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Topic: Philippines (Read 18452 times)
November 01, 2006, 10:51:51 AM »
Philippines: The South's Rising Tensions
Philippine security officials put Manila on high alert Oct. 11 amid a surge of violence on the country's main southern island of Mindanao. Meanwhile, Philippine security forces are anticipating more attacks as tensions between the government and militants continue to escalate.
On Oct. 11, an improvised explosive device (IED) made from an 81mm mortar shell exploded outside a bank in Mindanao's North Cotabato province. It was the third blast among four IEDs planted in the area in two days. One IED was found earlier Oct. 11 and defused by authorities in nearby Makilala, the scene of a bombing the day before that killed at least 12 people during a festival celebrating the town's founding. That same day, another IED detonated in the predominantly Muslim province of Sultan Kudarat.
There also have been increased encounters between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and militants on Mindanao, including the Muslim groups Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People's Army (NPA). The same day of the festival bombing, troops of the army's 39th Infantry Brigade clashed with NPA fighters near Makilala. A skirmish between troops and the NPA's female fighters, the Amazonas, also occurred nearby Oct. 3. Four days later, 30 suspected NPA members disguised as Philippine military entered a construction site at Silay City International Airport in the central Philippines and destroyed equipment belonging to a contractor for a Japanese-South Korean venture. The attack reportedly was retaliation for the contractor's failure to pay "revolutionary taxes."
The MILF and Abu Sayyaf are supplemented by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al Qaeda-linked militant group that is believed to have about 30 to 40 members in the southern Philippines. According to sources on Mindanao, it is no secret that MILF camps also serve as training grounds for JI militants. Local JI members often are either former MILF members or current members with bombmaking expertise who are loaned out to JI for specific operations.
Philippine intelligence expects more militant attacks in central Mindanao, possibly in Kidapawan and Midsayap in North Cotabato province, Isulan and Marbel in Sultan Kudarat province and General Santos in South Cotabato province. Security forces in Zamboanga are on high alert in anticipation of attacks during a large Roman Catholic festival that peaks Oct. 12. Manila also is increasing security as a precaution against militant attacks during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit to be held in Cebu City in December.
Philippine authorities are variously blaming the MILF and Abu Sayyaf for the attacks. Some suggest they are the work of Abu Sayyaf in response to the recent capture of Istiada Binti Oemar Sovie, the wife of Dulmatin, one of Southeast Asia's most notorious terrorism suspects. Dulmatin allegedly is a JI operative who was instrumental in the October 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Dulmatin is believed to be in hiding in the Philippines on Jolo island, where he is sheltered by and working with Abu Sayyaf.
During a radio interview, North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol blamed the MILF for the bombing in Makilala, warning people in the province to be vigilant and ready to go to war if the need arises. MILF and the government are ostensibly engaged in peace talks, though the talks have stalled over the issue of ancestral domain. As the talks fizzle, both sides have been preparing for a renewal of fighting.
The AFP has sent swarms of soldiers to southern Mindanao in an effort to control the rising tide of violence, though the particularly brazen attack in Makilala will only serve to escalate the already-high tensions in the region.
Last Edit: November 01, 2006, 10:53:55 AM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #1 on:
January 08, 2007, 06:43:11 PM »
Philippines: Janjalani and the Future of Abu Sayyaf
The brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani said in an interview published Jan. 8 that Janjalani is alive, and that captured Abu Sayyaf members who revealed the location of Janjalani's purported burial site in December were only after the reward. Hector Janjalani also told ABS-CBN News he will not provide Philippine authorities with a DNA sample to check against that collected from the body. Janjalani is believed to have been mortally wounded in a Sept. 4, 2006, clash with Philippine troops on Jolo Island.
As one of the last remaining Abu Sayyaf leaders committed to the jihadist ideology, Janjalani is vital to the group's jihadist core, and his death would cause Abu Sayyaf to further devolve from a jihadist movement into a loosely knit criminal organization. Therefore, jihadists wanting to keep the remnants of the jihadist core united must continue to support the notion that Janjalani is alive.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced Dec. 27 that authorities, acting on a tip from captured Abu Sayyaf members, had recovered what they believed to be Janjalani's body from a burial site in a remote area about a mile and a half from the location of the Sept. 4 gunbattle. However, Hector Janjalani, who is in custody in New Bilibid Prison near Manila on a kidnapping charge, contends the Abu Sayyaf members provided the information in an effort to collect the $5 million reward. Hector also said a DNA test is unnecessary because his brother is alive. Indeed, Janjalani has been reported dead in the past, only to turn up alive later.
Since 2002, U.S. military aid has enabled the AFP to more aggressively pursue militants on Mindanao Island and the Sulu Archipelago, particularly Abu Sayyaf and elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Recent AFP efforts in the southern Philippines appear to have allowed troops to close in on both Janjalani and Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaker Dulmatin. The battle that could have resulted in Janjalani's death occurred during a major AFP offensive in the area. Intelligence gained from the capture of members of Dulmatin's family in the Sulu Archipelago by Philippine security forces in October 2006 could have led them closer to Janjalani.
As militant groups come under military pressure or lose their sources of funding, they often transform into groups more closely resembling criminal organizations. When a group is put under such pressure, some members who oppose any dialogue with the government often split into factions in order to carry on the fight or to continue supporting themselves through violent means. Such is the case with MILF since the group entered into a cease-fire with Manila in July 2003. Since then, factions of the group that have not adhered to the cease-fire have engaged Philippine troops in gunbattles and carried out small-scale attacks in Mindanao. Abu Sayyaf began to fracture after it became too large to control across Mindanao's rugged terrain, and groups using the Abu Sayyaf name began to embark on their own criminal enterprises.
Janjalani's death would likely mean the end of Abu Sayyaf as a militant jihadist organization -- though the threat in the southern Philippines would continue. Lacking a strong leader, the jihadists within the group could turn to criminal activity to sustain themselves, which could result in even more violence in the region.
Reply #2 on:
January 10, 2007, 04:29:27 PM »
PHILIPPINES: Three bombings within hours of each other occurred in the southern Philippines ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which begins Jan. 11. A bomb in a marketplace in the city of General Santos killed three people. About two and a half hours later, a second bomb detonated near a police outpost just after officers on duty left to patrol near Kidapawan, about 65 miles north of General Santos. The third bomb detonated in a dumping ground along a major street in Cotabato City, approximately 70 miles west of Kidapawan.
