Armed conflict with ISIS on Philippines – talk with anarchist comrade

– Hi, comrade!

– Greetings comrades from the Pramen collective.

– Can you please briefly tell us about political environment and ethnic power balance in Philippines?

– I am a native of the island of Mindanao. It is considered through the statist lens as the “Philippine’s last frontier”. For the sake of simplification there are three major ethnic groups in Mindanao. Namely:

1. The un-islamized indigenous ethnic groups collectively dubbed as the Lumads,

2. The Islamized ethnic groups dubbed by the Spanish during it’s colonial period in the archipelago as the “Moros”.

3. And lastly the Christian settlers mostly originating from the Visayas group of islands who came in droves during the 1950’s.

The conflict between between the Moros and the Christian Filipinos is deeply rooted during the colonial period of Spain when the Spanish colonial Government pitted them against each other, employing the classic divide and rule tactic. Today there are three major insurgencies that exists in Mindanao; The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which has a peace deal with the Philippine government during the 1990’s which created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – a conservative split from the MNLF and finally the Marxist-Lenninist-Maoist CPP-NPA-NDF which aims to overthrow the government to create a Socialist state through people’s protracted war. Today the MILF and MNLF is in a ceasefire with The Philippine Government, While the CPP-NPA-NDF has ordered its armed wing to step up the attack upon the declaration of Martial law by the Philippine president Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

As for the so-called ISIS in the Philippines, it all started with Isnilon Hapilon a high ranking commander of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abu Sayaff. He pledged allegiance to ISIS sometime around 2013-2014. other groups sprung up in the mainland of the Island such as the Maute group ( founded by the Maute brothers (both are former policemen) and the Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao. I’m not sure when but these groups have merged and with the help of the Maute group smuggled Isnilon Hapilon in the mainland. The official narrative by the media for the time being was that the police and military conducted an operation in Marawi to kill or capture Hapilon. This triggered a Pentakasi (collective defense) by allies and members of his group which triggered the current events unfolding. we are currently watching these events as they unfold. Although ISIS is a threat we the anarchists of the Philippines remain vigilant to the on going martial law in the country.

– How would you evaluate the popularity of Islamism in Philippines? What kind of people is attracted to this ideas and why?

– In the Philippines due to the terrain and the placement of it’s infrastructures and settlements, light infantry tactics/guerrilla warfare is the most favorable form of combat. The MNLF and the MILF during it’s time of conflict with the government fights conventional warfare but for the purpose of defending their territories. They have attacked nearby Christian communities in the past have done so for the purpose of making a statement rather than expanding its territories. Based on what happened during the Zamboanga siege by the MNLF in 2013 (a 20-day armed conflict in Zamboanga City, Philippines between the forces of the Republic of the Philippines and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, when this MNLF faction attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republic at Zamboanga City Hall, led to more than 200 dead) and the 1990 Mindanao crisis (attempt to implement to state coup and proclaim the independence of the Federal Republic of Mindanao on October 4, 1990). by mutineers from the Philippine armed forces, any insurgent force would simply be surrounded and bombed by the armed forces of the Philippines (take note major urban areas are coastal cities). As for the countryside which comprises mainly of towns and villages inland, it is already saturated with other armed groups i.e the private army of politicians and feudal landlords, the army and it’s paramilitary assets as well as other insurgents such as the MILF, the MNLF and the maoist New people’s army. ISIS is a newcomer to the mainland of Mindanao. Remember it is a small island with many language groups. the Tausug (Philippine ethnic group comprising around 1,3 mln people, a part of larger Muslim Moro community – note Pramen), Philippinian fighters belonging to the Abu Sayaff were quickly detected because they were heard by locals speaking another language. At most the most feasible military action ISIS can do is make jungle camps as a base for terror attacks in the urban areas.

ACP of government forces, captured by ISIS fighters.

As for your second question any armed group in the island can easily recruit from impoverished unemployed youth which is sadly in abundance in the island. They can also recruit from disillusioned MILF and MNLF fighters. A training video was released by Isis which showed one fighter wearing a mask and a MILF provincial police uniform.

And also Saudi wahhabist missionaries have already entered the island. This has the potential of increasing their recruitment pool.

Also, now it is Ramadan and yesterday it is suppose to be Iftar for the evacuees. relief goods from the national government are delayed until tomorrow morning due to the fear of the supplies being ambushed. The evacuees will have to rely on their host cities to feed them.

– Thank’s a lot for a talk!

– Mabuhay Pramen Collective! Mabuhay ang mga anarkista sa pilipinas ang internasyunal Anarchist movement! (Long live Pramen collective! Long live anarchists on Phillippines! Long live international anarchist movement – Pramen’s translation)

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