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Crafty Dog
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« on: May 04, 2003, 12:22:47 PM »

MANILA, Philippines ? Muslim guerrillas attacked a town and took hostages Sunday as they withdrew from fighting that killed four people, the military and rebels said
 
 
The nighttime raid by about 100 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (search) injured 26 people in the town of Siocon in the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte, officials said.

The guerrillas fired on houses, town hall, a hospital and public market -- then fought army troops, killing a soldier and wounding seven others, said military spokesman Lt. Col. Renoir Pascua. Police said at least seven civilians were wounded.

A rebel spokesman, Eid Kabalu, said two guerrillas were killed and 11 wounded.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said the guerrillas took 15 hostages, but soldiers recovered two and were trying to rescue the rest, including relatives of the town's mayor.

"This is a classic case of terrorism," Lucero said. "They're creating an atmosphere of helplessness among the defenseless populace."

Army helicopters chased the attackers into the hinterlands of Siocon (search), a predominantly Christian mountain town about 480 miles south of Manila.

Kabalu said the rebels would keep attacking unless officials meet their demands, including the return of a captured camp and withdrawal of criminal charges against their leaders.

"We hit where the enemy is weak," Kabalu told The Associated Press. "Our commanders assessed that weakness in Siocon and surprised them."

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been waging an insurrection in the Philippines' impoverished and volatile south for about three decades.

Malaysia's defense minister said Sunday that Philippine government negotiators plan to meet with separatist rebels in that country on Wednesday for exploratory talks aimed at restoring formal peace negotiations.

Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Razak (search) expressed hope that an exploratory meeting between the two sides in Kuala Lumpur will lead to an end to the fighting. Malaysia hosted several rounds of peace negotiations between government representatives and the MILF before talks stalled in 2001.

The U.S. government has provided the Philippine army with combat training and weapons to help tackle insurgents in the south.

U.S. and Philippine defense officials have been working out the terms of another round of U.S. military training in the southern Philippines planned for later this year.
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Anonymous
Guest
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2003, 05:02:03 PM »

Today's Featured Analysis

MILF: Short-Term Advantage, Long-Term Challenges?

Summary

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has gained an edge in upcoming
peace talks following a recent attack in the southern
Philippines. The rebels' new bargaining power may be enough to
gain a temporary cease-fire, but it won't be sufficient bring
about an end to the conflict.

Analysis

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) raided a small town in
the southern Philippines on May 4, marking a violent upswing in
the rebel group's recent activities. Approximately 100 rebels
stormed the town of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte province in the
early morning -- assaulting the local military headquarters,
police station and government offices and torching the central
public market before retreating into the jungle with more than a
dozen hostages, including the wife and son of the town's mayor.
Most of the hostages were rescued later that day, but intense
fighting during the raid left up to 22 dead and many more
wounded.

The operation demonstrated the MILF's capabilities, which will
serve to strengthen its hand in upcoming peace talks with Manila.
Regardless, the possibility that the government and the rebels
can reach a substantial peace accord and avoid further conflict
is slim.

The bloody assault on Siocon, the MILF's largest military
operation in recent weeks, demonstrates that the Muslim
separatist group still is capable of major offensives --
following a serious setback in February, when the Philippine army
overran its Buliok operations base in Pikit. The destruction of
the base forced the MILF to disperse into the jungle and put the
rebels on the defensive -- suspending the group's negotiations
with Manila.

The attack in Siocon and recent smaller attacks have been a part
of a campaign to regain the initiative.

Jesus Duezo, special adviser to President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo, acknowledged May 4 that the incident in Siocon was
problematic but indicated that "discreet" exploratory peace talk
would continue. MILF leaders already have agreed to peace talks
in Kuala Lumpur within the next week, although the schedule still
may be subject to change.

Both the government and the MILF have much to gain through a
negotiated peace deal. Arroyo would like to quell the violence
endemic to the southern Philippines and rejuvenate the island
nation's international reputation in order to attract foreign
investment and revitalize the economy. The MILF, or at least some
of the factions within it, would like to put the 25-year
insurgency in the past. Some of the rebel leaders are willing to
enter into a deal similar to one that Manila cut with the Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- ending hostilities in
exchange for a high degree of autonomy.

Although the MILF is re-entering negotiations with a stronger
hand and is looking to deal, the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur are
unlikely to produce a substantive agreement. A tentative cease-
fire deal might be reached, but a more conclusive arrangement to
end the rebellion is highly unlikely: Any concessions by Manila
to enfranchise the MILF will come at the expense of the MNLF,
from which the MILF splintered in 1977. Some MNLF factions
already govern large portions of Mindanao, and the two rebel
groups will not likely agree to administer the same territory
jointly.

This leaves the MILF as the odd man out among the three players.
Manila will not risk alienating the rebels it already has co-
opted and thus re-ignite conflict in hopes of bringing the MILF
into the fold.
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2003, 01:56:46 PM »

Item Number:17
Date: 05/07/2003
PHILIPPINES - MILF TARGETS BRIDGES (MAY 07/PS)

PHILIPPINE STAR -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is plotting to destroy bridges in central Mindanao, reports the Philippine Star, citing security officials. Intelligence reports indicate that the MILF has targeted bridges in Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.  The plans are said to be part of the MILF's new strategy of disrupting civilian and government infrastructure in the southern Philippines, reported military and police officials.
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2003, 11:58:44 AM »

PHILIPPINES
Manila Troops in Massive Hunt for Muslim Rebels
from Straits Times [Singapore] on Monday, May 05, 2003
ZAMBOANGA -- Hundreds of government forces were deployed on Monday to a southern Philippine town after a daring raid by the nation's top Muslim separatist group left 25 people dead and dozens wounded.

President Gloria Arroyo said the attack by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the remote mining town of Siocon, some 465-km south of Manila, was an act of terrorism that the group must account for.  The attack came as government negotiators prepared to meet the MILF in 'exploratory' peace talks in Kuala Lumpur this week.

'The MILF must account for this act, both on the ground and on the level of peace negotiations,' she told reporters in Manila.  'We will go after the perpetrators and the MILF must turn over to the government without excuses the perpetrators,' she said.

The MILF, whose 12,500-strong force is the main Muslim separatist group in the southern Philippines, launched their bloody raid on Siocon on Sunday, catching the military off-guard and seizing 15 civilians as 'human shields'.  Following intense fighting, reports late Sunday said 22 people were killed -- 10 civilians, six MILF rebels and nine police and military personnel -- and more than two dozen civilians and troops wounded.

Armed forces spokesman Lt-Colonel Daniel Lucero said on Monday the death toll had risen to 25, with one more army soldier and two civilians killed. -- AP

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
----------------------
PHILIPPINES
Army in Cahoots with Rebels, Says Ex-Hostage
from Straits Times [Singapore] on Thursday, May 08, 2003
WICHITA (Kansas) - An American missionary who was held hostage for more than a year has accused the Philippine military of colluding with her captors, saying an army general demanded a 50-per-cent cut of the ransom.

In her newly released book, In The Presence Of My Enemies, Mrs Gracia Burnham described her 377-day ordeal at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf group.

It ended with a bloody army rescue on June 7 last year that left her husband Martin and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap dead.

Mrs Burnham said members of the Philippine military provided rice, sugar and other food for the Muslim guerillas holding her captive. She said she was told it was because Abu Sayyaf was 'wheeling and dealing' with the general in the region, who wanted a cut of the ransom.  The guerillas had offered 20 per cent but the general wanted a 50-per-cent cut. Negotiations between the two sides broke down in the end, she said.

Philippine army chief Gregorio Camiling, commander of the southern Philippines in the early weeks of the abduction, denied any such collusion on Tuesday.  He suggested that Mrs Burnham and the other captives may have been tricked.

'They were inside; their minds could easily be controlled by (Abu Sayyaf leader) Abu Sabaya and the rebels who could have fed them wrong information and acted out some drama,' he said.

'How can she say they were soldiers? She was misled.' -- AP

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2003, 10:04:10 AM »

Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). MALAYSIA AND PHILIPPINES.

Description
The ASG is the most violent of the Islamic separatist groups operating in the southern Philippines. Some ASG leaders have studied or worked in the Middle East and allegedly fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet war. The group split from the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1990s under the leadership of Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with Philippine police on 18 December 1998. His younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani, has replaced him as the nominal leader of the group, which is composed of several semi-autonomous factions.

Activities
Engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, assassinations, and extortion. Although from time to time it claims that its motivation is to promote an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, areas in the southern Philippines heavily populated by Muslims, the ASG now appears to use terror mainly for financial profit. The group's first large-scale action was a raid on the town of Ipil in Mindanao in April 1995. In April of 2000, an ASG faction kidnapped 21 persons, including 10 foreign tourists, from a resort in Malaysia. Separately in 2000, the group abducted several foreign journalists, 3 Malaysians, and a US citizen. On 27 May 2001, the ASG kidnapped three US citizens and 17 Filipinos from a tourist resort in Palawan, Philippines. Several of the hostages, including one US citizen, were murdered.

Strengths
Believed to have a few hundred core fighters, but at least 1000 individuals motivated by the prospect of receiving ransom payments for foreign hostages allegedly joined the group in 2000-2001.

Location/Area of Operation
The ASG was founded in Basilan Province, and mainly operates there and in the neighboring provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the Sulu Archipelago. It also operates in the Zamboanga peninsula, and members occasionally travel to Manila and other parts of the country. The group expanded its operations to Malaysia in 2000 when it abducted foreigners from a tourist resort.

External Aid
Largely self-financing through ransom and extortion; may receive support from Islamic extremists in the Middle East and South Asia. Libya publicly paid millions of dollars for the release of the foreign hostages seized from Malaysia in 2000.
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2003, 10:11:51 AM »

PHILIPPINES
Philippines Bomb Blast Kills at Least 13
from Associated Press on Saturday, May 10, 2003
A bomb exploded Saturday at a crowded market in a southern Philippine city, killing at least 13 people, officials said.

About two dozen others were injured seriously and brought to a hospital in Koronadal city, police Superintendent Danilo Posadas said.  Two hours later, another bomb was found near the market but taken away by a police bomb squad to be defused.

Mayor Fernando Miguel said the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility in a telephone call. The group is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Miguel said in a radio interview that a man identifying himself as Abu Solaiman of the Abu Sayyaf called him shortly after the 3:30 p.m. blast and warned of "more bombings in the days to come."

The man has been calling since last year demanding $75,000 a month to spare Koronadal from bombings, the mayor said, adding that he refused.

There was no independent confirmation that the call came from Solaiman, who has been linked to bombings farther south and is one of five Abu Sayyaf leaders with a $5 million State Department bounty on his head offered by the State Department for kidnappings and killings in the southern Philippines in 2001-2002.

Posadas said an initial investigation indicated the bomb that exploded around 3:30 p.m. was fashioned from an 81 mm mortar shell. Police suspect the person who planted the bomb died at the scene.

"Terrorists did it," Posadas said, without elaborating.

The market was the scene of a similar bombing last month that killed two people. Police and the military blamed that bombing on the Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Saturday's blast killed two women vendors and three passersby at the market, and seven others died in the hospital, said Col. Agustin Dema-ala, commander of the army's 301st Infantry Brigade.  Dema-ala said one of the people killed at the market was believed to have carried the bomb. He said a witness saw a man placing a bag on the sidewalk in front of a glass supply store at the market.

"It went off as he turned his back on it," Dema-ala said, quoting the witness.

He said a National Bureau of Investigation office is located in the market building, above where the blast occurred. The area was crowded because it was market day for traders in Koronadal, capital of South Cotabato province, about 600 miles southeast of Manila.

About two hours after the bombing, residents reported to police a cylinder containing cooking gas abandoned in front of a fire station near the market. It was the second bomb and a police bomb squad found a timer attached to the cylinder and took it away to defuse it.

Provincial Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes condemned the bombing but appealed for calm.

"This is a tragedy. This is the work of terrorists," she said in an interview by DXOM radio in Koronadal.

The military says the MILF is known to make such mortar-bombs. The government has blamed the MILF for most of the bombings on the main southern island of Mindanao, including two blasts that killed 38 people in Davao city in March and April. Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the MILF, said the rebels were not involved in the latest bombing.

"It is not the handiwork of the MILF because we do not attack civilians," he told DXMS radio in Cotabato city.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2003, 11:44:05 AM »

PHILIPPINES
Mindanao Terror Suspects Fall
from Philippine Star [Manila] on Tuesday, May 13, 2003
By John Paul Jubelag & Roel Pare@ntilde;o

Three men have been arrested in Koronadal City for alleged links to a deadly weekend bomb attack in a crowded market there that killed nine people and wounded 26 others.

One of the suspects was nabbed in a raid on Koronadal's Muslim neighborhood, police investigator SPO4 Jonathan Jovero said. Twelve men were released after being rounded up and questioned.

In Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, government troops captured seven Muslim separatists, including a commander who participated in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) raid on that town last May 4, military officials said yesterday.

Thirty-four people were killed and 26 others wounded as 150 MILF raiders pillaged Siocon's commercial district in a dawn raid on May 4, the day of the town fiesta. One of the arrested suspects was believed also behind the abduction of an Italian priest several years ago.

A 49-year-old jobless man, Alex Luntayan, in whose house the suspected bombers allegedly slept before Saturday's attack on the Koronadal public market, was being held, Jovero said.

One of the two other suspects, Kandidatu Gubat, 32, was arrested at the market while Interior Secretary Jose Lina and national police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. were inspecting the blast site.

Hours later, Ryan Salampong, 20, was apprehended nearby after he was overheard by a police intelligence agent boasting in his native Maguindanaoan dialect about his involvement in the bombing.

It was earlier believed that the bomber was killed when the explosive device went off prematurely.

Gubat's relatives denied he was involved, saying he was only selling charcoal at the market. Salampong, meanwhile, presented an identification card during questioning showing that he was a student at a nearby high school.

Officials have blamed the MILF for the bombing that ripped through Koronadal City's crowded market sidewalk Saturday.

Last May 4, the rebels burned the Siocon marketplace and four houses, attacked the town hall and absconded with 15 hostages for use as human shields.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) identified the captured MILF commander as Abdusalam Akiddin, alias Commander Kiddie.

Akiddin was reportedly among those who abducted Italian priest Luciano Benedetti five years ago.

Army 1st Division commander Brig. Gen. Triponio Salazar, who heads the operation against the Siocon raiders, said fighting erupted in the mountain complex of Sipakit in Sirawai town and led to the capture of the seven suspects.

He said the captured rebels were immediately turned over to the police for the filing of appropriate charges.

"The rebels also burned a thatch (hut) of a family of villagers to divert our troops' attention," Salazar said. Not responsible Yesterday, rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu insisted that the MILF was not responsible. "The government should investigate first to determine the identities of the real culprits before pointing an accusing finger at the MILF," he said.

Lina said yesterday the bomb, fashioned from a 81-mm. mortar shell, resembled devices the rebels allegedly used in two attacks in Koronadal earlier this year. A bomb in March wounded three people.

Shortly after the blast, Koronadal Mayor Fernando Miguel said a man who identified himself as Abu Solaiman of the Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility.

Abu Solaiman, the alias of Jainal Antel Sali Jr., has been calling up since last year to demand P4 million a month to "spare Koronadal city from bomb attacks," the mayor said, adding that he had refused.

But there was no independent confirmation that the call came from Solaiman. He has been linked to other bombings, and Washington has offered a $5-million reward for his capture. Washington considers the Abu Sayyaf a terrorist group.

Local authorities appear suspicious of the claim because it was not the first time that an Abu Sayyaf member has claimed responsibility for an attack believed to have been carried out by the MILF.

Last week, the government pulled out of a planned informal meeting with the MILF after the rebels killed 10 civilians and 12 soldiers and police in a May 4 attack on the town of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte province.

The rebels later acknowledged the raid was a "tactical blunder" after the government said it was considering branding the MILF a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, the military has deployed units around Cotabato City in nearby Maguindanao province to thwart possible bomb attacks similar to the one in Koronadal.

Police chief Senior Superintendent Peraco Macacua said undercover police officers have also been deployed inside the city, which has suffered MILF bomb attacks in the past.

Local Muslim leaders have been asked to monitor suspicious characters in their communities.

Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, Armed Forces vice chief, said the military was doing its best to find the Koronadal bombers and prevent terrorist attacks.

He denied criticisms that the bombing was a result of "poor intelligence work" by the military and the police, saying authorities "cannot be 100 percent sure" that they can prevent all terrorist attacks.

"There will be some that will get through. This is the principle of terrorism," he said. "In fact, there had been a troop augmentation from the 27th Infantry Battalion even before this incident happened."

The rebels, who have been fighting for a separate Muslim homeland in the southern Philippines, denied involvement.

But they say they have the right to defend themselves against a military offensive that drove them from a major camp outside the town of Pikit, North Cotabato, in February.

About 3,500 refugees crowding evacuation centers in Pikit have refused to return to their homes for fear of more MILF attacks in efforts to retake the camp.

Two weeks ago, suspected rebels fired grenades that exploded on the roof of a gymnasium housing dozens of Muslim families. Six people were injured.

With the rainy season approaching, health officials fear an outbreak of cholera and typhoid unless the congestion in the refugee centers is eased.

The military accused the MILF of retaliating by bombing a wharf in Davao city on April 2, killing 16 people, and the city's international airport on March 4, killing 22.

The rebels denied any involvement. Criminal charges were filed against MILF chairman Hashim Salamat and several other top leaders for the airport bombing.

The President ordered the military yesterday to continue its clearing operations until all MILF rebels who attacked the town of Maigo, Lanao del Norte last April 24 are captured or killed.

Mrs. Arroyo visited this province after Zamboanga del Norte to condole with relatives of the attack that killed at least 16 civilians, and urged provincial Gov. Imelda Dimaporo and local officials to put up a defense plan in coordination with the military and police.

"If we want to win, we must be together. If there is no unified command, we will be defeated," she said. Savior and hero The fighting raged as the President and key Cabinet members visited Siocon and Sirawai Monday.

The Chief Executive deplaned at the Sirawai airstrip, where four 105-mm. howitzers were lined up with their barrels facing the Sipakit complex where the MILF rebels sought refuge.

Mrs. Arroyo immediately left for Siocon "to help in the immediate task of community restoration" and spoke directly to the town's residents.

"We bleed for the victims of terrorism, but there is a time for rising up again and restoring what has been destroyed," she told the 4,000 people gathered at Siocon town hall. "We will not allow terrorism to stay here."

"The military is now hunting these terrorists and striking them with impunity," she told the villagers.

The President also said her administration will continue working on the peace and order and development of Siocon and other towns in Mindanao besieged by terrorism.

The Siocon residents, holding placards hailing Mrs. Arroyo as "our savior and our hero," cheered the President as a drizzle fell on the town square.

She praised the townsfolk for not being cowed by the attacks and comforted a nine-year-old boy who lost both parents in the raid.

A banner on the town hall declared: "We condemn terrorism. Justice for Siocon," as flags flew at half mast in memory of the dead.

Mrs. Arroyo also visited the wakes of four of the eight policemen who died defending the town hall.

"I salute the soldiers and policemen who gave up their lives in defense of the community," she said, adding that she has approved a scholarship fund of P400,000 for the young children of the eight policemen and army personnel who were killed, "so that their children will have the opportunity to go to school."

Besides that, she "has already released the resources to repair the damaged facilities" of the town, including P5 million for the "immediate reconstructions of your palengke (market) as "Gov. Isagani Amatong is starting to clear the area to pave the way for the immediate start of the (market's) construction."

The infrastructure program will be looked into by the GEM program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), she said, "like some farm-to-market roads and the upgrading of (Siocon's) pier facilities."

She has also asked Smart Communications "to put up a temporary cell site to assist in the communications needs of the community and "directed the Quedancor and Land Bank to provide start up capital for small enterprises" there.

Some P800 million has also been earmarked "for programs for the (Siocon-Sirawai-Sibuco) region," she said.

