Feuds, land-related conflicts hamper Bangsamoro’s transition to peace

DAVAO CITY - The latest comprehensive report of Conflict Alert showed that an increasing number of clan feuding and land related conflicts in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is threatening the region’s momentum to achieving peace.

Young school girls pass by an Army outpost along the highway in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. ( MANILA BULLETIN / FILE / KEITH BACONGCO)
Young school girls pass by an Army outpost along the highway in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. ( MANILA BULLETIN / FILE / KEITH BACONGCO)

Conflict Alert is a subnational conflict monitoring system focused on Mindanao and developed by the Philippines Programme of the independent peace building organization International Alert.

According to the report released on Monday (Jan. 25), “the highest concentrations of clan feuds were in Lanao del Sur (64, up by 64 percent) and in Maguindanao, including Cotabato City (56, up by 22 percent).”

“Picong, Lanao del Sur recorded six in 2019, the most by any municipality in the province and a drastic turnaround from zero incidents in 2018,” it added.

Meanwhile, in the areas of Lanao del Sur, particularly in Marawi City, and the municipalities of Marantao and Lumbatan, there were five incidents of clan feuds each from only two incidents recorded in 2018.

“Both local government officials coming from prominent families and clans as well as protagonists from lesser-known families and clans were targeted for assassination and ambuscades in 2019,” it said.

In 2019, there were also 14 incidents of violent clan feuds in the towns of Mamasapano, Pagalungan, and Guindulungan in Maguindanao province, compared to zero incidents in 2018.

The report described Mamasapano as an area lying “within the ‘SPMS Box’ in the province’s southeast, with Pagalungan and Guindulungan contiguous to this area.”

The SPMS box refers to the four main municipalities of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (now Datu Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano, and Datu Salibo. The report said “the SPMS Box and surrounding areas host the MILF, BIFF, and private armed groups.”

“Some of the clashes in the three municipalities involved MILF commanders or their men or clans affiliated with them. Meanwhile, in Parang, located in the northern part of Maguindanao, the number of incidents doubled in 2019,” it said.

During the  virtual presser for the launching of the 2020 Bangsamoro conflict report Nikki de la Rosa, country director of peacebuilding organization International Alert Philippines said “(t)he irony is that previous combatants who ought to be retired from decommissioning and normalization processes are instead training their weapons against each other, against indigenous peoples, and against other claimants of land surrounding their previous camps.”

“The combatants who lived in these camps desire permanent rights and ownership and these claims are now exacerbating tensions in the post-conflict normalization process,” de la Rosa added.

According to the report, the conflict monitoring system logged a total of 2,655 violent conflict incidents in the five BARMM provinces namely Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, including the cities of Cotabato and Isabela by the end of 2019.

This was a decrease of nine percent from the previous year. However, the report noted that while the overall “conflict incidents trended downward, flashpoints developed in many pockets and corners” of the BARMM.