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Cablegate: Philippines: 2006 Country Reports On Terrorism

DE RUEHML #5038/01 3540617
O 200617Z DEC 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. The Philippines, one of the earliest
supporters in the global coalition against terrorism,
continues to cooperate with the United States on bilateral
and multilateral counterterrorism efforts. In 2006,
ninety-three bombings occurred in the Philippines from
improvised explosive devices, grenades, and landmines. The
Armed Forces of the Philippines launched on August 1 an
ongoing operation codenamed "Operation Ultimatum" against
leading members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah
on Jolo Island. The Anti-Terrorism Task Force arrested,
captured, or killed 88 suspected terrorists, and seized over
900 kilograms of explosive materials. Philippine authorities
also made progress in tracking, blocking, and seizing
terrorists' assets. Nevertheless, major evidentiary and
procedural obstacles in the Philippines continue to hinder
the building of effective terrorism cases, and a large and
growing case backlog and the absence of continuous,
contiguous trials for terrorism cases are impediments to the
Philippines' prosecution of suspected terrorists. The House
of Representatives in April approved a draft counterterrorism
bill, while the Senate continues to deliberate on a different
version. End Summary.

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2. (U) The Philippines, one of the earliest supporters in
the global coalition against terrorism, continues to
cooperate closely with the United States on bilateral and
multilateral counterterrorism efforts.

3. (U) The Philippines faces numerous threats from
terrorism. Operating within the country are the Abu Sayyaf
Group (ASG), Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's
Army (CPP/NPA), and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), all of which the
U.S. Government has designated as Foreign Terrorist
Organizations (FTOs). In addition, the Alex Boncayao Brigade
(ABB) and the Pentagon Gang are on the U.S. Terrorist
Exclusion List. Embassy has also recommended inclusion of
yet another local group on the FTO list -- the Rajah Solaiman
Movement (RSM) -- and this proposal remains under

4. (U) In 2006, 93 bombings and 28 non-criminal mechanical
explosions left 65 persons dead and 258 injured in the
Philippines, according to the Philippine National Police
(PNP) Bomb Data Center. According to PNP, 35 bombings were
the result of improvised explosive devices, 50 from grenades,
and eight from landmines. PNP investigations established the
motives for 16 of the 93 bombings as terrorism, while 35
stemmed from vandalism, ten for "revenge," two for
"political" reasons, and one for "personal" reasons. The
motives for the remaining 29 bombings remain unknown.

5. (U) In February, the bombing of a videoke bar located
near a Philippine military base on Jolo Island left one dead
and 22 injured. During March, a bomb exploded at the Sulu
Consumers' Cooperative on Jolo, killing nine people and
injuring 20. In June, a roadside bombing in Shariff Aguak
killed three people and injured eight. In August, two bombs
exploded almost simultaneously in Kidapawan City, injuring
three people. In September, a bomb exploded at a public
market in General Santos City, killing two people and
injuring six. In October, a bomb exploded near the
headquarters of the Sulu PNP in Jolo, injuring two persons.
Also in October, three bombs exploded in Tacurong, Sultan
Kudurat; Makilala, North Cotabato; and Cotabato City, killing
eight people and injuring over 30.

6. (U) Philippine authorities recovered 36 IEDs/IED
components, 145 military ordnance/vintage bombs, and 11
explosive ingredients during 2006. Nineteen bomb
threats/hoaxes and one theft of explosives also occurred in
2006, according to PNP data.

7. (U) Philippine authorities had a number of successes
against terrorists in 2006. On March 10, Philippine
authorities arrested ASG member Ali Ambing in Valenzuela
City, north of Manila, for his involvement in the February
2004 Superferry 14 bombing and an October 2002 bombing in
Zamboanga that killed U.S. Army SFC Mark Wayne Jackson. On
March 12 and April 29, Philippine security forces arrested
ASG Commander Burham Sali and ASG member Abdusalih Dimah,

MANILA 00005038 002 OF 004

respectively, for their involvement in the murders of U.S.
citizens Martin Burnham and Guillermo Sobero and several
Filipino hostages during the Dos Palmas kidnapping in 2001.
On April 24, Philippine authorities arrested Al-Sharie
Amiruddin in Zamboanga City for his involvement in the Dos
Palmas and Sipadan kidnappings. On October 3, Philippine
authorities captured Istiada Oemar Sovie, the Indonesian wife
of wanted Bali bomber-JI terrorist Dulmatin, and deported her
to Indonesia on November 30. On November 13, Philippine
authorities arrested JI-trained bomber Blah Platon in
Tacurong, Sultan Kudurat. On November 24, Philippine
authorities arrested ASG member Annik Abbas in Basilan. On
November 30, Philippine authorities arrested Delos Reyes, one
of the founding members of the RSM and a suspect in the 2003
Awang Airport bombing. According to Philippine officials,
the Anti-Terrorism Task Force (ATTF) arrested, captured, or
killed a total of 88 suspected terrorists in 2006. However,
Philippine courts made no convictions of terrorists in 2006,
compared to at least eight convictions in 2005. The ATTF
also coordinated operations that led, in October and
November, to seizures of over 900 kilograms of ammonium
nitrate and 100 bomb detonators/devices in Zamboanga City.

