20 August 2008

Without Rhyme or Reason

Lanao del Norte Casualties
Business in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte will definitely take a back seat as residents try to pick up the pieces a day after Moro rebels occupied this town on 18 August 2008.

The public market and the commercial district, which are usually buzzing with hustle in the early mornings, were very reserved and quiet. Many establishments were still closed despite the presence of military personnel in the area. Their owners choose to evacuate their premises and leave their only source of income at the hands of looters and robbers.

Worse, aside from the material losses, the province had to deal with human casualties as well. An estimated 30 civilians were either killed or kidnapped by the rebellious Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The casualties included three children aged 1-year old, 4-years old and 7-years old who were killed deliberately by these bandits for reasons they only know.

Officials were at a loss on why children were even included as targets. Do they really pose any danger or threat to an armed and experienced combatant such as an MILF soldier? One account even had it that the unarmed father of a one-year old child was trying to run away from the invading rebels, cradling his precious daughter, when they were mercilessly gunned down.

The attack started at around 4:30 in the morning and lasted for 7 hours until the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) arrived. With all their gears and advance machineries, the soldiers still took their time. Talk about expediency, efficiency and all-out government support to our lowly soldiers. Where did we spend all those billions of pesos of intelligence fund anyway?

As the soldiers slowly moved in, the civilians had to endure seven hours of pure horror as the rebels promote chaos in every house they visit. Sixteen houses, a police car and three buildings of Kolambugan Central Elementary School housing six classrooms were burned.

The assault also sent 7,382 town residents to evacuate across Panguil Bay to the coastal villages of Ozamiz City and 979 residents to nearby Clarin town. They are housed in 15 evacuation centers mostly barangay halls and public elementary schools.

About 7,000 residents were evacuated to Iligan City. They are staying at Iligan City Central School and Iligan City National High School.

This is the kind of environment that the so-called Islamic freedom fighters of MILF want to prevail in the province. This is the way they deal with the situation when their demands are not met. This is the method they employ when they do not want to engage the military in an honorable combat. These are the kinds of people that the government wants to deal with instead of the majority populace who does not want to establish an expanded autonomous region in Mindanao.

Do they really deserved to be heard?