I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Ameril Umbra Kato


Umbra Kato is one impressive gnome. 

Beginning at 0:51, Kato denies the status of his unit as a lost command – claiming that his unit has not done anything contrary to his organization’s orders. 

At 2:15, Kato denies that he started the troubles in North Cotabato. He claims that soldiers and CAFGU attacked – unprovoked – MILF cadres in Aleosan (?). The attack, Kato claims, took place on July the first. That ought to be easy enough to verify, eh?

Anyway, Kato goes on to explain that the attack was clearly intended to drive them out. “Where do we go?” he asks. “We can’t go to Luzon or the Visayas.” All in all, he paints his actions as being grounded on a ‘defense of one’s home’ kind of theory. Of the military, he says “You are driving somebody from their own place. Terrorist yun!” Then he asks, how would you like it if we did the same to you?

Starting at 4:53, Kato draws a parallel between himself and the Prophet Muhammad. He says that the 10 million reward for his death or capture is simply an indication that the military has run out of ways to get him. The same thing, he said, happened to Muhammad for whose capture his enemies offered a hundred camels. Shades of a messianic complex?

Asked about the escalation of hostilities in Maguindanao, Kato mumbles something about how that had always been the President’s plan – to ‘invade’ Maguindanao under the guise of preventing the signing of the MOA-AD.

And that’s where part one ended.


Filed under: news, , , ,

Is it a war?

Everyone and his favorite newspaper all proclaim that there is a war going on in Mindanao. But over in Filipino Voices – this collective I haven’t contributed to in a while – a nice discussion is shaping up about the use of the word “WAR.”

Dean Jorge Bocobo – the blogger behind Philippine Commentary – sets out his argument this way:

I think we really must reserve the word “WAR” for conflicts involving sovereign states unless we want to adopt the neologism “war on terrorism” which would be fine with me. But as far as I am concerned suppression of the MILF is a police action to enforce the laws of the land against, murder, arson, kidnapping and hostaging as human shields and other criminal acts (including possible violations of the Human Security Act, even if it is a Terrorist Bill of Rights).

I’m not just nitpicking words because it is the constant portrayal of this conflict as a war that obscures the moral high ground we must reach: Justice for all in a system of democratic equal protection that is blind to color, creed and gender.

By treating it as war, we actually legitimize the MILF’s staunch refusal to disarm and negotiate in earnest. We must fight as much, if not more for the advantaging of the Bangsamoro people themselves than other Filipinos who would not fall into a new sultanate ruled by sharia law for Muslims only and a different set of laws for non MUslims or cases involving them both.

cvj – he of the Placeholder blog – retorts:

DJB, isn’t that being Orwellian, i.e. reserving the term ‘war’ only for conflicts involving sovereign states? After all, there is such a thing as Civil War.


I agree with DJB. The offensive against the MILF is a police action aimed at suppressing lawlessness. For one thing, there is a significant consensus that ‘war’ properly refers to a conflict between nations, carried on by authority of their respective governments. I am nowhere near ready to consider the MILF a nation. Hell! Nothing negates their much vaunted claim to represent the Bangsamoro people – which I’ve never believed anyway – than the fact that, in their campaign of retaliation for the scuttling of the MOA-AD, they’ve been victimizing Bangsamoros anyway.

So, I don’t see how anyone can still believe in the fiction that the MILF represents anything more than their own interests. As far as I am concerned, the MILF is nothing more than a group of thugs – bandits, gang-bangers – who are out to use deadly means to force the outcome they want. And so moving against them is really nothing more than an exercise of police power – the inherent authority of a state to regulate behavior and enforce order within its territory.

And with regard to cvj’s retort … might this not be just an instance of an Orwellian strategist, denouncing Orwellian strategies? LOL?

Filed under: musings, , ,

Renegade Commander

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu blamed the attacks on a renegade commander.

