Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Implications of martial law in the fight against terror in the Philippines

What foreign and local analysts have feared---an international terror group like ISIS using what is happening in Marawi as propaganda fodder.

Sources from within the Muslim Community told me that the Maute Group began as a small group. Now, it has become bigger courtesy of government, when it suddenly used all its state resources and even decided to use its Martial law card, thereby, attracting local and international attention to what is happening in Lanao del Sur.

This can be solved quietly, like a special military or police operations. Of course, right now, is water under the bridge.

On the report that the Mautes wanted to burn Marawi off the map, well, it's mere government propaganda. There is no plan to do just that because it is forbidden. Marawi is a declared Islamic City. Had these Mautes did just that, they would have incurred the collective anger of the people, which they are very careful not to stoke.

Sources say what the Mautes intended really is to position themselves as a strong alternative force from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Mautes are MILF sympathizers and are very close to former MILF chairman Hashim Salamat.

They belong to the group who criticize the present MILF leadership of "abandoning the Bangsamoro struggle" by entering into a peace deal with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

To accomplish their mission of becoming the main alternative and revolutionary force, the Mautes had to merge with other smaller groups sharing the same mindset about the Bangsamoro struggle. And they did just that. What made them even larger in the eyes of the Bangsamoros was when they allied themselves with the ASG which, since 2014, had expressed and probably established a connexion with the ISIS.

Now, on allegations that they are using or are selling shabu to finance their struggle, it is entirely possible given that even foreign terrorist organisations have assisted drug syndicates in selling illicit drugs just to shore up funds. There is now what analysts call "narco terrorism" which is basically a deliberate scheme to create terrorist acts to disguise the selling and distribution of drugs.  Islamist groups enter into an unholy alliance with these syndicates by taking part in the selling and distribution of drugs. Islamist groups also take part in gun smuggling, racketeering and smuggling activities to generate funds.

Question--are these acts prohibited under Islam? Yes. However, there is a sura in the Noble Qu'ran which absolves those who sin while fighting for the cause of Islam. I believe these local terror groups engaged in that, believing that it would be the quickest way to get funding for the supply of arms, ammunition, tactical gear and all other activities.

There are also information from the ground which suggest that the Mautes served as security for defeated politicians in Marawi and Lanao del Sur. Elders of the Maute clan are not just businessmen but are engaged in political skirmishes with the existing Marawi local government leadership.

What would change the complexion of this fight is after Ramadhan. It is tradition and is actually an edict to all Muslims to give zakat as a form of ablution or an act which purifies the soul of a believer. Abu Bakr during the Ridda wars prescribed the giving of zakat to those who undertake the Cause of Islam.

It is tradition that monies collected by a Muslim which resulted to an illicit or forbidden act, says interests from bank savings, are to be given for the construction of toilets or purchase of ammunition. The giving of zakat in the Philippines is unregulated. It depends on the giver. In other countries, the giving of zakat is institutionalized, with the state collecting it. In the Philippines, zakat can be given to an imam or to the community.

Now, what would prohibit a believer to give his zakat to these fighters? None. It is perfectly legal, since it is not just a cultural custom but a religious one.

Can government prevent the giving of zakat to these groups? No, not even the imposition of martial rule. Why? Because according to several authorities, even the Ombudsman said that the bill of rights continue in operation, and some of these rights enshrined in our Constitution, recognizes religious rights. Since zakat is one of the pillars of Islam, the giving of which to anyone cannot be considered as a crime or a violation of the law since there is no provision in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) that prohibits or makes that act a crime, and likewise the act itself of giving zakat is a religious obligation and therefore, protected as a right by the Philippine state.

And what would prevent even Muslims from abroad giving zakat to these groups? None.

Again, what was the main goal of these local terror groups? To position themselves as an alternative revolutionary organisation separate from the MILF. How then will they do this? By proving themselves as highly capable and a lethal force. How? By attracting government attention to them. Did the Mautes accomplish that? Yes, and worse--they even attracted the attention of the ISIS which now use the battles in Marawi as a propaganda fodder.

It will now be just a matter of time before we see the entire Mindanao as a regional battlefield, attracting jihadists from throughout Asia, thanks to our dearly beloved president who panicked when he heard the initial military intelligence about the Maute movements.