Social Issues

My Magic Wand While Lecturing on Federalism in Maguindanao

As the 2018 Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) International Conference draws to a close, last weekend I reluctantly accepted – as I’m still recovering from a minor surgical operation – the invitation to be the resource person of a three-hour “Municipal Orientation on Federalism” of a Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-recognized Drug-free municipality in Maguindanao and a recipient of 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Award.

When I grabbed the microphone, the sound system turned to be uncooperative! What a timing! So, the attention of the person in charge was immediately called upon to fix the problem. While everybody was anxiously waiting and sitting idly, I suddenly stood up again in front and shared a Maguindanaon ‘bayuk’ (proverb):

NELATAN SU LAGAT SA TIMPU NA KABPAGULUG, NA NANGITIS SU KALUDAN SA BASA NA KAPEMBALAT.

(Translation: “The sea dried up at the time of high tide, while the ocean turned into a draught during rainy season.”)

I was trying to allude that sometimes something undesirable happens at the most unexpected moment – an uncooperative sound system at the beginning of a program, as a good example. 

“Now, what shall we do?” I rhetorically asked the audience. Then I answered it myself through another ‘bayuk’:

PAGAWANG KA SA SABAL NA SAN KA SA KAPAGIMAN, KA BETAD NA PAPEDTAYAN I MAPAMATALU.

(Translation: “Ride on the boat of patience and take asylum in faith, for it is but natural for the darling to be tested.”)

As I sensed that the audience’s silence transformed into smile, laughter and even giggle, I pulled another ‘bayuk’ out of my sleeve, so to speak, followed by another, until the problem with the sound system was fixed.

Apart from a general overview of the federal system of government, I also informed the 250 or so members of the audience – including the mayor, vice mayor, municipal councilors, employees, barangay officials, civil society organizations’ (CSOs) representatives, and military and police personnel – of the current proposals and debates on federalism at the national level, particularly the PDP-Laban Party’s proposed constitutional amendments.

“Let’s not think of federalism – the upcoming carabao in the national political field – as an automatic panacea. It’s not necessarily ‘manna and quail from heaven’. It’s up to us to make a paradise or hell, as the case may be, out of it,” I concluded. 

During the open forum, the time for the transition mechanism, the possible scenarios if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) lags behind the government’s agenda for federalism, and the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) vis-à-vis the so-called Equalization Fund were among the issues and concerns raised by the audience.

As I was reflecting on the lecture while on board the aircraft in my way to co-facilitate a conflict analysis workshop in another city the other day, I realized the importance of the law of connection in public speaking. In the said experience, just a few lines of Maguindanaon proverbs unexpectedly served as a magic wand for me to catch the Maguindanaon audience’s attention, and more importantly, their sympathy.

In short, when you are invited to speak, do not ever forget to bring your magic wands.

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Rebooting on Federalism, BBL, and Violent Extremism

In the recent rebooting workshop on federalism, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and violent extremism, instead of the usual ‘what-is-and-what-is-not’ presentation, I just shared to the participants my personal observation of the ruling PDP-Laban party’s federalism movement, the current status of the BBL in the Congress, and the inclusion of preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE) in the Masa Masid program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Thank you, DILG-Maguindanao Province, for the invitation and opportunity to share personal thoughts!

       

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Retiring is Re-tyring

Just last December, I was invited to speak about the concept of ‘reinvention’ in political philosophy at a training-workshop for media practitioners. I was really honored to meet again one of my mentors who happened to be a fellow speaker. As I never saw her after sometime, I ventured to ask, “Ma’am, are you retired now?” She replied cogently, “I didn’t retire; I just re-tyre – T-Y-R-E. And I will never retire!”

That short answer of my mentor turned into a subject of reflection of mine that night at the training venue which is a mountainous garden resort.

Yes, I realized then that any lover of knowledge and imparting knowledge never retires. He or she incessantly sips the nectar of learning and most graciously share the same to others. The lover is not only a candle – in fact, a sparkle of light; a kindler of fire.

