Philippines. At the beginning of the year, over a
thousand American soldiers arrived in the country to assist
the Philippine army in its offensive against the Islamist
Abu Sayyaf guerrilla, which is suspected of having contacts
with the terrorist network al-Qaeda.
However, the US military would not participate in any
fighting as this would run counter to the Philippine
constitution. The decision to receive assistance from the
United States drew strong domestic criticism from both
nationalist and leftist politicians, but had strong support
in the opinion polls conducted in the spring.
Countryaah website, US President Bush offered even more support, but Arroyo
declined. The Philippines was rewarded by the United States
for its cooperation with promises of favorable trade terms,
new investments and commitments on new military equipment.
Some observers believe that Abu Sayyaf's importance was
exaggerated and that the group was more interested in
cashing in ransom than establishing a Muslim state in the
southern part of the country.
Foreign Minister Teofisto Guingona left the government
during the summer. Guingona had resisted receiving US troops
in the Philippines. However, he retained the post of vice
A number of new acts of violence shook the Philippines
during the year. Muslim separatists were suspected of a
number of bomb attacks, including on the island of Mindanao
in the south with several deaths as a result. On Christmas
Eve, at least 13 were killed in a bomb attack. Prosecutions
were primarily directed against Abu Sayyaf, but members of
another Muslim group, the MILF, and the left-wing guerrilla
New People's Army were suspected of being behind the
violence despite a cease-fire agreement. At the same time,
clashes between the government army and various guerrilla
groups were reported.
Abu Sayyaf was also charged with a series of kidnappings.
Several of those arrested were executed. An American
missionary, Martin Burnham, and a Filipino nurse, Deborah
Yap, were killed in June in connection with the Army making
an exemption attempt.
At the end of the year, President Arroyo suddenly
announced that she did not intend to run for re-election in
In April, the Supreme Court ordered police to hand over
thousands of documents about their arbitrary executions of
thousands of suspects. Two human rights organizations, the
Free Legal Assistance Group and the Center for International
Law, had filed a lawsuit against the state to gain access to
the reports. The state refused to extradite them citing
state security. An argument the Supreme Court ended up
rejecting. It still has to deal with a case from the two
organizations that want to make known the Duterte regime's
executions in violation of the constitution. The
International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates whether the
regime's executions can be characterized as genocide.
Duterte has responded again by withdrawing the country from
the ICC. A report by the organization Armed Conflict
Location & Event Data Project documented in July that the
Philippines is the 4th most dangerous place in the world for
civilians, surpassed only by India, Syria and Yemen. The
background is Duterte's drug war. A few days later, the UN
Human Rights Council voted to launch an investigation into
the regime's execution policy. It had for weeks tried to
prevent the vote in the council and now threatened not to
ban the council's access to the country.