Most of the western papers only notice “extrajudicial killings” here in the Philippines. That phrase is used to pressure the government to reign in the killing of left wing activists. The list of such murders includes clergy, journalists, and union activists and are a shame to this nation. But what few realize it that the list also includes “militants” (read the NPA: communists with guns to shoot people who are knocked off when not working, or NPA who are retired and now someone is taking revenge).
You don’t kill off an activist trying to organize your sugar cane workers, or the local clergy for knowing the NPA, and especially you don’t pop off the local journalist for exposing your scam in stealing money that was supposed to be used to help poor farmers.

On the other hand, when local politicians get in gunfights at rallies, threaten those who count the votes and kill their rivals’ children to win elections, and  when businessmen and politicians get killed for not asking the NPA’s permission (read give a bribe), you must realize that a lot of the killing doesn’t fit the usual “left right” template. They are personal payback, not political.
But there are others being killed here in the Philippines that are not personal, but the result of a deliberate strategy to terrorize civilians and I congratulate Human Rights Watch for issuing a report on the victims of Islamic related extremist groups.

Seventeen hundred victims of such violence have been killed since 2000, mainly in the south but also in Manila, in airports and from the deliberate sinking of a ferry.

Members of the ASG and RSM are implicated in or have claimed responsibility for many of these attacks. ASG is an extremist Islamist group whose members broke away in the 1990s from the longstanding ethnic Moro insurgent groups based in the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines (“Moro” is a Philippine term for Muslim). RSM, a group composed of converts to Islam, is closely tied to ASG. The two groups purportedly aim to push Christians out from Mindanao and the Sulu islands and “restore” Islamic rule over the Philippines.

“Abu Sayyaf and Rajah Solaiman have committed crimes on a massive scale,” said Sifton. “They have intentionally bombed civilians, kidnapped ordinary workers and beheaded them, and extorted money from small businesses.”

Both ASG and RSM maintain links with current or former members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the violent Indonesian Islamist group responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings. Philippine government officials claim that elements of the longstanding Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have, over the last few years, provided sanctuary or assistance for ASG, RSM and JI members.

Since 2003, MILF and MNLF leaders appear to have largely cut ties with JI, condemned violence against civilians (and specifically ASG and RSM attacks), and provided active assistance to Philippine military forces in conducting operations against all three groups. The United States military is actively assisting in these operations.

I left in that last part because there is a worry that the US Congress will cut off money for fighting these very bad extremist groups to punish the extrajudicial killings. And not just the US, but other peaceloving countries.

Now the dirty little secret is that a lot of this money ends up in the pockets of local politicians, but on the other hand, it’s not a really good way to promote peace by making politicians with private armies angry.

And indeed, right now the attempt to arrest the ASG and MILF rogue group that ambushed some Philippine marines, killing and mutilating 14 of them, is being stopped thanks to pressure from governments such as  Japan and Canada, who threaten to pull back aid from the Philippines if the army tries to “attack” the group.The MILF is trying to protect their own rogue group, by making various claims that vary from day to day–claims that are hard to believe since the Marines had a GMA NEWS team with them that filmed the ambush.

So why are these two countries interfering in a police matter?

Because they “love” peace.

Just ignore that headless body in the ditch, folks, nothing to see here. Just move along.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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