The more frequent the lover is invited in the feast of education and teaching, the more he or she becomes hungry and thirty.

In other words, retirement is just a unique time for re-tyring; yes, you may say it’s a moment of re-tooling and reinvention.

In conclusion, the lover never retires as he or she knows no retirement in this arena of pen, paper and speaking. For the lover, the only retirement is the ultimate reunion with the Beloved and that Beloved is the Fountainhead of knowledge, learning, and wisdom.

Ma’am Dans is indeed such a LOVER.

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Amusing Things in 2017

Let me share to you the following random list of amusing things I have encountered this year:

Three Persons

During my trip to Sri Lanka in the month of May, Kriya from Thailand and I were fetched in the Colombo International Airport by the personal driver of a common friend, Lady Hom. Kriya arrived half an hour ahead of me, and we exchanged pleasantries while waiting for the driver to signal us to mount the street monster. But the driver seemed waiting for somebody else. As I read again the insignia he was holding, I realized that he was indeed waiting for three persons – Kriya, Mansoor, and Limba. I told him, “Brother, let’s go to the hotel.” He replied politely, “But Sir, we have to wait for Limba as well.” I said, “Don’t worry, I have already put Limba inside my luggage!”

Men’s Toilet

In a seafood restaurant in Guangzhou City, China, the toilet sign for men is an image that depicts the action inside the toilet. On the contrary, the toilet sign for women is just a usual image of a standing lady. I wonder, does the second image also imply the action (mere standing) inside the toilet for ladies? If it is not, then perhaps males should cry “gender (masculinity) sensitivity, please!”

Democrazy

As we visited the Shenzhen City Museum before the concluding day of our training workshop, Harry from Myanmar drew my attention to the caption of a picture, and asked, “Mansoor, do you think it is intentional?” “What do you mean – the caption? Sure, it is intentional!” “Read the caption again.” As I read again the caption, I realized what Harry was referring to – the word ‘democrazy’ instead of’ democracy’. So, I told him, “Yes, maybe it’s intentional [as a satirical way of alluding to the self-styled Champion of Democracy and Defender of Human Rights]!”

Dela Cruz Juan

While I was doing a research on corruption-violent extremism nexus in the Philippines last August, I had to read the maiden book of a veteran Filipino journalist who is a well-known expert on the armed groups in Southeast Asia, and reread her second book, among many other materials to read. What I noticed in both books is her consistency in mistakenly interchanging the first and family name of the late founding chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). If the chairman’s name were Juan Dela Cruz, she would always call him ‘Dela Cruz Juan’. Ma’am, ‘Salamat’ is the first name while ‘Hashim’ is the family name. It should be ‘Salamat Hashim’ and not ‘Hashim Salamat’!

MSU

Yes, MSU means Mindanao State University – the largest state-run university system in Mindanao and second only to the University of Philippines in the whole country. I was shocked, and thereafter, amused, when a Philippine expert on terrorism in Mindanao assumes in a national TV interview that MSU means ‘Marawi State University’.

Private Vehicle

A government agency invited me as the Resource Person on two separate topics. After the event, I was asked to present pertinent receipts for the reimbursement of my transportation expenses. The financial officer refused to honor my receipt for fuel on the ground that I used private vehicle. I told her, “So, Ma’am, do you mean to say if I took an airplane in coming here, you will also not reimburse my money?” “Why?” “Because the aircraft is also owned by a private airline company!”

Sleeping while Taking Exam

While conducting a major examination, I noticed that a student of mine who was seated at the back was not moving. As I silently approached him, I found out that he was sleeping! Sleeping while taking an exam? Yes, it’s also my first time experience. Assuming that it was not done intentionally and he must not be feeling well that time, I just let him sleep. It’s good that after three minutes, he woke up and then continued taking the exam. The same student once slept in my regular class session. And he did not wake up even after I dismissed the class. Fortunate indeed are the ‘young ones’. We, the ‘young once,’ on the contrary, would experience having a professor that prohibited his or her student from even looking at his/her watch!

