Feeding the crocodile in the hope it will eat them later. After committing mass-murder in Zamboanga the Philippine government wants to be seen doing something for the “oppressed Muslims” who somehow need to be rewarded for their jihad.
“Culturally Sensitive Policing”
The definition of Insanity is Â repeating the same mistake over and over in the hope it will yield a different result.
Mountie brings expertise on ‘culturally sensitive policing’ to Philippines’ war-wearyÂ Zamboanga
Assistant RCMP Commissioner Randy Beck arrived in the Philippines last week to oversee the establishment of the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) in war-weary Mindanao where many of the country’s seven million Muslims live and where more than 120,000 people have died over the past half century in fighting between Islamic insurgents and government forces.
Beck’s commission is to make recommendations next April on what kind of police force Mindanao will need if separation talks succeed. The ICP will be looking for a model that will reflect the southern region’s ethnic and cultural differences.
Just before the police commission work got underway â€” and at the same time as comprehensive peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front seemed to be making progress â€” the MILF’s longtime rival, the Moro National Liberation Front, launched a spectacular attack seizing scores of civilians and holding them hostage for several weeks in the heart of predominately Christian Zamboanga City.
The Muslim community of Santa Barbara was razed during a prolonged battle between Islamic insurgents and Philippine government forces last month that left more than 240 dead.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â PHOTO: Matthew Fisher/Postmedia News
By the time government forces regained control of an urban area last month where more than one million people live, 206 Islamic insurgents were dead, as were 25 security forces and 13 civilians. And large swathes of this steamy tropical city were in ruins.
As Vietnam-era Huey gunships swept over nearby mountains and large numbers of police and soldiers brought in from across the country patrolled constantly, feelings were still running sky high last week.Â Â This was most obvious where some of the tens of thousands Muslim refugees from the latest fighting were living in wretched conditions under flimsy plastic sheeting they had pitched along the normally idyllic waterfront.
The bloodbath in Zamboanga City has complicated Beck’s work before it has really begin.
“Mistrust is a fact of life and that is how we are dealing with it. We are not approaching it as a disenabler,” Beck, who represents the Canadian government in the ICP,Â said during an interview in Manila. “We approach it as a risk factor to any future success.”
What made Beck a good fit to be chairman of the ICP was that he comes to this deeply impoverished archipelago in the south with nearly four decades of hands-on experience working with national, provincial and municipal police forces across Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Of particular interest here was that Beck had done a lot of what he referred to as “culturally sensitive policing” in aboriginal communities and had helped several indigenous police forces that were independent of provincial and federal services. It is a model that will be examined to see if it is useful here.
“For reference purposes, I can put those pieces on the table as annexes to this jigsaw puzzle that we are trying to put together,” said Beck, a former detective whose last job at home was as head of criminal operations for British Columbia, which is the RCMP’s largest division.
“How Canada does policing is something that interests us a lot,” said the MILF’s top peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, who lauded the Mountie’s appointment. Because Canada had a long record of multi-jurisdictional policing involving three levels of government as well as aboriginal groups, “he could give us some good lessons” about how the Bangsamoro Muslims of Mindanao could establish their own police force.
The MILF used to carry out bloody attacks against Philippine security forces. But for a couple of years now it has been seeking “more autonomy,” for the Bangsamoro through negotiation in areas such as policing, Iqbal said, before offering a quick summary of his people’s harsh experiences under Spanish, American and Filipino rule.
“Incidents such as what just happened in Zamboanga are precisely why we decided to enter into peace negotiations,” Iqbal said.
“The MNLF’s attack was a disaster. We do not understand the reason for this action,” he said before acknowledging that the rival Muslim group’s strategy was to try to kill the peace talks and thwart the ICP’s work before it had even begun.
Alluding to the same possibility, Beck said that if the talks about the future shape of policing in Mindanao succeeded “the momentum that that creates and the awareness of a heightened positive expectation of the community is potentially going to be viewed a risk to a number of stakeholders.”
That clearly makes the ICP a potential target in a region whereÂ travel by westerners is strongly discouraged by every western embassy including Canada.
“We are very, very conscious of the practical fact that it takes courage to be down in Mindanao, but we are not foolhardy,” Beck said. “We will manage our conduct appropriately.”
The war between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao was likened to a scab by Iqbal because it was bloody at certain times and dried up at others.
“The wound was not completely healed and then it got irritated again and is causing much pain,” he said of the raging street battles in Zamboanga last month. “It has made things worse between the two confessional communities of Mindanao.”
Muslim families gather at the Zamboanga airport to greet relatives returning from the Haj in Mecca. Despite the joyous occasions, tensions are sky high in this predominately Christian city after Muslim insurgents took hostages last month that sparked wild battles with government security forces. Â PHOTO: Matthew Fisher/Postmedia News
Sgt. Nicolas Noli, whose police unit had flown 860 kilometres south from Manila when the siege began last month and was now helping to guard a shrine frequented by Catholic pilgrims, was emphatic that government security forces were “fighting jihadis terrorists.”
However, not everyone in Mindanao saw the conflict in such stark religious terms.
“This isn’t about Muslims and Christians, it is only about what the MNLF wants,” said 25-year-old Michell Roque, who had come to the city two years ago to study from a distant Christian village in Mindanao.
“We go out every day hoping that a bomb won’t go off. That’s why we are happy that so many police and soldiers are still here. It means we are safe.”
Roque doubted the independent police commission or the peace talks would succeed because “the MNLF will just keep coming back.” Her mother, she said, had told her to never forgive their betrayal.
Retired air force engineer Antonio Julian thought the war was being fought over land, not religion.
“The MNLF lost this most recent battle badly but everyone believes it is regrouping to fight again,” he said.
Land surveyor Abdel Azziz, whose home in the Muslim suburb of Santa Barbara was razed during the fighting, said he had no patience for the MNLF or its tactics, but accused the government security forces of behaving badly towards Muslim civilians during the recent battles.
Placing his hopes on the peace talks and Beck’s police commission, which will soon begin a series of community visits in Mindanao, Azziz added: “This is a political problem, not a religious or military problem. So it requires negotiated political solutions.”
A Muslim woman walks past a policeman, part of a massive security presence in the predominately Christian city of Zamboanga, after last month’s violence. PHOTO: Matthew Fisher/Postmedia News