The attacks, of course, refer to the raids on Kauswagan, Maigo, and Kolambugan towns in Lanao del Norte, where the MILF have burned houses and shops, taken civilians as human shields, and left at least eight people dead.

“Our leadership has not sanctioned these attacks. This has to stop if we can confirm the involvement of our forces,” (Kabalu) said.

Which means, I suppose, that if the MILF can’t confirm that it’s their forces – and not some renegade commander who nevertheless claims to be acting on MILF business – behind the carnage, they won’t lift a finger to stop it?

This whole ‘renegade commander’ bullshit doesn’t really fool people, I hope. History is replete with examples of people going beyond the conventions of war (and that’s putting it lightly) being disavowed by their sovereigns, even as the fruits of their banditry are enjoyed by the very same people who publicly denounce them. It was bullshit when Elizabeth did it, and it’s bullshit now, when EId Kabalu is the one doing the bullshitting. At least Elizabeth let her privateers loose on the Spaniards. Kabalu and his MILF dogs are killing their own countrymen.

And still, we talk about giving them land; and continue to engage in even more talking about how we’re going to make them pay.

Enough talking already.

Although I had doubts about the wisdom of creating a BJE, I subsequently arrived at the opinion that since Moro aspiration for a homeland was an inevitable thing, it might be more … enlightened to pursue the process with an open mind and not just dismiss the idea out of hand. But now, even if I were to accept – which I don’t (a position that more and more people seem to be verbalizing now) – that the MILF did represent the Bangsamoro people, I believe that they have lost whatever moral high ground they might have had with these vicious attacks in MIndanao. While it is true that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist, I’m no longer ready to give the MILF even that little credit.

And while I cannot possibly shape history, I say that it is way past time to excise the MILF from the body politic, with extreme prejudice. I think we’ve done enough ‘reaching out’ and all that feel-good, politically correct, Oprah-esque bullshit. It’s time to educate them on what it means to defy the state, eh? Like Duterte once said: the government isn’t here to give you a fair chance; it is here to overwhelm you.

Unfortunately, no matter how aggressively the military goes after these vermin, they will never be one hundred percent effective for as long as people like that moron Pimentel – yeah, the Senator – continue to yap about constituionalizing the grant of a state-within-a-state to these bandits. If you think about it, the move towards federalism is just the large-scale equivalent of congressmen breaking up their home provinces at the end of their third term. Remember sugbuak? Because, come down to it, that’s what this federalism crap boils down to: giving little fiefdoms to all petty provincial kingpins in order to justify giving the terrorists their own sultanate.

With Pimentel hogging the headlines about what a good idea it is to federalize, what will the military really be fighting for? Fighting men are most effective when they are fighting for a cause that they can rally behind. That was true for the Spartans at Thermopylae; that was true for the Israelis when Arab nations ganged up on them; and that will be true for the troops in Mindanao – whether they’re fighting the coward Eid Kabalu, or some renegade commander whose name might well turn out to be Snuffleapagus.

Filed under: musings, , , , , ,


I was all het up about that whole Bangsamoro Juridical Entity idiocy; just like everyone else, I suppose. And just like everyone else, I was all about Philippine sovereignty, and and multi-culturalism, and not giving in to bandits.

But then I gave it some thought, and i realized all my anger wasn’t really achieving anything. I’m no shaper of public opinion; i’m no politician – hell, for all my influence on the course of national life, i might just as well be a fly on the wall. Once I realized how little I could affect things, all my passion for this debate just sorta drained out of me.

And then I spent the weekend in Cotabato.

The place was crawling with soldiers. Every fifteen minutes, a huge armored personnel carrier would come rumbling down Sinsuat Avenue, followed by trucks laden with soldiers in camouflage fatigues, all toting M-whatevers, looking all grim and distant. It was a faintly disturbing sight, every single time.

It was there that I experienced an epiphany. Watching the soldiers drive past, I suddenly realized that this latest secessionist spasm we’re undergoing is actually inevitable – the product of the fact that we are not a nation; a nation here defined as a form of self-defined cultural and social community.


