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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities => Politics & Religion => Topic started by: Crafty Dog on May 04, 2003, 10:22:47 AM

Title: Philippines
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 04, 2003, 10:22:47 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Anonymous on May 06, 2003, 03:02:03 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.
Title: MILF- bridges
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 07, 2003, 11:56:46 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 08, 2003, 09:58:44 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.
Title: Abu Sayyef
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 11, 2003, 08:04:10 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 11, 2003, 08:11:51 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 15, 2003, 09:44:05 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty Dog on May 17, 2003, 06:54:16 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Anonymous on May 19, 2003, 07:41:53 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.
Title: Stratfor.com
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 19, 2003, 06:05:30 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 20, 2003, 09:57:27 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 22, 2003, 09:54:52 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 27, 2003, 09:10:31 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 28, 2003, 09:53:08 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 29, 2003, 06:56:27 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 02, 2003, 05:49:18 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 02, 2003, 10:46:42 PM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 03, 2003, 07:11:54 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."
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 06, 2003, 10:37:53 PM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 09, 2003, 06:11:08 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."


-----------
1)

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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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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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.

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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.

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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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 09, 2003, 07:24:27 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 10, 2003, 11:36:10 PM
...................................................................

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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 19, 2003, 08:09:41 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 24, 2003, 04:38:38 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 27, 2003, 08:52:37 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 02, 2003, 11:34:31 AM
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."
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 07, 2003, 03:33:07 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2003, 12:34:53 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 16, 2003, 04:00:35 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 17, 2003, 06:56:50 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 18, 2003, 06:22:52 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
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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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 22, 2003, 06:27:13 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2003, 12:18:14 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2003, 09:27:19 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 28, 2003, 12:33:41 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 28, 2003, 07:40:31 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.

www.stratfor.com
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 28, 2003, 10:31:55 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 29, 2003, 11:57:36 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 30, 2003, 09:51:06 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.
Title: Statement from Overseas Filipinos in Canada
Post by: honey mae on July 30, 2003, 12:41:53 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 30, 2003, 05:54:19 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 31, 2003, 07:17:55 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 01, 2003, 10:06:40 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2003, 05:36:36 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 08, 2003, 08:56:05 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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 09, 2003, 04:15:19 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."
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 11, 2003, 01:00:12 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
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 13, 2003, 11:41:24 AM
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
Title: From the Globe and Mail a Canadian news paper
Post by: Black Grass on August 20, 2003, 10:28:11 AM
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.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 22, 2003, 12:31:27 PM
Thank you for that contribution Black Grass.

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

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.

===============


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.
==============
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 22, 2003, 12:51:36 PM
Philippines: Fugitive Becomes Bargaining Chip in MILF Peace Talks
Aug 19, 2003

Summary

The Philippine military is focusing on an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in western Mindanao in its efforts to recapture fugitive Jemaah Islamiyah member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi. Either side would be happy to use the fugitive bomber as a bargaining chip during upcoming peace talks in Malaysia.

Analysis

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Aug. 18 that efforts to recapture fugitive Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi have zeroed in on an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in western Mindanao. Al-Ghozi escaped July 14 from the Philippine Intelligence Command building at Camp Crame in Quezon City, and since has been the subject of a nationwide manhunt that threatens to undermine upcoming peace talks between Manila and the MILF.

Officials in Manila say that Moro rebels are aiding and abetting al-Ghozi and demand that the MILF hand him over immediately. MILF spokesmen deny assisting the fugitive and maintain that the group is willing to help the military in its manhunt. Al-Ghozi has become a prized bargaining chip between Manila and the rebels as the two sides prepare to enter peace talks in Malaysia. The government will use the MILF's possible collusion with al-Ghozi and the JI to pressure the MILF and divide the rebels between those willing to cut a peace deal and the more extremist members. But if the MILF leaders know where al-Ghozi is or, better yet, have him in custody, then they will hand him over before the peace talks begin to show that they are not cooperating with the al Qaeda-linked JI.

The last reported sighting of al-Ghozi was in the town of Kabuntalan, in Maguindanao province near the southwestern coast of Mindanao. The area is part of the Liguasan Marsh -- a MILF-controlled region -- where members of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division clashed Aug. 13 with suspected MILF rebels near Kabuntalan while in pursuit of the fugitive.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flew to Kabuntalan on Aug. 16 to rally soldiers and implore them to "win in our terrorism fight in the southern Philippines." Arroyo also urged the MILF to cooperate with the army's search for al-Ghozi. On Aug. 18, Lt. Col. Fredesvindo Covarrubias, chief of the 4th Civil Relations Group (CRG), asked MILF leaders to order their field commanders to stop providing refuge to al-Ghozi.

The MILF denies it has been "coddling" al-Ghozi and insists it is willing to track the fugitive down. In addition, the rebels have asserted that there has been a case of mistaken identity -- that a man looking like al-Ghozi (a man who also escaped from prison in Manila but was charged with drug trafficking) was the one seen in Kabuntalan. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said that al-Ghozi already is in military custody and the government is waiting for the appropriate time to publicize his capture. Moreover, the rebels claim that the AFP was using the search for al-Ghozi as an excuse to undertake operations in MILF territory during the current cease-fire, which was implemented in anticipation of the expected peace talks.

The fugitive JI bomber has become a coveted trophy for both the government and the rebels: Each could use his capture as leverage against the other during the peace talks. If the rebels hand over al-Ghozi, it will dispel allegations that they are cooperating with the fugitive and help diminish Manila's efforts to portray the rebels as being in league with the JI and al Qaeda. Because of increasing U.S. cooperation with Manila and its presence in upcoming negotiations, the MILF likely is growing sensitive to allegations of al Qaeda ties.

Manila, for its part, would sorely like to capture al-Ghozi in the heart of MILF territory, preferably in the company of rebels. It would strengthen government charges that the MILF cooperates with the JI and would help drive a wedge between war-weary rebels and hard-line members opposed to a settlement. There potentially are many members in the MILF who might be amenable to a peace deal similar to the 1996 accord between Manila and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), when the rebels traded their independence bid for limited self-rule in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

That deal was the impetus for the creation of the 12,500-strong splinter group that became the MILF. It's possible that another faction might like to come in from the jungle and give up fighting -- 241 members of the MILF, including nine commanders, abandoned their struggle for a separate Muslim state in Mindanao and pledged allegiance to the government on Aug. 14.


Related Headlines
Militant Link to Philippines Bombing Sign of Wider Campaign?
Apr 07, 2003
MILF Founder's Death Poses Hurdle For Peace Talks
Aug 05, 2003
Mixed Opinions Disrupt Resumption of MILF-Philippine Talks
Jul 10, 2003
Widespread Repercussions of Philippine Prison Break
Jul 16, 2003
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 27, 2003, 02:52:42 PM
1754 GMT - Philippine opposition Sen. Gregorio Honasan -- accused of
participating in a failed military coup against President Gloria Arroyo
on July 27 -- came out of hiding on Aug. 27. Honasan said he went into
hiding two days after the coup attempt because the government was
threatening to arrest him. Honasan said he is prepared to prove his
innocence in court.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 30, 2003, 04:09:02 PM
Item Number:10
Date: 08/29/2003
PHILIPPINES - DEFENSE SECRETARY RESIGNS (AUG 29/BBC)

BRITISH BROADCASTING CORP. -- Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has
accepted the resignation of Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and will
assume the defense portfolio herself, the BBC reports.


Reyes said he resigned primarily to give Arroyo a "free hand" in
dealing with continued threats to the government, including
suspected elements of the military.


The resignation comes just weeks after an attempted coup by
disgruntled military officers and troops, who seized a downtown
Manila shopping complex for several hours before giving up.








Item Number:11
Date: 08/29/2003
PHILIPPINES - SOLDIERS DEPLOYED TO PROTECT HISTORIC SITE (AUG 29/PHNO)

PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE -- The Philippine military deployed
a large contingent of soldiers and policeman to guard the Edsa
Shrine on Thursday, following reports that rebel groups were
planning to gather nearby, reports Philippine Headline News Online.


Gen. Narciso Abaya, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) said that groups were planning to seize the shrine in an
attempt to destabilize the government.


Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes played down the threat, saying,
"These are mere precautionary measures undertaken to anticipate any
projected activity."


The shrine is a monument to the revolution that ousted President
Ferdinand Marcos, and also marks the site of an uprising that
brought down President Joseph Estrada.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 08, 2003, 06:43:55 AM
1137 GMT - PHILIPPINES: The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are expected to resume peace talks in October, Norberto Gonzales, presidential adviser on special concerns, said Sept. 8. The talks, which will be held in Malaysia, will be the first in two years between Philippine officials and the militant group. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said she is confident that a peace deal will be reached before U.S. President George W. Bush visits the area in late October.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 16, 2003, 05:03:07 PM
U.S. Considers Role in 'Post-Conflict' Philippines
Sep 16, 2003

Summary

The United States is seeking a role in the Philippines should Manila sign a peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The U.S. role is likely to include a military presence on the restive island of Mindanao -- a move that will aid Washington's campaign against international militant groups but also might embroil it in another violent counterinsurgency mission.

Analysis

Philippine presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Sept. 14 that U.S. President George W. Bush plans to push for a "post-conflict" role for the United States in the Phillipines -- if and when Manila signs a peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during peace talks that are expected in early October.

Though it is not clear what the U.S. role would be, Washington appears to be considering sending a military contingent to help police Mindanao, an island at the center of the MILF's long-running revolt. The move not only would enhance Washington's strategic alliance with Manila, it also would expand the U.S. battleground in its campaign against international Islamic militant groups. Though this could help Washington choose its fighting space in Asia and disrupt a haven for militant groups, a large U.S. presence in Mindanao also would present a new target for terrorist strikes -- and potentially could embroil the United States in another violent counterinsurgency mission.

Bush's Oct. 18 visit to Manila -- during which Bunye said he likely will propose a "mini-Marshall Plan" for Mindanao -- will follow months of delays in talks between Manila and the rebels. The United States announced its involvement as an intermediary -- alongside Malaysia -- in June, and Philippine officials hoped at that time that peace talks could begin in earnest by early July. However, the death of MILF founder Hashim Salamat on July 13 and an aborted coup on July 29 led to delays.






The U.S. role in the conflict was bolstered in mid-August when Washington asked five former U.S. ambassadors to the Philippines and members of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) -- Richard Solomon, Nicholas Platt, Stephen Bosworth, Richard W. Murphy and Frank Wisner -- to help facilitate the peace talks in an "unofficial capacity." More recently, Manila expressed hopes that talks would resume in Malaysia before the Oct. 15 summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) -- in time for Bush's visit.

The "mini-Marshall Plan" that Bush is expected to propose would involve an extensive development package, including $30 million to rehabilitate and develop conflict-affected areas -- to be paid immediately once a peace deal is signed - and $20 million more next year. That money would be in addition to the $74 million already allocated by the U.S. Agency for International Development, most of which is earmarked for the southern Philippines.

A U.S. military presence in the region also seems likely, though neither Washington, Manila nor MILF leaders have confirmed it would be necessary as part of a "post-conflict" role. After a year and a half of military cooperation with the Philippines -- which kicked off in January 2002 with the deployment of 650 U.S. troops for counterterrorism exercises -- U.S. operations in the country are growing in scope and scale, and the relationship is becoming closer and more institutionalized. The Philippines was granted "Major Non-NATO Ally" status when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with Bush in May 2003, and about 1,500 U.S. Marines arrived in the Philippines on Sept. 14 for a weeklong joint exercise.

For Washington, helping to secure the peace and prosperity of Mindanao serves many goals.

First, it would strengthen the strategic alliance between the United States and the Philippines that was formed when Arroyo took office and, later, expanded with joint military operations. The Philippines' central location within East Asia makes it valuable as the United Stats undergoes a shift in force structure that relies on maintaining numerous small bases and pre-positioned equipment in key regions.

Second, a U.S.-backed and -enforced peace deal in Mindanao would be highly disruptive for groups using the conflict-torn region as a refuge. Mindanao and neighboring islands long have been a transit hub for illicit materials and a haven for militants who are training and planning missions. In addition, with Washington actively facilitating a peace deal and dumping money into the area, it is quite possible that the MILF will supply valuable intelligence to U.S. forces on Abu Sayyaf, al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah activities in the region.

Third, by deploying troops to the area, Washington would be improving its capacity to choose the battleground in its campaign against Islamist militant groups in Asia. Or, to put it more accurately, the ground has been chosen by process of elimination, but the United States is accepting the challenge. Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand all have Islamist militants, but for various reasons, U.S. military operations in those countries are either impossible or undesirable. Indonesia, for example, is far too challenging -- geographically, socially and politically -- and dangerous for a deployment. And even if Jakarta allowed it, it is unimaginable that Kuala Lumpur would ever invite U.S. forces in, and Thailand is too tangential to the problem.

Mindanao, therefore, appears to be Washington's best hope of taking the fight to militant groups in Asia. In the Philippines, U.S. strategic planners likely are hoping that a military presence would put Islamist radical groups on the defensive and undermine their ability to strike targets -- not only in the Philippines, but in neighboring countries that are home to U.S. economic and military assets. However, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the plan would provide U.S. enemies -- including hardline MILF separatists, the JI and even the New People's Army communist group -- with tempting new targets.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 23, 2003, 06:31:04 AM
1140 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has tapped Eduardo Ermita, a former general who is leading peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as the country's new defense secretary. Arroyo had been acting defense secretary since August, when Angelo Reyes resigned following a military coup attempt.
==========
Item Number:16
Date: 09/23/2003
PHILIPPINES - TROOPS PLACED ON HIGH ALERT AMID RUMORS OF UPRISING (SEP 23/AFP)

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE -- The Philippines military was placed on
heightened alert following indications that there were moves to
destabilize the government of President Gloria Arroyo, Agence
France-Presse reports.


Intelligence reports apparently indicated anti-Arroyo groups
intended to stage rallies against the government while the president
was visiting the country's troubled southern islands, including one
historic shrine that served as a staging point for coups against
Joseph Estrada in 2001 and Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.


A special military task force was activated to counter anti-Arroyo
moves, backed up by a battalion-sized unit, a military spokesman
said.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 24, 2003, 08:10:08 PM
Philippines: Will Arroyo's Standing Hurt U.S. Footing in Region?
Sep 24, 2003

Summary

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's approval ratings have sunk to record lows amid scandal and economic troubles, and Arroyo has become heavily dependent on upcoming peace talks with separatist rebels to help boost her popularity before the 2004 election season hits full gear. If the peace talks fail and she falls farther behind in the polls, the United States' strategic footing in southeast Asia could slip.

Analysis

Approval ratings for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have plunged to record lows, a Pulse Asia, Inc., survey shows. Performance ratings in categories such as fighting poverty, improving the economy and combating terrorism and crime all slumped, bringing her overall approval rating is 41 percent, down from 51 percent in August. Facing an election in 2004, Arroyo needs successful results from upcoming negotiations with separatist rebels to boost public confidence in her presidency. If the October peace talks fail and Arroyo's numbers fall further, Washington's new strategic alliance with Manila, mostly fostered under the current president, could be in jeopardy.

The drop in Arroyo's popularity follows an upswing in August that stemmed from her perceived deft handling of a military mutiny at the end of July. However, a number of factors have contributed to hurt Arroyo's standing, both recently and over the past year.

In August, the administration was besieged by the "Jose Pidal" scandal: Philippine senate committees opened an investigation into First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo after opposition senator and possible presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson said that the president's husband had laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of presidential campaign contributions and hid the funds in a bank account under the name "Jose Pidal." Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye has said Lacson's charges were baseless and politically motivated, but investigations are still under way.

In addition to political troubles, the administration has been hurt by the underwhelming performance of the Philippine economy. The country barely avoided a recession in second-quarter 2003, when gross domestic product rose by a mere 0.1 percent from the previous quarter. Political instability drove away investors, contributing to the 63 percent plunge in foreign direct investment in the first half of 2003. According to polls, 53 percent of respondents in August said they were "worse off than before," and the slightly lower number in September of 43 percent is nevertheless fairly high.

Arroyo likely is counting on expected peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur in October to help improve her image. If the president can engineer peace in war-torn Mindanao, it is likely her numbers will rise significantly just in time for the campaign season to shift into full gear for the May 2004 election. However, the opposite is equally true: If the negotiations fail and the delicate cease-fire gives way to violence, Arroyo will be highly vulnerable. Strategic planners in Washington would not like to see that happen.

If Arroyo lost the presidency, the strategic alliance between the United States and the Philippines could falter. From the U.S. perspective, a new president taking office in Manila at best would delay further cooperation against militant Islamist groups in southeast Asia while the new administration reviews the current terms of bilateral collaboration. At worst for Washington, a complete reversal could occur. Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. is a popular political figure and a vocal opponent of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. He is not alone in this sentiment -- anti-colonial feelings linger in the country, and this could be used against the president during the campaign season.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 09, 2003, 06:56:43 AM
1138 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine authorities have recaptured suspected Muslim militant Omar Opik Lasal, who escaped from prison in July with convicted bomber Fathur Rohman al Ghozi, at a checkpoint in Zamboanga del Sur in the southern Philippines, officials say. Lasal is believed to be a member of the militant group Abu Sayyaf, and al Ghozi is a self-proclaimed member of al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah. Al Ghozi remains at large.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 21, 2003, 01:38:33 PM
Oct 20, 2003, 11:33 GMT - PHILIPPINES: Philippine security officials found what they believe are traces of a "tetanus virus-carrying chemical" after raiding a suspected Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) hideout Oct. 19 in the southern city of Cotabato. However, authorities still are awaiting confirmation regarding the substance. Along with the suspicious residue, authorities found a "bio-terror manual," bomb-making materials and documents on assembling rocket-propelled grenades. No arrests were made in the raid; the eight local and foreign JI fighters already had left the home.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 05, 2003, 06:51:20 PM
Summary

A new political crisis is simmering in the Philippines. The
nation's judicial and legislative branches are embroiled in a
battle that is dragging President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's
government down. Not only will the latest turmoil hurt the
president's chances for re-election in 2004, it also will
undermine efforts to negotiate a peace settlement in Mindanao --
a situation that could hurt the U.S. strategic position in
Southeast Asia.

Analysis

A constitutional crisis is brewing in the Philippines over
efforts by lawmakers to impeach the country's chief justice. The
standoff between the judiciary and the legislature has divided
the government and the population, prompting heated political
infighting and public demonstrations.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has put the armed forces on red
alert to guard against another military rebellion or attacks by
militants seeking to exploit Manila's instability. This new
political crisis bodes ill for the president, who runs for re-
election in May 2004. It also could undermine efforts to
negotiate a peace settlement in Mindanao, hurting the U.S.
strategic standing in Southeast Asia.

Nearly one-third of the members of the Philippine House of
Representatives -- 78 in total -- signed a motion Oct. 23 to
impeach Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. for allegedly
mismanaging public funds. Davide rejected the allegations and
refused to allow a congressional review of the judiciary's books,
claiming the legislature has no authority to impose control over
the judiciary branch. The Supreme Court issued a writ against the
impeachment during the week of Oct. 20.

The complaint is the second impeachment attempt against Davide by
lawmakers in 2003, and likely is politically motivated. Former
President Joseph Estrada and his supporters launched the first
impeachment case, which alleged that Davide and other justices
violated the constitution when they swore in then-Vice President
Arroyo after a military-backed popular coup in January 2001. The
House of Representatives committee threw out the charges after
the majority of its members voted that they did not have
sufficient evidence.

Congressional leaders abruptly adjourned the house for two weeks
on Oct. 28 in an effort to block the impeachment proceedings,
giving the government an opportunity to resolve the crisis. The
House of Representatives resumes its session Nov. 10 and will
decide either to withdraw the complaint or transfer the motion to
the Senate, where Davide would face a trial and potentially be
removed from office.

The impeachment case cuts across many political lines in the
Philippines and is discrediting Arroyo's administration ahead of
an election year. Most of the lawmakers backing the impeachment
effort are in or allied with the nationalist People's Coalition
Party (NPC) and its leader Eduardo Cojuangco -- a potential 2004
presidential candidate and business tycoon who has a number of
cases before Davide's court. In addition, allies of Estrada --
who was the subject of an impeachment trial Davide presided over
-- are rallying popular support in favor of the impeachment.

Davide, however, has the backing of the Roman Catholic Church --
including influential former Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin
-- and former President Corazon Aquino.

Because of her own political considerations, Arroyo initially
tried to remain above the fray between the two warring branches
of the government. Her Lakas Party is aligned with the NPC, and
the president probably hoped the issue would be settled before
she had to take a side in the dispute.

