BBL, MILF, BIFF, PNP, AFP, CIA and ISIS

pnp killings gmanews

Briefing after encounter. Main message, “wait for inquiry.” [Source of photo: gmanews]

As with many topics, I don’t have full knowledge or complete conviction in my opinions. I put one version out here, as close as I can get to what I think is right, and leave it to the discussion to correct or re-aim the matter. This one I will break into two components: (1) the ambush killing of 44 PNP special forces operatives and 8(?) MILF or BIFF operatives, and (2) the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), or Mindanao peace agreement.

I will not waste bits and bytes explaining the alphabet soup in the headlines. I will assume you know the players or can google them.

The ambush

My mind cannot grasp the warrior mentality of modern man. It should have been set aside centuries ago when we realized the earth was round and we would collide with one another if we did not establish compassionate and considerate rules that accept all mankind in the race of humans. It is difficult because my homeland, America, is the Warrior in Chief of the planet with bugs in embassies around the world, jets bombing people in Iraq (if you choose to include ISIS among the ranks of humans) and white guys flying helicopters in Mindanao.

The alphabet is thick with actors involved in the most recent tragedy, the slaughter of 44 PNP troops out on a mission to track down a guy with a US$5 million price on his head (Zulkifli Abdhir, alias “Marwan”) because he is skilled at making bombs. He’s been on the most wanted list since 2005.

Which reminds me, there was a threat to the Pope, did you read? A bomb threat linked to Marwan. [Zulkifli Abdhir – Wiki]. Information is sketchy or denied.

That’s one of the big problems here. Information. You see, this whole area of fighting and dying is wrapped in secrets and disinformation and mistrust, so most people are winging it, translating history and making up stories as they go and declaring it the truth. Because it is in their heads.

I hope President Aquino can do a good job of describing what happened in the latest incident, and what will happen. We need to cut to some information that is credible. Not speculative.

Let me back up a step and lay some groundwork.

I’ll start with the news of today. Perhaps you read about two Filipinos killed in a bomb blast in a Libyan hotel, and another about a Filipino beheaded by ISIS? You also likely have seen news reports that suggest America may have had some involvement in the operation that led to the PNP massacre, certainly in helping haul out bodies, possibly in training, and maybe even a role in the operation itself.

We may never know the whole story. So we’ve got to go with incomplete information.

Let’s employ the Socratic method, answers supplied:

  • My first question, is it necessary to know the whole story? Or can we figure out a “position” from the basics? We can figure out a position.
  • Do you believe there is a terrorist problem around the world? I do.
  • Do you believe America is the reason for the terrorist problem? I don’t. Muslim conflicts are a problem for China, Russia, France, UK, and numerous African, Middle Eastern and Eastern Europe nations.
  • Do you believe America incited terrorism by going after Bin Laden in Afghanistan and ousting Saddam Hussein from Iraq, and other Middle Eastern adventures, including having Israel as an ally? Israel is for sure an adventure. I do think America made some mistakes, the biggest being Iraq II, and that stirred up trouble. But it was a powder keg to begin with, Shiite vs Sunni.
  • Do you think the Philippines has a terrorism problem? I do. Need I recite the plethora of cases, bombings and beheadings, blown-up ferry (116 deaths), hostage extortions and the Zamboanga siege (227 deaths)?
  • Do you think if American forces were not in the Philippines (we’ll use the CIA as a proxy for whatever forces are here), the situation would be better or worse? I think it would be horrid, a massive problem. Muslim terrorists are like NPA rebels on steroids, well supplied with weapons, well organized, and decently funded. Al Qaeda is here, and if you want to be upset at foreign influence, maybe start there. The CIA and BBL are outcomes, not causes, the former helping suppress the terrorists and the latter helping build enough peace and economy to give Muslims a chance at a life of some modest hope.
  • If the Philippines did not go after Marwan, would the US go after him in the style of the Bin Laden raid? I don’t know. I think the US was very active in this operation to locate him.
  • How would you react if the US did a Bin Laden style raid and went after Marwan with American troops, in total disrespect of Philippine sovereignty, as they did in Pakistan? You: Angry. Me: Happy.
  • Does Pakistan still support US drone strikes in the mountain regions? Yes. Especially after the school massacre.
  • Do you remember the school massacre, and the ISIS beheadings? Yes.
  • Is there a war on terrorism? Yes.
  • Is the Philippines actively fighting in the war on terrorism? Yes.
  • Is the Philippines a pawn for America, stuck with doing the dirty work? No. The Philippines has the courage and commitment to do dangerous work. For the Philippines. And for people like the Pope, and for people like you and me.

My position: This was a battle in a war that went horribly bad. It is possible someone in the knowledge chain gave warning to BIFF and MILF and they set up an ambush of the special forces troops.

What to do about BBL?

I’ll listen to Mr. Aquino.

Before, I was for it, now I am not sure. Let me explain why by starting with this letter from the MILF leadership issued right after the massacre:

 This is the official statement of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front relative to the unfortunate event that happened at Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

1. First and foremost, we express and send our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those who died in the armed encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The emotions of loss and pain are not alien to us Bangsamoro and Mujahideens. Nevertheless, respect and solidarity is due to all, irrespective of which side they belong.

2. Our concern is the truth. There will be a lot of speculations as to what happened and until what happened is established with credibility and integrity, the said incident will weigh down our current efforts to bring peace to our homeland.

3. In order to give meaning to their deaths, we must resolve not to let something like this happen again. To this end, the MILF is convening a Special Investigative Commission (SIC) to be composed of members of the MILF Central Committee and BIAF General Staff who are tasked to investigate the events at Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted in the deaths of members of the MILF and of soldiers of the Philippine Government. The mandate of the SIC is to gather as much reliable information and interview witnesses to establish the truth. The SIC is given instruction to come up with a report to the Central Committee as soon as possible.

3. We hereby reiterate the MILF’s full commitment to the peace process. with the Philippine Government. An enduring peace and justice remains to be our primary objective. In this regard, all actions and pronouncements of our political and military units of the MILF should advance and adhere to this primary objective as much as possible and with due regard to the safety and security of our people and communities.

4. The MILF have been in negotiations with the Philippine Government for some time now. During this time, both parties have established protocols, ways of proceedings and mechanisms, which support and keep the peace. Adherence to these mechanisms have created a peaceful environment and lessened actual hostilities through the years. It is unfortunate but not entirely surprising that when parties do not follow established protocols lives are placed in harm’s way. We therefore recommit ourselves to follow these processes and protocols.

5. For widest dissemination.

By:

AL HAJ MURAD EBRAHIM

Chairman

Central Committee, MILF

Well, the apology in Point 1 seems to express deep sympathy, takes it back by saying MILF knows pain, too, then almost grudgingly cites some kind of solidarity. Yet, the key phrase to me is:

irrespective of which side they belong.

To the MILF, the Philippine police are “the other side”. As if Mindanao did not really belong to the Philippines. This is consistent with MILF chief BBL negotiator Mohagher Iqbal saying the attack by MILF was only an act of self-defense as the police commandos were in an MILF territory.

That disturbs me. As I said in a side note, that means there is not a problem with communication, but with values. And mutual respect.

At this stage of negotiations, there should be no “sides”. There should be unity, agreement, and complete mutual respect.

The lack of unity is amplified in Point 4, which effectively lays the blame on the police for violating protocols. Does the MILF deny all culpability for the deaths? For the extensiveness of the slaughter? Or is it all simply “understandable”?

Why in the world does the MILF want this agreement? For the money only, rather than for the peace, and the unity? As a step to independence? Is the MILF willing to GIVE and hold itself accountable for behaviors of its people?

Can the leadership really control its gunslingers if it is not willing to work with Philippine forces?

I’d like to see a demonstration of conviction and unity and accountability from MILF leaders. More than what is in this letter.

