Terrorism has always been the deadly brew throwing a monkey wrench to the collective effort to bring lasting peace in Mindanao.
With the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the biggest Moro group in Mindanao, talking peace with the government after decades of armed violent struggle, terrorism today is personified in the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
These are the twin demons that derailed and will continue to derail Mindanao’s march to progress and peace.
The Philippine Government and the MILF have entered into a peace agreement in a bid to put closure to Mindanao’s history of violence.
We are now supposed to be in the right track towards this elusive dream not only of the Mindanaoans but the entire country and the world who have witnessed the blood and gore of about three decades of fighting.
The search for peace in Mindanao is primarily anchored on the government and the MILF coming to terms on how to go about it: that peace could never be achieved with arms, that peace could only be earned if both agree to stop the fighting.
The formula to peace is now with us. The creation of a new Bangsamoro homeland, envisioned in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, is hoped to finally end the decades of violence that marked the Bangsamoro’s quest for recognition and autonomy.
But there are still demons in this search for lasting peace.
And the scenario ahead is frightening, if the ASG and BIFF are not reined in and neutralized.
As we said terrorism is the deadly brew that derailed and could continue to derail peace in Mindanao.
In conflict-ridden Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fanning an ethnic and religious war that has thrown the Middle East countries into turmoil.
ISIS’s brand of violent radicalism to achieve its end is satanic: public beheading, rape and mass murder.
Does ISIS have a bearing in our quest for peace in Mindanao?
It does and it is hair-raising.
Our own home-grown local terrorist groups – ASG and BIFF — have pledged support to the ISIS. Terrorism has today become a universal brotherhood of violence, with terrorist groups sharing technology, expertise, resources and degree of cruelty. With ASG and BIFF supporting ISIS, it would not be a surprise that the ISIS brand of terrorism could happen in Mindanao.
Reports have it that young Mindanao Muslims are being recruited by ISIS to be trained on terrorism and to help fight its war in Iraq and Syria.
That the militants would return to the country as trained jihadists is logical.
Terrorists import to their home countries the terrorism tactics they learn in training in foreign conflict areas.
Given the brand of violent radicalism that ISIS now perpetuates in Syria and Iraq, there is no debate that the local militants trained by this terrorist group would eventually bring to Mindanao the same brand of cruelty to be inflicted on the Mindanaoans.
All terrorists are the same in terms of level and sophistication of brutality and degree of terror.
The military is clueless about the ISIS recruitment.
But it is a fact that the ISIS is a tech savvy terrorist group that has gone to social media in a worldwide recruitment binge.
It is a fact that one of ISIS’s drumbeaters, an Australian Islamic radical preacher, before he was arrested last month, was in the country for many months to preach radical Islam and recruit local militants to be trained in Iraq and Syria.
It could be a fact that young Muslim radicals recruited by ISIS could now be in the Middle East for training on how to make life bloody and painful for people.
These facts should vigorously prod for its immediacy the Philippine military to go deeper into reports that Mindanao militants could now be fighting for ISIS in Iraq or Syria or being trained on terrorism.
Terrorism in Mindanao is a double-headed ogre in the form of the ASG and the BIFF.
One of these days, this ogre could grow a third head — the head of an ISIS terrorist — to raise terrorism in Mindanao to the higher level of violence now happening in Iraq and Syria.
That is, if government fails to cut the head of this demon and allow it to grow a third head marked ISIS.
Today in the dawning of peace in Mindanao, the Philippine government, the Bangsamoro and Christians and indigenous people will soon be bonded by a single mission to bring peace and progress to Mindanao.
We should not allow terrorists to steal this dream away from us.
EDITORIAL: A sense of urgency
There should be a rush on the part of Malacanang and Congress to speed up the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The more it is delayed, the more that the search for peace in Mindanao would be jeopardized.
Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo has called on President Aquino and Congress to hasten the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the offshoot of the historic signing of a comprehensive peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MIF).
The call of Quevedo, a leading light in the search for peace in Mindanao, comes over reports that an international terror group based in the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been recruiting young Mindanao militants to train on terrorism or fight a religious war in Syria and Libya.
The Bangsamoro law is seen by Mindanao Muslims as the answer to their dreams of peace and prosperity.
It has been a long wait — decades — for the Muslims, and Christians and lumads for this instrument of peace.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law is still being reviewed by Malacanang. It still has to be approved by Congress.
Quevedo said the delay is frustrating the Bangsamoro people.
This frustration could lead them into falling into the hands of the terror group ISIS.