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Terrorism in Asia and the Philippines: An Assessment of Threats and Responses Eleven Years After 9/11

Terrorism in Asia and the Philippines: An Assessment of Threats and Responses Eleven Years After 9/11






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    Terrorism in Asia and the Philippines: An Assessment of Threats and Responses Eleven Years After 9/11 Terrorism in Asia and the Philippines: An Assessment of Threats and Responses Eleven Years After 9/11 Document Transcript

    •   PHILIPPINE INSTITUTE FOR PEACE, VIOLENCE AND TERRORISM RESEARCH 2nd Floor, CPDRI Room, Asian Institute of Tourism, University of the Philippines   Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City 1101 Philippines Telephone +632 9946972 Fax: +632 4333870   www.pipvtr.com   TERRORISM  IN  ASIA  AND  THE  PHILIPPINES:     AN  ASSESSMENT  OF  THREATS  AND  RESPONSES     11  YEARS  AFTER  9/11     ROMMEL  C.  BANLAOI    Delivered   at   the   National   Conference   of   the   Philippine   Historical   Association   (PHA)   in  cooperation   with   the   National   Commission   for   Culture   and   the   Arts   and   the   Philippine  Historical   Commission   of   the   Philippines   held   at   the   University   of   Iloilo,   Iloilo   City   on   21  September  2012.  PLEASE  CHECK  AGAINST  DELIVERY.      It   is   really   my   deep   honor   to   speak   before   all   of   you   today,   particularly   before  members   of   the   Philippine   Historical   Association   (PHA),   the   National   Commission  for   Culture   and   the   Arts   (NCCA)   and   the   Philippine   Historical   Commission   of   the  Philippines   (PHCP).     Please   accept   my   sincerest   appreciation   for   the   privilege   to  deliver  my  talk  today.        Yesterday,   I   arrived   from   Bangkok   where   I   delivered   a   related   lecture   on   crime-­‐terrorism-­‐insurgency   nexus   in   the   Philippines.   Some   portions   of   my   talk   today   is  culled  from  this  lecture,  while  bearing  in  mind  the  general  theme  of  this  conference.    As   a   Political   Science   scholar,   History   is   an   integral   part   of   my   academic   activities.    There  is  even  a  contested  perception  that    “History  is  past  politics”.    That  is  why  I  can  not  imagine  pursuing  political  studies  and  analyses  without  History.        In  the  area  of  terrorism  studies  and  research,  History  provides  the  proper  context  to  understand   the   evolution   and   the   current   nature   of   terrorist   threats   and   their  concomitant  counter-­‐measures.1        In   Asia,   History   shows   that   many   problems   associated   with   terrorism   predate   the  September   11,   2001   (9/11)   terrorist   attacks.2     However,   that   it   was   only   in   the                                                                                                                  1Gérard  Chaliand  and   Arnaud  Blin,   eds.,   The   History   of   Terrorism:     From   Antiquity   to   Al   Qaeda  (California:    University  of  California  Press,  2007).    2For   an   excellent   reference   on   this   issue,   see   Andrew   TH   Tan,   ed.,   A   Handbook   of   Terrorism   and  Insurgency  in  Southeast  Asia  (London  and  Massachusetts:    Edward  Elgar  Publishing,  Inc.,  2007).             1  
    • aftermath   of   9/11   when   terrorism   received   more   serious   scholarly   attentions   in  Asia.    In  the  Philippines,  however,  terrorism  research  and  studies  continue  to  receive  little  scholarly  attention.    Though  there  are  some  Filipino  social  science  scholars  touching  terrorism-­‐related  issues  in  peace  research  and  armed  conflict  studies,  terrorism  as  an  academic  field  in  the  Philippines  remains  nascent,  weak,  and  marginalized.    This  is   lamentable   considering   the   fact   that   terrorism   research   abroad   has   gone   up   since  9/11.     