Lately, the biggest
battles have been indoors. A major corruption scandal, where an official
admitted that several government ministers planned to take half the value of an
inflated telecom contract (with a Chinese firm), brought calls for a new
president and cabinet. Despite vows to clean up the corrupt practices so common
in the government, the last four presidents appointed senior people who were
later caught taking bribes and kickbacks. This is a big boost for rebel
organizations like the communist NPA and Islamic Abu Sayyaf. The only thing
that prevents either of these outfits from succeeding is the fact that one
proposes a socialist dictatorship, and the other a religious one. Most
Filipinos would prefer to elect their rulers, even if they choose thieves most
of the time. The corruption is a national shame, which everyone insists must be
eliminated, but persists nonetheless.
In addition to corruption scandals,
there's another one down south, on Jolo, where the aftermath of a gun battle
with Abu Sayyaf apparently led to the death of seven civilians and an off-duty
soldier. Fifty officers and troops have been suspended as the investigation
seeks to determine if the eight victims were murdered, or simply caught in the
crossfire. This investigation if the first victory Abu Sayyaf has had in a long
time, and the Islamic radicals are making the most of it. The government has
suspended operations against Abu Sayyaf, on the smaller islands in the south,
until the investigation is complete. But counter-terror operations continue in
the rest of the country, and an Islamic terrorist was captured in a bomb
workshop in the south, in Davao Oriental province.
Meanwhile, an informer led police to a
shallow grave on Tawi-tawi island, and claimed the dead man was terrorist
leader Dulmatin. This guy has a $10 million price on his head, dead or alive.
Dulmatin led the terrorists who committed the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia,
which killed over 200 people. Most of the victims were Australians, and the
attack angered Australians considerably. Dulmatin is the son of a wealthy
Malaysian family, typical of the well-educated Moslem men who become infatuated
with Islamic terrorism. DNA from the body is being tested, and some insist that
Dulmatin is still at large.
The government is forming an
infrastructure security force in the south, to guard major industrial plants,
utilities, and the like, from NPA shakedown attempts. The NPA has come to
depend on extortion payments, from large corporations, to keep going. So the
government is going to try and cut that lifeline.