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Profile: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was a participant or observer in the following events:
Abdulmukim Edris, standing with his head bowed in the back, and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, sitting in the front in purple. [Source: Erik de Castro / Reuters / Corbis]Beginning on October 2, 2002, a series of bombings take place in and around Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. This region is a center of Islamist militancy in a majority Christian country. During the month of October, bombs explode outside a restaurant near a military camp (killing four, including a US Green Beret commando), at the entrance to a Catholic shrine, at a bus terminal (killing seven), and inside two department stores (killing seven). A total of 21 are killed and more than 200 are injured.
Arrest of Alleged Mastermind - On November 14, Abdulmukim Edris is arrested and is said to have been the bomb-maker behind all the blasts. Edris is an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group based in the region. Two days after his arrest, he is paraded in front of cameras and stands in handcuffs directly behind Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she calls him “the No. 1 bomber of the Abu Sayyaf.” He admits that he and his team were already casing targets to be bombed later in the month, including the US embassy in Manila. The head of the military says that Edris was trained by two Yemeni “VIPs from al-Qaeda” in the southern Philippines in the month before the 9/11 attacks. It is later reported that another arrested Abu Sayyaf militant, Khair Mundus, received around $90,000 from al-Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia to fund the bombings. [Associated Press, 11/14/2002; Associated Press, 5/14/2004]
Mastermind Appears to Be Mole - But in July 2003, Edris will escape from a high-security prison with two other militants (see July 14, 2003). One week after the escape, the Philippine Daily Inquirer will report that Edris has long-time links to the Philippine military and police. A police intelligence source says that he has been a government asset since 1994. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/23/2003] Edris will be killed about two weeks after this report. He allegedly is killed hours after he was arrested while trying to wrestle a gun from a soldier. Some will allege that he was deliberately killed in order to prevent him from revealing what he knew (see October 12, 2003).
Another Dubious Mastermind - Another alleged mastermind of the Zamboanga bombings, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, is arrested on November 8, 2002, and then quickly deported, despite allegations that he helped fund the 1995 Bojinka plot and had major terrorist links. He is said to have links to Philippine intelligence and high-level government protection (see October 8-November 8, 2002).
In a joint press conference with President Arroyo of the Philippines, President Bush says of the relationship between poverty and terrorism: “First, let me make it very clear, poor people aren’t necessarily killers. Just because you happen to be not rich doesn’t mean you’re willing to kill. And so it’s important to understand—people are susceptible to the requirement by these extremists, but I refuse to put a—put killers into a demographic category based upon income.” [White House, 5/19/2003]
A group of Philippine soldiers mutiny, claiming they are trying to prevent the Philippine government from staging terrorist attacks on its own people. About 300 soldiers, many of them officers, rig a large Manila shopping mall and luxury hotel with explosives, evacuate them, and then threaten to blow up the buildings unless President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other top Philippine leaders resign. After a twenty hour siege, the soldiers surrender and no one is hurt. Their leaders are jailed for mutiny. While Arroyo remains in power, other top leaders resign, including the county’s defense minister, police chief, and military intelligence chief. [Guardian, 7/28/2003; Guardian, 8/15/2003] The mutineers had a number of grievances. They complain:
Senior military officials, in collusion with President Arroyo, are secretly behind recent bombings that have been blamed on Muslim militant groups. They specifically claim that a series of bombings in March and April 2002 in the southern city of Davao that killed 38 people were actually false flag operations. (Their allegations could be related to a May 2002 incident in which a US citizen staying in the area was injured when a bomb he was making exploded in his hotel room; see May 16, 2002. The Philippines media suggested that he was a CIA operative taking part in false flag operations.)