Personally, I feel no strong kinship with the Muslims of the South, except in the most tenuous and strictly intellectual of terms. I am not a Muslim; I do not understand, much less accept many Islamic tenets – including the taboo against pork; and I have no ancestral roots in the South.

Come to that, neither do i feel kinship with the Ilocanos of the North, nor even the Visayans. About the only group I actually feel any cultural and social identity with is the Hiligaynon, and we’re mostly in Bacolod, Iloilo, and Guimaras. I’ve met Ilonggos from Cotabato, but even they feel sort of alien to me. And I don’t even feel Chinese.

And because we are not a nation (we’re a country, certainly, but that’s not the same thing), it is fairly difficult to sustain outrage at the possibility of the rise of the BJE. Intellectually, I rage against it for the sake of the concept of a sovereign country, but there is no personal affront. And when there is no outrage at the personal level, how long can you actually go ignoring the arguments in favor of the creation of a BJE. I mean, think about it. It’s like Israel.

Israel, most people believe by default, is the perennial target for victimization by terrorist Arabic states. What most people forget is that Israelis were actually the very first terrorists. Hell, they created the modern concept of terrorism back when they were blowing up buildings to agitate for the creation of their Zionist state. So, it follows that if we were to be objective about it, if a Zionist state was able to build up international legitimacy despite its terrorist birth, then an Islamic state carved out of an existing country has every right to look forward to a similar future.

Do Filipinos feel as strongly about our cultural identity as the Zionists? As the Moros? I strongly doubt it.

We are a country cobbled together by the chains of colonialism. Pre-Magellan, the people inhabiting the various islands were a fractious lot, fighting among themselves yet still mutually acknowledging each other’s kingdoms. When the Spaniards came, they conquered each of these separate kingdoms and united them under the Spanish crown. That didn’t make us a nation, anymore than stringing tiny pearls into a single strand creates one large pearl. There is even less reason to presume that the Moros can form part of this string of pearls since the Spaniards were never able to truly colonize Mindanao.

As Leon Ma. Guerrero proposed, Jose Rizal may well have been the First Filipino because he was the first one to conceive of the various ‘tribes’ of Pampangos and Tagalogs and what-not as one Nation – the Filipino Nation. And of course, the Moros still remained outside even the nebulous conglomeration.

But just because one guy dreamed it up, doesn’t necessarily make it reality. In fact, the whole concept of Nation prolly lived in glory only in Rizal’s head. Bonifacio certainly didn’t see it that way. Everyone else likely took Rizal’s notion and simply used it as a means of galvanizing public support for the revolution against the Spaniards. Which was ironic because the originator of the concept – Rizal – didn’t even want independence; he wanted equal status as a subject of the Spanish crown.

But there it was, the concept of Nation used – primarily by peoples outside Mindanao – as a tool to gather strength for the Revolution. And when the Revolution failed – failed because we didn’t kick out the Spaniards. The Americans did – the patina of Nation simply was coopted into the fight to kick out the Americans. But that failed too. And so we were left with the concept and, I would suppose in a kind of collective defense mechanism, convinced ourselves that we believed in it. Y’see, we prolly instinctively understood that if we dropped the idea, then we would be more easily assimilated by the Americans. As it was, by maintaining the charade of Nation, we were able to continue agitating for relief from the colonial yoke.

The Moros on the other hand, remained outside the Nation construct. They just had the misfortune of being militarily overmatched by the Americans, and so were brought into the fold of what the Americans considered the Philippine colony.

But deep down, we remained Pampangos, and Ilokanos, and Moros, and so on. And, surprise surprise, that’s still where we are now. Is it any wonder then that the Moros – who never consented to the concept of Nation that everyone else agreed to – should want out? Like I said, inevitable.

