By Frencie Carreon
ZAMBOANGA City–The Crisis Management Committee of Tipo-tipo town in Basilan has reported that at least a thousand families have fled Baguindan where an encounter between government forces and the Abu Sayyaf on Saturday left at least 18 soldiers and five Abu Sayyaf members dead, and at least 50 soldiers injured.
Prof. Yusuf Morales, Commissioner at the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) who hails from Zamboanga City, lamented: “It’s really ironic since most of the soldiers are also Moros. And to think Moros are fighting each other is sad.”
He said the incident could “give more mete on extremists’ voices and we must not allow this Basilan experience to galvanize their interests.”
Morales explained that when military operations are done “without socio-economic preparation, this will translate as State repression or will translate into fuel for extremist justification.”
“We must not allow this Basilan experience to galvanize their interests,” said.
“We hope we could do interventions for the incident and for similar incidents not to happen. The BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) could have played an important role,” Morales said.
The Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) has declared the number of casualties, at 18 soldiers from the 44th Infantry Battalion as of April 10 morning, their bodies laid at the Naval Forces Western Mindanao.
It said five Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed, including a Moroccan national, Mohammad Khattab, and UbaidaHapilun, son of pioneering ASG commander IsnilunHapilun.
Dr. Arlyn Jawad, head of Children of War in Basilan, a non-government organization that looks at the welfare of children who have seen war in the province and suffered trauma, opined that politics plays a big role where development of the province is concerned, and sincerity of the military leadership in Basilan and WesMinCom is crucial in maintaining peace and order in the province.
“Solutions must be maintained and sustained. Education for the children’s future is important,” she added.
Zhuair Buwari of the Voice of Mindanao in Basilan, a non-government youth organization, shared how fellow youth in Kabengbeng, Tipo-Tipo expressed fear for their future as helicopters hovered their town.
Wesmincom has been mum about the status of the 44th IB as a regular force deployed in Basilan, since soldiers days ago had admitted in Lamitan City to this reporter that they were “strikers on a special mission.” (frencie carreon)