 

Comments
103 Responses to “BBL, MILF, BIFF, PNP, AFP, CIA and ISIS”
  1. Scrap the BBL and unleash hell!

    • Joe America says:

      That’s a common response. I’m inclined to walk around a bit, talk, listen, take some deep breaths, and think about steps short of that. There are also a good many who want to lay the blame at American feet. I wonder if they think Al Qaeda and ISIS are here to visit the beaches.

      • Steve says:

        This is a subject I know something about, and I am inclined to rant, and to wander. I will try not to.

        I think the emphasis on “terrorism” here is misplaced. The core problem here is rebellion, not terrorism. Both sides in the rebellion employed terrorist tactics long before terrorism ever became a catchword and an international concern. More recently, international terrorist organizations have used the grievances and the disaffection stemming from the rebellion to gain a foothold in the area. They have succeeded to some extent, actually not that great an extent, but they succeed only because the grievances driving the rebellion have never been addressed.

        The rebellion is not about religion or jihad. It began as a question of land and settlement, an indigenous populace lashing back at a tide of immigrants that threatened to overwhelm them. When the fighting started, in the early 70s, it wasn’t rebels vs government, it was local militias raised by settlers and the indigenous populace fighting each other, with atrocities aplenty on both sides.. and, yes, terrorism. The government had a glorious opportunity, and blew it. They could have come in impartially, restored order, punished the guilty on both sides, and tried to broker a settlement. Instead, they took the side of the setters against the indigenous populace. The result was war, and it’s been going on ever since, ebbing and flowing like the tide.

        There is no military solution. Unleashing hell is nothing new, they have seen it all before. They can unleash some hell too, and they will. They know about guerrilla warfare, they have known it all their lives. If the army goes in with force, they will fade into the marshes, the army will burn some huts and bomb some trees and announce the capture of some camps, and when they are not so attentive there will be ambushes, harassment, killing. It’s gone on for 50 years and it can go on for 50 more. Short of genocide, there’s no winning with violence..

        Not all of Mindanao is a mess. There are ordered places and peaceful places. There are also a few deep back corners that are essentially ungoverned. The Liguasan Marsh is the epicenter of ungoverned space. It’s where you go when there’s nowhere else left, when you want to retreat to the ends of the earth. The whole acronym stew is deceptive: the armed bands in there break down by clan and family, not by loyalty to any organization. There is no chain of command, nobody is in control. Poke a stick in there, legitimate objective or not, and you stir up the hornet nest from hell. They do not acknowledge the government or any law but the gun, and a badge and a warrant mean squat. They also know the marshes inside out, and they know how to fight. They will back their kin over any outside force or any organization, even if they are nominally a member of that organization. Think Hatfields and McCoys on steroids. A whole lot of steroids, and some bad acid on top.

        I have been in those marshes. A long time ago, when it was more possible (early 80s), but I went there. If you ask me if the people I met were congenial, I would have to say they were not. I thought them uneducated, uncouth, superstitious, violent, extremely angry and just plain mean. Meaner than a junkyard dog doesn’t cut it. Meaner than a truckload of half starved junkyard dogs on the raving downside of a 10 day amphetamine binge might be close. By comparison the nastiest hung over barumbado in the ugliest corner of Manila looks like Barney the purple dinosaur. Did I say mean? I meant it. And they are heavily armed, and they know how to fight. I meant that too.

        At the same time, they are that way for a reason. They have known abuse and oppression on a monumental scale. They get picked up, tortured, and summarily executed so routinely that it hardly brings surprise. Their villages have been bombed and shelled, their houses burned and strafed, their crops destroyed, their animals stolen. Many of them have run there because they were run off land somewhere else. They have never known a shred of justice and the law has never been anything but an instrument to be used against them. The are the way they are for a reason.

        So I don’t see this as being about JI or AQ or ISIS, I see it as being about the need to manage a population that is heavily armed and deeply and justifiably disaffected, a situation that can too easily be exploited by organized terror.. I don’t see more killing as an answer. At the same time, I can’t say I see any certain answer. I’d like to see the government try to make peace with those who are willing, and do their best to make it work. I’d like to see those few remote ungoverned places where peace is a pipe dream isolated, contained, and gradually reduced. I’d like to see the government prove that it can deliver justice for Muslims, not just against them. I’d like to see the government get its own house in order, crack down on corruption, stop its own people from colluding with terrorists (yes, it happens) and, most of all, shut down the black market trade in weapons and ammunition out of government arsenals.

        Will it happen? Realistically, no.

        Long ago, mid 80s, I had coffee with an elderly Muslim man in Manila, a refugee of sorts. The Manero Brothers had just been arrested, with great fervor and fury, for killing a Catholic priest in a rather horrible way. My host commented to me that the Maneros had been killing Muslim civilians for many years and were favored, feted, and treated as assets of the state. One dead priest, and they were public enemy #1. What, he asked, did that say about the relative value of Muslim and Christian life? I had no answer then. Still don”t.

        Maybe when a Muslim life is as important as a Christian life, we will see peace. Maybe my children will live to see the day.

        /rant

        • Joe America says:

          Not such a bad rant, actually, more informative than any other piece I’ve read which all seem rather simplistic and, well, sensationalist. I do have a couple of questions if I may.

          The paragraph beginning: “At the same time, they are that way for a reason. They have known abuse and oppression on a monumental scale. They get picked up, tortured, and summarily executed . . .” Who is doing the abusing, oppressing and torturing? The government, rival groups in the area, or both?”

          The object of the hunt was a bomb-maker with a $5 million bounty on his head for terrorism. He is not really a local gangster, seems affiliated with international terrorists, is rumored to have been involved in threats on Pope Francis, and has global reach. Is he just there for protection or to build a legitimate terrorist force that could bring their version of hell to Manila?

          Americans seem to have some engagement in this hunt, perhaps locating Marwan, certainly to help clean up afterward. Is this a case that we must separate the one true terrorist from the gangsters, and figure he is the reason for that involvement? That is, it all orients around a lengthy tracking and attempt to nail a couple of really bad terrorists? I can’t reconcile all that with your statement it is not really a terrorist engagement.

          Thanks for any additional insights on this. I consider myself fairly naive about the whole matter and don’t want to be led astray by bias, local news and rumor. By the way, I used to have a house in Northern Mindanao, which was supposedly safe. NPA came looking for me, about 30 people fully armed, but I was in the US at the time. I never returned. If there are safe areas in Mindanao, I have no idea where they are.

          • Steve says:

            The abusing, oppressing, and torturing have gone on a long time and come from multiple sources. The Armed Forces have done quite a bit to clean up their act but have some very nasty times and actions in their past. In many cases impromptu militias, armed sects, semi-official militias and “lost commands” (groups of officially ex-soldiers under private leadership but sanctioned by and connected to the armed forces) have had their say. It has been a very dirty and brutal war and there have been pretty awful things done on both sides. The difference of course is that the people doing the awful things on the rebel side are rebels, terrorists, criminals, enemies of the state, and the people doing the awful things on the government side have official sanction and support.

            I think Marwan is mostly there to hide, and I take the whole Pope plot story with many grains of salt. These guys have few places left; Indonesia is not safe for them any more. Mindanao’s ungoverned spaces have advantages from a security perspective. There have been attempts to bring the war north, most notably the Rajah Solaiman Movement, but beyond the Superferry bombing they haven’t been able to do much, and they don’t seem able to operate for very long without getting busted. There may be an intent to go north, but it looks more like dream than reality, and my guess is that Marwan is pretty much backed into the last few places he can go.

