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Profile: Gracia Burnham
Gracia Burnham was a participant or observer in the following events:
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]
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