Farmers, fishers hit by state of emergency

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The declaration of a state of emergency in Sulu, which entered its sixth day on Sunday, has started to affect the livelihood of poor farmers and fishermen in the southern island province, local officials.

Like “thieves” in the night, farmers tend to their crops under the cover of darkness to avoid being mistaken for Abu Sayyaf bandits, said Sulu 1st District Representative Yusop Jikiri.

Fishermen, on the other hand, go out to sea at night and return with their catch at dawn for the same reason, said Maimbung town Mayor Najib Maldisa.

Sulu was placed under a state of emergency last Tuesday, amid threats from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group to behead its three hostages from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

One of the hostages, Filipina engineer Mary Jean Lacaba, was freed on Thursday evening. Two others remain in captivity, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni.

“Para silang mga magnanakaw na naglalakad sa dilim. Parang ninanakaw nila ang sarili nilang tanim sa kanilang farms. Bago magliwanag, kailangan nakabalik na sila [They’re like thieves walking in the dark. It as if they have to steal their own crops from their own farms. They have to be back at their homes before the crack of dawn],” Jikiri told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

“Para sa kanila kapag may ganitong deklarasyon, matatakot agad sila dahil baka magka-giyera na naman o kaya maabutan sila sa kanilang farm at pagdudahang Abu Sayyaf [Everytime there is such a declaration, they become fearful of an impending war or they fear they would be overrun in their farms and be mistaken for Abu Sayyaf],” he said.

Maldisa said it was difficult for him to explain the state of emergency declaration and the planned imposition of curfew to his constituents.

“I do not question the state of emergency declaration. It’s a good way to clean Sulu of bad elements, but what about these people who are just earning a living? What if they get arrested during curfew hours?” Maldisa said.

A total of 434 families from the villages of Kagay, Kagay proper, Baunuh, Badbad, Bakud, Lawum Saing, Purut, Lahnagan and Maligay in Indana town have left their homes due to the hostage crisis, said Christopher Lee, the town’s social welfare officer.

Maldisa said more than a thousand individuals were displaced in the villages of Bulabog and Labah in Maimbung.

Peace advocate Octavio Dinampo, himself a former Abu Sayyaf hostage, called the emergency rule in Sulu “morally wrong,” even if it was legal.

“Why punish the Tausugs for the evil acts and deeds of the few ASG? Anything done in haste is waste,” Dinampo said an email to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, meanwhile, appealed for understanding, saying he would ensure that “criminals and lawless groups” will be “hardest hit” by the state of emergency declaration.

“They will understand why we are doing this. We no longer want these criminals to rule,” Tan said.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the declaration was allowed under the Local Government Code.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, who also witnessed the declaration of the state of emergency there at the height of the Dos Palmas kidnapping in 2001, supported the imposition of emergency rule in Sulu.

“I go for it, it may not be that legal but that is the lesser evil to save the people and the majority. Whatever means to preserve prosperity and lives of people must be employed,” Jumoad said.

Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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Published in: on April 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm  Comments Off on Farmers, fishers hit by state of emergency  
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