ISIS In the Philippines (Part I)
By: Jeff Bates
Image of the church that was bombed on Mindanao. (Holcombe, Madeline; Simonette, Virma. 2019).
After nearly five years, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has essentially been defeated. Despite this, many parts of the world have extremist groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. The Islamic State’s ideology has been able to spread to all parts of the world through the internet, especially through social media. One of the main hotspots in the world today for ISIS and its affiliates is in Southeast Asia. This research paper will focus specifically on the Islamic State’s efforts in the Philippines. The Islamic State has made clear its intention to make the Philippines a new base for another Islamic caliphate, even asserting that they have an emir in the Southern islands in the Philippines. It is likely that this area will continue to be a highly contested and violent area for the foreseeable future. As Rommel Banlaoi (Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research) said, “ISIS is the most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today” (Beech, Hannah; Gutierrez, Jason. 2019).
Geography of Southeast Philippines
Geographically, the Southern Philippines are mountainous volcanic islands with sprawling urban and suburban developments. This allows militants the ability to hide in the jungle and within the settled population. There are about six known Islamic extremist organizations in the area, all pledging allegiance to ISIS (Chalk, Peter. 2016). The Islamic State and its militants in the region have sought to establish an Islamic caliphate primarily on the islands of Mindanao and Jolo as a base from which they intend to strike Philippine and Western targets.
Threats on Mindanao
Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines and has recently been the scene of bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings carried out by militant groups supported or affiliated with ISIS. As recently as January 28th, 2019, twin bombings on a Catholic church killed 20, and injured another 81 individuals.
The bombings were carried out the week after a referendum vote to allow the Mindanaon island of Jolo to become a Muslim sanctuary was turned down. Soon after the bombing, an image was circulated among ISIS affiliated groups showing Rodrigo Duterte, the tough speaking President of the Philippines, kneeling on a pile of skulls with a militant standing over him with a dagger. The caption of the illustration read: “The fighting has just begun” (Burger, John. 2019). Additionally, the Islamic State issued a video displaying recruits performing military exercises on the island (Charlton, Corey. 2016).
Holcombe, Madeline; Simonette, Virma. 2019. 20 killed, dozens wounded in Philippines church bombings. CNN. Accessed fromhttps://www.cnn.com/2019/01/27/asia/philippines-church-explosion/index.html on April 22, 2019.
Beech, Hannah; Gutierrez, Jason. 2019. How ISIS Is Rising in the Philippines as It Dwindles in the Middle East. The New York Times. Accessed from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/world/asia/isis-philippines-jolo.html on April 20, 2019
Chalk, Peter. 2016. The Islamic State in the Philippines: A Looming Shadow in Southeast Asia? Combating Terrorism Center. Accessed from https://ctc.usma.edu/the-islamic-state-in-the-philippines-a-looming-shadow-in-southeast-asia/ on April 20, 2019.
Charlton, Corey. 2016. Islamic militants in Philippines release ‘barbaric’ footage of the beheading of Canadian tourist John Ridsdel after ransom demands for $6.5million were not met. Daily Mail.com Accessed from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3571618/Islamic-militants-Philippines-release-barbaric-footage-beheading-Canadian-tourist-John-Ridsdel-ransom-demands-6-5million-not-met.html on April 20, 2019.
Burger, John. 2019. ISIS’ new staging ground could be the southern Philippines. Aleteia. Accessed from https://aleteia.org/2019/03/21/isis-new-staging-ground-could-be-the-southern-philippines/ on April 20, 2019