While Islamic radicals like Abu Sayyaf get a lot of publicity as terrorists, their main activities are basically those of common criminals. Kidnapping and extortion are the big moneymakers. In the south, there are a few hundred full and part-time Abu Sayyaf, and last year they kidnapped a dozen people. Many more incidents of extortion and robbery occurred. Abu Sayyaf also exists in an area where the Islamic radicals have family and clan networks in the area, and a general dislike of non-Moslem officials from the central government. The local government is often cozy with the Islamic radicals, and local criminals in general. Corruption has always been a big problem down there. So the situation is a lot more complex that just a small Islamic terrorist group.
Then there's the corruption, which manifests itself in a general attitude of lawlessness that sometimes involves the police and military. There are still death squads operating in some parts of the country, usually with the approval or involvement of local politicians and police. A recent kidnapping attempt was foiled, and one of the kidnappers was revealed as a naval officer.
Clashes with the NPA continue, as the army and police keep up the pressure they hope will cause the communist rebel group to collapse in the next year or so. This week, another NPA camp was captured, rendering over fifty rebels homeless. This sort of thing is not good for rebel morale, and the NPA has been having a lot of morale problems these last few years. Losses from combat, disease and desertion have reduced NPA strength to under 5,000. That's 20 percent of what they had before the Cold War (and widespread belief in communism) ended in 1991.
February 23, 2009: In the south, a terrorist bomb, planted in a crowded city plaza, misfired when only the blasting cap went off. No one took credit for the failed bombing attempt, but the MILF, or some Islamic radical group, is suspected. It's their style.
February 18, 2009: In the south, troops skirmished with a group of fifty renegade MILF gunmen, who fled, leaving the troops with a cache of MILF munitions.
February 16, 2009: The military has reduced its efforts to rescue three Red Cross personnel kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf last month. The military fears that the kidnappers will kill their captives rather than risk them being rescued. The troops know the general area the kidnappers and their hostages are, but it's a mountain forest area where it's easy to hide and difficult to move. Thus quickly locating and attacking the kidnappers is difficult, and the military is going to give negotiation a chance.
February 15, 2009: After a long investigation, police have arrested an MILF terrorist bomb maker, Muaweya Abubakar Masabpi. The arrest was made last week in the capital and only recently announced. Masabpi is believed involved in at least six terrorist bombings since 2002.