8. (U) Philippine military forces killed several key ASG
figures during armed encounters. On April 3, the Philippine
military killed ASG commander in Basilan Province, Romy
Akilan, and his brother, Patta Akilan, on Sacol Island, off
Zamboanga City. On April 11, Philippine military forces
killed ASG Urban Terrorist Group leader Amihamja Ajijul,
a.k.a. Alex Alvarez, near Zamboanga City. On August 29,
Philippine military forces killed Ibrahim Salem during a raid
of an ASG hideout in Sultan Kudurat, Maguindanao. On
November 6, Philippine military forces in Zamboanga Del Sur
Province killed Tajajul Ampul, a suspect in dozens of
kidnappings and a 2001 raid on a rubber plantation in Basilan
that led to the beheading of eleven farmers. During an
ongoing AFP operation launched on August 1 -- codenamed
"Operation Ultimatum" -- Philippine military forces have so
far killed at least 31 members of the ASG, including Ismin
Sahiron, the son of ASG Commander Radullah Sahiron, and
captured seven others.

9. (U) U.S. and Philippines authorities worked closely
during 2006 on rewards programs targeting terrorist groups.
The U.S. Department of State paid $100,000 in January through
its Rewards for Justice Program to an informant who led to
the capture of Toting Craft Hanno, an ASG terrorist under
U.S. indictment for his role in the Burnham kidnappings. In
May, the U.S. Department of State Rewards for Justice Program
made a payment of $500,000 to two informants for their roles
in the capture of RSM founder/leader Hilairon Del Rosario
Santos. Using its rewards program, the U.S. Department of
Defense made a $50,000 payment in July to an informant who
led to the capture of Gamal Baharan, a suspect in the
February 14, 2005, bombings in Manila, Davao, and General
Santos. The U.S. Department of Defense made other payments
to informants whose information led to the capture of: Alex
Kahal ($7,500, February); Benhar Ismi ($3,000, February);
Abdulla Mohammad ($5,000, February); Pio de Vera ($30,000,
July); Ahiri y Lipaie ($3,000, July); Abdulgani Esmael Pagao
($10,0000, July); Amilhamja Ajijul, Sawari Asion, and Sabri
Kamlon ($40,000, October); and, Nasid Tahjid ($7,000,
November). Other payments were related to the seizure of two
speedboats used by the ASG ($10,000, October) and the
recovery of IEDs in Jolo ($1,800, December).

10. (U) Major evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the
Philippines continue to hinder effective legal cases against
terrorists, notably the absence of a law identifying
terrorist acts and restrictions on gathering of evidence by
electronic surveillance and other modern techniques. Major
problems in the law enforcement and criminal justice systems
also hamper bringing terrorists to justice in the
Philippines, including corruption, low morale, inadequate
salaries, recruitment and retention difficulties, lack of
information technology upgrades, and inadequate cooperation
between police and prosecutors.

11. (U) The Philippine government contributes fully to
regional and international efforts to combat terrorist
financing and strives to fulfill its responsibilities through
the United Nations to detect and block the flow of funding to
individuals and entities that support terrorism. The country
is hampered somewhat in the implementation of these efforts

MANILA 00005038 003 OF 004

because of its laws and legal system.

12. (U) The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), operating
under the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001
(AMLA), as amended in 2003, pursues the investigation and
prosecution of money laundering and is the lead agency
responsible for implementing the asset freeze measures called
for by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee. The
Philippine government has signed and ratified all 12
international conventions and protocols related to terrorism,
including those pertaining to the suppression of terrorist
financing. The AMLA is the legislative basis for the
implementation of the financial sanctions against al-Qaida
and the Taliban. Under the current law, however, the AMLC
cannot take direct action against suspected terrorists or
those supporting terrorism, but must apply for a court order
to inquire into bank accounts and direct the freezing of
assets and transactions.

13. (U) In 2006, the Philippine government came closer to
enacting new antiterrorism legislation. The House of
Representatives approved a counterterrorism bill during
April. The Senate is currently deliberating on a different
draft counterterrorism bill.