"We must never allow terrorism to permanently damage the institutions of our community, the institutions of law and order, solidarity and economic progress. To do so would mean a surrender to evil and enable it to strike again with impunity, " she said in a statement.

After the Siocon raid, the President suspended peace talks with the MILF and ordered the government to mount "punitive" actions against the MILF rebels and a diplomatic offensive to isolate the group and cut off their support from Islamic countries.

Lack of air support

While the military pursuit of the Siocon raiders is underway, the operation is hampered by the lack of air support, the AFP said yesterday.

AFP spokesman and vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia also admitted the possibility that the MILF rebels they are pursuing may have slipped though the military cordon around the Siocon-Sirawai area.

"There is always that possibility (that the rebels broke through the military cordon), but our troops are trying their best to track them down in the mountains of (the) Sirawai-Siocon area," he said.

Garcia said the cordoning and pursuit operations are being conducted by three battalions from the 102nd brigade, a reconnaissance unit from the Army's 1st Division and a Scout Ranger unit.

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes earlier said the attack on Siocon was meant to divert the military, which is still flushing out the Abu Sayyaf on the small island of Pilas located between Sulu and Basilan.

Reyes also said the attack on Siocon could have been triggered by the townsfolk's refusal to give in to the extortion of the Abu Sayyaf.

"There have been some extortion activities in the Siocon area and, perhaps, the extortion efforts had not been as productive as they thought (they would be)," Reyes said. "Our theory is that this (attack) was caused by the reluctance of the people to provide extortion money," he said.

Siocon residents make a living by panning for gold in the mineral-rich area.

Garcia said the MILF will soon be declared a terrorist group as a result of the attack on Siocon and the bombing in Koronadal.

A study group is now looking into possibility of putting a terrorist label on the MILF for its use of terrorist tactics, he said, and a recommendation is expected soon.

Garcia said troops have already been inserted along the boundaries of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay to block the exit of fleeing MILF rebels.

The AFP also lashed out at its critics as it said there was no failure of intelligence in the Koronadal bombing.

"We were not remiss, that is the meaning of lapse of intelligence," Garcia said. "Our people are doing their best, the police, the armed forces, but there are some things that would be rather difficult to prevent and we cannot absolutely work out a one hundred percent batting average."

Garcia reacted to South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes' statement that the Koronadal blast could have been prevented if intelligence funds were used properly by the military and the police.

For his part, AFP public information office chief Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero also lashed out at Fuentes. "In the government's anti-terrorism drive, the AFP and the PNP will not be totally effective unless they are supported by the local government units and by the civilians."

The Koronadal blast could have been prevented if people aware of the threat informed the military or the police about it, he added.  With Mike Frialde, James Mananghaya, John Unson, Lino dela Cruz, Bong Fabe, AFP

Copyright? Philstar.com, Inc. All rights reserved
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Crafty Dog
Guest
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2003, 08:54:16 PM »

PHILIPPINES
Hostages Escape Abu Sayyaf
from BBC News on Saturday, May 17, 2003
The last two surviving hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines have escaped from their captors.

The security forces said the two Filipino women were now safe in their hands.

The Abu Sayyaf is a group of armed Filipino Muslims which the United States regards as terrorists.

Only one of the Abu Sayyaf's hostages now remains unaccounted for and military officers say they believe he is dead.

A military spokesman said soldiers had recovered the hostages on the island of Jolo, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf in the extreme south-west of the Philippines. Both women were said to be unharmed.

They were among six members of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who were abducted on Jolo in August last year.

The kidnappers beheaded two male hostages. Two other women hostages escaped earlier this year.

The Abu Sayyaf comprises a few dozen armed Filipino Muslims whose main occupation is kidnapping for ransom.

In the past few years, the group has kidnapped scores of Filipinos and foreigners and has killed many of its captives.

The United States regards the kidnappers as terrorists because they once had links with Osama Bin Laden.

The Philippine Government has deployed thousands of troops in the south in an effort to rescue the last of the hostages and eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.

The US also sent troops to the region to train and equip the Philippine armed forces for what they consider part of the war on terrorism.

Copyright 2003 BBC News.
------------------

PHILIPPINES
Philippines' Arroyo Orders Fresh Attacks on Rebels
from Reuters on Saturday, May 17, 2003
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered "selective aerial and artillery attacks" on what she called "terrorist cells" on Saturday, hours before she was to due leave for a state visit to the United States.

Without giving details of the operations, she said the move was to support an offensive against Muslim rebels on the main southern island of Mindanao where at least 80 people have been killed in attacks since the beginning of March.

"I authorize the Armed Forces of the Philippines to employ selective aerial and artillery attacks to dislodge embedded terrorist cells that have attacked hapless civilian communities and murdered scores of innocent Filipinos in Mindanao," Arroyo said in an address to the nation.

"We've decided to use extraordinary punitive forces not merely in view of tactical necessity, but to signify the determination of the government to bring terrorists to justice."

Mindanao -- a region rich in corn, rice and coconuts -- has seen three decades of Muslim separatist violence in the mainly Roman Catholic country of about 80 million people.

The United States has linked some Philippine Muslim rebels to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden and U.S. forces have been training Philippine troops in recent months.

Arroyo is making a week-long visit to the United States. She said also said hoped to bolster the former U.S. colony's strategic relationship in the fight against terrorism during her visit.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service.
--------------------
PHILIPPINES
PNP Monitoring JI Suspects in RP
from Philippine Star [Manila] on Friday, May 16, 2003
By Christina Mendez and Edith Regalado

Philippine National Police (PNP) Intelligence Group deputy chief Senior Superintendent Romeo Ricardo said yesterday his unit is verifying reports that foreigners belonging to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) have tied up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and are hatching plans to sow terror anew in the Philippines.

"There are reports, although we are still gathering enough evidence to prove (them)," Ricardo, who also leads the PNP anti-terrorist Task Force Sanglahi, said.

He said Metro Manila residents should not be alarmed by the reports because security measures have been implemented to ensure peace and order.

The US State Department warned the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia yesterday of the imminent threat posed by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network in the wake of the attacks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Koronadal.

"There are continuing operations against the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF and other foreign terrorist organizations, including the JI and MILF," he said.

The PNP and AFP are not letting their guard down in their anti-terrorism campaign, particularly in Mindanao, after MILF chairman Hashim Salamat called for intensified anti-government operations there, he said. "There are intensified intelligence gathering efforts and intelligence exchange coordination with our counterparts here and abroad."

On orders by PNP chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Ricardo said the PNP is implementing a three-tiered strategy against terrorism, including target-hardening and intensified security in Metro Manila and urban centers in Mindanao.

Ebdane said the attacks by extremist groups are "to be expected."

"There is a common denominator" between the extremist groups in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, he said.

Ebdane explained that the mujahedin  Islamist guerrillas  of these three countries met when they were sent to fight in the Afghan war against the Russians in 1979. When the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, these mujahedin formed extremist groups when they returned to their own countries.

The Filipino mujahedins formed the Abu Sayyaf, while those from Egypt and Yemen formed "more radical" groups, based on Western intelligence reports, he said.

Ebdane said that unlike Riyadh  which has areas where expatriates congregate  there are no potential targets in Mindanao.

He said he has not seen the latest reports by Cable News Network and has no contact with Western intelligence.

To fight terrorists, according to Ebdane, the "bottom line" is citizen awareness "because the police cannot do it alone."

Sources in the intelligence community said the Abu Sayyaf have sought funding from the al-Qaeda to sustain their terrorist operations in the country.

These sources added that the bandits are running out of cash and, therefore, finding it difficult to stage terrorist attacks.

The sources said Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafi Janjalani recently sent video footage of their bomb-making training and terrorism exercises to their al-Qaeda contacts based in the Middle East as a basis for their request for financial support.

The bandits vowed to put the training shown in the video to use in actual terrorist tactics once funds are made available to them, the sources said.

"Apparently, the Abu Sayyaf coffers are fast depleting because of the freezing of their bank deposits here," one source said.

The Abu Sayyaf was able to rake in large sums of cash through their kidnap-for-ransom activities in the past years, but the government cut off the bandits' cash supply by freezing their bank accounts.

Bin Laden and slain Abu Sayyaf chieftain Abdurajak Janjalani became friends at the height of the Soviet-Afghan war. This opened wide avenues for contacts between the Basilan-based bandit group and al-Qaeda that remain despite the elder Janjalani's death in December 1998.

Meanwhile, confidential military debriefings of three former hostages found that Abu Sayyaf guerrillas received combat and explosives training under two Indonesian instructors and threatened to attack United States troops who are to be deployed in the southern Philippines.

Two Filipino women and an Indonesian sailor who escaped last month after several months of jungle captivity also gave insights into how the ragtag, al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf have survived military offensives on Jolo island.

US and Philippine defense officials are finalizing the terms of a counterterrorism training exercise later this year that would deploy American forces in Jolo to train Filipino soldiers on how to better fight the Abu Sayyaf.

Similar training by US troops last year on nearby Basilan island was credited with crippling a main Abu Sayyaf faction. But many of the group's leaders and members shifted to Jolo and started new abductions and other attacks.

One of the women who escaped said she overheard Abu Sayyaf rebels talking excitedly about the expected arrival of US soldiers on Jolo.

"The (Abu Sayyaf are) eager to have imported clothes& to have their heads," she was quoted as saying.

The rebels also plan to welcome US troops with suicide attackers and car bombs, she added.

The former hostage said the Abu Sayyaf wanted to stage attacks to avenge the death of hundreds of Filipino Muslims who battled American colonizers in Jolo in the early 1900s.

The hostages also reported the arrival of two Indonesian men last December to help train Abu Sayyaf guerrillas and fresh recruits in Jolo's mountainous Patikul town.

The first of three batches of trainees, consisting of 30 rebels, got training in "explosives, guerrilla tactics and basic operation of crew serve weapons," one woman hostage said, referring to weapons that require more than one person to fire. One of the escaped Indonesians said the combat training included lessons in mortar firing and "commando crawls."

The training was completed in March, the debriefing report said. Some trainees were tested in a recent clash with government troops, and about 100 left Jolo that month aboard two speedboats with the two Indonesians and Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafi Janjalani, possibly to carry out attacks elsewhere in the south, the report said.

One of the escaped Indonesian hostages said he was certain the foreign trainers were his compatriots because they spoke Javanese, the report said.

It added that the foreigners' presence bolsters suspicions of links between the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Constantly on the run and evading troops, the guerrillas are supplied with food and ammunition by couriers and residents of some Muslim communities and through improvisation, the ex-hostages said.

They recalled how Janjalani and his aides dug up an unexploded bomb dropped by a military plane and retrieved the powder inside.

The guerrillas have satellite telephones, rifles with sniper scopes and handheld two-way radios, which they used to get warnings from supporters about military positions, the former hostages said.

Hostages were asked to carry ammunition or guns as a disguise, they said.

"Often & they feel like only playing hide and seek with the military," one hostage said. Copyright? Philstar.com, Inc. All rights reserved
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2003, 09:41:53 AM »

Item Number:17
Date: 05/19/2003
PHILIPPINES - MILF SETS PRECONDITIONS FOR NEGOTIATIONS (MAY 19/ABS)

ABS-CBN TODAY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set
conditions for peace talks with the government, reports ABS-CBN
Today.  The MILF wants criminal charges against its leaders to be dropped
before resuming negotiations.  The charges were filed after the April bombing at Davao City international airport that killed 16 people.
The MILF also said the government should pull out of the Buliok
stronghold, which was captured by army last February.
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« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2003, 08:05:30 PM »

Today's Featured Analysis

Philippines: Minor Rift With Washington Emerges

Summary

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and U.S. President
George W. Bush met May 19 in Washington to discuss terrorism,
bilateral relations and economic and military ties. While the two
presidents agreed on further cooperation, particularly in the
military sphere, a minor rift appeared in their discussions --
concerning the links between poverty and terrorism.

Analysis

During her May 19 visit to the White House, Philippine President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo discussed terrorism, bilateral relations
and economic and military aid with U.S. President George W. Bush.
During the post-meeting press conference, the two reiterated the
close ties between Washington and Manila and emphasized continued
cooperation in the global anti-terrorism fight.

But beneath the good will, a minor rift appeared when Arroyo
mentioned the close link between poverty and terrorism -- a link
Bush appeared to brush aside, reminding the audience that many of
those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks were well off financially.
Ultimately, although Manila and Washington agree on the need for
close cooperation in counterterrorism actions and in rebuilding a
relationship that has been strained since the closure of U.S.
bases in the country, differences remain over the nature of the
emerging relationship between the United States and its former
colony.

The Philippines has been a key ally for the United States since
the Sept. 11 attacks, and it emerged as the so-called "second
front" in the war against terrorism even before Iraq was fixed in
the U.S. sights. Washington dispatched troops to train Filipino
soldiers fighting the Abu Sayyaf -- a group loosely linked to al
Qaeda -- and has not left the Philippines since.

The United States now has offered additional aid and military
support to the Philippines in concert with Arroyo's visit. In
addition to continued training exercises, helicopters, spare
parts and a review of Philippine security, Bush pledged his
support to grant "Major Non-NATO Ally" status to Manila -- thus
raising the Philippines to the same level as other key Asian
allies, including Australia, South Korea and Japan.

But of note is the fact that, during their joint press
conference, Arroyo and Bush appeared to have a minor disagreement
on the issue of the relationship between poverty and terrorism.
For Arroyo, military assistance from Washington is vital, but
other forms of economic aid, investment and trade privileges are
just as important -- if not more so. Once one of the young Asian
tigers, the Philippine economy continues to suffer from weak
confidence due to mismanagement, corruption and conflict.

Though Manila and Washington will continue to cooperate,
differences remain that could come back to weaken the ties now
being strengthened. For Washington, the Philippines is a key ally
and a prime location for countering any regional Islamist
militancy that could threaten U.S. interests in Southeast Asia.
But officials in Manila -- and Arroyo in particular -- have
staked much of the government's political viability on its
growing ties with Washington, and they need more than promises of
helicopters to bring the economy back on track and regain public
confidence. The minor crack that was apparent during Arroyo's
visit to Washington provides an opportunity that opposing
elements in Manila might choose to exploit.
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2003, 11:57:27 AM »

Item Number:13
Date: 05/20/2003
PHILIPPINES - GOVERNMENT ATTACKS REBEL STRONGHOLDS (MAY 20/PS)

PHILIPPINE STAR -- A new offensive by the Philippine army has left
more than 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas dead,
reports the Philippine Star.  Troops launched a heavy aerial bombardment and artillery attack on several rebel positions near Mindanao.  The attack came after President Gloria Arroyo ordered the military to undertake "selective aerial and artillery attacks to dislodge
embedded terrorist cells."  OV-10 Bronco planes and MG-520 helicopters, as well as 155-mm and 105-mm howitzers smashed the rebel positions.

----------------------------
www.Stratfor.com


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with Bush in the White
House on May 19. It was agreed that the United States would designate the
Philippines a "major non-NATO" ally. These days, that designation makes the
Philippines even more important to the United States than most NATO allies.
The United States is in the process or redefining its strategic
relationships in the wake of the Iraq war. The Philippines represents a
triply significant ally. First, given its problems with Islamic separatists
in Mindanao, who are linked to al Qaeda, the Philippines is a major ally in
itself. Second, should there be a complete breakdown in Indonesia, and
should the United States decide to intervene, U.S. bases in the southern
Philippines would be critical to an intervention. Finally, should the world
return to pre-al Qaeda days, the Philippines would be an important ally
against the Chinese.

This represents a major shift in Filipino foreign policy. Arroyo has gone
farther in aligning with the United States than appeared politically
possible a few years ago. There clearly is a risk to her in this action, but
given the internal dynamics of the Philippines, the decision to re-ally with
the United States was more manageable than it might have been previously.
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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2003, 11:54:52 AM »

PHILIPPINES
Philippines President: Abu Sayyaf Losing Clout
from CNN on Thursday, May 22, 2003
"While there's been much progress on terrorism, there's still much work to do and it is very important that the countries work together in order to address this threat together," Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told CNN.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo held talks with President Bush on Monday and was later the guest of honor at a state dinner. The two leaders discussed the war on terror. Arroyo talked with CNN's Wolf Blitzer about al Qaeda-linked militant group, Abu Sayyaf, that is operating in the Philippines, and about the threat of international terrorism.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, madam president, for being with us. How much of a problem is this terror threat to you in the Philippines, specifically from Abu Sayyaf, this group associated with al Qaeda?

ARROYO: When September 11 happened, we had already been contending with a terrorist threat of Abu Sayyaf.

Now Abu Sayyaf has lost their last hostages because the last two hostages escaped from their clutches while their guards were sleeping and it was raining hard, so they could not chase after them with footprints. So I would say that this is a threat that has lost a lot of its clout.

Nonetheless, we have seen from the alert that it's happening now here in the United States. While there's been much progress on terrorism, there's still much work to do, and it is very important that the countries work together in order to address this threat together.

BLITZER: Madam president, is al Qaeda making a comeback right now? How significant of a threat is this terror organization, not only to you and your people in the Philippines, but around the world, including here in the United States?

ARROYO: What I understand is that al Qaeda is only half as strong as it used to be.

Nonetheless, if that one-half is still there, then the work is not yet over. I believe that al Qaeda is on a strategic retreat, and that is a tactical offense.

BLITZER: When you say strategic retreat, they're waiting, they're trying to regroup, but they will resurface with a vengeance? Is that what you're suggesting?

ARROYO: They're on a strategic defensive. In other words, they have a strategic setback, so they're going on a tactical offensive. It is -- it's like the death throes of somebody who is defeated or it is like a crab who's cornered, and therefore it's making its last brave stand. ...

Again, I repeat, while the threat or the strength has declined, it is now on a tactical offense to make up for strategic losses.

BLITZER: What can U.S. allies like the Philippines do together with the United States to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, this threat from international terrorism?

ARROYO: Because terrorism is now a transnational phenomenon, it is important that we also approach it in a transnational manner, and the most important way is to exchange information and intelligence and also to be able to cut the networks of the terrorist cells wherever they may be found. So this is very important.

The fight against terrorism is not conventional warfare. It is not so much moving troops all over the place. It is really a fight of intelligence and copying the networks.

BLITZER: The Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Philippines, they've taken out their vengeance mostly against Philippine target, other targets, but not U.S. targets. Would they, together with al Qaeda, based on the intelligence that you have, go after U.S. targets in the Philippines?

ARROYO: If they could, perhaps, but what we've done is that we have -- we have brought them to a very defensive posture.

What we have done is that we are actively seeking them out and rooting them out from their terrorist lairs. So even tactically now, they are on the defensive because the Philippine military is in a strong offensive.

BLITZER: There was some controversy over how much of a role the U.S. military should play in the Philippines in fighting together, with your military, these terrorists. Have you and President Bush worked out an acceptable arrangement, acceptable to your country as well as to the Pentagon?

ARROYO: What President Bush said yesterday in his press conference is America will help the Philippines upon my request and in the manner in which I want it to be done in accordance with our constitution.

Now our technical people will be defining the limits of our constitution in accordance with the language that this is also known and used by the Pentagon authorities. So this is where we are now. It's a work in progress.

BLITZER: So basically, so far, right now you can have joint training exercises. They can serve as sort of advisers, but you're not going to let U.S. military forces actually go out there and fight and launch offensive mission against terrorists? Is that where it stands right now?

ARROYO: That's right, because in any case, when you're fighting a transnational threat like terrorism, the best tool that we should help one another with is the tool of intelligence and exchange of information.

BLITZER: What's next on the front? What's the most important thing that you and the United States, other allies, can do right now to defeat this threat?

ARROYO: We cannot underestimate the importance of exchanging information and intelligence and also try to cut off the money trail from one terrorist cell to another across borders.

BLITZER: The money trail is still flowing to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda? Is that what you're suggesting?

ARROYO: What I'm saying is that there is still movement of money from across borders, and this is what -- what makes these -- this makes the threat of terrorism a transnational threat. That's the connection among the cells. And therefore, that has to be stopped and interdicted.