Even   among   Filipino   historians,   terrorism   research   has   not   been   given  enough  scholarly  attention.        To   my   knowledge,   our   institute   is   the   only   academic   research   organization   in   the  Philippines  that  treats  terrorism  as  a  centerpiece  of  scholarly  research.    Hoever,  our  institute  receives  little  funding  to  implement  fully  all  our  research  programs.    Due  to  funding   constraints,   related   research   organizations   relegate   terrorism   in   the  periphery  of  their  research  agenda.        There   is   a   need   to   conduct   more   scholarly   research   on   terrorism   because   history  shows   that   the   Philippines   has   been   a   victim   of   various   terrorist   attacks.     In   fact,  almost   all   non-­‐state   armed   groups   in   the   country   have   already   engaged   in   violent  acts  associated  with  terrorism.        This  encouraged  the  Philippine  government  to  pass  the  anti-­‐terrorism  law  in  2007,  which  is  called  the  Human  Security  Act  of  2007.    Though  9/11  maybe  considered  a  thing  of  the  past,  its  aftershocks  eleven  years  after  are   still   being   felt   in   Asia   and   more   so   in   the   Philippines.     Terrorism   remains   a  problem   in   Southeast   Asia,   South   Asia,   Central   Asia,   and   West   Asia   particularly   in  countries   like   Indonesia,   the   Philippines,   India,   Pakistan,   Afghanistan,   Iraq,   Iran,  Yemen,  Syria,  and  Egypt,  just  to  name  a  few.    In   July   2012,   the   Bureau   of   Counterterrorism   of   the   United   States   Department   of  State  published  the  Country  Reports  on  Terrorism  2011.3      This  report  laments  that  terrorism   remains   a   global   threat   requiring   global   counterterrorism   cooperation.    Though  Osama  bin  Laden  was  already  killed,  he  remained  an  iconic  leader  by  those  influenced  and  inspired  by  his  ideas  and  actions.          Though   already   weakened   as   a   result   of   various   counterterrorism   measures,   Al  Qaeda  remains  alive.      In  Asia,  there  are  still  individuals  who  are  influenced,  inspired  and  even  associated  with  Al  Qaeda.        In  Southeast  Asia,  Al-­‐Qaeda  linked,  influenced  and  inspired  organizations  continue  to  pose  a  threat  to  regional  security  eleven  years  after  9/11.                                                                                                                    3US   State   Department,   Country   Reports   on   Terrorism   2011   (Washington   DC:     Bureau   of  Counterterrorism,  July  2012),  p.  181.     2  
    • Indonesia   is   considered   to   be   the   epicenter   of   terrorist   threats   in   Southeast   Asia  because   of   Jemaah   Islamiya   (JI),   a   homegrown   violent   extremist   group.     Though   JI  already   disintegrated   as   result   of   the   killing   and   arrest   of   their   key   leaders,   it  continues  to  have  a  thousand  followers  in  Indonesia,  Malaysia  and  the  Philippines.        Because  JI  is  in  the  wanted  list  of  foreign  terrorist  organizations,  its  members  have,  in   fact,   formed   another   group   as   a   cover.     This   group   is   called   Jamaah   Ansharut  Tauhid  (JAT)  led  by  no  less  than  the  JI  co-­‐founder,  Abu  Bakar  Bashir.4          The  U.S.  government  already  classified  JAT  as  a  foreign  terrorist  organization.    Like  JI,   JAT   has   followers   not   only   in   Indonesia   but   also   in   Malaysia,   the   Southern  Thailand,   and   even   the   Southern   Philippines.     Like   JI,   JAT   also   has   a   dream   of  establishing   an   Islamic   caliphate   in   Southeast   Asia   that   includes   the   Southern  Philippines.    The   U.S.   Department   of   State   claims   that   the   Philippines   remains   as   a   “terrorist   safe  haven”  in  its  Country  Reports  on  Terrorism.5    In  the  Philippines,  it  is  common  to  refer  to  the  Abu  Sayyaf  Group  (ASG)  when  talking  about  terrorist  threats.        