Philippines: Will The Cycle Be Unbroken

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October 27, 2012: The new peace deal with Moslem separatists (MILF) is threatened by continued violence from splinter group BIFF. Last month MILF reached a deal with a splinter group (BIFF, for Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). BIFF was supposed to rejoin MILF and stop causing problems with their attacks on Christians in the south. BIFF contains former members of MILF, something MILF leaders have played down for the past two years. Earlier this year MILF openly agreed with government demands to do something about these "outlaws". BIFF contains about a thousand armed men and MILF sought to negotiate a peace deal with the dissidents while publicly insisting that it would crush this two year old group. BIFF had become increasingly violent and outspoken about how MILF is selling out Moslems. Now MILF will have to use force to coerce the BIFF outlaws to get with the new peace deal. Otherwise the treaty will turn into a civil war within the new Moslem homeland down south. BIFF is suspected of recently setting off several bombs in the south.

It’s not surprising that factions within the MILF oppose the peace deal. It’s happened before. Many MILF members still want a separate Moslem state. It's feared that these factions will again splinter off and keep the separatist violence going. That's what happened in the 1990s, when the separatist group MNLF made a peace deal with the government. Their rival, the MILF, kept fighting. This time, the elected Bangsamoro government in the south will be in charge of law and order and will have to deal with the “new MILF” (which currently is BIFF).

 Peace talks with the NPA are stalled over rebel demands that twelve of their jailed members be released first. The NPA continues to cause mayhem with their criminal activities (to raise money for operating expenses) and use of force to keep development projects out of rural areas.

October 21, 2012: In the central Philippines (Samar) troops clashed with the NPA, leaving four soldiers dead and as many as ten soldiers and rebels wounded. In the south (Mindanao) two clashes with the NPA left four soldiers and two rebels dead.

October 18, 2012: In the south (Maguindanao) Islamic militants from MILF and BIFF clashed, leaving three dead. The fighting was not political but the result of a long-standing clan feud. Elsewhere in the south (Mindanao) a bomb went off near a bank in Tacurong City. BIFF was suspected.

October 16, 2012: In the south (Basilan) Abu Sayyaf leader Abdula Alad was found and arrested. Alad has been involved with the Islamic terror group for over 12 years and had a $75,000 price on his head.

October 15, 2012: The long sought peace deal with Islamic separatists (MILF) was signed. Although there are still Moslems hostile to the deal, MILF has agreed to demobilize their 10,000 armed men and allow elections to determine which parts of the south will be part of Bangsamoro (the new autonomous Moslem area). Moslems are a small minority (8 percent) of the Filipino population and only about a third of the 22 million people in the south (Mindanao and the smaller southern islands) are Moslem. The rest are Christians, many who do not want to share the island with an independent Moslem state but might be persuaded to accept an autonomous Moslem area. Most of the Moslem population in the south is intermixed with Christians, and the radical Moslems wanted these Christians expelled. But the radical Moslems were not strong enough to force the majority Christians out. Many Moslem majority areas have become largely Christian in the last few decades. The Christian majority has been encroaching on the sparsely populated areas of the Moslem south for over a century. This movement of Christians has accelerated as the economy has improved in the last decade. Many Moslems see their culture threatened, but armed resistance has not done much to help. The Moslems are outnumbered and have been losing battles for decades. Radical Islam has not been able to halt this process and fewer and fewer young Moslems are willing to die for that cause. But many young Moslems are willing to become bandits and outlaws, and that is what many of the rebels down south are turning into. The new autonomous government will have major problems with outlaws, Islamic radicals, dissident separatists (like BIFF), corruption, and clan feuds. Many of the armed MILF members want to keep their weapons (there are estimated to be over three million firearms in the Philippines, which has a population of 90 million). Bangsamoro will be off to a tumultuous start, which may end badly.

October 13, 2012: In the south (Basilan) Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed and killed three soldiers.

October 11, 2012: In the south (Mindanao) a bomb went off near a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City, killing two and wounding three. BIFF was suspected.

October 10, 2012: In the south (Mindanao) a grenade exploded under a truck near Zamboanga City. BIFF was suspected.

 

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