Report confirms link between drug trade and extremist violence in south

By Elijah Felice Rosales, Business Mirror | November 29, 2017

Shadow economies, particularly illegal-drugs trade, have financed extremist groups with their terror activities in Mindanao, leading to the explosion of violence in the country’s southern island, a study by a peace organization said.

A report, titled “Conflict Alert 2017,” by the International Alert said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “saw an explosion of violence” in 2016 in the face of the national elections and the rise of President Duterte, whose administration vowed to eradicate the country’s drug menace.

According to the study, shadow economies have primarily caused the “sharp rise” in violent conflict. “The sharp rise in shadow economy-related incidents coincided with the start of President Duterte’s term of office, specifically after a nationwide and coordinated antidrug campaign was announced in July 2016,” the report said.

“The volume of illegal drug-related violence grew sixfold from the previous year. Bulk of shadow economy-related conflicts took place in Maguindanao, with illegal-drugs cases in this province comprising most of the cases,” the study added.

The rise in violence was unexpected, the report noted, because there was no “all-out war” declared in the ARMM like in 2000. Nonetheless, “there were 4,356 incidents in 2016, or an 89-percent increase” in cases of violence as compared to 2015.

The study added all provinces in the ARMM witnessed a spike in violent incidents, especially in Maguindanao and Basilan.

Aside from this, the report said much of the conflict cases arose from deadly shadow economies, most of which resulting from illegal drugs and illicit firearms. There were 1,498 shadow economies-related cases in 2016, or a 181-percent increase from 534 incident in 2015.

Common crimes were also found frequent, as there were 535 incidents logged in 2016, or a 15-percent hike from the recorded 467 cases in 2015. Common crimes include carjacking, robbery and conflict arising from intoxication, among others.

The study said it is without doubt this caused the conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, where the Daesh-inspired Maute Group laid siege in May, leading to a five-month fighting between government troops and terrorists.

The fighting has left more than 1,000 dead, and has displaced about 400,000 residents. Although the conflict has ended with the liberation of Marawi City in October, the Islamic town has yet to see daylight, with the government only beginning to roll out its rehabilitation program.

“It is obvious that urban violence will increasingly feature in the conflicts of the future due to some conducive factors, namely, highly dense population, fractious nature of alliances with different groups, ideology and affiliations in the area. Wars waged in urban areas will require new strategies and new alliances,” the report said.

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