Wahhabism from Africa

In a regional workshop on violent extremism and religious education in Southeast Asia, the speaker in a plenary session gained enough audacity in claiming thus: “You know, there’s no problem with Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia; the one that brings problems around the world is the Wahhabism from Africa!” What – Wahhabism from Africa!

Choice of Words

A close friend recently reasoned out, “I did not give wrong information; I was only wrong in my choice of word!” No comment.

How about you? Any amusing experience you want to share?

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Dear Year 2018

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/31 December) – I was about to extend my wishes for a “Happy New Year” to my friends online, but then certain things were bothering me; certain questions lingering on my mind. So, what I did instead was to scribe this personal letter to Year 2018:

Dear Year 2018,

Will you be really a ‘happy new year’? I’m asking you this rather awkward question because of the undesirable unfolding of events in the remaining days of your predecessor (2017).

After the global attention had been invariably diverted to false flag operations (activities related to terrorism and violent extremism), it is drawn back again to a main global issue – the Palestinian Question – thanks to Donald Trump’s blunder.

Will Trump triumph in pushing for his agenda of Zionization of Jerusalem?

Not to mention the internal squabble within the kingdom, will Saudi Arabia be able to rescue itself from the quagmire of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and more recently, Lebanon?

Dear Year 2018,

Now, two months have already passed since the end of the Marawi Siege. Do you think the Philippine government will be able to aptly ‘reinvent’ itself (see “Time for government’s ‘self-reinvention’?” http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-time-for-governments-…), particularly on the pressing issue of the city residents’ return, resettlement and reintegration, in accordance to the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)?

Within this year, Duterte said many times he will father the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to make sure it will come into fruition during his term, with a warning that trouble might brew if the said draft law will not be passed. (See “PPRD calls on Congress to expedite BBL,” PTV News, October 30, 2017, https://www.ptvnews.ph/prrd-calls-congress-expedite-bbl.)

Yet just two weeks ago (December 17, 2017), a perceived ‘anti-BBL’ congressman was allowed to be named as one of the three members of the subcommittee who would take the lead in ‘harmonizing’ the four BBL bills filed in Congress.

Is the fatherhood to the fetus transferred to someone who is expected to abort it?

Worse still, two days afterward (December 19), the supposed ‘father’ expressed doubt if the BBL could hurdle constitutional barriers. Was there any lawyer among the government representatives in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that could have detected these ‘unconstitutionalities’ while drafting the BBL? What was the use of the more-than-two-month time interval between the submission of BBL to its supposed ‘father’ on July 17, 2017 and its filing in Congress as a bill on September 29?

Is the original ‘gameplan’ really to subsume the BBL into the federalism track? In that case, is there any real guarantee that a BBL compliant with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro / Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB/FAB) can be truly pursued under a federal set-up? In other words, is it reasonable to make a dress without getting first the body size of the person who is supposed to wear it?

Dear Year 2018,

As the current Philippine administration’s abstention to the UN General Assembly’s resolutions about the status of Jerusalem and the plight of the Rohingyas is widely perceived to be ‘denial of current wrongs’ and is therefore contradictory to the spirit of the 2016 presidential campaign on ‘correcting historical injustices’, will you not be just a 365-day extension of “That’s Entertainment” show in Manila-Davao theaters?

Dear Year 2018,

Exactly after 50 years, will you not be a repetition of the year 1968 when our youth would no longer listen to and follow the elders, and eventually pursue their way of expressing the inalienable right to self-determination? What will be the decision of the middle-aged like me: to cling to and always believe in the wisdom of the elders, or to join the youth in charting their own destiny?

Due to these lingering questions, I would rather seek refuge and find solace in this short supplication:

“O Transformer of the hearts and insights!

O Alternator of the nights and days!

O Changer of the conditions and states!

Change our condition with the best of conditions!”