There  is  a  debate  on  whether  the  ASG  is  a  rebel,  terrorist  or  a  mere  bandit  group.6    Some   carelessly   describe   the   ASG   as   the   Frankenstein   monster   of   the   Philippine  military.   The   media   interchangeably   describes   the   ASG   as   a   bandit   and   a   terrorist  group.     But   the   United   States   decisively   classifies   the   ASG   as   a   foreign   terrorist  organization.  In  my  continuing  study  of  the  ASG  for  more  than  15  years,  I  have  learned  that  the  ASG  has  evolved  into  a  non-­‐state  armed  group  with  multiple  personalities  involved  in  various  acts  of  violence.7      When   Abdurajak   Janjalani   formed   the   group   in   1989,   his   original   intention   was   to  bridge   the   divide   between   the   Moro   National   Liberation   Front   (MNLF)   of   Nur                                                                                                                  4  International  Crisis  Group,  Indonesia:    The  Dark  Side  of  Jama’ah  Ansharut  Tauhid  (JAT)  (Asia  Briefing  Number  107,  6  July  2010).    5  Ibid.    6Soliman     M.   Santos,   Jr.   and   Octavio   A.   Dinampo.   “Abu   Sayyaf   Reloaded:     Rebels,   Agents,   Bandits,  Terrorists  (Case  Study)  in  Soliman  Santos,  et,  al.  Primed  and  Purposeful:    Armed  Groups  and  Human  Security  Efforts  in  the  Philippines  (Geneva:  Small  Arms  Survey,  2010),  pp.  115-­‐138.  7For   my   most   updated   publication   on   the   ASG,   see   Rommel   C.   Banlaoi,   Al-­Harakatul   Al-­Islamiyyah:    Essays   on   the   Abu   Sayyaf   Group,   3rd   edition   (Quezon   City:     Philippine   Institute   for   Peace,   Violence   and  Terrorism  Research,  2012).       3  
    • Misuari   and   the   Moro   Islamic   Liberation   Front   (MILF)   of   the   late   Hashim   Salamat.    Thus,  Abdurajak  recruited  followers  from  the  MNLF  and  the  MILF.  But  when  he  died  in  1998,  the  ASG  rapidly  degenerated  into  a  bandit  group  engaged  in   kidnapping,   extortion   and   smuggling   activities   under   the   leadership   of   his  brother,  Khadaffy  Janjalani.      At   present,   the   ASG   has   adopted   a   cellular-­‐type   structure   led   by   commanders   in  their  respective  geographical  turfs.      With  many  commanders  at  the  helm  of  a  single  group,  the  ASG  has  already  evolved  into  a  highly  promiscuous  armed  group  linked  with  other  armed  groups  engaged  in  terrorism,   insurgency,   banditry   and   other   violent   acts.     It   has   also   become   a   very  resilient  armed  group  having  been  protected  by  some  corrupt  local  politicians  and  a  few   scalawags   in   uniform   who   benefit   from   ASG’s   violent   activities.8   Some   ASG  members   even   serve   as   private   armed   escorts   of   a   few   local   politicians   in   Sulu,  Basilan  and  Tawi-­‐Tawi,  particularly  during  elections.    Thus,  the  ASG  of  the  late  80’s  is  no  longer  the  ASG  of  today.    In  fact,  some  armed  men  who  claim  to  be  followers  of  the  ASG  are  also  claiming  to  be  followers  of  the  MNLF  and  the  MILF,  depending  on  the  situation.    Current   remnants   still   prefer   to   use   the   name,   ASG,   as   it   has   become   a   very  convenient   trademark   for   their   violent   activities.       Ustadj   Abdul   Rasul   Sayyaf,   the  real   person   whom   this   trademark   is   based,   is   very   displeased   to   see   his   name   being  used  in  the  Philippines  for  violent  purposes.    Since   the   global   war   on   terrorism   in   2001,   the   Philippine   government   has   already  put   to   justice   many   ASG   members   for   committing   various   crimes   associated   with  terrorism.        But   the   ASG   threat   persists   because   the   ASG   has   a   survival   instinct   that   is   also  shared  by  some  likeminded  groups  abroad.        