After congratulating themselves and each other, and receiving accolades from the President of the Republic herself, the police authorities in this country have themselves suggested that there’s nothing anyone should really be congratulating them for.

That much was implicit in their warnings– following the Taguig incident in which the police killed 22 Muslims of whom some were armed with handguns– that in retaliation the Abu Sayyaf will go on a bombing spree in metro Manila.

But equally to the point, and perhaps even more compelling, is the by now growing suspicion that the police should be condemned rather than praised for transforming what could have been just one more minor incident among other minor incidents into the trigger for a major threat to Filipino lives.

Since March 15 the police and the Department of Interior and Local Governments have been subjecting the long suffering people of this land to a relentless fear campaign. Abu Sayyaf terrorists will bomb Christian churches this Holy Week. They will bomb malls. They will attack wharves and airports, schools and playgrounds. They will bomb wherever else Filipinos congregate in numbers, whether restaurants, bus depots or busy streets.

The Abu Sayyaf did help create a climate of Holy Week fear by announcing that it will bring its so-called “war” to Manila. But mostly it’s the so-called authorities from the PNP and DILG from whom we’ve been getting the most frightening doomsday scenarios.

If you believe them, it would mean that whatever plans the Abu Sayyaf had for metro Manila before the Taguig siege, it is now even more determined to carry out and worse. If you believe them, it’s the killing of those 22 Muslims that has so enraged the Abu Sayyaf.

If you believe them, in short, it’s they we must blame for the escalated threats to the lives of metro Manilans and other folk elsewhere in the Philippines.

What’s curently happening bears the same imprint of incompetence and malice that on a wider scale is being demonstrated by the United States government in Iraq. Just as the US government is responsible for transforming Iraq into a terrorist haven, so must the Philippine “authorities” bear the brunt of blame for the increased possibility of terrorist attacks this Holy Week and beyond.

Part of the blame rests also on those “Christian” Filipinos who urged non-negotiations with the declared leaders and spokespersons of the would be jail-breakers, and who later hailed the attack as well as its harvest in blood as terrorist come-uppance. Equally guilty were some of the media, among whom quite a number agreed, apparently without the benefit of either information or logic, that no negotiations with the “terrorists” should have taken place, and that those killed deserved the violent death they got.

And yet, among the twenty-two Muslims killed in the assault on the police Camp Bagong Diwa detention center were a 75-year old detainee suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and several teen-agers classified as children under Philippine and international law.

Three alleged and admitted leaders of the Abu Sayyaf–“Commanders” Robot, Kosovo and Global–were also killed. But as for the rest, many had been arrested in Sulu, Basilan and Manila on mere suspicion of ASG membership. They had not even been charged with any crime. At the very least that makes their guilt open to question, and at the most presumes them innocent, as Philippine law mandates. Guilty or innocent, however, by March 17 all were in the same mass grave.

Equally disturbing are the reports which suggest massive and systemic incompetence in the way Camp Bagong Diwa was being run. Camp authorities have repeatedly said that the jailbreak had been planned weeks in advance, and that they knew about it. Some jail guards were in on it as well, says the Department of Justice. What’s more, certain prisoners had been entrusted with the keys to their own jail. There’s also the fact that the guards disarmed and killed by some of the prisoners had entered the prisoners’ area carrying their side arms.

The ensuing violence plus the threats to Filipino lives it created was in this context the result of official incompetence and neglect. The attempted jailbreak was a mess officials themselves made, to remedy which other officials created a far bigger mess.

That bigger mess is the harvest of anger and hate the entire nation is likely to reap from the unjustifiable killing of people merely suspected of ASG membership. The harvest includes a crop of Muslim youth whom the ASG should have no difficulty recruiting. In Muslim communities “Taguig” now resonates with the same meanings as “Jabidah” did in 1967, when the Marcos government massacred Muslim recruits who had balked at invading Sabah.

There is a certain mad consistency in the way those who run this country pretend to do so. The Bureau of Internal Revenue creates shortfalls in government collections. Customs is a den of smugglers. The loudest proponents of the Strong Republic are weakest in implementing their own policies. Just as the military encourages rebellion through the systematic assassination of political activists, so does the police foment terrorism by engaging in terrorist acts, among which the Taguig siege must be included.

Primarily the “authorities” of this country succeed in doing exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. Recall how the Abu Sayyaf was described only last year as a spent force, and as no longer of any consequence as a threat. Now look at the police and DILG press releases alleging a multi-pronged Abu Sayyaf threat against us all that they’re grinding out daily to justify the attack on Camp Bagong Diwa.

Taken together and assuming their accuracy, both claims suggest that the spent force that the ASG was is now reborn. We don’t have to look far to find out how and why. The Camp Bagong Diwa massacre is right before our eyes, telling us how and why terrorists are made by the very same people and agencies who claim to be against them. Like Americans, Filipinos too have become hostages to their own government’s malice, ignorance, and incompetence.

(Manila Standard Today/

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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