some context for what’s happening in the Philippines:

1. US embassy officials met with MILF rebels, in their very camps, back in November, after they abducted the Irish priest Michael Sinnot. This was around the time that the tungsten gold bars story circulated. Hillary Clinton rushed to the Philippines. from Asia Times:

Despite the row over Sinnot’s kidnapping, senior US Embassy officials in Manila have held clandestine meetings with MILF leaders in their Maguindanao camp. The US Embassy has kept mum on the meetings, but on its website, the MILF confirmed in a statement that it had held talks with a visiting group of American diplomats led by the US Embassy charge d’affaires, Leslie Basset, on October 16. Lasting for two hours, the meeting “was warm and forthright”, the MILF said and quoted Basset as saying that the US was willing to play a role in the peace talks. “Helping attain and sustain peace, security and development in Mindanao is a priority concern of our government,” the MILF quoted Bassett as saying.

pretty cozy, huh?

2. as covered here earlier, a whistleblower testified to the US military having permanent structures, unmonitored by the Filipino government, in the Southern Philippines, in violation of the Philippine Constitution, and that the US military behaves with arrogance toward the Filipinos.

In her affidavit, Gadian also accused the US military of building permanent structures in different military camps in the country. She said US forces have established “permanent” and “continuous” presence in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the south. She added that the Philippine military has no access to the camps built by the US soldiers in these areas since they are “fenced off by barbed wires and guarded by US Marines.” Gadian likewise said these structures are indications the US troops had no intention of leaving the country, which is a violation of the Philippine Constitution….The ex-Navy official also complained of the “arrogant” behavior of many US military officers toward Filipinos.

pretty suspicious, huh?

So taking official pronouncements at face value,  here’s two stupid QUESTIONS… why doesn’t the MILF control it’s people, since the MILF has such a good relationship with the government… and what is the US military doing holed up illegally in the same area of the Philippines as the Abu Sayyaf?

3. NOW: over 10 dead in Abu-MILF raid on village

ZAMBOANGA CITY – (UPDATE 3) At least 11 people – including two children – were killed when suspected Moro rebels and Abu Sayyaf bandits stormed a village in Maluso, Basilan early Saturday, authorities said. The police corrected its initial report of 13 killed in the 5:45 a.m. attack staged by more or less 70 gunmen led by Puruji Indama in the village of Tubigan, Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza Jr., Basilan police chief, said by phone.

…Mendoza said the gunmen, including Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members, razed at least five houses during the attack. The attack on Tubigan came barely nine hours after authorities rescued the two Chinese nationals that Indama’s group had abducted in November, along with a local. The local, Marquez Singson, had been beheaded.

Mendoza said the gunmen immediately fled to Barangay (village) Libug in Sumisip town after the attack and were being pursued by the police and elements of the Army and the Marines. Founded in the early 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden, the Abu Sayyaf is blamed for a series of bombings and kidnappings targeting foreign missionaries, Christians, and US military advisers based in the south.

They have also carried out the worst terror attacks in Philippine history such as the 2004 bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people. Indama was an obscure Abu Sayyaf commander who gained prominence after he and other Muslim militants attacked a military convoy, killing and mutilating 14 Marines in 2007. The military says fewer than 400 Abu Sayyaf members remain active in the islands of Basilan and Jolo, down from a peak of about 1,200 in 2002. Government forces recently scored a string of victories over the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo Island, south of Basilan, and last week captured a bomb-maker and killed top commander Albader Parad, and five of his men.

more @ inquirer

4. missionary recounts captivity

Held hostage for 376 days by the Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Gracia Burnham doesn’t seem to tire of recounting the time she and her husband spent in the jungle with their kidnappers. It was the last year of her husband’s life. Burnham conducted a three-day lecture series this week at Southeastern Bible College, discussing mission work, terrorism and her personal experiences.

The kidnapping happened May 27, 2001, less than four months before the 9/11 terrorist hijackings in the United States, and her captors considered themselves aligned with al-Qaeda, Burnham said. “A few were bent on jihad,” she said. Some others, including a 9-year-old boy and others recruited from villages against their will, may not have had much choice.

…Burnham returned to the Philippines in 2004 to testify against some of her former captors, under heavy security. Twenty-four of the captors, out of a group of about 80, are in a maximum-security prison in Manila, she said.

She got a call this month from the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime, informing her that another one had been apprehended on Feb. 18. Jumadail Arad, known to the Burnhams as “Hurayra,” had been their closest friend and kindest captor among the Abu Sayyaf, she said. Burnham remembers talking to her husband about how he would treat Hurayra if they escaped and he one day showed up at their door in Rose Hill, Kan. “I would invite him in, cook him a big meal and then call the FBI,” she recalls him saying.

Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani, one of Burnham’s captors, bragged of talking with Bin Laden by satellite phone, according to an Associated Press report. Burnham said her conversations with Abu Sayyaf leaders showed that they at least believed themselves to be part of a global effort, not a ragtag band of kidnappers. “People in America don’t understand,” she said. “Their basic goal is world domination.”

read more @

5. UNICEF: Philippines has a terrible child trafficking problem, and it’s because of the poor ignorant people ya hear? nothing to do with corrupt officials or military or wealthy people in the cities or anything like that, who drive DEMAND. it never has to do with the demand side of the equation, only the supply side. they keep studying the problem, studying and studying, and they can never seem to work their way around to figuring out who moves the children around and where they end up. well actually, they know the children are moved from rural to urban, and for what purposes (sex, pornography, labor), but if they tackled that end it might get a few connected people in trouble. so instead they keep talking about the ignorant poor parents. it’s their fault, see?

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - A United Nations agency has identified the Philippines as one of the seven countries in Asia with the worst child trafficking condition.

A study by the UN Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) entitled “Child Trafficking in East and Southeast Asia: Reversing the Trend,” said that throughout East and South East Asia, various socio-economic, family and individual factors render children vulnerable to trafficking.

These factors are poverty, family breakdown, the low status and role of children in their societies, lack of educational and viable employment opportunities, rapid economic growth and urbanization, gender inequality, discrimination, and the demand for illegal adoption, brides and sexual relations with children.

...It noted that the problem of child trafficking has yet to be stemmed amid the best efforts by the governments and aid agencies.

…In a region where the demand for young brides, adoptive infants, sex with children, images of child pornography, and cheap labor is strong, the study said children may be trafficked at source or during migration, either en route or after reaching their destination.

It noted that origin, transit and destination countries for child trafficking exist throughout the East and South East Asian region, with some countries characterized as origin and destination, transit and destination, and others encompassing all three.

Internal trafficking, from rural to urban centers, and from small towns to big cities, is also a considerable dynamic, although less researched in comparison to cross-border trafficking, it said.

In some countries, such as the Philippines, the country assessment indicated that internal trafficking is more of a problem than its cross-border form. “In the Philippines, children are mainly trafficked from the rural regions of Visayas and Mindanao to the urban cities of Cebu City, Manila and Quezon City,” the study said.

more here