Rats, Barakudas and the BJE Conflict
The warning bells over the danger of ‘private armies’ being ranged against Moro rebels in Mindanao are sounding louder.
There are now even reports from the Visayas that the Ilaga vigilante group once led by recently pardoned murderer Norberto ‘Kumander Bukay‘ Manero is not ruling out the possibility that he will take up arms again, this time against the MILF.
Manero and seven others were convicted in 1985 for the brutal murder of Italian priest Tullio Favali, parish priest of Kidapawan, North Cotabato, with gory details that included his gang having allegedly “feasted” on the slain priest’s brain.
The word ilaga actually means rat in the Hiligaynon lllongo dialect. When Manero’s group and other private armies where organized by the so-called ‘Magnificent 7′ group of politicians, the term ILAGA was used as acronym for Ilonggo Land Grabbers Association with the reputed aim of protecting political warlords who illegally seized lands in Mindanao.
Apart from the rats, other private armies that flourished in Mindanao in the early 1970′s had been variously nicknamed the Barakuda and even Octopus.
When Ferdinand Marcos in fact declared martial law in September 1972, one of his loudly touted actions wa the dismantling of political private armies.
It appears now that the same tactic of forming private armies is being resorted to due to the perceived inability of government to protect civilians from depredations of MILF ‘sub-commanders’ tagged as ‘rogue’ or ‘lost command’ elements with such labels giving the MILF the seeming ‘mantle of deniability’ while it pressures Manila into signing the botched Bangsamoro Juridical Entity MoA without renegotiations.
The situation is not at all helped by the announced move of the outgoing national police chief to send thousands of shotguns to Mindanao for distribution to civilian volunteer groups. One late breaking detail minute ago is report that unidentified men kidnapped and have possibly killed a Filipino military member of the ceasefire monitoring team. This while a report in tht Daily Tribune says the newly formed Ilaga militia issued a threat to kill ten MILF men for every civilian slain the the conflict.
The human rights group Amnesty International, through its Asia Pacific director Sam Zafiri, is appealing to both the Arroyo administration and the MILF to “step back from the brink” of wider conflict with more and more non-combatants being caught in the crossfire.