THE INABANGA ABU SAYYAF INCIDENT, must be taken at face value. A very serious terrorist threat inside the physical domain of our beloved Bohol.
In crisis situations, the worst disease is to substitute propaganda for facts. Next is to lower one’s guard since the threat has been thwarted and the sun does not set twice in a day. Just as worse is to assume that a loss of leadership will decapitate the terrorists into a headless snake for long.
America, as we know, has a military budget equal to that of the 7 largest nations after- and therefore has the most lethal intelligence network. And the American Embassy was crystal clear- Americans stay off Central Visayas, specifically, Cebu and Bohol due to terrorist threats.
Since Washington called the information “credible”, large nations followed America: Great Britain, Canada and Australia. They as a country have to take care of their own.
Cebu and Bohol are known tourist havens and tourism is on its peak season. Two, there is a prestigious ASEAN Ministerial Meeting to be partly hosted by Bohol this week. Logic 101 tells both provinces to be knowingly scared.
Whether it is Bohol or Cebu or both as terror target is of no moment. If we value US intelligence, we do not dodge the bullet by just saying that it was “probably Cebu”. If it was, the American embassy would have said so.
Second point is that two of the slain ASG (Abu Sayyaf) members were “heavyweights” in their hierarchy, and therefore, is a cause for celebration. But a cause for alarm as well.
For this ASG group sailed 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the Sulu and Zamboanga environs to land in a small sitio in Inabanga Bohol and appeared ready to make it a “launch pad” to only the dead souls’ knew for certain where.
Per Inquirer information, one, was Moammar Askali , ASG Commander and spokesperson and bruited to become a supremo soon.Some of the Inabanga ASGs wore IS-style black patches, irrevocably linking them with the ISIS terror group- swore to death by big nations like America, Russia and China.
Askali also reportedly headed another violent group named Marakat Ansar Battalion, allegedly responsible for beheading two Canadians and one German tourist.
The other was Edimar Isnain (bomb trainor for Malaysian and Indonesian terror groups , the new Abu recruits and one of the leaders of the dreaded Maute Group.
The US Embassy’s travel warning was specific about “kidnapping and bomb threats”. The recovered 4 assault rifles and a ” sack full of bombing utensils including detonating cords, blasting caps and electronic bomb parts.” confirm such fears. They’re certainly assembled with a view to kill or hostage.
It appears from military sources that ASG is trying to snake away from a possible Duterte “take no enemies” assault by end June 2017 in the southern jungles of Mindanao and are spreading their anarchy into other places.
There are conflicting accounts of the ASG hereabouts from the extreme 60 of Rappler news to 12, 11 and 10 men. Even at 10, then surely the five others escaped the dragnet and “clearing operations” and worse, the sea blockade of the Navy all around Bohol.
Will they reassemble into vicious units , knowing that deaths of leaders in a cultish group such as theirs only lead to the anointment of a successor- as vicious if not worse than the original?
Yes, we have thwarted the first attempt. And we won Round One. But it is foolish to open the champagne box -knowing the terror fight can be a 12 round slugfest.
But very clearly- the “bayanihan” civic consciousness of the community, the preparedness and quick decision of the military combined to knock the wind off the sails of the ASG in Inabanga. No question about that.
But it is foolhardy and self-deluding to advertise that the war is over but the counting.
This is not to say we do not go on with our lives and be paralyzed forever into being mummified into inaction due to fear of terrorists. To do so -would enable the terrorists to win the war without them firing any bullet to achieve victory.
But let us not kid ourselves. Precisely the island province being porous has been the reason drugs enter into our area of responsibility in almost frightening abandon. There are just too many entry points. Couldn’t we say the same for terrorists -without trying to sound in the least alarmist?
Aside from the escaped five bandits, are there no more creeping ASGs silently assimilating themselves like phantoms in the night in other various communities -now that they seem to be on the run?
There are also other concerns and questions haunting some sections in the Bohol community:
There appears to be a lack of updated, fact-based situationer on the aftermath of the Inabanga assault from the proper authorities. On the other side, we fully understand that- if the secrecy is for the military necessary so as not to telegraph their punches, as it were.
It was also observed that there was little coordination during the actual assault. It is an observation maybe more fairly spoken if one was actually in the battleground itself. In fairness, if the AFP, SWAT, PNP, the Air Force and the Navy were involved, there could be really be some crossing of signals.
Others belittle that 9 airstrike bombs failed to hit the targeted house. Whether this was merely “acoustic” bombing to ferret out the hiding targets, we are no military strategist to even hazard a guess.
The main beef is that the two big “hotdogs” of the prey fell lifeless to the ground. When the smoke of the battle settled.
The other moral victory lay in the facts that there were no tourist reservation cancellations, by and large, during the peak Holy Week season and after due to the siege. Neither did the Catholics stay in their homes and skip Good Friday services per the good bishop Alberto Uy.
Faith moves mountains- it can therefor also move people out of their worst fears.
One final word is for our beleaguered local traditional media. They feel they have been eased out unduly from “scoop areas’ in favor of our national media brothers. In a localized disaster like Inabanga, it would have been national media pursuing local media for leads and developments.
In the Inabanga siege, unfortunately, it seems to be the other way around. Hopefully, some adjustments can be made such that local media do not just get the grovels and national media takes the steak.
That aside, we all really need to work together ceaselessly versus this scourge of mankind called terrorism. Let us not lose by default in our euphoria.