Report: Violence in Muslim Mindanao declined in 2018
MANILA, Philippines — Conflict incidence in the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) declined in 2018, peace building organization International Alert Philippines revealed Tuesday.
In a press briefing in Taguig City, Conflict Alert, a subnational monitoring system developed by International Alert Philippines, launched its report which revealed that conflict incidence in 2018 dropped to 2,910 cases, lower than the 4,140 incidents in 2017.
This was a 30-percent drop from 2017 and a larger 33-percent drop from 2016.
“Rebellion-related violence associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has been on the downtrend since 2016. Rebellion-related political conflict was vastly reduced by the ceasefire agreements between the government and the Moro fronts which have continued to hold,” the report stated.
In the region’s provinces, the report also noted less reported cases of violence except in Tawi-tawi.
In Maguindanao, including Cotabato City, 1,420 conflict incidents were reported, a 25-percent plunge compared to the data from 2017.
Despite this, Maguindanao remains at the top spot in terms of conflict incidence, the report noted.
Other provinces in the region such as Sulu, Basilan, and Lanao del Sur also reported a decline in conflict incidences when compared to data from the year before.
A total of 508 conflict incidents were reported in Sulu (8 percent decline), 468 incidents in Basilan including Isabela City (26 percent decline), and 373 incidents in Lanao del Sur (60 percent decline).
Tawi-tawi is the sole province in the region that reported an increase in conflict incidence after 141 incidents were reported, a slight 8 percent increase from 2017.
“The remarkable shift in the conflict situation certainly brings a more conducive environment for development to take place and for a lasting peace to be embedded in what has often been described as the most dangerous place in the country,” the report noted.
“More importantly, the situation buys time for the newly established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to strengthen its legitimacy and institutionalize the sort of reforms that can be felt immediately by the local population,” it added.
Martial law imposition
The organization said that “the most likely explanation” to the said decline is the imposition of martial law, which allowed the government to have a stronger presence in the region.
“The State was also able to maintain a fragile peace in the Bangsamoro by imposing martial law, which in turn deterred the carrying and use of firearms,” Nikki de la Rosa, International Alert country manager, explained.
The report explained that the imposition of martial law in the region allowed for increased police visibility and number of military checkpoints, thus, making it “extremely difficult for people to carry their firearms in public and engage in gun battles across the region.”
International Alert said that gun-related deaths dropped by 31 percent in 2018 after only 891 deaths in the region were reported, lower than the 1,290 in 2017.
This was, the organization said, due to the increase in the illegal possession of firearms arrests conducted by the Philippine National Police.
Likewise, the report partly attributed the decline of violent incidents in the region to the drop in coordinated attacks and use of explosives of armed groups, with bombing incidents dropping from 193 incidents in 2017 to 166 in 2018.
Fragile peace, still
Is the region out of the woods yet? No, according to the organization.
The report explained that while there are positive developments with the decline of violent incidents in the region, “new types of violent conflict and new conflict actors are emerging.”
“Extremist violence remains resilient and transition-induced violence is growing apace. Multi-causal violence that combines political and identity-based violence continues to rear its head despite the end of war in Marawi and is now the leading cause of conflict deaths,” the report stated.
Further, cases of violent conflict and average number of conflict-related deaths from 2016 to 2018, remains higher than the years before the spike in 2016.
“Conflict deaths have also decreased, but not as low as in the years prior to the spike in 2016., when violent extremists incidents began to erupt just before the 2017 Marawi war,” Francisco Lara, Senior Peace and Conflict Adviser of Alert Philippines, said. /jpv
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