? 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. An AOL Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
-------------------------------
PHILIPPINES
97 MILF Rebels Surrender Amid Massive Assault
from Philippine Daily Inquirer [Manila] on Thursday, May 22, 2003
ZAMBOANGA--Six Muslim separatist field commanders and 91 guerrillas have surrendered to the Armed Forces amid punitive strikes launched by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the southern Philippines, a presidential aide said Thursday.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) men turned themselves in to the military in the southern city of Iligan on Monday, said Rocky Nazareno, a presidential aide who was sent here to monitor the military offensive. "The rebels also surrendered 82 various firearms," Nazareno said.

"They wanted to turn a new leaf because life in the mountains is harsh," said military southern command spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Renoir Pascua.

"They were also pressured amid a massive military pursuit," Pascua said.

The 12,500-strong MILF is the country's main secessionist insurgent force which the government blames for a spate of bombings and raids that have left about 100 dead since March.

Before departing for a state visit to the United States last weekend, Arroyo ordered the military to carry out artillery attacks and air assaults in areas in the south where alleged MILF-linked terrorist cells were operating.

Fighting has left more than 60 MILF rebels dead and at least two soldiers wounded, according to the military.

Emboldened by assurances of support from US President George W. Bush, Arroyo on Thursday again called on the MILF to renounce terrorism if it wanted to return to the negotiating table.

"The path of peace is always open, but I have been very clear about what I want from them. I want them to renounce terrorism, I want them to stop terrorist attacks. I want them to surrender the terrorists among them," the President told Filipino reporters in a news conference in New York, which was broadcast live here.

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, who was in Iligan to oversee the surrender, said the offensives would continue until the government was convinced the MILF had been defeated.

?2003 www.inq7.net all rights reserved
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2003, 11:10:31 AM »

Item Number:18
Date: 05/27/2003
PHILIPPINES - MILF OFFENSIVE CLAIMS LIVES OF SOLDIERS (MAY 27/AFP)

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE -- At least 13 Philippine soldiers were killed
last week in clashes with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
guerrillas, reports Agence France-Presse, citing Defense Secretary
Angelo Reyes.  However, the MILF said its forces killed 28 soldiers and wounded 22.  Reyes said the fighting occurred in the Lanao del Norte province on Mindanao Island.
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2003, 11:53:08 AM »

Item Number:12
Date: 05/28/2003
PHILIPPINES - REBELS CALL UNILATERAL CEASE-FIRE (MAY 28/BBC)

BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP. -- The separatist rebels of the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called a unilateral 10-day
cease-fire to take effect on June 3 and urged the Philippines
government to reciprocate, the BBC reports.

The MILF, which has been fighting off an intensified government
offensive in the southern Philippines, urged the government to
withdraw its troops during the 10-day break.

Maj. Gen. Roy Kyamko, chief of the Filipino military in the south,
rejected the offer as a "tactical move" and called on the MILF to
surrender.

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will reportedly meet
with her Cabinet and military officials to discuss the MILF
declaration.
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« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2003, 08:56:27 AM »

1111 GMT - About 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militants burned
down 10 houses and killed five civilians early May 29 near the southern
Philippines town of Carmen, Agence France-Presse reports. AFP cited a
regional military spokesman who said that the MILF rebels attacked the
civilian dwellings after simultaneous MILF attacks on three nearby military
detachments were repulsed. The attacks occurred just one day after the MILF had a declared a 10-day unilateral cease-fire, starting June 2, so that peace talks could resume with the government of President Gloria Arroyo.
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« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2003, 07:49:18 AM »

www.stratfor.com:

1110 GMT - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) began a 10-day
cease-fire at midnight local time June 2. Meanwhile, officials in Manila
report that the Philippine military killed 19 MILF members May 31 on the
southern island of Mindanao, and took over a rebel camp. Also, troops
reportedly killed two more MILF members on June 2 while pursuing a group of
70 fighters. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said that the military
will not engage any fighters who peacefully surrender. The cease-fire will
expire at midnight June 12.
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« Reply #16 on: June 03, 2003, 12:46:42 AM »

SITUATION REPORTS - June 03 2003
0546 GMT - Contradicting an earlier statement from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Philippine Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes said June 2 that the Balikatan 03-1 war games have not yet been approved and, in fact, will be postponed while some "sticky points" are resolved. The point of contention concerns U.S. troops training Filipino soldiers to fight militant groups such as the Abu Sayyaf. Residents of the southern Sulu island resent the presence of U.S. troops and opposed hosting the exercises after learning that U.S. soldiers would combat the Abu Sayyaf.
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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2003, 09:11:54 AM »

Item Number:13
Date: 06/03/2003
PHILIPPINES - MILF LAYS DOWN ARMS FOR NOW (JUN 03/BBC)

BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP. -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) rebel group began a unilateral cease-fire on Monday in the
Philippines, reports the BBC.  A MILF spokesman said the group will continue the cease-fire until June 12.

"The armed forces will not fire upon MILF groups that raise the
white flag, come out in the open and peaceably return to the fold,"
said President Gloria Arroyo.  However, said Arroyo, the military will continue to strike MILF elements that "remain underground."
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« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2003, 12:37:53 AM »

Philippine Government, MILF To Resume Talks
Jun 06, 2003

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have agreed to resume peace talks, the Philippine Inquirer reports. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on June 5. The two reportedly agreed about the need for further peace talks, said Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser for special concerns. Malaysia has arranged on-again and off-again meetings between the Philippine government and the MILF over the years.
----------------
1930 GMT - Thailand has donated eight former Royal Thai Air Force OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft to the Philipine Air Force for use against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Bronco was developed to fufill counterinsurgency and attack roles, but also has been proven in combat in the forward air control (FAC) role. In FAC, the aircraft identifies enemy locations and directs artillery as well as ground attack aircraft.

This is only the most recent transfer of materiel by foreign nations to the Philipine armed forces. The transfers are aimed at aiding them in their fight against the MILF. The South Korean government recently donated two F-5 Freedom Fighter aircraft as well as spare parts, 20 mm ammunition and Kevlar helmets. The Philippine air force currently operates a 14-aircraft flight of F-5s, but only five are currently airworthy. The U.S. government recently gave $365 million in military aid to Philipine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's war on the MILF, Abu Sayyaf other such groups, the Manila Times reports.
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« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2003, 08:11:08 AM »

FRONTLINE/World reporter Orlando de Guzman was born in the Philippines and grew up in a tribal community near the northern tip of the island of Luzon. He currently covers Southeast Asia for Public Radio International's The World.

FRONTLINE/World sent de Guzman to the southern Philippines to report on the growing insurgency there. His journey begins in the town of Jolo, part of a chain of small islands in the southern region of Mindanao. Jolo today is 98 percent Muslim, and, as elsewhere in Mindanao, has a long history of separatist movements fighting for autonomy from the central (and mostly Roman Catholic) government in Manila. In this diary, de Guzman writes about battles as spectacle, cell-phone text messages from guerrillas and life under fire.
------

Early this year, amidst military preparations for a war in Iraq, the United States announced it was sending 3,000 soldiers to Mindanao, the southernmost region of the Philippines. FRONTLINE/World correspondent Orlando de Guzman, a Filipino reporter from the north, journeyed to Mindanao, where Muslim rebels are fighting a guerrilla war against the Philippine government -- a war in which the United States may soon be embroiled.

De Guzman's first stop is the port town of Jolo, where the United States has just announced the commencement of joint exercises with the Philippine army. As he enters town, de Guzman is greeted by a sign that reads, "We will not let history repeat itself. Yankees back off." At a local radio station, tribal singers protest the turn of events, singing, "Americans do not follow the divine law. They will steal our independence."

Once a Spanish colony, the Philippines is 90 percent Catholic, but the southern region of Mindanao has a sizeable Muslim minority and has long resisted the government in Manila. During the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, U.S. troops fought the Muslim, or Moro, population and committed massacres that are remembered to this day as a central part of the region's collective memory.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF, is by far the largest and best-armed Muslim rebel group in the Philippines. Tension between the MILF and the government has been escalating since February, and de Guzman is attempting to meet with the group directly. As he waits, he hears word of a battle being waged in a nearby village, so he heads there.

The area is thick with jungle vegetation reminiscent of images from the Vietnam War. In a strange scene, a crowd of villagers, mainly children, follows the Philippine army as a form of entertainment, cheering when they fire artillery shells. In the village itself, de Guzman finds that not the Philippine military but a civilian militia is in control. The captain tells him they're waiting for the national military to arrive, but does not seem confident. Even when the military does come to aid such villages, they seldom do more than keep the MILF at bay.

Not only are Muslim rebel groups keeping up the steady pressure of attacks on villages and even civilian farmers, but they're also making their presence known in the cities. De Guzman travels to the major port city of Davao, where the previous day a bomb exploded, killing 16 people. The government claims that the MILF is responsible, with help from Jemaah Islamiya, the same group responsible for the Bali nightclub bombing in October 2002. The MILF denies the claim.

Attacks such as the one in Davao, de Guzman notes, increase religious tension in an already volatile community and often result in counterattacks. Indeed, a few hours after the bombing, unidentified men in fatigues attacked three nearby mosques with hand grenades.

Fighting between the Philippine military and the MILF has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of Muslims. They seek refuge in evacuation centers set up by the government. The refugees now number 350,000, and some have been in an evacuation center for three years. De Guzman visits a center and finds life to be miserable and provisions scarce. Last month, he hears, more than a dozen children died from dysentery.

De Guzman receives word that the MILF is finally ready to meet him, so he and his producer Margarita Dragon travel into the jungle, into MILF-controlled territory. He ends up in Abubakar, a camp that spans 12,000 acres and was once home to 25,000 people. It formerly was a working model of the MILF's vision of an Islamic state, with a mosque, a school and a sharia court. But in 2000, in what was called "the all-out war," the Philippine government overran and destroyed Abubakar, which they said had been used as a terrorist training center. Though pushed underground, the MILF still controls most of their former territory by the use of a rotating volunteer force.

Most of the villagers have fled, but on his trek into the mountains, de Guzman meets a 70-year-old man who has refused to leave. When asked why he hasn't moved to the city like so many others, he says there's nothing for him to live on in the city -- no corn, no cows, no money, no living. So he stays, armed with the gun he recently bought and is prepared to use against the military. De Guzman asks him if the people here feel that they are fighting for their land. "No," the man says. "They are fighting for their lives."

After an uneasy night sleeping in hammocks to the sound of artillery fire, de Guzman and his escorts press through the rugged terrain to the former headquarters of the MILF. Only a broken-down cement structure remains, but the MILF show it off as a symbol that they have reoccupied the territory the government forced them to leave three years ago. De Guzman meets the local field commander, code-named "Congressman," who has been fighting with the MILF for 30 years. In an unusual moment, Congressman breaks down crying, as he says he would rather die fighting in the mountains than give up the dream of a separate Islamic state.

De Guzman is ordered to leave not long after he arrives. Back in the city, he waits two days, then receives word he will meet Al-Haj Murad, the MILF's chief military commander. This will be the first interview Murad has given in three years. De Guzman and Murad meet a short distance from a heavily guarded highway.

One of the founders of the MILF, Murad is the man in charge of its military operations. Like many MILF leaders, he is a former Mujahideen who fought the Soviets in the late 1980s in Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden. The Philippine government has a $1 million bounty on Murad and other key MILF leaders. He is wanted for murder and for suspected involvement in bombings throughout Mindanao.

Surrounded by MILF soldiers, Murad talks to de Guzman over lunch. De Guzman asks him for his take on the joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises. Murad says he hopes the United States will realize that not all Muslims are terrorists, and he says the MILF is trying to avoid being labeled as such. "They cannot equate Islam to terrorism," he explains. "And the problem here in Mindanao cannot be a part of the fight against global terrorism."

De Guzman points to the links that security and intelligence analysts have made between the MILF and known terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiya. Murad concedes that while some MILF members fought in Afghanistan and may have developed personal relationships with terrorists, there is no organizational connection. He states plainly, "We are fighting on our own. Our objective is to achieve the aspiration of the Moro people. We are not concerned with the objective of the brothers in Indonesia, in Malaysia or in other regions in the Middle East." Murad labels the problem in Mindanao a domestic problem. U.S. intervention, he says, will only complicate the situation.

In the two months since de Guzman left Mindanao, joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises have commenced near Manila and will be starting in the southern Philippines soon. The MILF has responded with more attacks on Christian villages. On the eve of her recent visit to Washington, President Macapagal Arroyo ordered more attacks on MILF strongholds, inluding the same positions Orlando had visited. An additional 50 civilians have been killed and 30,000 more residents have been displaced. If history is any guide, de Guzman says, a U.S.-Philippine war against the MILF will be "long and dirty." He concludes, "For the people of Mindanao, a protracted war will certainly mean more suffering and deepening hatred between Christians and Muslims."


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Jolo and its surrounding islands are home to some of the world's most enchanting beaches.  
Jolo's volcanic mountains rise sharply from the turquoise waters of the Sulu Sea. It is an island formed by fire: Everywhere you look there are clues to its violent geological past. The terrain is stunning, with dense jungle covering most of the island's near-perfect volcanic cones. It would be a perfect place to set up a beach resort -- if it weren't for the island's other, more lucrative business. Jolo has long been home to a number of Islamic insurgent groups -- the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and others. The most recent one, Abu Sayyaf, has degenerated into a notorious kidnapping group, which the government says is linked to al Qaeda. Dozens of foreign tourists and journalists have been held captive on the island -- some released only after paying thousands of dollars in ransoms.


Kids collect water at a popular beach resort near Jolo.  
"Jolo is nature friendly, but not very people friendly," my friend Alfadhar Pajiji, or "Fads," cheerfully reminds me as I gaze out of our ferry's portholes, admiring the view. I could never have made it to Jolo without the help of Fads, whom I met by chance in Manila as he was giving a talk. Fads -- a Jolo native, educated in Manila -- was offering up a passionate appeal to the public for aid to civilian casualties after a military offensive in Jolo, and arguing for an end to the military operations in his homeland. He invited me to come for myself and see what was happening. Most people on the island loathe the military. It's not uncommon for pitched gun battles between the military and equally armed civilians to erupt in the center of town.  

There are two ways to travel safely to Jolo: You can be escorted by a dozen or so heavily armed soldiers from the Philippine military, or you can keep a low profile and go with a trusted friend, as I did with Fads. Going with the military is a guarantee that no one will talk to you.

Years of military rule have placed power firmly in the hands of the men with the most guns -- the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Most people on the island loathe the military: even those who do not share the separatist views of the various insurgent movements often seem enraged by the Philippine military's occupation.

In the outskirts of Jolo's town center, the number of bullet holes that mark the gates to the army's main barracks give you a good idea of the public's sentiments toward the military. It's not uncommon for pitched gun battles between the military and equally armed civilians to erupt in the center of town. One such incident occurred last year during a demonstration by residents against the government The fighting began near the crowded market and continued all the way to the military camp, where both sides lobbed mortar shells over the high walls that ringed the barracks, the civilians from outside the barracks and the military from inside the barracks.



Jolo's dense neighborhoods are built on stilts to combat the swelling tides.  Decades of war between the central government and separatists have insured that the area remains one of the poorest in the Philippines. The main town on Jolo relies on expensive crude oil to run an ailing power generator. Every night, rolling blackouts plunge the island into darkness. The local hospital lacks basic sterilization equipment and suffers from chronic medical shortages. "There are only two ways the government in Manila makes its presence felt in Jolo," a local resident said to me. "They print the bank notes we use in the market; but besides that, the only other government presence here is the military."

Jolo is a heavily militarized island. There are about 5,000 Philippine troops here, most of them concentrated near the town center. The soldiers mill about in almost every street corner, their rifles lowered menacingly. Abu Sayyaf's estimated numbers range from 200 to a thousand men. Many on the island wonder out loud why the government hasn't been able to get rid of Abu Sayyaf, given that the rebels are vastly outnumbered. Now U.S. Special Forces are going to train the Filipino soldiers how to fight Abu Sayyaf.
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U.S. soldiers are scheduled to conduct training exercises in Jolo. The U.S.-Philippine military exercises, called Balikatan ("shoulder to shoulder"), are meant to quell Abu Sayyaf, another Islamic militant group with alleged links to Al Qaeda that has degenerated into a kidnap for ransom gang.  
The day I arrived in Jolo, it was announced that joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises were going to be held on Jolo, among other places in Mindanao. The plan is controversial, given the Jolo residents' venomous relationship with the Philippine military. Streamers protesting the joint U.S. military exercises had been hastily strung in a number of prominent places. One reads, "No to War. We Do Not Want a Repeat of History."  

"We heard the Americans are coming. We are sharpening our swords to slaughter them when they come ... our ancestors are calling for revenge."  

This is not the first time American troops have come to Jolo. In 1902, U.S. soldiers imposed military rule on the island in an attempt to quell a brewing rebellion. In 1906, a tax revolt culminated in the massacre of hundreds of Muslim men, women and children who holed up in a mountainous area called Bud Dahu. It took the United States almost 15 years to "pacify" Muslim trouble spots in Jolo and elsewhere throughout Mindanao. It was a brutal campaign that became known as the Moro-American War.

Jolo's inhabitants deeply resent the heavy Philippine military presence and the U.S. occupation of 1902-1945. The second Balikatan incited new tensions.  

Jolo has largely been forgotten in U.S. history books, but the people here have never forgotten the Americans. Residents are reminded of the United States' past atrocities almost daily. The local radio station plays mesmerizing ballads known as "kissa": songs that recollect how Jolo's Tausug warriors fought the Americans in Bud Dahu at the turn of the previous century. The songs, which can go on for hours, weave current events with reflections from the past. "We heard the Americans are coming," the lyrics will go, the singer's voice rising with the melody of two violins, "and we are getting ready. We are sharpening our swords to slaughter them when they come ... our ancestors are calling for revenge." These songs waft through Jolo's dense neighborhoods -- clusters of ramshackle houses built on stilts above the swelling tides.

A traditional "kissa" singer performs a song of heroic resistance. American forces are almost always the enemy in these songs.  

This is one of the few places in the Philippines where Western pop music hasn't pushed out traditional songs. The people here are proud of their intact culture and their independent spirit. Spanish and American colonial troops portrayed the Tausugs as sword-wielding warriors who charged into certain death in battle. Today's perception hasn't changed -- the only difference is that now the Tausugs are armed with M-16 rifles. People here are proud of their martial tradition.

But they are also worn down and tired of war. "America first came to us in the name of war," says Julkipli Wadi, a history professor from Jolo. "Now they're coming again in the name of war. It is not fair. In the 21st century, they should come in the name of peace." To win the hearts of the people of Jolo, the United States has delivered medicines and hospital equipment and has promised to start a number of civic projects on the island. But the United States' alliance with the Philippine military will likely stir trouble. Filipino soldiers are seen as an occupying force here. Many on the island feel that the American presence will only complicate matters, that it will continue to militarize an island that has already seen enough war.

"You cannot continue to intimidate a people who've long been intimidated," says Wadi. "At best, what a military solution can do is neutralize for a moment the agitation of a people. But you cannot totally remove the sting that has been there for a very long time."
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3)





A "kissa" singer at a live radio performance.  
Any radio enthusiast would feel at home in the Philippines, an archipelago of some 7,100 islands. Turn the AM dial a notch, and you'll likely pick up half a dozen stations, each bumping against the other in the ever-crowded radio spectrum. And the news is never simply read over the airwaves -- it is shouted. You can't become a radio announcer here if you don't have the booming, macho voice of God or if you can't roll your r's for longer than three seconds. Reverb is used extravagantly to polish off each news item before you move to the next story. The rat-a-tat-tat machine-gun pace of newscasts never loses its cadence; news of a power outage is aired with the same urgency of a coup. Philippine radio makes NPR sound like a lullaby.
Philippine radio makes NPR sound like a lullaby. There is no place more fanatical about radios than Mindanao.  
As a radio reporter and a lover of the spoken word, I feel at home here. The first time I spent the night in a village in Mindanao, I was awakened before sunrise by six radios playing at full volume. The news -- a cacophony of voices and crackling live field reports -- barged into my room through the thin bamboo walls. There is no place more fanatical about radios than Mindanao. Radios are cheap, and they work even when power is cut and the whole island is plunged into darkness. But most importantly, radio stations are always the first to know the news. If the local radio station doesn't know something, someone will call in and tell them.



