Philippines: Blood Feuds Beat All

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May 17,2008: In the south, peace talks with MILF rebels are stalled, and much complicated, by local politics in the Moslem community. Unlike the rest of the Philippines, Christian Philippines, the south has retained much more of the ancient clan and tribal traditions. The MILFs 10,000 armed men are torn between their allegiance to an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines (which the MILF is all about), and loyalty to their clans. Most of the recent instances of the MILF breaking the ceasefire have more to do with clan wars than with resistance to the central government. While many southern Moslems have bought into the concept of elections and government (there is no shortage of Moslem politicians), for many, loyalty to clan leadership still takes precedence. Moslem Peace monitors (especially those from Malaysia and Libya) have helped, because the monitors have an easier time brokering peace deals and truces between clan factions, than do Christian Filipinos. The religious animosity is still there. The southerners would like some peace and quiet, but are trapped in a culture that demands bloody vengeance for the slightest offence. Changing that has proved very difficult, and will take a long time to accomplish.

Islamic terrorist groups, particularly Abu Sayyaf, have made matters worse. Because Abu Sayyaf carries out terror attacks in Christian communities, especially in the north, the government is forced to send troops to Abu Sayyaf sanctuaries in the Moslem south. It's the downside of democracy. When terrorists kill voters, the majority demands action. But all those soldiers and marines beating the bush for Abu Sayyaf will inevitably stumble into clan politics, and MILF camps. That causes more violence. Once Abu Sayyaf is crushed, the troops can be withdrawn, and the clans left to their feuds and violence.

May 8, 2008: In the south, off Jolo, some twenty men in speed boats approached a ferry, fired on it, and then left. Five passengers, including two young children, were killed. It appeared to be a pirate attack that was called off at the last minute for some reason (such as the fear that there were armed men on the ferry.) Piracy is becoming increasingly common in the south.

May 6, 2008: In the south, communist rebels were forced, by the intensity of search operations, to free two soldiers they had captured at a checkpoint two weeks ago. The rebels could have killed the soldiers, but some NPA factions are trying to get peace talks going again. Murdering soldiers does not further that goal.

May 4, 2008: In the south, three people were killed, and five wounded, when a bomb went off in a bus that was leaving the depot. No one took responsibility, and it's believed this attack was the work of criminals (extorting money from the bus companies) and not Islamic terrorists.

 

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