Philippines: Warlords Defy The Law And Get Away With It


December 1, 2010: A year ago, Maguindanao province in the south was the scene of a massacre that killed 58 people. Government efforts to prosecute the Ampatuan clan (which ran the province for years) for the killings has been moving slowly. Lawyers for the wealthy and powerful Ampatuans are using a wide variety of legal, and illegal methods to delay justice. Although 197 people have been accused of involvement in the murders, only fifteen have even been arraigned. Prosecutions may go on for more than a decade. A judge accused the Ampatuans of trying to bribe witnesses, an effort that did not succeed. The Ampatuans apparently had some friends inside the government, who helped broker the bribery attempt. Now the Ampatuans are seeking to murder witnesses. It's widely believed that many prominent Ampatuans, responsible for the massacre, will never be convicted.

Many of the accused were members of a local clan militia, controlled by Ampatuans. There are over 50,000 armed men in these militias, mainly in the south. The government refuses to outlaw these groups, because it would be too expensive to replace them with soldiers or police. Since the peace talks with the MILF (Moslem rebels) are still stalled, the government needs to keep these militias around to encourage the MILF to complete the negotiations. But the warlords who control these militias (often local politicians) use their power to operate outside the law. The government now says it will try to cut down on the abuses by these militias, of which the Ampatuan massacre was one of the worst examples. Meanwhile, the Ampatuans are fighting each other, and political rivals in Maguindanao province. Most of this is terrorist level stuff, but it grabs headlines and forces Filipinos to confront the dark side of the clan militias.

The U.S. has released a report revealing that terror group Abu Sayyaf has received some financial support from Filipinos working overseas. Details were not provided, but it is known that some Filipino Moslems working in Persian Gulf countries have got close to local Islamic radical groups. The U.S. report also revealed that other groups in the Persian Gulf have been sending money to Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. The U.S. obtained this information via various means, including examination of electronic money transfers. Thus they have names and amounts. While the Filipino government plays down this as a source of much support for Abu Sayyaf, the U.S. obviously can supply names, dates and amounts for Filipino police to follow up on.

November 30, 2010: In the south, one rebel was killed and three soldiers wounded when troops clashed with NPA gunmen. On Sulu island down south, a clan feud over land has eased as one group freed ten people it had kidnapped three days earlier. But two men are still held. Clan elders are working to settle the dispute peacefully, with the police standing by in case it all gets violent.

November 28, 2010: In the south, the NPA released a solider they had captured 12 days earlier. The communist rebels apparently wanted to avoid a planned operation to rescue the soldier. Also in the south, the vice mayor of Barira (in Maguindanao province) was shot dead in what was apparently an assassination. Such killings are common in the south, and usually have a political component.

November 20, 2010: In the central Philippines, a soldier and local militiaman were killed by NPA rebels.


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