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.
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 Once Abu Sayyaf is crushed, the troops can be withdrawn,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.
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.
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.
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