Philippines: December 14, 2004


NPA rebels kidnapped 14 workers on a rural construction project, destroyed their equipment, and then released the workers a day later. The NPA still have over 5,000 armed members out in the countryside. Most NPA members now spend all of their time just looking for ways to find food, shelter and other necessities. As long as there is so much corruption in the country, groups like the communist NPA will appeal to some people. But in the south, the Moslem MILF, while also fighting for social justice, mainly represents a more ancient problem. The southern tribes of the Philippines were the first to have contact with Islam, and for several centuries, the southerners were Moslem while the people farther north still practiced the ancient religions. Then the Spanish came along in the 15th century and settled first in the north. There, the tribes converted to Christianity. Thus the tribal (including language) differences between those in north and south Philippines were compounded by religious differences. While the country eventually became united linguistically with the adoption of Tagalog (a common Malay language) and English (as a commercial and government language), the cultural and religious differences remain. Tribalism survives in the south through many strong clan organizations. The clans are getting tired of all the years of MILF violence, and there is much popular pressure on the MILF to make peace.


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