December 30, 2009:
The situation in Maguindanao province down south, where the Ampatuan clan militia recently went berserk and murdered 57 journalists and political opponents, has exposed the national government to criticism. For decades, the national government has quietly tolerated clan warlords down south. This was not entirely successful, as there still arose Moslem nationalist groups like the MILF, and Robin Hood gangs like Abu Sayyaf. But the MILF is the last of several such nationalist groups, all of whom found it impossible to unite the southerners. There were always divisions. If not clan based, then caused by ambitious subordinates who were willing to disrupt the organization for personal gain. The sad fact is that the south has not accepted the concept of government as readily as the rest of country. Even the Christians in the south are more prone to clan based power and aggressive armed militias. The government is going through the motions of "doing something." But there is little enthusiasm for fundamental reform in the south, so the central government will do what it always does, make deals and wait for the media to move onto something else. Most national level politicians accept it as fact that, in the south, the best way to keep the peace is via the most powerful clan militias in each province. The northern politicians don't want any more massacres, and they don't believe they can eliminate clan based politics any time soon.
This time of year, there are always official, or unofficial, holiday truces (usually for the second half of December). Even the communist rebels play along, because many of their atheist comrades have kin who still worship regularly. The Moslem rebels cut the mainly Christian soldiers some slack, and have the favor returned when the Moslem holidays come along. When you've been at war for decades, you learn to pace yourself, and these truces are one way to do that.
December 29, 2009: On Basilan, an amphibious operation by navy commandos resulted in a gun battle with MILF renegades. The battle left two commandos dead, and the MILF fighters fleeing into the hills. The MILF group were on their way to help out their Abu Sayyaf allies when the commandos intercepted them.
December 20, 2009: In the south, police on Basilan have surrounded Islamic radicals who kidnapped a local college professor. Abu Sayyaf, and other Islamic radicals on Basilan, are increasingly turning to kidnapping to raise money. Several years of running from soldiers and marines has bankrupted the rebels, and they must either raise cash, or run out of friends and options.