Sulu is an archipelago of some 900 islands and has been the target of an American-assisted counter-insurgency program for the past 4 years. Abu Sayyaf insurgents have been largely routed, and according to the Philippine military their numbers have been reduced to less than 300.
This is thanks to American efforts to improve intelligence, and a U.S. State Department rewards program that has led to the capture and assassination of most of the group's leaders. American troops have set up a permanent presence in Sulu and continue to advise the Philippine military there. Often referred to as America's 'second front' against terrorism, Sulu has been hailed as a success. But counter to official predictions that killing off the terrorists will bring peace, Sulu remains a very dangerous place. Abu Sayyaf is making a comeback, kidnapping journalists and international aid workers as well as local officials and businessmen.
The people in Sulu still live in a constant state of insecurity. Gun violence is still the major cause of mortality, violent clan conflicts paralyze entire communities, and kidnap-for-ransom gangs still operate. Local politics is still dominated by warlords and their heavily armed militias. The local people have lost faith in both the law and the security forces. So civilians insist on carrying their own firearms, making this one of the most dangerous, and heavily armed regions in the Philippines.
Director/Producer Orlando de Guzman made the journey to Sulu and filmed there for two months, capturing the untold story of violent clan politics in Sulu. In this hidden world family bloodlines and clan loyalty lead people to maim and kill, and has driven an arms race between competing families. Ultimately, successful U.S. counter-insurgency programs in Sulu will have to address the insecurity and state of lawlessness triggered by the region's volatile clan dynamics.