By John Tria
As the military and police check on the warnings about ISIS threats, (https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/03/06/military-checks-info-on-23-armed-groups/), particularly those said to remain in Mindanao, sources tell us that the possible entry of foreign support for these people by way of the porous borders between Mindanao, Malaysia, and Indonesia require heightened civilian vigilance.
These are sometimes helped by seaborne piracy networks and smugglers against which increased tricountry cooperation between the three neighbors had been previously launched.
As these contingencies are engaged, it is clear that months after the fighting ceased, those close to the conflict told us that the siege has no precedent.
They say that this was not an uprising against government, it was clearly a desire to grab power and territory, given ISIS’ failure to revive its Middle Eastern base.
Unlike the land masses of the Middle East, the archipelagic nature of Southeast Asia makes monitoring and enforcement in the bordering seas more difficult, seen as an advantage for terror networks to thrive.
On a cultural level, the mass shootings they perpetrated that launched the siege and drove away hundreds of thousands of Marawi shows their disdain for anyone who does not hew to their narrow ideology.
Seeing how it operated in other countries, it recruits by fear. Those spared by the shootings are compelled to join for their own safety, and some are of course indoctrinated.
One disturbing trend is their recruitment of children, probably because the bigger network of more able-bodied men have left the areas.
Thus, the ideology of whatever movement they claim to be is not a base of solid cadres with a program of government seeking to establish a rule by the people. It is based on naked power and narrow fear by a few.
Knowing these, the heightened vigilance to contain or quell any new growth of ISIS will require not only a partnership of our government, inteligence agencies, the security sector, and other neighboring states, but the private sector, especially religious and business leaders.
Having said that, the rebuilding of Marawi and the efforts to improve the Mindanao economy will be vital to drain the swamp of influence that can breed extremist, and terror groups out to exploit legitimate grievances.
Fortunately, the will to raise Mindanao up is clear with increased infrastructure spending and connectivity that is vital to spurring trade and opportunity among the various Mindanao peoples.
Moreover, new programs to spur countryside development via agricultural credit support are finally pushed after being dormant for a long time.
This, hopefully, will make the growth more inclusive, bringing it well into the hinterlands where extremism is often bred.
As various groups have expressed their support or are already helping those affected in Marawi rebuild their lives, the work of Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena in Duyog Marawi gets a lift from Catholic Group Couples for Christ (CFC) which pledged to provide housing support through its Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) Program.
The pledge of support was signed in front of 6,000 CFC leaders led by International Council member James Solano and Mindanao mission head Rene Breva at its annual Mindanao leaders conference in Davao.
More groups are expected to offer even more help in rebuilding Marawi.
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