Abu Sayyaf Group

Lacson hits ‘politics’ in Misuari’s handover of Abu Sayyaf leader

JC Gotinga
Lacson hits ‘politics’ in Misuari’s handover of Abu Sayyaf leader

Overpriced IT equipment: Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson grills Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) officials on the purchase of overpriced IT equipment during the Committee of the Whole Tuesday hybrid inquiry, August 11, 2020, on the alleged irregularities at the PhilHealth. (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

(UPDATED) Reacting to a report of an alleged deal behind the arrest of Abu Sayyaf leader Abduljihad Susukan, Senator Panfilo Lacson says politics and terrorism 'may be a deadly mix'

Senator Panfilo Lacson criticized the alleged “politics” that went into the arrest of top Abu Sayyaf terror group leader Abduljihad “Idang” Susukan that was facilitated by Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari on Thursday, August 13.

Reacting to an Inquirer report of an alleged “surrender deal” brokered by Misuari, Lacson on Saturday, August 15 warned that politics and terrorism “may be a deadly mix.”

Huwag naman po sana. ‘Pag pinaghalo ang pulitika at terorismo, talo lahat tayo (I hope not. When politics and terrorism mix, we all lose). Why? Politics has no logic and terrorism has no reason,” Lacson said on his official Twitter account.

“We had sent the right message to the world that we mean business against terrorism with tough legislation in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. But we could be sending the wrong message if we allow politics into the mix, as in the case of Susukan,” Lacson said in a succeeding statement.

Misuari surrendered Susukan to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Davao City on Thursday. A report by The Star said Susukan surrendered to Misuari in Sulu in April. The PNP said Susukan was brought recently to Davao City for “medical attention.”

When the police learned that Susukan was in Davao City with Misuari, they “initiated the negotiation” with the MNLF leader.

On Saturday, the Inquirer reported that PNP chief General Archie Gamboa, Armed Forces chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had not been aware of Susukan’s presence in Davao City. However, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and Army chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana knew Misuari and Susukan were traveling from Sulu to Davao City on August 9, the report said.

Sobejana denied this in a message to Rappler. He said he did not know about Misuari’s and Susukan’s travel from Sulu to Davao City.

Sobejana was the military commander in Western Mindanao before his appointment as Army commanding general on August 4.

There were 34 warrants of arrest out for Susukan: 23 for murder, 5 for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and 6 for frustrated murder. He figured in a February 2019 clash in Patikul, Sulu, that killed 5 government soldiers.

The Abu Sayyaf is a proscribed terrorist group with factions linked to the Islamic State or ISIS international terror network. It is one of the most insidious security threats in the Philippines.

Misuari is a pioneer of the Moro rebellion, and was governor of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) from 1996 to 2001. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) replaced the ARMM in 2019. The BARMM is led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had splintered from the MNLF in the late 1970s.

Misuari has warm ties with President Rodrigo Duterte, who appointed him the country’s Special Economic Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in December 2019.

Lacson, a former PNP chief, heads the Senate committee on national defense and security. He sponsored the new Anti-Terrorism Law, which significantly broadens security forces’ power to identify, surveil, accuse, detain, and prosecute terrorism suspects. Rights groups have opposed the measure for cutting into constitutional liberties such as political dissent and peaceful assembly. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.