Crime-Terrorism-Insurgency Nexus in the Philippines


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Crime-Terrorism-Insurgency Nexus in the Philippines

  1. 1.   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     CRIME-­TERRORISM-­INSURGENCY  NEXUS   IN  THE  PHILIPPINES     Rommel  C.  Banlaoi   Chairman  of  the  Board  and  Executive  Director   Philippine  Institute  for  Peace,  Violence  and  Terrorism  Research   Email:    Presented  at  the  International  C onference   o n   N ational   a nd   R egional   S ecurity:   C ountering   O rganized  Crime  a nd  T errorism  in  t he  A SEAN  P olitical  S ecurity  a nd  C ommunity  ( APSC)  o rganized  b y  t he    German-­Southeast  Asian  Center  of  Excellence  for  Public  Policy  and  Good  Governance  (CPG),  Faculty  of  Law,   Thammasat   University,   Bangkok,   Thailand   on   19-­20   September   2012.   Please   check   against  delivery.      I   am   truly   honored   to   stand   before   you   to   candidly   discuss   the   issue   of   crime-­‐terrorism-­‐insurgency   nexus   in   the   Philippines.     This   presentation   is   based   on   the  various   scholarly   research   works   I   conducted   on   the   topic   over   a   span   of   eleven  years  after  September  11,  2001  (9/11).        In   my   various   publications,   I   have   always   argued   that   terrorist   threats   in   the  Philippines   cannot   be   fully   understood   if   not   analyzed   in   the   context   of   a   larger  environment   in   which   we   find   ourselves.     Terrorism   in   the   Philippines   has   always  been   inextricably   linked   with   crime   and   insurgency   problems.     In   fact,   terrorism,  crime  and  insurgency  threats  are  also  deeply  enmeshed  in  panoply  of  other  related  internal   security   concerns   associated   with   warlordism,   violent   entrepreneurship,  clan  warfare,  revenge  killing,  personal  vendetta,  and  local  political  dynamics.        So-­‐called  terrorist  groups  in  the  Philippines  are  not  only  parts  of  larger  insurgency  movements  from  the  Moro  and  Communist  fronts.  They  are  also  tightly  woven  in  a  complex  network  of  organized  criminal  activities  like  trafficking/smuggling  of  arms,  drugs   and   humans   as   well   extortion,   car  napping,   kidnapping   operations   and   even  illegal   logging.     Complicating   this   dreadful   situation   is   the   depressing   reality   that  these  terrorist  groups  not  only  have  tactical  alliances  with  each  other  but  also  have  some   “violent   entrepreneurial   relations”   with   some   corrupt   elected   local   officials  and  with  a  few  misfits  in  the  police  and  the  military  sectors.        These  armed  groups  and  individuals  create  and  perpetuate  the  violent  economy  of  Mindanao  where  guns  and  goons  rule  in  a  semi-­‐anarchic  society.     1  
  2. 2. Without  a  nuanced  knowledge  of  the  whole  gamut  of  these  issues,  crime-­‐terrorism-­‐insurgency  nexus  in  the  Philippines,  therefore,  will  be  very  difficult  to  subdue.    The  involvement   of   children   and   young   people   in   this   nexus   exacerbate   this   bewildering  problem.  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.1    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.2      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  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.3   Some   ASG   members   even   serve   as   private   armed   escorts   of  a  few  local  politicians  in  Sulu,  Basilan  and  Tawi-­‐Tawi,  particularly  during  elections.                                                                                                                    1Soliman     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.  2For   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).  3Rommel  C.  Banlaoi,    “The  Sources  of  Abu  Sayyaf  Resilience  in  the  Southern  Philippines”.   CTC  Sentinel  (3  May  2010).     2  
  3. 3. 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.4    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.        The   Philippine   military   says   that   the   ASG   has   around   400-­‐armed   members   as   of  2010.5      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.                                                                                                                      4Rommel   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.  5General   Headquarters   of   the   AFP,  Internal   Peace   and   Security   Plan,   Bayanihan   (Quezon   City:     Armed  Forces  of  the  Philippines  Headquarters,  2010),  p.  12.     3  
  4. 4.  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.        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.6    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.7                                                                                                                      6Rodolfo  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).  7Rommel  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.     4  
  5. 5.  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.      As   such,   the   U.S.   Department   of   State   claims   that   the   Philippines   remains   as   a  “terrorist  safe  haven”  in  its  Country  Reports  on  Terrorism  published  in  July  2012.8    It  even  warns  that  through  the  ASG  and  the  country’s  porous  border,  the  Southern  Philippines  can  be  used  to  transport  weapons  of  mass  destruction  (WMD).9    Allow   me   to   conclude   by   stressing   that   the   ASG   is   an   excellent   example   of   the   nexus  of   crime,   terrorism   and   insurgency.     Countering   the   threat   posed   by   the   ASG   is   a  formidable   challenge   not   only   for   law   enforcement   and   other   concerned  government  agencies  but  also  for  the  wider  society  of  citizens  who  are  often  times  victims,   casualties,   and   collateral   damages   of   criminal,   terrorist   and   insurgent  activities.    Thank  you  very  much  for  your  attention.                                                                                                                          8US   State   Department,   Country   Reports   on   Terrorism   2011   (Washington   DC:     Bureau   of  Counterterrorism,  July  2012),  p.  181.  9Ibid.     5