Friday, September 20, 2013

Zamboanga standoff near to resolution, but how about Basilan?

What really happened between Vice President Jejomar Binay and the President? Binay has been receiving a lot of flak for allegedly representing government in negotiations with the MNLF without the expressed approval of the President and the crisis committee. Binay reportedly had back-door negotiations with Nur Misuari, his classmate at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

When the palace team handling the Zamboanga crisis reportedly disagreed with what Binay did, the Vice president hurriedly left for Manila shortly after announcing a so-called "ceasefire". That "ceasefire" declaration was rebuffed by the palace. Binay allegedly wanted to facilitate the safe passage of the MNLF rebels from Zamboanga. This, however, ran contrary to what government intended which is to resolve the issue using arms. Aquino wanted nothing more than decimate the MNLF ranks through military means.

The President is still in Zamboanga reportedly leading the troops to clear the area of rebels. It has been two weeks, and the military operations seemed destined towards victory. Nearly a hundred rebels were captured or have surrendered. Scores have been killed while several others managed to escape.

Honestly, what the military is doing right now in Zamboanga can be described as a pyrrhic victory. Yes, they dealt the MNLF a serious blow in their engagement in Zamboanga, at the cost of affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Zamboangenos. Eighty five thousand evacuees now populate various evacuation centers in the city. More than a hundred civilians were either killed or injured.

There seems to be no news on what is happening in Basilan, where fighting rages between government forces and the rebels, led by a combined force of the MNLF, the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

There is a possibility that this conflict will spread in other areas of the region, particularly in Jolo and Basilan, two strongholds of the MNLF. It seems that Aquino will still be busy containing the conflicts in Mindanao.

Worse, this could likewise be used by regional terrorists to "make their presence felt"and transform Mindanao into a regional magnet of Islamic fundamentalist forces. The Aquino administration clearly underestimated the long term effects of this conflict. Yes, the AFP will eventually win and flush out the remaining MNLF rebels in the area. The question is---for how long?