• What is Aquino doing about the ‘New Somalia?’

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    Read this April 26 New York Times story and you decide if President Aquino is doing anything about this security problem, which has become so serious that it now causes concern among our neighbor countries such as Indonesia. Its chief security minister has called the Sulu Sea, where the Abu Sayaff abducted Malaysians and Indonesians from their vessels, as the “New Somalia.”

    Or does Aquino have no time to deal with this crisis because he is so busy plotting to have his vice presidential candidate, Leni Robredo, win by hook or by crook the still ongoing vote count, as well as cleaning up his tracks and getting rid of any incriminatory Malacañang files?

    The New York Times article headlined “Abu Sayyaf Militants Thriving as Hostage-Takers in Philippines” as follows:

    MANILA — After the militant group Abu Sayyaf kidnapped a group of foreign citizens and killed six soldiers in the southern Philippines in late 2014, President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to wipe the terrorists out.

    “We have several battalions,” he said, not only line infantry but “some of our most elite forces.” Those troops had been ordered into “all of these mountain lairs and very heavily wooded jungle and dense areas to precisely deprive them of safe havens.”

    Instead, Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped several more foreign citizens in the nearly year and a half since, bringing the total to at least 19, and its heightened campaign of high-profile abductions has attracted growing international attention.

    Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel seconds before Abu Sayyaf men beheaded him. (Screen grab from video.) “Casualties are to be expected,” Aquino callously responded to the gruesome murder.

    Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel seconds before Abu Sayyaf men beheaded him. (Screen grab from video.) “Casualties are to be expected,” Aquino callously responded to the gruesome murder.

    This month, it killed 18 soldiers in a single battle. On Monday, the head of one of its hostages, John Ridsdel, a mining executive from Canada, was left in a plastic bag on a street in the southern town of Jolo.

    Abu Sayyaf has conducted kidnappings, bombings and battles with soldiers for more than 20 years in the southern Philippines, where many members of the impoverished local population regard it as an ally. Since 2002, the United States has periodically advised the Philippine military on combating the group.

    With an estimated strength of fewer than 500 fighters, the group was once linked to Al Qaeda but has more recently produced videos vowing allegiance to the Islamic State. There is little evidence beyond the videos, however, that it has received any substantive financial or technical assistance from the terrorist network.

    Abu Sayyaf’s stated goal is to establish an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines, but the military says it is at bottom a profit-driven criminal organization.

    In March, 10 sailors from Indonesia were abducted by the group, Philippine military officials said. Less than a week later, four sailors from Malaysia were also abducted in the region where Abu Sayyaf operates. The Malaysian and Indonesian authorities responded by calling for increased patrols of the area, and Indonesian officials have offered to send in their own special forces to help rescue their citizens.

    Some analysts and political leaders have begun to question whether the armed forces are capable of carrying out Mr. Aquino’s order to defeat the group.

    “Considering how long this problem has been with us, it appears that the government — not just under this administration but under past administrations as well — has failed miserably to put an end to the kidnapping for ransom operations of the Abu Sayyaf,” wrote Ramon J. Farolan, a former military official, in a column for The Philippine Daily Inquirer this month.

    Though the military vastly outnumbers Abu Sayyaf and has better training and more sophisticated weaponry, the soldiers face formidable obstacles fighting in the dense jungles where the group operates, said Col. Restituto Padilla Jr., a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    “At the tactical level, the bandits have the edge on mastery of the terrain,” he said. “They have clearly mapped the whole area and know every nook and cranny.”

    In the last two decades, the group has kidnapped dozens of foreign citizens, receiving millions of dollars in ransom money, and some of that has been distributed to the local population, Colonel Padilla said. In addition, many of the Abu Sayyaf fighters have relatives and traditional clan ties to residents, all of which puts them at odds with government troops.

    “They have become local Robin Hoods, sought and revered by quite a lot of the locals,” the colonel said.

    Matt Williams, country director in the Philippines for Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a risk management and security company, agreed with the military’s assessment of a hostile theater of operations.

    “The area where the Abu Sayyaf operate is a nexus of crime, clan rivalries and endemic corruption,” said Mr. Williams, who has been involved in hostage negotiations with the group. “Ransoms paid for the release of foreign hostages pump millions of dollars into an underground economy that is shared by armed clans, corrupt officials and intermediaries promising fast solutions to victims’ families.”

    In the areas where the group operates, nearly two-thirds of the population lives below the national poverty line, Mr. Williams said. There are also high levels of mistrust of the government and the military in those areas, and many young men see collaboration with Abu Sayyaf as prestigious and lucrative, he said.

