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ISIS Touches Down in the Philippines

NOVANEWS

Map of Philippines

By Tony Cartalucci | New Eastern Outlook 

Mayhem broke out across the southern Philippine city of Marawi where militants besieged it and hoisted flags of the so-called “Islamic State.” Located on the southern island of Mindanao, the city is only slightly removed from Al Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayaff’s primary area of operation on nearby Jolo and Basilan islands.

The UK Independent in an article titled, Isis-linked militants take priest and churchgoers hostage in Philippines,” would report:

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south because of the militants’ siege on the city on Tuesday and abandoned a trip to Russia to deal with the crisis.

Mr Duterte vowed to place southern Mindanao island, where Marawi is situated, and its 22 million residents under military rule for up to a year if necessary.

The article would also report:

Troops are battling to contain dozens of militants from the Maute group, which pledged allegiance to Isis in 2015, after they escaped a botched security raid on a hideout and overran streets, bridges and buildings.

Two soldiers and a police officer are among those killed and at least 12 people have been wounded in the violence, seeing Maute fighters set fire to a school, a church and a prison.

The security crisis represents a seemingly inexplicable expansion of the Islamic State in Asia – even as the US and its allies claim the organization is being rolled back across the Middle East and its revenue streams are contracting in the wake of defeat.

US-Saudi Sponsored Terrorism Seeks to Coerce Asia 

Both the Maute group and Abu Sayaff are extensions of Al Qaeda’s global terror network, propped up by state sponsorship from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and fed recruits via a global network of likewise Saudi and Qatari funded “madrasas.” In turn, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s state sponsorship of global terrorism for decades has been actively enabled by material and political support provided by the United States.

This arrangement provides for Washington both a global mercenary force with which to wage proxy war when conventional and direct military force cannot be used, and a pretext for direct US military intervention when proxy warfare fails to achieve Washington’s objectives.

This formula has been used in Afghanistan in the 1980s to successfully expel the Soviet Union, in 2011 to overthrow the Libyan government, and is currently being used in Syria where both proxy war and direct US military intervention is being applied.

Maute and Abu Sayaff activity fits into this global pattern perfectly.

The Philippines is one of many Southeast Asian states that has incrementally shifted from traditional alliances and dependency on the United States to regional neighbors including China, as well as Eurasian states including Russia.

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, cancelling his meeting with Russia is a microcosm of the very sort of results Maute and Abu Sayaff are tasked with achieving in the Philippines. Attempts by the US to justify the presence of its troops in the Philippines as part of a wider strategy of encircling China with US military installations across Asia would also greatly benefit from the Islamic State “suddenly spreading” across the island nation.

Likewise, violence in Malaysia and Thailand are directly linked to this wider US-Saudi alliance, with violence erupting at each and every crucial juncture as the US is incrementally pushed out of the region. Indonesia has likewise suffered violence at the hands of the Islamic State, and even Myanmar is being threatened by Saudi-funded terrorism seeking to leverage and expand the ongoing Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

That US-Saudi sponsorship drives this terrorism, not the meager revenue streams of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, goes far in explaining why the terrorist organization is capable of such bold attacks in Southeast Asia even as Russia and Iranian backed Syrian troops extinguish it in the Middle East.

US-Saudi Links to Abu Sayaff and other Terrorists in the Philippines 

A US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks dated 2005 would state:

Philippine officials noted their continuing concern about Saudi-origin terrorist financing coming into the Philippines under the cover of donations to mosques, orphanages, and madrassahs. Although three Saudi nationals suspected of being couriers had been detained on separate occasions, Saudi Ambassador Wali had intervened in each case to secure their release.

Yousaf Butt of the Washington-based US National Defense University would reveal in a Huffington Post article titled, How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism,” that:

It would be troublesome but perhaps acceptable for the House of Saud to promote the intolerant and extremist Wahhabi creed just domestically. But, unfortunately, for decades the Saudis have also lavishly financed its propagation abroad. Exact numbers are not known, but it is thought that more than $100 billion have been spent on exporting fanatical Wahhabism to various much poorer Muslim nations worldwide over the past three decades. It might well be twice that number. By comparison, the Soviets spent about $7 billion spreading communism worldwide in the 70 years from 1921 and 1991.