ASG’s   staying   power   comes   from   the   continuous   supply   of   illiterate   and   out-­‐of-­‐school  youth  in  Mindanao  joining  the  group  for  a  variety  of  reasons  from  personal,  economic,  social,  and  political.9    In  fact,  the  ASG’s  rank-­‐and-­‐file  is  composed  of  some  young   orphans   being   abused   by   old   commanders   to   mount   various   kidnap-­‐for-­‐ransom  and  extortion  activities.                                                                                                                      8Rommel  C.  Banlaoi,    “The  Sources  of  Abu  Sayyaf  Resilience  in  the  Southern  Philippines”.   CTC  Sentinel  (3  May  2010).  9Rommel   C.   Banlaoi,   “The   Pull   of   Terrorism:     A   Philippine   Case   Study”.   Youth   and   Terrorism:     A  Selection  of  Articles   (Kuala   Lumpur:     Southeast   Asian   Regional   Centre   for   Counter-­‐   Terrorism,   2011),  pp.  39-­‐50.     4  
    •  The   Philippine   military   says   that   the   ASG   has   around   400-­‐armed   members   as   of  2010.10       Most   of   its   members   operate   mainly   in   Basilan,   Sulu,   Zamboaga   Sibugay  and   Tawi-­‐Tawi.     But   there   are   also   sightings   of   ASG   followers   in   Metro   Manila.      During   the   first   semester   of   2012,   the   Philippine   government   says   that   the   ASG  membership  has  declined  to  around  350.    My   independent   research   on   the   ASG,   however,   indicates   that   the   ASG   has   only  around   100   regular   followers   serving   six   major   commanders   lording   over   in   only  three  major  provinces  in  Mindanao:    Basilan,  Sulu  and  Tawi-­‐Tawi  (BASULTA).        In   Sulu,   which   is   the   epicenter   of   ASG   activities,   there   are   three   major   commanders:    Commander   Radullan   Sahiron,   Commander   Yassir   Igasan,   and   Commander   Hajan  Sawadjaan.   Sahiron   has   only   around   30   regular   armed   followers.   He   is   the  recognized   over-­‐all   operational   commander   of   the   ASG.     Igasan,   who   has   been  rumored   to   be   the   over-­‐all   Amir   of   the   ASG,   only   has   around   5   regular   armed  followers.    Sawadjaan  only  has  around  10  regular  armed  followers.        In   Basilan,   there   are   also   three   major   commanders:     Commander   Isnilon   Hapilon,  Commander   Khair   Mundos,   and   Commander   Puruji   Indama.     Hapinol   has   only  around   20   regular   armed   followers.     Mundos   has   only   around   15   regular   armed  followers  while  Indama  has  only  around  15  regular  armed  followers.      In  Tawi-­‐Tawi,  the  recognized  ASG  commander  in  the  area  is  Jul  Asman  Sawadjaan,  the   brother   of   Hajan   Sawadjaan.     He   is   believed   to   have   at   least   10   regular   armed  followers.    There   is   an   emerging   young   commander   of   the   ASG   by   the   name   of   Nadzmir   Alih.    He  is  an  adopted  son  of  ASG  founder,  Abdurajak  Janjalani.        In   his   mid-­‐30s,   Nadzmir   Alih   operates   in   Basilan   as   a   military   protégé   of   Isnilon  Hapilon  and  in  Sulu  as  spiritual  mentee  of  Yassir  Igasan.    Nadzmir  Allih  has  around  10  regular  armed  young  followers  associated  with  another  group  called  Anak  Ilo  or  orphaned   sons.         His   group   is   responsible   for   a   spate   of   “small-­‐to-­‐medium-­‐scale”  kidnap-­‐for-­‐ransom  activities  in  Sulu  and  Basilan.    Thus,  the  ASG  is  only  a  very  miniscule  armed  group.          But   the   ASG   threat   looms   large   because   it   wields   tremendous   strength   from   its  superb   ability   to   network   with   countless   armed   groups   in   Mindanao   engaged   in  various  criminal,  terrorist,  insurgent  and  even  partisan  political  activities.                                                                                                                        10General  Headquarters  of  the  AFP,  Internal  Peace  and  Security  Plan,  Bayanihan  (Quezon  City:    Armed  Forces  of  the  Philippines  Headquarters,  2010),  p.  12.     5  
