Philippines: Death Squads For Dummies

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May 9, 2009: Communist NPA rebels have become more vulnerable because of their need to extort money from villages and businesses in order to survive. Since September 11, 2001, the NPA has been declared an international terrorist organization, and gets much less cash from leftists in the West. This need to intimidate victims, to encourage payment, has resulted in many more clashes between the army and the NPA enforcers (who usually travel in groups of 30-40 men). Increasingly, the MILF and Abu Sayyaf are also turning to extortion. But these Moslem rebels have fewer potential targets, because they cannot go after many powerful Moslem organizations or individuals, as these are part of their support base. Thus outside economic investment, or new economic development (roads and other infrastructure) get a lot of attention by the extortion squads. This continues to hold back economic growth and investment in the Moslem south.

On Jolo, the military continues searching for the Abu Sayyaf group that kidnapped a Red Cross official. The army has the kidnappers located, but holds back because the terrorists have threatened to kill their captive if rescue is attempted. The army apparently plans to keep the kidnappers cornered until they give up their hostage, or provide the army with an opportunity to carry out a rescue.

In the south, rogue bands of MILF gunmen continue to attack Christian communities. The army has been pursuing the outlaw Moslem gunmen, who are now looting and pillaging to survive, since the army has destroyed the camps the rogue MILF men used to live in. This is another side effect of the mainline MILF leadership losing control of the organization. Decades of fighting, and no success, has demoralized many of the troops. Some have just quit, but many others, accustomed to being a gunman, have become common criminals, or more extreme Islamic radicals. Abu Sayyaf is one example of this. They are former MILF members who have become successful criminals and gangsters, simultaneously. However, this is a high risk endeavor, as many, if not most, Abu Sayyaf members have been killed or jailed.

It turns out that an NPA death squad, not a government one, tortured and killed the daughter of a NPA leader two months ago. The 21 year old daughter of NPA leader Leonardo Pitao who was kidnapped and murdered in early March. The victim was a teacher and apparently had nothing to do with radical politics or the NPA. No one took credit for the killing, and it was thought that the culprits could be military or police death squads (who have been on the run lately) or the result of another feud within the NPA. The use of death squads is common, especially against the various communist rebel groups (of which the NPA is the largest.) The communists believed that murder and kidnapping was a good way to terrorize and demoralize the security forces. Even though it was illegal, the security forces would, from time to time, use the same tactics against "leftists" in general. All the death squads tended to be paranoid and indiscriminate, killing a lot of people who had nothing to do with the war against armed rebel groups. Pitao initially blamed an army death squad, which he believed was responsible for the murder of his brother last year. But eventually it became clear that an NPA group, seeking spies within the organization, suspected Pitaos daughter, and grabbed her for questioning. This process got out of hand, and the victim died. She was apparently not a spy. The members of the death squad are now being hunted down and killed by NPA gunmen, even as they defend themselves by pointing out that they have also found and killed several real police spies.

May 6, 2009: On Sulu island, a local police chief and his officers clashed with an Abu Sayyaf group. This left the police chief, and the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group dead, along with five others.

April 27, 2009: Police in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, found and disabled a bomb left behind a government building.

 

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