The leaked cable and reports by Western analysts when taken together, reveal that Saudi-funded madrasas in the Philippines are directly fueling terrorism there.

The answer to why is simple.

For the same purposes the US used Saudi-funded terrorism in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Libya and Syria beginning in 2011 – the US is using Saudi-funded terrorism to coerce the government of the Philippines amid Washington’s faltering “pivot to Asia” which began under US President Barrack Obama and now continues under President Trump.

Countering US-Saudi Sponsored Terrorism 

With US President Trump announcing a US-Saudi alliance against terrorism – the US has managed to strategically misdirect public attention away from global terrorism’s very epicenter and protect America’s premier intermediaries in fueling that terrorism around the world.

The Philippines would be unwise to turn to this “alliance” for help in fighting terrorism both the US and Saudi Arabia are directly and intentionally fueling.

Instead – for Southeast Asia – joint counter-terrorism efforts together and with China and Russia would ensure a coordinated and effective means of confronting this threat on multiple levels.

By exposing the US-Saudi role in regional terrorism – each and every act of terrorism and militancy would be linked directly to and subsequently taint the US and Saudi Arabia in the hearts and minds of Southeast Asia’s population.

This paves the way for a process of exposing and dismantling US-Saudi funded fronts – including Saudi-sponsored madrasas and US-funded NGOs – both  of which feed into regional extremism and political subversion. As this unfolds, each respective nation would be required to invest in genuine local institutions to fill sociopolitical and economic space previously occupied by these foreign funded fronts.

Until then, Asia should expect the US and its Saudi partners to continue leveraging terrorism against the region. If unchecked, Asia should likewise expect the same progress-arresting instability that has mired the Middle East and North Africa for decades.

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Philippine Environment Minister Continues Mining Crackdown

NOVANEWS
  • Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez during a press briefing in Manila, Philippines February 9, 2017.
    Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez during a press briefing in Manila, Philippines February 9, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
Environment minister Lopez said it was within her discretion “to decide on the resources of the country.”

The Philippines’ environment minister stepped up a crackdown on mining on Tuesday, cancelling almost a third of the country’s contracts for undeveloped mines and rejecting any challenges to earlier orders to shut more than half of all operating pits.

The move turns up the heat in her battle with the mining sector after she ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines earlier this month on environmental grounds, causing an outcry from the industry and threats of legal action.

The latest 75 contracts, which cover projects in the exploration stage or otherwise not yet in production, are all in watershed zones and would threaten water supply if they went ahead, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said.

“You kill the watershed, you kill life,” Lopez told a media briefing.

A long-time environmentalist, Lopez ordered the closure of the 23 mines on Feb. 2 for damaging watersheds and for siltation of coastal waters and farmlands. Five more mines were suspended. The industry says the orders will affect 1.2 million people.

The contracts canceled on Tuesday, known as mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), include the $1.2 billion copper-gold project of Philex Mining Corp, one of the country’s biggest miners, in southern Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he would not stand in the way of Lopez’s decision to shut several mines in southern Philippines, the second time he has thrown his support behind the minister he appointed last June.

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Philippines’ Duterte Ends Peace Talks with Maoist Rebels

NOVANEWS
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 29, 2017.
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 29, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
The move ends 27 years of peace negotiations that sought to end an armed conflict that has killed about 30,000 people.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shut down peace talks with communist insurgents from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines after both the government and the rebels called off unilateral ceasefires aimed at ending a decades-long conflict.

RELATED: The Incomplete ‘People Power’ Revolution Boosted Duterte’s Rise

The move ends 27 years of peace negotiations that sought to end an armed conflict that has killed about 30,000 people since a popular insurgency in the Philippines began in the 1960s.

Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, previously freed top communist leaders to continue with the peace process. However, he has now angrily condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities, saying he is ready to fight them.

“I told the soldiers to prepare for a long war. I said (peace) will not come during our generation,” he said late Saturday.

The two sides signed an indefinite cease-fire in August, and the informal arrangement largely held as they continued discussions in Rome brokered by Norway, but he rebels announced an end to the ceasefire last week, accusing Duterte’s government of treachery and human rights abuses.