Arroyo has asked Davide and House Speaker Jose de Venecia to sign
a covenant with her that they will break the impasse caused by
the impeachment complaint. Both Davide and de Venecia reportedly
have agreed to the executive offer. The covenant seeks a
"principled solution" to end the standoff: It would reiterate
judiciary's authority to interpret the constitution and emphasize
the need for checks and balances among the equal branches of
government. It is unclear whether the covenant will require
Davide to open the judiciary's books -- if not, the covenant is
unlikely to sway the chief justice's opponents.

During the political wrangling among Philippine government
leaders, the nation's security environment has fallen into
serious doubt. Still wary after the July 29 uprising, Arroyo on
Oct. 31 ordered division commanders of the armed forces to
account for all of their men to guard against those who would use
the political crisis as an excuse to launch another military
rebellion. On Nov. 4, Philippine troops were placed on red alert
-- the nation's highest alert level -- and more than 400 riot
police have been put on standby to guard against violent
demonstrations.

Even if the constitutional crisis ends relatively peacefully in
the coming days or weeks, the damage to Arroyo's presidency has
been done. Arroyo emerged triumphant after the aborted military
coup last summer, but her popularity is eroding as the year drags
painfully on. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, also a presidential candidate,
smeared Arroyo's image in recent months with allegations that she
was laundering millions of dollars in campaign funds through
secret bank accounts held by her husband. In the wake of Lacson's
allegations, the president's overall approval rating dropped 10
points to 41 percent. Continued political instability, especially
if sustained, likely will keep Arroyo's standing in the polls
low.

A recent survey by independent Philippine pollster Ibon revealed
that the president has dropped to fourth place among next year's
candidates: Only 7.8 percent of 1,300 respondents support her. It
is a long way to the May 2004 elections, but things do not look
good for the president.

Arroyo's increasingly untenable situation also raises questions
about Philippine security and U.S. strategic concerns. Manila is
preparing to renew peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF) to end the long rebellion on the southern island of
Mindanao. Fearing Arroyo might not be able to make good on her
pledges during negotiations, MILF leaders might prefer to wait
for a new government to come to power in Manila.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, peace in Mindanao has been a concern not
only for the Philippines and its neighbors, but also for the
United States. As the so-called "second front" in the war on
terrorism, Southeast Asia is pivotal in U.S. strategy, and
Mindanao is an important operational theater. Suffering from
decades of conflict, Mindanao has become a breeding ground and
haven for militants. The United States has sent troops, hardware
and money to the Philippines in an effort to mitigate the danger
on the island. Any progress in securing peace and security in
Mindanao probably will be hampered if Arroyo is perceived as a
lame duck and the rebels become intransigent.
...................................................................
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 24, 2003, 08:40:27 AM
1255 GMT - MALAYSIA - Seven Malaysian military officers are expected to
travel to Mindanao in order to assess the circumstances surrounding the
separatist rebellion. Malaysian leaders want to determine the outcome of
peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) before deciding whether to send peacekeepers to the region. The defense officials are due to visit following the Eid al-Fitr
festival - which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan -
which is expected to fall on Nov. 25.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 05, 2003, 05:14:54 AM
Philippines: U.S. To Open Base in the Sarangani Bay?
December 01, 2003   1530 GMT

Summary

Unconfirmed intelligence from Stratfor sources on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao say the United States has begun constructing a base near General Santos City.

Analysis

Stratfor sources on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao say the United States has begun constructing a base in Sarangani Bay near General Santos City. The facility would serve as an operations and logistics base and would be a springboard for U.S. military power in Southeast Asia.

Reports of plans for a base in Sarangani Bay are still unconfirmed, but rumors have been circulating for several months in Mindanao that the United States has been eyeing the port and air facilities in the area as replacement for the Subic Bay base that was closed in 1991. Stratfor wrote as early as April 25, 2002, that the United States might be preparing a forward base in the Philippines for future regional counterterrorism strikes. We specifically mentioned General Santos City as a potential site.


The United States re-established sustained military deployments to the Philippines in early 2002 when it sent U.S. personnel to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf -- a militant Islamist kidnapping gang loosely affiliated with al Qaeda -- on the southern island of Basilan and the west coast of Mindanao. It now appears that the United States is preparing to widen its footprint in conflict-torn Mindanao. Washington has pledged funds to help develop conflict-stricken areas if and when a peace settlement is reached between the island's main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Philippine government. In addition, the U.S. and Philippine militaries are currently discussing holding the next Balikatan joint exercises in North Cotabato province in central Mindanao as part of joint efforts to hunt down Jemaah Islamiyah.

There was wide speculation over the presence of U.S. military personnel in General Santos City in September after a handful of U.S. soldiers were seen there. The sightings prompted city Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. to confirm the presence of U.S. military advisers, explaining that they were there to evaluate infrastructure projects funded under the U.S. government's Philippine Aid Plan. Acharon gave the dubious explanation that U.S. soldiers were appraising civilian projects because embassy personnel would not risk traveling to the area due to security concerns.

Sarangani Bay is an ideal place for a U.S. base in the southern Philippines. The extensive port and air facilities would provide excellent logistics support, and because the facility would be off the Philippine main island of Luzon it would be a less intrusive presence than the former Subic Bay base. Furthermore, with a base located on the restive island, U.S. forces would be well-positioned to launch and support campaigns against militant Islamist groups on Mindanao or in nearby Indonesia and Malaysia.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 08, 2003, 12:41:32 PM
Rack 'Em Up:
In Pool, It's Filipinos
Vs. Rest of the World
Warped Tables of Manila Slums
Help Breed Global Pool Stars
By JAMES HOOKWAY
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


MANILA, Philippines -- Michaela Tabb, a referee for nine-ball pool, had no inkling how much of a celebrity she is before she came to the Philippines.

But when the 35-year-old Scot arrived in Manila recently to officiate a "Philippines vs. the Rest of the World" tournament, she was besieged by fans who had seen her on television and wanted her to sign their pool cues.

"I knew pool was popular here, but I didn't expect anything like this," Ms. Tabb said while taking refuge in the players' lounge.

In the Philippines, the game introduced by U.S. soldiers before World War II has evolved into a national obsession. The sport attracts bigger audiences than boxing and basketball do. World championship games are often projected onto the walls of grimy warehouses so hundreds of people in the slums below can follow the action.

The country's fascination with pool is now creating stars with a global following. The biggest draw is Efren "The Magician" Reyes, a chubby, gaptoothed 49-year-old former world champion who trains on a diet of chicken, rice and beer.

 
"The Filipino players are exceedingly popular. Everybody tunes in when Efren Reyes or Francisco Bustamante are playing," says Luke Riches of Matchroom Sport, the London promoter of the annual nine-ball world championships.

Pool is ideally suited to the Philippines. It doesn't require much space, a significant consideration in a crowded country. It's also a cheap evening's entertainment and perfect for casual gambling, which is widespread here.

The object of nine-ball pool is to sink nine balls in sequence, with the player who pockets the No. 9 ball at the right time winning the rack. Games are fast and unpredictable. Thanks to pool's appeal in Asia, top U.S. pros such as Earl "The Pearl" Strickland are as likely to be found playing in tournaments in Tokyo or Manila as in Las Vegas. ESPN-STAR Sports will hold next year's championship in conjunction with Matchroom in either Taipei or Manila to take advantage of huge TV audiences not just in the Philippines but also in Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

Filipinos will inevitably be among the winners. Each year the country unleashes more and more professionals on the international circuit. Runner-up in the 2003 world championships: Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan, 25, a skinny Filipino with spiky hair who resides in Canada and also goes by the name "Killer Pixie."

Americans may have introduced the game here, but Filipinos perfected it. Pool tables can be found everywhere from rickety barrio grocery stalls to cavernous pool halls in Manila. In shantytowns lining a railway track bisecting Manila, residents play on flimsy plywood tables, pushing little discs of wood around instead of billiard balls.

Mika Immonen, a former world champion from Finland who played recently on the "Rest of the World" team, believes there are some parallels between pool players in the Philippines and soccer players in the favelas of Brazil. Filipinos often have little choice but to play on uneven, battered tables with warped cues, just as Brazilian slum dwellers play on potholed streets with soccer balls fashioned out of rags.

"If they can play well under those conditions, then imagine how well they can do with the proper equipment," Mr. Immonen says. "Controlling the cue ball becomes easier if you have to play under extreme conditions."

Mr. Reyes, widely recognized as among the best players the sport has ever seen, travels the world with his $10 pool stick, sending home winnings to support his family and friends. He has won as much as $160,000 in one tournament. His overseas following includes hundreds of Filipinos working as nurses, engineers or domestic servants. The current world champion, Thorsten Hohmann of Germany, estimates that more than 90% of the crowd at a recent tournament in Dubai was Filipino.

Mr. Reyes relishes his role as the champion of the Philippine diaspora. Earlier this year, he starred in an action movie, "Pakners," in which he got to beat up gangsters with his pool stick.

What Mr. Reyes likes most of all is the food his fans bring him in Tupperware containers when he plays overseas. "They're Filipino: They cook for me and take care of me until the early morning," he says. "They're not professional chefs, but it's fried fish or chicken, the food I like."

Sid Waddell, an English pool commentator known for his offbeat similes ("He's as twitchy as a frog in a blender"), says Mr. Reyes's fans frequently take their hero out singing after his matches. After Mr. Reyes made a seemingly impossible shot at a recent tournament in Holland, Mr. Waddell remarked on the air: "There'll be karaoke and chicken curry tonight then!"

Mr. Reyes's specialty is banking the cue ball off multiple cushions to hit his target ball, often sinking it. It's a skill he learned as a child in his uncle's Manila pool hall. He used to sleep on the table at night.

He made his first overseas trip, to Japan, in 1979 when it became clear nobody in the Philippines was reckless enough to play him. In 1985, Mr. Reyes went to the U.S. for the first time to play pool for money. He bagged the world championship in 1999.

Write to James Hookway at james.hookway@awsj.com
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 08, 2003, 10:42:27 PM
Philippines Strikes Back at Kidnapping Gangs
December 08, 2003   2122 GMT

Summary

Galib Andang, a leading member of Abu Sayyaf, was captured in the southern Philippines on Dec. 7. Since Andang's chief occupation was the commander of a kidnap-for-ransom gang, the arrest is not a significant blow to al Qaeda and affiliated groups in the region, but it will help Manila curb rampant kidnapping in the country.

Analysis

The Philippine military captured Galib Andang, alias Commander Robot, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant Islamist group, after a firefight in the southern island of Jolo on Dec. 7. Andang's capture is a significant victory in Manila's battle against widespread and frequent kidnappings in the country.

However, the Philippine government and international press are crafting his arrest as something else -- a victory against militant Islamists. The Abu Sayyaf does have loose ties to al Qaeda and its associated Southeast Asian group, the Jemaah Islamiyah. But the primary mission of Andang's group came to be kidnap for ransom, which has little to do with Islamist ideology and goals. His arrest is a victory against kidnappers, not Islamists.

Andang led the Abu Sayyaf faction that conducted the April 2000 kidnapping of 21 tourists from the Malaysian dive resort of Sipadan. However, following that raid, the Abu Sayyaf became embroiled in an ideological dispute between fundamentalists who wanted to use the hostages in negotiations for Islamist goals -- the release of imprisoned group members and the recognition of an Islamist state -- and others who preferred to ransom the hostages for cash. Andang was one of the more entrepreneurial leaders.

Andang's arrest will not decapitate a working al Qaeda or affliated group, but the gang leader could provide a wealth of information under interrogation -- reportedly, he is already cooperating with Philippine authorities.

Commander Robot's downfall follows a renewed crackdown on kidnappings that has plagued the country in recent years -- a problem that businesspeople and diplomats consider a key factor in deterring foreign investment. The Nov. 17 abduction of a Coca-Cola executive, found dead in a trash can the next day, indicates the criminal trend in the country. According to ABS-CBN television, more than 100 people were kidnapped in the first 10 months of 2003.

Last October, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes to head the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTAF) that implemented new measures in December to curb kidnappings. Among the measures are new random checkpoints in high-risk areas and an in-depth investigation on reported collusion of police and military personnel with kidnap-for-ransom groups.

Manila has been making progress: The leading kidnap-for-ransom group was taken out of commission Nov. 20 after gang boss Roberto Yap and several core members were killed in a shootout in the northern province of Bataan. Andang's capture shortly after the Yap gang's fall, could put a significant dent in the Philippine kidnapping industry. However this progress should not be confused with inroads into routing Islamist networks.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 29, 2003, 05:47:48 AM
1221 GMT - PHILIPPINES - Philippine army forces said Dec. 29 they captured two suspected leaders of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group over the weekend near the southern port city of Zamboanga. The two were identified as Alih Malabon, who also calls himself Abu Nidal, and Mohammad Said, whose alias is Commander Kaiser.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 01, 2004, 03:57:40 AM
Item Number:13
Date: 12/31/2003
PHILIPPINES - MANILA DEPORTS AMERICAN TERROR SUSPECTS (DEC 31/VOA)

VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS -- Philippine immigration authorities will deport
two U.S. citizens who are suspected of having ties with local Islamic
militants, reports the Voice of America News. Philippine intelligence monitored communications between the suspects and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf Group. Manila accused the two men of involvement with a fundraising group that has been linked to the Al-Qaida terrorist network.

Paid Military Periscope subscribers can get more information on Abu
Sayyaf and Al-Qaida, respectively, at:

http://periscope2.ucg.com/ShowGroup.aspx?group_id=249
http://periscope2.ucg.com/ShowGroup.aspx?group_id=240


NY Times 1/1/04

U.S. Hunts Terror Clues in Case of 2 Brothers
By DOUGLAS JEHL

U.S. authorities remain in search of clues that two American brothers who were arrested in the Philippines were in fact providing support to Islamic militants.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 09, 2004, 08:49:47 AM
Item Number:9
Date: 01/09/2004
PHILIPPINES - ARMED FORCES ACQUIRES NEW ASSETS (JAN 09/ABS)

ABS-CBN TODAY -- The Philippines' armed forces is slated to acquire 50
attack helicopters, a squadron of fighter jets and a fleet of navy
gunboats, reports ABS-CBN Today.  The US$18 million upgrade comes as the Philippines seeks to modernize its aging air and naval assets, said Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia, vice chief of staff for the armed forces.  Some of the new materiel will come from donor countries, including the United States.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 29, 2004, 10:21:23 AM
1241 GMT -- PHILIPPINES -- Five junior military officers were arrested in
the Philippines for fomenting rebellion against the government, the BBC
reported Jan 29. Earlier, a group of officers appeared on television
accusing the government of President Gloria Arroyo of trying to use the
military to spy on political opponents ahead of May's presidential elections
and demanding the resignation of Defense Minister Eduardo Ermita, who has denied the allegations.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 24, 2004, 01:00:42 AM
1719 GMT - Philippine and American troops will begin war games at various locations in the Philippines on Feb. 23. Designed to improve the armies' joint operation capabilities, Exercise Balikatan 2004 will last until March 7. The war games will include beach landings, night-flying, close-quarter fighting and discussions.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 25, 2004, 12:15:57 AM
Some charts accompanying this piece did not print-- Crafty

Philippines: Popular Politics and Instability in Manila
February 24, 2004   1715 GMT

Summary

The specter of another popular coup is in the air in Manila in the run-up to the May 10 elections, but another government predicated upon anything less than elections could prove disastrous for the Philippines.

Analysis

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index (PSI) closed down 0.37 percent Feb. 23, and the peso sank to a record low of 56.35 to the U.S. dollar the previous week. Both pieces of bad economic news are a response to fears of political instability in the run-up to elections.

As political forces in Manila jockey for position ahead of May 10 presidential elections, widespread concern is sweeping the Philippines that the next administration will maintain -- or seize -- power outside the electoral process. If upcoming national polls are canceled or overturned, the state risks losing substantial credibility in global markets and the confidence of world powers -- boosting the problem-status of the Philippines in the international arena.

A failed July 2003 mutiny and the tense political atmosphere in Manila are the most recent examples of Philippine woes. Rebel insurgencies by the communist New People's Army (NPA) and various groups in the restive Muslim-populated southern islands long have undermined domestic security. The rebels threaten the security of Philippine citizens and visiting investors, but the country's political leadership and their popular supporters are a much more frequent and powerful destabilizing force confronting the government.

The "People Power," or EDSA, movements that brought down Ferdinand Marcos's authoritarian regime in 1986 and swept current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into power after hounding Joseph Estrada out of office with corruption allegations in 2001 have become a liability for the Philippines. Regime change through extraconstitutional means is now institutionalized between rival factions and in the public consciousness. Three months before the polls, with the nation fixated on Ferdinand Poe's pedigree as a presidential candidate, Philippine editorials are forecasting the likelihood of another EDSA.

Analysts have good reason to suspect that another upheaval could be on its way. Poe supporters say they will not accept a Supreme Court ruling that disqualifies their candidate. Estrada, a staunch Poe ally, even has gone so far as to caution that a "civil war" would erupt if his fellow movie star were banned from contesting the polls.

Former Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat, a spokesman for the No Elections (No-el) campaign, has called on Arroyo to step down and for Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. to head a caretaker government until the political system is overhauled. Another group, the Citizens Committee on National Crisis, has called on the armed forces to temporarily take over the government.

A massive political disturbance of any kind will mean both opportunity and danger for political forces trying to gain or maintain control of the Philippines' highest office. Opposition candidates could hope to ride into office in the aftermath of mass demonstrations. Arroyo's critics fear that the president, who is trailing in the polls, will declare martial law and/or forestall elections in the face of an emergency.





If for any reason elections do not go forward, the Philippines's reputation as a democracy -- much less a functioning political system -- will take a devastating hit. It already is trailing behind its neighbors, who have risen from the ashes of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Thai, Indonesian and South Korean currencies are all trending upward since bottoming out in 1998, but the peso continues to decline. The same three countries' stock markets also have recouped their losses and continue to rise; the PSI, however, is still just more than half of its 1997 level.




The Philippines' poor economic performance is due to its political instability, putting the country's citizens in the unenviable position of longingly looking at Indonesia's political cohesion and sound economic policies. The Indonesian archipelago is rife with ethnic and religious tensions that test its national unity, and after the fall of President Suharto, Indonesia rapidly devolved into a political and economic morass. The Philippines could find itself in the same situation.

One more major political disturbance will push the Philippines over the edge, sending investors scurrying as Manila's ability to implement policies at home and abroad is questioned.

Manila is in the nascent stages of free trade talks with Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is rebuilding a strategic alliance with the United States. It is unlikely that these goals will be realized as long as the government is under the constant threat of collapse.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 12, 2004, 07:47:32 AM
Item Number:13
Date: 03/12/2004
PHILIPPINES - COMMUNIST REBELS KILLED (MAR 12/DPA)

DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR -- Government troops killed three communist rebels in a clash in the southern Philippines, reports Deutsche
Presse-Agentur. The fighting began when soldiers encountered about 30 militants in the town of Alegria, located in Surigao del Norte province.
The rebels were killed in the ensuing gunfight, reportedly including the
death of a local commander.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 15, 2004, 05:33:05 PM
Abu Sayyaf: How Fading Militant Groups Fight To Stay Alive
March 15, 2004   1502 GMT

Summary

Abu Sayyaf militants claimed responsibility for a fatal ferry attack Feb. 26. The failing militant Islamist group appears to be taking desperate measures to restore its image as a formidable adversary. The organization is dying: Its leaders are taken out one by one, leaving the group's continued existence and strength in question. The remaining members want to rally support -- and claiming an attack could attract recruits and financial sponsorship from other militant organizations. Abu Sayyaf's pattern of behavior can be seen as a case study of how other militant organizations might react over time as their leaders are removed.

Analysis

Abu Sayyaf militants claimed responsibility for a fatal Philippine ferry attack Feb. 26, but the Philippine government disputes the claim. Whether Abu Sayyaf bombed the ferry -- or simply claimed to be behind the explosion -- the much-diminished militant group appears to be taking desperate measures to restore its image as a formidable adversary.

Recent interrogation of captured Abu Sayyaf leader Galib Andang, also known as "Commander Robot," revealed splintering within the group caused by power struggles between the leaders of various factions. Andang also mentioned an exchange between several of the Islamist group's leaders and foreigners offering them training in "demolition tactics." If Andang's statements are true, they confirm prior statements by Stratfor and the Philippine government that Abu Sayyaf is disintegrating, but trying to revitalize itself by carrying out attacks -- or claiming attacks. The group might serve as a model for what could happen to other militant organizations as they begin to deteriorate when their upper echelons are crippled or eradicated.

Abu Sayyaf has been in steady decline almost from its inception in the early 1990s, when the group was formed by members who split from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) -- then involved in peace negotiations. The group was led by Abdurajak Janjalani, the first of many Abu Sayyaf chiefs. The group sought to establish an Islamic state in the southern region of the Philippines and employed tactics that included bombings, assassinations and extortion. The group's primary funding source was sympathizers. Abu Sayyaf has claimed affiliation with other groups such as al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, which might have provided financial support. It employed kidnap-for-ransom tactics to raise more money as well, but the profitability of such abductions lured some members away from the original ideological goal of establishing an Islamic regime.