Reply #3 on:
January 10, 2007, 07:05:05 PM »
Second post of day:
Philippines: Regional Summit and Coincidental Bombings
Three bombings within hours of each other occurred in the southern Philippines on Jan. 10, on the eve of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on the central Philippine island of Cebu. Instead of being timed to disrupt the summit, the attacks were more likely related to the ongoing fight between the Philippine military and militants in the southern part of the country.
On the eve of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, hosted by the Philippines on Jan. 10-15 in Cebu City, three bombings occurred on the island of Mindanao, south of the conference site. Although several countries, including Canada, Australia and the United States, have warned against traveling to the Philippines during the summit, high security in Cebu City and increased military pressure on militants in the Philippines make an attack against the summit unlikely.
A bomb in a marketplace in General Santos City killed three people; then, less than three hours later, a second bomb detonated near a police outpost near Kidapawan City, about 65 miles north of General Santos City, after officers left to go on patrol. The third bomb detonated in a dumpsite along a major street in Cotabato City, approximately 70 miles west of Kidapawan.
Bombings are not unheard of in General Santos City, which is in a predominantly Muslim area of Mindanao. However, the General Santos bomb also could be related to a business dispute involving the operator of a lottery kiosk not paying up. Kidapawan and Cotabato often are hit by bombings carried out by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or Moro Islamic Liberation Front factions.
All three bombings occurred on Mindanao, which has a long history of militant activity. The ASEAN summit is being held on Cebu, an island to the north. Instead of being timed to disrupt the summit, the attacks were more likely coincidental. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other security forces have been very active against ASG and associated groups in the south in recent months, and the bombings could be an attempt by militants to retaliate or mark the beginning of a counteroffensive. Hours before the first bombing, Binang Sali, one of ASG's spiritual advisers and unit commanders, was killed in an encounter with Philippine troops near the town of Patikul, on Jolo Island.
The bombings also could be related to local politics. Rival political groups in the area -- Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, Muslim vs. Muslim -- have been known to use bombs and conduct drive-by shootings to settle issues.
Even if militants attempt to attack the ASEAN summit, it is unlikely such an attack would be very large, or close to the actual summit venue in Cebu City. Security will be tight around the main venues for the summit -- the new $11.2 million Cebu International Convention Center and the Shangri-la resort on nearby Mactan Island. Because the resort, where high-level meetings are set to take place, is on an island, access to that venue is carefully controlled. A total of 12,000 Philippine soldiers and police are guarding the summit, and the airspace above it has been declared a no-fly zone, although it is unclear whether the Philippine air force would be able to identify or intercept hostile aircraft.
With the AFP ratcheting up the pressure on militants on Mindanao, especially the ASG, militant groups are less able to organize and carry out an attack against the summit. Encounters between militants and AFP troops occur nearly every day in the region, and several militants have been captured or killed in recent weeks. Though the ASEAN summit might be an attractive target to militant groups operating in the Philippines, such groups are unlikely to disrupt it with a significant attack.
Reply #4 on:
April 19, 2007, 10:37:39 PM »
The religion of piece (of your head) strikes again...
JOLO, Philippines (Reuters) - Muslim extremists decapitated seven men they were holding hostage on the southern Philippine island of Jolo and sent the heads in sacks to two army detachments, the military said on Thursday.
"This is a terrorist act that should be condemned by all," Major-General Ruben Rafael, commander of military forces on Jolo, said.
Earlier, Rafael said his soldiers had discovered the headless bodies of six men close to Parang town, where they had been kidnapped on Monday by the Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines' deadliest Muslim rebel group.
A seventh man was kidnapped in the area earlier that day.
Rafael said Abu Sayyaf may have beheaded the men in retaliation for the military killing over 70 of its members, including two top leaders, in an eight-month ground offensive backed by U.S. advisers and equipment.
The Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety around five years ago when they captured and beheaded tourists and church workers, and its members still kidnap people for ransom to raise funds. They decapitated the son of a wealthy trader last year.
This week, the group had demanded a 5 million peso ($105,000) payment for the release of six of the men, who were working on a government road project and taken at gunpoint from their truck.
The Philippines has poured over 8,000 troops onto Jolo to flush out the Abu Sayyaf and members of regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah who use the island's remote mountains to train and plot.
The Abu Sayyaf, with an estimated force of around 400 fighters, carried out the Philippines' worst terrorist attack, the bombing of a ferry near Manila in 2004 that killed over 100 people.
Reply #5 on:
July 31, 2007, 11:42:17 PM »
Good News from The Home of Our Art.
The southern Philippines' uneasy truce
By Adrian Addison
Father Bossi was seized by armed men on his way to church
Father Giancarlo Bossi, an Italian priest, was kidnapped more than a month ago in his parish in the volatile southern Philippines.
He was a quiet man who had lived in the Philippines for more than a decade, and had, colleagues say, a deep love and understanding of the local people.
The Philippine military has been searching for him since his disappearance, as has the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has signed a truce with the government.
But on Tuesday, the two heavily armed groups met each other, with devastating consequences.
Fourteen marines were killed as they searched for the priest in a place called Tipo Tipo, on the small island of Basilan, near the island of Mindanao. Ten of them were beheaded.
At least four rebels were also killed, with some reports claiming as many as 20 rebels lost their lives.
The military insists that the marines were ambushed by the MILF, and claims that the group was joined by members of Abu Sayyaf, a small extremist rebel group allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.
The beheadings point to Abu Sayyaf's involvement, as this is something the group has been known for in the past.
The marines were heavily outnumbered by rebels
But Mohagher Iqbal, a spokesman for the MILF, said that Abu Sayyaf rebels were not present during Wednesday's clash.
"We have no links to Abu Sayyaf, this is simply not true," he said.
"The battle was a legitimate fight... We acted in self-defence. [The marines] were in a territory that belongs to us, a place where they should not have been.
"We have an agreement whereby they are supposed to tell us of mass troop movements. They did not do this."
While admitting that his men were responsible for the deaths of the marines, he denied that his group had beheaded them.
"It is against Islam and it is against the Geneva Convention. It is an atrocity, a violation. We do not mutilate the enemy," he said.
"We are investigating, but it may well be that the beheadings were carried out by civilians - there are many people who hate the military and have their own legitimate grievances."
The military have no doubt as to who decapitated the marines.
"It was the MILF or groups linked to them," said Major Eugene Batara from his base in southern Mindanao.