14. (U) The United States and the Philippine government
signed a bilateral Extradition Treaty in 1996. The treaty
gives precedence to the Philippine government for the
prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment of Filipino
criminals apprehended in the Philippines, but the Philippine
government has routinely issued arrest warrants for Filipino
nationals whom the U.S. has sought on terrorism charges. The
Philippine government did not extradite or request
extradition of terrorists for prosecution during 2006.

15. (U) The Philippine government does not offer any support
for terrorists either within or outside its borders.

16. (U) The Philippine government consistently supports the
United States in United Nations General Assembly and United
Nations Security Council matters related to terrorism.


17. (U) The Philippine government launched intensive
civil-military operations in January to eliminate terrorist
safe havens within the Sulu Archipelago. Balikatan Exercises
and a visit by the USS Mercy supported the Philippine
government's campaign to separate terrorists from the general
population and diminish support for their cause.

18. (U) The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with U.S.
intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance support,
launched "Operation Ultimatum" on August 1 to capture the top
five ASG and JI leaders on the island of Jolo: Khadaffy
Janjalani; Isnilon Hapilon; Abu Solaiman; Umar Patek; and,
Dulmatin. The Philippine Navy established a tight maritime
cordon around Jolo and has conducted over 4,300 interdictions
during this ongoing operation.

19. (U) The Philippine government is aware that some JI
members have obtained safe haven in Mindanao and is actively
engaged in efforts to capture them. There is an Ad Hoc Joint
Action Group under which the Philippine government and the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front cooperate against terrorists
and criminals in Mindanao.

20. (U) Philippine military and law enforcement at the
regional and provincial level work closely with U.S. Embassy
counterparts and visiting military personnel to ensure
counterterrorism force protection to more than 25 annual
bilateral military events. In 2006, U.S. and Philippine
military and law enforcement officials cooperated against JI
and ASG targets, with U.S. officials actively assisting in
investigating and pre-empting several terrorist attacks.
Members of Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines
in the southern Philippines are involved in civil-military
operations and intelligence fusion to help the AFP develop a
sustained counterterrorism capability. The Embassy's law
enforcement team maintains regular contact with police and
security counterparts. Mission received excellent levels of
cooperation from Philippine law enforcement officials in

MANILA 00005038 004 OF 004

obtaining access to terrorist detainees and witnesses for FBI
interviews, and access to criminal, immigration, financial,
and biographic records via the mechanisms established in the
U.S.- Philippine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. The U.S.
Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security is
improving the capability of Philippine agencies to respond to
terrorist threats through an in-country Anti-Terrorism
Assistance Program.

21. (U) Neither the proliferation nor the trafficking of
weapons of mass destruction plays a role in terrorism in the
Philippines, though the Philippine National Intelligence
Coordinating Agency remains concerned about possible future


22. (U) Embassy has no information suggesting that any
foreign government provides financial support, military or
paramilitary training, weapons, diplomatic recognition, or
sanctuary from prosecution to terrorist groups operating in
the Philippines.

23. (U) The Philippine government considers the NPA as the
greatest threat to security of the Philippines and declared
"all out war" against the Communist insurgents. The AFP
requested a $620 million budget for 2007 from the Philippine
Congress to support its campaign to crush the 38-year old
Communist insurgency by 2010. The NPA, with an estimated
strength of 6,828 members, has killed over 840 civilians and
360 soldiers and police officers since January 2000,
according to the AFP.

24. (U) A major recent trend is growing cooperation among
members of the JI, ASG, and RSM.


25. (U) The Philippines cooperates fully with the United
States on bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism
efforts. In April, the two governments established the U.S.
- Philippine Security Engagement Board (SEB) -- modeled after
the bilateral Mutual Defense Board -- to deal with
non-traditional security issues, including counterterrorism
and maritime security. This watershed agreement set the
stage for the "Kapit Bisig" (Shoulder-to-Shoulder)
counterterrorism framework that focuses on civil affairs,
capability upgrades, and support for AFP operations.

26. (U) The United States is assisting the Philippines in
the establishment of an interagency intelligence fusion
center in Zamboanga City that will support maritime
interdictions against transnational criminal/terrorist
organizations as well as a "Coast Watch" system in Mindanao,
with Australian assistance. Other centers will eventually be
in Palawan, General Santos City, and Davao.

27. (U) Despite plans dating back to 2001, the Philippine
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) does not yet have a
digitized, machine-readable passport. While the Philippines
cooperates with USG requests for prosecutions for persons who
tamper or alter travel documents, the prosecutions carry low
level penalties. In addition, there is a reluctance to
investigate or charge vendors or users of false documents
when the Philippine government is not the issuing authority.

28. (U) Embassy Manila's POC for the 2006 Terrorism Report
is Political Officer Stephen Worobec (worobecSF@state.gov),
telephone 528-6300, ext 2288.

Visit Embassy Manila's Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department's
Classified SIPRNET website:


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