Philippines: The Arrangement


December 17, 2009: In the south, the dismembering of the Ampatuan clan militia and political machine, is proving embarrassing for the government. The Ampatuan clan were corrupt and ruthless, and made lucrative deals with the Christian politicians who dominated the national government. The basic arrangement was that the local power (the Ampatuan clan) would deliver votes in national elections, and keep communist and Islamic rebels out of the province. In return, the national government would look the other way when members of the Ampatuan clan broke laws. Up to a point. The line was crossed, in a big way, with the massacre of 57 political opponents and journalists. Murder, in general, is frowned on (but not forbidden) with these arrangements. But mass murder is never acceptable, and that's how the Ampatuan's went very, very wrong.

The Ampatuan clan had been using this relationship with the national government since 2004, and it could have continued for years more had not some clan member overestimated the degree of immunity they had. The investigation of the Ampatuan clan will prove very embarrassing for national, and southern, politicians. Corruption is a national problem that just happens to be a lot worse in the Moslem south. The politicians would rather the details, which are no secret to most people, would be kept out of the mass media. But journalists have to live, and they are very angry that so many of their own were killed this time around. Political promises will be made to clean up these bad habits, but not a lot of progress will be made.

The government revealed that, last month, Indonesian police had arrested one of the founders of Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Basir Latip, when he tried to get through an airport using a false passport. Latip was soon returned to the Philippines.

  December 15, 2009: In the south, the army found and attacked an NPA camp. There were some 60 rebels there, and nine were killed (and one soldier lost) during the attack.

December 14, 2009: Some 2,000 soldiers and police have been sent after the 31 prisoners freed in yesterday's jail break. Some $43,000 in rewards are being offered for the more notorious escapees.

December 13, 2009: On Basilan, over a hundred Abu Sayyaf gunmen attacked a jail, leaving one guard and one attacker dead, and freed 31 prisoners, including 20 Abu Sayyaf members. The MILF was believed to be involved, but only some rogue MILF members took part. On Basilan, and other island in the southwest, Moslem separatists tend to be more radical and violent, as well as less disciplined.

December 12, 2009: Martial law has been lifted in the south. Imposing martial law  three weeks ago was seen as necessary to allow the security forces to quickly shut down the Ampatuan clan militia. But many feared that martial law would remain, as it has before, and enable the government to run the country like a police state. Didn't happen this time.

December 10, 2009: In the eastern province of Samar, communist NPA rebels attacked an army engineering unit that was helping build a school, and killed two soldiers.

December 9, 2009: More militia madness in the south. A clan militia from the Manobo kidnapped 57 people from a village, in an attempt to prevent police from arresting four of their members for killing members of a rival clan. Meanwhile, on Basilan, Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a college professor for ransom.


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