Abu Sayyaf has suffered a series of setbacks as its numerous leaders have been killed or captured in the past several years. Janjalani was killed in December 1998 in a fight with Philippine police. To prove the group was still a powerful force after the loss of its leader, members carried out an attack less than a month later, throwing grenades into a crowd gathered at a shopping center, killing 10 and wounding 74. Janjalani's death, however, resulted in a division between the ideologically motivated and the monetarily motivated members of the group.

The group made another attempt to demonstrate its capabilities in April 2000 by taking 21 hostages from a scuba diving resort on Sipadan Island in Malaysia. The ensuing hostage negotiations further splintered the group: Some members wanted only ransom money; others believed the desire for cash contradicted Abu Sayyaf's Islamist ideology. The kidnapping also drew the attention of the Philippine government and eventually led to intervention by the U.S. military in an effort to eradicate Abu Sayyaf.

Attempts to rejuvenate the group have continued -- even as its leaders are on the run. Andang, who was captured in December 2003 in a government raid, provided details about splinter groups and the deterioration of Abu Sayyaf's leadership. He indicated that the Sulu-based segment of Abu Sayyaf is headed by Jumdail Gumbahali, or "Dr. Abu," and does not acknowledge any leadership by Khaddafi Janjalani, the brother of the organization's founding leader. Another division appeared between Janjalani and Hamsiraji Sali in a dispute over ransom money. In addition, military forces continue to kill and capture Abu Sayyaf members. Five militants were killed and several injured in a clash with soldiers on the island of Jolo on March 2. Andang said that only 300 members remain in the Sulu-based group. Other Abu Sayyaf members have fled with Janjalani out of fear of a U.S. offensive. Without clear leadership and mission, the shrinking organization appears to be in disarray.

The remaining members must develop a more unified and ideologically driven nucleus if they are going to regroup successfully. Abu Sayyaf must consider operations that offer a high return for a small investment, along with high-impact attack plans that can be carried out with few members. With the training in explosives and combat reported by Andang, such an attack could include a suicide bomber on a crowded ferry.

A spectacular attack -- or even claiming a spectacular attack -- would reaffirm the group's existence and indicate that they remain a force to be dealt with. Claiming responsibility for the February ferry attack is indicative of the group's attempt to portray itself as "not dead yet." Although the Philippine government originally downplayed the claim, such an attack is feasible. The alleged suicide bomber was listed on the passenger manifest.

Regardless, Abu Sayyaf has sent the message that it is alive and well to its enemies and potential friends. The March 5 arrest of an Abu Sayyaf member in the northern Philippines could give further credence to the group's efforts to resurface. In a search of the suspect's van, police found more than 20 rifle grenades, a number of firearms, mine parts and a couple of pounds of C4 explosive.

Because of Abu Sayyaf's ties to al Qaeda, the ferry attack claim might advertise to potential sponsors that the group is worth a financial investment in order to achieve the jihadist goals of Islamist extremist groups. Money trickling in to Abu Sayyaf could help finance further operations, perhaps even in tandem with other organizations. This also could engender further cooperative training operations.

Abu Sayyaf wants to attract new recruits to boost its numbers and bring in younger members. Also it might be able to draw on dissidents from the MILF, which is negotiating with the government; Abu Sayyaf splintered off during similar talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Abu Sayyaf is under pressure to prove it is not extinct. Claiming responsibility for events that could be perceived as attacks and structuring attacks for greater impact with fewer resources are the only ways to prove the group is still breathing. Abu Sayyaf's attempts at self-resuscitation could provide a case study for similar militant organizations -- such as al Qaeda -- that likely will follow as leaders are captured or killed, leaving the groups without direction.

Al Qaeda is under similar pressure to show it is still alive and well, especially in light of recent statements by the Bush administration that the capture of Osama bin Laden might be close at hand. Al Qaeda's patterns of attack have been to carry out significant strikes every few years with smaller attacks in the interim. Al Qaeda also might claim an attack that it did not perpetrate -- or one that was carried out by another group with only marginal al Qaeda affiliation. The recent claims of responsibility for the train bombings in Madrid by at least two Islamist militant groups reinforce this idea. Watching the slow deaths of groups like Abu Sayyaf might be the only way we will understand when other groups such as al Qaeda finally have been silenced for good -- and what we might expect from them as they fight to stay alive.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 24, 2004, 03:35:34 AM
Philippines: ID Cards For Muslims
March 23, 2004   2003 GMT

The Philippine government is supporting 30 leaders of Muslim communities in Manila who volunteered to distribute identification cards in Muslim areas of the city, the Philippine Inquirer News Service reported March 23. Of the city's 12 million people, nearly 800,000 are Muslim, most living in poor and crowded neighborhoods that draw criminals and militants fleeing fighting in the southern islands. In recent years, the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Islamist groups have targeted Manila. The proposed ID card system would reportedly be modeled on an ID card system already in place at Manila's Golden Mosque -- the largest mosque in the city -- which issues cards to residents and visitors in order to screen for potential troublemakers. The new ID system is expected to be implemented by the end of March.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 30, 2004, 06:23:21 AM
1239 GMT -- PHILIPPINES -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said March 30 that government security forces seized 80 pounds of TNT and arrested four people who are believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group. Arroyo said the men planned to carry out Madrid-style bomb attacks against trains and shopping centers in the capital city of Manila. However, other government officials said the only evidence they had of any plans to carry out such attacks reportedly had come from some of the detained suspects during interrogation.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 28, 2004, 08:51:24 PM
Philippines: Abu Sayyaf's Tactical Alliance
May 28, 2004   2026 GMT

Summary

Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf has suffered significant attrition and ideological rifts in recent years, but could be rejuvenating itself once again with a renewed alliance with Jemaah Islamiyah and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Analysis

Hajder Sailani (alias Akmad Hayas), a ranking member of Abu Sayyaf, was captured by the Philippine military in Zamboanga city on May 28. The Philippine security apparatus is looking for a "death squad" formed by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While several Abu Sayyaf members have been killed or captured in recent years, the group appears to be revitalizing itself <a href="Story.neo?storyId=229880">again[/url] with renewed support from JI and the MILF.

Sailani was a close aide of the late Abu Sayyaf founding member Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani and was involved in operations in the southern island of Basilan until his arrest on charges of kidnapping. Sailani's presence in Zamboanga coincides with a government hunt for militants believed to be planning attacks in and near the city.

The Philippine military warned during the week of May 22 that JI, Abu Sayyaf and the MILF have merged and are planning attacks in Zamboanga and around the southern Philippines. Military spokesman Lt. Col. Renoir Pascua said Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani and two members of JI are suspected of masterminding the group. The death squad reportedly comprises gunmen and bombers aged 15 to 25 years, who reportedly have been well-trained by foreign militants.

An alliance between the groups is not a major logistical or political undertaking. There are plenty of ties among the MILF, Abu Sayyaf and JI. Abu Sayyaf started as a MILF splinter group, and JI has been known to seek refuge and train in the southern Philippine Islands with both indigenous groups.

The Philippine government has made similar claims of cooperation between these groups. Manila frequently charges that the MILF is cooperating with JI and Abu Sayyaf to pressure the Moro rebels in an attempts to negotiate a <a href="Story.neo?storyId=228138">peace accord[/url] with them. The majority of MILF leadership probably has distanced itself from JI and Abu Sayyaf, but radical, low-ranking rebel leaders maintain ties with the groups.

Coordination among these groups is not usually a strategic decision by the top commanders, but some tactical cooperation for specific objectives such as a major attack or series of attacks. If such a tactical alliance has formed and an immediate offensive is planned, it would demonstrate that Abu Sayyaf is succeeding in rejuvenating its battered force that has been split by ideological rifts.

Abu Sayyaf's primary ideologies and goals have been undermined by commanders more interested in profitable kidnap-for-ransom operations than establishing an independent Islamic nation in the southern Philippines. The February 26 Manila <a href="Story.neo?storyId=229073">ferry bombing[/url] claimed by Abu Sayyaf could mark the revival of the group. Al Qaeda and its Southeast Asian arm, the JI, likely cut some of its funding and support to Abu Sayyaf while the group appeared distracted and ineffectual. After the ferry attack, Abu Sayyaf could have regenerated interest by foreign sponsors.

The group's ranks have declined due to attrition and likely have remained thin because potential recruits have seen the group as weak and dying. Its upswing in recruitment is likely caused by its alliance with the other groups. The MILF's negotiations with Manila will restart now that the Philippine presidential elections have passed, and talks will no longer be clouded by political uncertainties in Manila during an election year. Senior MILF leaders appear amenable to a deal similar to the one cut by Moro National Liberation Front in 1996. As momentum for peace accord builds, hardcore rebels will abandon the MILF for more radical groups such as Abu Sayyaf and JI.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 11, 2004, 10:47:36 PM
Abu Sayyaf and the Strait of Malacca
June 11, 2004   2019 GMT

Summary

Abu Sayyaf threats against passenger ferries in the Philippines raise the security threat across the region because of the group's contacts and possible cooperation with Jemaah Islamiyah.

Analysis

Philippine security forces arrested a man in Manila on June 10 suspected of attempting to put explosive materials aboard a ship headed for Zamboanga City. Authorities believe the suspect was linked to Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group involved in attacks against Philippine ferries. Abu Sayyaf is loosely affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al Qaeda, and personnel and tactics employed in attacks in the Philippines could be transferred to the strategically critical Strait of Malacca.

The explosives cache -- 30,000 nonelectric blasting caps, a detonating cord nearly a mile long and 2.4 miles of timing fuse -- was found by a bomb-sniffing dog. The materials could have been part of a planned attack or merely transported for future use, but their seizure follows at least one possible attack against a Philippine ferry and another foiled attack.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for an explosion and fire on a Manila ferry Feb. 26 that killed more than 100 people. Philippine authorities are still investigating the case and have not ruled the ferry blast an attack. The Philippine military, however, said in late April it uncovered a plot to bomb ferries in Mindanao after arresting four Muslim extremists. One of the militants in custody allegedly said the explosion on the Manila ferry occurred after he stuffed TNT into a television set he placed aboard the ship. At the end of May, security forces seized homemade bombs on the southern island of Jolo, saying they prevented an attack on a ferry bound for Zamboanga.

Because the Abu Sayyaf is not an isolated group but jointly trains with the JI, which extends across Southeast Asia, its tactics and personnel can be transferred to other areas. JI and Abu Sayyaf agents working together could employ tactics similar to those used in the Philippines to attack ferries leaving ports in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. But the threat is not limited to ferry passengers in the region. The danger to the Strait of Malacca, one the world's most vital waterways, is also increased.

The 500-mile strait between Malaysia and Indonesia is the major shipping artery between the Middle East and East Asia. As many as 1,000 ships pass through it every week -- including tankers carrying approximately 80 percent of Japan's oil supply and nearly 40 percent of China's oil supply.

Attacking a ferry, or even a handful of ferries, probably would not severely interrupt shipping in the deepwater strait, but the political and economic shock from such an attack would be substantial. World oil prices already have risen after militant attacks in Saudi Arabia -- the world's largest oil supplier. If ferries in the strait were targeted, a similar risk premium would be placed on oil shipments.

But ferries would not necessarily be the only targets. Tactics similar to those used for smuggling explosives onto ferries could be used to place a bomb on a large container ship or tanker. Scuttling such a vessel in one of the narrowest sections of the strait -- only 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest point -- could seriously interrupt shipments.
 
www.stratfor.com
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 01, 2004, 01:17:05 AM
Philippines: MILF Peace Talks on Again
June 30, 2004
Summary


After President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's re-election, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are ready to restart peace talks. A large portion of the Moro rebels could be ready to end the long-standing insurrection; however, movement toward an accord could spark more violence, while radical members of MILF reject peace.


Analysis


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said June 28 the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in hunting militant Islamist groups Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf. The announcement comes while negotiators from the government and MILF are poised to resume stalled peace talks, and U.S. forces prepare to conduct joint exercises with Philippine troops in Mindanao.


A combination of battle fatigue and U.S. intervention in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao appears to be prompting a large portion of the Moro rebels to cut a peace deal with Manila. Over the next few months, fighting will likely erupt between divergent MILF factions while radical groups that reject peace splinter from the main body of the group.


Now that the presidential elections have passed and Arroyo's government is reasonably secure, political forces in Mindanao are again moving toward a peace deal. The government and MILF are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur in early August to reopen peace talks interrupted by the political contest in Manila.


MILF has sent a series of positive signals in the past week. Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu congratulated Arroyo on June 24 for winning the election, saying, "We remain optimistic that a peace agreement will be reached under her administration." The Moro rebels are backing up their rhetoric with action, reportedly using intelligence provided by Manila to find JI members among the rebels. Philippine security officials estimate that up to 40 JI members are in Mindanao training members of MILF and Abu Sayyaf.


MILF's cooperation with Manila has won it praise from the government. Arroyo said June 29 that conflict with the Moro rebels "is at an all-time low" following a cease-fire in July 2003.


The statements by Arroyo and the rebels are more than just political niceties before they meet at the negotiating table. MILF appears battle weary and ready to accept an exchange of autonomy for a peace agreement; the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) accepted a similar deal in 1996.


MILF's move to throw in the towel is partially prompted by the U.S. involvement in Mindanao, which has become a front in the U.S. war against Islamist groups. The United States is continuing to support Philippine military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, while using a mixture of economic incentives and military threats -- including U.S. assistance for the AFP if fighting resumes, or development aid once an accord is reached -- to push MILF into a peace deal. By supporting the Philippine military and co-opting MILF, the United States hopes to deny the southern Philippines to militant groups, which use the region as a training ground and base of operations.


There likely will be a dramatic increase in violence in Mindanao when MILF moves to negotiate a peace deal and immediately after any deal is cut.


Small radical factions within MILF probably will reject peace and splinter off into new militant groups or join JI and the Abu Sayyaf. There also will be violent infighting among the rebels as the MILF high command works with Manila to purge its ranks. In addition, some rejectionists within MILF will likely attempt to derail peace talks through numerous small-scale attacks.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 09, 2004, 07:29:58 AM
Item Number:13
Date: 08/09/2004
PHILIPPINES - 17 KILLED IN ACTION WITH REBEL FORCES (AUG 09/ABS)

ABS-CBN -- The Philippines military launched a preemptive strike late
last week against a group of Maoist rebels in the southern province of
Agusan del Norte, reports ABS-CBN (Philippines).


Two platoons from the 4th Infantry Division's 1st and 2nd Reconnaissance
companies overran a camp of the New People's Army. The group was planning a strike on the town of Nasipit, according to intelligence sources.


Twelve rebels and five soldiers died in the fighting, with another 13
troops wounded.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 09, 2004, 09:23:45 PM
Summary


Maneuvers by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao could be an attempt to strengthen the group's hand before peace talks restart later in the month -- or they could mark the beginning of the rebels' final fracturing before a peace agreement is reached.


Analysis


Rebels from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are massing near a small town on the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao, ABS-CBN News reports. The maneuvers come a month after the rebels reportedly received a large shipment of weapons -- and as 150 U.S. soldiers are conducting joint exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on the island.


The MILF's maneuvers could be nothing more than a show of force during ongoing peace negotiations with Manila. However, they also could be the harbinger of something more ominous: The rebel group could be fracturing as headway is made toward a peace deal with Manila, and the gathering could be the beginning of an offensive by those who would reject a peace agreement.


An unspecified number of Moro rebels reportedly are massing near the town of Tungawan, in Zamboanga Sibugay province. In response, the AFP's Southern Command is blocking the exit and entry routes to neighboring Zamboanga City and has sent reinforcements to soldiers already stationed there.


The rebel buildup comes after local media, quoting unidentified government and military sources, reported that the MILF received 1,190 automatic rifles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition in two shipments that arrived in Sultan Kudarat in early July. The AFP has downplayed the report, and the MILF has categorically denied receiving any new weapons.


The AFP is engaged in joint exercises with U.S. troops near the city of Carmen, in North Cotabato province -- in the heart of MILF operational territory. The rebels undoubtedly take the location of the exercises as a warning that should talks fail, the government's next offensive against the rebels will be backed by Washington. The alleged arms shipment and the massing of rebels could be MILF's attempt to bolster its position and negotiate with Manila from a position of strength.

Manila and the rebels have been cooperating and seem to be working toward some middle ground. Government officials and MILF delegates are expected to restart talks this month in Kuala Lumpur. Manila already has met one key rebel demand: redeploying AFP forces from the former MILF stronghold of Buliok Complex. The government also is preparing to drop the charges against nearly 100 MILF leaders and soldiers stemming from bombings in Davao City in 2003.

Although progress is being made, the MILF will want to keep a strong position in order to wrest the best possible terms for a peace deal from Manila. In order to remain strong, it would need to gather its forces and maintain supplies.


However, another scenario is equally plausible. A number of MILF leaders -- especially younger and more ideologically fervent commanders -- likely will reject a peace deal with Manila and will continue to fight for an independent Moro state. These rejectionists might already be preparing for the next phase of the long insurrection in Mindanao by massing strength and securing equipment.

If this is the case, the AFP might decide to nip the problem in the bud and take out those rebel factions before they are well organized. This could even happen with the cooperation of MILF central command. If fighting suddenly erupts near Tungawan, this will probably be the reason.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc. All rights reserved.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 13, 2004, 08:03:28 PM
Philippines: 17 Sentenced To Die
August 13, 2004
Seventeen members of Abu Sayyaf were sentenced to death in Manila on Aug. 13 for their roles in a series of kidnappings and murders in 2001. Four of the 17 are still at large. The militants were charged in the kidnapping and murder of three U.S. citizens and a group of Filipino resort workers from the Dos Palmas resort on the island of Palawan. The Dos Palmas incident was one of a series of kidnappings the group carried out on the Mindinao islands.

Copyrights 2004 - Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 17, 2004, 01:36:57 AM
Philippines' Moro Rebels: Spreading the Word About Peace
August 16, 2004
Summary


Leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are planning a massive information campaign in an effort to bring rank-and-file members on board for the ongoing peace process with the Philippine government. The campaign could mark the final stage of the insurrection on the southern island of Mindanao.


Analysis


The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao will conduct a massive information campaign to educate its 12,000 members about the ongoing peace process with Manila.


Rebel chiefs expect division in the ranks over the peace process and are trying to mitigate dissention before it boils over. This is one of the final steps before the MILF cuts a peace deal with the government -- and small bands of guerrillas break off to continue fighting for an independent Moro state.


The MILF will launch this campaign in September, just after a new round of peace talks with the government slated to begin in Malaysia in late August. The campaign, led by MILF peace negotiators, is expected to include some of the largest gatherings of MILF members in recent years.


The primary reason for the effort is that it allows the MILF leadership to get its message directly to the rank and file, since some guerrillas are based in remote areas far from rebel headquarters. This direct approach also allows the leadership to bypass regional commanders who might not be fully informed, or who might intentionally distort information or withhold it from the guerrillas under their command. Stratfor forecast that pieces of the MILF can be expected to break off when the rebels reach a peace accord with Manila. This effort, then, is the rebel leaders' last chance to clarify their position and close ranks before attempting to end the insurgency.


Rebel leaders are well aware that their regional commanders might not be fully on board the peace process. Some MILF commanders are accused of providing shelter to Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf militants within their camps. The information sessions likely will be used to definitively assess who is and is not "on board." After this assessment, MILF leaders will either take care of the problem internally or provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the adequate intelligence to get the job done.


The sessions also will demonstrate the rebels' good faith while negotiations continue. Rebels who reject a peace deal likely will attempt to derail the process, and the leadership will want to distance themselves from such elements.


The MILF insurrection appears to be entering its final stages. The rebel leadership is making internal and external preparations to reach a deal with Manila. All that remains to be seen is how extensive division runs within the rebel group.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Anonymous on August 23, 2004, 09:56:21 PM
Philippines: Will Peace Talks Get Back on Track?
August 23, 2004
Summary


Peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government have been postponed after a clash between government and rebel forces. More clashes will occur in the near future as some rebel commanders attempt to derail the peace process.


Analysis


A new round of peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines, which was set to begin this week at the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, was postponed again. The postponement comes after a soldier and two MILF fighters were killed in a firefight in the southern province of Maguindanao of the island of Mindanao on Aug. 17.


Stratfor forecast that cease-fire violations and infighting among rebels would likely occur as MILF and Manila draw closer to finalizing peace talks, and that some rebels opposed to ending the conflict would attempt to derail the process. The Maguindanao fight -- which was not the first time Philippine troops and rebels have clashed since a May 2002 cease-fire -- could have simply been a misunderstanding. However, timing suggests it could be more than that. Some local MILF commanders could be attempting to disrupt negotiations or preparing to split from MILF and possibly are testing the Philippine military and the rebel leadership.


