Philippines: Christian Militias Back In Business

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October 10,2008:  In the south, troops continue to chase after thousands of renegade MILF fighters. These gunmen have basically become bandits, and are being treated as such. With most of their bases gone, many of these MILF men would rather fight on and live off plunder, than return to their villages and unemployment. There's just something about the outlaw life, even if it is short. The army is trying to keep it short by getting Australia to donate ten well used UH-1 transport helicopters. Several dozen secondhand UH-1s have already given the army a big edge against the MILF. That, and artillery, and better trained infantry, make most encounters with the MILF very one sided.

The rogue MILF fighters are very much out of control. They are attacking foreign aid workers, who are usually immune to such actions. The MILF men also go after refugee camps. Actually, they will go after any target that is Christian and has food or other loot. This has brought back to life Christian militias like "God's Army". The government put these outfits out of business (for being too ferocious and brutal in the fight against Moslem separatists) in the 1980s. But the current MILF unrest has caused the Christian militias to reform, and the government is worried about bad publicity arising from the ferocity with which these local men go after MILF gunmen and Moslem bandits. Religion fueled violence is not a monopoly of the Moslems.

The government has told the MILF that the proposed, and long negotiated, peace deal is dead, and not coming back. This is mainly because the wealthy Catholic and Moslem families in the south exercised their political influence to protect their interests. These families have their own gunmen, and some even control portions of the MILF. Nothing is simple in the south. In addition, the Filipino Supreme Court agreed with some of these groups, proclaiming the deal unconstitutional (mainly because of the extent of the autonomy given to the southern Moslems.) Many northern politicians believe that the more corrupt southern politicians will use the autonomy to plunder and impoverish the southerners even more than is the case now. The Christian minority also sees themselves as becoming second-class citizens under the new deal (something many southern Moslems favor.) The MILF is in a bad situation, with their popularity plunging among the Moslem population, and rouge elements bringing the army and revived Christian militias down on them. The Moslems are, after all, a small minority  (5 percent of the population, and the poorest and least educated five percent as well) in a mainly Christian country. The Moslems have not made themselves any more popular with their support for Islamic terrorism, or demand for political control over Christian populations in the south.

 

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