Philippines: The Beast Within


September 27, 2009: Peace talks with Moslem rebels in the south are complicated by the internal struggles down there. The main rebel group, the MILF, really got going in the 1970s, and the original leaders still dominate the senior command of the organization. But a new generation of leaders, more radical and violent guys in their 30s and 40s, are seeking to take over. Some of these fellows are willing to instigate a civil war within the MILF. Thus there is a certain urgency among the senior leaders, to make a deal, and let the government deal with the more radical mid-level MILF leaders. The MILF leaders don't like to talk about this problem, but it won't go away.

Remittances from the nine percent of Filipinos who work overseas and send money home (in effect, over 20 percent of the workforce works abroad, sending home money that amounts to about ten percent of GDP) are up, despite the recession (which is now ending.) Filipinos are very popular overseas workers (because of their energy, skills and ability to speak English). There are no jobs at home for all this talent because of the corruption (the Philippines is among the ten most corrupt nations, out of 180 surveyed regularly) that stifles economic growth.

September 26, 2009: NPA and terrorist activity in the northern Philippines will be interrupted for a week or so, as that part of the country recovers from a huge typhoon (Pacific Ocean hurricane) that hit today. It caused the worst flooding in 40 years, and is believed to have killed nearly a hundred so far, and will damage or destroy the homes and businesses of millions of Filipinos. The military will divert transportation and other support troops from counter-terror operations all over the country, to help with rescue operations in the north.

September 25, 2009: In the east, troops killed ten NPA rebels in two clashes.

September 23, 2009: Police arrested two terrorist bomb builders who belonged to a rogue MILF terrorist organization.  The two men were caught at two separate checkpoints. There were arrest warrants for both of them, because of bombings in the last few months that they were involved in.

September 21, 2009:  On Jolo, Abu Sayyaf ambushed a military convoy, killing eight troops.

September 20, 2009: On Jolo, troops attacked and captured an Abu Sayyaf camp where over 200 armed rebels were gathered (to guard a meeting of terrorist leaders, including one who had come over from nearby Basilan island.) The fighting left 24 rebels and eight troops dead. Soldiers and marines then took off in pursuit of the terrorist leaders and their bodyguards.

September 19, 2009: In the south, several dozen NPA rebels attacked a banana plantation and destroyed equipment. The plantation owners had refused to pay "protection" money to the NPA, to avoid such damage.

September 18, 2009: Security officials warned that Islamic terrorist groups were planning four bombing attacks in the capital. Security has been increased, and counter-terror forces are pursuing the suspected terrorists.

September 16, 2009: The government and the MILF have agreed to accept a team of foreign observers to monitor the ceasefire that will accompany renewed peace talks. Last year, there was a peace deal, but the Supreme Court declared a provision (more autonomy for the Moslem south, and loss of rights by the Christian minority down there) illegal. Some MILF factions then went to war against southern Christians, forcing over half a million to flee their homes. Over 600 died (most of them MILF) so far, as the army intervened.

Various Moslem separatist groups have been fighting since the 1960s, and over 100,000 (mostly Moslems) have died. The fighting in the south is not only rebels versus the government, but also the many clan and political feuds that are common down there. The Moslem south is more violent than the rest of the country. And then there is the matter of proportion. Only about ten percent of the 92 million Filipinos are Moslem. The Christians dominate the government and the security forces.

Peace negotiations with Moslem separatist groups (mainly MILF) in the south are also stalled because of frictions within the Moslem community. Some factions want to work out a peace deal, but others want to keep fighting for a separate Moslem state on part of Mindanao island (the southernmost large island). The problem is, Moslems are only about a third of  22 million people on Mindanao. The rest are Christians, who do not want to share the island with an independent Moslem state. Moreover, most of the Moslem population is intermixed with Christians, and the radical Moslems want the Christians expelled. Thus the haggling is mainly over real estate. The Moslems in the south still claim "ancestral rights" (to administer, and collect taxes from) many areas that have become largely Christian in the past decade. The Christian majority has been encroaching, on the sparsely populated areas of the Moslem south, for over a century. But this movement has accelerated as the economy has improved in the last decade. Many Moslems see their culture threatened, but armed resistance has not done much to help. The Moslems are very outnumbered, and have been losing battles for decades.

On Jolo island, someone threw a grenade into a crowd at a carnival, killing two and wounding twenty. Islamic militants are suspected, because these religious fanatics oppose public entertainment.


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