Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 5 December 2015


Let’s focus on something else other than the will-she-or-won’t-she or will-he-or-won’t-he (be disqualified), who-is-behind-it circus. There is at least one other issue that positively clamors for our attention, with very serious negative effects if we ignore it. Let me introduce it by asking: What would you do?

Imagine a life of regularly being “evacuated” from where you are living as fighting continues, and has in fact become a way of life over the past 40 years; where the area is experiencing development in reverse (things were better off before than at present); where huge gaps now exist in physical and human capital between your area and the rest of the country in terms of life expectancy, number of years of education, per capita living standards.

To top it all, when you try to relocate elsewhere in the country, hoping to make a better life for yourself, you are discriminated against—in finding a job, in finding a place to live. You are, in effect, second-class citizens. True, the government is trying to help you, but the prejudice against you is so great, and your leaders are oftentimes treated with great disrespect.

Now, at this point, you are approached by people who offer you what they describe as a better alternative, or at least a chance to live with greater dignity. They offer membership in a growing worldwide movement, which at least for the moment is feared by many. Of course, this means that you will turn your back on the religion you have practiced since childhood, and embrace a very radical, almost unrecognizable, version of it.

What would you do? Facing a bleak, almost hopeless future, don’t you think the alternative is attractive? Wouldn’t you at least give it a chance, if not grab it outright?

I am afraid this is the choice that some of our young Muslim brothers and sisters are facing. And I am more afraid that they will opt for what I would probably opt for if I were in their shoes (young, and no future to speak of). And that before we know it, as a result, we will be embroiled in the fight between the extremist Muslim movements and the rest of the world, which has wreaked such havoc elsewhere. That havoc might take place here, too.

Do you think I have overstated the situation? No. I have merely been stating facts. If there is anything wrong in my description of their lives, feel free to show me.

And the alternative has been presented to them, in the shape of the Ansar al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP), whose claims of connection with the notorious Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have been pooh-poohed by the Philippine military and police. In the encounter between the military and the AKP, who were apparently carrying Isis flags, one of the men slain was identified as Datumungan Dilangalen of Cotabato City. This is an important part of the unfolding story.

According to the military and the police, there are no confirmed links between the AKP and Isis. The police even added “verified,” as in there were “no verified and confirmed links.” Then Malacañang piped in with the assurance that no credible threat from the Isis has been found. Methinks they protest too much. I wonder: What is a credible threat? What is a verified link? What is a confirmed link? Mere words, don’t you think? What will it take to convince them that a threat is credible, or a link has been verified, or has been confirmed? And by whom?

But aside from giving us all these assurances, they then say that the group was merely a group of bandits. There’s where I take exception. Why? Because the slain group included the above-mentioned Datumungan Dilangalen. Now the Dilangalen clan (remember Congressman Digs Dilangalen) is a pretty important one, even perhaps royalty, in those parts, and was at one time very prominent in Philippine politics. Why should one of its scions involve himself in mere banditry? Moreover, there were student IDs that were recovered. Dilangalen himself had told his mother that he was off to study the Koran, so presumably he was a student. Students are not bandits.

Now prior to this encounter, none of the armed groups in Mindanao had been identified as students, or wanting to attract students. So this is really a bad sign. And when Isis flags are found with their belongings, that is even worse. The links may be unconfirmed, unverified, and incredible, but they are there.

So we better face the facts. The phrase “Ansar Al-Khilafah,” we are told, mean “Supporters of the Caliphate,” which is exactly what the Isis is trying to achieve. There exists an Ansar al-khilafah, founded in 2012, operating in concert with the Isis. Just google it. And if they haven’t gotten in touch with our AKP before, as our authorities seem to think, they certainly are going to do it now. It is only a matter of time.

And if the AKP’s target is the studentry, we are in trouble. Students are idealistic and reckless. Student movements have brought down governments and administrations, here and elsewhere in the world. And the student targets in the Philippines are ripe for the picking, because, as I said, they don’t have much of an alternative.

So what can be done at this point? I am not saying that approving the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the answer, but it certainly is a necessary first step to create the foundations for the social justice that our Muslim brothers and sisters have so long craved. Let’s stop politicians from using it as a tool to pole-vault themselves into popularity and “winnability.” And let us make sure we don’t ourselves contribute to the radicalization of the Muslim.