The firefight reportedly was sparked by a family feud. Local militia forces killed two men suspected of stealing cattle. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said that when the families attempted to recover the bodies of the two men, the militia commander prevented them from doing so. The families then called on their relatives in MILF to intervene. When the rebels arrived, the local militia commander sought support from government troops and rebels opened fire on soldiers after supposedly mistaking them for the militia. Kabalu said the clash with the militia was part of an ongoing feud between the militia commander and a prominent local family.


Philippine news Web site INQ7.net said Kabalu called for a suspension of negotiations. However, Kabalu said Aug. 23 the suspension of talks came at the request of the Malaysian government -- which will host the event -- not the MILF. In either case, the rebels will use the time to ascertain what exactly happened to prompt the cease-fire violation and take measures to prevent further incidents.


Despite the clash between the government and rebel forces, both sides remain optimistic about peace talks. Kabalu reiterated MILF's resolve to end conflict with government troops through talks, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the government will "continue to forge peace in Mindanao" through talks with the rebels.


The incident in Maguindanao demonstrates how shaky peace negotiations can be. Other clashes will likely occur in the near future. So far, the Philippine government and military have restrained themselves; however, more clashes could prompt them to take action. MILF leaders will have to convince Manila they can handle rogue rebel commanders -- which will not be easy since many officials believe the current cease-fire is nothing more than an opportunity for the rebels to regroup and rearm.
Title: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2006, 10:01:41 AM
Bohol is becoming an ecotourism spot. The island has resorts that are attracting nature lovers from all over.

               E-MailPrint Reprints Save
 
By AUSTIN CONSIDINE
Published: July 9, 2006
NOBODY is certain why the explorer Magellan went out of his way to visit the Philippines. Before he could record his memoirs, he was killed on the tiny island of Mactan in 1521.

Skip to next paragraph
 
The New York Times
One hopes Magellan also made it to Bohol, a 60-mile-wide island near the southern end of the Philippine archipelago, not far from where he died. Indeed, with its white sand beaches, the unspoiled jungles of the Loboc river valley, and the breathtaking Chocolate Hills, one imagines that things haven't changed all that much.

But that may not last. Over the last five years, this lush island ? reachable by ferry from Cebu City (about 90 minutes) and domestic flights ? has been grooming itself as a major ecotourism destination, with several new resorts that are beginning to attract snorkelers, divers and nature lovers.

The new resorts are clustered along Alona Beach, a spit of sparkling white sand surrounded by crystal-blue waters and a colorful coral shelf. At the high end is Alona Palm Beach (Alona Beach, Tawala, 63-38-502-9141, www.alonapalmbeach.com), a secluded 12-villa resort with a 4,800-square-foot pool that is separated from the beach by a coconut palm grove. Doubles start at $120 in low season, $150 in high season.

For those who don't need satellite television, there are still plenty of simple beachfront lodges like Isis Bungalows (Alona Beach, 63-38-502-9292, www.isisbungalows.com). Each room has its own terrace facing the sea, and a modestly priced restaurant serves Filipino dishes like spicy beef caldereta right on the beach. Rooms start at $38.

But even when the new resorts are filled to capacity, the beaches never feel crowded. Maybe that's because everyone is in the water. A spectacular coral shelf, which plunges 250 feet in some spots, is about 45 minutes by boat from Alona Beach. Snorkelers can view clown fish, barracudas and other species at the shelf's shallower plateaus.

Diving gear and classes are available all over Alona Beach. One outfitter is Philippine Islands Divers (Alona Beach, Danao, 63-918-335-0842, www.phildivers.com), which offers diving trips starting at $22 for a descent. Snorkel equipment, on the other hand, can be rented from locals, who paddle out to your boat (about 200 pesos, or $3.80, at 55 pesos to the dollar). But tread carefully: the reef is recovering from decades of destructive fishing practices.

Bohol is also excellent for watching dolphins. Some resorts offer their own guided tours, but you can also hire a captain on the beach for as little as 450 pesos.

After exploring the coastline, head inland for the thick jungles, home to the tarsier, a tiny, rare and endangered primate. Nuts Huts Resort (63-920-846-9162, www.groove-events.be/nutshuts), an affordable ecolodge, is located upriver from Loboc City. Even if you don't spend the night, stop by for the fresh food and stunning view from its dining terrace. Doubles start at 450 pesos, dormitory beds from 200 pesos.

No trip to Bohol, however, is complete without visiting the Chocolate Hills. One glimpse is enough to see why: It's a landscape as distinctive as the Grand Canyon or the Cliffs of Moher.

Go during the late afternoon and watch the sun set over more than 1,200 gumdrop-shaped hills, each formed by eons of coral buildup and erosion. Squint your eyes when the wind rustles their brown, grassy surfaces. You'll swear they are floating.
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 25, 2007, 08:38:54 AM
Philippine Fly-Over
By GREG RUSHFORD
September 25, 2007

CLARK FIELD, Philippines -- The economic potential of the Philippines -- and all the reasons it has yet to live up to that potential -- come sharply into focus as soon as a visitor lands. Literally. With Manila's current major international air terminal, some 50 miles to the city's south, already too congested for serious expansion, the battle over the future of the Philippines' next premier international air gateway has become a microcosm of all that the country could be, and all that's holding it back.

 
Still widely known as "Clark Field," the old name from its days as an American military airbase, the airport-in-waiting is now officially the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, in honor of the former Philippine president and father of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And Ms. Arroyo has been playing the crucial, and often conflicted, role in determining the airport's future.

Clark and its surrounding community in the province of Pampanga have never been rich. In its heyday during the Cold War, Clark Air Base bustled with energy as a major U.S. listening post and home of the 13th U.S. Air Force. But in June 1991, the U.S. Air Force, under fierce attack from nationalist forces in the Philippine Senate, finally flew out, leaving Clark covered in the volcanic ashes spewed out by nearby Mt. Pinatubo. Clark immediately fell upon hard times. Looters stripped the base clean, down to the toilet lids.

Things began to change in January 2006, when Ms. Arroyo -- responding to complaints from the Pampanga business community that too many regulations from Manila were holding back Clark's potential -- signed an executive order unilaterally proclaiming open skies. The move unleashed the forces of economic liberalization at Clark by allowing foreign airlines to fly in hundreds of thousands of tourists from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and as far away as Dubai. It also opened the door to all the trade that could be conducted via the cargo holds of those planes. The formerly sleepy Clark, which processed fewer than 50,000 passengers three years ago, took off, bringing in nearly 500,000 last year. And prices are dropping. Singapore's Tiger Airways has been offering flights from Macau to Clark for $9.99.

The benefits aren't so much trickling into the local economy as pouring. More than 50,000 Filipinos now work here, some 10,000 more than were employed when the Americans ran the place. More jobs are coming as foreign companies find it easier and cheaper to move people and goods in and out.

Texas Instruments is putting in a billion-dollar semiconductor plant. The United Parcel Service has made Clark a regional hub. Yokohama Tire Philippines is making a $100 million expansion, and is exporting tires from Clark all around the world. Shoemart, the big Philippine retail giant, has moved in, as has Jollibee's, the Philippine answer to McDonald's (which also serves the nearby community). Other foreign and Philippine entrepreneurs are opening up more businesses to cater to the workers and tourists: hotels, restaurants and so on.

But the growth remains fragile, and will come to a halt if Ms. Arroyo's government insists upon bringing Clark's passenger traffic back to a trickle. Which, alarmingly, is just what the government has tried to do. In August 2006, just eight months after the initial liberalization, Ms. Arroyo bowed to pressures from domestic protectionist cronies -- the most well-known of whom is billionaire Lucio Tan, the owner of Philippine Airlines -- and issued a revised executive order aimed at slowing down the foreign airline traffic. While the numbers for arriving passengers were still up some 35% in the first quarter of this year, it is clear that Clark's ambitions to become the Philippines' premier gateway have been seriously threatened.

Citing "the continued uncertainty regarding the regulatory situation at Clark," Tiger Airways announced on March 23 that it would be reducing its flight frequency from Singapore to Clark to nine weekly flights from 14. As Clark spokesman Arnel San Pedro told me, local business leaders are outraged that the national government would "refuse to prosper because of the subservience of some greedy people to the personal interests of 'Manila's Imperial Dragons.'"

Ms. Arroyo's reversal was especially galling because Mr. Tan -- the archetypal "imperial dragon" -- is such a terrible well from which to draw economic advice. He first got really rich in the 1970s, thanks to various tax breaks and favors bestowed by former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. Understandably, the Chinese-born tycoon takes a dim view of cuttthroat market-oriented competition from foreign-run budget airlines. His critics revile him as the personification of what's wrong with the Philippine economy.

But Mr. Tan's current ally in the presidential palace, Ms. Arroyo, is more forgiving. In 2002, the president honored him for his "lifetime" of achievements in "helping build the nation." Numerous press reports from Manila have it that Mr. Tan has been among Ms. Arroyo's most generous sources of campaign financing; presidential press secretary Ignacio Bunye declines comment.

Now Ms. Arroyo is being pressed by a deeply concerned Clark business community that believes that Mr. Tan's influence upon the Arroyo administration is pulling the economic ladder out from under them. The airport's energetic chief executive, Victor Jose Luciano, made an impassioned presentation last month to Ms. Arroyo and her cabinet urging the president to issue a third executive order undoing the damage she created with her second one back in August 2006.

Ms. Arroyo holds a doctorate in economics, so she presumably understands that her first instincts to open the Philippine skies were the right ones. Her method may be problematic, though. When she moved to slow down the Philippines' open skies prospects last year, Ms. Arroyo's public rationale was that instead of unilateral liberalization, the Philippines would negotiate with foreign governments for increased access to their airports in return. Indeed, the Arroyo administration has recently concluded negotiating a major expansion of passenger landings for flights between the Philippines and South Korea.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Tan seems to dominate the process. A leaked copy of the Aug. 9, 2007, minutes of the Philippine government's official air negotiating panel shows that nine of the 23 members aren't government officials, but work for Mr. Tan's PAL and two other Tan-owned airline and cargo operations. Cebu Pacific, another domestic carrier that is following Mr. Tan's anti-open skies lead, has another two seats.

Since in practice the Philippine airline negotiating body seeks unanimous consent to schedule negotiations with foreign airlines, Mr. Tan effectively has veto power -- and last month's minutes make clear that PAL sees "no immediate need" for urgency in scheduling many more air talks. Supporters of open skies report that the last air talks the Philippine government held with Macau were in 2001, that similar negotiations with Hong Kong last occurred in 1996, and in 1995 for Malaysia and Thailand.

From PAL's perspective, why hurry? Philippine airline industry sources who ask not to be identified report that Mr. Tan's airline has found a wonderful way to profit from current restrictions. When passenger quotas assigned by the Philippine authorities to, say, Macau, or Hong Kong, or Dubai, have been filled, the Philippine government has given expanded entitlements to fly more passengers to PAL, which turns around and "rents" those entitlements to foreign carriers. While the details of such deals remain confidential, credible industry insiders report that Dubai is paying PAL at least $1 million a year in passenger rents. Not that this money is "free," of course: The foreign carriers pass the extra expense on to fliers -- many of whom are hard-pressed Philippine overseas workers -- in the form of pricier tickets. Mr. Tan, who declined persistent requests to be interviewed for this column, is turning a profit for PAL without flying his own airplanes.

The question now is whether Ms. Arroyo will be able to summon the political courage to stop him from doing it. She might reflect on some history. When the airport's namesake, her father -- an economic reformer -- was elected in 1961, the Philippines boasted the second-largest economy in Asia, second only to Japan. When Ferdinand Marcos won election four years later, he went on to help enrich his cronies while crippling the economy with an array of protectionist schemes. With a stroke of her presidential pen, Ms. Arroyo could not only re-open Philippine skies to economic development, she could also prove that "Philippine prosperity" doesn't have to be an oxymoron.

Mr. Rushford is editor of The Rushford Report, an online journal that follows the politics of international trade and diplomacy.

WSJ
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 27, 2007, 06:30:13 AM
PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is planning to offer an unconditional pardon to her ousted predecessor Joseph Estrada. Estrada, 70, previously said he would not accept a pardon if it meant admitting guilt. The conditions of the pardon will be settled between Arroyo's interior minister and Estrada. Arroyo's chief legal advisor said the move was to ease political tensions in the country; the long enmity between Arroyo and Estrada has been the source of many coup rumors.

stratfor
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Maxx on October 19, 2007, 09:08:33 AM
Eight dead in Philippines blast


At least eight people have died after a suspected bomb attack in the Philippine capital, Manila.
The lunchtime blast shattered windows and sent debris crashing onto cars at the Glorietta shopping complex.
More than 100 people were hurt in the explosion, in the city's Makati business district.
Police initially believed the cause was an exploding gas cylinder, but experts and officials later said it was almost certainly a bomb attack.
President Gloria Arroyo said the city's emergency services were on high alert, and 2,000 extra personnel had been drafted in "to prevent a similar occurrence".
"We assure everyone that a full-blown investigation is now under way," she said on local TV.
Bomb theory
The blast caused extensive damage to the shopping centre. Concrete blocks and planks fell from the roof and cars outside the mall were covered with debris.


"It left a deep crater at the foot of the escalator," said Charlie Nepomuceno, an employee at the Glorietta complex.
"It also ripped open the roof of the building. I saw a man thrown on to the roof who had lost a leg," he told Reuters.
National police chief Avelino Razon said he believed a bomb had caused the explosion.
"Beyond that we can't say anything else yet because we are still investigating," he told AFP news agency.
Militants have targeted the Philippine capital in the past.
In 2004, more than 100 people died when Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf group - who are battling the military in the south of the country - blew up a passenger ferry in the capital.
And in February 2005, four people died in a bomb attack on a Manila bus.       
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 22, 2007, 03:32:20 AM
Woof All:

This is an area about which I know next to nothing, so please understand that my posting this article is meant only to offer it for consideration and in encouragement of knowledgeable persons here to comment, either pro or con.

TAC,
CD
========================

A Precarious Peace
By ZACHARY ABUZA
November 22, 2007
WSJ

Last week saw an important breakthrough in the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, one of two groups fighting for an autonomous Muslim homeland. While details of the draft agreement are still vague, one thing's for sure: for this deal to work, both Manila and the MILF will have to get serious about good governance. If they don't, the southern region could once again descend into violence. And spoilers on all sides abound.

The two sides had been deadlocked for 14 months over the thorny issue of "ancestral domain" -- the territory that will be included in the new autonomous body known as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. That body, according to the draft agreement, will assume all local governmental functions for the Moro, the Philippines' largest Muslim ethnic group. While the details are yet to be worked out, Manila would retain control of national issues that affect the region, like defense and monetary policy.

Although the agreement is a step forward, it is far from a comprehensive consensus. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity overlaps with the five provinces governed under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which established in 1996 by the government's peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another group fighting for an independent homeland. It is now unclear whether the Mindanao autonomous region will be dissolved or superceded by the new entity.

The MNLF already seems dead set against a compromise. Earlier this month, its chairman, Nur Misuari, warned the government not to sign a peace agreement with the MILF. According to the MNLF, the 1996 peace deal is the "final agreement" and it's the MNLF who are the legitimate representatives of the Bangsamoro people. It's now up to both the Philippine government to include the MNLF in the drafting of a New Organic Charter (the BJE's constitution) and help both sides create a common platform for the talks and to establish principles for governance of the area, which is largely located on Mindanao island.

This may be too much to expect from Manila, given the government's track record. The Philippine Congress watered down the 1996 agreement and many provisions of the agreement were never implemented. Assuming that the recent MILF agreement leads to the formal completion of a final peace agreement in 2008, it will still have to be ratified by the Senate, which could be a protracted fight. Congress will also have to pass a host of laws to implement the agreement. The MNLF or sympathetic politicians could file court cases challenging the agreement.

Then there's the problem of corruption. The United States has pledged nearly $50 million to Mindanao upon the conclusion of a peace process. Japan, Canada and the European Union have all pledged significant aid programs, as have the major multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. But the MILF's ability to quickly and efficiently absorb the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pledged is questionable. A master plan for sustainable economic growth and natural resource exploitation must be drawn up immediately.

If there's a bright spot here, it's that the existing draft agreement calls for a referendum for independence to be held in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in 2030. This is the Bangsamoro's chance to secure a homeland. But to be successful, their leaders must govern fairly, transparently and honestly; while bringing broad-based economic development. The MILF does not have extensive experience in governance, administration and providing social services. They are all too aware that their pool of human resources is thin. "Nation-building is far more difficult than running a revolutionary organization," the MILF's lead negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, acknowledged last Thursday.

If the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity cannot overcome the obstacles of poor governance, impunity and corruption that have been the hallmarks of most Philippine governments, the Moro will lose this opportunity. Independence could be won, not through war, but through good governance. Now that would be a revolution.

Mr. Abuza is professor of political science at Simmons College, Boston, and the author of "Political Islam and Violence in Indonesia" (Routledge, 2006).
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Maxx on December 18, 2007, 10:37:22 AM
Philippine Islamist 'shot dead'

Philippine troops have killed a leading Islamist militant wanted by the US after raiding his safe house in the south of the country, officials say. Mobin Abdurajak, said to be a senior leader in the Abu Sayyaf group, was wanted for the abduction in 2000 of 21 people from a Malaysian resort. Regional officials said he died in a shootout when marines swooped on his hideout in the island of Tawi-Tawi. The United States had offered $20,000 (£9,900) for his arrest. Mobin Abdurajak was a brother-in-law of Abu Sayyaf chief Khadaffy Janjalani, who was killed in a clash with Philippine troops last year. "The neutralisation of Abdurajak is part of our campaign to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf terrorists," regional navy chief Emilio Marayag said, according to the Reuters news agency. In the mainly Catholic Philippines, Abu Sayyaf is the most notorious of several active Muslim rebel groups. Last week, 14 of its members were jailed for life for abducting 20 people from a luxury beach resort in the western Philippines in 2001. Three of the victims, including an American, were decapitated.       
Title: Philippine Girls throwing down that Pekiti Tersia!
Post by: Maxx on May 19, 2008, 09:05:27 AM
http://www. gmanews. tv/video/12682/Lady-police-officers-show-off-skills-in-fighting-criminals
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 28, 2008, 09:16:09 AM

(Updates with outcome of talks, fresh quotes)

By Jalil Hamid and Manny Mogato

KUALA LUMPUR/MANILA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and the government agreed on Sunday to ballot areas within 12 months on whether they wanted to join an existing autonomous Muslim homeland in the volatile south.

The compromise came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government resumed stalled talks in Malaysia.

While the deal was no guarantee that a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia's most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was seen as an important step towards ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

"A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain (homeland) in Kuala Lumpur tonight with the signing of a joint communique," said Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine president's peace adviser, who attended the talks.

"With this positive development and the negotiations, the signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set for early August," he said.

Under the deal, a referendum will be held in around 700 villages on whether they want to join the existing autonomous Muslim region.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks last week in the Malaysian capital ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address on Monday.

But the talks ended in deadlock on Friday after Manila tried to delay a referendum on enlarging the existing Muslim homeland until after a separate political agreement was reached.

OPPOSITION COMPLAINTS

The existing Muslim homeland has its own government, legislature and Muslim courts, but remains dependent on the central government for its budget, foreign, defence and monetary policy.

In the final political agreement still under negotiation, the rebels are pushing for the homeland to retain 75 percent of the taxes raised in that region.

A Malaysian government source close to the talks said the signing of the agreement on expanding the ancestral homeland would be held either on August 5 or 6.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF, and Arroyo's reliance on their support, mean Manila's negotiating strategy could easily be thrown off course.

Real progress in the talks appeared to have been made when Arroyo last week supported postponing Aug. 11 elections in the Muslim south, because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some Manila lawmakers opposed postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They complained Congress was not consulted on the issue.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Jon Boyle)
Title: MILF, Army, non-Muslim Civilians fighting
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 10, 2008, 05:49:44 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsD2cHJzoCY

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/research/...cestral-domain

http://timawa.net/forum/index.php?topic=13722.0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiaHT...eature=related
Title: Re: Comming Events: Philippines
Post by: Kaju Dog on October 16, 2008, 06:49:32 AM
I thought it fitting to put this here CD, feel free to move it or let me know where you would prefer.

*Posted Event/Opportunity with the pre-written blessing of Crafty Dog:


WORLD MARTIAL ARTS MASTERS
THAILAND / PHILIPPINES TOUR

NOV 27 - DEC 10 2008
HOSTED BY
GRANDMASTER MAX PALLEN
&
MASTER MARK GERRY



We will spend a week in Thailand
Training and Touring.


Were staying at the Twin palms Resort on the beach in Pattaya
http://www.twinpalmsresort-pattaya.com/
and Training at the Kombat Village.
http://www.kombatgroup.com/index.html



We will spend a week in Philippines
Training and Touring.