Radio broadcasts are unusually popular in Mindanao.  
While traveling on the most dangerous roads in Mindanao, our driver -- a former Muslim rebel -- would instinctively switch on the car radio, just in case there were any ambushes or major military operations along our route. As we were traveling early one morning in North Cotabato Province, we heard on the radio that the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] had felled several high-voltage power lines with explosives. It must have just happened, as we had just enough time to swerve to avoid a tangle of cables and toppled posts.

The decades-old conflict in Mindanao is one of the most under-reported wars in the world. Mindanao is also one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. Local reporters who live in Mindanao constantly face threats; journalists -- especially radio journalists -- are often gunned down for what they say, often in their broadcast booths as they're saying it.



A "kissa" violinist performs at a radio performance.  
Nonetheless, radio was our unseen guide throughout our entire journey. While we were there, the country's national press dropped Mindanao off its pages and airwaves to make room for the war in Iraq. There was no news from Mindanao, even as some of the biggest battles were raging on the country's own doorstep. Only the local radio stations continued to cover Mindanao's own war with loyalty.

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Mortar and sometimes heavy artillery is used to ward off rebel attacks at Midsayap.  
News of the battle at Midsayap first came to us via -- what else -- the radio. Our film crew was loading our gear into our van when we heard about a pitched firefight raging in Midsayap, about 45 minutes from our hotel. Our driver, Bong (we affectionately called him Commander Bong), knew the area well, as did our guide, George Vigo -- a fearless local reporter and a friend whom I'd worked with on my first and subsequent assignments in Mindanao. The battle at Midsayap was close enough to get to and film as it was unfolding.


Military reinforcements arrive to help civilian militia against a sudden rebel attack.  
We arrived at the front line even before the military's reinforcements. There were sporadic bursts of gunfire, coming from armed pro-government civilians who were keeping the MILF from advancing. At some point I knew we'd have to film a gunfight, and I expected the worst. I had brought along two kinds of bullet-proof vests: a light one and a much heavier one for high-velocity rounds, the kind used by the U.S. military and made famous by all those television war correspondents in Iraq.


I hate war and I hate guns. I grew up in the northern Philippines during the communist insurgency's heyday in the 1980s. I lived in the midst of war, and I still get the same visceral reaction to guns as I did when I was younger. But more than anything, I was gripped with fear.

Farmers are armed and must patrol their fields at all times.  
One of the strangest things about the front line in Mindanao is that life carries on as usual. Sure, there are frightened people hastily packing their pots and pans and rounding up their cattle to flee. But then there are those who choose to stay and calmly carry on with their daily farm tasks. Rice is cooked, chickens are fed and wood is chopped as bullets fly overhead. These are the people who've seen enough conflict to know exactly when to stay and when to go. The thunder of mortar doesn't move them until it is close enough to shake the earth beneath their bare feet. It's a sadly confusing truth that you can actually grow accustomed to a war raging literally in your own backyard. I suppose this is what more than 30 years of conflict will do to you.



Children cover ears while watching Midsayap battle.  
What's even more disturbing about Mindanao's front line is how much of a spectacle it is. No battle is complete without its own army of children, teenagers and grannies watching the whole thing as if it were a movie. They gather by the hundreds, milling about and cheering every time Filipino soldiers fire deafening 105mm artillery rounds on enemy positions. They mockingly yell, "Allah Akbar" -- a sacrosanct Arabic phrase meaning "God is great" -- at MILF rebels pinned down by gunfire. The children scratch around in the dirt for black gunpowder pellets spilling out of crates of artillery rounds. Some of the kids light the pellets uncomfortably close to live shells. When gunfire rings across the rice paddies, those who are working in the paddies don't stop what they're doing -- they just watch while they work. It makes wearing a bullet-proof jacket seem pointless; it makes the wearer look like a buffoon.
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Orlando de Guzman bides his time in Cotabato as he waits to hear from "Azwar," his MILF contact.  
"Meet me at 3 in front of the post office. I'll take my hat off a few times so you'll know it is me." This text message, in abbreviated Tagalog, appeared on my hand phone, and it came from our mysterious MILF guide. I'll call him Azwar. I'd never actually met him, but we'd traded a few messages the past couple of days.
The Philippines is one of the heaviest users of short messaging in the world. It sends more text messages than all of Europe. The MILF is just as hooked on "texting" as the rest of the country. One MILF cadre told me that cell phones are just as important as rifles.

The MILF is as hooked on "texting" as the rest of the country. One MILF cadre told me that cell phones are just as important as rifles.  
This text message from Azwar was significant. It was the first one to refer to an exact location and time. All the other messages I'd received had been deliberately vague and misleading. So at 2:45 p.m., our van was waiting at the meeting point. We kept the engine running so we could use the air conditioner, but it was no match for the scorching afternoon sun. I was baking by the time someone approached us. He wasn't wearing a hat. We walked over to a nearby coffee shop, where he explained the plan in clipped sentences. It boiled down to this: We were to be taken to the MILF's stronghold in a sprawling jungle, to an area known as Camp Abubakar.



As in the villages, life in Cotabato City continues despite the war.  
In 2000, Camp Abubakar fell to the military. Thousands of MILF fighters had once trained there and used the area as a base. And now the MILF's leaders had set up a shadow government there. It had a clinic, a school, mosques, a jailhouse and even a paved concrete road, courtesy of the Philippine government. The road was called "Friendship Highway," from back when the government and the MILF were still intent on forging some kind of peace agreement. Now the MILF does not operate so openly. In fact, its movements are highly secretive. The MILF's chairman, a Cairo-educated religious preacher called Hashim Salamat, no longer makes public appearances.



Producer Margarita Dragon films MILF fighters praying at Camp Abubakar.  
As we talked, I glanced around the coffee shop for possible spies. A man behind us appeared to be taking an interest in our conversation, but my companion carried on, stirring his coffee incessantly. First, we were to drive outside of Cotabato City to a small town, where we'd switch vehicles. We would then take a dirt road to an even smaller village, where we'd unload and immediately start walking toward the jungle. The big wildcard was that the route we were going to take has more than a dozen military checkpoints. We could avoid the checkpoints by avoiding the roads completely, but that meant adding a whole day's walking to the journey. Pressed for time, we opted for the quickest route. We'd just have to talk our way through the checkpoints if we were stopped. We were to set off at dawn the next day.

After leaving the coffee house, I got another text message from Azwar, saying that the man we'd just met was not actually him. It was his messenger. We would meet him the next day, he promised.
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6)


De Guzman meets MILF contact.  
The next day we switched vehicles without too much trouble. We left our van behind and piled into a mustard-yellow passenger "Jeepney." Its engine sounded like it was running on half of its cylinders. Our new driver plied this route every day, and the familiar vehicle would raise few suspicions along the way.
Before we left, I was led through a crowded market to meet the real Azwar. I found him squatting on a low stool next to a tobacco vendor. He was wearing aviator shades that covered almost half his face. He explained that there were at least a dozen checkpoints along our route, but that an informant had traveled the road earlier this morning and found that the military was not searching any vehicles. We were clear to go.



Villagers flee as intense fighting begins between civilian militia and MILF rebels.
But as we were leaving town, two heavily armed soldiers flagged us down. My heart skipped a beat. It turned out they just wanted a ride. I overheard them asking my MILF guide if I was Arab. (In the past, Camp Abubakar had hosted a number of foreign guests from the Middle East. And there have been persistent reports of Malaysian and Indonesians, presumably belonging to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya, helping train the MILF. The MILF hasn't denied it has hosted foreigners, but insists it has nothing to do with al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya.)


We passed more checkpoints, but seeing our two military hitchhikers hanging off the back of the Jeepney, the soldiers waved us through. I tried my best to hide my anxiety, and in my head, I was polishing my alibi in case we were questioned. "We've started a water project here, and we've come to film a short information video about the village up ahead, to convince our donors to release the funds soon." My MILF guide had a phony government I.D., and he was accustomed to bluffing his way through checkpoints. I lost count of the checkpoints after number 21. Our hitchhikers dropped off, and we continued alone.

Finally, the dirt road passed through a small village and ended next to a river. We were told to hurry up and walk. The trail took us through coconut groves and a few houses, where villagers dried fragrant strands of abaca fiber on wooden racks. Abaca fiber, or Manila hemp, was once the engine of the country's economy -- until DuPont invented nylon. There are few things as eerie to me as abandoned farmland. These hills have become too dangerous to till. The land lies weed-choked and fallow from war.

Along the way, we passed entire villages turned to ashes. We were told that these homes were burned by the military before they pulled out earlier this year. I met a 70-year-old man gathering wood along one of the mountain's ridges. He took me to his burned-out home. The roof was gone, so was the kitchen. A rain-soaked copy of the Koran rested on a shelf in what must have been the bedroom. I pulled it out to find it infested with thingyroaches. He must have left in a hurry when he saw the soldiers. I offered the Koran to him, and he told me to leave it where I'd found it. "I don't need it anymore," he said bitterly. "Everything is now in the hands of Allah." Before leaving, he told me that he would join the MILF if he only had a rifle and more years to live. "I have nothing else to lose," he said, pointing to his blackened house. As I left him, I couldn't help feeling that there must be something terribly wrong with a nation that makes a 70-year-old man want to pick up a gun and kill.
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It is pointless to ask a guerilla how long it will take to get from point A to point B. They'll never tell you the truth, and if they give you an estimate, say three hours, multiply it by four. So 12 hours, give or take. We set off mid-morning, and the sun is already burning my skin. It is difficult to imagine how much hotter it will get. Soon, the evenly spaced coconut groves thin out, giving way to grassland and, finally, to thick jungle. A heavily armed unit of the MILF greets us further up the mountain. They wear ski masks and bandanas to cover their faces from our cameras. They carry homemade rocket-propelled grenades. But, most interesting, almost all of them have standard American-made M-16 rifles, each one engraved "Property of the U.S. Government."


The MILF says it buys its weapons and bullets from members of the Philippine military who run arms deals on the side. The Philippine military gets most of its weaponry from the United States. After September 11, 2001, the United States promised $100 million in military aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. "Whenever there's a gun battle between us," an MILF cadre would later tell me, "the soldiers see money, and we see new bullets.

"Here's how it works: A neutral emissary will show up to deliver the cash, and the [Philippine soldiers] will give him the bullets. Crates of bullets. If anyone asks the soldiers where the bullets have gone, they say it was a heated gun battle, and they used up everything. The bullets sell for 25 pesos [50 cents] apiece. Sell a hundred of those and you've got a sack of rice to feed your family."


These stories keep my mind off the grueling walk for a while, as do the giant ferns that grew as large as trees. By sundown we'd made it to our halfway point, where we'd planned to spend the night. But the camp site is in too much of a clearing and provided no cover. We were told that it wasn't safe. Helicopter gunships had attacked this very spot. So we carried on, walking -- stumbling -- through the jungle in this moonless evening. The military's nightly barrage of artillery fire echoed across mountain. I was told not to worry. The shells were landing a long way from us. By midnight we finally reached an empty concrete house. We crashed out in our hammocks, too tired to eat. At 2 in the morning, we were awakened for a meal of sardines and rice.

The morning light makes me realize that the house we'd slept in is actually a bunker. It is made of 1-foot-thick reinforced concrete, strong enough to withstand artillery fire. This structure, it turned out, was once the home of the MILF's chairman, Hashim Salamat. We were not allowed to meet Salamat. No one has since 2000, the year Camp Abubakar was overrun and Salamat made a hasty getaway from this very house. His location is known only by a handful of trusted MILF officers. But we were given unprecedented access to the MILF's field commanders and top political leaders.


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In Camp Abubakar, later that day, I interviewed a longtime MILF field commander, known only by his radio codename, "Congressman." He was surrounded by nearly a hundred armed men, watching us silently as we set up the cameras. His broad face and firm voice conveyed experience. He joined the armed movement in 1972, six years before the MILF was officially organized. I asked him why he's devoted all his life to this -- what is he fighting for? He turned to me and thought about the question. Then he began to sob. He tried to regain his composure, but it was useless. The tears flowed down his face. He struggled to speak. "We want to achieve freedom and independence for Mindanao's Muslims," he said. "We'd rather die fighting for an independent homeland," he said tearfully, "than continue living under this oppressive system." The armed men around Congressman shifted uncomfortably. They may never have seen their commander break down like this.


MILF fighters raise their arms in solidarity after prayer.  
On our way down the mountain, I thought about why he had cried. I tried to imagine how it would feel to spend 30 years of your life in the jungle, hoping that change will come. I imagined how it would be to put up with years of living in hiding, in danger, with little food or shelter, fighting a military much more powerful than yours. I wondered how many would willingly choose the path he'd taken.


We were escorted down the mountain with a group of young MILF cadres. Some looked as if they were still in their teens. At some point they stopped to change into civilian clothes. Their 10-day-a-month stint in the jungle was over, and it was time to rest and blend back into society. A few miles down the track, we met a group of young men making their way up the mountain. It was their turn to be rebels. The commander, it seemed, would not be alone. And the war in Mindanao would continue.

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'Islands Under Siege'
Orlando Guzman
Reporter, FRONTLINE/World
Friday, June 06, 2003; 11:00 a.m. ET


As U.S. forces attempt to win the peace in Iraq, FRONTLINE/World travels to another corner of the world -- the Philippines -- where the United States is being drawn into a long-running civil war between Islamic separatists and U.S.-trained Philippine soldiers.

Airing Thursday, June 5, at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), "Islands Under Siege" explores the island of Mindanao, to meet the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 12,000 strong rebel group fighting for an Islamic state.

Reporter Orlando Guzman was online Friday, June 6, at 11 a.m. ET, to talk about the film and what he learned on Mindanao.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.



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Falls Church, Va.: Enjoyed the show last night. It was good to see what the situation is really like in the southern Philippines. Why do you think the Phillipine military has been so ineffective in combating the MILF? It seems that even without U.S. help, the military (along with their Christian militia allies) would be far superior to the guerillas in terms of numbers of men, weapons, tactics, etc.

Orlando Guzman: The insurgency in the southern Philippines isn't somethign that can be won militarily. The MILF along with the New People's Army rebel group -- a communist movement -- both of these groups have been fighting guerrilla warfare and they enjoy, to some extent, popular support amongst the people in Mindinao. And I think to successfully deal with these insurgencies, the government has to look at other ways to improve the lives of people in Mindinao -- the other underlying causes of the conflict. I think that's one of the reasons why there's been these persistent insurgencies. No matter how much military force you put in there, it doesn't seem to be going away.

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Toledo, Ohio: Does it hinder or promote the MILF's causes to never claim responsibility for the bombings that the government always blames on them? This seems similar to Prime Minister Abbas and Hamas in the Palestinian territories. World leaders say they need to curtail their rogue factions in order to be "worthy" of negotiations. Do you think the MILF could stand to use the same strategy?

Orlando Guzman: I think we should be very cautious about saying who is doing these bombings. For one, it's extremely difficult getting any real first-hand info from Mindinao. One thing you learn quickly there is that not everything that is published or claimed is true.

The Philippine govt has been very quick to tag the MILF and the one that claimed the bombing in Bali as being responsible for another in the Philippines this year. So far, though, the govt can't find any evidence. THe man the govt claimed was the bomber was recently released. None of the intelligence officials explained why he was accompanied by several family members. That first bombing in February at the airport -- the crime scene was swept clean and hosed down before investigators could get there.

It could be the MILF behind the bombings, other Islamic militants or, as some Muslims believe, security forces trying to raise the rent on security on the island. My opinion is that there is certainly a big possibility that there are groups that may be disgruntled with the MILF's strategies and may be taking things into their own hands. Al Haj Murad, the vice chairman of MILF's military affairs, told me that there are plenty of people in Mindinao who are desperate and have no other way of fighting the government but by using terrorist activities. He said it is beyond MILF's capacity to control them.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Where you scared when you were with the rebels?

Orlando Guzman: Absolutely not. I think I did quite a bit of research before I went to rebel held areas, and so far the MILF has not kidnapped journalists unlike the Abu Sayaf -- it's denounced these activities. The MILF is very organized, has a political structure, a very clear chain of command -- especially the closer you move to its political leadership. And I did not really fear for my safety.

I was more concerned in my previous trips to an island called Jolo, where the Abu Sayaf is active. They've kidnapped journalists and tourists. Jolo is also an area where kidnapping is very common -- it doesn't have to be Abu Sayaf, but anybody with a gun who wants to auction you off to the highest bidder. So I do take extra precautions when I'm there

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Toledo, Ohio: I just finished reading Gracia Burnham's book about her experiences with the Abu Sayyaf. The government has been horribly embarrassed about the candor Gracia expressed with regard to the ineptitude (at times) of the Philippine army. Will the publishing of this book make the government even more resolute in bringing down what they see as terrorist factions in their country?

Orlando Guzman: The part of Gracia's book that has caught the most attention in the Philippines is a section where she alludes to collusion between local security forces, military and Abu Sayaf. In the book she mentions that a military general stationed in Bafilan was leaving peanut butter for her and her kidnappers. And there have been persistent reports of a particular general who was asking for a 50 percent stake of the ransom money for the Burnham's release.

This is not the first time that there've been allegations of collusion between the Abu Sayaf and military officers. A number of people Bafilan island could happily tell you stories about their time in captivity by Abu Sayaf rebels. And the suspicious things they saw going on between Abu Sayaf and the military.

I think that the central govt is resolute at trying to bring down groups like Abu Sayaf, but I don't know if the Philippine military on the ground -- local commanders -- have the discipline nor the honesty to effectively deal with Abu Sayaf. And I think that this is something that the U.S. should look into before it sends its own men to work side by side with these troops.

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New York, N.Y.: I was very impressed that you and your producer were able to gain access to Al haj Murad. While he claims that the MILF is fighting a for their homeland, the muslims represent a small minority, even in Mindanao. What will make the MILF understand that they need to negotiate something less than full control of Mindanao? And if they did decide to settle and negotiate, would the government really grant it at this stage, especially with the support coming from the U.S.?

Orlando Guzman: First of all, I think it's highly unlikely the govt will give in to MILF demands. It seems impossible at this point to imagine a separate Islamic state in Mindinao. I think that previous govt policy, starting with the transmigration programs of the 1960s and 70s effectively prevents this from ever happening. The ethnic and religious makeup of Mindinao has been reengineered to make any kind of Islamic state practical.

The first part to your question. The other option for the MILF would be to receive autonomy, but they saw what happened with the Moro National Liberation Front and what happened to them after they received autonomy. Autonomy has done little to benefit those on Mindanao and a lot of it has to do with the corruption of Muslim leaders and the lack of seriousness in the central goverment to make autonomy work.

________________________________________________

Detroit, Mich.: The article regarding Muslim insurgency in the Phillipines blatantly failed to cover the history of the region adequately. More often than not, Islam has spread as a result of conquest and mass murder. How did it spread so far east in the first place? Did they just pop up one day and say "Allah Akbah?" Inquiring minds want to know!

Orlando Guzman: Unlike in other parts of the world, Islam spread to Southeast Asia through the peaceful winds of commerce and Islam arrived in Southeast Asia long before Christianity did. and I think that this is a misconception that a lot of people have about Islam, that most Muslims are from the Middle East. The largest Muslim population in the world is in Indonesia. The form of Islam I've seen practiced in the Philippines is the most tolerant and peaceful I've ever seen.

________________________________________________

Alexandria, Va.: In the show, you mentioned that about half of the Philippines export revenue is generated by Mindanao. What industries are producing that and who's getting that money? It doesn't seem like the Moros are seeing any of that revenue coming their way.

