By Teng Luban Datu
Cotabato City Bureau Chief .
ISABELA CITY, Basilan — Tarik happily rode a bicycle during the launching of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Program Against Violent Extremism (Pave) here recently.
Tarik was given a bicycle after he and 138 other Abu Sayyaf members attended the program’s launching at the headquarters of the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion here.
Tarik is only 10 years old.
The youngest among eight siblings, Tarik said all of them were members of the ASG. Three of his siblings were killed while fighting government forces, two (including him) surrendered, while the rest are still in hiding.
He said his parents were killed by government forces.
“Maliit pa ako non. Dumedede pa ako noon kaya hindi ko maalala,” he said.
According to his grandmother, his pregnant mother had just taken a bath when shot.
“Kakatapos lang niyang maligo, bigla siyang binaril,” he said.
“Napagkamalan silang members ng Abu Sayyaf,” he added.
Tarik and his siblings joined the ASG last year, when his grandmother passed away due to illness.
He said they agreed to join the group because they were promised free food.
Tarik found a chance to avenge the death of his parents.
“Galit ako sa gobyerno kasi sila ang pumatay sa mga magulang ko,” he said.
Tarik, however, said life as a bandit was hard, prompting him to join his group’s leader in his recent surrender to government.
“Sayol (vegetables) at dried fish palagi ang pagkain namin doon sa bundok,” he said.
Armm Governor Mujiv Hataman explained that under Pave, former Abu Sayyaf members will be provided psychosocial, economic, educational and spiritual interventions for them to become productive members of their communities.
“Iba’t ibang dahilan ang kanilang pagsama sa Abu Sayyaf. Dahil iba’t ibang dahilan ang kanilang pagsama, gumawa din tayo ng iba’t ibang programa at alituntunin ang dapat iakay sa kanila,” the governor said.
“Ito ay oportunidad para sa bagong buhay,” he added.
Tarik now believes in peace. He also believes that children should enjoy the company of other children and play freely—without the fear of being killed.
Hataman said Tarik can go back to school with the help of Pave.
Tarik, however, could still not say what his dreams are. All he knows is that he will no longer have to be in hiding.
He said he wants to pursue Islamic Studies. When asked why, the 10-year old boy just smirked and ran away. (with reports from bpi armm)