Military officer denies reports of pursuit operations against rebels in Basilan

REJECTING calls for an all-out war against the MILF, President Aquino announced today that he has instructed “intensified operations” against all criminal elements involved in the Al-Barka siege that killed 19 government soldiers.

He said that “the mailed fist of the state will be brought to bear upon them so that justice may be served,” and that “there is no question that the state will find them; the only remaining question is when.”

I am inclined to support the President’s remark that “the only remaining question is when,” but it seems like the boy crying “wolf” after so much time has lapsed since the battle in Al-Barka.  My military sources assigned in the restive town has informed me this afternoon that contrary to military statements, there are  no intensified operations nor instructions for the same against the rebels, and that the same military contingent remains in the place, in fact, their number was even reduced upon orders by “higher ups” of  a pull-out of troops from Al-Barka.

“Kami ang nalalagay sa alanganin. Hinahayaan na lang nilang magpalakas uli ang kalaban,  Walang order na ituloy ang pursuit.  Sa katunayan, pinull-out pa kami sa area,” laments the military officer whose men were among the 19 soldiers killed.

According to Senator Miriam Santiago, fresh pursuit allows government soldiers to cross jurisdictional lines in pursuit of rebel guerillas who have committed war crimes. While some definitions of “fresh” pursuit differentiate it from “immediate” pursuit, the period between October 18 (when the Al-Barka battle happened) and today, October 24, is just way too long for criminal laws to be enforced effectively.

The situation mandated immediate or hot pursuit; in fact, the government’s dilly-dallying has cost eight more lives of soldiers and policemen in Basilan and Lanao del Norte after the Al-Barka siege, the death over the weekend of six rubber plantation workers of the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated Development Cooperative in Sumisip, Basilan, the death of two soldiers yesterday in an ambush in Lanao del Norte, and the death of two more soldiers today in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Senator Defensor Santiago warned that if the rule against invasion of areas of temporary stay continues to be observed, then the Philippine military would be “so severely hampered in its law enforcement functions that the Philippines would be flirting with the status of a failed state.”

“We don’t have to wait for the next round of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Great necessity requires great action to defend the state.  We do not need the approval of the International Monitoring Team or the MILF,” she said

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