Philippines: Blame It On Feudalism and Religion

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June 9, 2007: The negotiations between the government and the Moslem MILF are now into their tenth month. As slow as the talks have been, there has been progress, and government officials and military commanders have developed personal relationships with the MILF leaders. Time is against the MILF, which has been fighting since the 1960s, to achieve autonomy for the three million Moslems in the south. In that time, over 100,000 people have died from the fighting, but Christians continue to move into the south, and Moslems migrate to other parts of the country. The south is no longer as Moslem as it used to be, and not as eager to become a separate Moslem state. So the MILF is trying to work out an autonomy deal that will put some restrictions on Christians coming south and, in effect, stop a process that has been going on for over a century. The government is willing to allow some kind of symbolic deal, but not actually restrict where some Filipinos can move in their own country. The government also wants to avoid the corruption that destroyed earlier peace deals, where the leaders of Moslem groups stole most of the government money meant for public projects.

June 8, 2007: In a televised ceremony on Jolo, the American ambassador handed over $10 million in rewards to four men who provided information leading to the death of two terrorist leaders late last year. Two of the informers were former Abu Sayyaf members, while the other two were local farmers. Three of the men, and their families, are moving to another part of the Philippines, to escape retaliation by the many Islamic radicals still on Jolo. One farmer, however, will stay, because he has a large extended family, and feels that together they can protect themselves. The local police have accepted the challenge, but are not enthusiastic about it. In the Moslem south, it does not take much to get a bloody feud going. Then again, $2.5 million is a lot of money in this part of the world, and can buy you all sorts of things, including friends among your enemies.

June 7, 2007: In a four hour battle, soldiers captured a major NPA camp. Four soldiers and two rebels died, while eight soldiers and five rebels were wounded. Several rebels were captured, and much equipment and weapons were captured. The site of the camp was in the mountains, about 920 kilometers southeast of the capital.

June 5, 2007: In Central Philippines, a land dispute between a large landowner, and small farmers who were to have received land that the large landowner insists is his, had led to at least two deaths, as gunmen employed by the large landowner killed two of the farmers. This sort of feudal power is a problem in many parts of the country, where a few dozen families own most of the property and businesses, and act like they are above the law. The government is under pressure to send some troops to the area, because the local police are heavily influenced by the large landowners. These powerful families also commit vote fraud and voter intimidation. In most elections, the only candidates are members of these powerful families. This social organization is also a reason for the poor economic growth (lots of inefficient monopolies and corruption in general) and poverty in general.

June 3, 2007: Two dissident leaders of the Moslem MNLF organization, have gone to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), a 57 member organization of Moslem nations, to pressure the government to return two camps on Sulu taken, by police, two months ago. Filipino diplomats had to explain to the OIC officials that the two MNLF factions had defied the MNLF leadership and had, in effect, rebelled and engaged in criminal behavior. The OIC had automatically assumed that the two MNLF rebels were being persecuted by the Christian majority in the Philippines, and had not checked the background of those complaining. This is in line with the current, and very popular (in the Islamic world) myth that the Christian world is out to attack and destroy Islam.

 

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