Orlando Guzman: Land distribution is a massive problem and especially acute in Mindinao. On the eastern side of Mindinao in Bukidnon, an eastern province there, I've driven across countryside for four hours and was told that only one person owns that land -- a sugar cane plantation. I imagine that's true in other areas of Mindinao. These very large plantations are owned by people from Manila. You really get a sense of the feudal state of the country when you go to Mindinao.

There's two kinds of Christian settlers there. The very rich ones, as mentioned before, and then the very poor ones who are hired by the rich. In many places I've seen the very rich pit the poor Christians against the poor Muslims and they win in the end -- the rich.

________________________________________________

Honolulu, Hawaii: Thank you so much for your thoughtful documentation of the current situation in the southern Philippines. I was wondering how it was possible for you to gain access to high ranking guerrilla leaders and if their indenitities or security were compromised in any way by this story?

Orlando Guzman: Many of these guerrilla leaders already have a price on their head. Some as high as a million dollars. And I figure that they know how to look after their own security. It was a very cloak and dagger effort to meet these people. Some of it would seem straight out of Hollywood. There were car changes, we had to cover our tracks and in some cases we had to hide our faces.

But in the end, the Philippines is a fun place to report, because people are so willing to talk.

________________________________________________

New York, N.Y.: What does this rebellion mean for the stability of the Philippine government?

Orlando Guzman: I'm not sure how much Philippine officials realize the future of the entire country depends on what happens in Mindinao. The Philippines has been dragged backwards because of its inability to effectively deal with these insurgencies -- to deal with them in any kind of lasting and peaceful way. Mindinao has so much potential, but its riches have been squandered and plundered and I think that the lawlessness that the war has spread has benefited a very rich elite and the sad thing is, as long as this war remains profitable for certain people, we'll never see an end to the conflict.



________________________________________________

Orange, Calif.: How will U.S. involvement change the situation in Mindanao?

Orlando Guzman: It really depends on how the U.S. decides to get involved. From everything that we're seeing the U.S. believes that by training the Philippine military, improving their arms, by selling them more weapons would improve the lot of people in Mindinao. There is a real security problem in Mindinao, that I don't deny and that region has been conducive to breeding terrorist organizations.

But I can't see how the involvement of a major superpower can bring peace.

I think that there should be a genuine recognition of the unique identity and history of the Moros or Muslims in Mindinao. And I think until they feel respected and they feel that the government is serving their interests I think that peace will continue to be elusive. American involvement there may just mess things up.

________________________________________________

Honolulu, Hawaii: Were you able to find any evidence that the military presence in Mindanao is actually being sponsored by international corporate investors in an attempt at further land-grabbing in the region in order to dominate the rich natural resources still available in the islands?

Orlando Guzman: I didn't really see any evidence of that. There are multi-national corporations operating in Mindinao, but I can't say that they are doing the things that you claim.

________________________________________________

Toledo, Ohio: How different do you think this situation would be if Mindanao wasn't so rich in natural resources and exports? Would both sides put up as much of a fight if it didn't count for such a big percentage of the Philippines' economy?

Orlando Guzman: I can't speculate on that because I just like to stick to the reality of the situation.

________________________________________________

New York, N.Y.: What do people in areas of the Philippines think of this MILF and the muslims in the south in general? Or do they even care? If the MILF laid down arms and decided to integrate into society, would they even have the option? Is the dominance of the catholics preventing muslims from integrating at all?

Orlando Guzman: I think that in the Philippines there's really very little awareness about what's happening in Mindinao and I think the local media has to take some steps to change that. When you're in Mindinao it's really quite surprising that how much of what's happening there actually makes it to the pages of the newspapers in Manila. There's a feeling that Mindinao is really an old story and a lot people, especially Muslims in Mindinao are exasperated by the lack of understanding of the rest of Philippinos.

I think that its fair to say that there's a certain degree of bigotry toward Muslims amongst the majority Catholic population. And there's very little effort to try and understand where the Muslims are coming from. The Moro National Liberation Front, which is the other rebel group did lay down a lot of their arms in the early 1990s and a lot of them have been integrated into the army and police. But still there is a real lack of jobs, opportunities, for Muslims in general in Mindinao. There's also a real lack of education. Schools are overcrowded and there's very little incentive to go to school if there's no jobs at the end. So, I think that there's always going to be problems for people (rebels) trying to integrate back into normal society.

________________________________________________

Chicago, Ill.: Why don't modern Moro separatist groups widely use suicide attacks? Long ago Moros used to launch "juramentado" attacks withs blades against Spanish and American colonialists. Why haven't modern Moros revived the practices with explosives?

Orlando Guzman: I don't know the answer to that. Let's just hope that it doesn't turn that.

________________________________________________

Miami, Fla.: I read your walk-through experience on the Frontline Web site. I was left with the impression you sympathized with the Islamic groups, and painted the Americans as the perpetrators of "atrocities."

Am I correct in this impression or did you just inadvertently present more of the Islamic's side than the American?

Orlando Guzman: I don't think there's any saints in this conflict. I think that both sides -- the Philippine government and the MILF -- are guilty of atrocities. One thing that I do realize as well is that so few people have bothered to spend enough time in Muslim areas of Mindinao. So few people have bothered to ask these people why they're so angry. So few people have bothered to hear why Muslims support the MILF and why they see it as a legitimate revolutionary group.

And I find that it's my job as a reporter to go to areas where few have gone and listen to people, because maybe their greivances are valid.

________________________________________________

Boston, Mass.: Bottom line, regardless of how locally they operate, are the MILF terrorists?

Orlando Guzman: There've been a number of reports, the most prominent being in the NY Times, that suspected foreign terrorists have been training in areas controlled by the MILF. The claim that foreigners have claimed in MILF camps is not new. We've heard this for some time now. A lot of this information about these so-called training camps comes from PHilippine intelligence sources and it's difficult to say where they're getting their information from and whether its reliable or not.

We do know that there are individuals who've had plans to carry out bombings in Singapore and other other areas who have had personal links with MILF members. One of them is Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi, an Indonesian, with suspected links to Jamaah Islamiyah. He was arrested last January in Mindinao with a half a ton of explosives in his home. The MILF doesn't deny that Al Ghozi has visited MILF camps, but it says it didn't know Ghozi was a part of Jamaah Islamiyah.

That said, I've met a lot of MILF rank and file who've devoted all of their lives to what they see as a genuine revolutionary struggle. Like any organization, the MILF is a mixed bag, but I'll leave it to others to decide what to call it.
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« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2003, 09:24:27 AM »

Item Number:15
Date: 06/09/2003
PHILIPPINES - U.S. BASES WILL NOT REOPEN, SAYS FOREIGN SECRETARY (JUN 09/REU)

REUTERS -- The reopening of U.S. bases will not be part of the
enhanced alliance between Washington and Manila, reports Reuters.


"Both our countries have a clear idea of what we want and what we
expect in our strategic relationship," said Philippine Foreign
Secretary Blas Ople. "The establishment of U.S. bases in the
Philippines is not even contemplated."


"During the Cold War, the Philippines carried the burden of
contributing to the stability of our region by hosting the U.S.
bases, to the benefit of everyone else in the region. Perhaps it is
time for other countries to share this burden," said Ople.
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« Reply #21 on: June 11, 2003, 01:36:10 AM »

...................................................................

Today's Featured Analysis

Arroyo: Politics and Promises

Summary

Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona said June 8 that
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should stick to her December
2002 pledge not to run in the 2004 presidential election.
Guingona's comments come amid weeks of intensified political
support for Arroyo to run in 2004, including reported backing
from U.S. President George W. Bush, South Korean President Roh
Moo Hyun and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But as
Arroyo's supporters try to build a groundswell of public support
to justify the president reneging on her pledge, the alleged
support of other world leaders could prove more dangerous than
helpful.

Analysis

Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona said June 8 that
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should "keep her word and not
run" in the 2004 presidential election, according to ABS-CBN
news. Guingona was referring to Arroyo's December 2002 pledge not
to seek election in 2004 so she could instead focus on her duties
as president without worrying about public opinion. Guingano
further urged Arroyo "not [to] allow herself to be influenced by
those around her urging her to run."

Guingano's comments come amid a near torrent of reports of
political backing for an Arroyo presidential bid, not only from
domestic supporters but also allegedly from international
supporters, including U.S. President George W. Bush, South Korean
President Roh Moo Hyun and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad. It is clear that Arroyo supporters, if not Arroyo
herself, are trying to build a groundswell of support for the
president, giving her little option but to renege on her pledge
and throw her hat in the ring for 2004. But the alleged support
from foreign leaders might turn out to be more dangerous than
beneficial in the final calculus.

As Stratfor noted when Arroyo initially announced her decision
not to run in 2004, the president simply was hedging her bets at
a time of declining popular support. If things kept getting
worse, Arroyo could keep her promise and bow out -- though that
would be admitting defeat. But more directly, she set herself up
as the selfless martyr, someone who cared more about the
Philippine condition than her own political ambitions. And she
could simultaneously throw the opposition into confusion and
rally her own party back toward some sense of unity. In addition,
like her father, when the time came she could reverse her
decision and accede to the will of the people and run again.

It would appear that the move is being made now -- whether simply
by her backers or with the express knowledge of Arroyo -- to
build the groundswell of public opinion necessary to justify her
reversal and bring her back into the pool of candidates for 2004.
Already there is a signature campaign in the Parliament among
members of the ruling Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats
(Lakas-CMD) coalition party to urge Arroyo to reconsider her
candidacy. She also has received the tentative backing of
Catholic leader Cardinal Jamie Sin and the reported foreign
support from Bush, Roh and Mahathir.

However, amid widespread rumors that Arroyo will announce her
candidacy closer to October or November, the presidential palace
is making it clear that the president has no intention of seeking
the 2004 nomination. In fact, one recent Philippine Star article
even cited one of the president's sons as saying that the Arroyo
family is cleaning up their residences to prepare for their
return to the private sector after the 2004 elections -- a sure
sign that Arroyo does not plan on running again. But if she is
considering an election bid, this is the image Arroyo wants to
portray -- adamant adherence to her promise not to seek the
election until the last possible moment when, in the interest of
the common good, she succumbs to domestic pressure and accepts
the nomination for the 2004 campaign.

But the alleged international support for an Arroyo election bid
raises interesting questions. On one hand, support from
Washington, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur can be seen as very diverse
and clear international backing for one of Southeast Asia's
newest leaders. Washington's support, however, can be a mixed
blessing, as there are still significant political and social
factions in the Philippines opposed to increased defense ties
with the United States -- factions that warn of the re-
colonization of the Philippines.

More intriguing, however, is the claim that Mahathir has offered
his explicit -- albeit secret - backing for another Arroyo term.
Mahathir has made non-interference a key part of his
international policies, and recommending a specific candidate for
president of another Southeast Asian nations easily can be seen
as interference in the internal political affairs of the
Philippines.

Mahathir's alleged support was predicated on continuity of the
Arroyo government facilitating the continuation and eventual
positive conclusion of peace talks between Manila and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front. And while Mahathir has shown a clear
interest in calming the Islamic insurgencies in Southeast Asia --
as there is often a spillover into Malaysia either directly or
through indirect economic consequences -- he also opposes
Arroyo's solution for domestic insurgencies: calling in U.S.
forces. Mahathir has vocally opposed the presence of U.S.
military bases in Southeast Asia, particularly as Washington
discusses reformatting its Asian presence. It would seem
counterproductive for Mahathir to back one of Asia's primary
Washington supporters.

This raises a dilemma for Arroyo's supporters at home.
Washington's support could be turned against Arroyo -- seen as
U.S. interference in its former colonial possession. And reports
of support from Mahathir, Roh or other foreign leaders who
secretly back Arroyo could prove detrimental to her potential
campaign if any one of them denies offering such backing -- and
thus exposes a political ploy to fabricate the appearance of
multinational and domestic support for an Arroyo presidency.
While an Arroyo bid is not yet in the bag, her supporters run a
risky campaign, unless they can reshape support for her candidacy
around purely domestic issues, leaving the international
community's support as an added bonus -- not a central issue.
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« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2003, 10:09:41 AM »

1140 GMT - Three kidnappers and their 60-year-old hostage were killed June 19 after the kidnappers battled police in Tarlac, Philippines police chief Hermogenes Ebdane said. Philippine authorities are investigating 14
kidnapping gangs at the order of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who
wants to shake the country's reputation of being Asia's kidnapping capital.
Since the beginning of 2003, there have been 29 reported kidnappings, with more than half taking place in Manila alone.
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« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2003, 06:38:38 PM »

The Philippines, the MILF and an Opportunity for Peace
Jun 24, 2003

Summary

The Philippine government on June 23 welcomed a public rejection of terrorism by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and indicated it was ready to establish a permanent cease-fire and renew formal negotiations to end the 25-year-old insurgency. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's political considerations, combined with the MILF's present eagerness to move from conflict to negotiation, are likely to build momentum for a reduction of hostilities on the island for the short term.

Analysis

The Philippine government on June 23 welcomed a public rejection of terrorism by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- a pivotal condition for resuming peace talks -- and indicated it is ready to establish a permanent cease-fire and renew formal negotiations to end the southern Philippines insurgency that has spanned three decades.

The MILF's rejection of terrorism is an opportunity for Manila and the rebels to begin a mutually beneficial cease-fire. The Philippine military's six-month campaign against the MILF has been relatively successful, with the army knocking out several MILF bases and sending rebels fleeing into the jungle. However, with just under six months before the presidential election campaign season begins, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo probably is more in favor of seizing an opportunity to restart talks that might lead to peace with factions of the MILF, then begin a broader military campaign. The rebels, for their part, would like a short reprieve from the fighting to regroup. Given these two factors, a sharp reduction in hostilities might be in Mindanao's near future.

MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim on June 22 said terrorism "is anathema to the teachings of Islam," and added that his group rejects and denies "any link with terrorist organizations." In response, chief government peace negotiator Eduardo Ermita said a formal request was sent to Malaysia -- the primary arbitrator between the embattled parties -- to deploy cease-fire observers to the island of Mindanao. In addition, Presidential Adviser on Strategic Concerns Renato de Villa said he believed both sides were making progress toward renewed negotiations and permanent peace.

Hashim's denial and rejection of terrorism comes in response to Arroyo's preconditions for resuming peace talks. The president demanded May 29 that the MILF unambiguously renounce terrorism, reveal the location of its forces to prove that it has not merged with criminal and terrorist groups and hand over the perpetrators of MILF raids on the villages of Siocon and Maigo, where dozens of civilians were killed in December 2002 and May 2003, respectively.

Hashim's statements were an easy concession to make; the MILF has been saying as much for several months. However, Arroyo's second condition is unlikely to soon be met. The rebels will not be enticed to reveal their location and invite air and ground assaults by the Philippine military. There is some room to maneuver on the third condition, though. Some low-level, ill-favored MILF troops might be handed over in exchange for a tactical cease-fire.

But the MILF has conditions of its own. The rebels have demanded the government withdraw from seized guerrilla camps and drop murder charges leveled against the group's leaders -- including Hashim -- after recent attacks. Manila might be somewhat receptive: MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told The Associated Press that during informal talks in Kuala Lumpur on June 22, the government expressed willingness to "recall or withdraw criminal charges, including bounties on MILF leaders" and to consent to a cease-fire.

This situation is not exactly a meeting of the minds in Mindanao so much as battle fatigue and political compromise -- which still are sufficient to produce a cease-fire. More than 200 people, many of them civilians, have been killed since the beginning of the year on the island, and a definitive victory for either side is not in sight. The MILF has lost several bases, and although Arroyo has demonstrated her willingness to fight the rebels, she has not proven she is able to end the conflict.

Timing could not be better for a breakthrough on both sides. The Philippine military has taken and held several enemy bases, while the rebels have mostly fled into the jungle, executing a series of harassing raids and ambushes. But from the military's point of view, that was the easy part. The rebels can't stand toe-to-toe against Manila's artillery and air power. But follow-on attacks would have to include deep-jungle, counterinsurgency strikes, which historically have proven to be bloody wars of attrition. Although many Philippine field commanders, emboldened by recent success, might be willing to undertake such a task immediately, Arroyo currently is likely less sanguine. If possible, fruitful negotiations with the rebels would be less risky and would provide greater political currency. If talks break down again, the military option is still open and the armed forces already have proven they are capable of chewing off bite-size pieces of the MILF.

Arroyo has begun a stealthy re-election campaign, and widespread rumors indicate that she will announce her candidacy sometime around October. She wants to look tough in the face of the insurgency, but Arroyo doesn't want to begin a military adventure that could go horribly wrong during the middle of an election season. A cease-fire would be both politically and tactically preferable at the moment.

The MILF also appears more than willing to cut a deal to reduce hostilities. The rebels have shown prevalence for settling down in larges bases in the past few years -- a dangerous habit for a guerrilla army. But then again, even the most die-hard warriors do not revel on spending more than two decades in the bush and on the run. For practical purposes, the rebels also would like a cease-fire so they can regroup and resupply. The MILF enacted its own unilateral cease-fire in early June to prove its commitment to renewed peace talks.

Arroyo's political considerations -- combined with the MILF's present eagerness to move from conflict to negotiation -- likely will build momentum for a reduction of hostilities on the island in the short term.
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« Reply #24 on: June 27, 2003, 10:52:37 AM »

1113 GMT - Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered a crackdown on the Marxist group The New People's Army on June 27 after about 200 militants from the group allegedly killed 17 people at an army base on Samar Island. The government and the militants broke off peace talks in 2001 after the group killed a former congressman. The group claims that it has 13,500 fighters, while the Philippine government estimates that it has about 10,000.

www.stratfor.com
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« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2003, 01:34:31 PM »

Not exactly current events, but from today's WSJ:

--------------

Deja Vu
In 1901 Philippines, Peace Cost
More Lives Than the War Itself
Remember the Maine?

It was the catalyst for a brief war and then a longer occupation of a foreign country that claimed far more casualties than the war itself.

The American battleship Maine was standing by in Havana harbor in February 1898, as the U.S. and Spain went toe-to-toe over Cuba's independence. For several years, Cuban insurgents had been revolting against Spain's colonial government, and the country was a wreck. Thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire.

Some Americans fervently wanted President McKinley to help Cuba renounce its mother country. American investors were losing fortunes in the conflict.

But others, equally fervently, opposed intervening in another nation's revolution. The U.S. economy had barely recovered from a recession, and if Spain were able to enlist Old World allies, America's military could be routed.

President McKinley began putting diplomatic pressure on Spain to end the war and declared he wouldn't tolerate a prolonged conflict.

Then, on Feb. 15, 1898, the Maine blew up.

History has never definitively fixed the blame for the explosion and death of 260 American sailors, but prowar forces quickly denounced the "cowardly Spanish conspiracy," as one newspaper put it. In Congress, militants forced the moderates into retreat, and on April 25, Congress declared war on Spain.

It was "a splendid little war," John Hay, America's ambassador to England, later wrote. It was brief (four months long), inexpensive, and "only" 460 American soldiers died in battle. Late in 1898, representatives of Spain and America met in Paris to negotiate a peace treaty. The U.S. paid Spain $20 million to vacate not only Cuba, but also Guam, Puerto Rico and the 7,100-island archipelago of the Philippines. Although Filipinos were barred from negotiations, the U.S. decided to take control of their country.

McKinley, who had earlier confessed he couldn't locate the Philippines on a map "within 2000 miles," claimed, "there was nothing left for us to do but to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them." A policy of "benevolent assimilation," he called it.

Over the next three years, some 4,000 Americans -- about 10 times the number killed in the war itself -- died trying to quell Filipino resistance. More than 200,000 Filipinos, mostly civilians, also died.

In 1901, the U.S. established a civilian colonial government in Manila, and quickly made advocating independence a crime punishable by prison.

From the Filipinos' point of view, their country had simply been passed from one oppressor to another. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the country's independence movement, condemned the "violent and aggressive seizure" of the Philippines "by a nation which has arrogated to itself the title 'champion of oppressed nations.'&"

The Sedition Law, passed the same year, went so far as to impose long imprisonment, even death, on anyone who spoke, wrote or published "scurrilous libels" against the colonial government.

