Civilians are now arming themselves after series of MILF attacks to various towns and villages in 4 provinces of Mindanao. This creates a high demand for firearms and ammunitions. ABS CBN news online reported that there is now a shortage of firearms and bullets in Mindanao. According to the report an M14 rifle is sold at P90,00 and an M16 Armalite rifle, between P50,000 to 70,000.
Recently scores of innocent civilians had been killed when rebel MILF forces attacked provinces, towns, and villages that are against inclusion in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. The attacks came about following the Supreme Court’s ruling to stop temporarily the signing of the MOA-AD deal.
As reported, Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon allowed civilians to defend themselves with available arms in their possession. This may have come about as the PNP fears similar incidents to happen where civilians were helplessly killed by the rampaging MILF forces. Licensed firearm owners are now taking out their guns, especially when they join night watches. Also reported is the setting up of checkpoints and blockades by cities and municipalities threatened by MILF attacks.
Also in the headlines of the news this week is the resurgence of the dreaded Ilaga vigilante group which claim to have 10,000 members mostly poor farmers. The word Ilaga comes from the Hiligaynon term for a rat. The dreaded armed group already fought MNLF forces in the past. This time they pledge to kill 10 rebels for every civilian killed by the MILF rebels. According to the news, the Ilaga vigilantes do not only protect Christians and Lumads but also non-combatant Muslims. Most of the members of the groups come from Panay and Negros who already settled in Mindanao. The Movement for the Reformed Ilagas are found in the hinterland of North Cotabato. People who have been associated with the Ilagas in the past were commander toothpick and Norberto Manero who was sentenced to jail for killing an Italian priest.
As of now people make use of whatever firearms they have like World War 2 vintage rifles such as Mi Garand, Carbine, Thompson sub machine guns, bolt-action Springfields, and 12-guage shotguns which they now clean and polish ready to defend themselves and their villages.
But the Commission of Human Rights fear of the escalation of violence in this part of the country where more innocent people will be caught in the crossfire.
Likewise the Philippine National Police is distributing firearms to civilian volunteers which they organize and train as auxiliary police to help the military and police guard and protect their villages.
Is the government preparing the people now to an all out war against the Muslim rebels? But where will this lead conflict lead us to in Mindanao? Will this lead us to a civil war or a religious war between the Christians and Muslims? I hope and pray not.