Jolo twin bombings an affront to MILF
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Islamic State claims handiwork of Sunday’s “suicide bombings” of the Jolo Catholic Cathedral. That’s meant to mislead. In saying suicide, IS wants investigators to think there no longer are perpetrators to hunt down. Yet CCTV footages reportedly show four to six lads likely planting the explosives then scurrying from the blasts.

Still the misdeed was suicidal. The central authority and the soon-to-govern Moro Islamic Liberation Front consider it an affront. Two days prior, the two sides had taken the peace settlement to the stage of expanded Muslim autonomy. Both consider Islamist terrorism among the foremost threats to Moro home-rule. The world is watching how they will make the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) work. Those bombers have given Malacañang and the MILF a first chance at joint policing and security. Triggering a fierce manhunt, they’ve practically signed their own death warrants.

One of the videoed bombers reportedly is a brother of a slain Abu Sayyaf chieftain. Feigning to espouse Moro independence, that 300-man band of kidnappers-for-ransom has been reduced by recent military onslaughts to 80. Famished and fatigued, they’ve split up into smaller gangs. Intelligence gatherings have it that the bombers are from one that calls itself Ajang-Ajang.

MILF chairman Ebrahim Murad does not see the Abu Sayyaf and IS having formal ties as yet. The two have wide ideological gaps, he said in an interview with Rappler online news days before the bombings. If at all, Abu Sayyaf remnants are seeking IS tie-up only for funding. Could the Ajang-Ajang thus have killed 20 churchgoers and soldiers to prove itself worthy of IS doles? The IS aims for a “Southeast Asia province” consisting of southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mindanao – but is stymied by closer security ties and tighter border patrols among the four countries. A subplot the police are looking into is revenge for the Abu Sayyaf brother’s slaying. That’s likely why a second bomb was set off against soldiers responding to the first.

It could not have been lost on the Ajang-Ajang that Murad is about to take over leadership of the BARMM. A plebiscite had ratified last week the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Under it, President Rodrigo Duterte is to appoint an 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority, till the first BARMM election in 2022. Murad is expected to be named BTA chief minister. He will have overall economic and political responsibility, including law and order. Going after the Abu Sayyaf and the Ajang-Ajang bombers would avert any more disruptions to his governing.

The BARMM will have a branch of the National Police Commission to oversee the regional police. In the interim there shall be a Joint Peace and Security Team, Murad told Rappler. To compose it are the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and MILF fighters. Combating terrorism and dismantling private armies are among the JPST’s primary duties, as the MILF gradually decommissions its arms.

The MILF had waged a 35-year separatist war before the peace pact of 2014. Before becoming the head Murad was vice chairman for military affairs, in charge of its Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force.

One of Murad’s fiercest foes became his closest associate in governing: retired AFP chief and now Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez. Also tasked with law and order is outgoing Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujib Hataman, a Tausug ex-rebel long fed up with Abu Sayyaf banditry. Those three former warriors will give terrorists no space.

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Though prevalent among Filipinos, depression and suicide are misunderstood. For awareness, discussions are crucial, if uncomfortable. Theater is a safe place and form for exchanges.

The Sandbox Collective and 9 Works Theatrical are staging “Every Brilliant Thing,” a one-character play of a child who lists down things in the world that make life worth living – ice cream, water fights, staying up past bedtime, watching TV – every time her mom comes back from the hospital trying to commit suicide.

The eyewitness story of a parent’s depression captures not only the struggles people face in those situations but also the capacity of the human spirit for finding happiness in the smallest of things.

As 3,000 die per day by suicide, playwright Duncan Macmillan aimed to stir conversation and educate audiences on mental health. “Every Brilliant Thing” has run in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and South Korea, and was filmed for a 2016 HBO documentary. The Philippine debut is timely, as Filipinos, among the world’s happiest people, also have the highest depression incidence in Southeast Asia. The Global Burden Disease Study in 2015 revealed that 3.3 million Filipinos suffer depression, with suicide rates of 2.5 percent in males and 1.7 percent in females. Stigma associated with mental health worsens the problem, as families avoid opening up. In the play “people will have an encounter, to find their way through this issue,” says Toff de Venecia, artistic director of The Sandbox Collective.

The play stars Teresa Herrera, directed by Jenny Jamora. Premieres Feb. 2, at Zobel de Ayala Recital Hall, Maybank Performing Arts Theater, 26th Street cor. 9th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City.

In unique format, the audience forms part of the performance, as the lead character interacts with the viewers as the narrative unfolds. Post-show dialogues with mental health specialists, support groups, and suicide hotlines will explore depression healing and suicide prevention.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

JOLO CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL SUICIDE BOMBINGS
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