            The American role is unclear. They were obviously asked to help out with recovery and transport, but beyond that little is known. They may have been the source of the original intel, but it would be quite odd for them to go to the police rather than to the Army Special Forces with something like that. The American style would be more along the lines of putting a JDAM through his roof, which is what happened the last time they thought they knew where he was. My guess is that this was at least on the tactical level locally initiated. The lack of coordination with the Army and Air Force is strange, and makes one wonder if someone wasn’t out to hog the glory and the money.

            From the US perspective it is an anti-terrorist engagement. The US has sporadically backed the peace process on “hearts and minds” grounds, but seems primarily concerned that continued conflict could be exploited by international jihadis. That’s a reasonable perspective for the Americans, perhaps less so for Filipinos.

        • Jake says:

          This seem more of a description of Eastern Mindanao that Western Mindanao.

          WM is rigged with Rido. Maguindanao is the same province where the Ampatuans massacred their rivals – the Mangudadatus. Both are Muslims.

          Also, it would be interesting to look at the ethnic make up of these groups – BIFF and MILF are Maguindanaos. MNLF and Abu Sayaff are Tausugs. The Maranaos, another Muslim ethnic group, are more interested in developing their trade and professional skills over joining a rebellion or terrorism. This is why the Lanao provinces are ahead of Maguindanao, Basilan and Sulu in all aspects of development.

          Two of the fallen SAF though are Tausugs from Zamboanga city

          • Steve says:

            Eastern Mindanao has many of the same problems, notably that of settlers vs indigenous groups. The difference is that the Lumad join the NPA (the bulk of the NPA footsoldiers in Mindanao are Lumad) and the Muslims rally around groups with a more religious identity. Same basic drivers of conflict, different manifestations.

            I understand the ethnic issues (spent quite a bit of time unraveling them, with limited success) but I’m not sure how much impact they have on the overall picture. Cultivating peace and good government in that place would have been a formidable challenge even without the settler/indigenous conflict and the government taking sides in that conflict. Add those factors and you get… well, you get what you’ve got. The government’s habit of letting local bosses like the Ampatuans rule with impunity as long as they deliver the vote to the favored party has not helped at all.

            • Jake says:

              But there are not many “immigrants” in most of the Muslim part of Mindanao and only certain ethnic groups who adhere to Islam have the war freak tendencies, the Tausug and Maguindanaos primarily.

              The illiterate Badjaos are content either being beggars in Manila or Sea gypies and are often victims of the Tausugs; while the Maranaos are more interested in developing their economies.

              The Moros need to get their local leaders accountable.I am actually quite amazed how they differ from the Indigenous people up in the North. From warring tribes and headhunters, they managed to evolve into a tight-knit community especially after Macli-ing Dulag was assassinated.

              • Steve says:

                Actually Central Mindanao, Meaning the Lanao and Cotabato Provinces (before the Cotabato provinces were chopped up into numerous smaller provinces) were heavily affected by settlement and in many areas no longer have Muslim majorities overall. In many cases also the Muslims have been pushed off the most productive land. Violence between settler and indigenous militias started in Central Mindanao and the bulk of the settler vs indigenous fighting was there. Jolo never had a settlement issue but Central Mindanao most certainly did and does.

                The Cordillera of course is a very different place, and that goes back way before the killing of Macliing. Two major factors there… first, the Cordillera tribes never had a Datu system with inherited one-man rule; they were ruled by councils of eders who had to earn their place. They have no real concept of inherited power. Second, the American Episcopalian missionaries who settled in the Cordillera early in the American period put a very high priority on education, leaving the tribes with a cadre of highly educated leaders who could engage the outsiders on their own terms. There are other factors of course, but I should not be writing a book here!

              • Joe America says:

                Go ahead. It’s worth reading. 🙂

              • Pallacertus says:

                Denizen of Get Real Post here — reading Steve’s posts here with fascination, because perspectives from a guy who’s actually gone to the area is very helpful, as I want to understand what’s going on in Mindanao, so I could determine for myself what will work towards achieving lasting peace (up to and including a two-state solution if need be).

                Steve: you say that you shouldn’t be writing a book on your perspectives on Mindanao here. I don’t agree and do want to read more, but I will say that there is a proper forum for it. I don’t know what your current occupation, but surely you have spare time enough to write a book about your travels and experiences in Mindanao? At the very least, a book like yours will help arrest growing conceptions of all Muslims as an invasive monolithic terrorizing force, and will bring those interested in Mindanao to a closer understanding of the situation there.

                So what was I saying? Oh yeah — write that book. [s]And can I please get a free copy if it’s off the press? I’m strapped for cash.[/s]

              • Joe America says:

                @Pallaceretus, my condolences . . . GRP (Get Real Post) rots the brain with incessant negativity and the exclusion of opposing voices. I’m banned there, and hope you know that you are treading with the enemy and risk getting criticized for venturing over here.

                That aside, thanks for your visit. I agree with you, Steve offers up great insights shaped by having lived in the real world. Hahahaha, he got real.

                Now if you are from “Get Real Philippines”, scratch all those comments because you are likely well balanced and well read, and can rest easy here. 🙂

              • Pallacertus says:

                You’re banned from posting there, Joe? Tch — now that’s why you haven’t been posting for so long. I would’ve liked a few contrary voices to puncture the circlejerking negativism so prevalent there every now and then, especially as you seem to be a decent fellow.

                (So rest easy, I suppose; I’m not as exultantly negative as most people frequenting GRP are, though I must say I post there for I do agree with some of benign0’s points, urban-centric — dare I say Manila-centric? — as they are, and because I do like contrary viewpoints as they keep me sane and on my toes.)

              • Joe America says:

                I agree that Benigno is smart and has excellent points. But they are too much framed in an agenda that I don’t like, to tear down rather than build up. I put them in the category of those whose candidate lost in 2010 and so they will spend the next 6 years trying to prove they were right. Rather than trying to criticize objectively and build constructively.

                Me, I was defending Aquino, so some of the hounds there were on my case in the way they can bay, but when I bayed back, Benigno only threatened me with expulsion. I called him a hypocrite and he pushed the “spam” button on the rest of my comments there. I still regret that I can’t comment, as some would be agreement, some would be disagreement, but I have great distaste for the personal attacks waged there. You will find very little of that here. The issue is the issue, and people separate it from the personalities of the people contributing. The challenge is to maintain respect for those with whom we disagree, and it is done quiet well here.

                I thank Benigno for showing me how not to do that.

        • manuel buencamino says:

          Steve,

          Appreciate your pointing out the nuances and the undercurrents. There is a tendency to oversimplify the realities on the ground. It’s true the whole acronym stew is deceptive and at a certain level the command structure of the MILF breaks down by clan and family. Those two terrorists most probably are married to local women. And so that’s one reason why the SAF could not coordinate with the MILF, clan and family members of those sheltering the two terrorists might warn them. The operation would have leaked if the SAF told the MILF beforehand and the MILF high command in turn informed their troops that there will be an SAF operation, it has been cleared with us so stand back and let them finish their job.

          Joe,

          Here’s what we know: There was actionable intel. Specific location. The ground commander had a capture and extraction plan. The extraction turned into a disaster. Things don’t always go as planned. The Bin Laden assassination succeeded, the Iran hostage rescue failed so did that operation to capture an African warlord that became a movie Blackhawk Down. All those operations had tactical plans, one succeeded, two failed. Fear of failure should never paralyze us. There was a plan unfortunately Mike Tyson’s words of wisdom proved true once again – “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

          I have no problem with the MILF statement. They speak from their position as a secessionist group. The peace talks are still ongoing, there are still many steps to take before it is done. The laying down of arms has still not happened, mechanisms are still being discussed. There are MILF areas where our troops are not allowed to enter without clearance. Both sides are basically in a tense ceasefire situation, trust-building can only be done in small steps because there is too much history of treachery on both sides. Laying the burden of proving sincerity on the MILF’s feet as a result of the encounter is misplaced. Our troops wandered into MILF territory as they were retreating from BIFF and ASG forces and the MILF reacted accordingly. One cannot expect those MILF troops to assume that the SAF were there on a friendly mission. Fog of war. You shoot at anybody you do not recognize as a fellow soldier when shooting is going on all around you.