The president said he was now ordering government negotiators to “fold their tents and return home from overseas talks with the rebel leaders.

“I am not interested in talking to them. I will refuse to talk about it anymore … We have been fighting for 50 years. If you want to extend it for another 50 years, so be it, we will be happy to accommodate you,” he said.

RELATED: On Human Rights Day, Filipinos March Against President Duterte

In his characteristically aggressive tone, Duterte called the rebels “terrorists,” despite the fact that negotiations with the Maoist rebels was a cornerstone of his campaign.

During his first address to the nation he said he wanted a “permanent and lasting peace” with the guerrillas before the end of his six-year term, but his tone rapidly turned hostile after New People’s Army rebels killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others in fresh violence that enraged the president.

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Philippines’ Duterte Hints He May Impose Martial Law over Drugs

NOVANEWS
  • President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, Philippines, Dec. 22, 2016.
    President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, Philippines, Dec. 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters.
Last month, Duterte appeared to rule out any possibility he might declare martial law.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would impose martial law if the drug problem became “very virulent,” just a month after dismissing as “nonsense” any suggestion he might do so.

Duterte has made a brutal war on drugs a central pillar of his administration since he took office in the middle of last year.

Since July, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, in both police operations and unexplained killings by suspected “vigilantes.” More than 1 million drug peddlers and users have been arrested or have surrendered to authorities.

Duterte, speaking in the southern city of Davao late Saturday, said he has sworn to protect the country against all threats, including drugs, which he said has affected about 4 million people.

“If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law,” he said.

“No one can stop me,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court and Congress.

“My country transcends everything else, even the limitations.”

The Philippines endured a decade of martial law from the early 1970s under dictator Ferdinand Marcos — who Duterte offered a hero’s burial — and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people.

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The Incomplete ‘People Power’ Revolution Boosted Duterte’s Rise

NOVANEWS

President Rodrigo Duterte, then a candidate, speaks in front of a communist rebel group New People

By: Cleve Kevin Robert Arguelles, University of the Philippines

  • President Rodrigo Duterte, then a candidate, speaks in front of a communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) flag during the release of five policemen held by the rebels for a week, in Davao city, southern Philippines, April 25, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The election of Duterte may be seen as the nadir, but possibly also a turning point, in the long-standing democratic deficit in Asia’s oldest democracy.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that he killed three men during his time as mayor of Davao city, despite officials trying to downplay an earlier admission. Duterte’s comments might yet hurt his popularity but that seems unlikely.

Duterte’s national crusade has resulted in an alarming daily average of 34 drug war-related murders. Despite this death toll and international condemnation, public satisfaction with his anti-drug war is at a significantly high rate of 78%.

How can this be explained in a country that a mere 30 years ago brought down a dictator without resorting to violence? How could a nation that inspired the world with its peaceful “People Power” revolution now welcome a return to the state-sanctioned murders of the martial-law era of 1972-1981?

Duterte’s rise is an evolving lesson in the vulnerability of democracies in the face of a neglected public. The democratic institutions of the Philippines have little power when faced with a populist president determined to channel frustrations into immediate actions.

Unfulfilled promise

In 1986, millions of Filipinos ended Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship through sustained civil resistance against government violence and electoral fraud. This culminated in a massive peaceful protest in the capital along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). The event is now popularly known as the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Marcos was ousted after 21 years in power. He had been democratically elected as president in 1965, but essentially ruled as a dictator from 1972 to 1986.

To the disappointment of many, an elite-dominated democracy replaced Marcos’ authoritarian rule. From 1987, a small number of families started to restore their control of the government and rotate the seats of power among themselves. They included the Marcos family, who returned from exile in 1991 and were welcomed by their allies.

In the public imagination, the promises of the People Power Revolution went beyond restoring democratic institutions. The narrative went like this: a return to democracy would secure prosperity and security for everyone. The overall framework and various social justice provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution clearly reflect this.

But three decades later, the post-EDSA pact is far from being fulfilled.

The 30th anniversary celebrations of the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled late president Ferdinand Marcos. Photo: Reuters

A neglected public

The post-EDSA leadership has failed to solve many of the problems that concern Filipinos. Despite promising national growth rates, the gains appear to have largely benefited the rich. More than 26 million Filipinos remain impoverished. And unemployment rates are said to be the worst in Asia.

