram the apprehended illegal substance and drug paraphernalia.

Dinampo said they want an investigation of the highly suspicious dismissals of drug cases and the release of high profile drug suspects from jail without trial.

He said they want the government to conduct a lifestyle check on the personnel of the provincial prosecutor’s office, provincial jail, some court personnel in relation to possible protection extended to drug suspects.

Dinampo added they welcome with the recent pronouncement of President Duterte that the Bamboo Triad International Syndicate Group has given a franchise to the ASG for its multi-billion drug trade operations.

“This comes as no surprise for the people of Sulu given the open, overt, and uninterrupted operation of illegal drugs trade in the island Province which seems to be as usual despite the highly intensified all-out campaign against drugs at the national level,” he said in a separate statement.

Dinampo surmised failure to dismantle the triad because the government fails “to decapitate the head of the snake”.

“With all due respect to Secretary Delfin Lorenzana whom we believe is sincere and highly circumspect in implementing the Martial Law, dealing with Marawi first and then the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu alter, is like cutting the tail of the snake first and then going for the head later. Such approach literally won’t kill the snake and more so could not hurt the Abu Sayyaf group at all,” he said.

Dinampo said kidnapping can be stopped by depriving the terrorists sanctuary and by arresting and prosecuting the mastermind backing and conniving with them. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)