After decades of insurgency, the government of the Philippines is making efforts to deliver peace to Mindanao in the south of the country. Although the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in 2019 can be seen as an initial success on the road to peace, this entity is faced with a difficult task in managing the transition until the 2022 elections. Violence continues between the government and several armed groups, including ISIS-affiliated elements and the communist New People's Army. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to support the peace processes, promote strategies designed to limit the space for jihadist recruitment and mobilisation, and strengthen social cohesion in Mindanao.
Officials in The Hague have announced a formal investigation into alleged state crimes committed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s aggressive counter-narcotics campaign in the Philippines. For several reasons, as Crisis Group expert Georgi Engelbrecht explains, the enquiry will face an uphill battle.
Originally published in The Diplomat
Violence persisted at low levels in south, while members of Bangsamoro Transition Authority passed bill to extend transition. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, communal violence remained low, while some clashes between govt and armed groups continued. Notably, three members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) 14 Sept surrendered to military in Datu Unsay municipality, Maguindanao province. Bomb blast 18 Sept killed one and injured eight civilians in Datu Piang town, Maguindanao; authorities attributed attack to BIFF. In Sulu province, four Abu Sayyaf Group members 7 Sept surrendered to military in Talipao town, followed by another two members next day in Ungkaya Pukan town, Basilan province. Police supported by military 17 Sept killed alleged Abu Sayyaf financier in firefight during attempted arrest in Luuk town, Sulu province. House of Representatives’ Strategic Intelligence Committee Chairperson Johnny Pimentel 5 Sept announced deployment of additional 4,500 troops to Jolo municipality, Sulu province, to combat armed groups. Bangsamoro Transition Authority Senate 6 Sept and House of Representatives 15 Sept each passed bills extending transition period; both houses 21 Sept convened bicameral conference to reconcile both legislations, with bill submitted to President Duterte for signature on 27 Sept. Security forces continued to clash with communist New People’s Army at similarly lethal levels as Aug in Mindanao island in south, Visayas islands in centre, and Luzon island in north, killing at least 22 and injuring four during month. President Duterte 8 Sept accepted ruling party PDP–Laban’s nomination to run for vice presidency in May 2022 election; Senator Manny Pacquiao 19 Sept accepted nomination from supporters within PDP-Laban to run for presidency and Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso 22 Sept also declared candidacy for Aksyon Demokratiko party. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases 11 Sept reached all-time daily high of 26,303.
Peace in the Philippines’ majority-Muslim region requires disarming 40,000 ex-rebels and encouraging economic development where they live. But progress toward these goals, together called “normalisation”, is sputtering. Both Manila and the former insurgents need to hit the accelerator lest the process lose momentum entirely.
Elections in 2022 will bring an autonomous regional government to the Bangsamoro, a part of the southern Philippines long riven by rebellion. To prepare for the 2014 peace deal’s last test, the area’s interim self-rule entity needs to accommodate the big families that dominate its politics.
The new autonomous Bangsamoro region in Muslim Mindanao promises to address longstanding local grievances and drivers of militancy in the Philippines. But the Bangsamoro leadership faces steep challenges in disarming thousands of former militants, reining in other Islamist groups and transitioning from guerrillas to government.
Hopes are high that one of the world’s longest-running civil conflicts can be resolved in the Philippines. The newly-elected president must act on his commitment to the outgoing administration’s promise of autonomy for the southern Bangsamoro (Muslim Nation) population. Failure to do so risks more lawlessness or reigniting the insurgency.
The Philippines has had some recent success in winding down decades-long negotiations with rebel groups, but achieving peace with the country’s biggest insurgency, in Mindanao, requires both new energy and fresh thinking.
The next round of talks between the Philippines’ largest Muslim insurgent group and the government is a crucial step towards implementing a sweeping peace agreement signed in October.
If [President] Duterte can move this [the peace deal] forward during this honeymoon period rapidly, it has a much better chance of going through. I think it's an opportunity that's a tragedy to lose.
The recently established Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) offers new hope for a peaceful future for its majority-Muslim population after decades of war. The success of BARMM, and more broadly, the peace process, could send positive ripple effects across the wider region.
Originally published in Philippine Strategic Forum
The glacial pace of the city’s reconstruction could fuel disillusionment among the region’s population.
Elections in 2022 will bring an autonomous regional government to the Bangsamoro, a part of the southern Philippines long riven by rebellion. To prepare for the 2014 peace deal’s last test, the area’s interim self-rule entity needs to accommodate the big clans that dominate its politics.
It is a challenge to represent South Madaya Proper, a district in Marawi, the Philippines’ historic “Islamic city”, depopulated two years ago in a battle between government forces and jihadists. To do so, a young council chair says, she acts as both official and activist.