All out war in southern Philippines

War is raging in the island of Basilan, located in the southernmost part of the Philippines. An all-out war was recently declared by the government against the Abu Sayyaf bandit group accused of beheading 14 Marines last month. The military offensives have displaced thousands of families and imperiled the peace negotiations between the government and other Muslim rebel forces.

Carlos Conde writes about the military operations in Basilan and the initial victories of government troops. By Jove uploads a video report which features President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo instructing soldiers not to expose the innocent civilians to danger. RG Cruz Blogs muses on “terrorism jounalism”.

Morofilm’s article highlights the uniqueness of the Basilan community. Ducky Paredes uploads a speech of Congressman Wahid Akbar about growing up in Basilan. Leyahred’s me, myself & i on living in a war zone. Adam’s Reef laments the war in Basilan and criticizes the media:

“Beneath the surface of poverty, the island is teeming with richness in culture and heritage. I find it difficult to watch soldiers on TV romping around the place. How can Basilan even reclaim its untainted name? How can it spring back from the images of war attached to it, when its people’s attempts to slowly regain peace is thwarted? What bothers me the most is how major TV networks are insidiously turning all these events into a circus”.

Ka-Blog! provides a simple description of the armed groups operating in Basilan:

“There are four armed groups in that area now. One is an armed bandit group which was put up by veterans of the Afghanistan War of Liberation and was originally trained and equipped by the US Armed Forces (Abu Sayyaf). Another is a revolutionary force fighting for their ancestral domains (MILF and MNLF). Still another is a national armed force which is being equipped, trained and directed by a foreign armed force (Government troops). The last is of course the foreign armed force which has no business being in the middle of all these but is there nonetheless (US troops)”.

The Patsada Karajaw Nation on the possible relationship between the war in Basilan and US military aid:

“A war with the said terror groups ensures the continuous pouring of military aid from the United States. Not only that, our government seems to have offered a promo to the Americans. In exchange for much needed military aid, the government extended additional perks to the Americans by providing them “temporary” structures in Mindanao which allow some of its personnel to stay in the country in between joint military exercises. This violates the Constitutional provision against the establishment of foreign military bases here. This sell out however is part of the survival mode of the fake President.”

In and out of season condemns the ambush of 14 Marines. Underside ponders on the perceived weaknesses of the military:

“First of all, the burning question that everyone wants to be answered is this: How in the world were the Marines ambushed, given that the government forces were supposed to be greater in number and better equipped? Answer: The following boo-boos were committed by the AFP itself: (1) The ammunitions provided to the soldiers were defective and (2) the government troops were not able to receive assistance from air pilots because of bad radio frequency”.

Uniffors is happy over the extra pay for soldiers but recommends “better leadership, up to date equipment, and ammunition that actually works so that those soldiers can live long enough to enjoy their extra pay”

Congressman Ruffy Biazon demands accountability from civilian and military authorities:

“Indeed, as we mourn the deaths of these Marines and those who were killed several weeks ago, we must determine the command responsibility of those who may have committed lapses or errors and hold them accountable, if any. Without immediately assuming anyone’s fault or guilt, the government must provide answers to the questions their families are asking.”

A senator through the blog Magdalo para sa Pagbabago has an allegation:

“I have received very serious insider information that ranking officials of the government, specifically of the executive department, had a direct hand in feeding our own military to the enemies of the State that led to the tragic death of the 14 members of the Philippine Marine Corps.”

Lovingarkin’s blog supports the all-out war and explains why. Caught you on camera gives a “snappy salute” to all Marines who died in Basilan. Bottled mourns the death of a young hero. My cover story is a college friend of a young Marine who died in Basilan. Cakes and ale is a friend of another fallen Marine.

“As a mother I cried in pain…this shouldn't happen if only our government peace negotiating panel meant a serious dialogue to seek peace. This bloodbath is absurd! Violence seeking and correcting violence?! The panel should take a back seat and try to look for others who can truly understand the inner dilemma and give us a good answer to these horrible acts that keep on making their trails.”

Ellen Tordesillas, describing the Arroyo government as ‘regime of insecurity’ speculates on the possible objectives of the renewed offensives in Basilan:

“Could it be that Gloria Arroyo and her military advisers feel the outrage of the soldiers, especially the Marines, over how, in the words of Sen. Antonio Trillanes, they “were fed to the enemies of the State”? And to pacify them, she gave them a war? Come to think of it, if Gloria Arroyo has to do something drastic to pre-empt public indignation on a possible guilty verdict on former President Estrada, would it be better for her if those who do not like her are in Mindanao busy dying in an aimless war?”

