Commentary: Terror means poverty, but peace brings opportunity
General Santos City (12 February) -- Peace is not an option; it is a necessity -- especially in Mindanao. The smoke of burning villages and the dust raised by 130,000 people fleeing what had been their homes represent clear signs of what even more war and terror will bring to the island, perhaps even to the country and the entire region. Without peace, many are free to act like bandits while wrapping themselves in a flag.
"The ideology's not there anymore," says General Alexander Yano, the new chief of the armed forces. "These splinter groups have their own motivation, which is mostly financial."
Terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf (ASG) and breakaway factions from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, along with their Jemaah Islamiyah advisers and similar gangs, are extorting and robbing people and businesses in Zamboanga, Basilan and Jolo as well as Mindanao. Some, like the Kidnapping for Ransom Group, are at least honest about their criminal intent. Others, like the Nur Misauri Breakaway Group and the ASG, kidnap people -- but instead of calling it ransom, they charge for "board and lodging." Businesses are held up at gunpoint while terrorists levy "war taxes," a euphemism for armed robbery.
ASG alone this year has "raked in" more than 1.4 billion pesos from such crimes, reports Singapore's Straits Times. Multiply that by the number of Philippine groups who use war and terror and a cause to mask such criminality, and it is easy to see the harm this does to the nation, let alone the local economies.
Businesses, and the people who depend on them for their livelihood, cannot survive in such a climate. They need peace to operate, to prosper, to employ people and to help build up the country. At the moment, 18,633 families -- more than 130,000 people -- are "displaced," according to the Office of Civil Defense. That is a politically polite term for homeless refugees, all of whom are paying the price of renewed fighting. The terrorists care nothing about them; their goal is destruction, the creation of a chaotic world where gunmen and not working men rule. (MW/PIA-SarGen) [top]