There has been an uneasy truce since 2003 between the MILF and the military - bringing a tentative end to a decades-long separatist struggle.
But in reality there are frequent skirmishes between the military and various rebel groups in the restive south, and the truce with the MILF is still shaky.
These are the hazards of the trade as far as members of the security forces are concerned
The government in Manila, it seems, is not overly concerned about how this latest incident will affect the peace process.
"These are the hazards of the trade as far as members of the security forces are concerned," executive-secretary Eduardo Ermita told a press conference in Manila.
"Still, we are saddened by the incident and we commiserate with the families of these soldiers," he said.
Conflict resolution experts in Manila say that the beheading of the soldiers is clearly a cause for concern, but it is not a deal-breaker.
"Although these sort of events are very bad and beheadings strike fear and disgust in peoples hearts, I think the peace process is proving to be very robust," said Willy Torres, a Manila-based conflict management expert on Mindanao for the Asia Foundation.
"I am confident it is not enough to de-rail the peace process. Lots of civil society groups and those involved really want this process to continue. There is a real will there."
Members of the MILF and the Philippine military already talk regularly, and have formed a body to implement the ceasefire, the Co-ordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH).
They also put together an ad-hoc committee last month to help find Father Bossi, but its remit has already expired.
"More talks are planned between the government and the MILF, it is just a question of when they will be held," Mr Torres says.
Peace, Love and PitBulls
Violence. It may not be the answer, But it sure cuts down on the questions!
Mindanao's Rising Tensions
Reply #6 on:
August 04, 2007, 12:36:11 PM »
Philippines: Mindanao's Rising Tensions
Two improvised explosive devices exploded at a bus terminal in Koronadal City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Aug. 3, killing one person and wounding seven. South Cotabato province's police chief said the bombing followed an extortion attempt by a group calling itself al-Khobar. This latest attack will only add to the already high tensions on Mindanao resulting from the beheading of 10 Philippine marines in July.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in fact, has been threatening to launch an all-out offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- the militant group it holds partly responsible for the marines' deaths -- though the operation has been put on hold because of pressure from the World Bank and multinational corporations operating in Mindanao. The possibility for an escalation in violence remains, however, as the enraged marines are unlikely to be satisfied with the small concessions MILF has made to atone for the attack, which also resulted in the shooting deaths of four other marines.
Bombings are fairly common on Mindanao, and usually are related to crime rather than militancy. Many of the militant attacks are blamed on several rogue factions that split off from MILF in protest of the group's entrance into peace talks with the Philippine government. These smaller groups, which use extortion and kidnapping for ransom as primary means of funding, operate in Mindanao's remote villages and small towns, where the group's leadership cannot exercise control over them. The Communist New People's Army and the militant Islamist Abu Sayyaf group also use kidnapping and extortion to fund themselves.
The July 10 battle that ended with the beheadings started when hundreds of MILF fighters ambushed a marine contingent as it searched for a kidnapped Italian priest in MILF territory on the island of Basilan. The priest, who had been kidnapped a month earlier from the town of Payao on Mindanao, was released near Karamutan municipality on Mindanao nine days after the ambush.
After the beheadings, the AFP demanded that the MILF surrender those responsible or else face an all-out offensive. MILF acknowledged initiating the ambush, but said the marines were in its territory in violation of a cease-fire agreement with Manila. The AFP contends the beheadings were carried out by both MILF and Abu Sayyaf members.
The Philippine government put the offensive on hold in response to threats by the World Bank and foreign contractors -- mainly Japanese and Canadian nongovernmental organizations working on infrastructure and development projects on Mindanao -- to suspend aid projects if violence escalates. There are fears that if the AFP initiates a major offensive against MILF, elements of the group will retaliate with attacks against soft targets on Mindanao.
In an effort to prevent more fighting, MILF has turned over a few fighters suspected of participating in the ambush. Also, on Aug. 3, two suspects from Abu Sayyaf surrendered to authorities, bringing a rifle they said was taken from one of the dead marines. These small gestures, however, are unlikely to satisfy the AFP, which has issued about 130 arrest warrants for rebels suspected to have been involved in the beheadings. Because MILF has split into so many different factions, the main group's leadership, which apparently is attempting to work with the government, is unlikely to be able to deliver the suspects.
The AFP, particularly the marines, undoubtedly is champing at the bit to retaliate against MILF for the gruesome attack. Meanwhile, many of Mindanao's Christian inhabitants also are urging the government to take a stronger stance against MILF. If MILF fails to deliver a good portion of the suspects, Manila could accede to the military demand for action and approve a major offensive -- something it has done in the past when the group has dragged its feet on issues important to the government. Severe military action, in fact, could spur the MILF leadership to make more serious efforts to rein in its various splinter factions.
Last Edit: August 04, 2007, 12:37:52 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #7 on:
August 11, 2007, 01:10:37 AM »
Philippines: 57 Killed In Troop/Rebel Clash
August 10, 2007 20 05 GMT
Twenty-six soldiers and 31 rebels were killed Aug. 10 in a clash on Jolo Island in the southern Philippines, military officials said. Fighting broke out when militants from Abu Sayyaf and the Moro National Liberation Front ambushed troops, the officials said. Troops have been deployed to the area since the early July killings of 14 soldiers on Basilan Island.
So that's where it is!
Reply #8 on:
August 12, 2007, 07:15:54 AM »
I just stumbled across the previous Philippines thread on the MA forum. Given the existence of this thread, it would be confusing to move it over here to the P&R forum at this point, but for those of you who like to sometimes go back and read things on a given subject that were posted over a period of time (which can be a really interesting thing to do) can do so at
Reply #9 on:
August 13, 2007, 05:33:15 PM »
Philippine army in new offensive
The Philippine army has been burying its dead
The Philippine military has launched a full offensive against Islamic militants in the south, President Gloria Arroyo has announced.
Ms Arroyo said the assault, on Jolo island in Sulu province, was directed against "terrorist cells".
The army headquarters was temporarily moved to the south at the weekend to boost efforts to target the militants.
The move follows clashes between troops and militants in Jolo last week, that left 50 dead, including 25 soldiers.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) - which signed a peace deal with the government in 1996 - claimed responsibility for last Thursday's ambush, saying it was in retaliation for earlier army offensives.
But military officials have also blamed Abu Sayyaf, the smallest and most radical of the southern militant groups, which is accused of being behind some of the country's worst atrocities.
