By TENG DATU
Cotabato City Bureau Chief
Cotabato City — While Mindanao is generally peaceful, there are areas on the island mired with a long history of terrorism. Civilians and law enforcement officers both suffered from violence causing fear and anxiety to entire communities.
The atrocities were perpetrated by lawless individuals including teenagers – some have joined the bandits, or terror groups, as young as nine years old. Many of these bandits and terrorists, however, have quietly returned to the fold of the law.
For instance, more than 80 members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan province recently surrendered to the government and have renounced their previous activities. One of them is 18-year-old “Habib.”
Raised in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, Habib became involved with the ASG at a young age. He was a 14-year-old Grade 4 pupil when some members of the ASG asked him to buy food in the public market until it became his daily routine before going to school and after classes.
“Inuutusan ako ng mga Abu sa Baguindan na bumili sa palengke, araw -araw na yun, hanggang sa hindi na ako pinauwisa amin,” Habib said. With regular access to the ASG’s camp in Brgy. Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo, he became a full-fledged member of the group. The ASG’s Baguindan camp was recently overrun by government troops.
Habib said ASG members receive a monthly allowance, but it did not prevent him from leaving the group. “Sa loob ng kam-po, ‘pag single binibigyan ng P5,000 kada buwan, ‘pag pamilyado naman P10,000 – hindi na ma-hirapan maghanap ng pera,” Habib added.
Habib is the fifth of eight siblings. His father died when he was six and his mother went overseas to work when he became an ASG member. “Wala na akong tatay, wala rin dito ang nanay ko, ang mga kapatid ko nag-asawa na, kaya mas okay na sa akin sumali sa ASG,” Habib said.
Now, Habib is one of the returnees who underwent psychosocial interventions, debriefing, and a brief course on farming to help them start a new life. (with reports from bpi armm)