We will Tour Manilla then
down to Cebu for Training
at Grandmaster Pallen's Temple
http://senkotiros.org/main.html
and Touring the white sand beach's.


For more info on this Trip or other
World Martial Arts Master's Tours

sifumarkgerry@aol.com

*If you want more info on this please mention DB's & C-Kaju Dog to Mark Gerry.  He will be sure to treat you like family.
Title: US meeting with MILF?!?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 22, 2009, 01:51:24 PM
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/new...on-peace-talks


US officials meet with MILF on peace talks

COTABATO CITY – Washington officials again held a secret meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the jungles of Maguindanao, reaffirming their support to the peace talks between them and the Philippine government.

US Embassy Charge’ de Affairs Leslie Basset; political officer Michael Pignagtello; Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United States Aid for International Development; and Anthony Senci, Embassy defense minister, met on Friday with MILF commanders led by their chief, Ebrahim Murad, at Camp Darapanan, the rebel’s main camp in Sultan Kudarat town.

In her message posted on the rebels’ website, Basset reiterated the US commitment to support the peace process in Mindanao by providing more assistance.

“The United States government greatly respect and support people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” she said.

Murad said they have remained committed and determined since the start of the peace negotiation in 1997.

“We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitation of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF,” Murad said in statement.

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar urged the US government to help specifically in addressing the conflict’s root cause.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Jaafar said.

The MILF briefed US diplomats about the current peace negotiation situation that has been moving forward.

Recently, the government and the MILF forged the Framework Agreement on the formation of the International Contact Group (ICG), an international body composed of two member countries from European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference that would ensure the full implementation of all agreements to be signed by two panels.

At the same time, the MILF strongly believed US presence in the region has not been for purely counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism missions.

“Peace-making and peace-building must go hand in hand in resolving the Bangsamoro problem and the conflict in Mindanao. The US government is providing indispensible contribution to these efforts,” he said.

In 2008, US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney also secretly met with Murad in Darapanan where she assured the rebel group of her country’s support to the peace talks.
Title: second post
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 22, 2009, 01:53:35 PM
http://filipinovoices.com/whos-sleeping-with-the-enemy

Who’s sleeping with the enemy?
October 21st, 2009 at 2:40 am by Manuel Buencamino

Last weekend Leslie Bassett, the US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, met with the top officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The meeting raises several questions.

Did the American Embassy ask the Arroyo administration for permission to meet with the MILF leadership?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang have not said anything. Military commanders in the area did not know that a meeting would take place.

Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the Americans simply requested him to provide security for their “routine familiarization visit.”

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the Sixth Infantry Division that provided escorts for the Americans, was also clueless.

“We learned afterward from intelligence reports about the meeting. We learned that they discussed development projects and probably also the peace process.”

Now I don’t know about you but I think the US Embassy and, for that matter, all embassies, have an obligation to ask the host government for permission before sitting down with secessionists.

If the meeting was secret and held without the Arroyo administration’s permission, then the US Embassy not only breached diplomatic protocol—it also committed a subversive act.

Who initiated the meeting?

It’s not clear. The MILF was not forthcoming and the US Embassy downplayed it.

“Ms. Bassett met with various leaders and officials in Cotabato as part of a routine familiarization visit.”

What did the Americans and the secessionists discuss during their “warm and forthright” two-hour meeting?

Neither party provided details, but general statements coming from the US Embassy and the MILF make one wonder if indeed the US is taking the side of the secessionists.

The MILF web site posted Bassett’s statement and the profuse response of the MILF chieftain.

“The United States government greatly respects and supports the people’s struggle and aspiration to achieve peace in the region. Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” said Bassett.

MILF chief Haji Murad responded, “We convey the utmost gratitude and felicitations of the MILF and the Bangsamoro people to the United States of America and His Excellency President Barack Obama for the unfaltering commitment to support the peace process and the peaceful conflict resolution between the government and MILF.”

Now, would Murad feel that way if he didn’t believe that Bassett’s statement is a message of support for the MILF’s goal of eventually seceding from the Republic?

The MILF is so confident of US support the vice chairman for MILF political affairs appealed for US intervention.

“The US government knows very well the background of the conflict both historically and legally, and we believe that the US can greatly help toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict,” said Ghazali Jaafar.

Jaafar’s statement seems innocuous enough until one sees where it’s coming from.

The MILF web site says, “Murad [the MILF chieftain] recalled that our Bangsamoro forefathers officially asked the United Sates as early as 1921 and followed up in 1924 and in 1935 to separate Bangsamoro homeland from the Filipinos of Luzon and Visayas once independence will be granted to the latter. The Moros wanted to remain under US rule rather than being annexed to the Philippine Republic.”

Is the US sleeping with the enemy?

Yes, but the US is not the only one in bed with the MILF.

Last year the Supreme Court had to step in to prevent the Arroyo administration from giving away Philippine territory to the MILF.
=============

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php?opt...ews&Itemid=372

MILF: US is a superpower; more effective outside of the ICG or formal framework of peace talks
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 08:24 administrator


October 20, 2009 - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has confirmed reports that it sought the help of the United States in the current GRP-MILF Peace Process in Mindanao, saying as a superpower the US can do many things very effective outside the framework of the International Contact Group (ICG) and the formal framework of the peace talks.

No less than Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the MILF, made the request to Ms. Leslie Basset, US Embassy deputy chief of mission, during a meeting in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on October 16.

Madame Basset was accompanied by US Embassy Political Officer Michael Pignagtello, Elzaida Washington, Country Director of the United Sates Aid for International Development, and Anthony Senci, Embassy Defense Minister.

Joining Murad were Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator, Muhammad Ameen, Secretary of the MILF Central Committee, Gordon Sayfullah, Senior Commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF), Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, Peace Negotiating Panel Member, Jun Mantawil, Head of Peace Panel Secretariat, and Toks Ebrahim, Chairman of the MILF Ceasefire Committee.

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat, told www.luwaran.com/net that current global conflict resolutions point to the fact that without the participation of the former colonizing power, in the case of the Philippines, the US, hastening the process of finding the solution to a given conflict is really difficult.

He said the US knows very well the root of the conflict in Mindanao, which he said was the annexation of Mindanao into the national territory of the Philippines during the grant of independence in 1946.

He recalled that the Moros were administered separately from the Filipinos by the creation of the Moro Province in 1903 and they vehemently opposed union with Filipinos once independence is granted to the Philippines.

“The Moros wanted to remain under US direct rule where they feel safer,” Mantawil added.

Asked what definitive role the US can play, Mantawil did not provide details except by saying it is too early to tell.

Meantime, in a separate interview, Seguis said that the MILF should clarify how it wants Washington to take part in the peace process, given that Malaysia has been brokering the peace talks between the government and the rebels.

“It is a welcome development that the MILF is seeking the help of the US government, but I still have to know in detail on how would they like the US to be of assistance since it would have an impact on the framework that we are working on,” Seguis told The Manila Times. “Will they want the US to be a facilitator together with Malaysia, or as a part of the ICG?”

The Manila Times quoted Seguis in an interview as saying, “When they (the US Embassy officials) told me that they are going on a meeting, I said go ahead,” the government negotiator told The Times. “It is OK for the senior diplomats, including the US, to meet with the MILF. That is part of their engagement in dialogue for peace, for the formal resumption of the peace process.”

“They are participating in a peaceful dialogue to convince the MILF to go back to the negotiating table with us, so that they won’t resort to violence,” Seguis said, adding that he and Bassett will meet this week about what transpired in the Mindanao meeting.
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 22, 2009, 01:54:34 PM
Third post:

I have NO idea as to the implications of this and I suspect we have several knowledgeable lurkers here.  Anyone?
Title: WSJ: NPA claims green mantle in aftermath of floods
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 30, 2011, 08:12:54 AM
By JAMES HOOKWAY
The flash floods that killed more than 1,200 in the southern Philippines this month are providing Asia's longest-running Communist insurgency an opportunity to reinvent itself as a steward for the country's badly depleted environment—and that's triggering a fresh public-relations battle with the country's armed forces.

Government officials and activists have singled out illegal logging and decades of rapid deforestation as one of the main contributing factors behind the massive loss of life, which also left hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

When Typhoon Washi dumped a month's worth of rain on Mindanao island in just 12 hours, the result was a series of surging flash floods that barreled straight down the slopes of denuded mountains to hit densely populated areas in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities. The local government's failure to pay heed to national leaders' warnings about the size of the storm heading their way was another problem, but the aftermath is focusing squarely on the consequences of Filipinos mistreating their environment.

President Benigno Aquino III captured the public mood when he said during a visit to Cagayan de Oro last week that the Philippines hasn't learned the lessons of the past and must do better to safeguard its environment to avoid future calamities.

The hard-line Maoists of the New People's Army are preparing to go further, though.

In a telephone interview Thursday, rebel spokesman Jorge Madlos said the guerrillas will demand that major plantation companies such as Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and Dole Food Co. pay up in recognition of the damage rebels say that their businesses have caused the local environment. "We aim to discuss with the companies how they can compensate the local people through our revolutionary cadres in the National Democratic Front," Mr. Madlos said. "If they don't participate, well, we'll have to see what happens."

A spokeswoman at Del Monte denied that the company contributed to deforestation in the area, and said that the firm began operations several decades ago on land that already had been cleared. Officials at Dole's Philippine operations couldn't be reached for comment.

The NPA, which the U.S. and European Union consider to be a foreign terrorist organization, has long extracted what it calls "revolutionary taxes" from businesses operating up and down the length of the Philippines. The rebels say they channel the money back into health programs for local populations and to finance their armed insurgency, which they have been waging since 1969.

Local development economists say the rebels deter investment in some of the most economically backward provinces of this scattered archipelago.

Now, though, political analysts say the NPA is trying to portray itself as a group of ecological avengers that punishes polluters and protects the local environment. In October, NPA guerrillas raided three mining sites in Mindanao, destroying valuable mining equipment and suspending operations at the Philippines' single largest nickel-producing mine in what they described at the time as an act of retribution.

The Philippine armed forces, though, are pushing back quickly. On Wednesday armed forces commander Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa said the rebel's new tack is a sign of that they are losing strength and are struggling to secure fresh funding overseas after the U.S. and Europe declared the New People's Army a foreign terrorist organization several years ago.

Lt. Gen. Dellosa said the rebels so far this year have extorted at least 300 million pesos, or nearly $7 million, in revolutionary taxes. That compares with about one billion pesos last year, when the rebels managed to extort vast sums from candidates campaigning in national elections.

"We are concerned with the direction they are heading in now," Lt. Gen. Dellosa told reporters. "Resorting to criminal activities for funding and attacking civilians to command obedience are signs of desperation."

At its peak in the early 1980s the NPA commanded more than 25,000 guerrillas and currently claims about 16,000 fighters in its ranks. The army puts the current figure substantially lower at about 5,000.

Title: POTH: Deal reached with MILF
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 08, 2012, 10:45:13 AM

MANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III announced Sunday that the Philippine government had reached a deal with a major rebel group that officials hope will reduce the persistent violence in the southern part of the country.

“This framework agreement paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao,” Mr. Aquino said.

The deal with the rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has fought a war of independence for more than three decades, is the first step in what is expected to be a long, complex process of working through disputes that have lasted for centuries between the Christian-dominated national government and the predominantly Muslim residents of the southern island of Mindanao.

If the agreement succeeds in significantly reducing violence in Mindanao, it will be a historic achievement and a major political victory for Mr. Aquino, who has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for some of his legislative proposals.

Every Philippine president since the 1970s has tried to address the violence in Mindanao, which has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people.

Fidel Ramos, president from 1992 to 1998, was able to forge a peace agreement in 1996 with another major rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front. Joseph Estrada, Mr. Ramos’s successor, declared all-out war against the Muslim rebels in an attempt to achieve peace through force.

But the violence has persisted, even with about 500 United States troops based in Mindanao as part of a joint Special Operations task force, which helps the Philippine military target the most violent and extreme insurgents.

Mindanao is plagued by roadside bombings, firefights between the military and various armed groups, gun battles between warring clans, kidnappings of Filipinos and foreigners, and general crime and lawlessness. Many countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia, strongly warn their citizens to stay out of the southern Philippines.

The agreement announced Sunday is the result of intermittent peace talks that have been taking place in Malaysia since 2001.

“The agreement will ensure that the Bangsamoro people will enjoy the dividends of peace, which they rightly deserve,” said Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, using a term that refers to the native people of the southern Philippines. “In turn, they should respect their fellow Filipinos of Christian faith, as moderation is the true Islamic way.”

Under the agreement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will no longer seek an independent state, Mr. Aquino said. Instead, the deal creates a new governing political entity, called Bangsamoro, for Mindanao.

As part of the deal, the new political entity will exercise a degree of autonomy in governing Mindanao while the national government retains authority over defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and citizenship matters. The deal also assures the people of Mindanao “a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues and the fruits of national patrimony,” Mr. Aquino said.

“This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens,” Mr. Aquino said.

One important part of the agreement calls for the decommissioning of the military wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which reportedly has 11,000 fighters. In addition, the Philippine military will turn over law enforcement to the local police.

The accord sets out general guidelines for a more detailed agreement that will be fleshed out by working groups over the next few years, said David C. Gorman, who helped mediate the talks on behalf of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, an organization based in Geneva that is devoted to resolving armed conflicts.

“It’s going to be tough,” Mr. Gorman said. “It’s not a peace agreement. It’s a framework agreement. It is saying: ‘This is the road map to peace. These are the broad outlines. Now you have to work out the details.’ ”

“It is going to be messy and it is going to take time,” he added.

The deal includes provisions to address clan warfare, the proliferation of weapons, and the private armies that are blamed for widespread political violence in the southern Philippines. A private army employed by the Ampatuan clan in central Mindanao has been accused of the 2009 massacre of 57 people, including 31 journalists, in one of the country’s worst acts of political violence.

Though the Sunday agreement was reached with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main rebel group in the southern Philippines, it includes mechanisms to bring other organizations into the discussions on local government. Notably, this does not include extremist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for kidnappings, murders and beheadings.

“These extremist groups are always going to be difficult to deal with,” Mr. Gorman said. “There are always going to be those operating outside the agreement, but as long as they are not able to undermine the process they will remain marginalized.”

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, staged a series of attacks and bombings in August during the final weeks of the peace talks. One attack, on Aug. 5, killed 80 militants and 10 soldiers and caused the evacuation of 189 residents.

Illustrating the challenges facing the government, and those seeking peace in Mindanao, the group said late Sunday that it would not respect the new agreement.
Title: Muslim rebels in Zamboanga clash with authorities
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 09, 2013, 09:53:24 AM


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323595004579064482934595634.html?mod=world_newsreel
Title: Troops close in on Muslim militants in Zamboanga
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 15, 2013, 06:01:25 PM
Philippine Troops Close In on Militant Group
Philippine government forces gradually close in on a militant group that has held scores of people hostage in the southern trading hub of Zamboanga City.
By  JAMES HOOKWAY  and  JOSEPHINE CUNETA

Philippine troops have killed or captured nearly 100 Muslim rebels, officials said Sunday, as government forces gradually close in on a militant group that has held scores of people hostage for the past week in the southern trading hub of Zamboanga City.

The bloody standoff has revived long-standing fears about the stability of the southern Philippines, denting the country's international reputation as one of Asia's hottest economies after it grew 7.6% on year in the first six months of the year, outpacing China. One of the biggest concerns among economists is that the latest outbreak of violence could jeopardize a fragile cease-fire elsewhere in the fertile southern region of Mindanao, and rob the war-scarred area of a potentially valuable peace dividend.

"With global investor interest in the Philippines having increased significantly in the last two years due to improving macroeconomic fundamentals, rapid economic growth and the Philippines' newly gained investment grade credit rating," said Rajiv Biswas, head Asia economist for IHS, "the impact of the conflict in Zamboanga City is likely to result in investors switching their investment plans away from Mindanao toward other economic regions of the Philippines with a more stable political climate."

That is a worrying prospect for the Philippine government and President Benigno Aquino III. He has invested much of his political capital in securing a peace deal with the largest Muslim rebel group in the region, signing a framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to establish an autonomous region in the Muslim-majority areas of the predominantly Christian Philippines.

The group that led the offensive in Zamboanga City, however, comes from another Muslim rebel group, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front led by veteran rebel chieftain Nur Misuari, that is increasingly at odds with the goal of peace.

Mr. Misuari, 70 years old, previously signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996, raising hopes that a rebellion prompted by centuries of Christian migration into the previously Muslim southern Philippines would finally end. Instead, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other, more extremist groups with al Qaeda connections, such as the Abu Sayyaf group, continued the fight, prompting the latest round of talks with the government.

Mr. Misuari, who couldn't be reached for comment and who is believed by security forces to be bunkered on a nearby island, has been largely sidelined and "wants to show he still counts," said Julkipli Wadi, an expert on the politics of the southern Philippines and a professor at the University of the Philippines.

Earlier this year, Mr. Misuari provided his moral support for a branch of the defunct Sultanate of Sulu that attempted to invade parts of eastern Malaysia to establish an archaic claim to sovereignty there. He told reporters in Manila at the time that some of his fighters had been involved, adding to the diplomatic tensions between the Philippines and Malaysia.

On Aug. 12, Mr. Misuari went a step further and declared independence from the rest of the Philippines at his jungle lair on Jolo Island, and his faction of the Moro National Liberation Front was back to the fore of the region's delicate security equation.

The rebels entered Zamboanga City, a major fishing and trading hub, early on Sept. 9 with plans to raise their flag at City Hall. They encountered stiff resistance from local security forces, and took as many as 180 people hostage as they retreated to several coastal neighborhoods.

For the time being, though, Mr. Misuari's forces appear to be on the back foot. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II Sunday said that at least 51 rebels have been killed in the skirmishes and another 42 captured. Six members of the security forces, along with four civilians have been killed, with more than 60,000 people made homeless by the fighting.

Many of the hostages taken by the rebels have been released and security officials say they believe that only a handful are left.

The cost to the fledgling peace agreement with the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front appears unclear, however. Both government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front officials say they will continue their discussions toward creating an autonomous zone.

The issue now, one Philippines-based intelligence official said, is to what extent Mr. Misuari's Moro National Liberation Front will be able to attract dissidents and splinter groups from the peace process, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and further undermine the economic prospects for the broader Mindanao region, which contributes 15% of the Philippine economy.
Title: Re: Current Events: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 20, 2013, 12:57:44 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/world/asia/typhoon-response-highlights-weaknesses-in-philippine-military.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131120
Title: PAc Man's assets frozen
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 26, 2013, 06:12:01 PM
http://www.interaksyon.com/article/75661/pacquiao-stung-by-assets-freeze-says-big-thieves-treated-better
Title: Peace Process stumbles forward
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 14, 2014, 10:12:04 AM

Share
In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
Analysis
September 14, 2014 | 0811 Print Text Size
In the Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attend a rally in support of the peace agreement with the government in Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, on March 27. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

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.
Analysis

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.

Read more: In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward | Stratfor
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Title: 1st SF in Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 07, 2016, 04:58:40 AM
http://maxoki161.blogspot.com/2016/04/us-special-operations-forces-in.html?spref=fb
Title: Blowback for America's sins?
Post by: ccp on October 16, 2016, 10:56:55 AM
Of course Obama's name is not mentioned:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2016/10/15/blowback-for-american-sins-philippines/VNAmdveJWntU7f8FYnGvPL/story.html
Title: Duterte and Putin
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 21, 2016, 07:30:55 AM
https://ca.news.yahoo.com/meeting-putin-philippines-duterte-rails-western-hypocrisy-070056134.html
Title: POTH: Non-Judicial Killings
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 07, 2016, 10:15:11 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html?emc=edit_ta_20161207&nlid=49641193&ref=cta
Title: POTH: When a President says "I will kill you"
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 27, 2017, 06:16:39 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004819836/duterte-philippines-when-a-president-says-ill-kill-you.html?emc=edit_ta_20170326&nl=top-stories&nlid=49641193&ref=cta
Title: Re: Philippines
Post by: ccp on March 27, 2017, 06:29:53 AM
Still waiting to see what  the affect on drug dealing is in the country from this.  The last time I checked no one knows.

here is a locked up abroad episode from 2008 involving the Philippines

https://www.snap.com/en-US/news/

Doubt there are any episodes since Duarte has been in power from 2013.


