US embassy cable - 94MANILA13414

DISCUSSION ON THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT IN THE - PHILIPPINES

Identifier: 94MANILA13414
Wikileaks: View 94MANILA13414 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Manila
Created: 1994-07-19 07:42:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINR KISL RP
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 190742Z JUL 94
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9103
INFO ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
AMCONSUL CEBU
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 013414 
 
 
E.O. 12356: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, KISL, RP 
SUBJECT:  DISCUSSION ON THE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT IN THE 
-         PHILIPPINES 
 
REF:  MANILA 2840 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL -- ENTIRE TEXT 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  DURING JULY 12 LUNCHEON MEETING WITH POLOFF, 
RETIRED DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR JOEL DE LOS 
SANTOS DESCRIBED THE FUTURE PROSPECTS OF PEACE WITH THE 
MUSLIM COMMUNITY AS LESS THAN ENCOURAGING.  HE FELT THAT A 
MAIN PROBLEM WAS THE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF MUSLIM 
CULTURE AND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE INDIGENOUS MUSLIM 
SOCIETIES ON THE PART OF MAIN-LINE POLITICAL LEADERS, BOTH 
MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN.  DE LOS SANTOS WAS AWARE OF HOUSE 
SPEAKER DE VENECIA'A EFFORTS ON BEHALF OF COL. QADHAFI AND 
CLAIMED THAT LIBYA HAD DIRECTED FUNDS TO PRESIDENT RAMOS' 
1992 CAMPAIGN.  HE SAID HE HAD COMPLETED A STUDY OF THE 
PEACE PROCESS COMMISSIONED BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR 
JOSE ALMONTE, AND CONCLUDED THAT NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE 
MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (MNLF) WOULD PROBABLY NOT 
PRODUCE A LASTING PEACE WITH THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY. END 
SUMMARY 
 
3.  POLOFF INVITED DE LOS SANTOS TO LUNCH TO CONTINUE AN 
ACQUAINTANCE BEGUN THE PREVIOUS WEEK AT THE FIRST 
CONFERENCE ON THE MUSLIM FUTURE (SEE REFTEL).  DE LOS 
SANTOS IS A FORMER PROFESSOR AT DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY 
SPECIALIZING IN ISLAMIC AFFAIRS WHO NOW WORKS AS A 
CONSULTANT.  HE CLAIMED TO BE CLOSE TO ALL FACETS OF THE 
MUSLIM COMMUNITY, INCLUDING "BOTH ABOVE GROUND AND 
UNDERGROUND" SECTORS. 
 
4.  DISCUSSING THE CONTINUING PROBLEM WITH AN EXTREMIST 
INSURGENCY IN THE SOUTH, DE LOS SANTOS SAID THAT THE 
GOVERNMENT HAD LITTLE UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WAS REALLY 
HAPPENING IN THE MUSLIM REGIONS.  THE INSURGENTS HAVE BEEN 
LABELED "ABU SAYYAF" BY THE MEDIA, BUT THAT ORGANIZATION 
IS JUST THE SURFACE MANIFESTATION OF A MORE PROLONGED 
PROCESS OF THE INSEEPAGE OF ISLAMIC THINKING BOTH AMONG 
THE MUSLIM POPULATION AND ITS POLITICAL LEADERS.  THE 
TENDENCY TO BRAND ALL ENEMIES WITH THE SAME BRUSH FAILED 
TO TAKE ACCOUNT OF THE MANY DIFFERENCES WITHIN ISLAM; FOR 
EXAMPLE, HE SAID THAT THE LIBYAN BRAND OF "LITTLE GREEN 
BOOK ISLAM" IS REGARDED WITH CONTEMPT BY PHILIPPINE 
FUNDAMENTALISTS AS WELL AS MANY OF THEIR MUSLIM BRETHREN 
IN OTHER COUNTRIES.  HE REFERRED TO THE LARGER PHENOMENON 
OF INCREASED ISLAMIC CONSCIOUSNESS AND BUILDING OF 
FUNDAMENTALIST MUSLIM COMMUNITIES AS AS THE "MOVEMENT" AND 
SAID IT WAS CONNECTED TO THE EGYPTIAN-BASED MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD SINCE 1988.  EXPOSURE TO ISLAMIC CULTURE 
THROUGH EXPOSURE TO AND EDUCATION IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES HAS 
SINCE THE 1960'S AWAKENED THE PREVIOUSLY SLEEPY ISLAMIC 
CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE BANGSA MORO (MUSLIM PEOPLE) OF THE 
PHILIPPINES. 
 
