Sep 192014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA2195 2006-05-26 06:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #2195/01 1460626
P 260626Z MAY 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 MANILA 002195




E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2016

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Paul O’Friel
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary. Widespread methamphetamine trafficking and
abuse, organized crime, and endemic corruption are gnawing at
the fabric of Muslim society in Mindanao. While Muslim clan
leaders and political warlords sustain fiefdoms and private
armies through sources of illicit income, the common people
turn to drugs and crime to escape poverty, unemployment, and
alienation. Transforming a system rooted in feudalism, clan
rivalries, and lawlessness into transparency, good
governance, and rule of law will remain a long term challenge
for the Government of the Philippines, international donor
community, and Muslims longing for peace and development.
End Summary.

Muslim Religious Leaders Speak Out

¶2. (C) Some thirty-five Muslim religious leaders (ulamas)
and scholars (muftis) from the Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, and Lanao
Del Sur), Zamboanga, Davao, and Cotabato examined the impact
of religion on peace and development at a February 7-8
closed-door forum in Manila sponsored by the Philippine
Council for Islam and Democracy. During the plenary session
attended by poloff, a spokesman for the religious leaders
presented a litany of ills afflicting Muslim communities in
Mindanao including widespread methamphetamine
trafficking/abuse; institutionalized graft, nepotism, and
corruption; an ethnically divided clan-based feudal society
with a sub-culture of “guns, goons, and gold;” and legal
restrictions on shariah courts to punish criminals.

A Generation at Risk

¶3. (C) Philippine Islamic Council President Taha M. Basman
told poloff on March 30 that there is no explicit text in
either the Holy Qu’ran or the Sunnah of the Prophet that sets
forth a ruling on drugs. Legal scholars are in agreement,
however, that illegal drugs are prohibited in Islam and that
taking them is a major sin for which offenders must be

¶4. (C) Despite the Islamic prohibition, methamphetamine
abuse has spread to all segments of Philippine Muslim
society. Armed Forces of the Philippines Brigadier-General
Ben D. Dolorfino — a Muslim convert who heads the GRP-Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Ad Hoc Joint Action Group —
told poloff on April 18 that Muslims of all ages are taking
methamphetamine out of ignorance because religious leaders
failed to adequately warn them about the prohibition.

¶5. (C) Hard data is lacking because no drug abuse surveys
have ever been conducted in Muslim Mindanao. Based on
soundings of Muslim leaders and government officials, there
could be as many as 500,000 methamphetamine abusers among the
ARMM’s total population of 3.17 million.

¶6. (C) On April 18, Executive Secretary of the ARMM
Department of Social Welfare and Development Teodorica A.
Banosia told poloff that an estimated 40-45 per cent of 14 to
25 year olds in the ARMM are methamphetamine abusers. Among
the reasons cited by Banosia for the alarming increase in
drug abuse by Muslims are poverty, family problems, and a
“tiredness of life.” Unemployed youth and school drop-outs
are particularly at risk not only to drug abuse, but to
recruitment as couriers for drug trafficking syndicates.

From “The Bronx” to Sulu

¶7. (C) A short distance from city hall in the predominantly
ethnic Maguindanaoan populated ARMM capital of Cotabato is an
area along Mabini Road known locally as “the Bronx.” Drug
users and pushers frequent this area to do drug deals in

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broad daylight. The kingpin of “the Bronx” is a member of a
powerful clan with a long history of smuggling.

¶8. (C) On Jolo and Siasi Islands in ARMM’s Sulu Archipelago,
ethnic Tausug street vendors and shop owners peddle
methamphetamine to buyers of all ages. According to local
government officials, the jails of Jolo are loaded with drug
abusers and pushers. On April 26, Acting Mayor of Jolo City
Alkramer Izquierdo expressed concern to poloff over his
municipality’s growing drug problem and said more needed to
be done to reduce supply and demand.