Violetagloria blogs about the statement of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society. Suara Bangsamoro appeals for peace:

“Who committed the beheading and why did the perpetrators committed such act? This is a very controversial and sensitive issue that should have been responded with discretion rather than warmongering. For weeks, it is as if every Muslim has to answer for the act of beheading and Islam is once again put in the limelight and debate.”

Viewpoints is opposed to the “war by Filipinos against Filipinos”:

“It is both a civil and moral disaster when a government launches war against its own citizens. While war against nations is bad enough, a war by Filipinos against Filipinos is one of the worst misfortunes the Philippines could have, live and experience. And such a war is on and raging in the South.”


  • DPoe

    The Philippines were a gamble after the coup. They ran out of time and are going insurgent. Thailand was warned to speed up the day they had the Philipine military killed. Fiji is going faster, it’s diplomats are all being replaced by military intelligence and The Council was just disbanded. These coups were gambles and some agencies have alot at stake, but the rumor is they are just like ‘The Stan’ and the US may have not minded the military coups; but that’s a rumor because agencies have alot riding on these going back to democracy. The agencies have committed to the military juntas and have to stay involved until there is democracy, but that isn’t happening.

  • Neil L. Estillore

    Im from Mindanao. We are sick of all the negative images and stigma associated with our “god-forgotten place”. The national government seemed to be getting the attention of Mindaoans when worst scenarios like beheading of Marines occur. We symphatized the pligh of those poor marines, likewise we think of the legitimacy of the sentiments of the people of Mindanao who were suffering from underdevelopment. Who will win in this damned war? we’re not certain, what is certain is the cycle of poverty for the people of Basilan. And the gross misconception about our place!

  • […] Mong Palatino did a round up about the armed conflict in southern Philippines. […]

  • I notice you do not mention the fact that Basilan RTC Judge Leo Principe issued 130 arrest warrants against the MILF rebels who ambushed and killed those 14 Marines, and then allowed their Abu Sayyaf buddies to come in, behead the dead Marines, stealing their cell phones and wedding rings,even taunting grieving, hysterical relatives with text messages and MMS image of their mutilated loved ones.

    Instead you call the attempt to arrest those savages as “an all out war” which of course was the public position of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, as well as their allies in the mass media.

    The facts are these: 57 Philippines soldiers have been ambushed and killed by terrorist gun men and ZERO suspects have been arrested for terrorist crimes. There is NO all out war at all, except on the soldiers themselves by the usual sources with their sophisticated rationalizations for obstructing Justice.

    Some roundup, Mong. Joma would proud of you.

  • Come to think of it, there are a number of other substantial facts about this “all out war” that you have conveniently left out of this “round up” Mong:

    First and foremost is the reason why those first 14 Marines happened to be tromping around the great and glorious cultural homeland of Basilan: they were looking for the kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi and were returning back to their base in the rain when MILF gun men ambushed and killed them, a fact they proclaimed and admitted on their website, even enumerating the weapons they “confiscated” from the interlopers into their territory.

    Second, you also do not mention the fact that top members of the Jemaah Islamiyah are being coddled by the Muslim rebels. These include Bali Bombers Umar Patek and Dulmatin, as well as Zulkifli Abdhir, recently indicted in the California along with his brother Rahmat under US anti terrorism laws. All three are designated terrorist personalities by the US and the EU. The Philippine Military has been searching for these really dangerous characters and must be captured soon, before they carry out their dastardly plans.

    The picture you paint of a military and a government oppressing the Muslims is utterly wrong and misleading.

  • “Peace and Order” is a very different problem, in my opinion, than “War Or Peace” in the context of the Moro rebellions of southern Philippines. Roughly speaking the preferred solutions to the two problems respectively are “Law Enforcement” and “Diplomacy”.

    Both are central to our concerns, but they are also central to our inability to resolve the Mindanao situation when the solutions to one of them are expected to apply to the other. This confounding, I can show is part of the reason for the unending violence there.

    I think that the tasks of law enforcement should continue regardless of the progress or lack of it in the peace talks and other negotiations that comprise diplomacy as a long term solution to the question of war or peace between the Govt and the Moro rebels.
    So, whenever a judge of the Republic issues an arrest warrant for a criminal suspect in a serious crime, all of the people, whether Moro or not, are entitled to an expectation that the police will serve the warrant,arrest the suspect and process them through the justice system.

    If it should happen, as it did with the Marines who were ambushed and some beheaded on July 10 in Tipo tipo Basilan, that a case is related to the activities of Moro rebels (MILF/MNLF) or rogue elements or terrorist bandit gangs like the Abu Sayyaf, there ought to be no undue interference or micromanagement by peace negotiators into the normal workings of Law Enforcement authorities in a given province, town, city or other locality in the country.

