Frontline World


Philippines: ISLANDS UNDER SIEGE, June 2003



Read through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around this story, including responses from the reporter.

Mindanao is such a beautiful place, and the people the absolute nicest. It is such a shame that a small minority can adversely affect so many peaceful peoples lives. Of all the places I could live, I would like to live there, but I can't. My wife is from the opposite side of Mindanao, and we have family in Davao. I don't know of any other way than to answer terrorism with a very strong hand. Nobody does...

Esperanza La Paz - Hawaii
Thank you for this very personal, compelling and unbiased account of the conflict in the southern philippines. as a filipina/US citizen i have been very concerned about the US military intervention in the philippines. until now there has been little media coverage of this issue in the states. most accounts attempt to justify the military presence as an extention of the "war on terrorism." small rebel fractions like the Abu Sayyaf are being lumped together with the MILF under the umbrella of the islamic separatists platform and labeled as terrorist organizations by the philippine and US governments. joint military operations like "balikatan" are classified as training exercises, allowing the US military to use the philippines as a training ground for it's soldiers to gain actual combat experience even though such operations are prohibited by philippine constitution.

It is important to draw attention to the hundreds of thousands of civilians that have been murdered, displaced and continue to be victims of colonial imperialism. mindanao has been predominantly muslim for over a thousand years; the land and it's resources rightfully belong to the indigenous peoples. their rights should not be violently disregarded by the military who are sponsored by international corporate investors that seek only to rape the islands of their precious natural resources. this documentary presented the human side of guerrilla's srtuggle for independence and preservation of their culture.

Rich Palo - Jersey city, New Jersey
I kinda disagree with your comments that you made. I think the Filipino government should have a right to ask help from our allies, the United States. As for the constitution of the Philippines, (it) should give the right to the people and the government to seek aid to end an ongoing feud. I think it's a great idea that the U.S is trying to help the Filipino army. The Philippines government is just trying to find a much more faster way of ending the murders of civilians in the south of the Philippines. Those Muslim groups are just murdering civilians. If it takes asking for help to end the murder of anymore civilians in Mindanao, I say bring in the reinforcements to the Philippines to end this civil war in the Philippines.

Seldon Wasson - Flagstaff, Arizona
I was surprised not to see or hear any mention of Abu Sayyaf as a player in the upheaval. I have a Filipina journalist friend who says her information is that Abu Sayyaf is much more active than the MILF. Any comments? Thanks.

Producer Margarita Dragon responds:
We decided to focus on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front because they are not just a military group, but one that actually has political aspirations, as opposed to Abu Sayyaf which has degenerated into a violent kidnap for ransom gang. The Abu Sayyaf has lost its ideology and does not represent the grievances of Mindanao's Muslim population. You'll find that most Muslims in Mindanao would like to see the end of Abu Sayyaf. Contrary to what your friend said, the MILF has been the most active Islamic rebel group. As you may know, peace talks broke down and a new Philippine military offensive began in February this year. The new fighting claimed almost 200 lives this year alone. Fortunately, the past few weeks brought hopes for resuming negotiations. Let's hope the talks this time will pave the way to peace. Thank you for your comment.