The communist NPA rebels are becoming more active, and some defunct local branches are even being revived. This is a perverse development, as the NPA has lost most of its foreign cash donations, and has become almost entirely dependent on extortion and theft. That has proved more lucrative, and the NPA is becoming more of a criminal gang than an armed political movement. The NPA is now also the most active, in terms of violence and casualties. MILF is generally holding to its ceasefire and Abu Sayyaf continue to be on the run. The NPA, despite intermittent peace talks, has become more aggressive in attacking local police forces who have been interfering with NPA extortion and theft. The NPA also use these attacks to obtain police weapons, radios and vehicles. The military estimates that the NPA has averaged $3 million a year from criminal activities, and that income has been increasing over the last few years. The armed forces and national police have pledged to destroy the NPA, and its 4,000 armed members, in the next few years. That has led to a lot more casualties on both sides. But the destruction of the NPA this decade is not seen as a sure thing. The NPA has been around for decades, and although many are turning into gangsters, they still have an impressive track record of surviving whatever the government could throw at them.
All this began as a result of the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks, which led to the NPA being declared an international terrorist group, and financial support, especially from outside the country, dried up. The NPA had to recast itself as revolutionary gangsters. Without a source of income, keeping thousands of armed fighters in action was impossible. While pay was low, there were operating expenses. Even rebels have to deal with budgets and cash flow. Like many rebel groups before them, the NPA mutated into gangsters, and the government has to adjust its tactics to deal with the evolving threat.
MILF is still trying to deal with rogue members, or groups of MILF gunmen, becoming criminal gangs, and using their MILF membership to assist them. For example, while police will go right after common criminals, if there is suspected MILF involvement, more caution will be used. MILF members can call in a lot of reinforcements quickly. Some MILF men used this angle to kidnap a businesswoman earlier this month and demand ransom. When the MILF connection was discovered, police demanded that MILF commanders deal with it. MILF then took the lead in getting the hostage freed.
The government is finding more and more of its diplomatic efforts are in support of the large number (nine million) of expatriate Filipinos working abroad. The money sent back to families in the Philippines amounts to over ten percent of GDP and benefits over a quarter of the population. That creates an interest group politicians cannot ignore. Since many of these workers go to Arab states in the Persian Gulf, this provides close relations with many Moslem states that are helpful in negotiating with Moslem separatists in the southern Philippines.
May 24, 2011: In the south, six campaign workers (for a provincial governor election) were wounded by unidentified gunmen. More than any other part of the country, the Moslem south often features deadly violence against supporters of candidates, and sometimes the candidates themselves. The newly elected national government is making yet another effort to eliminate the private militias powerful politicians throughout the country, and particularly in the south, maintain. These hired guns are used to intimidate voters and candidates, as well as battle militiamen working for other candidates.
May 20, 2011: On Jolo Island, Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists revealed that they had been responsible for kidnapping a Malaysian businessman two weeks ago, and had contacted Malaysian diplomats to help negotiate a $186,000 ransom.