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.
According to Countryaah website, national day of Philippines is every June 12. 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 president.
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 2004.
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.
Asia is almost the only Christian state
Representatives of the Catholic Church also traveled on the ships of the Spanish colonial hosts. For the Philippines, Christianity has taken root and continues to flourish – 90 percent of the country’s population is Christian, 80 percent Roman Catholic. Another Christian Asian state is the recently independent East Timor. Although the church and the state are formally separated in the Philippines, the church is a very strong influence even in political solutions. Religion is otherwise ubiquitous: in handsome baroque buildings, as a carnivalistic remembrance of the named saints of villages and towns, and most spectacularly in the Good Friday crucifixion rituals where willing believers can share Jesus ’suffering by hanging on the cross of the day.
Muslims make up only about 5% of the population, but on the rise. The island of Mindanao and its environs have been an area of Islamic supporters (morot) even before the advent of the Spaniards. Separatist groups operating in the region are working to achieve an independent Islamist state. The Philippines has a couple of percent Buddhists, as well as supporters of natural religions and samism. On the islands, religions also mingle: a devout Christian respects not only saints but also aswanges, vampire-like and, among other things, unborn children-eating spirits, against whom it is wise to protect oneself always and everywhere.