Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 12      May 1- 7, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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2 New Vigilante Groups Surface in Mindanao

Two new vigilante groups came out in public last week claiming to eliminate “terrorists” and pedophiles. The emergence of the vigilantes has revived memories of martial law vigilantism that led to the commission of human rights violations.

By Cheryll D. Fiel

DAVAO CITY -- Two vigilante groups have come out in public separately weeks after U.S. Charge d'Affaires Joseph Mussomeli issued a statement referring to Mindanao's borders as "so porous" for lawless elements that could make the southern Philippines as the next Afghanistan.

Calling themselves the "Bag-ong Ilaga" (or new Ilaga), the first group of vigilantes came out early last week, giving local reporters copies of their videotaped press conference and a press statement declaring their mission to eliminate "terrorists."

The “Bag-ong Ilaga” vigilantes said that they are "desperate" that government has failed to preempt terrorist attacks and vowed to meet “terrorists” "eye for an eye."

Named by the vigilante group as “terrorists” are the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Abu Sayyaf, Pentagon and Jemaayah Islamiya (JI). Both the MILF and MNLF are however armed political groups fighting for a separate state; Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon have figured as crime syndicates while JI is suspected by the U.S. as a “terrorist network” in Asia.

The press statement signed by one "Kumander Dapay" (superior eagle) also warned all Muslims to avoid helping the Moro rebel groups so they would be spared from vigilante vengeance.

Reacting to the report, the armed forces’ Task Force Davao (TFD), a battalion-strong counter-terrorist unit based in Davao City, threatened to arrest the members of Bag-ong Ilaga. A TFP colonel however asked the group to instead help the military gather information about suspected terrorists.

Two days after the Bagong Ilaga surfaced, another group, "Ahl-ul-Kitab," came out with a press statement saying that they are waging a war against "foreign sex tourists" especially foreigners engaged in pedophilea. The group warned that since pedophilea is against the teachings of the Koran, they are duty-bound to launch punitive actions against those engaged in the crime. The statement was signed by one Ali Mahmoud Julaila.

A deadlier ploy?

Sammy Buat of the Suara Bangsamoro party-list group said that the emergence of the two vigilante groups might be used to justify further militarization in Mindanao.

Evelyn Carias, secretary general of Khadidja Moro Women, on the other hand, suspected that "Bag-ong Ilaga" is no different from the Ilagas in the 1970s, only that, this group appears deadlier invoking "counter-terrorism" as its mission. She expressed concern that the group is just using "counter-terrorism" to spring a series of liquidation against perceived enemies of the brains behind the group.

There have been more than 30 bombing incidents in
Mindanao since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo began her term in early 2001. Most of the incidents were blamed on Moro groups.

As a result, Moro communities where bombings took place became the targets of military operations that, as claimed by rights watch groups, victimized many innocent civilians including women and children.


The Ilaga that Mindanaoans know in the martial law years singled out the Moros as their enemies. The Ilaga claimed to be Ilonggos accused by the Moro as landgrabbers so they had to defend themselves by taking up arms against them.

Backed by the military, the Ilaga later became the dreaded vigilante group tagged in the killing of other civilians. The most notorious case of human rights violation involving the Ilaga was the brutal killing of Italian missionary Fr. Tullio Favalli in Tulunan, North Cotabato in 1985.  The intended target of the murder, Fr. Peter Geremia, a colleague of Fr. Favali, lived to tell of the atrocities of the vigilante group.

In an open letter to the regional military command, Fr. Geremia said that the group responsible for Fr. Favalli's killing "proclaimed themselves as champions of the armed forces acting under government
authority, while drinking and acting like an insane criminal gang out of control."

The Ilaga, etched in the memory of Mindanaoans, is an anti-rebel cult, notorious for acts of cannibalism. Bulatlat



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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