ARMM Lacks Drug Rehabilitation Centers

¶9. (C) Mindanao’s drug rehabilitation centers are located
outside of the ARMM in Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Palawan, and
Zamboanga where there are also drug abusers. According to
Banosia, up to 70 per cent of 15 to 21 year olds in the
predominantly Christian populated city of Zamboanga have used
ecstasy and/or methamphetamine. Ecstasy is especially
popular among college students in Zamboanga, but does not
have a market in the ARMM because of its high price.

¶10. (C) Banosia recently proposed converting an abandoned
building in Parang, Maguindanao Province into the ARMM’s
first drug rehabilitation center, but no funds were available
in the ARMM budget for this project. Determined to establish
this center, Banosia continues to seek outside sources of

The Maranao Connection

¶11. (C) Marawi City in Lanao Del Sur Province is reputed to
be the center of the drug trade in Muslim Mindanao. The
ethnic Maranao from this area are well known for their
enterprising nature and business acumen. In search of
commercial opportunities, Maranao traders now pepper the
landscape of the Philippines, including the Quiapo area of
Manila where some 30,000-50,000 Muslims reside.

¶12. (C) Some former ethnic Maranao street vendors and small
shop owners got their start in the drug business by working
as couriers and pushers for Chinese syndicates. After
gaining experience and know-how, they established their own
smuggling and distribution networks between Luzon, Visayas,
and Mindanao.

Meth Labs in the ARMM?

¶13. (C) Senior Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
officers told poloff on April 10 that Muslim trafficking
syndicates have the financing and technical expertise to
operate their own clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.
According to a Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional
Director, methamphetamine labs are suspected to be in and
around Marawi City, with others located in Parang and
Cotabato City, Maguindanao Province and within Sulu Province.
Most precursor chemicals for these Mindanao-based labs
reportedly originate from China.

¶14. (C) During a press conference in late 2005, Department
of Health Region 12 Director Rogelio Chua said there were at
least six methamphetamine labs in Cotabato City. Police
Director Senior Supt. Getulio Napenas said the majority of
drug pushers arrested in South Cotabato identified Cotabato
City as a major source of supply for methamphetamine, but
provided no details regarding lab locations.

¶15. (C) Most of the 38 clandestine methamphetamine labs
seized by Philippine authorities since 1997 were located in
Metro Manila. There have been no seizures to date of
methamphetamine labs in Cotabato City or the five provinces
of the ARMM.

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Unintended Consequences

¶16. (C) An ethnic Maranao Congressman told poloff on April 6
that Muslim “drug lords” in Marawi City and municipalities of
Lanao Del Sur originally planned to have their drugs smuggled
to other markets in the region rather than distributed
locally within their own communities. After the
methamphetamine shipments were delivered to buyers in such
cities as Ozamis in Misamis Occidental Province of northern
Mindanao, the drugs filtered back into Lanao Del Sur through
a spider web of distribution networks. Lanao Del Sur is now
plagued with at least 150,000 methamphetamine abusers,
according to Basman.

Crime Rate Rising

¶17. (C) While some drug users in Muslim communities commit
crime (e.g. theft, armed robbery, prostitution, and
kidnapping of local residents) to raise monies for their
habit, “drug lords” and their followers fill their coffers
with proceeds from organized crime (e.g., auto theft,
extortion, loan sharking, illegal logging, small arms sales,
and kidnapping). Though criminal activities are increasing,
the ARMM has one of the lowest rates of reported incidents of
crime in the Philippines according to the director of the
Muslim Legal Foundation. With police viewed as part of the
problem rather than the solution, justice in the ARMM is
frequently served through the barrel of a gun often
triggering rido (clan feuds) and a cycle of further violence.

A Sub-Culture of Violence

¶18. (C) Sulu Provincial Governor Benjamin Loong lamented to
poloff that the ethnic Tausug of Sulu are reputed to be the
“warriors” of ARMM with a martial sub-culture of violence.
The growing number of drug users and pushers in Jolo and
Siasi is exacerbating this problem. Loong noted that some
members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are using and selling
drugs, but did not know how pervasive this was within ASG

¶19. (C) Included among recent casualties in Sulu Province
was Provincial Police Office Intelligence Chief Henry Geromo
Elumbaring who was shot and killed by unidentified assailants
in Jolo City on February 12. The murder suspects were
identified by local authorities as members of a criminal
syndicate in Sulu known as the “Sailani Brothers Group.” A
senior police intelligence officer told poloff on February 13
that prior to his murder, Elumbaring had been instrumental in
putting nearly 200 suspects in jail during 2005; many of whom
were drug users and pushers, including members of the ASG.