          • Jake says:

            But, but, but…is it “self defense” when you mutilate bodies and steal their belongings?

            Is this the kind of troop behavior that the PH Gov’t impart to Bangsamoro — an army that constantly violates Geneva convention (granting that the BBL passes and the ARMM becomes almost independent?). The MILF could turn into a Boko Haram

          • Joe America says:

            I had come to that conclusion, too, MB, that this was a Bin Laden operation that went bad, as if the Pakastani army got advance notice and absolutely demolished the seals team and all equipment as they did in Bin Laden. It is what happens when decisions are made to conduct an out of the box operation and it goes wrong. Black Hawk Down moment.

            I think a lot of the hysteria is from emotional idealists who’ve for sure never served in a wartime situation.

            Thanks for the point of view about MILF. I understand a lot more from having read Steve’s take on this, and other perspectives about the “real” world in Mindanao. I’ll probably try to crystallize it in a blog, for my own benefit, to organize the thoughts, more than anything.

            My only counterpoint to your “calm down” scenario is that I fail to see the need to shoot faces execution style. I take it that is the “meanness” that Steve refers to. Meaner than a junk yard dog . . .

            • Steve says:

              It’s meanness, and it’s anger, and it’s a killing frenzy that is hard to contain once it’s cut loose.

              What many in Manila don’t understand is the depth of the personal grudges. Those people have a rough time with the military and police. Their men get picked up, on suspicion or for questioning or for no known reason, and often they are never seen again, or are found dead in a ditch. Their villages get shelled or bombed if there was an encounter nearby and somebody thinks maybe the attackers ran there. And so on, and so forth. Nobody cares, because they are just Muslims, but they care. They mourn their dead and curse and swear revenge just like others are doing now, and when they have a chance they take it.

              It’s also worth noting that men who have killed and terrorized Muslim civilians are routinely rewarded with promotions and cushy jobs as bodyguards and security chiefs. The whole “harboring terrorists” thing cuts two ways.

              • BFD says:

                Thank you Steve for your unbiased sharing of information. This really puts it in perspective of what’s happening in Mindanao, particularly in the PNP-SAF Operation Wolverine and its aftermath.

  2. pinoyputi says:

    I have some questions too for Steve but before I start, it didn’t start only 50 years ago. The conflict started the moment the Spanish tried to colonize Mindanao. The Japanese and the Americans had their fights. Further more they did not and will not accept any authority from the Philippine government. Marcos sent in the setlers, mostly roman catholics. It was his strategy to win the war against the Moro’s.
    Mindanao is the wild west. The gun rules and the ordinary people, moslim, christian and non- or other believers greatly suffer.

    Questions:

    1. When the enemy is formidable you just let it be?
    2. Do you accept the situation that there are different laws for people with different religion?
    3. Do you accept lawlessness.

    Yes, i want peace but not at any cost. The Bangsomoro peace treaty of Aguino is a surrender and practical independence of Mindanao leaving the ordinary people at the mercy of moslimbandits.

    • Doods says:

      Wiki says…
      The Sri Lankan Civil War was a conflict fought on the island of Sri Lanka. Beginning on 23 July 1983, there was an intermittent insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), an independent militant organisation which fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the civil war to an end.

    • Steve says:

      Yes, there has been conflict in Mindanao for a long time. This particular conflict, or phase of conflict if you prefer, I would date to the early 70s, when violence erupted between settler and indigenous militias. That was also a huge missed opportunity: if the government had played the role of neutral mediator and law enforcer rather than taking sides, much trouble might have been averted.

      There have been different laws for different people down there for a long time. The law as actually applied has been that when Muslims kill Christians, they are criminals, when Christians kill Muslims, they are heroes. Muslim militias that attacked Christian villages became outlaws, Christian vigilantes that attacked Muslim villages were rewarded with position and money. Basically, killing Muslims, civilian or not, is legal, killing Christians is not. Again, if you want the Muslims to respect the law, you have to enforce the law equally and extend its protection to them as well. The question remains: why is it that the Manero Brothers killed Muslim civilians with impunity for decades, but became public enemy #1 when they killed one Catholic priest? What sort of law is that?

      You don’t let the enemy be just because they are formidable, but in purely practical terms, if you are going to confront them you’d better do it with enough force to get out in one piece. I still can’t understand why they didn’t just send a bomb.

      There are places down there that just pose really nasty problems… Inner Jolo, southern Basilan, and the Liguasan Marsh most notably. No really good answers there, but to me the best way would be to isolate and contain, then concentrate on bringing peace, better governance, equal protection of law, and progress to the areas where peace can be had. Maybe if you leave those places alone and show them that they are missing something good, they will begin to open up voluntarily. I agree that this is not a perfect plan, but what’s better? More war?

      • Bert says:

        Not to forget that when Muslims kill Christians they are rewarded with bunch of virgins going to heaven.

      • pinoyputi says:

        Like I said, the settlers were initiated there by President Marcos as part of a strategy. They got free lands plus a financial bonus. Furthermore they received the weapons for defending against and attacking the moro’s. So it was not a missed change. It was deliberately planned that way.

        It was President Marcos as well who issued PD 1083 “Code of muslim personal laws of the Philippines” opening different laws for different religions. When Freddy Aguilar was messing around with a 16 year old girl the only thing he needed to do to avoid prosecution was become a moslim.
        The moslims in Mindanao don’t consider them self part of the Philippines, they never did. They don’t accept and respect the laws of the Philippines. The only law they accept is the sharia.
        I believe that the Philippines won’t be able to tackle this problem until they solve the major problems of this country such as corruption etcetera. So either they give independence to Mindanao or they keep it. If they want to keep it, with the same secular laws for everyone , then they should do everything in their power to strive for that goal. Sometimes war is the right instrument, sometimes it is peace.

        So top of mind how to approach this problem;

        1. Stabilize. Don’t solve anything yet don’t let it get worse. No peace agreements for the long run.
        2. Start fixing the other problems of the country first.
        3. Get help from others like the US
        4. Make sure you have the right information. Plant your spies. Define the combat area’s.
        5. Bring the armed forces to the right quality and quantity standard
        6. Control the air – and seaways surrounding Mindanao. Stop weapons and ammunition influx. Stop people from going in and out without knowing.Block unwanted.
        7. Stop incoming finances from the (Moslims) countries. Direct them through the state channels. Stop Filipino’s from going to the middle east as fighters or OFW’s.
        8. Give representation within the democratic institutes of the Philippines
        8. Stop muslims laws and apply general Philippine laws.
        9. Remove weapons from Mindanao.
        10. Fight them if necessary and win.

        Of course far from complete. Simple, nope. It might take another 25 or even 50 years. But if you don’t start dealing with your problems it might get worse. I suppose you don’t want a life in medieval society without any individual freedoms. Where you will be killed for a cartoon or not believing in the same god they do.

  3. macspeed says:

    The War is not over yet when the tragedy occurred. The Peaceful agreement were not signed yet. Obviously, occasional death is always there…no one to blame….

  4. Jake says:

    After seeing the pictures and video, the “self defense” is a bollocks alibi. More of like “we are protecting an expert bomber”. Come to think of it, Marwan is a very valuable asset to them, his skills are, that is.

    With how the executive handles this, without him condemning the brutality (robbed, unclothed, in some, some parts of the body removed, head shots) the executive branch may be loomed. With the PNPA threatening mass leave, there is a possibility for a coup. To add to the insult, the Palace told the Congress to pass the BBL as an “honor” to the slain.

