A world of terror
Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - May 21, 2019 - 12:00am

When US President Donald Trump boldly claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or simply Islamic State (IS) – had been wiped out in Syria and around the world, he was sorely mistaken. It wouldn’t be the first time the president has spoken out of turn when it comes to worldwide terror threats and it’s probably not going to be the last. In either case, despite the IS extremist enclave in Syria and Iraq having crumbled putting its leaders on the run, IS activities are still happening in several parts of the world. In fact, the decimation of the Syria and Iraq groups may have just made IS even more powerful as operatives disperse to other regions.

Here in Asia we have seen this extremist action first hand. The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka is one of the most deadly terror attacks in recent history and actually show that Asia – not the Middle East – is a bigger hotbed for terrorist activity at the moment. This could be due to the fact that terrorists are returning to their homes after the collapse of IS in Syria and Iraq. This time however, they are returning not just with their zealous ideals, but also battle-hardened and with operational training ready to carry out their missions in various parts of the world. They are no longer just people with extremist views, but soldiers and operatives ready to carry out simultaneous bombings and missions.

While the president of the United States can pretend that a decisive victory against worldwide terror has been made, everyone else can see the reality. While many of these actions are not carried out directly by IS they are born of the same toxic beliefs – Wahhabi fanaticism. The belief bankrolled by oil rich Saudi Arabia and other Gulf sheikdoms. This is the belief spurring on other terrorists groups that can easily be seen as offspring of IS – Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and other groups in Pakistan, Somalia, and more.

Here is the Philippines the threat is very real as well. Discrimination against Muslims has only strengthened the convictions of potential terror cells and terror groups mounting in Myanmar and Thailand are joining them. If we don’t find a way to address this properly this could become the defining conflict in Asia. We have to stop pretending it isn’t happening and see what we can really do about it.

Honestly, we also have to ask ourselves, does terror ever really die out or does it just change shape and form and move on? And can you really end terror with more fighting? How is this ever going to change in the long run? Or is it just going to be a matter of beating one iteration of a terror cell and then moving onto the next? If that’s the case won’t we just be fighting forever? I don’t know the answer but I know that what we have been doing isn’t cutting it and the little victories that each side claims to be “racking up” aren’t really changing the big picture. After all – getting rid of “workers” isn’t going to change anything if the leaders are still pushing the agenda. Several small fish do not a big fish make. It’s like the mythical hydra – cutting off heads only makes it stronger. We have to find a way to slay the beast as a whole. Only then can we truly make a difference.

*  * *

The results of the elections are coming in quickly and can we honestly say that we are surprised by the results? The Duterte backed senator bets are barreling into the Senate with landslide victories. I guess we knew this was going to be the outcome – however it was still everyone’s duty to make their voices be heard despite the overwhelming odds.

I guess in this aspect one must admire President Duterte’s continued influence. I believe that it’s because he truly speaks what’s on his mind and never minces words. While I admire that about him – it does often land him in hot water with those around him trying to spin his statements and justify them. It does make the people feel that they can believe him though – that he would never lie to them. After all, how can he when he can’t seem to keep his thoughts from flying out of his mouth unedited? The people tend to trust the president because they believe he will always tell them the truth – his truth maybe, but truth nonetheless. And for a population who feels they are constantly being lied to, I suppose this is a refreshing change.

The counting is almost done and we can already see who our new leaders are. While there aren’t many changes in the Senate I am heartened by the little changes we are seeing on the local level. Young, inspired mayoral bets have won in several cities and they are coming in with high ideals and the promises to make the necessary beneficial changes for their constituents. It’s very exciting and I really hope these young politicians keep their word. Perhaps if we really want change we aren’t going to get it by going for the higher political positions right away. Maybe the change needs to start at the lower levels and work it’s way up. Hopefully if these bright young rising political stars keep their promises and make things better for the people then the eyes of the masses will start opening up to other possibilities.

We can’t deny it’s the masses that make the elections in the Philippines. Based on a recent poll it seems that the bulk of the votes all stem from Class D and beyond. We have to recognize their power in our democratic government and reach out to them instead of alienating them or calling them names and blaming them for our woes. If we can bridge the gap and show them a better way perhaps this is how real change will start to happen.

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