In America, meanwhile, a debate raged over whether the U.S. had the right to govern another country without its citizens' consent. Andrew Carnegie, arguing against the occupation, said, "Our young men volunteered to fight the oppressor; I shall be surprised if they relish the work of shooting down the oppressed."

Mark Twain also sympathized with the Filipinos, pitying them for having "progress and civilization" foisted on them by the "Blessings-of-Civilization Trust."

Those who supported America's presence in the Philippines used both moral and economic arguments. "The Philippines are ours forever," proclaimed Republican Sen. Albert Beveridge of Indiana. "And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee under God, of the civilization of the world."

The conflict in the Philippines was neither little nor splendid. Outmanned and outgunned, Filipino forces used guerrilla tactics, picking off U.S. soldiers in small skirmishes.

American soldiers responded by turning some areas of the country into "a howling wilderness," as Gen. Jacob Smith put it. Col. George S. Anderson conceded that American soldiers killed indiscriminately during raids on villages. "Many men were shot as they fled," he said, "but they probably all deserved it."

Three years after the battle for the Philippines began, the U.S. declared the war over, and slowly began to withdraw its forces.

Gradually, life began to return to normal. But many Americans never understood what their country wanted with the Philippines. As the comic character Mr. Dooley pondered in 1898, "I don't know what to do with th' Ph'lippeens anny more thin I did las' summer, befure I heerd tell iv thim ... 'twud be a disgrace f'r to lave befure we've pounded these frindless an' ongrateful people into insinsibility."
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« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2003, 05:33:07 PM »

NIGERIA
Kidnapped OFWs in Nigeria Freed
from Agence France Presse on Monday, July 07, 2003
LAGOS--Two Filipino oil workers who were kidnapped by pirates in Nigeria's western Niger Delta region and held for two weeks have been freed, their embassies said Monday.

"They are OK," Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa told Agence France-Presse. "They have been released, through the intervention of the governor of Delta State (James Ibori)."

Another captive, a German national, was also freed.

The German embassy's spokesman confirmed that the men were free but could give no further details. Both embassies said the hostages were now in the company of embassy staff.

An armed gang stormed a US-owned oil industry tugboat as it made its way through the swamps of the western delta last month and captured its German captain and two Filipino crewmen.

The trio were held in a village in the home area of the restless Ijaw ethnic group, which in March launched a rebellion against its perceived political marginalization.

But the motive for the kidnap appears to have been purely criminal. The men's captors demanded 25 million naira (equivalent to 197,000 dollars or 168,000 euros) in ransom and 400,000 naira for food.

Neither embassy could say if a ransom had been paid.

The men worked for the Florida-based oil services company Seabulk, which works as a sub-contractor supplying crews and vessels to the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell in the delta.

In March, unrest among the Ijaws forced Shell and major US oil firm ChevronTexaco to shut down their operations in the western Delta, cutting more than 40 percent from Nigeria's oil output.

Production is now returning to normal, but the situation remains tense. Even before the March uprising the kidnapping of oil workers was fairly common.

Copyright 2003 www.inq7.net
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« Reply #27 on: July 08, 2003, 02:34:53 PM »

Item Number:14
Date: 07/08/2003
PHILIPPINES - GOVERNMENT SEIZES REBEL CAMP (JUL 08/PHILSTAR)

PHILIPPINE STAR -- New People's Army (NPA) rebels and Philippine
security forces fought in Aeta village in Zambales province, reports
the Philippine Star.  Some 20 rebels were killed and five police officers were killed in the clash. Government troops were trying to seize a makeshift NPA training camp when rebel snipers fired on them.  After a bloody firefight, the army captured the camp.
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« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2003, 06:00:35 PM »

Widespread Repercussions of Philippine Prison Break
Jul 16, 2003

Summary

The escape of a high-ranking Jamaah Islamiyah militant, Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, from a Philippine prison is an embarrassment for Manila and could contribute significantly to the operational capabilities of his organization. In addition, where the fugitive runs could have serious repercussions for negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Analysis

The escape of Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, the highest-ranking Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) militant to be captured in the Philippines, represents an embarrassment and long-term threat to Manila. Al-Ghozi, who is suspected of links with al Qaeda, and two Abu Sayyaf rebels escaped July 14 from the Philippine Intelligence Command building at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Although the breakout presents no immediate security threat, if Al-Ghozi is not recaptured and returns to JI, his explosives expertise and other skills likely will increase the operational capabilities of JI and its affiliated groups. One of those groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), could face repercussions in negotiations for peace talks with Manila, and its members likely will be split on how to handle the fugitive if he flees to Mindanao.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration has been humiliated by the escape. To add insult to injury, the escape occurred while Australian Prime Minister John Howard was in Manila to discuss counterterrorism measures with Arroyo. The incident severely undermines the confidence of Canberra and Washington for their ally in the war against international Islamic militant groups and damages Arroyo's image in the run-up to the country's 2004 presidential elections.

Although the government has beefed up security in Manila since the breakout, Al-Ghozi's escape will not cause a sharp deterioration in Philippine security in the near term. Al-Ghozi is more likely to be seeking sanctuary and to re-establish contact with his organization than to be plotting an attack within the country.

In the long run, however, Al-Ghozi poses a considerable threat to Manila and the rest of the region. He was arrested in January 2002 for possessing illegal explosives and, while in custody, reportedly admitted to involvement in the December 2000 bombing of a suburban train in Manila that killed 22 people and injured more than 120. Al-Ghozi also allegedly served as a demolitions expert and explosives trainer with the MILF. His technical and leadership skills could enhance JI's operational capabilities -- the group has not executed a significant attack since the Bali bombing in October 2002.

Al-Ghozi's MILF connection presents a delicate situation in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Logic would suggest that Al-Ghozi would flee to Mindanao, where he could find sanctuary in the jungle either with the MILF or the Abu Sayyaf insurgencies.

However, the MILF is in the process of fragile negotiations with Manila, which may or may not lead to peace talks in Malaysia, and Al-Ghozi?s connection to the group could hurt its chances for political gains. The MILF has offered to help the government in the manhunt for Al-Ghozi and the two rebels who escaped with him. It is hard to take the MILF offer at face value; most of its members would be seriously tempted to look the other way as the fugitive traveled through their territory. However, MILF leadership might be seriously tempted to turn in Al-Ghozi -- whose reputation and high profile would make him persona non grata in their eyes. Such a move would support the rebels? claims that they are merely an indigenous separatist movement with legitimate complaints against the government in Manila and not linked with JI, a suspected extension of al Qaeda. Despite the contradiction within the MILF, Al-Ghozi probably will be granted safe passage through the region.

With limited options in the Philippines, Al-Ghozi is likely to end up in Indonesia, where a weak security infrastructure and his relative anonymity would make it easier for him to travel.
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« Reply #29 on: July 17, 2003, 08:56:50 AM »

1148 GMT - PHILIPPINES - The United States has renewed its warning over terrorist threats in the Philippines after three Islamist militants -
including Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, an alleged Jemaah Islamiyah bomb-maker -- escaped from jail in Quezon City on July 14. "The terrorist threat to Americans in the Philippines for kidnapping and bombings remains high, and the embassy (in Manila) continues to receive reports of ongoing activities by known terrorist groups," State Department officials said in a statement. Due to bomb-related incidents in Manila, U.S. citizens should avoid crowded public places such as nightclubs and bars and be especially alert while in other public places, like shopping malls or buses, the warning said.
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« Reply #30 on: July 18, 2003, 08:22:52 AM »

1153 GMT - PHILIPPINES - Following an earlier announcement about plans for peace talks, government officials say Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have signed a cease-fire, and that a new round of peace talks could begin as soon as July 21. Meanwhile, observers from Malaysia are expected to travel to Mindanao to make sure that the MILF, a separatist group seeking a Muslim homeland, abides by the cease-fire, the BBC reports
-----------------
1112 GMT - PHILIPPINES - Manila plans to halt military action against the
separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and has suspended arrest
warrants for some of the group's leaders in efforts to clear the way for
peace talks, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced July 18. MILF
Chairman Hashim Salamat and eight other militants will receive safe conduct passes, allowing them to travel to Malaysia for the next round of peace talks. Malaysia, where the next round of peace talks is to be held. No date was given for the talks, but reports indicated they could resume within days.
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« Reply #31 on: July 22, 2003, 08:27:13 AM »

Philippine police on Monday intercepted a container truck loaded with six
tons of sodium nitrate explosives. The explosives are believed to be part of a plan to attack targets in Manila and other urban areas in the country. The Philippine government recently signed a cease-fire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist group from Mindanao, ahead of peace talks. Though this is more likely the work of the al Qaeda-aligned Abu Sayyaf group, a campaign of bombings by Muslim extremists throughout the Philippines would do nothing to advance peace talks with the MILF.
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« Reply #32 on: July 25, 2003, 02:18:14 AM »

PHILIPPINES
Cops Say Fugitive Bomb-Maker Still in Philippines
from Straits Times [Singapore] & AFP on Monday, July 21, 2003
MANILA -- Fugitive Indonesian bomb-maker Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi has not slipped out of the Philippines and elite tracking teams are on his heels, a police spokesman said on Monday.

National police chief Hermogenes Ebdane flew to the southern Philippines early on Monday to supervise the hunt by 5,000 men, spokesman Ricardo de Leon said.

The spokesman said police were working closely with Interpol and security authorities in the region and there appeared to be 'major developments' in the hunt.

Colonel Daniel Lucero said the military intelligence team that conducted surveillance on Al-Ghozi leading to his arrest in the commercial district of Manila in January 2002 has been recalled to help hunt him down again.

The team is familiar with Al-Ghozi and his contacts and could provide valuable assistance to the police who are searching for the Indonesian fugitive, he said.

Six police guards are facing administrative charges while four are also facing criminal charges after security at the jail was exposed as extremely lax, with guards to the easily-opened cells either absent or asleep.

Al-Ghozi was convicted last year after confessing to using part of a huge explosives cache to blow up a Manila train and other targets in December 2000, killing 22 people.

He said he planned to ship the rest to Singapore as part of a Jemaah Islamiah plot to blow up Western embassies there. -- AFP

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.
------------------

PHILIPPINES
Al-Ghozi's Captors Back to Square One
from Straits Times [Singapore] & AFP on Monday, July 21, 2003
MANILA - Military intelligence agents who earlier captured Jemaah Islamiah (JI) bomber Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi have been assigned to recapture him after his escape from a police jail, a spokesman said yesterday. Policemen staking out a Muslim part of Manila in their hunt for Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. -- AP The military intelligence team that conducted surveillance on Al-Ghozi, leading to his arrest in Manila in January last year, has been recalled to hunt him down again, Colonel Daniel Lucero said.

The team is familiar with Al-Ghozi and his contacts and could provide valuable assistance to the police who are searching for the Indonesian fugitive, he added.

Al-Ghozi slipped out of the Philippine police headquarters' jail on July 14.

His escape, along with two members of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim kidnapping group, has harmed the Philippines' image as a reliable ally in the war against terror.

It has also raised questions of possible police connivance in the jailbreak.

Six police guards are facing administrative charges while four are also facing criminal charges after security at the jail was exposed as extremely lax, with guards either absent or asleep.

Al-Ghozi was convicted last year after he confessed to using part of a huge explosives cache to blow up a Manila train and other targets in December 2000, killing 22 people.

He said he planned to ship the rest to Singapore as part of a JI plot to blow up Western embassies there. -- AFP

Copyright @ 2003 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved
-----------------

PHILIPPINES
Gov't Troops Foil NPA Plan to Bomb Transmitters
from Philippine Star [Manila] on Monday, July 21, 2003
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Military personnel of the 4th Infantry "Diamond" Division in Agusan del Norte foiled last Sunday a plan by the New People's Army (NPA) to sabotage a number of telecommunications transmitters in the province.

Major General Cristolito Balaoing, commanding general of the 4th ID, said that if the rebels succeeded in toppling the towers of the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone (PT&T), they would have succeeded in dealing a major blow to the province's telecommunications system.

Balaoing disclosed that 4th ID soldiers securing the transmitters on the Butuan City side of Mt. Mayapay engaged about 30 NPA rebels who were about to plant bombs on the various transmitters here.

Several communist rebels were killed in the engagement, the military said.

However, the wounded and the dead were carried away by their comrades in their escape, they added.

"The troops pursued the retreating rebels who were carrying with them their wounded and perhaps dead comrades and went to Barangay Olavi who then mixed with civilians," he reported. Copyright? Philstar.com, Inc. All Rights reserved
--------------

PHILIPPINES
Philippines May Find Fugitive Militant Soon-Minister
from Reuters on Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Philippine police expect results soon in the hunt for fugitive Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi -- a self-confessed member of Muslim militant group Jemaah Islamiah, Philippines Foreign Minister Blas Ople said on Wednesday.

A senior police official had said the police "expect to have results in two or three days" in the search for al-Ghozi, Ople told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Asian and European foreign ministers on this resort island. Al-Ghozi, an Indonesian, had been imprisoned in the Philippines for illegal possession of explosives and falsifying documents, but escaped last week with two other prisoners from a maximum security detention centre to the embarrassment of Philippine police. Al-Ghozi had been linked to actual and planned attacks on various targets in the region by Jemaah Islamiah, which has been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Ople said he had told the police general on the phone he was probably being too optimistic about quickly finding al-Ghozi, but was assured there were grounds for such optimism. In an apparent reference to the criticism of the police after the escape, Ople said they had "a very strong incentive" to catch al-Ghozi. "The basis is self-preservation," Ople said. He also told reporters Indonesia had agreed to monitor its ports of entry for a possible attempt by al-Ghozi to return to his home country, and that 5,000 police were looking for him in the Philippines. "There is really no place to hide for al-Ghozi," Ople said. Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited.
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« Reply #33 on: July 25, 2003, 11:27:19 AM »

Item Number:14
Date: 07/25/2003
PHILIPPINES - ARROYO MOVES TROOPS TO MANILA (JUL 25/AFP)

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE -- Hundreds of elite Philippine soldiers were
deployed to Manila to increase security in the capital, amid reports
of restiveness in the military.  President Gloria Arroyo said that difficulties with military had been resolved and denied the army was plotting a coup against her, reports Agence France-Presse.

"There has been some understandable restiveness, but I have resolved
this matter directly with the troops," said Arroyo.
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« Reply #34 on: July 28, 2003, 02:33:41 AM »

EARLY SUNDAY MORNING, he and roughly 50 heavily armed members of the Philippine military seized a commercial complex in Manila?s financial district and rigged the place with explosives, swearing to blow it up if they were attacked. At least two unnamed Americans were reported to be trapped inside, although members of the mutiny insisted they were holding no hostages. Government troops surrounded the complex but kept their distance.
 
       The uprising included several Special Operations officers who had earned decorations in the three-decade war against Muslim rebels in the south. The mutinous troops issued a statement complaining of favoritism and corruption. ?We demand the resignation of our leaders in the present regime,? it said. ?We are willing to sacrifice our lives today to pursue a program not tainted with politicking.? Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said that the siege was not seen as a threat to power, and that the Manila government hoped for a peaceful resolution. Shortly afterward, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gave the soldiers seven hours to return to their barracks or face ?reasonable force.?
       
       ? 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
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« Reply #35 on: July 28, 2003, 09:40:31 AM »

1122 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
announced in a televised state of the nation address July 28 that an
independent commission would be set up to investigate the recent coup
attempt. Arroyo called the incident unfortunate and vowed that the men
involved would face punishment. She also said that the government must
determine and address what caused the soldiers to attempt a coup. Meanwhile, about 4,000 activists gathered outside the House of Representatives during Arroyo's speech, burning her pictures and shouting anti-Arroyo slogans.

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« Reply #36 on: July 28, 2003, 12:31:55 PM »

Islamic Militant Admits to Plot, Report Says
Suspect with Jemaah Islamiah ties told police he and an Egyptian were planning Manila attack.
       
By Richard C. Paddock, Times Staff Writer


MANILA ? A notorious Islamic militant arrested in May has confessed to police that he plotted to attack the Philippine presidential palace using Arab suicide bombers, according to a confidential police report of his interrogation.

Muklis Yunos, a suspect with links to Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian terrorist network, said he was on his way to Manila to prepare for the attacks when he was arrested with a co-conspirator, an Egyptian businessman, according to a copy of the Philippine police report obtained by The Times.

It was unclear whether Yunos and his associates had the capability and resources to pull off such an attack. One Philippine police investigator speculated that the plan was concocted as part of a successful counter-terrorism scheme to lure Yunos out of hiding and arrest him.

Details of the alleged bomb plot emerged as Southeast Asian authorities grapple with mounting activity by suspected terrorists.

In Indonesia this month, police arrested nine suspected Jemaah Islamiah members and seized weapons and enough explosives to make a device more powerful than the car bomb used in the October 2002 attack on a nightclub in Bali, which killed 202 people. Police said the group planned to blow up churches and assassinate five prominent Indonesians.

Jemaah Islamiah, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the region, scored a significant victory when Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi, one of its most prominent members, managed to escape from prison in Manila this month. Also known as "Mike the Bombmaker," the Indonesian terrorist allegedly took part in bomb plots in Manila, Jakarta and Singapore before his arrest last year.

Authorities say Al Ghozi and two members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang walked out of their cell at police headquarters in Manila during the middle of the night July 14. Authorities are investigating whether guards were bribed.

Following Al Ghozi's escape, the U.S. and other Western nations issued new warnings of terrorist threats in the Philippines.


------------------
Philippine Troops Surrender Peacefully in Mall Standoff
About 300 mutinous soldiers leave Manila's financial district for their bases after their attempt to oust the president fails.

  By Richard C. Paddock, Times Staff Writer


MANILA ? About 300 rebellious soldiers who had seized a shopping complex and rigged it with explosives in the hope of ousting Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo surrendered Sunday night, ending their siege less than 24 hours after it began.

Arroyo, who had authorized troops to use deadly force if necessary to drive the mutineers from Manila's financial district, was jubilant when she announced that negotiations had ended the standoff.

"The crisis is over," she declared at 10 p.m. "This has been a triumph for democracy."

Under the agreement, the rebels were allowed to keep their weapons and were transported back to their bases, not jail. Most looked tired and grim as they filed from the building and climbed into waiting trucks, but several said the protest was worthwhile because it gave them a chance to air grievances against the government.

"We were able to express ourselves," said a 27-year-old soldier who declined to give his name. "We will always be proud of that."

The renegades accused the Arroyo administration of selling guns and ammunition to Islamic rebels and guerrilla fighters, saying that the weapons are used to kill Philippine soldiers. The mutineers also accused the government of masterminding recent terrorist bombings in the southern Philippines to obtain more aid money from the United States and to provide a pretext for declaring martial law, so that Arroyo could remain in power.

With low ratings in the polls, Arroyo has said she does not plan to run in an election scheduled for next year.

The soldiers offered no proof of their allegations but called Arroyo a terrorist and demanded that she and her top military and police officials quit.

"We demand the resignation of our leaders in the present regime," the renegades said in a protest statement. "We are willing to sacrifice our lives today to pursue a program not tainted with politicking."

In an earlier televised speech Sunday, Arroyo rejected the soldiers' allegations and suggested that the mutineers were the ones engaging in terrorism when they set booby traps in the shopping mall.

"There is absolutely no justification for the actions you have taken," Arroyo told the soldiers in her address. "You have already stained the uniform. Do not drench it with dishonor. Your actions are already hovering at the fringes of outright terrorism."

The mutineers contended that they were not attempting to stage a coup. However, the protest might have gained popular support and drawn large crowds similar to the "people power" rebellions that installed Corazon Aquino as president in 1986 and Arroyo as president in 2001.

Police today arrested an aide of disgraced former President Joseph Estrada, whom Arroyo replaced, for alleged involvement in the mutiny. Police said Ramon Cardenas owned a house near Manila where officers found assault rifles, ammunition and red armbands similar to those used by the soldiers.