"As I speak, government forces are in full offensives against terrorist cells in Sulu," Ms Arroyo told a meeting of business leaders in Manila.
She did not spell out what terrorist cells she was referring to, but analysts say the term is normally used to describe Abu Sayyaf, which is accused by the US of having links to al-Qaeda and the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah.
Guide to Philippines conflict
Ms Arroyo also made it clear that she had ordered the military not to do anything that threatened peace agreements already in place.
The government and the MNLF are due to meet for peace talks in Indonesia later this month.
Another militant group engaged in peace efforts with the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), admitted involvement in clashes on Basilan island last month, in which 14 marines were killed, 10 of whom were beheaded.
The MILF accused the military of breaking the truce by moving into its territory, but denied being behind the beheadings.
An extra 1,000 soldiers have been deployed to Jolo to join the 4,000 troops already stationed there following last week's fighting.
In an unprecedented step, Ms Arroyo said the army headquarters would temporarily move to the city of Zamboanga on Mindanao island, close to the flashpoint islands of Jolo and Basilan, to boost the offensive.
Government troops, backed by US military trainers, have been hunting militants in the region's mountainous terrain for months, but last week saw some of the worst fighting so far.
Thousands of civilians in Jolo have since fled their homes, and officials have appealed for food, water and medicines as people gather in community centres and schools.
Peace, Love and PitBulls
Violence. It may not be the answer, But it sure cuts down on the questions!
Reply #10 on:
October 26, 2007, 02:57:00 PM »
Philippines: The Mall Bombing Controversy
The mayor of Makati City, the Philippines, called Oct. 25 for an independent investigation into the Oct. 19 explosion at the Glorietta 2 mall in Metro Manila. He cited conflicting reports from Philippine National Police (PNP) investigators and their superiors as to the cause of the blast, which left 11 people dead and more than 100 wounded.
Since the explosion, conflicting explanations of the blast have been reported in the media. The day after the bombing, police reported that investigators at the scene had found traces of RDX, a chemical component of the explosive C-4. Several days later, on Oct. 24, the chief of the PNP announced that the blast was caused by an accidental buildup of methane gas and diesel fumes in the mall's basement. That same day, a group of investigators hired by the mall's owners reported that conditions in the basement were inconsistent with an accidental explosion, citing a lack of evidence about the buildup of explosive gases. The timing of the explosion -- at lunch time when the mall was crowded with shoppers and diners -- is also suspicious.
One of the most compelling arguments that the explosion was not accidental is the continued involvement of investigators from the FBI and other U.S. agencies. When explosions such as this one occur, law enforcement agents attached to the U.S. Embassy typically assist the local police with the investigation. The resources available at the embassy in Manila include explosives field-test kits and experienced investigators and intelligence personnel from the FBI, CIA, State Department, Defense Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The FBI also sent in a team from Washington, something it would not have done if it was certain of an accidental gas explosion.
Given these capabilities, U.S. investigators would have been able to determine within the first few days whether the explosion was accidental or intentional. Five days after the blast, a PNP spokesman described the FBI investigation at the scene as ongoing, suggesting investigators have found evidence of foul play.
The lack of a bomb crater at the scene has been cited by many as the primary reason to suspect that no bomb was used. A report released Oct. 24 by U.S. government investigators said the blast likely originated in the basement, and although it did not rule out the possibility of a bomb, it said all signs point to a gas explosion. Physical evidence at the crime scene suggests that a diesel tank was the most probable source of the blast. However, this evidence says nothing about whether the explosion was intentional or accidental.
On May 24, 2000, a small bomb exploded at the same mall, killing one person and wounding 14. Islamist militants were accused of the attack, though the incident was also explained as a business dispute or criminal act. There are several likely suspects in this latest incident; the Abu Sayyaf-linked Rajah Solaiman Movement claimed responsibility several days after the blast, though officials continue to examine that claim.
Philippine politics are very contentious, and there are a host of reasons why different elements of the government would disagree on the cause of the blast. Indecision on the part of the Philippine government about the blast is a typical example of the factional infighting that commonly occurs. Since the mall had previously been targeted by militants, security forces have an interest in not appearing incapable of implementing an effective security program.
The continued presence of U.S. investigators suggests there is more to this explosion than a simple accidental ignition of gases. The government disagreements about the incident are likely to continue, even if the police or the United States are able to provide a convincing report about the real cause.
Reply #11 on:
February 29, 2008, 01:08:44 PM »
Ex-presidents at Philippine rally
Thousands of people have joined a protest in the Philippine capital, Manila, to demand the resignation of President Gloria Arroyo.
The protesters want her to step down over corruption claims surrounding her husband and an ally's involvement in a government deal with a Chinese firm.
Both men deny the allegations and the deal has been cancelled.
Former presidents Joseph Estrada and Corazon Aquino joined the demonstration as security forces went on high alert.
Ms Aquino, 75, once a staunch ally of President Arroyo, climbed on a stage to address the crowd, which police estimated to be 15,000-strong, although organisers said there were more.
"I thought my work was done because I am already old," she said. "But this is what the times ask for, for us to unite so that the deceit will end and we will find out the truth.
"Thankfully there are still many of us shouting, Gloria, enough, resign already."
Mr Estrada, pardoned by President Arroyo last year after being sentenced to life in prison for corruption, joined his former rival on stage.
Correspondents say it was the largest demonstration against the president since the allegations emerged weeks ago.
The corruption row relates to a multi-million dollar deal for a government broadband network and claims Ms Arroyo's husband and an ally sought illegal payments.
Ms Arroyo cancelled the deal because of the claims, which were being investigated by the Senate.
Peace, Love and PitBulls
Violence. It may not be the answer, But it sure cuts down on the questions!
Reply #12 on:
March 21, 2008, 01:31:51 PM »
Filipinos warned on crucifixions
By Frances Harrison
Religious affairs reporter, BBC News
Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals.
They have urged them to get tetanus vaccinations before they flagellate themselves and are nailed to crosses, and to practise good hygiene.
On Good Friday dozens of very devout Catholics in the Philippines re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
It is something that has become a huge tourist attraction, although the Church frowns on the practice.
The health department has strongly advised penitents to check the condition of the whips they plan to use to lash their backs, the Manila Times newspaper reports.
They want people to have what they call "well-maintained" whips.
In the hot and dusty atmosphere, officials warn, using unhygienic whips to make deep cuts in the body could lead to tetanus and other infections.