    • While   a   few   ASG   commanders   still   embrace   an   Islamic   ideology   that   aims   to  promote   the   establishment   of   a   Islamic   State   in   Mindanao,   most   followers   have  become   violent   entrepreneurs   engaged   in   predatory   economic   activities   such   as  kidnapping,   extortion   and   smuggling   of   arms   and   drugs.       These   violent  entrepreneurs  have  skills  in  jungle  and  urban  warfare.  Worse,  they  have  the  ability  to   manufacture   improvised   explosive   devices   (IEDs)   that   they   use   for   criminal,  terrorist  and  insurgent  activities.    Based   on   our   independent   investigative   research   aided   by   seasoned   intelligence  officers,   we   discovered   that   almost   90%   of   the   funds   of   the   ASG   are   derived   from  illicit   activities,   mainly   from   kidnap-­‐for-­‐ransom   and   extortion.11     As   a   violent   group,  the  ASG  has  also  demonstrated  its  inherent  capability  to  conduct  acts  of  piracy  for  economic  reasons  and  maritime  terrorism  for  political  reasons.12        The   Philippine   government   has   declared   a   policy   of   crushing   the   ASG   through  combined  police  and  military  efforts.      But   it   recognizes   difficulties   in   doing   so   because   of   the   ASG’s   complex   links   with  other   armed   groups   like   the   lawless   elements   of   the   MILF,   rouge   factions   of   the  MNLF,   remnants   of   Jemaah   Islamiyah   (JI)   in   Mindanao   and   other   violent   groups  such   as   the   Al   Khobar   Group   (AKG),   the   Bangsamoro   Islamic   Freedom   Fighters  (BIFF)  and  even  the  New  People’s  Army  (NPA).      The   ASG’s   links   with   some   local   warlords,   government   militias,   and   local  communities  confound  the  already  convoluted  threat  it  poses  to  Philippine  internal  security.  In   other   words,   the   ASG   has   become   “complex   adaptive   system”   with   a   superb  survival  instinct.        This  instinct  to  survive  is  reinforced  by  their  complex  linkages  with  one  another  as  well   as   with   ordinary   organized   crimes   groups   and   partisan   armed   movements.      Underlying   issues   of   abject   poverty,   inefficient   governance,   ethnic   conflict,   clan  feuding   and   religious/ideological   intolerance,   among   others,   also   fuel   the   staying  power  of  the  ASG.      Most  importantly,  the  ASG  knows  how  to  learn  from  its  past  mistakes.                                                                                                                        11Rodolfo  B.  Mendoza,  Jr.,  “The  Evolution  of  Terrorist  Financing  in  the  Philippines”  (Paper  presented  at   the   International   Conference   in   Countering   the   Financing   of   Terrorism   at   the   Sulu   Hotel,  Philippines,  7-­‐8  July  2008).    12Rommel   C.   Banlaoi.   “The   Abu   Sayyaf   Group:   Threat   of   Maritime   Piracy   and   Terrorism   in   Peter   Lehr  (ed),     Violence   at   Sea.     Piracy   in   the   Age   of   Global   Terrorism   (New   York:   Routledge,   2007),   pp.   121-­‐138.     6  
    • Based   on   the   documents   and   reading   materials   we   accessed   from   various   ASG  camps,     some   ASG   leaders   study   history,   particularly   the   history   of   Islam   in  Mindanao.        Let   me   conclude   my   talk   by   stressing   that   terrorism   continues   to   pose   a   serious  threat  to  Asia  and  the  Philippines  11  years  after  9/11.        Without   our   knowledge   of   History,   it   will   be   very   difficult   for   us   to   address   this  threat  now  and  in  the  future.    Thank  you  very  much  for  your  attention.       7