    The heck? No statement of investigation

    As much as I dislike Marcos, Cayetano and JV Ejercito, they have the right approach here – inquiring and scrutinizing the MILF

    This very incident is a proof as to why the BBL is dangerous. The US now should rethink its position on this. If the BBL is passed, the US will be forced down a terrorist like they did in Pakistan since it will be impossible for the PH government to take action if the MILF decides to harbor criminals. According to Eid Kabalu, former MILF commander, the MILF knew that Marwan is there, they did not inform.

    But with one survivor, the MILF and Executive statement will be hard to prove – the survivor witnessed what was done to his comrades. There is no way this could be totally whitewashed. And public is enraged.

    I would not be surprised if these coming months, there would be both a military and police coup de etat. Something that the AFP is rather fond of doing, it just needs a trigger

    • Jake says:

      To further complicate things, there could be a possibility that the Ilaga will be revived if the administration will not handle this properly.

      NPA, MILF, Abu sayyaf…theyre gonna add another one! This also might cause for the Cordillerans to put pressure on the national government. 1/3 of the KIA were natives of the region and leaders there are now asking the government to question the sincerity of the MILF.

      This is such a huge disservice to the fallen unit. This unit took part in protecting Zamboanga when it was under siege….and this is how the government say thanks to them? Lack of condemnation and fast tracking the BBL?

      That is a sign of a leadership that does not value its men who put their lives in danger in order to protect the nation. Maybe, it should be required for presidents to be in the front line in high profile cases like this

      • Jake says:

        At first it may seen irrational to use a police force instead of military. But looking at the “peace pact” term, the only way to get around the “legalities” is to use a CIVILIAN force.

        What I am angry about though is the military never bothered to respond because of the “peace agreement”. Who in the right mind leaves their comrades behind? The battle lasted 11 hours…I think that is more than enough time held especially for a force that is small and at an extreme disadvantage.

        The BBL and peace agreement was designed to put the government into a complete disadvantage and the idiotic government agreed. If the BBL is passed, the MILF can gather all the resources and even “foreign loans” to sponsor terrorism…even potentially sending young Filipino Muslims to fight FOR ISIS

        The US as well as Australia needs to rethink its Bangsamoro position. Funny though, the Aussies are very wary of Indonesia whose government is actively fighting terrorism too but backs the approval of Basic Law of Philippine terrorists. Does not compute.

        • Steve says:

          Now they say they had Marwan’s location down to 4 nipa huts. The PAF has US-supplied JDAMs capable of accuracy within a few meters. They used them on Jolo last time they thought they had a location on Marwan. He wasn’t there, but the bombs worked rather well and hit the targets quite precisely, at night. Why not put a bomb through the roof of each hut, apologize insincerely for the ceasefire breach, and sent the Army in to collect DNA?

          There may be a reason but I can’t figure it out.

          • Jake says:

            Politics. Enter the CHR which is Communist Human Rights and a weak national government.

            I think the last one is the biggest problem and the ILLUSION that the national govt can solve the Mindanao problem the way they solved the Cordillera rebellion.

            Prior to this massacre imagine the political uproar a PAF bombing would cause, especially during a supposed ceasefire.

            The NG kowtow too much to the left. It does not help that outside countries think the Bangsamoro is like Kurdistan but theyre actually more comparable to ISIS, only that ISIS has a larger sphere

            • Steve says:

              Actually not at all like Kurdistan or ISIS, but fully agree that most other countries have a very poor idea of what is going on there. Unfortunately most of Manila has an equally poor idea.

              I don’t see how the left has much to say about this.

              The Government solved the Cordillera problem by giving up. I don’t really see that as a solution in Mindanao, but expecting the other side to give up is pretty unrealistic too.

              • Steve says:

                And yes, a PAF bombing would cause an uproar, but uproars pass a lot faster than deaths. It could have been lived with. This is causing an uproar too, and at a much higher price.

              • Jake says:

                One big problem if the PAF using air bombing would be the US military assistance issue. As far as I know, the US is very supportive of the BBL to be passed. Recently, the US also recently lifted some held aid due to “human rights improvement”.

                The biggest problem with this current administration is that it is kowtowing too much to the whims of the MILF which make them seem, in the eyes of the MILF, a weakness rather than a token of goodwill

                I think Aquino should have hardened his stance right after the Al Barqa when some MILF joined forces with the Abu Sayaff. Rather than getting punished, they got rewarded with their BBL.

              • Steve says:

                Again, that issue would exist with a raid as well, so no real difference. I think the US would have settled for a bombing: they know quite well that the MILF leadership has enough invested in the talks that they would not break off completely.

      • Steve says:

        I was in Bontoc today, and discussed this with people there. Several of the dead are from Bontoc, and apparently they were young guys on their first assignment, trained but not experienced. I did not hear rage or a desire for war, mostly sadness and disappointment that the mission had been so badly run and that the men were left hanging. I don’t know if the ransom money was an issue or not, but many here believe it was.

        It’s odd here, many families have members in the police and military, many also have members in the NPA. I know people who have lost relatives on both sides. They mourn them equally.

  5. Steve says:

    I received this comment from an associate, a retired US Special Forces officer with Philippine experience, who retains a keen interest in these matters, and thought it worth passing on. “HVI” is “High Value Individual”.

    “This is a result of the misleading HVI focus, where security forces tend to look at the world through a soda straw focused on HVIs. HVIs may actually be important, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the larger context. This time they focused on Marwan (I think he has been killed at least 5 times now), and may have failed to see the larger picture. Marwan certainly needs to die, but even if all the HVIs in the Philippines were killed it won’t change much. Waging war focused on HVIs doesn’t work, and more than a decade of doing this we still fail to recognize this. Killing HVIs is a supporting tactical operation, not a strategy.”

  6. Jake says:

    Joe,

    This article should interest you. It is not related to the incident but an insight to Maguindanao politics…

    http://pcij.org/stories/maguindanaos-misery-absentee-officials-absence-of-rage-poverty/

    a lot of the Maguindanao problem are rooted in their local politics. It make it seem like the MILF BIFF are the biggest employer in the province

  7. David Murphy says:

    From the very first moment I read of the PNP incident I believed that the reason was exactly what someone here proposed but did not pursue: prestige and money, and especially the money. The operation was done without coordination with any other organization and I believe that the reason is totally explained by the $5 million reward and the fear and greed that someone else would claim a share. 5 million dollars is a lot of money and far worse undertakings have been motivated by far less. Common things are common and nothing is so common in the Philippines as greed. It’s the money; no need to look farther.

    • Jake says:

      Foreign government employees who are doing their duties are exempt

      http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/english/about-rfj/frequently-asked-questions.htmljak

    • Joe America says:

      Could be. What I find rare is the SAF commander saying “it’s on me. I’m accountable.” Had the program worked, he’d rightfully be a hero. It didn’t work. He did not pull a Binay or point fingers anywhere. He did his best to secure his people by not announcing the raid, but there you go . . .

      If greed was an element, then I suppose we can blame the US for using cash to motivate mercenaries.

      • Jake says:

        But foreign government employees doing their duty are exempted from those reward. This was an official duty with the knowledge of the PRESIDENT

        If we follow the logic, it must be the president who want the reward money?!

        • BFD says:

          Jake,

          I have to answer you on this.

          I don’t think it’s for the reward other than the target is there and there’s no time to lose. It showed that the PNP-SAF will go and hunt down those that threaten the peace.

          Here is the law governing the reward money for terrorists:

          http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/2708

          And here’s a provision where government enforcement units will not be ELIGIBLE to collect the reward.

          22 U.S. Code § 2708 – Department of State rewards program

          (f) Ineligibility
          An officer or employee of any entity of Federal, State, or local government or of a foreign government who, while in the performance of his or her official duties, furnishes information described in subsection (b) of this section shall not be eligible for a reward under this section.

