Press Release
September 3, 2007

Attack with charity not guns
Zubiri warns against war during Ramadan

Waging a war in the heartland of Islam in the Philippines during the holiest month for Moslems will lose us sympathizers faster than we can gun down enemies, said Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri on news that the military will not let up war in Sulu and Basilan come Ramadan which starts September 12 and ends October 13 with Eid-al-Fitr.

"Our commanders may be hunting down terrorists but the war will be waged right in the homeland of faithful Moslems. The disruption that a war brings on these provinces will bear down harder on the community more than on the terrorists" Zubiri said.

He warned the military not to "be blinded by our recent defeats so much so that we throw caution to the wind forgetting to respect their religious practices. We must turn our sadness at the martyrdom of our soldiers into acts of charity to our Moslem brothers."

Since the July 10 incident in Ginanta in Basilan, 57 soldiers and over 80 Abu Sayyaf and rogue Moro rebels have been killed in Sulu and Basilan. The fatalities include 10 Marines beheaded in Al-Barkah town on July 10 when Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and Abu Sayyaf bandits attacked the soldiers. Moslems believe that Ramadan marks the day when Allah revealed to Muhammad the first verses of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. The period is observed by reciting one thirtieth of the Qu'ran each night until the whole scripture is recited in about a month. Fasting is observed to remind them of the poor, help them master self-control and cleanse their body and mind.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated in Eid-al-Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast) when they share food and other blessings with the poor and donate to their mosques.

"We don't have to be drawn into a debate on religion and dogma but, show respect during their holy month."

Zubiri stressed that the announcement from the defense department "mocks and makes an empty rhetoric" of the government's HELP for Basilan and Sulu Program created by Administrative Order No. 192. HELP stands for Health, Education, Livelihood Progress, an inter-agency program to improve the quality of life in the poorest region in the country.

"The region suffers from perennial hospital and classroom shortages. It is a great challenge to turn in our guns for ploughs, pens or medical apparatus. Let's bring in teachers to ward off ignorance and fear and doctors who will purge diseases not lives. There are real needs in Sulu and Basilan that need to be addressed."

The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to which Sulu and Basilan belong has the lowest basic literacy rate at 69.4 per cent compared to the Philippines ' average basic literacy rate of 94.3%. The figures are much worse for the functional literacy rate of ARMM at 62.1% compared to the country's average of 86.3%. (From the National Statistical Coordination Board)

As of last year, ARMM had 27 hospitals & other health facilities, government & privately-owned combined, with 666 total beds, of which Sulu had 6 hospitals & other health facilities with 195 total beds while Basilan has two hospitals and 46 beds. The same survey puts total hospitals and other health facilities nationwide at 1,838 and 85,956 total beds.

Zubiri said long-term victory can be achieved" if we can shift the arena from the battlefield to the hearts and minds of the Moslem people many of who still open their doors to the MILF and Abu Sayyaf."

"Non-stop charity will convince civilians not to offer any more refuge to terrorists whose actions only bring destruction. This quieting of government guns in Ramadan will be worth more than just a month of peace," Zubiri said.

News Latest News Feed