Having learned from her own rise to power, Arroyo had made sure that few members of the public could reach the Glorietta mall and the adjoining Oakwood Premier Hotel where the soldiers were holed up: Police had blockaded the roads.

The district, known as Makati City, is the commercial hub of Manila, with high-rise office buildings and five-star hotels.

In the afternoon, the president declared a "state of rebellion," giving the military and police the legal authority to arrest suspects without warrants. Arroyo set a deadline of 5 p.m. for her troops to move in but extended the deadline twice.

Under the final agreement, five leaders of the mutiny will face prosecution.

After the deal was struck, mutineers dismantled the explosives they had placed around the shopping center.

-------------------
Filipino Cops Arrest Ex-Aide in Uprising
 
By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer


MANILA, Philippines -- A key supporter of disgraced ex-President Joseph Estrada was arrested Monday and accused of supporting a failed military mutiny over the weekend, while the current Philippine leader ordered an independent probe into the causes of the uprising by junior officers.

Police have alleged that several cronies of Estrada, who was ousted by popular protest in 2001 and is standing trial on corruption charges, aided and fomented Sunday's rebellion.

Nearly 300 mutinous troops who seized a Manila shopping and apartment complex demanding the government resign gave up and retreated peacefully after some 19 hours.

Estrada, who has been in police custody for more than two years, insisted that he had nothing to do with Sunday's drama. "Neither I nor my supporters has a role in this whole thing, and personally, I have nothing to gain from this incident," he said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo vowed Monday to punish the plotters and ordered an investigation into what caused the uprising that shook her presidency.

In a state of the nation address, Arroyo assured the country that she remains in control. The mutineers said they were protesting alleged corruption and misconduct within the military.

"I am constituting an independent commission to investigate the roots of the mutiny and the provocation that inspired it," she told the Congress, which responded with a standing ovation.

"Such actions are deplorable and will be met with the full force of law," she added.

Arroyo traveled to Congress aboard a helicopter and about 3,000 police officers and sharpshooters deployed outside the Congress building for her speech on Monday.

Outside, thousands of protesters called for her resignation, saying Arroyo had failed to give land to poor farmers, control graft and ease poverty.

"The people's call for Arroyo's resignation will continue to escalate, especially after the mutiny by young officers and soldiers," labor leader Elmer Labog said.

Protesters also burned a 12-foot effigy of Arroyo with moving legs, symbolizing the president on the run.

The Philippines has had about eight military uprisings and coup attempts since the "people power" ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

The force of Arroyo's words immediately fueled speculation that she might reverse an earlier promise not to stand in next year's presidential election.

Arroyo did not mention her political plans but pledged action to solve critical problems including terrorism, drugs, corruption, separatism and the struggling economy.

Police announced earlier Monday that they were using emergency powers granted by Arroyo to quell the mutiny to detain some of Estrada's associates. The powers allow arrests without warrants.

The first to be nabbed was Ramon Cardenas, a member of Estrada's Cabinet. Officials filed a complaint against him late Monday before the justice department in connection with his alleged role in the uprising. A lawyer for Cardenas, Abraham Expejo, said his client was innocent.

Officers said he owned a "safe house" for the rebel troops -- stacked with assault rifles, ammunition and the same red armbands used by the soldiers who seized an apartment and ritzy shopping complex in downtown Manila.

Police are trying to gather evidence against Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, also suspected of providing help to the mutineers, said police official Eduardo Matillano. Honasan, a former army colonel who led seven coup attempts in the 1980s, has not been charged and has strongly denied the accusation.

Arroyo also promised to reform the police force, branded as corrupt and inept following the July 14 escape of three terror suspects thought to have bribed their way out of its main Manila headquarters.

Arroyo, however, failed to outline a widely expected change of senior police commanders -- something that had been included in a draft of her speech supplied to reporters. There was no explanation about the omission.

Financial markets plunged Monday in response to the failed mutiny, but major shares bottomed out early and contained their losses at 2.1 percent as traders focused on the quick, peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Five junior officers, who organized the uprising, were being questioned under guard, said army spokesman Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala. The other mutinous troops were confined to their barracks.

The mutineers demanded the resignation of Arroyo, but backed down during talks with government negotiators and after Arroyo threatened to crush the rebellion with tanks and sharpshooters.

The renegades wired the apartment and shopping complex -- home to some of the city's richest citizens, foreign businesspeople and diplomats -- with explosives and booby traps.

The renegades complained of corruption and misconduct in the upper ranks of the military and government and complained that Muslim and communist rebels were buying weapons and ammunition from the military.
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« Reply #37 on: July 29, 2003, 01:57:36 PM »

1150 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Four suspected leaders of the July 27 coup attempt in the Philippines were trained by U.S. Special Forces, AFP reported July 29, citing an unnamed Philippine military official. The four leaders -- Capt. Gerardo Gambala of the 32nd Infantry Battalion, 1st Lt. Laurence San Juan of the Light Reaction Company and Capt. Albert Baloloy and 1st Lt. Jose Enrico Demetrio Dingle of the Scout Ranger Battalion -- received sniper, night fighting and counterterrorism training in 2002 and later fought against elements of Abu Sayyaf on Basilan Island.
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« Reply #38 on: July 30, 2003, 11:51:06 AM »

www.stratfor.com

1154 GMT - PHILIPPINES: The Moro Islamic Front (MILF) admits it bought guns from the Philippine military, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu told AFP. However, Eid denied that the military supports the militant group works, noting that the guns most likely were purchased from individual soldiers. Philippine soldiers who attempted to overthrow the government on July 26 had accused the government of working with the militant group, as well as attacking Philippine citizens and blaming it on the MILF. The government has denied those charges.


1108 GMT - PHILIPPINES: The head of Philippine military intelligence, Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, resigned July 30, citing "deep restiveness" inside the officers corp. His resignation was one of the demands made by renegade soldiers who attempted to overthrow the government on July 26. However, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez denied there was a link between the demand and Corpus' resignation, noting that Corpus had been thinking about stepping down for more than a month.
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« Reply #39 on: July 30, 2003, 02:41:53 PM »

July 30, 2003

Press statement

As reaction about the weekend failed military "putsch" in the Philippines reverberates around the world, we are compelled to speak up as overseas Filipinos in Canada against the Arroyo regime's desperate attempt to convince the Filipino people and the world that the crisis in the Philippines is resolved.  We say that the crisis in our homeland is far from over.

Despite eager pronouncements in the State of the Nation address about the "strong republic," we know the true state of the nation.  These are the conditions of the majority of the Filipino people - the ordinary worker and peasant and their families.  What are these conditions?  They are devastating poverty, unemployment, landlessness, militarization, displacement and political repression.

We overseas Filipinos in Canada know that the Arroyo regime has done nothing to resolve the basic problems of the people.  The Philippines now has the highest rate of unemployment in Asia.  The value of the peso continues to drop.  The Arroyo regime continues to push anti-people policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization under the neo-liberal paradigm.  The regime also continues to sell off our national patrimony, act with unbridled puppetry to the US and unleash campaigns of state terror against the people and revolutionary movements.

As overseas Filipinos, we see through the Arroyo regime's public relations gimmicks about the lauded overseas Filipino worker.  President Arroyo called us a "truly global worker" in the State of the Nation address, who "enjoy the unbeatable comparative advantages of an English-speaking education, advanced skills and a uniquely caring nature."

After years working abroad in harsh and exploitative conditions, we do not enjoy a better life.  We face intensifying racism, cutbacks in social programs and services, and desperation to help our families in the Philippines survive.  We know firsthand that the fundamentally unjust semi-colonial and semi-feudal system in the Philippines forces more of us to migrate abroad, whether as domestic workers, nurses doing domestic work, mail-order brides or prostitutes.

The events of the weekend merely confirm and expose to the world that the Arroyo regime is rotten to the core and gravely isolated.  While we recognize the legitimacy of some of the officers' grievances, we cannot support their call for a military solution.  Instead, we support the call of Bayan, Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakbayan and other national democratic organizations for President Arroyo to step down.  We congratulate the thousands of militant protestors who took to the streets in the Philippines on the day of the State of the Nation address.  They delivered a fatal indictment of the Arroyo regime for its betrayal of the people.

Yet we must remain vigilant in these times.  The Arroyo regime must not exploit these events to try to manoeuvre for power beyond the 2004 elections.  We are deeply disturbed by allegations of the military officers that the corruption in the military runs all the way up to Defense Secretary Reyes and President Arroyo herself.  The allegations about the orchestration of the Davao bombings expose a distressing drive to exploit the "war on terrorism" for personal profit and power.

We call on overseas Filipinos in Canada to understand the roots of our forced migration that lie in the socio-economic and political crisis in the Philippines.  Let us continue to organize and mobilize ourselves to struggle for our community's genuine rights and welfare; but also to support the Filipino people's struggle for national and social liberation.  As the crisis of the imperialist system deepens, we 8 million overseas Filipinos will be hit harder.  Let us join with other anti-imperialist and democratic forces, just as we did in Montreal this weekend, to condemn the imperialist domination of oppressed peoples and work together in solidarity for a future of true freedom, democracy, liberation and emancipation.

Statement of:

Vancouver
B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Filipino Nurses Support Group
SIKLAB (Overseas Filipino Workers Organization)
Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance
Philippine Women Centre of B.C.

Ontario
Carelton University Filipino Students Association
Ontario Commitee for Human Rights in the Philippines
Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada
Philippine Women Centre of Ontario

Montreal
Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students
Kabataang Montreal
PINAY(Filipino Women's Organization of Quebec)
Commitee for Social Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines/Centre for Philippine Concerns
Filipino Workers Support Group
Filipino Parents Support Group
Nationally
National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada
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« Reply #40 on: July 30, 2003, 07:54:19 PM »

Arroyo May Emerge Stronger After Attempted Coup
Jul 30, 2003

Summary

An aborted coup attempt in Manila has raised doubts about the stability of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency. However, beneath the surface, there is a possibility that the attempted ouster actually might bolster her power and position her well for re-election in 2004.

Analysis

The aborted July 27 coup attempt in Manila has raised grave doubts about the health of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency and administration. A tarnished international image and the perception of political weakness just before her government is scheduled to begin peace talks with militant separatists would seem to paint a dreary picture for the president's future. However, there is a possibility that, if massaged effectively, the coup attempt actually might bolster Arroyo's power and place her in a strong position for May 2004 presidential elections -- should she choose to run.

On the surface, Arroyo appears to be in political trouble. A clique of disgruntled officers and enlisted men seized a commercial center in Manila and made serious allegations about corruption and poor leadership in Arroyo's government before standing down and returning to their barracks. The incident was the first major challenge to the Arroyo government, and it occurred on the heels of the prison break debacle involving high-ranking Jama'ah Islamiyah militant and master bomb-maker Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, who remains at large. These recent events have damaged the president's credibility domestically and abroad, calling into question her viability as a a candidate in the next elections if she announces plans to seek re-election.

If Arroyo is as embattled as she looks, the implications could be serious -- not only for her political career but also for Aug. 4 peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malaysia. The rebels might be less inclined to deal with a president they view as a lame duck. Also, on the international level, U.S.-Philippine relations could be deeply affected. Arroyo has built a close relationship with Washington since Southeast Asia became the second front in the U.S. war on international Islamic militant groups. If Arroyo is not re-elected, the nascent military alliance re-emerging in the ashes of the Cold War could reverse.

Supporters and those in Arroyo's administration fear that the aborted coup was only the first step in an extended campaign by elements in the military or her political opponents to unseat her or at least diminish her chances in upcoming elections. According to Stratfor sources in the Philippine military, Arroyo is unpopular because she has not alleviated corruption in the highest echelons of the military command and because she seems reluctant to allow the military to fully attack various insurgencies.

The coup attempt either was part of a larger, well-crafted plan by her political enemies or the result of disenchanted junior officers co-opted by civilian political players. Either way, it is becoming increasingly clear that the moves against Arroyo neither began nor ended on July 27.

There are signs that Sen. Gregorio Honasan was the true center of gravity in the coup attempt. Honasan has participated in a number of past coups and is the apparent ideological mentor for the rebels who attempted the latest coup. He is a supporter of former President Joseph Estrada and a 2004 presidential candidate. Lt. Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV, leader of the self-proclaimed "Magdalo group" that staged the failed rebellion, espoused Honasan's "National Recovery Program" campaign platform in video statements during the standoff. Numerous pamphlets about the program -- centered on cleaning up corruption -- were found in the rebel officers' possession.

Honasan also made headlines in the Philippines as one of two lawmakers to negotiate with the Magdalo group, and is seen by some as contributing to the standoff's peaceful resolution. The government now is investigating the extent to which Honasan might have been involved in the failed ouster. As an adviser to the Philippine Military Academy's Class of 1995, Honasan has had a close association with many of the coup participants, including Trillanes, but the police do not have sufficient evidence to charge him in connection with the rebellion. Honasan maintains his innocence.

Honasan's National Recovery Program has garnered much publicity and a great deal of sympathy among some segments of the population, as have the coup participants. In a country in which corruption is well established, the dissatisfied soldiers' claims struck a strong populist cord. It is highly possible the aborted coup constituted Honasan's opening move in a charge for the presidency -- and that follow-on actions might occur soon.

On July 29, Trillanes and four fellow members of the Magdalo group were transferred from their barracks to the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) -- a reported breach of the negotiated settlement between mutineers and the government. Stratfor sources in the Philippines say the move generated even more public support for the rebellious soldiers -- now are viewed as martyrs -- because the head of ISAFP, Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, was one of the coup's targets. Corpus resigned July 30, citing "deep restiveness" inside the officers' corp. However, at the time of Trillanes' transfer, he warned that more members of his group were ready to take further action if the government failed to keep its promises.

This in fact does not appear to be an idle threat. About 100 heavily armed men of the Magdalo group remain unaccounted for. In addition, the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood Inc., a nationwide organization of military and police officials, are know supporters of Honasan, and might act as the senator's reserve forces in any future action.

Arroyo, however, could be safer then she appears at first glance. Although there might be an ongoing campaign against the president, she might have made moves to insulate herself, and it's possible she was ready to take advantage of this event to bolster herself politically. The coup was well-telegraphed: Rumors appeared nearly a week in advance in the local press, giving Arroyo ample time to consider her options and prepare her actions and reactions.

First, the aborted coup and Arroyo's apparently capable managment of the crisis make the president look like a tough survivor. After all, a Philippine president's true mettle hasn't been tested until he or she puts down a coup or two.

Second, it gives Arroyo an opportunity to take the offensive against her opposition -- not only Honasan but also Estrada and his supporters. Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes already has vowed to uncover the "traitors" behind the rebellion. Reyes alleges the participants were well-funded and equipped with weapons from outside the military arsenal, and that this proves they received external assistance. One-time Estrada aide Ramon Cardenas was detained July 28 after weapons allegedly used by the mutineers were found in his home. Cardenas' lawyers claim police planted the arms. And though Estrada has denied any role in the coup attempt, in the media he has expressed sympathy for its participants.

Third, upcoming talks with the MILF also might not be as hamstrung as one might expect. The president now can argue that the rebels' best opportunity for a beneficial settlement is with her. The military has voiced its opposition to continued negotiations and is pushing the president to allow it to capitalize on recent tactical successes by finishing the rebels off in one last push. At this point, the MILF would understand if Arroyo felt she needed to appease the military.

Last, in the wake of the coup attempt, Arroyo has the opportunity, if not the need, to clean house politically. During her State of the Nation address on July 28 -- by declaring that a strong republic cannot be built in just "two or three years" and by not bidding farewell to the electorate -- Arroyo in effect hinted that she would run for re-election -- although previously she has pledged not to do so. The failed coup might give Arroyo the political support within the government to successfully address the very same problems the coup participants complained about. And in the end, the coup attempt could provide a strong platform from which to launch her campaign.
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« Reply #41 on: July 31, 2003, 09:17:55 AM »

1154 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has warned that even though the July 27 coup participants have been arrested and charge in the rebellion, a larger threat remains against the government. Since the coup, Arroyo has given authorities expanded powers that include the ability to arrest people without a warrant. Those powers will remain in effect until the situation is brought under control and the threat of future coup plots is removed, Arroyo said.
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« Reply #42 on: August 01, 2003, 12:06:40 PM »

1128 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Renegade Philippine soldiers who attempted to carry out a coup might also have planned to kill President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Interior Secretary Jose Lina said Aug. 1, citing intelligence reports. However, Lina also said the reports still were in the process of being validated. Philippine officials have said the plot to remove the government is far from over, but currently is under control.
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« Reply #43 on: August 05, 2003, 07:36:36 PM »

MILF Founder's Death Poses Hurdle For Peace Talks
Aug 05, 2003

Summary

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founder Hashim Salamat reportedly died July 13, a Philippine government official told local media Aug. 4. Salamat's death was kept a secret to avoid a power struggle in the MILF and to maintain progress toward peace talks with the government. If the story of Salamat's demise is accurate, the peace talks -- which were postponed again on Aug. 4 -- might be in trouble, since a single voice for MILF no longer exists.

Analysis

Philippine rebel leader Hashim Salamat, founder and leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), died July 13 of an acute ulcer, Undersecretary of the Office of Muslim Affairs Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan told ABS-CBN News on Aug. 4. MILF leaders had kept Salamat's death a secret to avoid triggering a power struggle or undermining negotiations leading to peace talks, which were to have begun Aug. 4 in Malaysia but were postponed over MILF concerns that a formal cease-fire has yet to be worked out.

If accurate, the report of Salamat's death presents both openings and dangers for the peace process between the MILF and the Philippine government. On one hand, it was hard for Salamat to take part in negotiations, and his involvement -- or lack thereof -- was a sticking point. On the other hand, without Salamat, Manila will not be sure that it is dealing with the full leadership of the MILF in talks, and rogue elements of the MILF likely will break away, leaving any peace process incomplete.

Salamat was known to be ill and under medical care, particularly after a series of military operations left the MILF founder without a home. His alleged death came at a crucial time in negotiations with Manila, with the question of criminal charges against key MILF leaders standing in the way of the resumption of talks. The delay in announcing his death will leave the government unsure of any other promise or comment by MILF negotiators; even after Salamat's alleged death, the MILF was promising he would take part in negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps more troubling for Manila will be the power struggle in the MILF that Salamat's death will accelerate. The MILF already was split over the latest series of peace negotiations, and Salamat's death leaves no clear, single voice for the group. This both will weaken the MILF's bargaining position at peace talks -- if they are resumed after the latest delay on Aug. 4 -- and simultaneously increase the government's sense of urgency to get talks going to avoid losing momentum. Adding to the government's need to press forward with talks -- and make them successful -- is the recent coup attempt, which leaves President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo looking for a clear political victory to shore up her support.

Some MILF elements might not see this as the best time to negotiate if Salamat is dead. Rather, with the MILF weakened and the government at least challenged, if not threatened, some MILF commanders might see this as the perfect time to attack government forces, proving the MILF's strength and holding out for a time when the militant group stands to gain more from talks.

The MILF itself was formed in response to similar disagreements during peace negotiations between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government, when Salamat and others refused to go along with the concessions agreed to by MNLF commanders. A repeat scenario is not inconceivable at this time either, raising the possibility of a new bombing or militant raid in the Philippines in an attempt to throw off the peace process.



Related Headlines
Mixed Opinions Disrupt Resumption of MILF-Philippine Talks
Jul 10, 2003
Widespread Repercussions of Philippine Prison Break
Jul 16, 2003
Arroyo May Emerge Stronger After Attempted Coup
Jul 30, 2003
Philippines: Government Seeking Split in Rebel Group
Mar 11, 2002
MILF: Short-Term Advantage, Long-Term Challenges
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« Reply #44 on: August 08, 2003, 10:56:05 AM »

1147 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine troops on Aug. 8 killed militant
Abdulmukim Edris, who escaped jail July 14 with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)
bomb-maker Fathur Rohman al Ghozi. Troops killed Edris and another man -- thought to be Mahmud Ismael, the commander of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- as the men attempted to cross a checkpoint in the southern province of Lanao del Norte.
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« Reply #45 on: August 09, 2003, 06:15:19 PM »

THE WORLD
Jail Defects Abetted Terrorist's Escape
The bomb maker, with inside help, lifted his cell bars and walked out past dozing guards.
   
