AFP Admits Intelligence Snafu In Balabac, Palawan Crisis (3rd Update With Misuari Reaction)
The military has just admitted in sideways manner that yet another intelligence failure allowed a platoon-size armed unit of the Moro National Liberation Front to occupy two island villages in Palawan’s southernmost Balabac island group.
Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. :
Around 30 MNLF breakaway members, led by Abdulah Abdurajak, raided homes and establishments in Matambuli Island, Balabac, Palawan, last Saturday.
We don’t know how they got here in Palawan but their objective is to extort money from residents and rob them of their belongings.
They are armed with M-14 rifles and M203 grenade launchers. We are helping the PNP in the law enforcement and to serve the warrant of arrest against the group.
It’s breathtaking to hear the Armed Forces spokesman to candidly confess they have no idea how the rebels slipped into the area.
The vernacular for this snafu is our military was caught sleeping on the job (natutulog sa kangkungan).
What’s worse, for those is more suspicious imaginations, is the scenario that some elements in the military are deliberately exposing our civilian populations in MNLF or MILF-infested areas as either bait, or to eventually justify a Manila-directed security crackdown across a wider area of Mindanao.
Our readers may also care to note that it remains unclear if that MNLF team in Balabac is connected with Nur Misuari who could very well exercise influence to make that armed group stand down.
So the crisis in Balabac may really not be as simple, or isolated as it seems.
Government forces succeeded in retaking the occupied village before noon today, with a Navy spokesman, not Camp Aguinaldo announcing that 7 suspected MNLF fighters were killed in the operations while villagers taken captive last Saturday were freed.
Previous reports had not mentioned any civilians had been taken by the gunmen
Lt. Col. Yuri Pesigan, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8:
Meron din ‘yung eskwelahan, dun dinala ‘yung mga dating mga kanilang hinostage na mga native. Pero before na nagkameron kami ng assault, pinawalan na nila yung mga hostage. Yung nakuha naming information nag-extortion sila dun sa mga residents dun sa isla (We received reports that they tried extorting money from the residents on the island).
Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo:
Bilang paraan [na ipakita] na hindi siya sasama at papahuli, inipon niya ang mga tauhan niya at in-occupy ang lugar na ito (He and his men occupied the island to show that he will not allow himself to be arrested). This is a clear criminal and terroristic act.
Moro leader Nur Misuari, the former ARMM governor, has broken his silence about the Balabac incident and is mad:
This is another Corregidor island massacre. Hindi ito makakalimutan ng MNLF [The MNLF will not forget this]. They [armed forces] will be held accountable. Sa lahat ng patak ng dugo na bansa [for all the spilled blood], they will be held accountable.
I will ask him (Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro) to explain bakit nangyari yan [why it happened]. Anu bang kasalanan nila at bakit [what did they do wrong and why] they continue to perpetuate these heinous crimes on our people.
Kalookahan ang extortion charges na yan [Those extortion charges are a joke]. They are honest people. They are true Muslims. It’s just propaganda. The MNLF forces involved were long time inhabitants of the island who were engaged in planting seaweeds. How can they be extortionists when they are all relatives there?
Kinausap ko si [I talked to] (Western Mindanao Command Maj. General) Ben Dolorfino, through a representative, to withdraw … not to enforce any tragedy on the island.
Mr. Misuari, ever the huffer-and-puffer, can be forgiven for his bluster.
But it seems grossly irresponsible, and inflammatory, for him to equate the incident in Palawan to the Corregidor Jabidah Massacre where Moro merceberies had been assemble by then Pres. Marcos for a clandestine plot to invade North Borneo.
While the Balabac incident certainly begs explanation, Misuari should at least stop his posturing and let the real facts come out.
It was in September last year that back Misuari himself had claimed he was building a Mindanao Defense Force with the aim of “enabling our Moro people to catch up with Luzon and Visayas.”
Now he appears to be soliciting attention again from Manila to boost his stock both locally and internationally.
His next machinationation should be closely watched.