Terrorism is ideological. It is pursued for reasons of politics, religion or both. Which is why acts of terrorism are always justified because politics and religion justifies—or so it is understood and made so by those enclaved in it.
Banditry is not terrorism. When an ideologue is reduced to banditry it becomes defrocked of its reason for being, and, hence, of its self-attributed dignity and justification.
The Abu Sayyaf is banditry pure and simple. Given its track record it cannot claim to be pursuing the ends of religion or politics. Even a hardened terrorist will vomit at the modus operandi of this band of bandits who moves according to the rewards of money and not by the dictates of power or a pie in the sky by and by.
Earlier reports have it—and not without solid basis—that the Abu group negotiates for the highest bidder, divides the spoils with their protectors, and pledges allegiance to their sponsors, in much the same way that Kuratong Baleleng did in the 90s. It follows a code of ethics common and valid only to the underworld.
Classifying the Abu with the MILF or the CPP is like classifying a dog with its manure. Be that as it may, but it has earned the Abu a special treatment of an all-out-war from the Philippine government, no less. Now it’s a war between the best generals trained at the Philippine Military Academy and street thugs who should be laughing by now for meriting a good attention. It is not so unlike waging war with a chicken dung, courtesy of the bright boys of Malacanang’s war room.
But what do you expect of the military, much less of this government? At least a short episode with the Abus will be a breather from the “inspired” extra-judicial killings and disappearances. Besides, an all-out-war has bigger budget than, say, abductions or making militants (and some election returns) disappear.