Philippines: Why Warlords Won't Go Away

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February 22, 2010:  Now the government is under growing pressure to do something about the private armies so common in rural areas, particularly the Moslem south. There are over a hundred of them, and most consist of a few dozen gunmen, but some have over a thousand. A local gang, as it were, paid for by one or more local landowners (or other wealthy individuals). The bosses supply the weapons, which are used by men who usually already work for the "warlord." The private armies are also part of the clan structure, and political rivalries. Eliminating these feudal relics requires installing uncorrupt and effective police and courts to replace them. The government has neither the money, nor the trained personnel, for that. So at most, there will be some photo ops of militias being disbanded, local politicians/warlords pledging to disarm, and life will go on as usual. This includes using the gunmen to coerce voters, and candidates, to cooperate with the warlords. After getting elected to office, the warlords steal as much public money as they can, in order to maintain their private army, and that keeps the cycle of corruption going.

Exiled leaders of the NPA have halted peace negotiations with the government. There has been a growing split between the elderly exiled (mostly in Europe) leaders and the younger men and women leading the fight back in the Philippines. So the government is going to continue negotiations with local NPA groups, who have a better awareness of how much trouble the communists are in.

February 21, 2010: On Jolo, troops raided an Abu Sayyaf camp, killing six Abu Sayyaf rebels. Three soldiers were wounded, and one of the dead men was Albader Parad, the most visible leader of the Islamic radical group.

February 18, 2010: On Basilan, two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. In the capital, police arrested long sought Abu Sayyaf member Jumadail Arad, who participated in a spectacular 2001 mass kidnapping. Arad was in Manila seeking to obtain ammunition for Abu Sayyaf groups in the south.

February 17, 2010: The MILF has officially rejected the latest government peace offer. The rebels want more local control than the government is willing to grant. Warlords and local despots are particularly common in the Moslem south, and the government fears that granting too much autonomy to the Moslems would lead to a local dictatorship down there, and even more unrest.

February 16, 2010:  In the Moslem south, three members of a farmers family were killed when a bomb went off. This was believed related to local clan disputes. Elsewhere in the south, kidnappers killed two of their four hostages. This particular kidnapping, which took place last week, is believed related to a local clan feud.

February 13, 2010: On Sulu, the second of two kidnapping victims was released. Two were construction workers and were believed taken because they would not make protection payments to a local gang. The workers were employed on a project funded by the United States, and received above average wages. At first it was thought Islamic radicals were behind the kidnappings, but it turned out to be local thugs, just out to make some money.

February 11, 2010: Clan warfare in the south claimed another victim, as a member of the Ampatuan clan was shot dead in a shopping mall.

 

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