      • Pallacertus says:

        The SAF chief you’re alluding to has privately admitted Purisima’s complicity in the plan to capture Marwan and Usman — implicit here is the possibility of said SAF chief being a fall guy to account for the bloodbath.

        Also not mentioned among the comments here: the lack of info given to DILG secretary Roxas and PNP OIC Espina. It’s all real weird, this whole thing is, even as more info about the preparations for this operation are emerging.

        • Joe America says:

          As I understand it, the complicity was called a “plan and authorization” and was done before Purisima’s suspension. That was correctly his job, and the hunting of top terrorists is an important objective. If the SAF chief was the fall guy, I’d wish for more. He himself said “I am accountable”, and I believe he is speaking the truth. It was his decision to hold the operation in secret because he was afraid word would get out and compromise the mission. The mission was accomplished, but at a price too high for a nation not used to the sacrifices that war brings on. I frankly found his acceptance of accountability refreshing given all the blame-making and excuse mongering that goes on around here. I think he was sincere. The blaming of Roxas, Aquino and others is people trying to find a “culprit”. There is none. It was a mission. The SAF head made a decision. It went bad. It happens. Had it gone good, he would have been one of the heroes.

          • Pallacertus says:

            As the Manila Standard Today puts it, Purisima was heading the operation to capture both terrorists from his posh “White House” in Camp Crame. (No points for gauging the credibility of the report, especially now that new and possibly conflicting info is coming out of Mamasapano.)

            I understand the point you’re making about the extraction of the SAF men getting botched (though there are reports of a ceasefire being declared two hours into the bloodbath), the pointlessness of playing the blame game when we all know that we would’ve been all over the floor hailing Purisima et al had the mission been accomplished without bloodshed, and the need to tell as few people as possible about the operation — but why not tell Roxas (who is still Purisima’s superior) or Espina (why was he not privy to the intel on Marwan till it was too late)? I think that is a reasonable question.

            • Joe America says:

              The Manila Standard (and today’s inquirer) quote one source, unconfirmed, with a clear political agenda opposed to the BBL. The SAF commanding officer said he told no one knew about the raid except Espina. He did tell Espina, as the raid was starting. The concept and early execution of the plans to get Marwan were hatched under Purisima, so he was for sure involved. But to lay the blame on him? Read today’s blog. That’s my view on that.

  8. ikalwewe says:

    Last year, I read this book called “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” by Mark Mazetti. One section talked about the Predator, the CIA’s killer drones (that at times, killed innocent people by mistake). I wonder if we can use this to wage war in the country. If it could spare more lives, why not? This cannot happen again!!!! Too many lives have been lost. The days of fighting honorably as men is over. It’s time to use technology on our side.

    • Joe America says:

      For the life of me, I don’t know why the Philippines keeps sending swarms of men into the jungle and does not have a manufacturing center developing drones. Life is cheap here . . . except when 44 get killed without a bigger body count from the other side. . . then people notice . . .

      In other words, I agree with you.

      • Steve says:

        Armed drones are pretty high tech devices; the Philippines doesn’t have the capacity. No real need either, the enemy has no air defenses and manned aircraft can do the job as well.

          • Steve says:

            Has China deployed armed drones? I haven’t heard of such a thing, though of course they are not involved in conflicts that require extended presence in airspace where they are not supposed to send manned aircraft. In any even, for operations within national airspace against an opponent with no air defense capability, drones have no real advantage over manned aircraft.

            • Joe America says:

              My point is that as the Philippines develops a stronger defense, useful in either external or internal situation, it ought to stop sending money to other nations, but ought to develop its own capabilities and technology, and job centers. Drones are an essential way to avoid the loss of life that is troubling so many today. It doesn’t matter what China is doing. The Philippines would be better off having drones watching or standing cover to operations.

              • Pallacertus says:

                Drones are a nice way of staying uncommitted to a “boots-on-the-ground” scenario, but for all its virtues and technological luster, I fail to see how they (or aerial warfare without ground troops) can do a great deal of damage against guerillas and similarly atomized and largely leaderless forces.

              • Joe America says:

                They would diminish the need for boots on the ground, and diminish deaths, not eliminate either. The whole point is to not have more people die.

  9. butod says:

    Hi Joe,

    I think the SAF (the elite police force that carried out the operation) should stand/fall on its decision not to trust anyone (not even the armed forces) with their “actionable information”, let alone the MILF which the SAF commander suggests is complicit to Marwan’s long-time presence in Mindanao.

    Having chosen to refuse to coordinate with the AFP and the MILF, however, it could not now blame the MILF for firing (firing back, more likely) at them during the police operation, nor the AFP for taking so long to respond to their request for reinforcement when they were getting fire from all directions.

    The fog of war, I think they call it. Not having recognized the MILF forces for who they were (since rebels do not naturally wear uniforms), SAF forces most likely treated them as hostiles and quickly got frisky with their guns. Or, the MILF, understandably taken aback by the unannounced and sudden presence of state security forces in their “backyard” (more on this related topic later), felt threatened and started firing (or firing back). In other words, I’m more inclined to believe the Presiden’ts version of a “misencounter” than the hawks’ version of an MILF “ambush” or “katrayduran” (act of betrayal).

    As for the AFP, the spokesperson herself says the military couldn’t just deploy its forces for reinforcement without knowing exactly where the friendlies were positioned, and where and how large the hostiles were. Doing so would have only invited even more government casualties wouldn’t you think?

    As to your question about why the MILF should consider any part of the sovereign territory “theirs”, I think that, figuratively, comes with the territory of revolutionary discourse right? And to some degree, I think even the government concedes this as a prudent course, in the meantime that a final agreement has not been hammered and the BBL remains unenacted.

    From what I recall, part of a series of ancillary agreements in the peace talks involves some sort of government recognition that the MILF does occupy certain territories without necessarily conceding the sovereign’s territorial integrity (lots of legalistic sidestepping involved in the language, I would think).

    For me, an interim agreement of this nature makes sense — pending a detailed agreement as to disposition of MILF arms and combatants that would follow a final peace agreement — to get the truce to work by keeping MILF forces and state security people from running into each other and constantly misinterpreting each other’s even most benign acts as provocations, and just as importantly keeping MILF combatants from wandering into civilian settlements.

    This is I think the rationale for the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (the enforcement body of the peace talks’ Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities) — to act as some sort of conduit between the MILF and state security forces when a police operation has to be carried out in or around territories that MILF people occupy.

    Obviously, of course, this can only happen if some modicum of trust is built between the two. Sigh.

    • Joe America says:

      You echo manuelbuencamino, and I very much appreciate the perspective. Trust has been dealt a mighty blow, and it will be like 2 steps back, so let’s take three forward. MILF will have to take 1 1/2 of those, I think.

      The missing gap for me is the execution style killings. I don’t see how that fits into any righteous scenario, other than terrorism and intimidation. Just down and dirty dirty, like beheadings put on video.

  10. butod says:

    I see your point there, but having seen the firepower at the MILF’s disposal from file footages (they even have Barret .50 cal sniper rifles, sheeesh), I’m inclined to doubt inferences of mutilations; even the thick mugs of pork barrel senators are not likely to stand a chance against kalashnikovs and barrets.

    Remember, the SAF wasn’t just dealing with run-of-the-mill MILF village militias in the area; I’ve read the place hosts three regular MILF command bases, which I take to mean is something equivalent to the government army’s regular infrantry battalions.

    • Steve says:

      “Command bases” conjures up a quite inaccurate description… these are not military bases as we would recognize them, just villages where one faction has sway. It looks much more organized on paper than it is in the field. The villagers out there are very well armed and they are experienced fighters.

