Archive for the ‘AFP’ Category

Life on a balance: hostages can’t rely on the government for help?

April 1, 2009

For more than two months , Filipinos were asked to wait for the rescue of the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers, but it appears nothing tangible has come out of the attempts to free the hostages

Ramon Casiple, director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform says the government is handling the hostage crisis badly. He speaks of “bumbling” and the lack of cohesive plan to rescue the hostages that even the military admits.

“A disgusted Marines officer hit the government for its alleged weakness in handling the hostage crisis and choosing negotiations over the military option. He said the military stands to get the blame if something bad happens to the hostages.”—Malaya (04/02/09, Reyes, V)

After a skirmish that claimed the life of 3 soldiers and wounded 19 more, the rescue of Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter, and Italian Eugenio Vagni from the hideous Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bandits have met a perilous impasse. No reliable word about their fates are known after the deadline on Tuesday, March 31, 2009. The Abu Sayyaf extremists’ demand that government military personnel leave the area has not been met.

Now, it is a fearful wait and see. Filipinos are told the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers are cordoning the forest where the hostages and their kidnappers are holed. Is it a preparation to attack the Abu Sayyaf’s position and free the hostages?

Those who know what transpired in the deaths of hostages Guillermo Sobero, Deborah Yap, and Martin Burnham can only hope for the best. The innocent humanitarian ICRC workers don’t merit the inhuman treatment from Abu Sayyaf. So too are the unnamed captives who languish in the bandit’s lair. The government rescue plan, branded as inutile, must do better to save them. (Photo Credit: Charlie Saceda x 2) =0=

UPDATE: Apri 2, 2009 reports suggest that the kidnappers have abandoned their position and splintered into groups in anticipation for a rescue operation. The condition of the three ICRC kidnapped victims are so far unknown.

RELATED BLOGS: “Abu Sayyaf extremists warn of beheading ICRC captives” Posted by mesiamd at 3/31/2009; “Hostage takers now demand $10 million ransom” Posted by mesiamd at 2/09/2009

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Three kidnapped Red Cross workers still missing in Mindanao

January 21, 2009

A week after 3 members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were kidnapped in Patikul, Sulu by heavily armed unidentified men on motorcycles, there had been little news on their whereabouts. Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were snatched in Southern Philippines on January 15, 2009 during their field inspection of a water sanitation project in Sulu Provincial Jail in Southern Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf, the extremist Islamic group under Albade Parad with Al Qaeda ties had been suspected to be behind the abduction. On Monday, January 19, the kidnapped ICRC workers placed a phone call to their office asking that the military rescue operation be suspended.

Gen. Alexander Yano of the Armed Forces of the Philippines heads the search and rescue operation which show no progress. The military officer keeps a controversial news blackout which he believes is needed so as not to compromise the life of the kidnapped victims.

“Thursday’s abduction was the most high-profile kidnapping of foreigners since 2001, when Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched nearly two dozen tourists from a resort, including three Americans. One of the Americans was beheaded, a second was killed during a military rescue operation and the third was rescued. The incident prompted Washington to deploy troops in the south starting in 2002, but they are barred from combat.” —Yahoo News / AP (01/17/09, Teves, O)

“Alain Aeschlimann, head of the ICRC’s operations for Asia Pacific in Geneva, said their main concern is to ensure that they continue to be unharmed and that they are let go, without any conditions, as quickly as possible.” —Malaya (01/20/09, Reyes, V)

There is increasing clamor to step up the search. Conflicting rumors heighten the anxiety and feeling of helplessness of hostages’ relatives. With no progress in finding the missing workers, the US Embassy in Manila has offered help to the Philippine authorities. If mishandled, this crisis can quickly degenerate into another round of ransom-giving, then body injuries, and even deaths. Unintended results bring back the old questions on the competence and integrity of the military authorities in solving this kind of dilemma. (Photo Credit: AFP/ ICRC file; Charles Saceda) =0=

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The ICG On The Mindanao Conflict

November 19, 2008


The ICG is the “International Crisis Group”. According to Wikipedia:

“The ICG is considered the world’s leading leading independent, non-partisan source of analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. Its primary goals are a unique combination of field-based analysis, sharp-edged policy prescription, and high-level advocacy, with key roles being played by a senior management team highly experienced in government and by a highly active board of Trustees containing many senior diplomats….

“The ICG maintains teams of analysts in 17 field offices worldwide, who are dispatched to areas at risk of outbreak, escalation, or recurrence of conflict.”

The ICG was organized in 1995 and currently it is co-chaired by Chancellor of Oxford University and former European Commissioner for External Affairs Christopher Patten and former US Ambassador to the UN Thomas R. Pickering. Its president and chief executive is Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia. Its international headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium. In 2006, 40% of its funding came from governments, 32% came from philanthrophic organizations and 28% came from individuals and private foundations.

In May 14, 2008, ICG issued its Asia Report No. 152 titled, “The Philippines: Counter-Insurgency vs. Counter-Terrorism in Mindanao”, days before the start of the current AFP-MILF war in Mindanao. Having analyzed the interplay of the GRP/AFP, MILF and MNLF since the ’90s and its different responses to terrorism, part of its report might have bearing on the current war and its possible consequences. I quote (and be chilled by its cutting perspective):

The seizure of the MILF’s principal bases on Jolo [in 2007] recalls the MILF experience from 2000 to 2003. Relatively disciplined and hierarchically accountable guerilla formations have again been dispersed into an anarchic environment where there are many possibilities–and even imperatives–for them to deepen collusion with terrorists.

In counter-insurgency terms, capturing guerilla strongholds may be seen as a victory. But from a counter-terrorism perspective, anything that drives mainstream guerillas and jihadis closer together is a defeat. On Mindanao, the AFP’s occupation of the MILF’s Camp Abubakar, from July 2000, did impede the JI training facilities–though this was not presented as an objective at that time. But smaller groups of freelance foreign jihadis have continued to seek partnerships with militants inside, as well as outside, the MILF and MNLF.

The most dangerous of these liaisons came about as a direct result of Balikatan’s [the joint RP-US military exercises] “success” in Basilan. As described above, driving the ASG core group onto the mainland [because it too “hot” for them in Basilan] had the unintended effect of cementing its alliance with radical MILF commanders….Though the story remains untold in the official account, it holds important lessons…for many situations where terrorists are embedded in popular insurgencies.

Where distinguishing between insurgents and terrorists is possible, encouraging the first to cooperate against the second, rather than collude with them, must be a central pillar of government terrorism programs. Moreover, in the longer term, such cooperation helps build mutual trust necessary for a durable peace agreement. Quiet MILF cooperation against ASG and foreign jihadis continued until shortly after…21 June 2007. An ASG plan to re-infiltrate mainland Mindanao [Note: the report earlier acknowledged the late Chairman Hashim Salamat’s cooperation in the expulsion of the ASG in mainland Mindanao], due to intensifying pressure from Oplan Ultimatum in Jolo, was frustrated in November 2006. Bashir Takasan, an MILF member…from Davao Oriental, where the jihadis had hoped to land, “died in the line of duty preventing their re-entry.

A chilling observation of the conflict, indeed. Does this forecast the long-term defeat of the government’s strategy of “all-out war”?

[This article is a response to my article, “The MILF Has Been Suckered Into War: The Peace Agreement As A Trojan Horse”, 11/19/08]