Philippines: Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas

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December 21,2008:  In the south, military commanders believe that the MILF is hiding Abu Sayyaf terrorists in MILF camps and safe houses. As troops try to inspect the MILF facilities, this increasingly leads to fighting, despite the ceasefire between the government and the MILF. Meanwhile, Abu Sayyaf has been devoting more of its efforts to crime than terrorism. Kidnapping for ransom, rather than political goals, is usually a way to raise cash for terrorist operations. But now, Abu Sayyaf is apparently doing it mainly to meet the payroll, and pay local MILF commanders for protection. The MILF also indulges in criminal activities (especially extorting local businesses) to stay in business. While the MILF and Abu Sayyaf preach about helping to free the people from the rule of corrupt government officials (who tend to be both Moslem and Christian in this part of the country), the rebels tend to be just as corrupt and oppressive. This explains the declining popularity, and power, of the MILF.

Abu Sayyaf has been kidnapping Moslems, as well as Christians. The Moslems are often taken to pressure clans to support, or at least not attack, the Islamic terrorists. When seizing Christians, Abu Sayyaf usually seeks out wealthy individuals. Abu Sayyaf and the MILF have other sources of income, particularly drugs (growing marijuana has long been an MILF staple, along with assisting in the smuggling and distribution of heroin, cocaine and so on.) Even the communist NPA has run drugs, for the money, and is increasingly prone to doing so. Both the MILF/Abu Sayyaf and NPA are officially against drugs, but both justify it on the basis of "desperate times call for desperate measures".

In the large southern island of Mindanao, police recently captured Guiamalodin Edsrafil, an MILF bomb builder, who admitted that he was getting cash, and other aid, from Abu Sayyaf. The Islamic terrorists encouraged, and financed rogue MILF operators to carry out terrorist attacks.

In an attempt counter some of the bad press it has been receiving lately, the MILF has agreed to cooperate with UN efforts to eliminate the use of child (usually 14-17 year olds) soldiers. MILF has agreed to stop recruiting the kids, and to discharge those it now has in its ranks. Some kids will be demobilized for show, but the MILF will likely keep most of its teenage troopers.

While the government finds the corruption and clan feuds in the south a major reason for the unrest and Moslem anger, there is also the problem of corruption throughout the nation. This has led to several anti-corruption organizations. This includes one, composed of Protestant Christians (who have been rapidly gaining adherents in the traditionally Roman Catholic country), who have been calling the Roman Catholic clergy to task for participating in the corruption, and not doing enough in the past four centuries to eliminate the curse. The Protestant critics point out that the Philippines is the most corrupt nation in east Asia, and the only Roman Catholic one.

The collapse of the peace talks with the MILF, and anti-Christian violence by several rogue MILF commanders, has led to a return of the Christian militias. These were disbanded by the government decades ago, with the assurance that the military and police would eliminate Moslem violence against Christians. That protection is much frayed of late, and now the Christian self-defense forces and vigilantes are back. This is bad news for Moslems, since they are outnumbered by Christians by more than twenty to one.

December 18, 2008:  In a Christian part of the largely Moslem island of Mindanao, two bombs went off among Christmas shoppers, killing two and wounding over 50. No one immediately took responsibility, but Islamic terrorists are suspected. It could also be non-denominational gangsters following through on an extortion threat. Over the next few days, two more unexploded bombs were found in the area (Iligan City).

December 16, 2008: No three week Christmas truce with the MILF and communist NPA rebels this year. Only a five day truce with the NPA, to cover Christmas and New Years.

December 9, 2008: Abu Sayyaf released seven construction workers they had kidnapped ten days ago. Local officials negotiated the release, convincing the terrorists that the men were too poor for anyone to pay a ransom, and that killing them would just make Abu Sayyaf more unpopular among the largely Moslem population of the south.

 

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