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Mindanao Heats Up

June 10, 2008

There is no intent to cause undue alarm but the string of violent events in the Philippines’ deep South and they cannot be ignored, must less covered by any news blackout or, in journalistic parlance, any story embargo given that they now involve more than property damage but human lives. including that of civilian ‘non-combatants’.

Coming on the heels of the still unresolved (and just hours old) reported abduction in Sulu of television reporter and news anchor Ces Drilon (ABS-CBN, Drilon’s mother netwoork is officially saying only that Ces and her two-man news crew are “missing.”) is this story from the Associated Press:

“Navy helicopter in aid mission apparently shot at

The Associated Press
Monday, June 9, 2008; 12:12 PM

WASHINGTON — A U.S. helicopter on a humanitarian mission in the Philippines apparently was shot at, prompting the Navy to temporally halt the mission, a defense official said Monday.

An MH-60 helicopter operating from USNS Mercy hospital ship had gone to pick up 11 passengers about 50 miles inland, and two bullet holes were found when the aircraft returned to the ship with the passengers.

“The holes appear to be an entry and exit point from a single bullet,” said Cmdr. Jeff A. Davis, a Navy spokesman.

It is unclear if the bullet struck while the passengers were on the helicopter, he said. There were no injuries and the aircraft’s commander was unaware of any bullet striking the aircraft during the flight, Davis said.

The Mercy is anchored in Cotabatu ( correction, Cotabato City), conducting Pacific Partnership 08, a humanitarian civic assistance mission between nations _ and with non-governmental organizations _ to provide medical, dental, construction and other services ashore and afloat.

“The USNS Mercy mission commander has ceased all Mercy Pacific Partnership activities until a proper assessment can be made,” Davis said in an e-mail.”

Wthout comment, we should here that the for mayor of Cotabato is Muslemen Sema, currently chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

These two incidents aside, over the past month, several high voltage poer transmission towers were felled by bombers in Lanao Norte and Sure. while a bomb, possibly triggered using a mobile phone, exploded just outside the Andrews military air base in Zamboanga city, killing three and injuring 23 other including four personnel working for a USAID-funded project.

It remains unclear who are behind the bomb attacks, but authorities have variously blamed either the MNLF, MILF, or rogue/break-away elements.

In the meantime, public fears simmer.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 10, 2008 10:48 pm

    It’s funny I happened to catch this one this morning…yesterday I was in town and talked to a friend of my dad who was stationed in the Phillipines supporting Air Force craft near Manilla.

    He told me that ever since before the Japanese came, communists were hiding back in the south part of the island, presumably where the aid’s been going and where this happened (NPR had it on way to work). The occupation forces steered clear of them; it was sort of a mutual understanding. They were also there during all the time from those days until at least 1970 when Bob’s tour was over.

    Apparently the modus operandi was a ‘leave them alone and they’d leave you alone’ kind of thing.

    Now, based on the AP story you share, I’m going to assume that those guys (well, I guess they’d be the grandsons of the original guys) are still a tad bit on the xenophobic side. I can think of better ways to keep their isolation than to fire on U.S. military craft, though. That sort of behaviour can pretty well create complications to life and make one wish he hadn’t….their fears may well be the ones that simmer should we start sending patrols ambling into their ‘private spaces’…..

    Good one, very good blog overall, and thanks for sharing.

    phil – Alton, IL

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