This widening gap between rich and poor, recurrent domestic economic crises, epidemic levels of corruption and failed attempts to significantly reduce criminality, have left the public deeply frustrated. Surveys in recent decades have consistently shown that these are the most urgent national concerns for many Filipinos.

The 1986 revolution, once a symbol of the promise of democracy and prosperity, is now synonymous in the Filipino popular imagination with the dysfunctional transport system in Metro Manila.

National commemorations of the EDSA consensus have become officially important, but in the public imagination they tell the tale of how promises are meant to be broken.

Democracy’s discontent

Amid political and economic exclusion and malaise came Duterte. He offered empathy to the economic strugglers and protection from the violence of criminals and politicians. His was a twin campaign narrative of care and power. His supporters often highlighted how they felt that Duterte truly cared for them.

And he was not just all talk. Duterte is seen as a man of action: decisive and quick. His “authenticity” is manifest in his everyday language coupled with humour that comes from the streets.

Duterte articulated the public’s deep-seated feelings of precariousness and powerlessness using rhetoric they could relate to. His campaign rallies, which many proclaimed as a marvel to behold, showed the rapport between the candidate and his supporters.

Many felt that Duterte rose from the ranks of ordinary citizens despite coming from a traditional political family and holding various political offices for 30 years. This is especially evident in his overwhelming support in the southern Philippines, as the first president from a region long neglected by the capital.

Duterte’s supporters often highlighted how they feel that Duterte truly cares for them. Photo: Reuters

How did it come to this?

When democracy doesn’t deliver, its legitimacy becomes difficult to defend. And when successive elite-dominated governments have used democracy for their own ends, the balance tilts towards authoritarianism.

Under post-EDSA democracy the richest families amassed more wealth than ever while poverty, hunger, homelessness, and crime continued to afflict ordinary Filipinos. It’s not difficult to imagine why some are nostalgic for the authoritarian past. Although national statistics show otherwise, people felt those were the country’s golden years.

Extrajudicial killings are a regular feature of post-EDSA governments as they were of the martial law years. Examples include the 1987 Mendiola massacre, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre and 2009 Maguindanao massacre, to name a few.

Perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Even before Duterte, the Philippines was known as the country with the worst state of impunity. Government critics were the usual victims until Duterte took aim at alleged drug dealers and users.

In my fieldwork in a massive poor urban community in Quezon City, residents have welcomed Duterte’s war on drugs. They now feel more secure in what they call their “drug-infested community” even though drug use has substantially declined compared to previous decades, according to one village official.

Residents argue that their perceptions of community security are just as important as the numbers in government records. For people to feel safe in a city where 92% of villages face drug-related crimes and in a nation where crimes against persons and property are rising is no easy thing.

It’s not difficult to imagine why some are nostalgic for their country’s authoritarian past. Photo: Reuters

When Duterte’s campaign translates to perceived everyday safety, it is no wonder that drug-war murders have not met considerable resistance.

Anyone with experience of the country’s institutions of justice knows how elusive criminal justice is. Around 80 percent of drug cases end up being dismissed and it may take a decade to achieve a conviction.

There are many reasons for this, but Duterte’s narrative that drug lords are so powerful that they can influence even the judiciary is not far-fetched. Most people do not trust the judiciary and many are convinced that power and money are needed to claim justice.

Previous administrations also made a mockery out of the national justice system; even convicted corrupt politicians enjoy their freedom while innocents languish in jail. A corruption whistleblower, Jun Lozada, was recently convicted, while ex-president Gloria Arroyo was acquitted and set free.

The legislature has been used to turn issues of justice into a public circus, such as in the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Corona and the hearings on allegations of graft and corruption against former vice president Jejomar Binay.

Is it surprising then that Dutarte’s supporters find calls to follow the rule of law and due process hypocritical? When institutions do not work, it becomes unreasonable to rely on them.

Duterte’s narrative plays on the temptations for a disgruntled public to claim swift justice. In the context of his rise to power, it’s no surprise that calls to respect human rights or the rule of law fall on deaf ears.

