A confluence of Islamic extremists’ and Mindanao drug lords’ interests led to the Marawi City siege

My Professor in Communication Arts Marian Pastor Roces is at it again. Mass media and society was the course I took under her back then. As one who is deeply involved in showcasing Muslim-Filipino culture to the world, Roces takes it upon herself to carry the cudgels for the bakwit of Marawi. She writes in her Now You Know piece “Invisible Marawi”…

Of the 300,000 refugees who took off from Ground Zero, those who do not live in refugee camps are staying with relatives all over the Philippines. Whatever visibility they had immediately postwar—in the refugee camps where rich and poor, friends and enemies, allies and the rido-inflamed had to pack themselves together—evaporated when most of them disappeared into extended clan assistance networks.

As a leading stalwart of the Opposition being a member of partisan group Kaya Natin, she considers herself instrumental in convincing Leni Robredo to run for Vice-President in 2016. She shares this distinction with singer Jim Paredes. It’s no wonder then that she blames the President for the delay in the rebuilding of Marawi.

President Duterte’s initial idea for Marawi was to keep the people out, hand over the property to Chinese developers or their proxies to create some fantasy Dubai or Singapore, and let a selection of the residents back to enjoy a theme park way of life.

This kitschy dream of progress and resurrection should be reminder enough that kitsch is the aesthetic Chinese fascism. (Think dolomite beach, Manila Bay.)

Those of you who haven’t spent an extended period of time among Muslim-Filipinos will not have an idea of their social mores. They have not adopted modern systems first introduced during the American colonial period. As Roces mentioned, land titles don’t exist. All of the properties in the cities have been handed down from one generation to another. Rido is a blood feud between families. It usually ends with one family being rendered extinct after all of its members are dead. This is why our Muslim-Filipino brothers value their firearms more than their wives.

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Most of you read the news stories about the cash discovered inside abandoned homes. There were also the stories which came out after soldiers raided the Ampatuan compound. Muslim-Filipinos don’t believe in banks. This is why former President Ferdinand Marcos established the Philippine Amanah Bank. Every aspect of their society is governed by the Shari’a system. The true story is shabu or methamphetamine chloride begins in Zamboanga City.

Duterte was correct in stating that it wasn’t mainland Chinese who pioneered this trade in the country. It was the Taiwanese bamboo gangs. The basic principle of Chinese business is to keep capital earning a profit and the profit to be ploughed back in as capital to earn a profit. The Taiwanese came to Zamboanga to buy marine products which is abundant in the Sulu Sea all the way to the Malacca Strait. Later on, they put up clandestine shabu laboratories. It didn’t take too long for shabu to become popular as the poor man’s cocaine.

Islam prohibits vices but there are Muslims who don’t conform to the practice. The grant of autonomy during Fidel Ramos’s Presidency led to Muslim-Filipinos getting into the drug trade. The prominent families of Central Mindanao who were also politicians were the pioneers; Candao, Ampatuan and Mangudadatu. This was how the Muslim quarter in Quiapo became a distribution center. The Taiwanese used their marine products business to launder the drug monies and ship shabu to Manila in the bellies of fish to be sold in Navotas and Malabon. This was how the CAMANAVA (Kaloocan,Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) area became another distribution point for shabu. Remember the deebeedes (DVDs) trade which led to the mass migration of Maranaos from Central Mindanao to other parts of the country? That was the money laundering operation of the Ampatuans.

The Maguindanao massacre wasn’t only about politics. It was also about drugs. The Michael Yang being identified with Duterte is not the Michael Yang who is really involved in the drug trade. Shie Jie Marine Products built a cathedral-like processing plant in the Tetuan district. I had the opportunity to visit the plant when I was still in the trading business. It didn’t smell like the traditional marine products processing plant. It smelled of chemicals which confirmed my suspicion that it was a shabu laboratory. Shie Jie is now operating as Millenium Ocean Star Corporation with “processing plants” all over the Philippines in some areas where there is no volume of marine products landings. It’s safe to say that it is not solely producing marine products alone.

The Marawi siege wasn’t exactly the handiwork of Islamic extremists. It was the latter working together with the Muslim drug lords who were feeling the heat of the intensified anti-drug operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Mindanao became the center of shabu production after 1986 when it was claimed by Tingting Cojuangco, who was also fascinated by Muslim-Filipino culture. Margarita Manzano De Los Reyes Cojuangco probably envisioned herself as a Queen more than Imeldific ever dreamed of becoming. Her uncle, Ramon, had vast rubber plantations in Basilan and Zamboanga del Sur. Her factotum at that time was her cousin, la reyna del maricas, Raul. She built a white house resembling a palace in Cotabato. But as the pioneering business cum society columnist Vic Agustin would say, this is another story.

I’m sure Ms. Roces also knows of the history of shabu in Mindanao. This is only one of many because of the prominence of the personalities involved. But make no mistake about it. If Duterte hadn’t run in 2016, the country would surely be at the same level as Mexico and Colombia. Now you know why the Yellowidiots made the drug war to be all about human rights and extra-judicial killings.

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