Philippines: The Enemy Within


February 21, 2008: Lately, the biggest battles have been indoors. A major corruption scandal, where an official admitted that several government ministers planned to take half the value of an inflated telecom contract (with a Chinese firm), brought calls for a new president and cabinet. Despite vows to clean up the corrupt practices so common in the government, the last four presidents appointed senior people who were later caught taking bribes and kickbacks. This is a big boost for rebel organizations like the communist NPA and Islamic Abu Sayyaf. The only thing that prevents either of these outfits from succeeding is the fact that one proposes a socialist dictatorship, and the other a religious one. Most Filipinos would prefer to elect their rulers, even if they choose thieves most of the time. The corruption is a national shame, which everyone insists must be eliminated, but persists nonetheless.

In addition to corruption scandals, there's another one down south, on Jolo, where the aftermath of a gun battle with Abu Sayyaf apparently led to the death of seven civilians and an off-duty soldier. Fifty officers and troops have been suspended as the investigation seeks to determine if the eight victims were murdered, or simply caught in the crossfire. This investigation if the first victory Abu Sayyaf has had in a long time, and the Islamic radicals are making the most of it. The government has suspended operations against Abu Sayyaf, on the smaller islands in the south, until the investigation is complete. But counter-terror operations continue in the rest of the country, and an Islamic terrorist was captured in a bomb workshop in the south, in Davao Oriental province.

Meanwhile, an informer led police to a shallow grave on Tawi-tawi island, and claimed the dead man was terrorist leader Dulmatin. This guy has a $10 million price on his head, dead or alive. Dulmatin led the terrorists who committed the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia, which killed over 200 people. Most of the victims were Australians, and the attack angered Australians considerably. Dulmatin is the son of a wealthy Malaysian family, typical of the well-educated Moslem men who become infatuated with Islamic terrorism. DNA from the body is being tested, and some insist that Dulmatin is still at large.

The government is forming an infrastructure security force in the south, to guard major industrial plants, utilities, and the like, from NPA shakedown attempts. The NPA has come to depend on extortion payments, from large corporations, to keep going. So the government is going to try and cut that lifeline.




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