Archive for the ‘2000 Mindanao war’ Category

In war-battered Gaza, Filipinos mull on the price of working abroad

January 11, 2009

With no end in sight, the red-hot Israel-Palestinian conflict completes its second week on January 11, 2009 with nearly 900 reported dead and many more wounded, about half of them are innocent non-combatants of war. Regardless of which side we may be in the decades-long hostilities, the clear message is that racial intolerance, religious bigotry, and territorial disputes don’t bring any good.

The duplicity in the exercise of diplomacy, the use of terrorism, and the rejection of a two-state solution by hardliners remain as huge stumbling blocks in bringing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The interference of countries that benefit from an unstable Middle East is partly to blame.

Civilians living in the Gaza Strip are in a crossfire that disrupts their lives and threatens their survival. In the bloody exchanges of a protracted cycle of violence, the innocents bear undeserved suffering. Among them are workers and migrants from the Philippines who come to this troubled part of the world mainly for economic reasons.

We can only sympathize with our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who put their lives on line to seek ways to survive and help their families back home. We can only ask for the cessation of the killings—an immediate ceasefire which is unheaded at this time.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA,) 16 Filipinos have left the war-torn area and arrived in Manila. Of the 121 still left in Gaza, 69 expressed their desire to evacuate, but the fierce fighting prevents them to do so. It is uncertain if this number includes the illegal Filipinos workers who take risky jobs in the shadows.

This brings us to the problem of our government which sorely lags behind in helping the people to be self-sufficient back home. If jobs and economic opportunities exist in the country, then there are few reasons for our kababayans to insist working in dangerous places like the Middle East. The cost to pay for family separations, isolation, and loneliness is incalculable. It’s sad that our cash-strapped government is in a losing policy of sending Filipinos abroad for the money they’ll earn for the nation’s economy. With no sign of stopping, our workers continue to suffer on their own, at times trapped in harm’s way.

Just to land a job, no matter how menial, has been a source of hope and pride among poor Filipinos who ignore the risks of travel outside the country. Yet, this is the reality of our society faces. Adding to the 10 million Filipinos already deployed abroad, a restless stream still wants to leave for the money.

The government must do better than what our officials think is good enough. There will be a season that host countries won’t justly pay for the services of Filipinos. To keep the country economically alive there’ll be a time when going abroad will be one of our most dreaded options. (Photo Credits: Aryty; Rusty Stewart x 7 photos) =0=

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The True Story of the Start of the 2000 Mindanao War: A Recollection and View from Lanao del Norte

January 5, 2009


Approaching the end of 1999, the non-technical end of the last century, there was a certain disquiet in Cagayan de Oro City. For some months already troops from Luzon and Visayas kept arriving to be hosted temporarily in the Army’s divisional camp there before being sent to Muslim areas. Of course there was already intermittent fighting in Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

Soon there were whispers of war. Then President Estrada came. In a war-like tone he said he gave the MILF his personal guarantees that “he will treat them fairly” if they will give up their struggle but its leadership has been rebuffing him. He said he is ready to launch an “all-out war” to resolve the Mindanao problem.

When asked if it is true that there are already 36 battalions in Mindanao, President Estrada replied, “38!” And soon after that another two battallions arrived (and more after the war began).

Sometime early March the commander of a newly-arrived Army batallion near Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte sent a letter to Commander Bravo, commander of the MILF-BIAF’s then-2nd Division, demanding the return of an abandoned schoolhouse which Bravo was occupying. Reportedly a man of few words and having a short fuse, Bravo refused.

It must be noted that in 1997 the government and the MILF signed a ceasefire agreement and in 1999 the two sides held formal peace talks. In the process, the MILF submitted a list of 13 major and 30 satellite MILF camps for verification and recognition. However, when the count reached 7 major camps “noted”, hostilities started.

When the Army commander threatened attack, Bravo declared his “green line” and said he will fire upon any government forces that breach it.

Soon two tracked Army armored personnel carriers (M-113s) came. A Chinese B-40 rocket launcher was fired breaching the two sides of the APC and killing all the crew. The second APC beat a hasty retreat. All these were captured on video and shown uncut on Iligan City TV.

Soon a full-scale Army assault ensued. Unable to hold on to his camp, Bravo launched an attack on Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. He was able to occupy the who town for 12 hours on March 17, 2000. This is the part of the war which the government highlighted as the “start” of the 2000 Mindanao war.