And they advise that the nails used to fix people to crosses must be properly disinfected first. Often people soak the nails in alcohol throughout the year.
Every Good Friday, in towns across the Philippines, people atone for sins or give thanks for an answered prayer by re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In the northern city of San Fernando alone there will be three separate improvised Golgothas - the biblical name for the hill where Jesus was crucified.
Four people there have pledged to have their feet and hands nailed to wooden crosses, while others will flog themselves while walking barefoot through villages.
Sometimes people repeat the penance year after year, like the fish vendor who will be nailed to the cross for the 15th and last time on Friday to give thanks for his mother's recovery from tuberculosis.
With long hair and a beard, wearing sandals and a crown of thorns, he is tied with cloth to the cross but also has nails driven through the flesh of his hands and feet, avoiding the bones.
Peace, Love and PitBulls
Violence. It may not be the answer, But it sure cuts down on the questions!
c - Shadow Dog
Reply #13 on:
February 23, 2009, 10:03:01 PM »
CNN) -- More than 60 years after reneging on a promise to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who fought for the United States during World War II, the U.S. government will soon be sending out checks -- to the few who are still alive.
Veteran Franco Arcebal says, "we are loyal to the United States, except that the United States has forgotten us."
"For a poor man like me, $15,000 is a lot of money," said 91-year-old Celestino Almeda.
Still, he said, "After what we have suffered, what we have contributed for the sake of democracy, it's peanuts. It's a drop in the bucket."
During the war, the Philippines was a U.S. commonwealth. The U.S. military promised full veterans benefits to Filipinos who volunteered to fight. More than 250,000 joined.
Then, in 1946, President Truman signed the Rescission Act, taking that promise away.
Today, only about about 15,000 of those troops are still alive, according to the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans. A provision tucked inside the stimulus bill that President Obama signed calls for releasing $198 million that was appropriated last year for those veterans. Those who have become U.S. citizens get $15,000 each; non-citizens get $9,000.
"I'm very thankful," said Patrick Ganio, 88, the coalition's president. "We Filipinos are a grateful people."
Ganio was among the tens of thousands of Filipinos at the infamous battle of Bataan, a peninsula on Manila Bay opposite the Philippine capital. He was captured and beaten by Japanese troops before ultimately being freed, suffering from malaria and then resuming his service to the U.S. military.
Obama fires up House Democrats for stimulus bill
"The record of the Philippine soldiers for bravery and loyalty is second to none," Truman wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate in 1946. "Their assignment was as bloody and difficult as any in which our American soldiers engaged. Under desperate circumstances they acquitted themselves nobly."
Though Truman said the Rescission Act resulted in "discrimination," he signed it.
"There can be no question but that the Philippine veteran is entitled to benefits bearing a reasonable relation to those received by the America veteran, with whom he fought side by side," he said. "From a practical point of view, however, it must be acknowledged that certain benefits granted by the GI bill of rights cannot be applied in the case of the Philippine veteran."
Some historians say financial concerns were paramount: The cost of funding full veterans benefits to all those Filipinos, particularly in the wake of the costly war, would have been a heavy burden.
The National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity offers a different explanation. "In 1946, discrimination against people of color was the rule of law," the group says in a document it submitted to the Obama-Biden transition team in November.
"The second-class treatment of Filipino World War II veterans is another example from this historical period."
For decades, Filipino activists and their supporters have fought for the full benefits. They've petitioned and picketed. Almeda, a widower who now lives in Virginia with his daughter, once chained himself to the fence outside the White House.
"I was fined $50 for civil disobedience and was arrested," he says now, chuckling. He says he was just looking for answers.
Despite encouraging words from U.S. presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the benefits were never restored.
"Only 70,000 Philippine veterans remain alive, and they hope to stay alive long enough to see those benefits reinstated," CNN reported in 1997. "There's a bill, stuck in committee in Congress, that would do just that."
That effort, just like so many before, fell apart.
"We were loyal to the United States. Even up to now, we are loyal to the United States, except that the United States has forgotten us in many ways," said Franco Arcebal, another leader of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans. "It's only now, because of the insistence of Sen. [Daniel] Inouye in the Senate, he was able to act on this."
Inouye, D-Hawaii, inserted the language in the stimulus bill, calling it "a matter of honor."
The honor comes too late for the many Filipino veterans who passed away waiting for this moment. Families of deceased veterans are not eligible to receive the money.
For those who are alive, the checks could make a real difference.
"Practically all of us are below the poverty line now at this age. We have no way of earning a living," Arcebal said.
But, he emphasized, "it does not correct the injustice and discrimination done to us 60 years ago. ... We were not granted school benefits. We were not granted hospital benefits. ... And in the 60 years, several billion dollars were saved by the U.S. government for not paying 250,000 of us.
"Now we are only 15,000. And the amount that they're giving us is a small amount. But we appreciate that. Because it will finally recognize our services ... as active service in the armed forces of the United States."
Reply #14 on:
February 23, 2009, 11:11:10 PM »
Glad to see you post this one Terry. America has been long, long overdue.
Michael Yon in the Philippines
Reply #15 on:
June 05, 2009, 07:20:16 AM »
How do you say "reset button" in Tagalog?
Reply #16 on:
September 26, 2010, 01:42:26 PM »
MANILA, Philippines – The U.S. government said Sunday it made an "honest mistake" when it displayed an inverted Philippine flag — which wrongfully signified that the Southeast Asian nation was in a state of war — in a meeting hosted by President Barack Obama.
The Philippine flag was displayed upside down behind President Benigno Aquino III when leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met Obama in New York on Friday.
"This was an honest mistake," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said in a statement, adding, "the U.S. treasures its close relationship and close partnership with the Philippines."
The American embassy will find out how the "unfortunate" incident happened, she said.
Stratfor: Closer ties with US? (China)
Reply #17 on:
September 29, 2010, 01:21:37 PM »
The recent trip by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to the United States offered several hints on Manila’s foreign policy plans, namely, its desire to balance China and the United States off each other, and expand economic and political cooperation with Washington while avoiding a direct confrontation with Beijing.
Newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino III arrived back in Manila on Sept. 20 following his weeklong visit to the United States, his first official foreign trip as president. During his visit, Aquino attended various business conferences, the U.N. General Assembly summit, the second U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meeting, and held a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Since his inauguration in late June, Aquino has not provided many clues on his foreign policy intentions. However, evidence from the trip suggests that his preferred course may be to expand ties with the United States while being careful to avoid directly confronting China, and play both powers off one another. With Washington looking to re-engage in the Asia-Pacific region, Manila may find an eager partner on its economic development plans, a priority after years of underperformance.
