Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 - Philippines

The Philippines in 2002 continued to work closely with international counterparts in the global war on terrorism and made significant progress in counterterrorism legislation, legal action against suspected terrorists, and hostage-rescue efforts. The Philippines has signed, but not ratified, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism Financing. The Philippines is a party to six out of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia also signed a counterterrorism agreement on 7 May that establishes a framework for cooperation and interoperability of the three nations' procedures for handling border and security incidents. The agreement, which Thailand and Cambodia have now joined, enumerates 20 different projects.

The Philippines passed anti-money-laundering legislation in September 2001 and adopted related regulations in March 2002. The law criminalized money laundering, called for the establishment of a system of covered-transaction reporting, and created the Anti-Money-Laundering Council (AMLC). The 2001 legislation was insufficient to get the Philippines removed from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of Non-Cooperating Countries and Territories. Based on FATF recommendations, however, the AMLC prepared a new draft bill that seeks to eliminate weaknesses in the existing legislation by lowering the reporting threshold, eliminating the requirement of a court order to freeze accounts, and revising bank-secrecy provisions. The Philippine Congress had not approved it by the end of the year, however.

On 19 November, as a result of an investigation by the US Embassy's Customs Attache Office, the Philippine Court of Appeals moved to block the assets in bank accounts suspected of being owned or controlled by key Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members or their family members.

In January 2002, Nur Misuari, former Moro National Liberation Front leader and ex-governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and an aide were transferred from Malaysia back to the Philippines where they have been detained. In late 2001, Malaysian authorities had arrested Misuari after he and his aides had fled the Philippines following an uprising in November 2001 that claimed the lives of 113 persons. The Philippine Government filed sedition and rebellion charges against Misuari, based on allegations that he instigated the attacks, and at year's end his trial was ongoing.

The Philippines made a series of arrests of suspected extremists and terrorists in 2002. On 15 January, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Immigration agents arrested Indonesian citizen Fathur Rahman Al-Ghozi, a.k.a. Abu Saad or Sammi Sali Jamin, in Manila on charges of forging travel documents. Al-Ghozi is a member of the regional terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiya (JI), which has a close connection to some elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic extremist group in the Philippines. Members of the JI used a MILF base for training in the past. The JI operated its own training facility at an MILF camp, although its current status is unclear. Based on information supplied by Al-Ghozi, police and military intelligence agents raided two houses in General Santos City. They arrested three brothers and seized TNT, detonators, rolls of detonating cord, and M-16 rifles. Al-Ghozi pled guilty to possession of explosives and was sentenced to a 10-12 year jail term and fined. He still faces charges of illegal possession of assault rifles.

Philippine authorities in March arrested three other Indonesian citizens – Agus Dwikarna, Abdul Jamal Balfas, and Tamsil Linrung – in Manila and charged them with unlawful possession of explosive materials. Balfas and Linrung were later handed over to Indonesian authorities. On 12 July, Dwikarna was convicted by a Philippine regional trial court and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

In 2002, the US Department of Justice issued several terrorist-related indictments against Philippine nationals, and other indictments are pending. On 23 July, the US Deputy Attorney General announced an indictment charging five ASG leaders with taking US citizens hostage, hostage taking resulting in death, and conspiracy resulting in death. This action mirrors an indictment in February 2002 that previously had been kept sealed for fear of endangering the lives of ASG-held hostages.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has undertaken other initiatives to rescue ASG-held hostages. During the first half of 2002, the AFP launched an operation to locate and rescue hostages held by the ASG, including US citizens Gracia and Martin Burnham. On 7 June, AFP forces rescued Mrs. Burnham, but tragically, Mr. Burnham and Philippine nurse Deborah Yap were killed during the operation. Two weeks later, Philippine special warfare troops fired at a vessel carrying ASG leader Aldam Tilao, a.k.a. Abu Sabaya, responsible for taking the hostages. Sabaya's body was never found, but there is strong evidence that he is dead. Four other ASG members were captured during the incident.

In August 2002, the AFP launched Operation End Game, which is aimed at rescuing three Indonesians, four Filipino Jehovah's Witness members, and one remaining hostage taken in 2000 and still held by the ASG. The operation is also geared to locating and destroying ASG subgroups operating in Jolo and Basilan.

In other activities targeting the ASG, beginning in January 2002, the US military provided a broad range of training to the AFP to improve its ability to fight the ASG. During the training program, 10 US servicemen were killed in an accident when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed into the Sulu Sea. On 2 October, one US serviceman was killed and another wounded in a bombing that targeted US personnel. The ASG is believed to be responsible for the attack.

In May, the US Government launched a Rewards for Justice campaign targeting ASG leaders. Under the program, the US Government offered to pay up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the following ASG terrorists: Amir Khadafi Abubakar Janjalani, a.k.a. Abu Mukhtar; Jainal Antel Sali, Jr., a.k.a. Abu Solaiman; Aldam Tilao, a.k.a. Abu Sabaya (presumed dead); Isnilon Totoni Hapilon, a.k.a. Abu Musab; and Hamsiraji Sali, a.k.a. Jose Ramirez.

The Philippine Government publicly welcomed the US Government's designation in August 2002 of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA), as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The US Government also designated CPP/NPA and its founder Jose Maria Sison pursuant to Executive Order 13224. Authorities in The Netherlands, where Sison is living in self-exile, subsequently froze assets in his bank accounts there and cut off his social benefits. In October, Philippine Foreign Secretary Ople urged the European Union to place a similar designation on a faction of the CPP, the National Democratic Front (NDF). The Philippines continued to campaign for inclusion of all Communist factions, the CPP, NPA, and NDF, on the Sanctions Committee's consolidated list of individuals and entities associated with Usama Bin Ladin, the members of al-Qaida, and those of the Taliban, whose assets UN member states are required to freeze pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Throughout 2002, the Communist People's Party/ New People's Army/New Democratic Front (CPP/ NPA/NDF) continued sporadic attacks against Government and commercial sites as well as against public officials and private citizens. In September, the Communist New People's Army (NPA) claimed responsibility for assassinating a mayor, attacking a police station (and killing the police chief), and blowing up a mobile telecommunications-transmission station. The violence in September prompted the AFP to launch a new counterinsurgency drive against NPA fighters. A coordinated campaign by military forces, police units, and civilian volunteers – called Gordian Knot – was aimed at overrunning CPP/NPA/NDF strongholds and capturing terrorist suspects. Nevertheless, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration at the end of 2002 remained open to a negotiated peace settlement with the CPP/NPA/NDF.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.