Title: Philippines-Mindanao
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 25, 2017, 12:03:08 PM
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/05/24/duterte-says-spare-no-one-islamic-state-beheads-police-chief-stages-mass-prison-break/

It is Breitbart so caveat lector.
Title: Old man fights ISIS hand to hand
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 26, 2017, 06:28:22 PM
http://dailycaller.com/2017/05/25/fearless-70-year-old-man-fights-isis-linked-terrorist-in-hand-to-hand-combat/
Title: ISIS declares caliphate city; CNN Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 31, 2017, 09:50:56 AM
http://pamelageller.com/2017/05/isis-caliphate-philippines.html/

http://cnnphilippines.com/
Title: "Robbery" in Manila Casino
Post by: G M on June 02, 2017, 09:58:08 AM
http://www.smh.com.au/world/gunfire-explosions-heard-outside-resorts-world-in-manila-philippines-20170601-gwioey.html

Robbery. Sure. :roll:



Title: Philippines: Rumint of a US supported coup coming
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 17, 2017, 11:59:23 AM
http://www.mintpressnews.com/a-u-s-led-military-coup-could-be-brewing-in-the-philippines-to-oust-duterte/228838/
Title: Ilgan Mayor says
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 19, 2017, 06:47:06 PM
http://www.interaksyon.com/clean-your-weapons-iligan-mayor-tells-gun-owners-as-military-bares-maute-plan-for-city/
Title: Philippines: ISIS storms school
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 20, 2017, 11:06:04 PM


http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/06/21/pro-isis-rebels-storm-school-in-philippines-students-held-hostage.html
Title: LA Times: Marawi Victims
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 26, 2017, 05:18:43 AM
http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-philippines-marawi-victims-20170623-story.html
Title: % of Muslimists in Philippines
Post by: ccp on June 26, 2017, 06:01:39 AM
I always thought of Philippines as a Christian nation .

It is :

from Wikipedia - the breakdown of population by religion:

92% Christianity
5.57% Islam
2.43% others
Title: Re: % of Muslimists in Philippines
Post by: DougMacG on June 26, 2017, 07:59:53 AM
I always thought of Philippines as a Christian nation .
92% Christianity
5.57% Islam
2.43% others

In a region where others are majority Muslim:

Indonesia also has a larger Muslim population than any other country in the world, with approximately 202.9 million identifying themselves as Muslim (87.2% of Indonesia's total population in 2011).

Malaysia: 61.3 percent of the population practices Islam.

Islam is Brunei's official religion, 67 percent of the population is Muslim.
Title: Re: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 26, 2017, 10:26:39 AM
Muslims are concentrated in certain islands in the south.  The Southern Philippines have a long history of Muslim resistance to Spanish resistance, American colonization, and Manila dominance.  Sometimes this gets up in the central Philippines e.g. Negros.
Title: Firefight Marawi, Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 29, 2017, 11:53:20 PM
https://www.facebook.com/AFPwillRISE/videos/849184615247727/
Title: Stratfor: The fierce battle for Marawi City
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 13, 2017, 09:47:10 PM
Stratfor Worldview

 
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assessments

Jul 5, 2017 | 09:00 GMT
Visualizing the Fierce Battle for Marawi City
Satellite images show damage inflicted to Marawi City in the Philippines as government forces battle Islamic State-affiliated militants.
(Stratfor)
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Since late May, Marawi City in the Philippines has been the backdrop for fighting between the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group and Philippine government troops. On May 23, the militants began their offensive on the city, following a failed attempt by government forces to arrest militant commander Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah al-Filipini, is the emir of Islamic State forces in the Philippines and a former leader of the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf.

Since the offensive began, Marawi City has turned into an intense urban battleground. Though Philippine forces are advancing against the Islamic State fighters, militants still hold several hundred buildings throughout the city, and every position must be cleared. Philippine soldiers are having to adjust on the fly to the realities of urban combat, fighting from one house to the next and capturing between 40 to 100 houses per day, according to Philippine military sources.

Securing Marawi City comes at a cost, however, and so far 82 soldiers and police officers have died in the six weeks of fighting. Over 40 civilians have also reportedly been killed, though this number will likely rise as more areas are recaptured. The militants have taken hostage approximately 100 to 200 civilians, who they are suspected of using as human shields. Several hundred more civilians are trapped in their homes by the fighting. In addition to the human cost, the battle is taking a massive toll on the infrastructure of the city, as persistent artillery fire and airstrikes by government forces have reduced major sections of Marawi City to rubble.

At this point, there are believed to be about 100 militants still holding out in the city, with the military claiming to have killed close to 300 members of the opposition during its advance. The building-by-building nature of the advance means progress is slow, exacerbated by booby traps left behind by withdrawing militants. Government forces have been combing liberated areas for unexploded ordnance, which they will likely continue to do even after the militants are defeated. Several high-value targets are also believed to still be located in Marawi — including Hapilon — and Philippine forces will seek to isolate, capture or kill them if they have the opportunity.

Despite Philippine forces being located on all sides of the city on land, there is a risk that retreating militants could escape by water. Local boatmen have been found running the blockade around Marawi City, ferrying ammunition and supplies into the militant-held areas of the city and evacuating injured fighters. As government troops progress, militant leadership and foreign fighters could use these boatmen to escape.

Prior to the fighting in Marawi City, bombing and kidnapping campaigns conducted by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups resulted in very limited damage. By occupying Marawi City and engaging the Philippine armed forces, the militants have provoked a government response that has damaged the city far more than they could have managed on their own. And the destruction caused by the military further benefits the militant groups by providing a useful narrative for the Islamic State to exploit as it works to build support in the Philippines.
Title: Marawi and the Struggles to Come (China considers making a move)
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 24, 2017, 06:16:41 AM
The Fight in Marawi City and the Struggles to Come
Philippine troops head to Marawi City to fight Islamist militants. Government success against a long history of insurgencies on the southern island of Mindanao comes piecemeal, and reversals always seem to follow.
(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)
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The recent grinding, street-to-street fighting in Marawi City against Islamic State-affiliated militants has focused the world's attention on the restive and remote Philippine region of Mindanao. In time, the clashes will subside. But, as with the Iraqi city of Mosul, this monthslong episode is only one part of a longer struggle — one with roots centuries deep and with dim prospects for a lasting resolution. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a political outsider with a strongman image to maintain, is preparing measures intended to bring stability to the region — and forward his own goals in the process.

A Shifting Mix of Militants

Insurgency has a long history in Mindanao. The island group is far removed from the capital of Manila and has strong geographic and historical ties to contiguous regions of Indonesia and Malaysia. And whereas the Philippines as a whole is more than 90 percent Christian, about 20 percent of the residents of Mindanao are Muslim, with many concentrated in the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, as well as in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The ethnic Moro Muslims of Mindanao have resisted the state on and off since the colonial period, with modern insurgencies tracing their roots back to the 1960s. Duterte, who was mayor of Davao City in southeast Mindanao for 22 years, understands the delicate balance among militant groups in the region.

This balance has made implementing an enduring peace challenging to say the least. The militants who took control of Marawi City on May 23 call themselves the Maute group and represent just one tiny corner of a sprawling militant landscape defined by overlapping factions, deep divisions and strong disagreements over how to relate to the central government in Manila. Lucrative criminal smuggling and kidnapping activities in the poorly policed waters nearby only make this landscape more complex.
For centuries, an ever-shifting set of rebel groups has battled central authority on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The strongest Moro militant group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), struck a peace deal with the government in 2014 after 17 years of negotiations, securing promises of concessions that separatist groups worldwide would envy: A region to be called Bangsamoro in southwest Mindanao presided over by MILF, replete with a lawmaking body, judicial system and police force, as well as a share of taxes and mineral wealth. This area would expand upon and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao established in an earlier peace deal with another group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which has fragmented into numerous factions and become largely isolated and irrelevant. But the Philippine Congress has yet to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would cement the government's promises and set a timetable for their delivery. Tensions in Mindanao and hurdles erected by the Philippine Supreme Court stalled the bill's progress in late 2016 under Duterte's predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III. MILF's leaders are eager for Congress to pass the law, since the longer it is delayed, the more the group's legitimacy and control erodes and the greater the risk of continued fragmentation.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law – the core of a 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – would have created a MILF-led administrative region known as Bangsamoro. The proposal is stalled in the Philippine Congress.

With MILF's deal under mounting pressure and ideological splits forming on whether to make peace with the government at all, the mainstream group's aging leadership has found it hard to contain younger, more radical members. The Maute group is composed of disaffected MILF fighters who formed their own organization under the leadership of Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute in 2012. Other militant groups, such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf, have also challenged MILF's moderate stance.

In 2015, the Maute group declared its allegiance to the Islamic State. And the Islamic State's rise has only complicated Mindanao's situation by providing a fresh rallying point. Foreign fighters — a number of whom appear to be participating in the Marawi City fight, according to the Philippine military — have buoyed the Maute group. The Islamic State in Syria also managed to make numerous small transfers of money to the Maute fighters in Marawi via Malaysian intermediary Dr. Mahmud bin Ahmad. The slow-motion collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will only exacerbate these problems: The movement is evolving into one that thrives in vacuums of authority and crises of legitimacy — both of which describe Mindanao. If Manila cannot manage to get a handle on the region, it will continue to be a haven for radical groups.

A Plan Laden With Political Challenges

Duterte has signaled he will push forward with measures aimed at brokering a lasting balance in Mindanao. On July 18, the president received a new draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and said he would move to fast-track the legislation through Congress. Though details of the new draft law are scant, MILF's leaders have said that they hope for the transition period to begin in 2019 and culminate in local Bangsamoro elections in 2022.

Passing and implementing the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be difficult, even for a maverick such as Duterte. The president ran on a campaign that emphasized reforming the Philippine Constitution to transition the country from its current unitary political system to a federal model. Duterte says such a change would help to spread wealth across the country and alleviate massive regional development disparities. It also would help to break up political networks in the capital, a boon to political outsiders like Duterte and to large city centers outside the core island of Luzon (such as his home city of Davao). The president has laid out an ambitious plan to bring about this politically fraught change: In December 2016, he issued an executive order creating a constitutional review committee, which he says he will appoint after he has received the Bangsamoro Basic Law draft and made progress in peace deals with communist National Democratic Front of the Philippines insurgents. Though Duterte has identified the law as a template for federalism elsewhere in the country, such a passage will still be a major challenge politically and could face court challenges under the constitution.
Differing levels of development in the Philippines give the nation's numerous subregions varying imperatives.

Though the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law would shore up Duterte's federalist ambitions, it is not likely to truly solve the militant threat in Mindanao. There are simply too many subgroups with too little centralized control and too much incentive to defy moderate Moro leaders. A lasting solution would require a complex balance of political and military measures — and would still be vulnerable. The June inauguration of trilateral maritime patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in the waters near Mindanao would be one part of a broader solution. The Marawi City siege, in fact, helped to expedite the patrols, with defense chiefs specifically highlighting a need to block the movement of Islamic State-aligned militants fleeing fighting in the city. Singapore, an observer of the patrols, also recently extended an offer to train Philippine forces in urban combat and to provide drone surveillance assistance — a sign of broader support by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for stability in the southern Philippines.

The MILF (and MNLF) in Marawi have been supportive of the Philippine armed forces; in fact, they have pushed for a larger role in keeping with their support for counterterrorism measures in the past. Leaders from both groups declared their commitment to the peace process shortly after the late May takeover of Marawi City. Throughout the siege, MILF has organized brief cease-fires with the Maute group through intermediaries and maintained a humanitarian corridor for civilians to exit the city. The mainstream group is keen to emphasize its support for the government and signal that it can be trusted with a semi-autonomous region. A potential spoiler, however, would be the emergence of evidence that MILF leaders had foreknowledge of the Maute group's plans in Marawi City — a subject of constantly bubbling rumors and a possibility given the overlap among the region's militant groups.

Looking to China, Needing the United States

The big question going forward is what role China will play in Mindanao and Marawi City. Duterte has made his high-profile effort to rebalance toward China a trademark of his administration, tilting away from the Philippines' longtime ally, the United States. But the fight for Marawi City laid bare the continued value of the U.S. alliance structure. Early in his term, Duterte had called for long-present U.S. special operations forces to leave Mindanao before the military pushed back and he allowed fresh rotations. With the outbreak of fighting in Marawi, U.S. personnel quickly stepped in as advisers in the fight — a fact Duterte was initially tight-lipped about. Since that time, U.S. partner Australia has provided surveillance assistance and Singapore has offered the same.

But Duterte has emphasized a wish for China to play a future role in Mindanao. China is already leveraging its substantial economic heft in the region, with studies underway to expand the port in Davao City as part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. But in the immediate fight for Marawi City, China's assistance has been limited. On June 29, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua promised to explore areas of counterterrorism cooperation through training, military exercises and intelligence sharing. He also oversaw the handover of light arms — the first of a two-part, $11.7 million package. With Duterte already talking about a bombastic million-dollar reconstruction package for Marawi City, China will have ample opportunity to leverage its wealth if it chooses.

But the fighting in Marawi City — much less Mindanao — is not yet over. The initial 60-day period of martial law that Duterte declared in late May expired on July 22 and Duterte managed so secure an extension from congress through the end of 2017, citing information about broader militant activities. Though an extension will give Duterte the latitude he wants to clamp down on hard-line militants, it is also a contentious move, given the Philippines' history of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship. It also carries risks on the ground — a failed arrest of militant leader Isnilon Hapilon initiated the militant takeover of Marawi City in May. This has been a pattern, with military activity stirring the hornet's nest of both mainstream militant units and hard-liners, sparking fighting. And so, the struggle to steady Mindanao will continue as it has before — piecemeal and with setbacks.
Title: WSJ: ISIS in Marawi, Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 18, 2017, 08:17:15 PM
Photos and maps at https://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-islamic-states-other-grisly-war-a-world-away-from-syria-1508337872


Inside Islamic State’s Other Grisly War, a World Away From Syria
Islamists in the Philippines pledged allegiance to ISIS, devastated a city and built a model for jihadists after the fall of Raqqa
Philippine troops during their assault against Islamist militants in Marawi in September.
By Jake Maxwell Watts | Photographs by
Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal
Oct. 18, 2017 10:44 a.m. ET
11 COMMENTS
Link copied…

MARAWI, Philippines—On the third day of his captivity, during one of the most violent jihadist rebellions outside the Middle East and Africa, Ronnel Samiahan watched Islamist militants make an example of a fellow hostage who had tried to break free.

After dragging the conscious man onto the street and pulling his head up by the hair, the militants began sawing at his neck with a knife. Five minutes later, the executioner thrust the severed head toward the remaining hostages, warning, “If you try to escape, this is what is going to happen to you,” recalled Mr. Samiahan, a Christian local laborer.

Islamist militants took over this city of 200,000 people in late May, modeling themselves on Islamic State, or ISIS. Philippine soldiers, assisted by the U.S. military, struggled to reclaim it.

Inside the Philippines' Bloody War Against Islamist Militants

The Philippine military has struggled to defeat hundreds of well-armed militants who seized the southern city of Marawi in May. Photo: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal

Philippine authorities on Monday said two of the militants’ most senior leaders had been killed, including one on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, and that it was a few days from securing the city. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared the city liberated.

The militants’ occupation—and the military’s siege—has left Marawi in ruins, with more than 1,000 soldiers, civilians and militants killed and many neighborhoods devastated by airstrikes. A few dozen militants remain in the city, the military said on Tuesday.



The Marawi battle shows how militant groups outside the Middle East and Africa are finding a template in Islamic State, not just as an exporter of terrorism, but also as a holder of territory. ISIS itself is looking for new beachheads having been pushed out of strongholds such as its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, which U.S.-backed forces said they captured this week.

“They look around the globe,” said Colin Clarke, a counterterrorism researcher at Rand Corp., a policy think tank. “They try to find a place where there is an ongoing insurgency, and they latch themselves onto that cause and exploit those local grievances.”

President Duterte has voiced concern that violence could spread from Marawi to other areas in the southern Philippines. Analysts say revenge or copycat attacks are likely to strike Manila or other Southeast Asian capitals.

In mid-2016, ISIS called on potential new recruits unable to join it in the Middle East to look to the Philippines. ISIS media agencies have promoted the Marawi conflict to their followers.
e

A brief history of the Marawi conflict and the Islamist groups that sparked it.
Isnilon Hapilon and his Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group kidnap tourists, later beheading some.
Hapilon swears allegiance to Islamic State, which later endorses him as "emir" in Southeast Asia.
Fighters from a newly emerging Islamist group in Mindanao, led by Omar and Abdullah Maute, occupy a town, later bomb Davao City.
Maute fighters swear allegiance to Islamic State, raid Marawi jail.
Hapilon and his group begin joining Maute fighters.
Philippine military mobilizes against militants in Marawi, beginning long siege as Maute fighters dig in, using improvised explosives and snipers.
Maute fighters flying Islamic State flags occupy Marawi, burning buildings, taking hostages.
A misaimed airstrike kills 11 Philippine soldiers as troops push militants to city's east.
The U.S. says it is providing special forces assistance to the Philippines.
Military takes back first of three key bridges, later retakes key buildings.
Military retakes remaining bridge. Earlier in the month, Philippine authorities say one Maute brother believed killed.
Philippine authorities say two remaining militant leaders killed; military declares battle nearly over.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declares Marawi liberated.

Sources: Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Government, Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict

“It will be difficult to replicate a similar urban assault like Marawi in the short term,” said Francisco J. Lara, Philippines country manager of peace-building agency International Alert. “But the threat of a similar attack in the future remains real.”

Marawi is on Mindanao island, long known as a haven for extremists, from communist guerrillas to separatist Muslims. The U.S. for years has kept a small special forces contingent on the island.  The militants in Marawi, known as the Maute after the brothers who led them, Omar and Abdullah Maute, received funds from ISIS and modeled many of their tactics on the group, Philippine officials say. Their goal was to create a caliphate, or Islamic kingdom, with fighters from abroad including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, these officials say. Marawi was once a relatively prosperous trading hub, surrounded by hills and a lake. It is predominantly Muslim, with the minarets and domes of mosques. There is a small Catholic minority.

The siege

The tale of the Marawi battle—told by the Philippine military and witnesses on the ground, including former hostages—shows how ISIS-inspired militants can quickly consume a city far from its base and supply lines in the Middle East.


It began May 23. Soldiers and police moved in on a house after receiving intelligence showing the Maute brothers and another militant leader, Isnilon Hapilon, were hiding there. The military, which inadvertently interrupted a plan to occupy Marawi, found itself laying a siege that would last roughly five months.

Known for kidnapping and beheading foreigners from tourist resorts even before his ISIS affiliation, Mr. Hapilon is on the U.S. State Department’s most-wanted-terrorists list. In 2014, he swore allegiance to ISIS, which two years later endorsed him on its central media channel as its “emir,” or ruler, in Southeast Asia.

The Maute brothers were a lesser-understood threat. They were educated in Egypt and Jordan and from an elite local family, according to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a terror-research group in Jakarta. In 2016, they briefly occupied a town about a two-hour drive from Marawi. Their group later attacked a Marawi prison, releasing some of their captured fighters, and bombed a night market in Davao City, President Duterte’s hometown.

Before government troops could get close on May 23, they came under fire from several buildings and retreated. Soon, hundreds of heavily armed fighters who had infiltrated Marawi began flooding the streets, planting the black ISIS flag in public areas and taking hostages, primarily Christians and the Muslims who sought to protect them.

The militants torched a cathedral and a school. Photographs by residents show Maute fighters in dark clothing and hats or balaclavas patrolling streets and mounting ISIS flags on vehicles. Civilians fled to surrounding towns and to government-run refugee camps. President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao.

A hostage’s tale

Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the hostage’s execution, had lived in Marawi for five years. His family of seven slipped out the back of their house after darkness and hid in the tall grass of an adjacent field as Maute fighters, yelling in triumph, set fire to the next-door Dansalan College, a Christian school.

The family spent the night huddled in the rain as Maute fighters shined flashlights across the grassy field. They were so close, Mr. Samiahan’s wife, Yolanda, said, “you could almost shake their hands.”

Ronnel Samiahan, 34, here with his son Greg, witnessed a beheading during his captivity by the Islamist militants.


In following days, they hid in a hospital and other buildings before deciding no rescue was coming. Attempting to leave the militant-controlled part of the city, they were stopped at a Maute checkpoint. There, militants tested residents to see if they were Muslim or Christian: Only those who could reply to a Muslim greeting in Arabic were allowed to leave.

Mr. Samiahan, unlike most of his relatives, failed the test and was locked in a warehouse. On his second night, one captive tried to loosen his bonds while the Maute were sleeping. When fighters discovered the ruse, they performed the beheading and forced the remaining hostages to bury the head, Mr. Samiahan said.

It took the military several days to mobilize and push Maute fighters back from western portions of the city and liberate the city hall and hydroelectric dams that provide most of Marawi’s power. The Maute fought back fiercely, killing several troops.

By May 28, bodies of at least 16 civilians had been recovered, according to military officials, including those of eight men who were dumped in a ravine—the number had climbed to at least 47 late last week. Several were shot in the head with hands bound, accompanied by a sign in a local language reading “traitor,” according to local media reports.

