By Floro Mercene
Before the Maute terrorists, the government had to deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and before that, the Moro National Liberation Front. Before that, it was the Abu Sayyaf, all the way back to Kamlon in the 1950s.
Hadji Kamlon was a Moro and former World War II guerrilla hero, who from 1948 to 1955 led a rebellion against the national government.
A feared bandit, Kamlon was a folk hero to his fellow Tausugs.
Armed only with Browing Automatic Rifles (BAR), Kamlon’s band of 300 Tausugs evaded the government’s tanks.
Kamlon was loved and revered by his fellow Moros because he looted from the rich and gave it to the poor, like Robin Hood.
Even when the military appealed to the inhabitants to help in Kamlon’s capture, the Moro villagers were tight lipped and uncooperative, the same way some Marawi residents have reportedly protected the Mautes.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt used to say, “He may be an SOB but he’s our SOB.”
Sulu online library said the exact cause for Kamlon’s rebellion was not established but economic factors had been frequently blamed.
Anyway, I was fortunate to have covered Kamlon’s surrender in Sulu as a budding reporter for the Philippine News Service in 1952.
Because of advancing age, Kamlon surrendered to the charismatic and then Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay, who went all the way to Sulu for the surrender ceremony.
First came a boat loaded with tokens of his sincerity — baskets of fruit, and Kamlon’s six-year-old son, to inspire confidence.
Then Kamlon came ashore with lots of fanfare, followed by a formal surrender ceremony beneath the coconut palms of Lahing-Lahing beach.
With Kamlon were his 300 followers armed with revolvers and rifles “and their sashed waists sagging with an assortment of bolos, barongs, krises, and daggers.”
Chewing betel nut, he walked to Magsaysay, handed over his two pistols and a symbolic stack of 24 firearms, including BARs, carbines, and old Japanese guns.
Magsaysay asked Kamlon to surrender, stand trial, and serve time in prison. He was tried and stayed a few months in prison before pardon was granted by Magsaysay.