Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Basilan bishop receives threats from extremists

The peace and order environment in the province of Basilan has degenerated to the nightmare situation it was a decade ago, as threats to the Catholic clergy and kidnapping incidents continue to mount, the Catholic bishop based in Basilan warned.

Bishop Martin Jumoad said on Saturday he and the members of the Catholic Church were being terrorized by men claiming to be mujaheedin or Islamic warriors.

Past letters threatened Basilan Catholic priests in Lamitan that they would be attacked, he noted.

The latest threat, Jumoad said in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas on Saturday, was delivered to his residence on Friday night. He said the letter was sent to him and was not sealed in an envelope.

A copy of the letter, which was sent to the media, warned Jumoad that violence would be done to him should he refuse to convert to Islam or pay Islamic taxes.

The letter writers, a certain Paruji Indama and Nur Hassan J. Kallitut, warned the bishop that as a resident of a Muslim province, he has to abide by Islamic law.

“You think you are safe because there are soldiers around you? Remember, the jamaa can strike even in Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga City,” the letter said.

“We are giving you 15 days to respond. If we don’t get an answer from you, we will consider you our enemies,” it added.

The bishop said the peace and order situation in the province has been spiraling out of control and mirroring the chaos a decade ago, when abductions and ambushes by extremist groups like Abu Sayyaf were rampant.

“I am really sad with our situation. Instead of moving forward, we are now moving backward. When it comes to peace and order, I thought we have already gone out from 1998 scenario, but now we are coming back,” he said.

Aside from the death threats, Jumoad expressed concern over the kidnappings in Basilan and nearby provinces the past few months.

The latest occurred in Basilan where several employees of Basilan Electric Co. were kidnapped in Tuburan town in June. They were released last week.

Jumoad said the threats have been taking its toll on the members of his parish. He said it has been “very frustrating” for him and the community to live and work under an atmosphere of fear.

Basilan, a part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has a population of 400,000. Seventy-percent of the residents are Muslims.

According to the bishop, one parish member told him that he could not sleep because of the death threats.

“It is okay to be poor and I could endure having no food for a day or two but to receive a threat such as this is miserable. This is something psychological. To spend sleepless nights due to threats would be more dangerous than to have no food and to be poor,” he said.

The bishop said he would discuss with the leadership of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines the security situation in Basilan. On Monday, Jumoad said he would meet with the members of the parish to consider their next move.

Jumoad said he earlier told the provincial police and the soldiers in the area about their situation, but no help came. The provincial police chief, he said, told him that he was also in a bind as he could not go to areas where the suspected extremists were. “The provincial police director should be replaced. He is not doing anything,” he said.

“We hope the military and police will work hard to maintain the peace and order here,” he added.(Kristine Alave; INQ.net)

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