Philippines: Why Death Squads Thrive


June 8, 2009: While the MILF has largely maintained the ceasefire in the south, the army accuses the Moslem separatist group of carrying out a growing number of terrorist bombing attacks. Some of these take the form of roadside bombs directed against the army. The MILF complains that the military assists in death squad activity against criminals and MILF supporters. The death squads are a common feature in third world countries, where the police and justice system can't keep up with the many criminals. In response, soldiers and police are allowed to threaten and kill (those who don't heed the warning) criminals. This is actually an ancient practice, used for thousands of years when there was no money for jails, police or judges. Criminals were told to shape up (or leave), and those that refused were simply killed. The industrial revolution created enough money for police, judges and jail, at least in theory. But for many parts of the world, the modern ideal loses out to the ancient reality.

The U.S. has offered to increase its military aid to the Philippines. For the last decade, $50-60 million a year in U.S. equipment, weapons and technical assistance has been provided. For the last seven years, about 300 American Special Forces operators have provided training and intelligence assistance in the south. The U.S. proposes increasing this aid, perhaps even doubling it.

Peace negotiations with Moslem separatist groups (mainly MILF) in the south continue to be 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 the island. 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.

June 6, 2009: Two days of fighting rogue MILF fighters in the south has left 30 rebels dead and one of their camps captured. Fighting in this area has intensified over the last six weeks, and led to 50,000 civilians (Moslem and Christian) fleeing the area.

June 5, 2009: In the south, soldiers and rogue MILF fighters clashed, leaving nine rebels dead and five soldiers wounded.  On Basilan island, a woman held captive by Abu Sayyaf on Basilan island, managed to get away at night and escape. The terrorists holding here were increasingly distracted by constant military patrols and efforts to find them.

June 3, 2009: On Basilan island, the government negotiated the release of a Sri Lankan held captive for four months. No ransom was paid, as the military apparently allowed the captors to get away if they let their foreign captive go.


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