We non-Moros bought into the fiction of Nation; and we still do. It’s gotten so ingrained in us that we insist we are one nation even as we remain xenophobic about other regionals. Ilocanos and Ilonggos are said to be natural enemies; Tagalogs constantly make fun of Visayans; and Visayans are deeply resentful over the primacy of Manila. This insistence that we are one nation, I believe, underlies the resistance to the idea of a separate Moro state.

The Moros, on the other hand, never swallowed the concept of nation, and so have no qualms about not calling themselves Filipinos. For them, Filipino is a meaningless word. It would be for us too, if we could just acknowledge that the whole idea of Nation was simply a defensive tactic and has not actually taken root. For multi-culturalism to work, there is required what i call a base culture. A commonly held set of cultural values and beliefs that everyone can agree on.

In the US – the best example of multi-culturalism I can think of – that base culture is described as the “American Dream;” the idea that hard work will bring prosperity regardless of race, belief, or religion. The existence of the American Dream as a concept leaves more than adequate room for various cultures to survive next to each other. Italians pursue the Dream their way, as do the African Americans, as do the Asians and so on. They each do things differently, but the goal remains the same: material prosperity.

Do we have that? Do we have a similar idea that we can all aspire to? I say we do not. If we’re being very frank about it, all we have is the idea that we are a nation. But that is an idea that has no foundation in anything; it is a bare declaration, arising from romantic notions and idealized politics. We say Nation on an intellectual level, but there is no resonance in the gut.

But the Moros, the Moros feel in their gut that they are separate from the rest of us. Their history and culture demand that they be considered separate from the rest of us. How can we righteously deny them that when for them, it isn’t just an intellectual exercise or politics?

More to the point, how can we deny them their inevitable hunger for self-determination?


We are now living in the age of country-states: geographical territories, whose inhabitants accede to a legitimized administrative and decision-making institution known as the government. I think that the future will see the rise of Nation-states: self-defined cultural and social communities that feature a legitimized administrative and decision making government.

That is, if existing country-states are able to let go of chunks of their population who consider themselves Nations. In a sense, a federal form of government is a half-way step to this future. In some places, like the US, federalism works. But in others, federalism will simply be a way-station towards the eventual rise of Nation-states.

In the sense that nation-states (as i define it, anyway) resemble huge tribes, the future I’m envisioning will represent coming full circle. Tribes eventually became city-states, which eventually banded together for common benefit thereby subjugating nation-identity becoming countries. And now, countries are slowly breaking apart again from pressures brought to bear by nation-identities reasserting themselves, leading to a return to the old paradigm of co-extant tribal states, only this time, super-sized to nation-states.

Of course, we’re a long way off from that future.

Over in Filipino Voices, Nick writes:

Just because there exist a marginalized people, we cannot abandon them, nor do we abandon the goal of caring and providing for these people. It’s the same argument with the poor and the least of our brethren, who have become marginalized, because they lack the political power in our government, our goal is the same nonetheless, to bring them into the fold, to provide adequate care, to provide freedom from oppression, both economic and political. We don’t create a homeland for the poor, nor should we create a homeland for the Bangsamoro people. We should think of ways, and solutions, to bring unity, not separation.

Sounds to me like the white man’s burden.

Who said that giving the Moros their homeland is tantamount to abandoning them? In fact, who says that they need help? Or that non-Moros should be the source of that aid? I think they should be given the chance to fend for themselves. In any case, can we not let the Bangsamoro free, and give them aid anyway? Sure they are impoverished. But they are a nation. At some point, they will overcome. It is, I think, wrong to assume that these people cannot help themselves if they are not part of the Philippines; just as it was heinous for the Americans to think that the Filipinos would not survive unless we were colonized.

This is precisely the key blockage that will prevent country-states from acknowledging Nations within their existing territorial boundaries. And it goes both ways too. Country-states will be leery of giving Nations independence out of fear of losing resources. In this BJE flap, isn’t one of the main sticking points that the BJE will be given control over natural resources?

Filed under: musings, politics, ,