Jail Defects Abetted Terrorist's Escape
 
By Richard C. Paddock, Times Staff Writer


MANILA ? Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi did what many travelers do before taking a big trip: He got a haircut. He packed all his belongings. And he contacted his friends on his cell phone to tell them he was coming.

Then he walked out of his supposedly high-security jail cell at the Philippine police headquarters and vanished into the night.

The July 14 escape of the Jemaah Islamiah bomb maker along with two cellmates belonging to the brutal Abu Sayyaf kidnapping gang shocked the nation and has triggered a manhunt by 5,000 officers and 63 special police tracking teams.

The jailbreak is one of the biggest setbacks in Southeast Asia's struggle against Islamic extremists since two Bali nightclub bombings last October that killed 202 people. Al Ghozi, an Indonesian, is considered one of the Jemaah Islamiah operatives most capable of organizing and carrying out a large-scale attack.

A $180,000 reward for Al Ghozi, a huge sum by Philippine standards, has produced Elvis-style sightings. On one recent day, he was reported to be in six different places. But despite the police mobilization and official assurances that he would soon be recaptured, the 32-year-old fugitive, also known as "Mike the Bombmaker," continues to elude his pursuers.

Some officials fear that he has already hooked up with fellow extremists and begun planning new attacks in the region ? a concern heightened by the car bombing Tuesday of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, that killed 10 people. The soft-spoken Indonesian, who trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s, has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines.

"Al Ghozi is a leader," said Philippine police intelligence officer Rodolfo Mendoza, who interviewed him in jail. "Al Ghozi has the capacity to plan. He is very, very cool. He is not afraid."

Before his arrest in January 2002, Al Ghozi teamed up with some of the alleged Bali bombers and helped stage attacks in Manila and Jakarta that killed 24 people.

During interrogation, Al Ghozi gave police details of his training, travels and involvement in bomb plots in three countries. He was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison for obtaining more than a ton of explosives he planned to use to bomb embassies in Singapore. He was sentenced to an additional five years for immigration violations. He was about to be tried on murder charges for his part in the Manila blasts when he broke out of jail.

Al Ghozi's escape from Camp Crame, the sprawling national police headquarters in the center of metropolitan Manila, humiliated President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and highlighted corruption and incompetence in the police department.

"It's a big embarrassment," acknowledged Roilo Golez, Arroyo's national security advisor.

There has been a flurry of allegations that police received bribes to let Al Ghozi go, or that they released him in a plot to undermine the president. At least four officers, including the head of the intelligence unit responsible for holding him, are in custody and under investigation.

But given the way things work at Camp Crame, it is possible that Al Ghozi simply got away with a little help from his friends. Although authorities said they were holding him in a high-security prison, he actually was being kept in a cell on the second floor of an aging office building with only rudimentary security.

The camp was already well known for the escape of high-profile prisoners, including Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani, the current Abu Sayyaf leader who slipped out of the same cell in 1995 by climbing through a duct in the ceiling.

Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian terrorist network, and Abu Sayyaf both have long-standing ties to Al Qaeda. Authorities have previously said that they had no evidence of the two groups working together. They do now.

Police inexplicably put Al Ghozi in a cell with two Abu Sayyaf members, Abdulmukim Ong Edris and Merang Abante, who are both accused of kidnapping Americans.

Edris allegedly participated in the kidnapping of 20 people, including three Americans, at a resort on Palawan island. Guillermo Sobero, a tourist from Corona, Calif., was beheaded, and missionary Martin Burnham of Wichita, Kan., was killed during a rescue raid. Edris was also blamed for bombings in the southern Philippines that claimed 12 lives, including one attack in October that killed a U.S. Green Beret.

Abante was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of American Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, who was later freed.

The three inmates were aided by Abu Ali, who had been arrested for helping Al Ghozi buy explosives. He had turned state's evidence and agreed to testify against Al Ghozi.

The police then released Ali from custody but gave him lodging and a job as janitor at the compound. Having gained the trust of the police, Ali was free to roam the jail, where he served as Al Ghozi's link to the outside world. After the escape, Ali was rearrested and described to police how he helped the three prisoners get away.

Three months before the breakout, Ali told the prisoners that the door to their cell could be opened by lifting up the bars and pushing them out of their holes in the concrete wall.

"Apparently it could be opened without opening the padlock," said police spokesman Ricardo De Leon. "That was a defect."

Ali said he brought cooking oil from the kitchen to lubricate the bars so they wouldn't squeak on the night of the breakout.

Ali gave the three cellmates information about the guards' routine and the best escape route. He bought Al Ghozi a cell phone so the prisoner could make arrangements for the getaway.

Once out of their cell, Al Ghozi and his cellmates could walk down a flight of stairs, past a guardroom and out an unlocked door to the yard outside.

The biggest danger was getting past the guardroom, but the guards were sleeping the night of the escape, police said.

From the door it was only about 20 feet to the jail compound's 7-foot outer wall. There is no barbed wire, no guard tower, no security patrol. Trees grow on both sides of the wall, providing excellent cover.

Most likely, the escapees walked right through a flimsy wooden gate that was usually left unlocked and unguarded. It has since been boarded up.

Once outside the jail compound, leaving Camp Crame was simple.

Security was so lax that an accomplice could have driven onto the base hours before the breakout and parked near the wall to wait for Al Ghozi, Edris and Abante. Police ask visitors to show identification when entering the base, but they do not bother keeping a record of who comes and goes.

The prisoners were not required to wear a distinctive prison uniform, so once they were outside the wall, they could easily blend in.

On the Saturday before the escape, Al Ghozi asked guards to bring in a barber, who cut his hair and shaved the beard he had grown since his arrest. Police did not go to the trouble of taking a new photo of Al Ghozi afterward.

Sometime that Sunday, Al Ghozi packed up family photos and his other personal belongings.

The guards typically filled out a log sheet reporting on the prisoners' whereabouts without bothering to check whether they were in their cells. As a result, police are not sure when the prisoners escaped, but they say it was sometime between 10 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday. The police were so slow to notify their superiors that word of the escape did not reach the president until Monday afternoon, when a nationwide alert was issued. The trio had a head start of as many as 15 hours.

An angry Arroyo created an independent commission to investigate the escape.

"If there was collusion, this is the gravest act against our national security done so far by persons within the government," the president said.

On Thursday, officials said soldiers had captured Edris at a checkpoint on the island of Mindanao. Edris agreed to lead troops to Al Ghozi's hide-out, authorities said, but then grabbed a soldier's rifle in an attempt to escape. Soldiers shot and killed him. A massive search for Al Ghozi continued in the area on Friday.

The son of an Islamic militant, Al Ghozi attended the Al Mukmin boarding school in central Java, which was co-founded by radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiah. Bashir is now on trial in Jakarta for treason.

After graduation, Al Ghozi went to Afghanistan, where he received training in Al Qaeda camps. Jemaah Islamiah recruited him and sent him to the Philippines to learn the language and make contact with local militant groups.

Within a few years, he was fluent enough in Tagalog to be taken for a native. He hooked up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and went to Camp Abubakar, then the group's main base, and began training other militants to handle explosives. After the Philippine military attacked and shut down Camp Abubakar, Jemaah Islamiah decided to seek revenge.

In August 2000, Al Ghozi joined a team of operatives under the direction of a man named Hambali ? an Al Qaeda operative who is Jemaah Islamiah's operations chief ? and detonated a car bomb outside the Jakarta residence of Philippine Ambassador Leonides Caday. The ambassador was seriously injured. Two others were killed.

Al Ghozi told police that he set off the bomb. Police say at least five of those who carried out the attack were later involved in the Bali nightclub blasts: Hambali, Imam Samudra, Mubarok, Dulmatin and Amrozi bin H. Nurhasyim, who was convicted Thursday and sentenced to death for his part in the Bali bombings.

Al Ghozi told police that in December 2000, he helped stage bombings in Manila at a transit station and four other civilian targets. The near-simultaneous blasts, also carried out under Hambali's direction, killed 22 and wounded 100.

A year later, Al Ghozi was helping plan seven simultaneous car bomb attacks on embassies and other targets in Singapore when the plot was uncovered and more than a dozen Jemaah Islamiah members were arrested.

Acting on a tip from Singapore, Philippine authorities seized Al Ghozi as he was preparing to fly to Bangkok for a meeting of Jemaah Islamiah leaders. At the meeting, the group began planning the Bali attack without him.

The U.S., which has close relations with the Philippines in part because of Arroyo's strong support for the Bush administration's war against terrorism, was alarmed by Al Ghozi's escape.

Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said Al Ghozi was one of Jemaah Islamiah's most dangerous operatives, not just because of his skill with explosives but also because of his ability to organize and motivate others.

"This is a person who has no scruples about killing innocent people who might happen to be in a subway station or in a shopping mall," the ambassador said. "It's not merely the skill at killing, but it's the coldblooded willingness, even eagerness, to murder people. People like that are very valuable in terrorist circles, and he can inspire others to be the same way. He's a dangerous man."
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« Reply #46 on: August 11, 2003, 03:00:12 PM »

THE WORLD
Philippine Troops Hunting for Escapee Kill 3 Gunmen
 
From Associated Press

MANILA ? Army troops searching for a suspected Islamic militant clashed with unidentified men in the southern Philippines on Sunday, killing three gunmen, the military said. Six soldiers were wounded.

The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front has warned that the massive hunt for Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi could threaten peace talks. Troops have deployed near the group's strongholds in two southern provinces to hunt for him.
 
The fighting broke out in the southern town of Sultan Naga Dimaporo, military spokesman Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero said. The military and the rebels said they were trying to figure out who the gunmen were.

Al Ghozi is an Indonesian suspected in deadly bombing attacks in the Philippines. He escaped last month from a prison where he was serving a 12-year term for illegally possessing explosives, and is a confessed member of the Jemaah Islamiah extremist group, which authorities say has links to Al Qaeda.

Government representatives who met with rebels over the weekend said military operations were aimed at capturing Al Ghozi and were not an attack against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the front's spokesman, Eid Kabalu.

Kabalu said the front feared that some military officials want to undermine planned peace talks by accusing the guerrillas of giving refuge to Al Ghozi.
-----------

www.stratfor.com

1119 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lifted the state of rebellion decree on Aug. 11 due to the easing threat of another coup attempt. Under the decree, police had the authority to arrest
individuals without warrants. The details of the plot remain classified
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« Reply #47 on: August 13, 2003, 01:41:24 PM »

August 11, 2003    

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
Leader (Asia)
Philippine Police Allege Mistress
Of Estrada Backed Failed Coup
By JAMES HOOKWAY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine police filed a criminal complaint charging one of Joseph Estrada's mistresses with rebellion, bringing the investigation into last month's coup attempt closer to the former president.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina said at a news conference Saturday that after filing the complaint against former actress Laarni Enriquez Friday, his department is preparing a case against Mr. Estrada.

Besides filing a complaint with the Justice Department against Ms. Enriquez, 40 years old, police earlier arrested one of Mr. Estrada's senior aides, Ramon Cardenas, on a criminal complaint of rebellion. Last week, police also filed a complaint against a senator with a long history of plotting coups, Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan, saying he planned a coup d'etat to overthrow the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

 
The Justice Department will decide whether to prosecute the three, all of whom deny the allegations.

Mr. Lina and military-intelligence officials believe that Mr. Estrada, 66, also may have played a part in planning the coup attempt. Government officials say they thwarted the rebellion, in which nearly 300 soldiers seized a shopping complex in Manila's financial district on July 27 and held it for 20 hours before surrendering.

The mutiny revived fears about political instability in the Philippines, which endured a series of coup attempts in the late 1980s. Some government officials say the rebellion appears to reflect a simmering feud between Mr. Estrada and Ms. Arroyo.

Mr. Estrada was forced from office in 2001 after the armed forces threw their weight behind mass demonstrations against his presidency. Ms. Arroyo, who was vice president at the time and supported the uprising, was sworn in as his replacement. Mr. Estrada is currently detained in a military hospital and charged with corruption.

 
Former military-intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, who resigned shortly after the mutiny, says interrogations and documents found in the shopping complex show that if the coup succeeded, Mr. Estrada would have been reinstalled as president. After a few days, he would have been replaced by a 15-person military junta. Gen. Corpus also told a local radio station Friday that the plotters planned to kill Ms. Arroyo after storming the Manila presidential palace from the nearby Pasig river.

Ms. Enriquez, who has three children with Mr. Estrada, allegedly aided the renegade soldiers by providing them a safe house where they prepared their takeover of the Manila shopping complex. Police found ammunition, banners, backpacks and other equipment belonging to the mutineers at a condominium building Ms. Enriquez allegedly owns. Police also charged several other people in their complaint against Ms. Enriquez.

Ms. Enriquez's lawyer, Rufus Rodriguez, told a local radio station Friday that the charges brought against his client were "political harassment." Mr. Estrada has also repeatedly denied any involvement in the July 27 mutiny.

So far, 321 young officers and soldiers have been charged in the mutiny. Military officials say 45 officers and 108 soldiers have been recommended for separate courts-martial.

Mr. Estrada, a former movie star in the Philippines, though married has openly spoken in interviews about his large extended family comprising several mistresses and 11 children that he recognizes as his own.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@awsj.com
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« Reply #48 on: August 20, 2003, 12:28:11 PM »

From the Globe and Mail a Canadian news paper


http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20030820/COKLEIN20//?query=naomi+klein


-------------------------
Why aren't we shocked?
 
PARANOIA IN THE PHILIPPINES: Did the Philippine government bomb its own people to attract U.S. military might? Was the CIA involved? And why was there so little media coverage?

By NAOMI KLEIN
Wednesday, August 20, 2003 - Page A13

What does it take to become a major news story in the summer of Arnold and Kobe, Ben and Jen?

A lot, as a group of young Filipino soldiers discovered recently. On July 27, 300 soldiers rigged a giant Manila shopping mall with C-4 explosives, accused one of Washington's closest allies of blowing up its own buildings to attract U.S. military dollars -- and still barely managed to make the international news.

That's our loss, because in the wake of the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, and newly leaked intelligence reports claiming that the Sept. 11 attacks were hatched in Manila, it looks like Southeast Asia is about to become the next major front in Washington's war on terror. The Philippines and Indonesia may have missed the cut for the "Axis of Evil," but the two countries do offer Washington something Iran and North Korea do not: U.S.-friendly governments willing to help the Pentagon secure an easy win. Both Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri have embraced President George W. Bush's crusade as the perfect cover for their brutal cleansing of separatist movements from resource-rich regions -- Mindanao in the Philippines, Aceh in Indonesia.

The Philippine government has already reaped a bonanza from its status as Washington's favoured terror-fighting ally in Asia. U.S. military aid increased from $2-million (U.S.) in 2001 to $80-million a year, while U.S. soldiers and Special Forces flooded into Mindanao to launch offensives against Abu Sayyaf, a group that the White House claims has links to al-Qaeda.

This went on until mid-February, when the U.S.-Philippine alliance suffered a major setback. On the eve of a new joint military operation involving more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers, a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters that U.S. troops in the Philippines would "actively participate" in combat -- a deviation from the Arroyo administration's line that the soldiers were only conducting "trainings."

The difference is significant: A clause in the Philippine Constitution bans combat by foreign soldiers on its soil, a safeguard against a return of the sprawling U.S. military bases that were banished from the Philippines in 1992. The public outcry was so strong that the entire operation had to be called off, and future joint operations suspended.

In the six months since, while all eyes have been on Iraq, there has been a spike in terrorist bombings in Mindanao. Now, postmutiny, the question is: Who did it? The government blames the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The mutinous soldiers point the finger back at the military and the government, claiming that by inflating the terrorist threat, they are rebuilding the justification for more U.S. aid and intervention. Among the soldiers' claims:

that senior military officials, in collusion with the Arroyo regime, carried out last March's bombing of the airport in the southern city of Davao, as well as several other attacks. Thirty-eight people were killed in the bombings. The leader of the mutiny, Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, claims to have "hundreds" of witnesses who can testify to the plot;

that the army has fuelled terrorism in Mindanao by selling weapons and ammunition to the very rebel forces the young soldiers were sent to fight;

that members of the military and police helped prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes escape from jail. The "final validation," according to Lieut. Trillanes, was Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi's July 14 escape from a heavily guarded Manila prison. Mr. al-Ghozi is a notorious bomb-maker with Jemaah Islamiyah, which was linked to both the Bali and Marriott attacks;

that the government was on the verge of staging a new string of bombings to justify declaring martial law.

President Arroyo denies the allegations and accuses the soldiers of being pawns of her unscrupulous political opponents. The mutineers insist they were not trying to seize power but only wanted to expose a top-level conspiracy. When Ms. Arroyo promised to launch a full investigation into the allegations, the mutiny ended without violence.

Though the soldiers' tactics were widely condemned in the Philippines, there was widespread recognition in the press, and even inside the military, that their claims were "valid and legitimate," as retired Navy Captain Danilo Vizmanos put it to me.

Local newspaper reports described the army's selling of weapons to rebels as "an open secret" and "common knowledge." General Narciso Abaya, chief of staff of the Philippine armed forces, conceded that there is "graft and corruption at all levels." And police have admitted that Mr. al-Ghozi couldn't have escaped from his cell without help from someone on the inside. Most significant, Victor Corpus, chief of army intelligence, resigned, though he denies any role in the Davao bombings.

Besides, the soldiers were not the first to accuse the Philippine government of bombing its own people. Days before the mutiny, a coalition of church groups, lawyers and NGOs launched a "fact-finding mission" to investigate persistent rumours that the state was involved in the Davao explosions. It is also investigating the possible involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies.

These suspicions stem from a bizarre incident on May 16, 2002, in Davao. Michael Meiring, a U.S. citizen, allegedly detonated explosives in his hotel room, injuring himself badly. While recovering in the hospital, Mr. Meiring was whisked away by two men, who witnesses say identified themselves as FBI agents, and flown to the United States. Local officials have demanded that Mr. Meiring return to face charges, to little effect. BusinessWorld, a leading Philippine newspaper, has published articles openly accusing Mr. Meiring of being a CIA agent involved in covert operations "to justify the stationing of American troops and bases in Mindanao."

Yet the Meiring affair has never been reported in the U.S. press. And the mutinous soldiers' incredible allegations were no more than a one-day story. Maybe it just seemed too outlandish: an out-of-control government fanning the flames of terrorism to pump up its military budget, hold onto power and violate civil liberties.

Why would Americans be interested in something like that?

Naomi Klein, a columnist for The Globe and Mail, is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows. This article first appeared in The Nation.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #49 on: August 22, 2003, 02:31:27 PM »

Thank you for that contribution Black Grass.

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Item Number:12
Date: 08/20/2003
PHILIPPINES - REBELS ATTACK NAVAL BASE (AUG 20/ABS)

ABS-CBN TODAY -- A group of 60 New People's Army rebels raided the
Philippine naval headquarters in the town of Barangay Ungos in
Quezon province, reports ABC-CBN Today. The rebels killed two naval personnel and wounded five others. The sea was used to stage the attack and pull back, said a local police chief.

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Item Number:15
Date: 08/19/2003
PHILIPPINES - ABU SAYYAF PIRATES KILLED (AUG 19/MANILA)

MANILA TIMES -- A clash between Philippine units escorting a
commercial trawler and Abu Sayyaf militants in a gunboat left four
guerrillas dead, the Manila Times reports. Maj. Gen. Roy Kyamco said the Islamist guerrillas attacked the trawler on Friday off the coast of Zamboanga. The general said reports that Abu Sayyaf and other pirates were planning attacks on vessels in the area had led to increased patrols.
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