CEMS Bulletin – April & May 2020

The lay of the land: Viral violence and the threat of a wider war 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…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

CEMS Bulletin – January 2020

Inauspicious start to the year 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…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – October-December 2019

Martial law gains diminishing 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…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – July & August 2019

Bangsamoro confronts NPA, ISIS, and weather threats 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)…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – April 2019

Heightened tensions and conflicts as dry season and campaign period set in 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…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – Postelection

Fraud and Violence: Mainstays of Bangsamoro Electoral Politics “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…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – Preelection

Propaganda, vote-buying, and intimidation amid the election campaign In a resolution on March 19, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared the whole of Mindanao as a ‘red’ election hotspot, judging from violence in the past two elections, and threats posed by armed groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf Group, the New People’s Army as well as rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front.[1] A red hotspot classification constitutes a warning the election could be interrupted and gives the Comelec the power to put an area under its control and direct…Read more

CEMS Bulletin – Plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law

The January 21 plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law will certainly rank as one of the most peaceful political exercises in recent Bangsamoro history. There were many reports of violence but none approximating the magnitude or body count in previous political competitions. Many observers claim that a plebiscite normally induces lower levels of violence in contrast to local elections because rivalries are less intense. There were many accounts of the festive atmosphere that accompanied the voting at the precinct level. From January 19 to 21, International Alert Philippines’s SMS-based Critical Events Monitoring System (CEMS), gathered reports of 56 incidents…Read more