The Agus river separated the battle zone, left, and the safe zone in Marawi.

The Agus River bisects Marawi, with the central business district and Marawi’s largest mosque and church in the Maute-controlled east. Maute fighters fortified three bridges, presenting a formidable obstacle to the military’s counteroffensive, and soldiers who tried crossing were met with sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

The military, unused to urban warfare, called in airstrikes. Lacking guided munitions, the Philippine military divebombed the city with FA-50 jets and OV-10 Bronco propeller aircraft. On May 31, a badly aimed airstrike killed 11 soldiers. Government officials called it a tragic incident and launched a review.

In early June, the U.S. disclosed it was providing special forces assistance to Philippine troops but didn’t elaborate.

The constant aerial bombardment devastated Marawi’s center. Businessman Solaiman Mangorsi, 58, said he lost nearly $600,000 in damaged property after bombs struck areas that included a bookstore and other properties he owned. He said he wasn’t insured.

By mid-June, the battle had become a grind, with both sides digging in. Militants avoided airstrikes by boring holes in walls so they could move from house to house undetected.

A Christian hostage, Lordvin Acopio, a 29-year-old teacher, said militants forced him and other captives to make improvised explosives from firecrackers and shrapnel. They sent other hostages to search houses for guns, food and ammunition.

As the weeks passed, more hostages escaped. Mr. Samiahan, who witnessed the execution, broke free after discovering a padlock wasn’t properly closed. He made a mad dash for the military-held portion of the city, leaping over concrete barriers and plunging into the river and to safety.

Mr. Acopio escaped at night after a mosque he was held in was bombarded with tear gas. He and a priest scrambled through a hole blasted in the building, he said, and “just ran and ran and ran.”

Teacher Lordvin Acopio, 29, was held hostage by militants he says forced him to make improvised explosives.

By early September, the military had achieved several key victories, taking back landmarks including Marawi’s largest mosque. And it concluded, based on intercepted terrorist chatter, that Abdullah Maute had been killed in late August. By September’s end they had retaken the remaining bridges and pushed the militants into a few blocks bordering the lake.

The final battles were fought in close quarters. In one mission, Sgt. Roderick Peruandos of the Philippine Marine Corps, led a team to clear houses on the approach to what is known as the “White Mosque,” where senior militants including Mr. Hapilon were believed to be holding out. Moving room to room, they spotted a hole in the floor, when suddenly a homemade grenade was tossed out.

One corporal, who celebrated his 27th birthday with his squad just a few weeks earlier, was killed almost instantly, said Sgt. Peruandos. The grenade was made, he said, out of scrounged shrapnel and explosives from firecrackers and unexploded bombs dropped during airstrikes.

The other marines fled, leaving Sgt. Peruandos alone to fend off insurgents with rifle fire as he wrapped a tourniquet around his wounded leg. After an hour of bombardment, he crawled to safety, a bone in his leg snapped in two. The insurgents, though weakened, were left secure in their redoubt.

The government on Monday said Omar Maute and Mr. Hapilon had been killed, and the military said its offensive had boxed the remaining militant-controlled area to one or two hectares. The bodies of the two leaders were recovered and the remaining 30-odd fighters “were seen scampering in disarray,” the military said.
Displaced people from Marawi at an evacuation camp in Pantar district, southern Philippines. Photos: Linus Guardian Escandor II for The Wall Street Journal(3)

If Marawi is declared militant-free, the Philippine government will then face painstaking work clearing improvised explosive devices and rebuilding the city. Tens of thousands of displaced people whose homes were destroyed remain in government-run camps.

Sgt. Peruandos, who has fought communist rebels and gangs in Mindanao for nearly all his 15-year military career, said he had never encountered an enemy like those who nearly killed him in Marawi. “It’s like they don’t care for their lives,” he said. “They just want to kill or be killed.”

After authorities declared the militant leaders dead, a pro-ISIS messenger channel said the group would train new recruits with combat knowledge learned from the battle, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity online. The channel declared: “Marawi is just the beginning!”

A government soldier took up position in the battle area of Marawi in September.
Title: ISIS spreading beyond Marawi
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 24, 2017, 09:03:28 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/world/asia/isis-philippines-mindanao-marawi.html?emc=edit_th_20171024&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
Title: GPF: Philippines wins battle but not the war
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 25, 2017, 10:53:22 AM
Against Jihadists, the Philippines Wins the Battle but Not the War
Oct 25, 2017
By Phillip Orchard

The Philippine government has declared victory in the battle of Marawi City, the provincial capital in the restive southern region of Mindanao that Islamic State-backed jihadists seized in May. Those who led the siege have been killed. With Marawi recaptured, the Islamic State’s most ambitious attempt to date to establish a “province” outside the Middle East and North Africa is over.

But the Marawi crisis underscored problems that will continue to dog the Philippines, a country that cannot fully control all its territory. It has become the arena in which Southeast Asia’s most pressing geopolitical issues play out but is mostly unable to resolve them on its own. A lasting peace in Marawi depends on how much foreign counterterrorism assistance Manila receives and how much support it earns among Mindanao’s moderate separatist groups – which are singularly capable of preventing the region from being used as a base for Southeast Asian jihadists – a growing concern as Islamic State fighters from the region return home from Syria and Iraq.

Mostly Contained

When it began, the Marawi siege took the international community by surprise. So too did the amount of time it took to root out the militants, who, the international community would soon learn, were entrenched, well-armed and protected by the scores of hostages they had taken. Its protraction is explained partly by the military’s aversion to using the kinds of tactics that would kill the hostages. But it is also explained by the inadequacy of the Philippine military. Footage of Philippine troops taking cover behind wood-plated armored personnel carriers showed just how dilapidated the armed forces are.

Manila had little choice but to court the international community for support, finding a familiar ally in the United States. In early June, U.S. special operations forces were seen on the ground near Marawi, officially in a training and advising role. The U.S. also expanded surveillance operations already underway in the Sulu Archipelago, a stronghold of one of the Islamic State-linked groups that joined forces to take the city, Abu Sayyaf. Shortly thereafter, more allies joined the fray. Australia sent P-3C Orion surveillance planes and deployed special operations forces to train their Philippine counterparts. Singapore sent surveillance drones. Russia and China sent thousands of rifles and vehicles.

 
(click to enlarge)

The siege, moreover, expedited long-delayed plans for the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to launch trilateral patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas, a vast expanse that has developed into a hub of piracy, militancy and black-market smuggling. In addition to the obvious benefits of securing lawless waters, the patrols may facilitate greater security cooperation among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which have long been hesitant or ill-equipped to band together to tackle regional security threats.

The results of the assistance are clear, if sometimes mixed. Thanks in part to the additional surveillance, the so-called Maute group and Abu Sayyaf, the jihadists responsible for the siege, were never able to open up a second front that would have stretched the Philippine armed force even thinner. Though it’s unclear how much the joint patrols and enhanced aerial surveillance in the Sulu and Celebes seas have disrupted flows of militants and materiel, the fighters that held Marawi did not appear to have received additional foreign support once operations to retake the city began in earnest. The jihadists never even succeeded in using their base to orchestrate major one-off terror attacks in Manila or other urban areas. (Of course, the recapture of Marawi doesn’t end the threat of attack posed by other jihadist cells or lone wolves.)
Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group took a major risk in attempting to capture and hold territory. And they had good reasons to do so. Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon — the Islamic State’s designated “emir” in Southeast Asia – had been under pressure from Islamic State leaders in the Middle East to make a headline-grabbing move outside of the group’s base on the island of Basilan, in the remote Sulu Archipelago. The region’s myriad other Islamic State-linked groups are small and largely disconnected, and IS hoped that Marawi could serve as proof of concept for a Southeast Asian province. But it has proved difficult for jihadist groups to hold territory, even in places where they have a lot of grassroots support. Defending a fixed area like Marawi gave Manila a place to concentrate its forces and a relatively straightforward battlefield objective. It also startled the international community into action.

Now that the fight is over, jihadists will likely try to regroup, stretching the Philippine military with multiple, albeit smaller hot spots across a wider area. To address the continuing threat, the Philippines will need the continued support of its allies. Notably, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attributed the rise of the Islamic State in the country to the drawdown of U.S. troops earlier this decade. The trilateral patrols are likewise important but remain a work in progress, since cooperation has routinely been hindered by lingering historical disputes and sovereignty concerns. Yet outside powers tend to lose interest when clear and present dangers go away, and new counterterrorism efforts may not benefit from the impetus for cooperation that Marawi brought about.

Fill the Voids

The Philippine military succeeded in disrupting the two strongest jihadist networks in Mindanao and in depriving the Islamic State of its primary foothold in Southeast Asia. But it has not killed the ideologies endemic to the region. And in Muslim-majority areas of Mindanao, where a dizzying mix of ethnic separatist groups have been acting against the state violently if intermittently for centuries, the ideological struggle is bound to the fate of their political aspirations.

The political problem is the stalled implementation of an agreement to establish a new semi-autonomous administrative region in Muslim-majority parts of Mindanao, to be known as Bangsamoro. The regional government would almost certainly be headed by Mindanao’s two strongest ethnic Moro separatist groups: the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Both groups are more moderate, larger and more powerful than their jihadist counterparts. Both see the jihadist groups as a direct threat to the viability of the new Bangsamoro region — and thus have the motivation to keep the jihadist movement largely in check. This is particularly important in remote areas that the Philippine military has never been able to fully subjugate. (In fact, the MILF has been cooperating closely with the Philippine military for years and played a central role in preventing an Islamic State-linked Moro splinter group from disrupting the Marawi operation.) Perhaps most important, their political objectives are tied directly to age-old Moro advocacy of autonomy, which has a broader appeal than the messages of the jihadists. The moderate groups can play a critical role in denying the jihadists grassroots support and sanctuary while providing the military critical intelligence and operational assistance.

However, the Bangsamoro Basic Law — the implementing legislation of the 2014 peace agreement with the MILF, which would formally establish the new Bangsamoro region — has stalled in the Philippine Congress, subject as it is to shifts in the political climate. The Marawi siege renewed a sense of urgency to pass the bill; President Rodrigo Duterte himself has endorsed it. But peace agreements have routinely fallen apart at similar stages in the Philippines, usually leading to spikes in violence. Fighting surged in Moro regions in 2008 after the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional an earlier peace deal. And the recruiting strength of the Maute group is a direct result of the failure of an earlier version of the Bansamoro law to find its way through in Congress. (It stalled after a 2015 outbreak of violence purportedly involving MILF fighters.)
The MILF and the MNLF need to show that the peace process with the government is bearing fruit to keep younger fighters in check and prevent the jihadists from gaining grassroots support. The jihadist threat will return in strength if moderate Moro groups do not believe it is in their interest to cooperate with the military. And now that the Islamic State has been dislodged from its capital in the Middle East, the threat will only intensify as militants return home to Southeast Asia.

Manila, of course, is hesitant to surrender control of the region to the MILF and the MNLF – and for good reason. The MILF has cultivated ties with foreign terrorist groups in the past and has sheltered foreign fighters, and the lines between it and splinter groups are blurred by clan loyalties. In a Catholic-majority country, the politics rarely favor sweeping concessions to the separatists, and military skepticism runs strong. Still, the Marawi siege leveled a provincial capital, exposing the limits of the state’s power in its restive south and its vulnerability to external forces. Manila’s partners — both foreign and domestic — are well-positioned to help fill the voids. It’s becoming harder for Manila to stomach the status quo.
Title: Philippine history
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 02, 2018, 02:24:16 PM
https://www.nps.gov/prsf/learn/historyculture/the-philippine-insurrectiothe-philippine-war-a-conflict-of-consciencen-a-war-of-controversy.htm
Title: Duarte: Shoot them in the vagina
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2018, 09:34:41 AM


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/duterte-tells-philippine-soldiers-to-shoot-female-rebels-in-their-vaginas/2018/02/12/fd42c6ae-0fb0-11e8-827c-5150c6f3dc79_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.cf255dc9d7d8&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1
Title: Stratfor: Could Militants in the Philppines Make a Comeback?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 26, 2018, 08:13:28 AM
Could Militants in the Philippines Make a Comeback?
By Ben West
Global Security Analyst, Stratfor

Philippine lawmakers continue to wrangle over passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, adding to political uncertainty in Mindanao that could help Islamist militias there redevelop their strength.

Highlights

    Militant attacks, piracy and kidnapping continue to threaten the southern Philippines six months after the end of fighting in Marawi City.
    Although that threat has diminished, slow movement on the political front gives the threat more time and space to grow.
    Regional interconnectedness means that militant safe havens in the southern Philippines will continue to pose a threat to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Six months have passed since the Armed Forces of the Philippines officially wrapped up operations against Islamic State-aligned militants who had occupied Marawi City on the southern island of Mindanao. Liberating the southern provincial capital yielded a significant peace dividend for the Philippine government. President Rodrigo Duterte continues to enjoy high popularity in the southern Philippines, local Moro leaders continue to support security forces in keeping the jihadist militant threat at bay, and despite anti-U.S. rhetoric emanating from Manila, cooperation with the United States on security matters has continued to grow. But the militant threat in the southern Philippines lingers, and underlying grievances driving the militancy remain largely unaddressed. At some point, the goodwill generated by the militants' defeat in Marawi City is going to run out, and the tenuous peace currently presiding over Mindanao will be tested over the next few months.

Many of the security trends that were playing out in October 2016 as security forces were eliminating the final militants in Marawi City remain in place. With the disintegration of the Maute group during the battle of Marawi City, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have continued to be Mindinao's most active militant group with Islamic State ties. Its activity is concentrated in Maguindanao province, situated between Davao and Cotabato City. The group, with an estimated 200 to 300 members, has carried out regular attacks against security forces. On March 11, Philippine troops killed scores of BIFF fighters, but 10 days later, the militants responded with an attack on a police station. Despite military defeats and other setbacks, BIFF continues to pose a threat in Maguindanao and surrounding provinces. Despite its preference to operate in more rural areas, its proximity to urban centers like Davao and Cotabato City means that an attack against those cities cannot be ruled out.

The Big Picture

Philippine forces chased away the last of the Islamic State-linked militants who had seized Marawi City in October, but the jihadists have continued to linger on Mindinao and could potentially rebuild. The more time and space that the militants are given to regroup in the southern Philippines, the greater threat they will pose to neighboring

Malaysia and Indonesia.
See The Jihadist Wars

A map showing the militant landscape in the southern Philippines

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, remnants of the Maute group are re-forming farther north in Lanao del Sur, in the rural areas outside Marawi City. What those militants lack in numbers — their strength is estimated to be around 200 fighters — they make up for in resources. Abu Dar, a militant who survived the Marawi City siege to succeed Isnilon Hapilon as leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines, reportedly escaped the siege with tens of millions of dollars worth of cash, gold and jewelry looted from the city. Abu Dar is thought to be using the riches to recruit young, disenfranchised fighters to join the jihadist cause and pick up where the Maute group left off. Malaysian authorities, however, have a different take, claiming that one of its citizens, Mohd Amin Baco, is the leader of the Islamic State in the Philippines. Regardless, reports of militant activity around Marawi City are scarce, suggesting that if militants are regrouping, they are doing so cautiously.

The Philippines is also home to the militant group Abu Sayyaf, which stretches out along the Sulu Archipelago. Its members continue to harass security forces at about the same rate as they did before and during the Marawi City siege: however, the Abu Sayyaf gangs that ran maritime piracy operations under the Islamic State flag have been largely unsuccessful over the past 12 months, at least compared to their activities in 2016 and 2017. Abu Sayyaf pirates captured dozens of hostages in 17 successful attacks on maritime targets from April 2016- April 2017. Since then, the groups have not managed any successful attacks. In large part, an increase in naval patrols by the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia can be credited for thwarting their attempts. Response times to distress calls are now measured in minutes instead of hours, and patrols have even managed to pick up on preoperational surveillance runs, stopping attacks before they even happen. But pirates in the area continue to pursue attacks, and sooner or later, they will be successful again. Shipping interests, resorts and other commercial interests in the Sulu and Celebes Sea region would be well advised to continue to guard against the threat of kidnappings.

Barriers to Success

There are a couple of political challenges ahead for Manila as it strives to fulfill its the promises to establish an autonomous region in the area most affected by the Marawi City siege and, at the same time, rebuild Marawi City. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been touted as the framework for undermining jihadist grievances in the southern Philippines by handing over more control to local Muslim leaders. Local leaders, supported by their communities, have repeatedly sought such authority, and since taking office, Duterte has promised to grant it to them.

But despite optimism that the Marawi City siege would finally attract enough political support to push the law through Congress, the Philippine Senate has missed deadline after deadline since October, threatening to undermine the Muslim leaders who have called for peace, and bolstering the jihadists who espouse that independence is the only option and autonomy under the Philippine government is a false promise. As of now, the Senate is aiming to pass the BBL by early June — around the time of the first anniversary of the May 23 attack on Marawi City that kicked off the five-month-long siege. Duterte, however, appears to be less optimistic about that timeline and is talking about passing it by the end of the year. Symbolically, commemorating the first anniversary of the attack on Marawi City without further progress on the BBL will be awkward; but if the legislation has not passed by the first anniversary of the end of the siege in October, it will severely test the local support Manilla and Duterte have enjoyed so far.

Eradicating militancy — or containing it, at the very least — is integral to the security of the southern Philippines. However, the potential for spillover into the rest of Southeast Asia raises serious concerns.

As national and local leaders struggle to rebuild a political arrangement to address the long-term militant threat in the southern Philippines, Marawi City is undergoing a much more literal reconstruction. Manila has approved more than $300 million to rebuild the city and, as anticipated, the specifics around the reconstruction are causing strife. Five Chinese firms are among the consortium involved in the reconstruction, a point that has led to a measure of protest by residents who are only now finally starting to return home. Not only does Chinese involvement raise concerns about reconstruction funds benefitting foreign instead of local interests, cooperation with China tends to inflame nationalist sentiments in the Philippines. The involvement of China — despite it being among the Philippines' largest trading partners and home to the kinds of engineering and construction companies capable of such projects — will create its own political issues. Public backlash against yet another plan for Marawi City has centered on the Philippine military's plans to build a base within the city limits — a move that locals fear would make them a target for further attacks but which the military sees as critical to securing the area. Large reconstruction projects are bound to miss deadlines, run over budgets and offend local sensibilities. If those pressures build on top of a stalled deal for political autonomy, the popular backlash would be potentially more damaging than the improvised bombs and small arms wielded by guerilla jihadist groups.

Are Militancies Contagious?

Finally, what transpires in the southern Philippines over the course of the year will affect the jihadist threat in the rest of southeast Asia. For at least the past two years, the southern Philippines have been the most permissive environment for Southeast Asian militant operations. As militants were planning and carrying out their attack on Marawi City, Indonesian and Malaysian security forces were at work dismantling other extremist groups such as Mujahidin Indonesia Timur and disrupting plots linked back to Muhammad Wanndy Jedi before he was killed in Syria. Their success against Islamic State supporters, coupled with the failure of Philippines security forces to dislodge militant groups from Mindanao, helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters into the Marawi City fight. For militants from Indonesia and Malaysia, attacks at home proved too difficult and travel to Iraq and Syria too harrowing — but jihadist networks were more than capable of smuggling fighters from Malaysia's Sabah and Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces into the southern Philippines. As Malaysian and Indonesian authorities continue to disrupt militant plots, they are finding that most schemes have some link back to the Philippines, either in the form of weapons, training, personnel or planning. As long as jihadism simmers in the Philippines, it will continue to pose a terrorist risk to the broader region.

As 2018 wears on, it will be important to watch for signs of increased threats from the southern Philippines. A more active threat in Maguindanao, either in the form of an urban attack or successful raid on security forces would be signs of a stronger BIFF. Likewise, increased aggression from the remnants of the (allegedly) wealthy militant survivors of the Marawi City siege farther north would be an indicator that security forces are struggling to keep them from regrouping. Further piracy activity in the Sulu and Celebes seas, including an eventual successful attack or a kidnapping that draws more attention is likely. Stability in the southern Philippines will also be closely tied to the progress of both the BBL and the rebuilding efforts in Marawi City. While all of these developments are, of course, integral to the security of the southern Philippines, the security situation there will have spillover potential into the rest of Southeast Asia as well. A pacified Mindanao will reduce the threat in Malaysia and Indonesia, while a resurgent militant threat will put more pressure on neighboring security forces to contain it.
Title: GPF: Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 11, 2018, 07:01:41 PM
The Philippine public is starting to lose faith in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.According to a prominent Philippine poll, Duterte’s approval rating is at its lowest since he took office. Though it was still at a robust 65 percent, it was conducted before Duterte provoked the highly influential Catholic Church by squaring off against the Almighty himself, calling God “stupid” and pledging to resign if anyone could prove his existence. This isn’t exactly out of character for Duterte; his disdain for political correctness helped bring him to office. But iconoclasm won’t solve his country’s economic problems, nor will it prevent him from having to implement a range of new subsidies on Wednesday to combat rising inflation. Naturally, this only amplifies questions many in the Philippines are asking: Where has all the Chinese aid and investment gone? Wasn’t that the price for backing off the South China Sea dispute?
Title: Stratfor: Calming Mindanao
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 30, 2018, 09:07:03 AM
IMHO the piece would be better if it assessed the risks of this turning into appeasement and separatism, and creating risks of dhimmitude
===============================================================================

After four years of delay, the Philippine government has fulfilled a key pledge to appease the ethnic Moro minority in the country's restive south. On July 26, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law. This starts the process of implementing a new autonomous region in Mindanao that will grant the Muslim group greater control over local affairs. While this will do much to erode the appeal of extremist and jihadist groups, numerous risks will arise during the long period of implementation.

