Philippines: For A Few Dollars More…

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July 11, 2008: The government is trying to get Persian Gulf Arab nations to help crack down on local "charities" and wealthy Islamic conservatives that send money to Islamic radical groups in the Philippines. Thousands of Filipinos work in the Persian Gulf, and there are always a few who can be hired to act as a cash courier, and some of these are caught, or, it is suspected, turned by local or Filipino intelligence to help keep an eye on the Islamic radical fund raising operations. Some of the Persian Gulf cash gets through, but the Islamic radicals, especially Abu Sayyaf, rely on kidnapping and extortion to meet the payroll and buy weapons. Without this cash, a lot of Islamic radical activity would just fade away. But all those oil profits in the Gulf result in some very conservative Arabs making a lot of money (Osama Bin Laden's father was a very wealthy Saudi builder). These men see it as their religious duty to sustain operations like al Qaeda.

Eleven army officers (five captains and six lieutenants) were dismissed from the service, and are still being held for prosecution because they participated in a 2003 coup attempt. President Gloria Arroyo has managed to maintain the loyalty of the senior military leadership, but many junior officers are unhappy with the continued corruption in the military and government.

July 10, 2008: Army and MILF negotiators resumed talks, to try and halt the growing violence between MILF radicals and the security forces. The 2003 ceasefire (to allow for peace negotiations) saw a sharp reduction in violence (from over a thousand violent incidents a year, to nearly none in 2007.) But the ceasefire has been unraveling, with over a hundred clashes so far this year.

July 9, 2008: Police foiled an attempt to set off a bomb in a bus depot in the south. The bomber was also caught, and identified as an MILF member. The MILF has been denying involvement in recent bombing efforts in the area. Police have seized three other bombs before they could be placed.

June 30, 2008: Over the weekend, nearly a hundred NPA rebels invaded Siargao island and attacked police stations and resort areas. Police fought back and chased the rebels away, leaving fifteen rebels and two policemen dead. Another dozen rebels were captured. The NPA keeps going largely through extorting rural businesses, so it is suspected that the rebels got turned down by one or more tourist resorts (the surfing is great) on the island. The attacking NPA gunmen were kept away from the tourists.

June 29, 2008: In the south, police found and disarmed a remotely controlled (by cell phone) bomb. Police blamed the MILF, but the MILF denied any involvement.

 

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