The 6th Provincial Barangay Congress of Lanao del Norte convened in Mindanao Civic Center on September 6, 2017. Genesis E. Tura, Ex-Officio Board Member and President of Liga ng mga Barangay welcomed all the members who answered the call to come as one in support of the theme, “Barangay Federation Gearing Towards Federalism, Safe and Drug Free Barangays”.
One of the highlights of this assembly is the presentation of Lt. Col. Jo-ar A. Herrera, G7, 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division of the Philippine Army to talk about the “Marawi Crisis and Violent Extremism: What is to be done?”. Provincial Governor Imelda “Angging” Quibranza-Dimaporo was thankful to see the presence of one of the most decorated young officers in the Armed Forces. Governor Angging urged the members present in the gathering to listen attentively and seriously to the discussion of Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera.
Before the military officer started his audio-visual presentation, he requested the principal officers who are on-stage to sit in front to see clearly the video and pictures that are relevant to the discussion.
“The people of Lanao del Norte are known for their bravery and unity, they stood brave and united against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese foreign invaders. The people of Lanao known that being brave and united they can face any challenges and they can be successful in solving problems in their communities”.
Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur are one in their desire for peace and prosperity. The presence of Maute terrorist group which Lanao del Sur falls victim to the violence initiated by this local terrorist who have nothing in mind but to sow terror, hatred, division and destruction. Extremism is a clear and present danger to civilized society. Citizens of all nations must work in unison to fight these inhuman ideologies of the terrorists.
What happened in Marawi and what should be done? These are the questions raised by the speaker addressing the members of the league. The terrorist are the ones who perpetrated the on-going Marawi Crisis. The Armed Forces of the Philippines bounds by its duty of safeguarding the lives of the citizens as mandated by the Constitution, quickly responded to hold back the atrocities carried out by the terrorists. The decision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to declare Martial Law in the entirety of Mindanao on May 23, 2017 through Proclamation No. 216 was effective to address the rebellion and curbed the terrorists’ well-planned invasion of Marawi City, and to some major cities.
The Maute terrorist group and the Abu Sayyaf bandits joined forces to occupy Marawi because of their greed of power and money with the help of foreign terrorists. This terrorist group hides their true intention by using the peace loving religion of Islam. The terrorist tries to persuade the minds of the residents of the city with their corrupted view of Jihad.
The soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are fighting the terrorists in Marawi to preserve peace and order, and ready to sacrifice their lives just to serve and protect you, citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. Your soldiers are standing brave and united against the terrorists like the people of Lanao del Norte, cites Lt. Col. Herrera.
When the crisis began, 96 barangays were affected and hundreds of thousands of individuals fleeing to safety heading towards the cities of Iligan & Cagayan de Oro, and to the municipalities of the Province of Lanao del Norte. Provincial Governor Imelda “Angging” Quibranza-Dimaporo immediately responded by providing basic necessities to displaced persons taking shelter in the province in coordination with the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, Provincial Health Office and the Municipal Mayors.
The officer said, the Philippine Government is doing its best to take care of the affected residents of Marawi, especially the children and the elderly. “The AFP ensures successful implementation of humanitarian reason including relief operations, community engagement and psychosocial activity to affected communities including the initiative to affected children”.
These affected children coming from the poorest of the poor have the chance to meet and greet the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The idea of the AFP helped boost the self-esteem of these children, where it shows that the Philippine Government will always be there to support and encourage them.
The terrorists never considered the effect of their actions, insensitive to the suffering experienced by the people just to achieve their own interest by cloaking as fighters of Islam. Muslim religious group condemns the attack in Marawi, “The murder of innocent civilians perpetrated by these lawless elements has nothing to do with Islam and should not be attributed to our faith,” the group said, and added, “Sowing of terror in any form cannot be justified in the name of religion”.
The Philippine Army will continue to engage the community and continue to partner with the traditional leaders, local chief executives in order to achieve a better prospective for peace building activity. The army will continue to serve the people of Marawi, and will continue to organize activities in support of the displaced individuals, especially to the affected children of the city.
Extremism has grasped a niche in the countries of South East Asia, particularly in the Philippines. In some parts of the island of Mindanao, there are places that are considered as breeding grounds of violent extremists. The Maute terrorist group who pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, organized the group to establish a caliphate in the Philippines. For them to be recognized by ISIS, the Maute terrorist initiated series of attacks against the military and executed number of innocent civilians to impress the international terrorist. The terrorist group recruited young men mostly coming from the poor communities of Lanao del Sur to join them and fight for the creation of the caliphate. Innocent minds were filled with poisonous ideologies enslaving these children believing them to be warriors of the faith. The youth are the most vulnerable sector of the society and susceptible to radicalization.
The terrorist utilized the youth for their propaganda or misinformation by using social media, posting videos on the internet showing young men carrying automatic rifles and doing physical training preparing them for Jihad. These young men are supposed to be at school learning arithmetic, science, good moral and right conduct, etc., but the leaders of the Maute terrorist group took advantage of their poor socioeconomic status.
Community support is very important to prevent radicalization among the youth. The Philippine Army and the local chief executives need the support of the community. Barangay Chairmen and members of the Barangay Council play a vital role against violent extremism. Peace education and youth empowerment are essentials to sustain the crusade. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is very important to understand extremism. We need to increase our awareness and understanding. Education is still one of the most important avenues to raise awareness about violent extremism. And address issues on discrimination, inclusion, and marginalization”, stressed Lt. Col. Herrera. PIO-DLN