  11. Jake says:

    Aquino is handling this badly. I would not be surprised if there will be a mutiny or coup before his term ends

    I think it is very disrespectful for him to attend the Mitsubishi inauguration over being at Villamor Air Base to oversee the arrival of the bodies of the slain people. To think of it that he is knowledgeable about the “arrest”

    • Joe America says:

      For sure, a lot of people are angry. He will lead services honoring the dead tomorrow, on the official national day of mourning. The President has many obligations. I believe the Laguna development is an outgrowth of his personal missions to Japan raise more investments, and he wants to honor the Japanese . . . to encourage further investments. Now after the funeral, are we to criticize him for the weak economy and lack of jobs?

      This was a military mission that failed, not the failure of the Philippine nation. People should chill . . . or run for president themselves if they think the job is so easy.

      • Jake says:

        This was not a military mission, the police force is civilian. But since this is still about uniformed people, he is part of this failure as he is the commander in chief of these forces.

        Conceding to the label of “misencounter” (is this even a “friendly fire that included mutilation)? Blaming the dead police force and if reports are right, putting Purisima as the one whom he delegated for this operation? On top of that, his lack of self accountability. He even said that the BBL should be passed as soon as possible in “honor” of the people who died.

        He could have sent the Vice President to represent him instead to the Mitsubishi inauguration. I do not think that the Japanese are that insensitive to not understand what had happened especially that ISIS have Japanese hostages. (Maybe it boils down to his ego?)

        It is a simple act of respect for the fallen. For the personnel whose lives he put right in there. Maybe next time, in such an operation including an HVI, he should go along with the force to “arrest” a terrorist (who the hell arrests terrorists? The US did not even bother arresting Bin Laden).

        • Jake says:

          When Obama decided to take on Bin Laden once he was located, Obama was with his advisers and was watching while the SEALs took on him.

          As per the story in Mamasapano, he knew about the plan but he went “It’s up to you to arrest the terrorist?”. Did the commander-in-chief not bother to cooperate, coordinate CLOSELY with the SAF? Was this his way of dodging responsibility if it went wrong and raking the glory if it went right?

        • Joe America says:

          Well, judging from the hostility in discussion threads, a lot of people agree with you. I don’t, but it is what it is. I also disagree that the President should be up front leading military missions. He has many, many obligations and to expect that he would do it the way we want is rather self involved on our parts. My principle on this, that I’ve developed over a considerable number of months listening to all the complaints about the President when he does anything . . . from crooks, political opponents, leftists, people who did not vote for him justifying they were right . . . is that he deserves our respect for the difficulty of the job, and some wiggle room to do as he believes best.

          I find the expectation that he do what we want all the time to be a little wearing, so I resist when so many people try to do his job for him. Give the President of the Philippines a little respect, and the right to make mistakes . . . that’s rather my view on it.

  12. butod says:

    Yes I get that, Steve. I did get a chance to visit the MILF’s Camp Abu Bakr once for some research before it was overran during Erap’s time, and it wasn’t laid out anything like, say, the Army 6th ID’s Camp Awang in Cotabato.

    Basically it was just a cluster of porous farm villages with populated settlements and corn fields here and there, with some rudimentary military outposts and facilities in between. But I did see enough of their army “regulars” scattered around with assault rifles in tow that when taken together would have easily made up large units to fight back and hold the line for a good enough time — and the long time it took for the army to finally seize the camp in 2000 seemed to indicate as much.

    My point is, these so-called command bases — if they’re similarly organized as so-called MILF “camps” — likely have enough boots on the ground and pretty impressive firepower for immediate deployment if the local MILF leaders felt there was any imminent security threat in the area…as what most likely happened last Sunday.

    • Steve says:

      Yes, they have the boots on the ground and the capacity for immediate deployment. The boots are also willing and able to deploy without orders, and they may not un-deploy just because they are told to. The farther out you get from the command centers the looser the control gets, and the fringe commands, especially in the remote areas, do not necessarily respond to central control if they don’t see it as in their interest to do so. My guess is if they are in a fight and winning, and central command tells them to disengage, they will ignore the order. The military has at times had similar issues with control over field units in remote areas, though this has improved over the years.

  13. Jake says:

    I wonder if the solution to the Western Mindanao problem actually letting go of Bangsamoro. You know, a la East Timor…then have a highly secured border, a la Israel.

    I don’t think it would be much a loss for the Philippines especially many provinces there have very poor human and economic development. It would their loss though if they leave the Philippines since they are mainly inhabited by MILF, MNLF and Abu Sayaff on top of their rido culture

    • Joe America says:

      It would be their loss. The region is very poor, and is already benefiting from greater investments by the Aquino administration. Perhaps the fighting spirit will, in time, die out in favor of people working to better fend for their families. I know many Muslim families are tired of the fighting. They see the futility of it. Maybe separation will not be needed. I think that is the idea of the BBL, to moderate the violence so that investments can take hold and create a legitimate economy. Certainly that is the more humanitarian approach, if the fighters allow it to progress.

      • BFD says:

        I think I watched on History Channel about the Vikings, how their conquering warrior spirit waned when they stayed and lived and prospered in the land they conquered.

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, that is the hope of the peace process isn’t it? I think residents are serious there, that they are tired of fighting. But the men who fight do it as a lifestyle. They have not bought in. But as Steve has argued, perhaps they can be pushed into the corner and eventually marginalized by seeing the economy improving and their families able to make a living honestly.

      • macspeed says:

        Agreed Joe Am

        Peace Process done, next is development, inevitable…then later the huge development will positively bring growth in economy…end story>> Philippine lead in Asian Economic boom…

    • Pallacertus says:

      If they demand independence (and I think that, as currently written, the BBL is one) and after the peoples within vote in a credible plebiscite, then we should settle any further disputes and let the Bangsamoro go peacefully. And I mean, orderly, amicably, and without bloodshed — there is no reason for the Philippine military to go apeshit there as the Indonesian military did to East Timorese in 1997. If we cannot live together in peace, then we can live apart in peace.

  14. Bing Garcia says:

    Another all-out war against the MILF as suggested by former President Joseph Estrada would only lead to another round of peace negotiations, according to Murad. He said it was only logical for both the government and the MILF to continue with what they had begun.

    “War is not new to us but I think it is time that we realize that even if we fight now, ultimately we will be returning to a peace process. So, if there is still hope for this peace process, why don’t we see it through?” Murad said in Filipino.

    I agree.

    • Joe America says:

      Those words from Murad hit me as being absolutely correct and left me to believe that continuing the peace movement is important. However, I now want to read the agreement to make sure that there are protections in there so that the considerable measure of autonomy does not allow for the harboring and protection of criminals such as Marwan.

      • sonny says:

        Yahoo news reports that Col Marcelo Burgos reports that Marwan was killed. True?

        • Joe America says:

          The SAF believes they got him, the MILF says he is dead, but the official DNA readout has not yet been published. The Wiki entry on him is written in the past tense but there is still a question mark after the Jan 26 death date. I think NSA is a Wiki editor.

    • macspeed says:

      Yes!!! 100%

  15. gakspu says:

    He should have been there to meet those fallen SAF, his presence there as the commander in chief at least shows a sense of sympathy to the families and a sense of responsibility for the entire country to see. But that’s just me. Maybe a car plant opening bears more weight.
    Also I would like to point out that the CHR, is quite on this, if this was the other way around I bet Etat’s Rosales must be screaming her guts out. Oh wait CHR means criminal/communist human rights.

    • Joe America says:

      Many people feel as you do. I think he has put a lot into getting the Japanese to invest here, and it is rather a strategic program to encourage the Japanese to move their industrial activities from China to Japan. It is not just a plant opening. It is an economic agenda to bring jobs to the Philippines. I’m a lone voice perhaps, but I see a president as having many responsibilities and he cannot be uni-dimensional, no matter the level of grief. See today’s blog.

