The lay of the land: Viral violence and the threat of a wider war (April & May 2020)

As Ramadhan ended and the government eased its lockdown measures, violent conflict continued to surge in the Bangsamoro. Among the critical events monitored in the region were the expulsion of indigenous peoples (IP) from their ancestral lands; clashes between rebel groups and between factions of these rebel groups; the murder of a local government executive in Cotabato City; continued attacks by violent extremists and the death of two children from a mortar explosion; and the forced displacement of thousands of families due to these conflicts. The upsurge would seem unprecedented as spikes in violence during the Islamic holy month usually…Read more

Special CEMS Bulletin on COVID-19 and Conflict (1 February – 17 April 2020)

Three sources of fragility have been the mainstays in the Bangsamoro prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly shape and are shaped by the conflict to peace transition and will determine the stability and development trajectory of the region. First, the continued presence of rival armed groups as evidenced in the violence caused by extremist groups such as the Maute/Dawla Islamiyah that laid siege in Marawi in 2017 and new actors and new forms of indiscriminate bombings in public places, including suicide bombings. Second, the persistence of rival systems of property rights manifested by enduring conflicts over land and…Read more

Inauspicious start to the year (January 2020)

As martial law ended at the close of 2019, the national government said Proclamation No. 55, which declared a state of national emergency, remains in effect. However, it's unclear what it can do against the resurgence of violence in Muslim Mindanao that had been observed even before martial law lifted. Reports by Early Response Network (ERN) members indicated that violence had persisted in January. Ordinary civilians, government officials, and members of the security forces were targets in shooting incidents. The drug trade, suppressed by martial law, was on the rebound. Clans embroiled in feuds sought retribution that would ensnare their…Read more

Martial law gains diminishing (October-December 2019)

Martial law, first declared in May 2017 at the start of the Marawi Siege, ushered in a period of relative peace in the Muslim Mindanao provinces. Conflict incidents and deaths dropped in 2018 from the previous year.[1] By the last quarter of 2019, however, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur had slid back into violence, as depicted by Early Response Network reports.[2] Shooting and bombing incidents targeted civilians, soldiers, policemen, and locally-elected officials. Clans attacked other clans. Extremists continued to recruit and launch attacks, triggering displacement. All the while, the transition to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and…Read more

A worrying turn of events in Lanao del Sur (September 2019)

Military shelling of an ISIS camp roused Piagapo before sunrise while the killing of a sultan primed Malabang for the resumption of a clan feud. They took place kilometers and days apart, with no seeming connection, except they marked an escalation in violence in war-weary Lanao del Sur. These alarming developments did not happen out of the blue. Reports filed by Early Response Network (ERN) members in Lanao del Sur in previous months warned of the Maute-ISIS’s regrouping, pointed out sightings of members even in battle-scarred Marawi City, and recounted clashes between the military and Maute-ISIS fighters.[1] Meanwhile, fighting between…Read more

Bangsamoro confronts NPA, ISIS, and weather threats (July & August 2019)

The Bangsamoro confronted a growing insurgency problem, just as the rains, which provided relief from the heat, turned into a deluge that brought misery, particularly to families displaced by the 2017 Marawi war and still living in temporary shelters. In the backdrop, winners of the May polls began their terms, eager to deliver on election promises, yet aware of the many challenges they face, including threats from the enemies they made in the past election. This bulletin for July and August was pieced together using around 300 reports from Early Response Network (ERN) members based in Lanao del Sur and…Read more

No honeymoon period for Bangsamoro’s newly elected leaders (June 2019)

Transitions are never easy, particularly if they affect the well-being of thousands of people. In the Bangsamoro, the month of June saw officials who won new terms after the previous month’s election prepare to assume their posts and officials who lost prepare to vacate their offices, reluctantly or not. Meanwhile, those who won second or third terms set new priorities and consolidated loyalties among other local officials. Amid the comings and goings, the challenges plaguing the Bangsamoro became even more manifest, as if telling the election winners there will be no honeymoon. Around 170 reports provided in June by Early…Read more

Political rivalries unleash cycle of retribution (May 2019)

  The rains in May provided relief from the heat but, in pockets of the Bangsamoro, the situation remained tense after the 13 May polls as political rivalries ignited longstanding conflicts or sparked new feuds. The belief the vote was rigged in certain localities also portended disputes that would take long to settle. Meanwhile, as Muslim Filipinos observed the holy month of Ramadhan and Marawi commemorated the second anniversary of the war that broke out in the Islamic city on 23 May 2017, the threat of violent extremism loomed. There were sightings of armed men in towns bordering Butig, Lanao…Read more

Heightened tensions and conflicts as dry season and campaign period set in (April 2019)

April saw temperatures soar as the weather warmed and political rivalries heat up as the campaign for local posts got underway. These formed the backdrop for tensions that simmered and, in several instances, boiled over to claim lives and destroy properties in the Bangsamoro and surrounding areas. That month, a total of 93 reports were received by International Alert Philippines’s Critical Events Monitoring System (CEMS), sent in by Early Response Network (ERN) members in Cotabato and Marawi cities, the rest of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and parts of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.[1] These reports excluded reports on election-r’elated…Read more

Fraud and Violence: Mainstays of Bangsamoro Electoral Politics (Postelection)

“Generally peaceful” was the Palace’s assessment of the 13 May polls for national and local posts.1 Nothing could be further from the truth, especially where Muslim Mindanao was concerned. A total of 108 reports on election-related incidents were received on 13 May by International Alert Philippines’s Critical Events Monitoring System, sent in by Early Response Network members stationed all over Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao including Cotabato City, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and parts of North Cotabato.2 A preview of election day, 11-12 May yielded a total of 36 reports, as anticipation among voters and heightened tensions among candidates and their supporters spurred reporting…Read more