5.  THERE WERE ALSO HUNDREDS OF MUSLIM TEACHERS WORKING AS 
"TABLEEGH" -- IN ESSENCE, ISLAMIC MISSIONARIES -- ALL OVER 
MINDANAO.  SEVERAL HUNDRED SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN HAVE ALSO 
BEEN SENT FOR SEVERAL YEARS OF TRAINING IN ARAB 
COUNTRIES.  THE GENERAL TREND WAS AWAY FROM SECULARIZATION 
-- PRECISELY THAT TENDENCY REPRESENTED BY THE MORO 
NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (MNLF) WITH WHICH THE GOVERNMENT 
WAS CONDUCTING PEACE NEGOTIATIONS.  IN HIS ESTIMATION, 
ABOUT 60 PERCENT OF TODAY'S MUSLIM COMMUNITY REFLECTS 
"FUNDAMENTALIST" VIEWS, ABOUT 20 PERCENT SECULAR ONES, AND 
THE REMAINDER IS IN THE MIDDLE.  IN COMPARISON, HE 
ESTIMATED THE MUSLIM LEADERSHIP AS DIVIDED ABOUT 40 
PERCENT EVENLY BETWEEN SECULARISTS AND FUNDAMENTALISTS, 
WITH THE REMAINDER IN THE MIDDLE. 
 
6.  ACCORDING TO DE LOS SANTOS, A NUMBER OF MUSLIMS SENT 
TO ASSIST THE "MOVEMENT" WHO HAVE BEEN DETAINED BY POLICE 
AND IDENTIFIED AS "JORDANIANS" ARE ACTUALLY PALESTINIANS, 
AND THOSE PARTIAL TO HAMAS RATHER THAN THE PLO.  HE IS IN 
TOUCH WITH SOME OF THEIR COMPATRIOTS IN MANILA WHO ARE 
DEGREE CANDIDATES AT LOCAL UNIVERSITIES.  THEY ARE PART OF 
A GROWING WORLD-WIDE ISLAMIC MOVEMENT THAT SEEKS TO CREATE 
MUSLIM COMMUNITIES GOVERNED BY MUSLIM LAW.  DE LOS SANTOS 
SAID THAT THE ULTIMATE GOAL DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A SEPARATE 
MUSLIM STATE.  THE MOVEMENT HAS SET UP A NUMBER OF LOCAL 
SELF-HELP ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROVIDE SERVICES WHERE THE 
GOVERNMENT IS WEAK, SUCH AS LOCAL HEALTH CARE. MONEY FOR 
THEIR ACTIVITIES WAS "NO PROBLEM." 
 
7.  DE LOS SANTOS DISCLOSED THAT JOSE ALMONTE, THE 
PRESIDENT'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, HAD ASKED HIM LAST 
FEBRUARY TO WRITE AN ANALYSIS OF THE PEACE PROCESS AND 
WHERE IT WAS HEADING.  HE SAID ALMONTE IS A CLOSE FRIEND 
WHO WAS A MEMBER OF THE SAME UNIVERSITY GRADUATING CLASS. 
ALMONTE'S LETTER, THE ORIGINAL OF WHICH DE LOS SANTOS 
SHOWED POLOFF, ASKED HIM TO ANALYZE THE BASIC POLITICAL 
STRUCTURES IN THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, LIKELIHOOD OF COMING 
TO AN AGREEMENT, AND STEPS THE GOVERNMENT MIGHT TAKE.  DE 
LOS SANTOS TOOK SEVERAL MONTHS TO COMPLETE THE STUDY, BUT 
SAID HE PULLED SOME OF HIS PUNCHES IN THE FINAL REPORT. 
SUMMARIZING HIS FINDINGS, HE EXPRESSED DOUBTS THAT THE 
MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (MNLF) WOULD BE COMPETENT 
ENOUGH TO HOLD POWER IF GRANTED IT THROUGH THE PEACE 
PROCESS, AND DOUBTED THAT THE MNLF IN ANY CASE COULD 
NEGOTIATE PEACE ON BEHALF OF ALL FILIPINO MUSLIMS, SINCE 
THE MNLF IS REALLY "PAST HISTORY" THAT IS BECOMING 
INCREASINGLY IRRELEVANT AND LOOKED UPON AS A SURROGATE FOR 
THE GOVERNMENT. 
 