The Big Picture

Stratfor's annual forecast noted that the Philippines would maintain its softer approach to China so it could focus on domestic priorities, particularly chronic unrest in the south. The passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law is a key benchmark in tamping down this unrest over the longer term, eventually freeing resources for a more outwardly-oriented foreign policy.


Getting Mindanao under control took renewed importance after the takeover of Marawi city by militants aligned with the Islamic State in 2017. Rebel groups have long demanded secession or, in more moderate modes, a greater degree of local control of politics, development and social issues. The new Bangsamoro region is meant to fulfill these demands, legitimizing the cooperative stance of the mainstream militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front over extremists.

The new Bangsamoro region will build upon, broaden and deepen an earlier autonomous entity, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The new region will feature a locally elected parliament empowered to set budget and development priorities, an expanded geographic footprint and a role for Sharia. These federalist-style concessions will help promote cooperation with the government.

When it comes to implementing the new law, poor execution runs the risk of lending credibility to those on the fringe, including jihadists.

However, Duterte's signature marks only the start of a long process that will almost certainly be beset with setbacks, delays and attempts by extremist groups to undermine the region's implementation and legitimacy. Already, major delays in winning congressional approval for the law have provided an opening for Islamic State-aligned groups to make inroads in Mindanao. The next step for the region entails holding a local referendum, a process that is sure to highlight geographic, clan and political rivalries. Implementation of the region and demobilization of armed rebels will add further complications. On top of all of this, the law will likely undergo a supreme court challenge. Any further setbacks risk lending credibility to those on the fringe, including jihadists.

Title: Stratfor: Bangsamoro-- the deal with the Moros
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 08, 2018, 08:17:04 AM
https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/bangsamoro-law-philippines-lays-its-bet-peace-will-it-pay-price
Title: GPF: Philippines coup rumors are just rumors
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 16, 2018, 07:36:12 AM
By Phillip Orchard


In the Philippines, Coup Rumors Are Just Rumors


The days of political agitation by the military are long gone.


On Sept. 11, in an interview that’s bizarre and provocative even by his standards, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte challenged dissident soldiers to try to mount a rebellion. The firebrand president said he had evidence that a sitting senator and some communist rebels were plotting to assassinate him and seize power on Sept. 21, the anniversary of the declaration of martial law by deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. This capped two weeks of high political drama that began when Duterte ordered the military and police to arrest the senator in question, Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal Duterte critic who has regularly badgered the president about corruption allegations and accused him of being soft on China.

To be fair, Trillanes has a history of usurpation. As a junior naval officer, he helped lead a pair of failed uprisings in the mid-2000s. Former President Benigno Aquino granted Trillanes amnesty as part of a plea deal in 2011, but Duterte unilaterally revoked the deal on Aug. 31. The move set off a war of words between supporters of the president and those of Trillanes, with both sides trying to pull the military back into the political fray.

The military is mostly trying to stay out of it. On Monday, the head of the Philippine armed forces denied rumors that there was widespread discontent among the rank and file, yet he felt the need to remind them to stay out of politics. (The statement was a response to an incident in which a small group of soldiers and police tried to detain Trillanes but were blocked from entering the Senate, where Trillanes has been holed up.) The military also felt compelled to publicly deny rumors swirling in Manila of “unusual troop movements." Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, reprising what’s become a familiar role, downplayed the president’s claims and said the military wouldn’t detain Trillanes unless the courts issued a warrant, though he backed up Duterte’s claims about communist rebel involvement in the alleged plot. Notably, however, the military is also believed to have leaked documents supporting the validity of Trillanes’ original amnesty deal.

Along with the military’s apparent refusal to act on Duterte’s extrajudicial arrest order, this raises questions about the military’s loyalty to the president. Still, it’s unlikely that Duterte is in real trouble. Coup rumblings have dogged Duterte since before his inauguration in 2016, the rumor mill fueled by his divergence from the defense establishment on the South China Sea dispute, his outreach to Muslim Moro separatists and communist rebels, and the unpopularity of his drug war with the politically influential Catholic Church.

But there’s never been much substance to the rumors — even in late 2016, when Duterte issued an order restricting military personnel to their barracks, ostensibly as a way to prevent them from joining mass demonstrations against the burial of Marcos in the national heroes’ cemetery. Duterte has even generally welcomed the rumors, while hinting that he may step down to make way for a hand-picked successor before his six-year term expires anyway.

The days of political agitation by the Philippine military, which helped bring an end to the Marcos regime and then promptly tried and failed four times to oust his successor, appear to be long gone. The last time the military played any role as kingmaker was in 2001, when it declared that it would not crack down on mass protests against former President Joseph Estrada, leading to his resignation under corruption allegations. The two “coup” attempts led by Trillanes in 2003 and 2007 against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo amounted to little more than seizing control of a pair of luxury hotels in a Manila business district.

Indeed, despite its reputation for political adventurism, the Philippine military is too divided along factional and socio-economic lines to take out presidents, and has been for some time. For a coup to succeed in the Philippines, it would need the support of the public, civil society groups and factions of the security apparatus outside the armed forces. There are few signs of any of these elements today. Duterte's approval ratings have dipped somewhat, but he still commands a lot of public support. Protests against his drug war failed to gain momentum. He’s successfully navigated some of the most contentious parts of his agenda, including the Mindanao peace process. By all accounts, he’s broadly popular with the rank-and-file of the military, and he's had two years to stack the senior brass with loyalists and dole out pay raises across the board. He’s gradually abandoned his anti-U.S. rhetoric and moderated his outreach to China. If Trillanes had the backing to pose a real threat, it’s doubtful that he’d be hiding out in his Senate office.

(click to enlarge)

Even so, the latest standoff shouldn’t be dismissed as mere political theater. The battle for the Philippines between the United States and China isn’t going to be settled anytime soon, and the political strength of a Philippine leader will play a small role in that regard. It’s notable, then, that Trillanes’ corruption allegations have elicited such a strong response from the president. (Another opposition senator who’s been needling the president on corruption was jailed last year.) Philippine presidents, more often than not, have left office under clouds of corruption. This particular episode comes as Manila and Beijing are moving to reach an agreement on joint oil and gas exploration in parts of the South China Sea that the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled are in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to visit for talks on joint development next week.

Any deal on the matter promises to be legally contentious and politically risky, inviting accusations of the president selling resources to a country that has blocked every Philippine attempt to develop its own oil and natural gas. A similar agreement between Manila and Beijing reached in 2003 fell apart by 2008 over corruption allegations against Arroyo – the president Trillanes twice tried to oust. The Philippines’ existing fields are rapidly depleting, so Manila is desperate to find a way to bring new fields online in the South China Sea. And with Western powers declining to intervene on Manila’s behalf, the Philippines has little choice but to negotiate on Beijing’s terms. There are some fights that Philippine presidents can’t help but pick.



Title: Stratfor: Philippines-- ratified referendum
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 25, 2019, 05:00:52 PM
The Big Picture

As the Philippines attempts to focus on its domestic issues, Manila has engaged in a conciliatory outreach to China. Now that it is focusing less energy on its territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, the country has more resources to devote to working on its domestic troubles. Unrest in the southern Philippines has been a major driver of instability in the country but, through a recent referendum win, Manila has taken a major step toward quieting its domestic conflicts.
See Asia-Pacific section of the 2019 Annual Forecast

What Happened

The Philippines has taken a major step toward putting its house in order. On Jan. 25, the country's election commission ratified the results of this week's referendum in the restive Muslim Moro south, confirming that 87 percent of voters approved the creation of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Thanks to concessions from the Philippine government as part of a 2014 peace deal, the region will be granted the increased local control that its residents have long demanded.

The plebiscite was held in five provinces and two cities, though not all areas approved the measure. Isabela City in Basilan rejected the proposal by a small margin, meaning it will not be included in the new region. Sulu province, on the other hand, will be included despite its "no" vote because it voted as a unit alongside four other provinces, all of which voted in favor of the autonomous region.

Why It Matters

The overwhelming public support for the law can be taken as an affirmation that voters broadly back the conciliatory position that mainstream Moro militant leaders have adopted. However, broad swaths of the population still favor a more extremist position, and the threat of terrorism is very much alive in Mindanao. The region is still under martial law, and its deep geographic and clan divisions mean the ground is fertile for further militant or terrorist activity. A bomb plot was foiled in the lead-up to the referendum, at least two grenade attacks were carried out on the day of the vote, and a firefight broke out in Lanao del Sur between Philippine troops and Islamic State militants at the tail end of the week.

By obtaining such a landslide approval for the Bangsamoro Autonomous region, the Philippines has taken a major step toward quieting the conflict in Mindanao.

The desire to free resources for dealing with internal issues was, at least in part, the driving force behind Manila's attempts to resolve its territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea. The centurieslong conflict in Muslim Mindanao has been chief among these domestic problems, alongside an ongoing communist insurgency and deep economic disparities among regions. By obtaining such a landslide approval for the Bangsamoro Autonomous region, the Philippines has taken a major step toward quieting the conflict in Mindanao. Among other impacts, greater peace in Mindanao could mean that Manila will be able to devote more troops to dealing with communist insurgents elsewhere.

Internationally speaking, the vote could also give the Philippines more resources to use in its outreach to China, though this will take some time yet. If and when the region becomes stable enough, Chinese investment will be a valuable tool for developing Mindanao's infrastructure and alleviating internal inequality — provided China can overcome local obstacles and deliver. However, some voices in Philippine politics are still clamoring for Manila to more proactively protect its maritime claims in the South China Sea and persuade the United States to commit to defending Philippine interests there. The Philippine-U.S. military relationship suffered a lull following the 2016 election of President Rodrigo Duterte, but the relationship is now recovering as both countries look for ways to counter China's rise in the region.

Background

The referendum is a major milestone for the 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) militant group. The agreement has been marred by legislative setbacks and the Islamic State takeover of a city in Mindanao, but the successful referendum has paved the way for future votes. On Feb. 6, additional areas in Mindanao will hold their own referendums to decide whether they, too, will join the new Bangsamoro region, beginning a yearlong transition period before the new region is finally implemented. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will hold its first regional election in 2022 and, in the meantime, the MILF will helm an interim government.
Title: GPF: The Philippines tries to save a treaty
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 11, 2019, 09:36:51 AM
maps will not print here:

The Philippines Tries to Save a Treaty

What are the security options for a country that can dictate terms to neither friend nor foe?

Phillip Orchard |February 8, 2019




Next week, the U.S. and the Philippines will open exploratory talks on salvaging their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This comes after a month of renewed drama that has come to typify the hot-and-cold relationship between the U.S. and its oldest security treaty ally in Asia. In late December, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for a comprehensive review of the treaty for updating. A week later, he announced that Manila had begun studying the possibility that the pact could be scrapped altogether.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to withdraw from the treaty repeatedly since his election in 2016. Duterte says a lot of things, often changes his mind before the sun has set over Manila Bay, and is mostly incapable of fundamentally restructuring Philippine foreign policy to his personal tastes, anyway. But this particular warning came from Lorenzana – an advocate for robust U.S.-Philippine ties, a former attache to the Pentagon, and a Philippine defense establishment check on Duterte – suggesting that the anxieties Manila has about U.S. security commitments are born not from the vagaries of Duterte but from a more immutable set of circumstances: The U.S. and the Philippines face a common threat in China but have starkly divergent views on how to manage it.

Arguments Ring Hollow

The main problem with the treaty, according to Lorenzana, is that the U.S. won’t confirm that it includes Philippine holdings in disputed parts of the South China Sea. The treaty says the U.S. is obligated to respond to “an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of either of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.” But the text leaves some room for interpretation on what would actually trigger the treaty – and what “acting to meet common dangers” in such an event actually means in practice. This debate isn’t academic; this week, for example, imagery published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed as many as 90 Chinese naval, coast guard and fishing vessels near Pag-asa Island, the Philippines’ largest holding in the Spratlys, ostensibly in response to Manila’s plans to resume work on a beaching ramp on the island.


(click to enlarge)

For Washington, the ambiguity is at least partly deliberate. When the pact was signed in 1951, it argues, the Philippines did not yet control the nine features in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago that it does today. The U.S. is officially neutral on the territorial dispute, which began in earnest in the late 1980s, emphasizing instead that such matters should be resolved in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on a case brought by Manila invalidated Beijing’s claims that its Spratly holdings were entitled to territorial seas, but it did not rule on the rightful ownership of any of the reclaimed islands. So if the U.S. were to formally include the South China Sea in the treaty, it would ostensibly abandon a policy it applies in disputed hot spots around the world – one that serves the broader U.S. interest of bolstering a “rules-based” international order.

But this argument rings hollow to Manila for several reasons. For one, in 2015, the Obama administration agreed to updated guidelines in its Mutual Defense Treaty with Japan that, in no uncertain terms, included the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan in the East China Sea. Washington can point to minor differences in the language of the two treaties to defend its position, but it’s the kind of legalistic rationale you invoke only if you’re looking to keep a pact weak. (The U.S. hasn’t always been so circumspect. The Clinton administration twice confirmed that the treaty covered the South China Sea, even though the Philippine Senate voted to boot the U.S. Navy from its strategically invaluable base at Subic Bay in 1991.)

Perhaps most telling, the legal case for covering the Scarborough Shoal, just 130 miles (210 kilometers) from Luzon, is more straightforward. The U.S. formally took administrative control of the resource-rich reef from Spain in 1900 following its victory in the Spanish-American War, and the Philippines acquired formal control upon gaining independence in 1946. The Philippines established a U.S. naval operating area covering a 20-mile radius around Scarborough Shoal in the 1960s, and the two allies used the reef as bombing range into the early 1980s.

Yet, when Chinese forces seized the shoal in 2012, the U.S. declined to forcefully intervene. The Obama administration reportedly warned China in 2016 that it would consider an attempt to turn Scarborough Shoal into yet another artificial island a red line. But neither the Obama nor the Trump administration has moved to stop China from exercising effective control over the surrounding waters. Nor has the U.S. expressed any willingness to defend Manila’s right to drill for oil in waters the U.N. tribunal determined were Philippine. From Manila’s viewpoint, in other words, the U.S. is going out of its way to keep the Philippines at arms’ length.

Words on Paper

Unfair as it may appear, the U.S. has strategic reasons to keep its options open. It doesn’t want to get dragged into a war with China, at least not one that wasn’t started on its terms, and so it doesn’t want to give the Philippines reason to think the U.S. will automatically have its back if it picks a fight it can’t win on its own. The U.S. is basically content with the status quo in the South China Sea. It doesn’t really need to escalate matters there to contain China on other fronts. So long as the Chinese navy can’t challenge the U.S. Navy directly, the U.S. is happy to cripple China by choking its maritime traffic along the first island chain and around the Strait of Malacca.

The problem for the U.S. is that this strategy gives the Philippines little choice but to do whatever it deems necessary to remain friendly with China. Over the past two years, this has meant limiting the scale of cooperation with the U.S., presumably at Beijing’s behest, while allowing China to gradually expand its commercial and political influence in the country in ways that could come back to haunt the U.S.

For example, Manila has dramatically slowed implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a 2014 deal providing U.S. forces with rotational access to five Philippine bases. Construction on U.S. facilities was delayed by more than two years before finally breaking ground earlier this month. Two bases, including the one closest to the Spratlys, may now be excluded, and any hope that the deal would expand in scope, which Duterte’s predecessor’s administration assumed was inevitable, has been quashed.


(click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, Chinese firms are making plays for assets at what were once the U.S.’ two most important bases in Luzon – Clark airfield and Subic Bay naval base. There’s no guarantee that commercial ownership will mean China will ever be able to get these assets for military purposes. We’re skeptical of the strategic utility of so-called Chinese “debt traps” in general. But the potential threat is real enough that those concerned about China across the region are moving to counter or block outright Chinese acquisitions of strategically valuable infrastructure abroad. (Lorenzana, for example, is calling for the government to take over the shipyard at Subic Bay to keep it out of Chinese hands.) Perhaps just as important, in November, Manila approved entry to the Philippine market of a wireless consortium led by China Telecom, which is likely to aid Chinese efforts to export fifth-generation wireless technologies to strategically important states, the military implications for which are potentially game-changing.

Ultimately, to blow a hole in the U.S. containment line, China needs one of the countries along the first island chain to flip fully into its camp. Weak as it is, the Philippines may be China’s best bet, even if it’s not an especially good bet. Even if Manila scrapped the Mutual Defense Treaty outright, it wouldn’t automatically bring the U.S.-Philippine partnership to an end. In practice, the U.S. hasn’t been cooperating with the Philippines substantially more than it has been with other regional allies with which it has no formal treaty. And in any case, Washington and Manila struck a more detailed and arguably more important visiting forces agreement in 1999 that has facilitated the bulk of recent cooperation, including U.S. assistance in the Philippines’ fight against jihadist militants in Mindanao. (On the other hand, the EDCA would likely need to be renegotiated if the Mutual Defense Treaty is snuffed out. This would be a substantive setback to bilateral cooperation.)

The Duterte administration’s outreach to Beijing is less an expression of preference for China over the U.S. than one of a desire to keep its options open. Nearly every strategically located state on China’s periphery is keen to play the U.S. and China off each other, and to balance ties with any number of outside powers, to their advantage. The Philippines has been eagerly deepening military cooperation with U.S. allies like Japan, Australia and South Korea accordingly.

Still, countries as weak as the Philippines don’t get to dictate terms, whether to friends or to foes, and an “omnidirectional” foreign policy is no substitute for using the U.S. to deter the Chinese. Treaties are only as relevant as the strategic logic underpinning them, but they can be important for facilitating things like military interoperability, intel-sharing and basing agreements – the flesh and bones of a balance of power strategy. A Chinese alliance with Manila, then, may never be in the cards. But a divided, uncertain Philippines – one vulnerable to influence and fruitlessly trying to keep its own options open – is the next best thing.
Title: GPF: Sec State Pompeo: Attack on Philippine forces would trigger mutual defense
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 05, 2019, 04:03:48 AM
The U.S. supports an ally. During a visit to Manila on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article IV of our Mutual Defense Treaty.” The U.S.-Philippine alliance has been listing, and China has responded with increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. But as we noted recently, the U.S. has for the past two decades avoided saying whether it would help defend Philippine claims in the South China Sea under the treaty, and Manila has been urging Washington to make a firmer commitment (as it did with Japan and the East China Sea in 2015). There are still holes in Pompeo’s interpretation wide enough to steer a frigate through, but it’s a step forward for the alliance.
Title: GPF: Chinese military aid to Philippines
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 29, 2019, 08:47:44 AM
https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1100725/china-to-give-philippine-military-additional-p1-billion-aid?utm_source=GPF+-+Paid+Newsletter&utm_campaign=80cfe1f6ec-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_03_29_03_25&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_72b76c0285-80cfe1f6ec-247660329
Title: China used Filipino soil to fill in Scarborough shoal
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 30, 2019, 02:36:06 PM
https://subic.morefun.ph/news/zambales-governor-china-flattened-mountains-make-scarborough-shoal/?fbclid=IwAR2CGION3vEq_xHBVLKNsTN5KeCdfAg7A5cp_fOGyzYH1-sjRxf7cN4auV0
Title: Duterte says he cured himself of being gay
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 03, 2019, 05:06:22 PM
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/06/03/duterte-philippine-leader-says-he-once-gay-but-cured-myself/1327345001/?fbclid=IwAR1YUm5KJkk6SkadriBlqYGKrpwpv27GmhWNZSF_LjmV1xA09AxS2NdM_1g
Title: Sure looks like China has bought Duterte
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 11, 2019, 12:17:41 AM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/panosmourdoukoutas/2018/12/23/duterte-opens-up-the-philippines-to-chinese-workers-as-filipinos-seek-jobs-overseas/amp/?fbclid=IwAR3O8HO1zIMwOu0UfwZ3YhbXVZ1sZyw_j5aC89__XGLT6TD5CysUgN2yfoU#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s