¶20. (SBU) On February 17, a local drug addict took potshots
at U.S. forces in Tiptipon on Jolo Island. Within hours,
community elders banded together to identify the culprit — a
relative of a prominent local official — and turned him and
his weapon over to GRP authorities.

¶21. (SBU) The latest casualties in Sulu are four Philippine
Marines gunned down in Jolo City and Patikul since the GRP
suspended military operations on May 17 for the visit of
Organization of Islamic Conference ambassadors to the ARMM.

¶22. (SBU) According to data from the Sulu Integrated
Provincial Health Office, a total of 159 people have died
from shootings, hackings, and explosions in Sulu Province
since 2000. The actual number of murders is believed to be
much higher because many Muslim clans do not report their
dead to authorities and bury bodies within 24 hours according
to Muslim custom.

The Untouchables

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¶23. (C) Following a recent anti-drug symposium in Cotabato
City, the outgoing ARMM-PDEA Regional Director expressed
frustration to poloff with being hamstrung by inadequate
resources/staff/training and rampant corruption.
Consequently, “drug lords” — including local politicians and
clan leaders with private armies supported by the police —
remain beyond the reach of the law.

¶24. (C) An ARMM Regional Cabinet Secretary told poloff on
May 24 that bribes of up to 150,000 to 200,000 pesos (USD
2,846-3,795) are demanded by corrupt officials in the ARMM to
allow individuals to enter the police force. Since many
individuals do not have this sum of money, bribes are paid by
mayors who then “own” new policemen. Upon reporting for
duty, the new officers enter a pyramid structure in which
quotas of “dirty money” from bribes, extortion, protection,
and other corrupt activities regularly flow to the local
police chief and then upward to corrupt police officials
within municipal, provincial, and regional offices.

It Ain’t The Money, It’s The Money

¶25. (C) According to an ARMM Regional Cabinet Secretary, the
GRP provides ARMM with an Internal Revenue Allotment and
National Allocation of billions of pesos each year, but 20 to
30 per cent of these monies are skimmed off the top by
corrupt officials in Manila. After governors and mayors
within the ARMM embezzle their own share of monies and pay
salaries/operating expenses of ARMM government employees,
relatives, and members of their private armies; only a small
fraction of funding is left over for provision of services to
the people of ARMM. So coveted are these “cash cows,” that
elections in the ARMM are bitter and often violent contests
for power.

¶26. (C) In the midst of widespread poverty, mansions owned
by corrupt politicians, government officials, and “drug
lords” dot the landscape in such areas of the ARMM as Marawi
City and Maguing in Lanao Del Sur. Payments of up to 12
million pesos (227,746 USD) in cash for the construction of
new estates are not uncommon by Muslim criminals. Such
material comforts – including expensive cars — and the
financing of new mosques, madaris (religious schools), roads,
weddings, and funerals are making “drug lords” role models in
some Muslim communities.


¶27. (C) Narco-politics is on the rise in the ARMM according
to GRP-MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group Chief Dolorfino. “Drug
lords” currently hold mayorships in at least nine
municipalities in Lanao Del Sur Province. Mayors of fourteen
municipalities in Maguindanao Province, and nearly all of the
mayors, including the Vice-Governor of Sulu Province, are
suspected to be involved in the narcotics trade. Two ARMM
Governors have also been identified as methamphetamine

¶28. (C) Dolorfino said “drug lords” are currently filling
“political war chests” with illicit proceeds in preparation
for the 2007 elections. He speculated that at least one
Congressional seat in the ARMM will be won by a major drug
trafficker in the next election.