8. IN DISCUSSING HOUSE SPEAKER JOSE DE VENECIA, DE LOS 
SANTOS HAD STRONG WORDS FOR THIS "DEMAGAGOIC POLITICIAN." 
HE SAID DE VENECIA HAD BEEN ENGAGED IN SHADY DEALINGS IN 
BOTH LIBYA AND IRAQ INVOLVING CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS FOR 
HIS FIRM, AND HAD TRIED TO "REPAY" HIS LIBYAN BENEFACTORS 
BY ACTING AS THEIR FRONT MAN AND ERRAND BOY.  THE LIBYANS 
THOUGHT THEY COULD USE DE VENECIA'S AID IN ENLISTING 
PRESIDENT FIDEL RAMOS, WITH HIS EXCELLENT AMERICAN 
CONTACTS, AS A WEDGE IN HELPING END LIBYA'S DIPLOMATIC 
ISOLATION IN THE WEST.  (EMBASSY HAS REPORTED EXTENSIVELY 
ON DE VENECIA'S EFFORTS ON BEHALF OF COL. QADHAFI).  IT 
WAS A WELL-KEPT SECRET, ACCORDING TO DE LOS SANTOS, THAT 
RAMOS HAD RECEIVED FIVE MILLION PESOS (ABOUT DOLS 200,000) 
FROM THE LIBYANS TO FINANCE HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IN 
1992. 
 
9.  ACCORDING TO DE LOS SANTOS, MOST RESIDENT AMBASSADORS 
OF ISLAMIC COUNTRIES ARE MODERATES, INCLUDING LIBYAN RAJAB 
ABDULAZIZ AZZAROUQ, WHO HE SAID IS A CANDIDATE FOR THE 
PH.D. DEGREE IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THE 
PHILIPPINES.  HE SAID THAT ABOUT A QUARTER OF LIBYAN 
LARGESSE TO THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY COMES THROUGH THE "BACK 
DOOR." 
 
10.  COMMENT:  DE LOS SANTOS' VIEWS REPRESENT THOSE OF A 
MUSLIM INTELLECTUAL WITH CLOSE TIES TO NATIONAL SECURITY 
ADVISOR ALMONTE.  HIS NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT OF THE CHANCES 
FOR SUCCESS IN THE PEACE PROCESS WITH THE MNLF IS NOT 
REFLECTED IN THE PROGRESS BEING SHOWN TO DATE, ALTHOUGH 
THE QUESTION WHICH HE ADDRESSES -- WHETHER A SUCCESSFUL 
NEGOTIATION WITH THE MNLF WILL USHER IN A LONG-TERM PERIOD 
OF PEACE WITH THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY -- IS ONE THAT NEEDS TO 
BE ADDRESSED.  HIS WARNING ABOUT THE TREND AWAY FROM 
SECULARIZATION AND TOWARD TRADITIONALISM BY YOUNG MUSLIMS 
IS A POINT WE HAVE HEARD BEFORE.  HOWEVER, THE VIEW HELD 
BY MANY OF OUR INTERLOCUTORS IS THAT THE TREND IS TOWARD 
INCREASING RELIGIOUS CONSCIOUSNESS RATHER THAN VIOLENT 
FUNDAMENTALISM.  THIS TREND OBVIOUSLY DESERVES CAREFUL 
WATCHING, AS DO THE DEVELOPING TIES BETWEEN FILIPINO 
MUSLIMS AND THEIR BRETHREN IN OTHER COUNTRIES. 
 
 
BURGHARDT 

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