The MILF ransacked the police headquarters but they spared the municipal hall. Bravo withdrew from Kauswagan before the Army came (but medals were handed out for the “liberation” of the town). A handful of Muslim homes were set on fire by Christians in the aftermath.

For one week the private TV station in Iligan City covered the war uncensored, showing video footages from both sides including the Army’s “clearing” operations (all I saw of this were soldiers blanketing by gunfire any possible hiding space and animals running in all directions).

The radio stations of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities gave free rein to partisans of both sides. Exchanges readily escalated to the level of insults, taunts and threats. But I noticed that the Muslim partisans were more level-headed. The most searing was the question, “How can you call yourself Christians if you burn and ransack houses of your neighbors?”.

After one week the government threatened to close the stations. It was losing the propaganda war. The vivid coverage stopped but not the fighting.

The military assault spread throughout Mindanao. The famed Camp Abubakar and the Buliok complex (the MILF’s biggest camp) fell to government soldiers. President Estrada claimed victory when he was able to raise the Philippine flag in Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s central base.

And the Filipino people believed the war started with the MILF’s attack in Kauswagan. In the same way the people believe now that the recent war started with the MILF’s attack (again) in Kauswagan.

[photo credit:christusrex]

The True Story of the Start of the 2000 Mindanao War: A Recollection and View from Lanao del Norte

January 5, 2009


Approaching the end of 1999, the non-technical end of the last century, there was a certain disquiet in Cagayan de Oro City. For some months already troops from Luzon and Visayas kept arriving to be hosted temporarily in the Army’s divisional camp there before being sent to Muslim areas. Of course there was already intermittent fighting in Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

Soon there were whispers of war. Then President Estrada came. In a war-like tone he said he gave the MILF his personal guarantees that “he will treat them fairly” if they will give up their struggle but its leadership has been rebuffing him. He said he is ready to launch an “all-out war” to resolve the Mindanao problem.

When asked if it is true that there are already 36 battalions in Mindanao, President Estrada replied, “38!” And soon after that another two battallions arrived (and more after the war began).

Sometime early March the commander of a newly-arrived Army batallion near Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte sent a letter to Commander Bravo, commander of the MILF-BIAF’s then-2nd Division, demanding the return of an abandoned schoolhouse which Bravo was occupying. Reportedly a man of few words and having a short fuse, Bravo refused.

It must be noted that in 1997 the government and the MILF signed a ceasefire agreement and in 1999 the two sides held formal peace talks. In the process, the MILF submitted a list of 13 major and 30 satellite MILF camps for verification and recognition. However, when the count reached 7 major camps “noted”, hostilities started.

When the Army commander threatened attack, Bravo declared his “green line” and said he will fire upon any government forces that breach it.

Soon two tracked Army armored personnel carriers (M-113s) came. A Chinese B-40 rocket launcher was fired breaching the two sides of the APC and killing all the crew. The second APC beat a hasty retreat. All these were captured on video and shown uncut on Iligan City TV.

Soon a full-scale Army assault ensued. Unable to hold on to his camp, Bravo launched an attack on Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. He was able to occupy the who town for 12 hours on March 17, 2000. This is the part of the war which the government highlighted as the “start” of the 2000 Mindanao war.

The MILF ransacked the police headquarters but they spared the municipal hall. Bravo withdrew from Kauswagan before the Army came (but medals were handed out for the “liberation” of the town). A handful of Muslim homes were set on fire by Christians in the aftermath.

For one week the private TV station in Iligan City covered the war uncensored, showing video footages from both sides including the Army’s “clearing” operations (all I saw of this were soldiers blanketing by gunfire any possible hiding space and animals running in all directions).

The radio stations of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities gave free rein to partisans of both sides. Exchanges readily escalated to the level of insults, taunts and threats. But I noticed that the Muslim partisans were more level-headed. The most searing was the question, “How can you call yourself Christians if you burn and ransack houses of your neighbors?”.

After one week the government threatened to close the stations. It was losing the propaganda war. The vivid coverage stopped but not the fighting.

The military assault spread throughout Mindanao. The famed Camp Abubakar and the Buliok complex (the MILF’s biggest camp) fell to government soldiers. President Estrada claimed victory when he was able to raise the Philippine flag in Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s central base.

And the Filipino people believed the war started with the MILF’s attack in Kauswagan. In the same way the people believe now that the recent war started with the MILF’s attack (again) in Kauswagan.

[photo credit:christusrex]