MILF Also Concerned

¶29. (C) Basman told poloff on May 24 that the MILF is
concerned over a growing drug problem within its communities.
While MILF leaders have not made recent public statements
regarding the drug issue, they have noted that under a
comprehensive GRP-MILF peace agreement, the ARMM and its
government would be replaced by a Bangsamoro juridical entity
that would promote Islamic values.

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¶30. (C) Last November, the PNP shot and killed MILF
Spokesman Eid Kabalu’s brother, Abdul Bayan Kabalu, and
arrested his nephew, Mustafa Kabalu, during a buy-bust drug
operation in Cotabato City. Eid Kabalu denied that his
brother was involved in drug trafficking, but Police Chief
Supt. Danilo Mangila said Abdul was wanted on drug charges.
While several local government officials claimed to poloff
that the two Kabalus were just the “tip of the iceberg” of
the MILF’s drug problem, information is lacking and it
remains unclear how pervasive the use and/or sale of drugs
may be within the MILF.

¶31. (C) AFP Brigadier-General/GRP-MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action
Group Chief Dolorfino told poloff on April 18 that planning
was underway with the MILF to begin anti-drug operations
within Marawi City of Lanao Del Sur Province.

A Call for Jihad Against Drugs

¶32. (SBU) One hundred and eighty religious leaders from the
Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore,
Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and
Afghanistan attended the first ever “International Conference
of Faith Based Organizations and Islamic Scholars on Drug
Prevention” in Jakarta, Indonesia between February 27 – March
¶2. The Philippines’ delegation was composed of Philippine
Islamic Council Chairman Taha Basman, Islamic Dawah Council
of the Philippines President Attorney Aldurakam Linjang, Dr.
Arab Aguam from Lanao Del Sur, Mindanao Research Institute
Executive-Director Nelia Basman, and GRP Office of Muslim
Affairs Assistant Secretary Solaiman Mutia and Staff Member
Adrin Abdurajak.

¶33. (SBU) In a paper Basman presented at the conference, he
noted that “mosques must be the center of jihad against drug
lords, protectors, pushers, and users.” Among the anti-drug
measures proposed by Basman were the following:

— Establishment of half-way houses and rehabilitation
centers in the heart of Muslim communities such as Lanao Del
Sur where drugs have become a booming industry.

— Removal of restrictions on shariah courts to punish
criminals. (Note: The GRP restricts shariah courts in the
Philippines to non-criminal cases that involve personal and
family matters. End Note.)

— Stiffer penalties for criminals and the establishment of
special drug courts.

— Banning of all political candidates with a drug record
from running for office.

— Denial of all forms of assistance to drug users and
traffickers by religious leaders.

— Issuance of fatwas (legal pronouncements) on drug
prevention by religious scholars.

— Community assemblies at mosques to discuss local drug

— Delivery of drug abuse prevention messages at exhibits
and contests during town fairs.

¶34. (SBU) According to Basman, the following organizations
in the Philippines have agreed to cooperate against drugs:
Philippine Islamic Council, Center for Moderate Muslims,
Islamic Dawah Council of the Philippines, Markaza Shabbab,
Tableegh, and GRP Office of Muslim Affairs.

What Can Be Done?

¶35. (C) A series of U.S. sponsored drug supply and demand
reduction activities are planned for Mindanao. In late June,

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the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and PDEA will
hold a drug abuse seminar in Cotabato City for barangay
captains and civic leaders. DEA and U.S. Special Forces will
also be providing counter-drug training to PNP and PDEA
officers during August in Zamboanga City. At a tactical
level, DEA and the PDEA are currently working on a joint
investigation against a clandestine methamphetamine
laboratory in Lanao Del Sur. During the months ahead, DEA
will be engaging the GRP Office of Muslim Affairs and ARMM
Department of Social Welfare and Development regarding
additional anti-drug training and assistance.

¶36. (C) Muslim religious leaders clearly recognize the
dangers which drugs, crime, and corruption pose to their
communities. Transforming a system rooted in feudalism, clan
rivalries, and lawlessness into transparency, good
governance, and rule of law will remain a long term challenge
for the Government of the Philippines, international donor
community, and Muslims longing for peace and development.

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