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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Violent extremism in Mindanao

"Peace is likely to remain elusive."

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If the January 27 bombing of the Jolo Cathedral that killed 27 people and injured more than 100 others, and the January 30 grenade attack in a mosque in Zamboanga City that killed two people and wounded 4 others, tell us something, it is this: Peace is likely to remain elusive in Muslim Mindanao even with the recent approval in a plebiscite of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that would give the region greater autonomy. The bombings, we must stress, took place despite the imposition of martial law in the entire Mindanao.

International Alert Philippines, which describes itself as a “peacebuilding NGO”, has analyzed the Jolo bombing based on its concrete experience on the ground. Let me cite pertinent portions of their statement: 

“The cathedral bombing will not be the last tragic event in Muslim Mindanao as the entire region transitions from war to peace and from deprivation to development.

“The transition that we speak of goes beyond the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law or the creation of a new Bangsamoro regional government. In fact, there is no credible evidence that the bombing had anything to do with the recent plebiscite or the NO vote carried by the province.

“State security forces were aware of the heightened risks against the diocese of Jolo long before the chain of events that led to the ratification of the BOL. Targeted attacks against the Abu Sayyaf Group that killed many of its leaders and combatants in 2018 had induced revenge killings against military and police personnel.

“Instead, the target and the timing of this attack shows that a wedge is being driven between Muslims and Christians in Sulu, particularly in the capital city. The death and destruction that came at Holy Mass in a Christian house of worship combines insult and injury to the longstanding, robust, and peaceful communion between Muslims and Christians in the island.

“This is what violent extremism does. It creates fissures where there are none, and fractures inter-community relationships that make it easier to radicalize and recruit. It weaponizes religious and ethnic differences as a tool in destabilizing peace, including the sort of peace that the BOL can bring.

“The evidence now points in this direction. The Abu Sayyaf Group and its many factions, whether connected to ISIS or not, are the greatest source of instability and continuing violence in the island.”

A plausible conclusion, from where I sit, and worth looking into by the national government and security officials.

Bad luck hounds casino mogul

Lady Luck apparently doesn’t want to smile upon beleaguered casino mogul Kazuo Okada, at least for now.

Okada recently took a big blow to the solar plexus when a Tokyo court ruled in favor of his daughter Hiromi who had filed a lawsuit regarding the validity of a 30-year Trust Agreement that led to his ouster from management of his corporate empire under Okada Holdings Limited (OHL) that includes Okada Manila, touted as the largest luxury casino hotel in the country.

Hiromi and her brother Tomohiro had originally signed a Trust Agreement, but Hiromi later disowned it, saying that she was duped into signing the document. But Tomohiro maintained its validity and that Hiromi signed with full knowledge. Tomohiro filed a case in Tokyo to confirm the validity of the agreement, while Hiromi filed a case in Hong Kong questioning its validity and asking for interim relief in relation to her shares in OHL.

To make a long story short, the Hong Kong court rejected Hiromi’s request for interim relief to await the outcome of the Tokyo case initiated by Tomohiro. The decision in the Tokyo case favoring Tomohiro was eagerly awaited as it was critical in determining the chances of a spectacular corporate comeback by Kazuo. With this, Kazuo’s hopes of invalidating the trust agreement have been dashed to the ground.

It was in 2017 when Kazuo was ousted from the management of OHL by Hiromi and Tomohiro. OHL is a Hong Kong company that owns 67.9 percent of Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC). UEC fully owns Tiger Resort Asia Limited, which in turn owns Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment, Inc.(TRLEI), the owner and operator of Okada Manila casino-hotel. UEC had claimed that it discovered wrongdoing by Kazuo Okada when he headed the group.

The Tokyo ruling in the ongoing dispute between Kazuo Okada and the current management of the UEC group is believed to effectively confirm the legality of his removal and makes it well-nigh impossible for him to regain control of OHL and its allied companies, including Okada Manila.

Kazuo Okada’s legal setback in Tokyo isn’t something new for him. In November last year, the Parañaque Regional Trial Court dismissed the intra-corporate case he filed seeking reinstatement in the TRLEI Board. In December, the Department of Justice ordered his indictment for estafa for misappropriating more than $3 million in salaries and consultancy fees that he had received from TRLEI without approval by the TRLEI Board.  The indictment was followed by the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Parañaque Regional Trial Court in connection with the estafa case. Okada has not surrendered to the Philippine court and is believed to be cooling his heels outside the country as a fugitive from justice.


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