      • Jake says:

        I don’t think it would be much of a big deal if he postponed it or at least sent someone instead. I bet the Japanese investors will even understand that since the nation was in a national tragedy. Not at the scope of 9/11 but hey. It does not help that the commander in chief who admitted knowing about the raid has been pointing fingers and had not made any condemnation even on how the SAF were brutalized.

        Compare that to what Arroyo did when the MILF attacked in Lanao.

        Now, the MILF is emboldened that they can bully the National Government to comply to their whims.

    • macspeed says:

      ahh, what a sorry comment for a good President, are you pro Binay? or anti PNOY?

      PNOY is the best president since Marcos era, just think how much corruption he did BREAK!!!

      • Jake says:

        What a fanboy. Just because I am criticizing him, I am automatically Pro-Binay, anti Aquino?

        I’m surprised you did not say I was pro-Arroyo!

    • Joe America says:

      Thank’s for the link, sonny. Interesting reading. It struck me that there is doctrine, there is teaching, and there are the pupils. The pupils are flawed, and sometimes so is the teaching. But mostly the pupils. As I look at the amount of venom that is spewing across the Philippines about President Aquino and the Bangsamoro situation, I’d say that Pope Francis might just as well phoned in his message about mercy and compassion, because no one was listening. Compassion here seems to mean a taking of sympathy rather than a giving. I think that’s backward.

      • sonny says:

        Joe, you do cut to the chase cleanly and rationally and identify where the areas of meaningful discussion should be. Indeed, the pupils is where it’s at – the quality of their takeaways.

        “If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.”
        — Aquinas

  16. macspeed says:

    Dear Joe Am

    All your narrations are true indeed…all agreed.

    Especially this one>>…”My position: This was a battle in a war that went horribly bad. It is possible someone in the knowledge chain gave warning to BIFF and MILF and they set up an ambush of the special forces troops.”

    The Peace agreement wasn’t signed yet. The Area is considered a War Zone. Spies who loves money and Spies who love the terrorist, same effect, collateral damage, casualties of War.

    There were too many speculations, many riders, specially the corrupt ones. So their image somehow refurbish. Telling these and that about failure by this government and blame it on PNOY.

    The reason? Money!!! Media interviews most of them were hugely paid by the political enemies of PNOY. What s happening is really bad trip for PNOY, but I don’t buy that so as the ones who understand the hardship of PNOY redeveloping the Philippine.

    The Peace process has to be signed and approved ASAP. This is the end of the conflict and start of a new Philippine…Amen.

    • Jake says:

      I guess this could qualify as “blind following”?

      How sure are you that the BBL (there have been many “peace process” starting from the Tripoli Agreement) will end the conflict?

      Take note that the BBL only includes ONE group that has a rival — the MNLF. The seige of Zamboanga City was very much related to this. The MNLF were disappointed when the administration started the talks with the MILF. Who knows what the MNLF is doing? They could be regrouping to be able to strike once the BBL is approved. What about the BIFF which, although sometimes fights alongside the MILF, does not always agree with them either? If the Nur’s faction indeed strikes (we should also take note the ethnic make up of these groups. MNLF is Tausug, MILF is mainly Maguindanaos), what now? Strike a peace process with the MNLF that would nullify the pact made with the MILF?

      Or watch the Tausugs and Maguindanaos killing each other over the argument who “rules” Western Mindanao?

      What about the Abu Sayaff?

      Not to mention, the unconstitutional provisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

      I will say it again, the National Government is under the ILLUSION that they can replicate their Cordillera success.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I agree, Mac. I’m starting to go through the BBL document and my early reading says it is artfully well done and causes me to regain the hope I lost over this needless bickering and political gameplaying, the stepping on the dead to win arguments. The strangest day of honoring the dead I’ve ever seen. I figured it would be a somber, respectful day, but it is almost violent. I do very much appreciate President Aquino’s stability and calm rationality in the face of a lot of emotions gone off the deep end.

      • Pallacertus says:

        We are not used to war (or at least the consequences of war), and we are not used to so many dead policemen — even those of us born and reared here who think the government, the police, and the armed forces are rotten to the core are not used to both. If we are near violence as you say, remember that all this is new to us, and our expectations and disappointments and hatreds follow suit.

        Let’s say we are beside themselves — not a nice state to be indulging in. At all.

        • Joe America says:

          There have been a series of incidents recently, a lot of killings of armed forces people in “volumes” of 3 to maybe 10, bombings here, bombings there, NPA, Muslim. They get a little blurb in the paper then drop from sight. No memorial. No welcoming of the dead. No expectations that the President attend to them. Two incidents of trucks down a mountainside, bad equipment, 15 killed here on Biliran, mostly kids, something similar up north. A blurb in the paper and gone. Those two incidents would total close to 44.

          Where are the laws on trucks that ensure good condition of the brakes? Well, it is a poor country, and we let it slide. Same with helmet laws. Five to a bike. We should do a nationwide body count of young people killed with head injuries from motorcycle spills. More than 44, I assure you.

          The US slaughters 30,000 to 40,000 per year on the highways. Acceptable price.

          The 44 is tragic. One is tragic.

          The 44 was for a cause. The kids down the mountainside was not.The 40,000 in the US is for the cause of personal convenience.

          It is unfair that the President carry the weight of the nation. We need to do some lifting ourselves.

          • sonny says:

            It is but fair to mention the education magnets (primary, secondary, tertiary) of the Catholic missionary orders to Moslems and Christians alike, viz. the OMI (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) schools of Cardinal Quevedo and the Ateneo (Jesuit) universities of Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao, Davao in the south and Zamboanga in western Mindanao.

            Civil strife is not entirely new in the islands. The postwar vendetta rumblings countrywide, the Huk sedition of the ’50s took their civilian and military tolls and then finally the tragedies of the Martial law decades.

            • Joe America says:

              Good point, Sonny. I suppose the problem with getting the Philippines up and running well, as it has since Mr. Aquino took over, is that the expectation that there will be no more deaths. But the truth is, they have been there forever. It will take a lot more work to get to total, lasting peace.

            • sonny says:

              Joe, it seems like nothing much has changed since the days of Blackjack Pershing and Gen Leonard Wood. The home governments then and now seem to imitate Hamlet. Hopefully, unlike him, we will not end up in a mess.

              http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/654540/posts

  17. yesnoy46 says:

    I agree with you, Joe, particularly on your take on the lack of sincerity of MILF/BIFF. Like the very early comment, the first, of Elmer Nev Valenzuela who said last January 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm: Scrap the BBL and unleash hell!

  18. Gee Ibanez says:

    You’re not a lone voice Joe of that I am certain. There are many of us who share your perspective. If Pope Francis is the raincoat on the rain to Filipinos, Joe America is definitely a breath of fresh air. Your point of view is spectacular & very realistic. I so love you Jo!

  19. If this failed operations feels weird, it’s probably because it was the idea of our retarded president and equally crazed Purisima. Maybe the duo were trying to impress Obama. Hey, we can do a Bin Laden too! This duo betrayed both MILF and their own people for personal redemption. Poor Napenas had to obey a direct order from the commander-in-chief. Why the rest of the 300 forces and the AFP didnt move? They didn’t want to get killed in this silly illegal operation being remotely controlled by a disgraced corrupt chief. The police and the AFP have factions too. Why the bodies were mutilated? Hate. Let the Muslims have the BBL. It’s a small victory after centuries of fighting. Only the ruling oligarchs will benefit driving them out from resource-rich Mindanao anyway. Eveybody acts for a reason, sometimes with unreasonable ones.

    • Joe America says:

      I really dislike people who are deeply disrespectful in a personal way of the duly elected President of the Philippines. You would not have the courage to say that to his face, yet you sneak in here and drop your obnoxious remark. You have had your say here. Please don’t return.

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