    It is simply amazing to me that none of the suspects in those crimes have been served the arrest warrants issued against them six weeks ago by Basilan Judge Leo Principe. But not inexplicable, for indeed, it was the hemming and hawing and the backstgage areglo going on with their counterparts in the MILF Ceasefire [sic!] Committee, that Jess Dureza and Co. got the efforts to simply serve those warrants delayed, until finally of course, an “all-out war” was called anyway, but suspiciously only against the Abu Sayyaf, not the “partners it the peace process”.

    But nota bene, both the peace talks and the so called “all out war” are really the two main implements (peace or war) of the Diplomatic efforts to settle with the MILF rebels(who want to supplant the MNLF, the ARMM, all that Nur Misuari stuff). As such they enmeshed in a complex multinational negotiation driven by Politics with a cap P, involving, Malaysia, Dar Us Salaam and the OIC.

    The needs of diplomacy are different from the needs of law enforcement, and ought not prevent each other’s goals.

    But insofar as all sides surely agree that “There can be no peace without justice.” all must unite and support the idea that the activities of law enforcement ought to be regular and unimpeded irregardless of what is happening on the Diplomatic negotiating table.

    Because of this, the needs of Law Enforcement have a just claim of Priority over those of Diplomacy. They should not impede each other, but in cases of conflict, the order of priority of satisfying needs, belongs to the Rule of Law, not the Rule of Talk.

  • The Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in all of Asia. Geopolitically speaking it is like Israel in many respects, being jeek by jowl with the most populous and predominantly Muslim country, Indonesia.

    What will happen next is this upon the resumption next week of Malaysian brokered peace talks: GMA will give the MILF warlords 1000 villages in the Pulangi River Basin, throwing in Sulu and most of what is now the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao to form her “peace legacy”, a “Muslim Juridical Entity” that will only accomplish two things:

    (i) it will give the really nasty folks from South Waziristan a new base for “The Base” there amongst the island paradises of Maphilindostan.

    (ii) it will give their rivals in Nur Misuari’s camp, the MNLF, a renewed cause to dig up the ancient grievances and go for their own homeland JRE, say in about ten years after thousands more dead in “all out wars” and “peace talks.”

    And of course, like Fidel V. Ramos before her in 1997, there will be no DISARMAMENT required. Who knows what the main exports of the coming Bangsamorostan will be with Dulmatin and Abdhir Industries ready to invest time, money and R&D.

  • Froggy

    Why cant the philippines allow the US to do more than just provide aide and equipment. The US can have the muslim terrorist problem solved in one year. If we are allowed to fight. We want to fight, we hate muslim terrorists.

  • America is doing everything it possibly can, given that the Philippine Constitution does not allow foreign troops to be based permanently in the Philippines or to engage in combat operations. Moreover leftist media are constantly on the look out for any violations of Philippine sovereignty. Recently an Agence France Presse photographer snapped some pictures on Basilan with some Americans in combat gear. This photo was blown up by the press into an accusation that the US is already engaged in combat there. Turns out they were part of the ongoing Balikatan Exercises, which involves training and civic works like delivery of medical and dental services, building bridges and schools in the area! But of course none of those facts have emerged on the front pages, which recently were claiming the US is actually building “a secret military base” in Mindanao.

    But check out Philippine Commentary for photos of US soldiers working on sovereign territory there, they being the first to arrive at most disaster scenes that give the newspapers fits having to show what American service men are really doing here.

    Now it is also a fact that US military participating in the Balikatan exercise are allowed to defend themselves and to shoot back if attacked.

    I have no doubt that will happen very soon because the peace talks being held with the MILF will soon result in what I have called Bangsamorostan in Mindanao, a new base for The Base, courtesy of Pres. Arroyo as her “legacy to Peace.”

    By the way, I hope folks back home do not get the misimpression from its Main Stream Media that the Filipinos belong to Bin Laden. They most certainly do not! A recent survey of world public opinions shows Filipino Public Opinion to be supportive and trusting of US policy at the same level as Israel and Poland. John Negroponte recently visited and told a tv audience of Maria Ressa that he would love it if other nations emulated the moral support given by Filipinos to the global war on terrorism.

    Make no mistake: the Silent Majority of the Philippines stands with America, because Their Liberty is Your Liberty!

    They know that better than most people in the world.

  • The latest post on Philippine Commentary regarding this matter tackles the Ancestral Domain issue. For us, this is one of the most significant developments that will dominate the coming “peace talks”. Please pay us a visit and get a slightly different perspective on this than the CPP NPA.

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