The election of Duterte may be seen as the nadir, but possibly also a turning point, in the long-standing democratic deficit in Asia’s oldest democracy. His rejection of the rule of law and liberal democracy represents a rupture in the post-EDSA consensus.

It’s not a stretch to say that the Philippines’ elite democracy had it coming. The failure to deliver on the promises of the People Power revolution made the rise of Duterte politically possible.

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Philippines peace talks

NOVANEWS

phillipines

 

 

 

 

 

Peace talks between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) resumed in Oslo on 22 August 2016. The opening ceremony began with a brief introductory speech by the Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum welcoming the two delegations and expressing the hope that the resumption of the talks will prove to be a firm foundation for the negotiations ahead. She was followed by Norwegian Foreign Minister, Boerge Brende, who welcomed the delegations on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) that had acted as a facilitator in the peace negotiations. Noting that the armed conflict between the GPH and the NDF had been one of the longest conflicts in the world, he said that the negotiations will be difficult and time-consuming. Expressing the support of the RNG for the negotiations, he expressed the hope that the parties would succeed in coming to grips with the substantive issues and reach important agreements.

Following the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Secretary Jesus Dureza, Special Advisor on the Peace Process, representing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Professor Jose María Sisón, NDFP chief political consultant, made their opening statements.

Dureza said that the conflict had been going on for more than 30 years and it was time to end it.

The Presidency of Mr Duterte is a new element which brings some hope for the success of the present talks. Sisón said that the NDFP was optimistic that objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines were more favourable than ever before to carrying out the peace negotiations and reaching the goal of a just and lasting peace through basic social and economic reforms.

Continuing, Sisón said: “For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a President has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarch and the folly and servility to foreign powers and by using street language and the methods of the mass movement. He is proud to describe himself as the first left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

He went on to express the willingness of “the CPP, NPA and NDFP in pursuing the just cause of national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination.”

The reforms, he said, would involve, inter alia, the abrogation of unequal treaties and agreements, democratic empowerment of the working people, social justice, economic development through national industrialisation and land reform; free public education, a patriotic and progressive culture; international solidarity of all peoples and trade and diplomatic relations with all countries.

Just ending the hostilities, he said, was not enough. There must be a “just peace”based on reforms that “lift the people from the morass of underdevelopment, social injustice and poverty”. In the pursuit of such reforms, he ended, ” we can have truce and cooperation and form a government of national unity, peace and development.

On this occasion, LALKAR sends its best wishes to the CPP, NPA and NDFP for the successful outcome of these talks

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Duterte Says U.S. Special Forces in Philippines ‘Have to Go’

NOVANEWS
Image result for President Rodrigo Duterte CARTOON

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called for the withdrawal of U.S. military from the restive Jolo and Basilan islands, marking his latest in a string of statements distancing the Filipino government from Washington.

“These special forces, they have to go,” Duterte said in a speech during an oath-taking ceremony for new officials. “I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go.”

Duterte, who was in the spotlight last week over his televised tirade against U.S. imperialism and President Barack Obama, said that the U.S. special forces now training Filipino troops were high-value targets for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf as counter-insurgency operations intensify.

“Americans, they will really kill them, they will try to kidnap them to get ransom,” Duterte added.

Duterte, a former southern mayor known for his bombastic style, said he wants an independent foreign policy has frequently accused the archipelago’s former colonizer of hypocrisy. The Philippine leader denied on Friday calling Obama a “son of a bitch” in a response to a journalist’s question about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

Some U.S. special forces have been killed in the southern Philippines since 2002, when Washington deployed soldiers to train and advise local units during the so-called “Operation Enduring Freedom – Philippines.”

At the height of that operation, some 1,200 Americans were deployed to Zamboanga City and on Jolo and Basilan islands, both strongholds of Abu Sayyaf.

The U.S. program was discontinued in the Philippines in 2015, but a small troop presence has remained for logistics and technical support. Washington has shifted much of its security focus in the Philippines towards the South China Sea.

Presence of U.S. troops on the island, which has continued despite constitutional changes made following the “People’s Power” uprising that toppled U.S.-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has long been a source of discontent among Filipinos.

In his speech to officials on Monday, Duterte repeated comments from last week when he accused the United States of committing atrocities against Muslims over a century ago on Jolo island.

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