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

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Community-based Religious Education and Preventing Violent Extremism

Parallel 1.B COMMUNITY-BASED RELIGIOUS EDUCATION ROLES AND PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: EXPERIENCE FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES

1. How is community playing role in religious education across various context?
2. How can community play bigger role in shaping religious education to prevent [and counter] violent extremism?

Parallel 2.B PROMOTING RELIGIOUS LITERACY EDUCATION

1. How important is religious literacy in our current context?
2. How can religious education increase religious literacy?

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Two Questions

During the second plenary session on “Religious Education and Violent Extremism: The Southeast Asian Context” on the second day, the four speakers from Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines endeavored to address these two guide questions: (1) What are the roles of state and community on religious education and PVE in Southeast Asia? (2) What are the differences and similarities, for example, in terms of
pedagogy and curriculum?

During the open session, somebody from the participants ventured to pose these two questions:

Question to the 3rd Speaker: Considering your proximity to Marawi City in more accurately analyzing the conditions on the ground as well as the ‘recapture’ of the city by the government troops and the deaths of Isnilon [Hapilon] and Omarkhayam [Maute], the top two leaders of the group/s that occupied Marawi on May 23, do you think we cannot expect another Marawi in the near and medium-term future? Why?

Question to the 4th Speaker: You have made mention of the ARMM Darul Ifta’s religious edict (fatwa) against terrorism – a courageous move which is really worthy of appreciation. But I’m just curious: Since the ‘fatwa’ was originally written and issued in Arabic language, which the overwhelming majority of the youth in the ARMM cannot understand, is it already translated into languages and vernaculars of the common people – Filipino (Tagalog), Visaya (Cebuano), M’ranao, Tausug, Maguindanaon and others?

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Why Religious Education Matters?

The first plenary session of the Regional Workshop on Violent Extremism and Religious Education in Southeast Asia which kicked off yesterday dealt with the question “Why does religious education matter for preventing violent extremism?” The speakers who dealt with the subject were a Buddhist monk directing a monastic high school in Myanmar and a member of the advisory board of an Islamic university in Indonesia.

My personal take on the issue is as follows:

Before directly answering the question of ‘why’, stating two hypotheses here is in order. First, religion can either be a bridge or a wall. Like a kitchen knife, it can be used to prepare a very delicious food and it can also be a tool to commit a heinous crime. Second, in the context of violent extremism, religion can either be a driver or a diverter.

Given these two hypotheses, it can then be stated that religious education really matter for preventing [and countering] violent extremism due to the following reasons:

1. Some violent extremist groups use religious narratives and symbols.

2. Religion can be powerful enough to stimulate people to action, for good or bad.

3. Religious education provides political authority and moral ascendancy to any ‘messenger’ of any ‘message’.

4. A ‘messenger’ of violent extremism, as in many instances, may capitalize on this religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy he/she acquires in addressing his/her audience.

5. Such a ‘messenger’ who capitalizes on religious education-rooted political authority and moral ascendancy can only be competently combated by an alternative and superior ‘messenger’ whose political authority or moral ascendancy also emanates from the same religious education.

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Time for Government’s ‘Self-Reinvention’?

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews /18 October) – Early morning after my short presentation at the ‘terror’ in Marawi forum held last June 30 in Ateneo de Davao University (see “Is ‘terror’ Marawi’s single story?” https://www.facebook.com/mansoor.limba/posts/1739728119661013), I received an unexpected email from one of the forum’s organizers. Part of the message thus reads:

“Upon hearing your presentation, constructivist and postmodern lessons and lectures from my ‘Theories in IR’ class came back to me in waves – and I cannot agree more that indeed, the ‘terror’ in Marawi is a result of a ‘construction’ designed to shape opinions and views. Thank you for reminding me that… to focus only on one aspect of an incident/case/situation is folly… Your insights have awoken a more sensitive Atenean in me.”

More surprising to me, however, was the foresight in this question of one of the young participants during the Q&A session: “After the Marawi Crisis, in what way should the government ‘reinvent’ itself in order to defeat violent extremism?”