    “The Philippine military has the technical capability to contain and erode the Abu Sayyaf’s operational capacity,” Mr. Williams said. “What is lacking is the political will to resolve this growing security concern. President Aquino’s government does not appear to have a workable military solution to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf.”

    tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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    12 Comments

    1. Duterte patunayan mo ang tigas mo sa Abu Sayaff. It’s time to show whether you have the real guts, brain and wits to fix this. Forget about Aquino, its your turn now.

    2. Indeed, Mr. Dee Gong was correct when he said to the effect that you do not have a right to run for president if you are not prepared to kill or die. This should be tested if he starts going after this group and starts talking to them in the language these people know – the language of the gun. Unfortunately, beneegno does not have the balls to do what has to be done. I thought that he has shooting buddies and loves to go in shooting ranges. Surely, he only knows how to shoot in a shooting range but never in a real shooting war. Hanggang porma lang pala ang kanyang hilig sa baril at di kayang pumutok sa kalaban sa harap nya na may baril din.

    3. Itong mga dilawang Liberal party ay walang pagmamahal sa ating bayan. Sarili lamang nila ang kanilng iniintindi. Magkaroon ng civil war dito, nasaan kaya ang mga pulitikong ito lalo na ang Liberal Party.. since the beginning after EDSA 1 revolution, pinabayaan na nila ang ating Military Defense, wala man silang nabili o nagawa para sa sarili nating armas. Bumili pa si Abnoy 2 jet fighter galing ng korea, kung hindi pa kinuha ng china ang isang isla sa atin, hindi pa niya maisip ito.. ngayon, hindi nya alam ang gagawin kung sino sino ang tinatawag para humingi ng tulong.. Talgang sinadya ng mga dilawan nag humina ang ating military at iyong mga generals yumaman kay Pnoy, na walang achievement sa kanilang duty para ipagtanggo ang Pilipinas.. Nag payaman lang sila, at iyan ang bottom line..

    4. Under the Aquino admin , activities by the ASG on the Zulu sea has mutated into a Somalia style operation this ASG frenzy will eventually be dumped on the lap of the incoming admin

    5. mikhail Hieronymus on

      What puzzled me is where do those bandits get their high powered arms? It looks like they are better armed than the military. It is also rumored that some soldiers are selling their arms and ammunition to the militant. If true then it is a hopeless situation.
      Some of those higher officers are corrupt.
      The new government should remove those corrupt officers and enlisted men. Governors and mayors collaborating with those bandits should be charge.

    6. PMA trained a corrupt mafia of military officers to milk the government by protecting corrupt politicians. It is PMA that made PH AFP inutile corrupt armed forces protecting the rich Thieves Elite Oligarchs.

    7. This govt prides itself of modernising our armed forces. Oh well, the only significant thing about this is when two trainer jets escorted the president on board a passenger jet in for a landing!

    8. Basil Verzosa on

      The air force should carpet bomb the entire island if they arent released in a day. An executive order like that takes balls and would put an end to this. Too bad politicians dont have the balls to do it.

    9. President Aquino’s government does not appear to have a workable solution to anything.

      The other countries should recognize that the Philippine military and government are inept and incompetent led by a president that lies and promises everything and does absolutely nothing after that. Maybe he is too busy coordinating the election cheating to keep himself out of jail for his many crimes but the problem is really that none of the agencies that make up the government is any better.

      Once the other countries realize that the government of the Philippines is useless they should bring their own troops after these kidnappers and if the Philippines doesn’t like it too bad, what can they do about it anyway ? They can’t even take out 500 rebels located on islands.
      Just put a Naval blockade around the selected island then send in the troops with air support and get their citizens, wipe out the kidnappers. Problem solved

      • Your observation though in laymans view is a good basic strategy, but the trouble is with the Aquino administration who doesnt know how to run the Defense dept. even going to the extent of giving the MILF an Sharia state when these people are but one and the same hiding in another facade. The only words best describing Aquino and his consorts is imbeciles out to sell the Pilipinos to their demise. There is no good thing done with this Aquino administration except robbery of the peoples money by his senators, congressmen and his false Technocrats.

    10. President Aquino is a very weak president. To defeat these terrorist, the country needs a Joseph Estrada to end this conflict ASAP. He tried to fight these terrorist and almost win but due to lack of ammunition, the attack was stop. I also do not think that we have competent military officers to do the planning. In most cases , the soldiers were ambush because they do not know the terrain. With thousands of soldiers, how can these soldiers not stop these terrorist numbering 500. The only reason is incompetent inexperience military officers.

      • PNoy’s approach is more diplomacy than combat. Remember, Estrada failed, too. Running out of ammo in a war is also a big tactical mistake.

        May be Duterte will succeed.