IT HAS been more than a month since violence erupted in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province of the home country, Philippines. In that one month more than 300 militants belonging to either the Maute group or the Abu Sayyaf Group have been killed while government forces has had 60 plus casualties, and the really bad news of 20 or so civilians senselessly killed.
Yes, the government side is winning this battle at a cost which military officials would consider to be acceptable, especially against foes who are fighting not for monetary considerations, but a belief which still baffles a lot of ordinary citizens, in the Philippines, in the United Arab Emirates and even the rest of the world.
Yes, the government can say that it is winning the battle against these extremists with only a handful of them left to carry on a fight which is all but ended. Yes, government officials, and the military brass can crow about being able to handle a situation which would have been worse were it not for the very timely and fierce response of the country’s military forces. The 500 or so militants had little chance of winning a battle against a better equipped and 100,000 strong Philippine military organization.
In another week or so, we can expect the fighting to stop with what is left of this violent organizations, either in the hands of the country’s military or dead. Senseless deaths in a senseless war in a world gone awry.
It has been said that the Marawi attack would not have occurred had the central government in faraway Metro Manila paid more attention to the Muslim rumblings for the past three or four decades. It has also been said that what transpired in Marawi City was only a result of the overwhelming poverty and lack of opportunities in that part of the country. Thus, after the military organization wraps up its operation in the Muslim city, it is utterly important that the roots of the so-called Muslim conundrum should be addressed post haste… unless government wants more violence to erupt in Mindanao.
If poverty is the root of the conflict in Marawi, then government must take it as a priority to alleviate the plight of the majority of Mindanaoans, Christian and Muslim alike.
Of course, with Rodrigo Duterte – a Davaoeno – at the helm of the national government, it was expected that Mindanao would finally get the attention it deserves. But it did not, or so it seemed. With less than a year in office, Duterte was not given enough time to implement whatever plans he had to jumpstart the uplifting of Mindanao. And he did have excellent plans for his home island.
Railways were on the drawing board. Roadways were also part of the plan. Build, build, build was what he had in mind in order to stimulate the Mindanao economy which would hopefully gain enough momentum to keep poverty at more manageable levels.
But he could not even start explaining his plans when the violence erupted in Marawi.
Still, after the rest of the Maute and ASG militants have been rounded up, the government must look beyond the military solution it found in suppressing the uprising in Marawi and get back on track to the more urgent need of lessening the sufferings of Mindanaoans.
Luckily, the administration’s plans for Mindanao were affected much by the violence which flared. In fact, these plans were still at its opening phase thus very little damage was done to them. But now that the violence has all but ended, it is time for government to go back to the plan it hastily implement so that a similar incident would have to become a reality again.