Philippines: Morale, Murder and a Long War


December24, 2006: There is no let-up in operations against Islamic terrorists in the southern Philippines. The holiday truce only applies to communist NPA rebels. Most Islamic separatists have agreed to negotiate an end to decades of violence, but the hard core Islamic extremists, now linked to al Qaeda and similar groups, are determined to fight to the death. There are several hundred of these fanatics in the south, and it may take years for the police and military to hunt down all of them.

December 21, 2006: The military approved a four day halt (truce) in operations against NPA rebels. The halt applies to December 24th and 25th, and December 31st to January 1, 2007. But it was considered too dangerous to try and hold a truce with Islamic militants in the south.

December 20, 2006: The military has changed its mind about declaring a Christmas truce. The brass felt that they had communist and Moslem rebels on the run and ought to keep the pressure on. But apparently that did not go over too well with the troops. Christmas is a big family holiday for most Filipinos, and for the last twenty years, the troops had had their truce, which meant many of them could go home for the celebrations. It's a big deal, or at least bigger than the generals realized.

December 19, 2006: A legal dispute over who should have custody of an American marine accused and tried for rape, has led to the cancellation of joint (U.S.-Filipino) military exercises this February. The disagreement over the interpretation of a treaty (covering who has custody of American troops being prosecuted by Filipino courts) has touched a nerve in the U.S. military and the Filipino judiciary. The Filipino media has jumped on it as a case of American bullying, for canceling the exercise, while American military leaders see it as a matter of maintaining morale. Many Americans and Filipinos believe the accused marine is being railroaded.

December 16, 2006: A Congressman and his bodyguard were murdered by gunmen on bicycles. There have been several other murder attempts on politicians recently. Such attacks on prominent political figures causes an uproar, but are fairly common, with ten or so a month. Playing this rough is a tradition everyone wishes would go away, but it won't.


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