September 25, 2006: The fighting on Jolo has led to the capture of many documents, and dozens of Islamic radicals. Interrogations indicate that there are more than two, and maybe as many as ten, Indonesian Islamic terrorists on the island. These men fled Indonesia to avoid arrest for terrorist activities, and have been teaching Filipino Islamic terrorists bomb making techniques, and other terrorist skills. While a lot of information on bomb making can be found on the Internet, having an experienced instructor at hand makes a big difference. The Indonesians have also inspired Abu Sayyaf members to pool their money, or engage in more criminal acts to obtain cash, and buy bomb making materials. Several shipments of this stuff has been detected and seized by the police in the last few months. In the last two months, the fighting on Jolo has left twenty police and troops dead, and another 82 wounded. The rebels are believed to have lost fifty dead, and many more wounded. The rebels make a major effort to drag their dead away. They know that if police identify dead rebels, the families will be investigated.
September 24, 2006: The military is spending some $400 million, mostly on transportation equipment (helicopters and trucks.) The U.S. has been giving the Philippines a good price on used UH-1 helicopters, which are being phased out of American service. The UH-1s have been well maintained, and have many years of useful life left. The Filipino military has been using UH-1s for decades. The new equipment buy would also include some of the electronic monitoring gear being used by American intel units on Jolo, stuff that has been very useful in tracking down the rebels.
September 20, 2006: The coup in Thailand is not likely to be repeated in the Philippines, despite averaging one coup attempt every two years since the 1980s. The senior Filipino officers have developed an aversion for military rule, and a belief that, no matter how inept elected leadership is, it's superior to one imposed by force. Despite this, politicians opposed to the current government continue to try and entice generals into another coup attempt. But with so many failed coup attempts, there are fewer takers.
September 19, 2006: On Jolo, troops again cornered about a hundred Abu Sayyaf rebels, in a clash that left one marine dead and 24 wounded. The rebels fled, taking their dead and wounded with them. Sick and wounded rebels are being left behind in villages, and some are discovered by the police. Indications are that the weeks of pursuit are causing low morale among the rebels, and many wish to surrender.
Religion isn't the only problem in the south. There's also the clan tradition, and clan wars. The many Malay tribes of the Philippines developed differently over the past five hundred years. Those in the south encountered Moslem traders and missionaries from Indonesia, and became Moslem, while those in the north encountered Spanish conquerors and missionaries and became Christian. For reasons more cultural than religious, the tribes in the south retained a strong clan structure, and a preference for settling clan disputes with violence. A recent study found that, over the last 70 years, there have been, on average, about two such feuds a year, leaving a dozen or so people dead, and often causing hundreds, and sometimes thousands, to flee their homes. The violence has become more deadly in the last few decades, as automatic weapons became more common. The current problems in getting the MILF to finalize a peace deal stem from MILF factions, and disputes based on clan affiliation. While religion is the main glue holding the MILF together, clan politics still stirs the pot.