On the edge
The encounter between government forces and Abu Sayyaf bandits in Inabanga town, Bohol province has somehow made Cebu residents a bit jumpy when it comes to persons who appear to be Muslim or have “Muslim speaking accents,” and it sends the wrong signals to the Muslim community.
A budget hotel reported to the police the presence of 10 persons who are Muslims on the suspicion that they may be connected to the bandit group only to be disproved when it was revealed that they are officials from Basilan province who were scheduled to attend a meeting in Cebu City.
Another establishment reported the presence of Muslim bikers from Tawi-Tawi who were taking part in a tour. All of these happened last Monday, and it is a good indication of the anxiety felt by the populace over the likelihood of these bandits striking anywhere in Metro Cebu at a moment’s notice.
Already the police sent out photos of the Abu Sayyaf bandits to inform the public, but there were several who remain unidentified and can easily blend in with the population under the radar until they find the opportune time to hit their targets.
One thing they do know now is that a wall of security had been set up at the venues in Bohol province for the Asean Summit leg, and these bandits would be foolhardy to try and come within 100 feet of the venues, let alone try to breach it.
We are also not surprised if the organizers have reminded the delegates to curtail their movement and not go off to isolated spots where they can be victimized by these bandits.
Based on their modus operandi, the Abu Sayyaf bandits pick their victims in tourist spots that are generally inaccessible by either the police or the military or are far away from urban centers where vigilant citizens can easily report the presence of criminal elements to law enforcement agencies.
This was seen in the Dos Palmas resort kidnapping incident in 2001 since the venue is a private island in Palawan. Even with their firearms, numbers and suicidal determination, they would think twice about hitting urban centers like Cebu City where residents have become quite vigilant, sadly to the point of paranoia.
Then again, maybe this is what the Abu Sayyaf is counting on. They want Metro Cebu and Cebu province to be paranoid so they can play with that and strike when they are least expected.
Those two incidents in Cebu City are but lessons for us to temper our vigilance with reason and rationality, which is easier than done.
The police had created a team that would first do some fact-checking in order to avoid any embarrassment and inconvenience while sending the signal to Abu Sayyaf bandits or any criminal elements that they are watching them and their presence is unwelcome.
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