The government is selling weapons and ammunition to rebel groups such as Abu Sayyaf even as these groups fight the government. The Guardian will later note that local newspaper reports describe the military’s selling of weapons to rebels as ‘an open secret’ and “common knowledge.” [Guardian, 8/15/2003] Gracia Burnham, an American missionary who was kidnapped in 2001 and held hostage by Abu Sayyaf rebels for more than a year, claims that her captors told her their weapons came from the Philippine government. [Asia Times, 7/29/2003]
Islamic militants are being allowed to escape from jail. Just two weeks before the mutiny, Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, a bomb maker with the al-Qaeda allied Jemaah Islamiyah group, was inexplicably able to escape from a heavily guarded prison in Manila. There are many dubious circumstances surrounding his escape (see July 14, 2003).
The government is on the verge of staging a new string of bombings to justify declaring martial law so Arroyo can remain in office past the end of her term in 2004.
The Guardian will later note, “Though the soldiers’ tactics were widely condemned in the Philippines, there was widespread recognition in the press, and even inside the military, that their claims ‘were valid and legitimate’…. Days before the mutiny, a coalition of church groups, lawyers, and NGOs launched a ‘fact-finding mission’ to investigate persistent rumors that the state was involved in the Davao explosions. It is also investigating the possible involvement of US intelligence agencies.” [Guardian, 8/15/2003] CNN comments, “While the government issued a statement calling the accusation ‘a lie,’ and saying the soldiers themselves could be victims of propaganda, the soldiers’ accusation plays on the fears of many Filipinos after the infamous 21-year term of President Ferdinand Marcos, during which he did the same thing. Marcos instigated a series of bombings and civil unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using that as an excuse to declare martial law in 1972. It took the People Power Revolt of 1986 to end Marcos’ dictatorship.” [CNN, 7/26/2003]
Henry Waxman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, writes to Vice President Cheney demanding an explanation for his decision not to comply with executive orders (see 2003). Cheney’s office, like other executive branch entities, is required to annually report on the amount of documents it is classifying, and how those documents are being kept secure. The annual requests are made in pursuance of an executive order, last updated by President Bush in 2003. The order states that it applies to any “entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.” Cheney has justified the decision by saying that because the Vice President is also the president of the Senate, the vice president’s office is not strictly a part of the executive branch, and therefore is not subject to the president’s executive orders; he cites as evidence his Constitutional role as a tie breaker in the Senate. Waxman writes, “Your decision to exempt your office from the President’s order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk. It is also hard to understand given the history of security breaches involving officials in your office.” Waxman’s point is that, if Cheney’s office is not part of the executive branch, then it is not authorized to view many of the classified documents it routinely receives; therefore the viewing of these documents by Cheney and his officials constitutes a breach of security. Waxman writes, “I question both the legality and the wisdom of your actions. In May 2006, an official in your office [Leandro Aragoncillo] pled guilty to passing classified information to individuals in the Philippines [as part of a plot to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo… Aragoncillo reportedly disclosed numerous secret and top secret documents to Philippine officials over several years while working in your office.… In March 2007, your former chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and false statements for denying his role in disclosing the identity of a covert CIA agent (see November 20, 2007). In July 2003, you reportedly instructed Mr. Libby to disclose information from a National lntelligence Estimate to Judith Miller, a former New York Times reporter. This record does not inspire confidence in how your office handles the nation’s most sensitive security information. Indeed, it would appear particularly irresponsible to give an office with your history of security breaches an exemption from the safeguards that apply to all other executive branch officials.… Your office may have the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified information.” Waxman notes that Cheney’s office is notorious for declassifying information for purely political reasons, as in the Libby case. Waxman concludes, “Given this record, serious questions can be raised about both the legality and the advisability of exempting your office from the rules that apply to all other executive branch officials.” [Congress Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, 6/21/2007; New York Times, 6/22/2007] The next day, when asked what he believes about Cheney’s position, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will quip, “I always thought that he was president of this administration.” [Cox News Service, 6/22/2007] Five days later, Waxman will say, “I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy, but this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.… He doesn’t have classified information because of his legislative function. It’s because of his executive function.” [New York Times, 6/22/2007]
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