Military Warns of an All-Out War against Muslim Rebels

Jun. 08, 2009

By Media Mindanao News Service
(August 15, 1987 News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988)

ILIGAN CITY (MMNS) – An all-out war reminiscent of the pacification campaign against Muslim insurgents in the early 70s threatens to erupt in the Zamboanga and Lanao Provinces.

This was the gist of a warning issued by Maj. Gen. Cesar Tapia in a broadcast interview Augsut 5 should peace negotiations between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government fail to produce tangible results. Tapia who is chief of the Mindanao Area Command, formerly the Southern Command declared the military would not hesitate to hound the MNLF anywhere in Mindanao if the latter starts attacking military installation and police outposts.

In the same interview, Tapia disclosed that MNLF camps in the Zamboanga and Lanao provinces have been identified by the military. It would not be difficult to track them, Tapia said adding that one week is too far to end the war (against the MNLF) but many people will be affected.

Tens of thousands of Muslims died in the early 70s when the Marcos government pursued a full-cale battle against the Muslim insurgents. Notable among them were the mass murders in Kolongkolong and Palembang in South Cotabato and the massacre in Pata, Sulu.

Tapia’s tough message was seconded by his deputy Brig. Gen. Jesus Hermosa the same day. Hermosa whose area of responsibility is Central Mindanao declared war against criminal elements this time zeroing on the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF. While Hermosa had dispatched the same warning in the past months, he avoided mentioning the two Muslim rebel groups.

Tapia’s stern message followed a statement August 2 where he claimed the MNLF can fight for two weeks owing to logistical inadequacy.

Tapia excluded the MILF and the MNLF-Reformist Group in his warning.

Earlier, the MNLF-declared war was inevitable and blamed the government for giving them the run around in the peace talks. MNLF chairman Nur Misuari was quoted by major national dailies to have instructed his estimated 200,000-strong army to stage offensives against the government forces.

The three Muslim factions and the underground National Democratic Front (NDF) operate in the two Lanaos. In May this year, the military launched a major drive against the insurgents. The operations initially took the form of warning and police actions against the Tunda force, a generic term for bandits generally believed the perpetrators of robberies and kidnappings. No bandit was ever apprehended or killed since. The military justified this by saying victims had been unwilling to testify against the suspects. (Media Mindanao News Service, News Digest Volume 1, August 1987-July 1988)

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