Literally means “to produce something new that is based on something that already exists” (Cambridge Dictionary), or “the act or an instance of replacing a product with an entirely new version” (Collins Dictionary), ‘reinvention’ was originally solely used in the field of science and technology. Later on, the concept of ‘personal reinvention’ has found its niche in psychology, particularly in the subfield of personal growth and personality development. Soon after, we also began to see the notion of ‘self-reinvention’ in political anthropology and sociology. In digital media studies, our age is also sometimes dubbed the ‘Age of Reinvention’.

In Islamic philosophy, there is a classic theory of transubstantial motion (al-harakat al-jawhariyyah) by Mulla Sadra (c. 1571-1640), who considers substantial motion to be a gradual existential transformation occurring in the very inner structure of things, and therefore, a thing or substance which is currently in a certain ontological state is undergoing a continuous and gradual inner transformation until it reaches a new ontological state.

Going back to the question, two points must be borne in mind in any attempt to answer it. First, violent extremism is both a social ill and a symptom of other social ills. As a social ill, violent extremism’s ideology as well as its pull factors (what attract a potential recruit) must be truly uprooted. As a symptom of other social ills such as endemic corruption, social injustices, economic deprivations, and moral decadence, among others, violent extremism must be vigorously addressed alongside those other social ills.

Second, winning the battle in Marawi does not necessarily mean winning the war on violent extremism. The former is basically a military fight while the latter is a wide-ranging combat. The victor in the former’s arena is not necessarily triumphant in the latter’s zone. The end of the siege is not a safety guarantee for another city not to be under siege in the near future. Neither the deaths of Isnilon and Omar could preclude the rise of Isnilons and Omars in the days to come.

In view of these two points, the government is supposed to ‘reinvent’ itself in the best possible way in at least six areas, namely: (1) Marawi rehabilitation, (2) violent extremism’s nature, (3) violent extremists’ definition of ‘enemy,’ (4) regional cooperation, (5) military doctrine and strategy, and (6) comprehensive framework on PVE-CVE.

(1) Marawi rehabilitation

In the Marawi rehabilitation program, the government is supposed to faithfully observe the 30 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement laid down by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), particularly Section V on durable solutions (principles 28-30 related to return, resettlement and reintegration); otherwise, the reported new armed group describing itself as ‘Maranao Victims Movement’ (MVM) will eventually turn into a full-blown armed organization (see “New armed group born in Marawi, Lanao Sur,” http://www.ndbcnews.com.ph/…/new-armed-group-born-in-marawi…).

(2) Violent extremism’s nature

The government’s concerned agencies are supposed to understand that violent extremism is an interfaith as well as intrafaith issue. For instance, the ISIS upholds a takfiri ideology which declares other Muslims as non-Muslims and apostates. It is a threat not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims; in fact, most number of their victims around the world, and in Marawi, for instance, are Muslims. In its official English magazines Dabiq and Rumiyah, Muslim personalities and entities are vehemently castigated. Hence, what we have here is a war of all against a common enemy.

(3) Definition of ‘enemy’

Upholding a particular ideology, these violent extremists have an extended definition of ‘enemy’ or ‘combatants’. As such, civilians are prone to become victims of bombings and kidnappings that may happen in the aftermath of the Marawi Crisis.

(4) Regional cooperation

As the current chairmanship holder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippine government is supposed to forge serious regional cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security threats such as transnational non-state actors. The identification of a certain Malaysian university professor, Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, as the next leader of the remaining ISIS fighters in Marawi – some eight foreigners and 20 locals – certainly shows the urgency for such cooperation.

(5) Military doctrine and strategy

There is really an urgent need for the government to review and revise its national military doctrine and strategy in order to competently deal with non-traditional security threats. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s many inaccurate ultimatums on the end of war in the course of almost five months since the siege obviously show his and his top generals’ lack of real ‘appreciation’ of the intricate spatial-temporal nature of urban warfare in the information age.

