Editorial: Collateral damage

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IT was a garish reminder as Zamboanga journalist Julie Alipala posted photos of evacuees in Zamboanga City, evacuees of that siege the national government ordered on densely populated barangays in Zamboanga City in September last year.

Then there are the continuing stories of rape in evacuation centers that reports say are being covered up by those managing the centers there.

While yesterday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas flew in, looking so worried about terrorist threat on Davao City that he said is “real”.


Again, we are not downplaying the threat. In fact, we also know that if as many believe this is but some shady spin doctors wagging the dog, these same shady characters are capable of setting off a bomb or two and count collateral damage just to prove that the threat is real. That is why we also know that the threat is real. What we are not sure of is who are the terrorists.

What we are pointing out here is that the Zamboanga crisis is now almost a year old but no one seems concerned that very little has been done.

It is thus a welcome news that the Government of Canada is still keeping an eye on the humanitarian situation in these evacuation centers with the announcement of P32-million in new humanitarian assistance funding “to support the conflict-affected women and children by improving the coordination and management of camps for more than 25,000 internally displaced people in 10 evacuation centers and four temporary shelters, as well as improving conditions in temporary shelters by providing privacy partitions for approximately 4,000 families in evacuation centers” through the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

Still, it is disturbing to learn from journalists on the ground, and not those parachuting only when big news break, that victims of rape are being told to shut up so as not to bring media attention should be sued for human rights violations even complicity to a crime, and all other possible charges to hold them accountable for their inhumane manner of administering an evacuation camp where women and girls are made to live in very vulnerable conditions.

Reports like these should not be covered up and instead should fan outrage among all those who still believe they are human. It was already inhuman when a siege was ordered even when the armed rebels were holed up in populated city barangays.

Out there in Zamboanga, nine months later, families are still living in cramped evacuation centers. Children are dying, girls and women are being raped. While over here Secretary Roxas flew in all worried about the “real terrorist threat”.

We read you loud and clear, because nine months ago in Zamboanga, when bombs and bullets were flying all over the heads of a vast civilian population, the secretary was not interested in negotiating for peace. He was intent on pounding the rebels with bombs and guns never mind if they were bombing and shooting at three densely populated barangays of a big city. Yes, the threat is very, very, frighteningly real.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 02, 2014.


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