25 Jan Vigilante Group Emerged in Central Mindanao: The Red God Soldiers
Vigilante movements are common in areas where the government offers less or no security for the people, when the assurance for safety is not present. This is true in Central Mindanao. Early last week, a Christian vigilante group who called themselves as the “Red God Soldiers” assembled and officially proclaimed their existence. Led by their spokesman, Brother Asiong, they burned ISIS flags to show their opposition against this barbaric extremists.
In an interview by Rappler, brother Asiong stated: “Because we are always under attack even as we are just working in our farms. We were forced to arm ourselves. We don’t want to die without doing something. The military is not always around to help us.”
The members of the Red God announced that the authorities are fully aware of their emergence in the area. Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace executive director, Bobby Benito told the Inquirer last week that this will trigger independent groups to be wrought like that of the 60s and 70s. These are the government-aided mercenary groups like the Ilaga and Tad-Tad, who thrived for a time holding their extremist faith. These Christian militias operated not only in the central part of Mindanao within those years, but also in the southern part, mostly in Cotabato, to combat Muslim rebels that are widely present in the area.
One of the most notable events that the Ilaga made is the 1971 massacre in a Mosque at Barangay Manili in Carmen, North Cotabato. 65 Muslims were brutally killed in that single day alone. The most notable person in their ranks is Norberto Manero, AKA Kumander Bukay, who killed and cannibalized the Italian Priest Tullio Favali.
While the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forged a peace treaty with the Philippine government way back 20 years ago in 1996, the emergence of the Red God soldiers is an indirect declaration that peace and security in the area is deeply lacking and wanted. Criticisms are thrown to the government as this issue has emerged.
Benito also added, “They lost their trust in our rule of law. If the state has provided them protection, I don’t think they will arm themselves.” If the protection for the citizens in the country is enough, there would be no occasion for groups to rise such as the Red God soldiers. It just shows that the armed forces can’t protect the whole country, or have not deployed the authorities properly into the most needed areas where terrorism is rampant.
In this upswing of the Red God soldiers, the separation among the localities grew wider and the path for peace became more obscured. The division among the people continued.
Some of the reason of the group’s uprising is their defiance of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and ISIS-related groups. A group they openly hate because of their savage onslaught in Mindanao. The Red God soldiers identified themselves as a defensive force. But this fact must not convince us that they won’t attack nearby Muslim villages carrying the same shout for peace. The hatred rooted in the past, but the acts of vengeance never slept.
This is not just about a new group to break, but about an existing and insufficient government support to overhaul. The issue might be isolated in the Southern part of the Philippines, but the alarm is a sign for leaders to get back into focus.
The creation of such groups might boost the military power of the country, and be used for special operations where their expertise in the terrain are needed. It might also serve as a crown for criticism against mediocre governance. Worst, it will breed more reasons to hate and be hated by the BIFF, MILF, and everything in between.
Unless the government will solve the issue in its foundation, the insurgence will continue to recur, so as with the war.