Aquino was accompanied on his trip by dozens of top Philippine business leaders seeking investment from multinational corporations under the auspices of the Public-Private Partnership initiative heavily promoted by the new government. The United States is atop the list of countries where Manila has sought this investment, and according to Aquino, the trip has yielded $2.4 billion from various global giants, including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and JPMorgan Chase, and secured more than 43,000 new jobs that will be established over the next three years. Aquino also witnessed the signing of a $434 million grant through the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) antipoverty initiative.
Aside from the business deals, the trip has indicated Manila’s foreign policy inclinations in multiple ways. One highly contentious issue at the U.S.-ASEAN summit was the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, in which countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and China all stake claims over various islands. The United States has increased its involvement in these disputes as part of its Asia-Pacific re-engagement plan, pushing for free navigation in the waters and taking the side of ASEAN nations against China, which has become more assertive on its claims. While ASEAN claimants do not oppose (and to some extent encourage) U.S. involvement when it could improve their position in dealing with China, most do not want such involvement to become so obtrusive as to spark a confrontation with Beijing.
Until this point, Aquino’s administration has declined to request U.S. assistance in territorial disputes, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo emphasizing that the issue is “a matter between ASEAN and China,” and Philippine defense officials reiterating during U.S. Pacific Command chief Robert Willard’s visit to the country that the Philippines has no desire for a territorial confrontation. This appears to have changed recently, as the Philippines has shown more aggressiveness on the disputed Spratly islands, which several other countries also claim. The Philippine government announced a plan Sept. 14 to repair and upgrade its military outposts, including the airport and other facilities in the Spratlys and said four government ministers would soon visit, a move criticized by China.
In another example of increased aggressiveness, the draft of a joint declaration prepared by the United States and the Philippines for the Sept. 24 U.S.-ASEAN summit in New York originally intended to address the South China Sea and reassert the principles of a nonviolent dispute resolution enshrined in the 2002 China-ASEAN code of conduct agreement. The explicit mention of the South China Sea was stricken from the final statement after consultation with other ASEAN member states concerned about offending China, but Aquino appeared to be undeterred, telling the Council on Foreign Relations that ASEAN members should respond as a bloc if China attempts to dictate the future of the South China Sea.
Though it may be unrelated, it is worth noting that the Aquino administration’s newfound assertiveness coincided with a strain in Sino-Philippine relations over the fallout from a hostage crisis that left eight Chinese tourists dead in Manila. Beijing initially exerted substantial pressure on the Aquino government to investigate the incidents but then backed off, perhaps to avoid pushing Manila closer to Washington ahead of the just-concluded trip by Aquino. The language in the original ASEAN draft resolution would appear to prove these fears well founded, but the eventual acquiescence to tone down the resolution by omitting reference to the South China Sea may indicate Manila is not willing to risk a direct confrontation with Beijing at this point.
Using the United States to balance against Beijing in the near term as well as deeper and more long-lasting security concerns about territorial disputes appear to have affected Aquino’s decision on reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) — a legal framework for U.S. soldiers stationed in the Philippines. Aquino was expected to raise the issue in his meeting with Obama, but reports have indicated he declined to discuss it, likely fearing it could jeopardize his country’s entreaties to the United States. Instead, he discussed possible joint removal of war materials on Corregidor Island left from World War II.
While this suggests the new government appeared to be on the track of improving the relations with Washington, it is being careful to avoid directly challenging Beijing. Despite the recent strain in relations, Aquino while in New York expressed a wish to see Chinese leaders, Beijing has offered an invitation to Aquino for a visit, and the Philippines has several investment deals planned with China as well. Ultimately, Manila’s goal for years has been to avoid relying on one single power. Maintaining good relations with both powers enabled the Philippines to balance the United States and China off each other. Particularly since the new government places economic rebuilding as the country’s primary goal, cash-rich China could play an important role in the process.
Read more: The Philippine Push for Closer Ties with Washington | STRATFOR
Stratfor: China-Philippines agreement coming soon?
Reply #18 on:
December 08, 2010, 10:40:11 AM »
High-level meetings between Philippine and Chinese military officials beginning Dec. 7 are expected to culminate in the signing of a bilateral military logistics agreement to aid the Armed Forces of the Philippines. As the U.S.-Philippine military relationship cools, China sees an opportunity to gain a foothold in the country as it aggressively pushes toward its Southeast Asian periphery. Manila, meanwhile, sees U.S.-Chinese military competition as a way to maneuver its relationship with both countries for its own benefit.
The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gen. Ricardo David Jr., flew to Beijing on Dec. 7 for a five-day visit to meet with officials from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and sign a military logistics agreement. Details of the agreement were not disclosed, but an AFP spokesman described it as a possible starting point for increased military ties between Beijing and Manila that would have a substantial benefit for the AFP’s 130,000 troops.
The AFP is one of Asia’s weakest military forces, according to a 2007 report by the Jamestown Foundation, despite being one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid (and the oldest U.S. ally) in the Pacific region. Currently, its military force is unable to fully defend against internal threats to the country, let alone handle external security challenges such as control of its many islands and sea-lanes. Thus, the deal would both help the AFP to diversify its sources of military funding and send a message to Washington that Manila has other options for such aid. The anticipated deal is the latest manifestation of the Philippine government’s recent strategy to leverage military assistance from other countries, particularly China and the United States as the two compete for military influence in the region.
The Philippines established defense relations with the United States during the U.S. colonial period from 1898-1946, and these defense relations were enshrined after World War II by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The Philippines occupied a strategic location to U.S. interests in the Pacific. Until November 1992, the United States maintained and operated military facilities at Clark Air Base, Subic Bay Naval Complex and several other subsidiary installations in the country. The United States closed these facilities in 1992, but U.S. forces returned seven years later through the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a bilateral agreement deal that allows U.S. soldiers to be stationed on Philippine soil.
Washington has considerably stepped up its military assistance to the country since the Sept. 11 attacks, viewing it as a frontline for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that the United States has donated more than $500 million-worth of military equipment and supplies since then and provided a vital deterrence capability against potential external threats. However, AFP’s heavy reliance on aid and second-hand weapons systems — including aircraft, patrol boats and small arms from the United States — to equip, train and deploy its forces, means the country still lacks the resources to deal with its security threats.