(6) Comprehensive PVE-CVE framework

Most important of all, the government is supposed to come up with a comprehensive framework on both preventing and countering violent extremism (PVE-CVE). An ASEAN-wide forum on preventing violent extremism (PVE), for instance, simply misses the point that ‘prevention’ implies that the thing to be avoided or prevented is not yet around. In the case of violent extremism, however, it is already here in our backyard; nay, it has already burned down a whole city. Hence, it requires fire-fighting, not fire-prevention. Nevertheless, in areas where there is no burning yet, fire-prevention is in order.

Moreover, any comprehensive framework to be developed must contain two essential elements that must go hand in hand, viz. all-inclusive development, and tolerance and respect for diversity. It is very difficult to teach tolerance and respect for diversity to a person who is hungry, economically disenfranchised, politically and historically wronged, or ideologically disoriented. In the same manner, for someone to be financially well off is not a guarantee for his being tolerant and honoring diversity. One may be rich and at the same time, intolerant of others. In fact, an affluent that subscribes to an ideology of hate, bigotry and violent extremism is far more damaging than a pauper who subscribes to the same.

Conclusion

To wrap up, what is even more fundamental than this ‘self-reinvention’ by the government is the personal reinvention of each of us along this line. Everybody is supposed to come out of the cocoon of his or her own indifference and passivity, and to morph into an active participant. Everybody must be a gallant warrior in countering the narratives of violent extremism in all arenas and platforms. All reservists are called for duty. Nobody must remain inside the barracks.

Now is the time to enlist. Now is the time to ‘reinvent.’

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mansoor L. Limba, PhD in International Relations, is a writer, educator, blogger, chess trainer, and translator (from Persian into English and Filipino) with tens of written and translation works to his credit on such subjects as international politics, history, political philosophy, intra-faith and interfaith relations, cultural heritage, Islamic finance, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (‘ilm al-kalam), Qur’anic sciences and exegesis (tafsir), hadith, ethics, and mysticism. He can be reached at mlimba@diplomats.com, or http://www.mlimba.com and http://www.muslimandmoney.com.]

Photo via ericbrown[dot]com

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Already a Moot and Academic Question

During the recently concluded international conference on “Japan and East Asia in the Midst of Change: Carving a Path for the Region,” it’s my first time to experience being the last paper presenter in the concluding plenary session.(Panel on Japan and Mindanao: Past, Present and Future Challenges)
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It’s also my first time to experience presenting a conference paper whose main question was rendered ‘moot and academic’ by a supervening event in such a short time.

On April 25, 2017 – that is, almost a month before the Marawi Siege (May 23) – I submitted to the conference secretariat the abstract of my paper “Is There Already ISIS in the Philippines? Its Security Implications Toward the East Asian Region.”

At a time when the military was persistently denying ISIS’ presence in the country (“Bay’ah: The Missing Link in the Military’s Denial of ISIS,”http://www.mindanews.com/…/marginalia-bayah-the-missing-lin…), I can’t blame the leading member of the secretariat who confided to me later that upon receiving the paper abstract, he said, “Anong klaseng abstract ito; panakot!” (“What an abstract is this; it’s terrifying!”)

After enumerating five (5) security implications and briefly discussing each of them, I concluded thus, “The answer to the question – ‘Is there already ISIS in the Philippines?’ – is already moot and academic, with the siege of Marawi City on May 23, as illustriously conveyed by these photos in which the AFP is posed as ‘ISIS Hunter’. Can you hunt something that is not present?”

After my presentation,, a visiting Japanese scholar approached and whispered to me, “Do you think there is already ISIS in Japan?”

“I haven’t come across any news or information about its presence there.”

I was almost tempted to tell him also, “But there is already an entity in Japan, as elsewhere, which is tougher than ISIS – that is, the MISIS (wife)!”

Yet, I refrained from doing so, as I was afraid he would answer me, “That revelation of yours is also ‘moot and academic’!

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