As the country shifted its focus primarily to internal security threats, particularly from various Islamist separatist groups, namely the Abu Sayyaf Group and Moro Islamist Liberation Front in the southern islands, and the communist group the New People’s Army, an urgent request was made to upgrade Philippine defense capability. The country initiated a military modernization program in 1992, which in 1995 became the AFP Modernization Act. The law aimed to upgrade AFP enough to be able to safeguard the country’s territory and assist government agencies in socio-economic development, but this modernization plan made no substantial gains in the ensuing decade. After newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino III took office, the modernization plan was again placed as the top military priority, and China has become a potential alternative to the United States in this endeavor.
Opportunities began emerging for China soon after U.S.-Philippine military relations hit a high point after Aquino returned from a trip to the United States in September and brought back billions of dollars in aid and investment opportunities. In October, Manila began reviewing the VFA. Washington has repeatedly emphasized the deal’s importance, pointing out long-standing military and security assistance to the Philippines. However, Manila argues that the United States has failed in its VFA-mandated obligation to help modernize the AFP and that more aid is needed. Bilateral ties also were strained when the White House released a travel advisory warning of potential terrorism in Manila, which the Philippine government interpreted as retaliation for the VFA review.
Seeing the opening, Beijing stepped up ties with the Philippines, with Chinese Ambassador Liu Jianchao meeting with senior Philippine defense officials on Nov. 11 to deliver 172 million Philippine pesos-worth ($3.95 million) of heavy equipment to the AFP. China’s “military” aid consists of a small consignment of heavy construction equipment — neither the military hardware the Philippines needs for its counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts nor anything approaching the scale of U.S. aid — but the delivery reflects Beijing’s growing efforts to get a foothold in the country. Along these lines, China has since 2007 offered to sell eight Harbin Z-9 utility helicopters to the Philippines to replace the country’s aging Bell UH-1H helicopters, as well as other modern armaments. It is not clear whether those arms would be included in the deal to be signed by David, but it would be an important indicator to measure any substantial progress in Chinese military assistance to the country.
In the past decade, China has become a major investor in Philippine infrastructure, energy and agriculture and has stepped up its influence on the political and military front. China recognizes U.S. dominance in this sphere, however, and its attempts to gain ground remain cautious to avoid a direct challenge to Washington. However, China may be shifting that behavior to move more aggressively to secure relationships in its periphery, both diplomatically and militarily, since it feels greater pressure from the United States and wants to establish tangible ties to dissuade neighbors from working against China and increase the costs if they choose to do so. Since Manila is the formal U.S. mutual defense treaty ally in the region, the potential for Chinese military influence is somewhat limited, but for the same reason the gains China makes in drawing the Philippines closer are all the more valuable.
Ultimately, the Philippines will remain a close U.S. ally and within the U.S. sphere of influence in the region, but from Manila’s point of view, the renewed U.S. interest in the region, in part to counterbalance China’s growing power, has provided the country room to maneuver its relations with the two powers for its own benefit. Nevertheless, it has to carefully manage these relations to avoid a bold challenge to either side or getting caught in the middle of a brawl between the two giants.
Constitutional Showdown in the Philippines
Reply #19 on:
December 17, 2011, 11:53:48 AM »
This is pretty interesting. The article makes clear comparison of the situation today in the Philippines to the "Court Packing Plan" in the U.S. under FDR.
Govt commits to offensive in addition to peace efforts
Reply #20 on:
March 07, 2015, 09:24:49 AM »
On Jan. 25, the Philippine National Police Special Action Force launched an operation into autonomous militant-controlled territory in the municipality of Mamasapano on the island of Mindanao to capture two terrorist targets: Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, known as Marwan, and Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman. As they extracted, the police became locked in an exchange of fire with two rebel groups — the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as well as a unit from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. By the end of the fight, 44 police commandos lay dead. The incident came at a sensitive time for Manila, as it nears the end of a peace process with Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders following the signing of a landmark agreement in March 2014, a deal that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters oppose.
Following the massacre, the Philippine military's western Mindanao command and Philippine National Police Special Action Force commandos launched a joint operation against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters positions in Magundanao and North Cotabato, commencing Feb. 20. Simultaneously, Moro Islamic Liberation Front units in the area launched an assault of their own against Bangsamoro positions. The Liberation Front leadership insisted their fighters' role in the earlier massacre was the result of a miscommunication.
The impact of the massacre and the ongoing assault against the Islamic Freedom Fighters can be seen at the national level. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's term ends in May 2016, and the peace deal is key to his legacy. The Aquino administration hoped it would be able to pass key legislation in early 2015 before campaign season gets into full swing and complicates the politics of the issue. But this has not happened yet. The current fighting jeopardizes Aquino's current timeframe for a peace deal that hinges on a legal amendment, but it does not jeopardize Manila's overall strategy to cut away at the Philippines' insurgency piece by piece.
Editor's Note: The following piece was first published in September 2014 and contains key analysis relevant to recent developments.
Peace is not imminent in the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, but government efforts to stabilize the archipelagic region took a major step forward this week. On Sept. 10, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III submitted to Congress a draft law creating a new autonomous government for the southern region, to be known as Bangsamoro, ending a tense three-month period of deliberations with rebel negotiators over the law's finer details. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is the product of nearly two decades of violence-marred negotiations between the government and Moro rebels. It aims to address some of the underlying drivers of the violence by giving the region a greater share of resource and tax revenues, in addition to a largely independent parliament, police force and civil judiciary.
The draft still faces steep legislative and political hurdles, as well as lingering questions about its compliance with the Philippine Constitution. Even if fully implemented, the law wouldn't completely pacify the restive region, which is home to numerous other militant groups, clan-based blood feuds and entrenched criminal networks that will continue to deter the development of the region's vast economic potential. Nonetheless, mounting economic and political incentives, a decline in militant capabilities, and Manila's fundamental geopolitical imperatives will continue to generate momentum for a solution.
The peace process in Muslim Mindanao has been lurching forward for decades, despite routine disruptions by rebels seeking to gain leverage in negotiations or derail them altogether, as well as political and judicial complications. By hammering out an agreement on the law's most contentious details with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front — the strongest group and the one most capable of governing the region — Manila hopes that the peace process can finally move beyond negotiations, reducing the ability of holdout militants to influence the shape of the deal through violence. The primary obstacles to passage are now procedural: The Aquino administration is urging Congress to pass the law by early 2015, positioning it to be ratified in a referendum in Bangsamoro by the end of the president's term in 2016.
Constitutional Questions and Continuing Complications
A key remaining issue is constitutionality. In 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated a peace deal reached with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that was seen as nearly identical to a cease-fire agreement finalized in March. Rebel negotiators have long contended that charter change would be needed to allot Bangsamoro the level of autonomy agreed upon in cease-fire negotiations. The Aquino administration asserts that the constitution can accommodate the new law, but repeated delays in submitting the bill to Congress suggest a lack of confidence that it will pass Supreme Court inspection. For much of the past three months, the deal appeared on the brink of unraveling while the palace reviewed the draft, at one point revising or removing several key passages, forcing negotiators to reopen talks on contentious points that had already been settled. Philippine constitutional scholars are divided on the issue.
Should the Supreme Court invalidate the law, either the rebels would be expected to accept a diluted deal, or the Aquino administration would need to push for a charter change — a daunting task that would face opposition from Philippine nationalists and tie the fate of the law to other political issues amid a campaign season. Similarly, Congress could demand changes that would complicate the Bangsamoro referendum. Any of these scenarios would increase the risk of violence, albeit not to the degree that followed similar setbacks in the past.
Even if the law clears these hurdles, autonomy alone will not stabilize Bangsamoro. Any new government would struggle to assert control over the fractious region, home to myriad ethno-linguistic groups and a geographic landscape ill-suited for unity. Militant groups sidelined during the recent peace negotiations are unlikely to recognize the legitimacy of a regional government led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, particularly in the Sulu archipelago, the stronghold of the rival Moro National Liberation Front (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's parent organization), which rejects the new law on grounds that it will abrogate its own agreement for semi-autonomy reached with the government in 1996. Meanwhile, more radical groups — namely Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People's Army — will continue attacks that will complicate the implementation of the law, irrespective of whatever progress is made between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Ultimately, major investment and development will be needed to build a sustainable peace, as the regional economy has floundered amid the insecurity. Muslim Mindanao has a per capita gross domestic product of around 40 percent of the nationwide average, with unemployment reaching 48 percent in 2012. The region regularly suffers from blackouts that make manufacturing unattractive, while the prevalence of kidnappings, bombings and extortion scares off foreign investors. In the late 1990s, for example, the Philippine National Oil Co. and Malaysia's Petronas withdrew from an oil and natural gas play in territory controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, reportedly due to threats from the rebel group and other local warlords. On Aug. 24, fighters with the New People's Army — which routinely targets foreign companies in the region — raided two Del Monte banana plantations. Any potential investor will also need to navigate unresolved clan conflicts and historical territorial disputes, pervasive corruption and entrenched criminal networks led by local warlords and political oligarchs.
Forces Compelling the Peace Process
Nonetheless, the peace process has repeatedly proved resilient to judicial and militant complications and will continue to do so. Violence spiked after the 2008 ruling, but within four years the two sides had inked another framework deal that laid the groundwork for the new Bangsamoro law. This, too, sparked violence, with the Moro National Liberation Front battling the military in Zamboanga City for three weeks in 2013, displacing more than 100,000 people. Simultaneously, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2008 in opposition to the cease-fire negotiations) and Abu Sayyaf launched attacks elsewhere. Those also failed to derail the talks, as have regular attacks since.
The Philippines' Geographic Challenge
The resilience of the stabilization process stems from several factors: First, there are indeed powerful economic incentives for peace. The region is home to as much as 70 percent of the country's untapped mineral sources — upwards of $300 billion in gold, copper, nickel, manganese, lead, zinc and iron ore deposits. It also has oil and natural gas potential and is attractive for tourism. Development of these resources would fund the massive infrastructure investment needed for the Philippines to meet its long-term economic imperatives and take advantage of emerging regional opportunities. The resource wealth may intensify local rivalries, but it can also be used to win cooperation from local warlords and political oligarchs while isolating holdouts from patronage flows. To generate public backing for the law, Philippine leaders have been consistently touting the region's economic promise, including the fact that foreign direct investment has surged over the past year in Mindanao in anticipation of peace.
Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which dropped its demand for full independence in 2003 and has since evolved into a primarily political organization, cannot afford to miss even a fleeting chance to capitalize on its efforts. Its moderate leadership is aging, and it lacks the militant capabilities it once had. If pressed for further concessions, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front could seek leverage by aligning with its more radical rivals, particularly the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. However, the peace process has already sparked some development in areas controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, weakening public support for any potential return to violence. At this point, backing out of the deal would threaten an opportunity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to deliver autonomy to the region while entrenching itself in power. This is why Aquino's alterations to the draft law did not sink it, despite generating a strong rhetorical backlash from rebel negotiators.
Divisions among the other various militant groups in Muslim Mindanao will make for a weaker rebel challenge overall, albeit one within which radical wings and shifting alignments pose continued challenges for Manila. Though the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have become increasingly active since the beginning of the year, the group only controls a few hundred fighters. Abu Sayyaf has essentially evolved into little more than a kidnapping and extortion syndicate. For its part, the Moro National Liberation Front appears increasingly divided, isolated and irrelevant. While some Moro National Liberation Front leaders still refuse to negotiate, others (particularly those located in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-dominated central Mindanao) have been making conciliatory gestures. Indeed, were it to heed calls from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Manila and the international community to join the new Bangsamoro government, the Moro National Liberation Front would form a strong minority bloc with, by certain metrics, greater control over regional resources than it had under the 1996 deal.
For the Philippine government, progress in Mindanao has become increasingly imperative as the country gradually shifts its defense posture. The new law will free the military to focus its divide-and-conquer tactics on the holdout groups, while the opportunity to control local rebel-dominated industries will likely keep military leaders onboard. The government's ultimate imperatives are geopolitical: It is facing diplomatic pressure from regional allies such as Malaysia (which has its own security concerns about Philippine rebels) and the United States (which provides considerable military support) to implement a settlement. More important, with tensions in the South China Sea growing, the Philippines must find a way to shift its focus from internal stabilization to its external vulnerabilities and maritime position. Unchecked insurgencies would make Muslim Mindanao ripe for foreign exploitation and a perpetual drain on military resources while undermining the economic growth needed to fund military modernization and prepare the country for more critical threats.
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