CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.
President Duterte 7 Nov signed Executive Order expanding Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC), but Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari said MNLF would not participate with “traitor” Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); suggested separate MNLF-govt talks. Duterte and Misuari met after 27 Oct court decision temporarily suspended charges against Misuari for role in 2013 Zamboanga City siege. Govt said MNLF-MILF tensions hindered peace process. National Democratic Front (NDFP) communist rebel alliance including Communist Party of Philippines (CPP) expressed scepticism of govt’s commitment to peace negotiations, rebooted in Aug, after missed 27 Oct deadline for “unified bilateral ceasefire agreement”. NDFP negotiator also accused military of ceasefire violations especially in eastern Mindanao; military reiterated commitment to process. Govt pledged quick release of political prisoners following NDFP complaints. Govt-CPP tensions increased after Supreme Court 8 Nov upheld Duterte order to re-inter former dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s remains in Manila’s Cemetery of Heroes; burial occurred 18 Nov amid widespread opposition and protests. Abu Sayyaf kidnappings continued, including tourists and fishermen off Malaysia and Philippines coasts. Duterte and Malaysian PM Najib Razak 10 Nov agreed to increase maritime security cooperation. Indonesian Defence Minister 17 Nov announced Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines anti-Abu Sayyaf taskforce. Armed forces 19 Nov reported ten Abu Sayyaf militants and four soldiers killed in 18 Nov gun battle in Patikul, Sulu province. Military 30 Nov reported 61 members of Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Maute Group killed in five-day operation 25-30 Nov in Lanao del Sur province. Authorities said Maute Group suspected of responsibility for bomb diffused outside U.S. embassy in Manila 28 Nov. (See also South China Sea).
Defence secretary 7 Oct said police had apprehended three members of armed Islamist organisation, Maute Group, over 2 Sept Davao City bomb attack, with seven other suspects reportedly still at large. Abu Sayyaf 2 Oct released three Indonesian hostages as Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) continued counter-terrorism crackdown in Sulu and Basilan. Media 16 Oct reported 94 Abu Sayyaf militants “neutralised” in counter-terrorism operations since late Sept. Ten suspected Abu Sayyaf militants 21 Oct attacked S Korean ship off coast of southern Philippines, abducting captain and one crew member. 25 Oct report by Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict highlighted increasing use of Mindanao province as training destination for South-East Asian militants. Representatives of govt and communist rebel groups represented by National Democratic Front (NDFP) met in Oslo 6 Oct for second round of peace talks; 9 Oct reached consensus on terms of framework to serve as foundation for final peace deal, including Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER). Draft proclamation calling for release of 434 communist-affiliated political prisoners submitted to President Duterte for approval. Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza 26 Oct said Indigenous Peoples Advisory Council would be formed to ensure that draft agreements with both NDFP and Bangsamoro Transition Council (BTC), all-Moro body formed in Aug 2016 to negotiate peace roadmap and Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), are inclusive of minorities. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim 19 Oct said MILF supports govt’s pledge for transition to federalism, but passage of BBL “must precede this shift from unitary to federal form of government”. Ebrahim said MILF remains “very hopeful” that BBL will pass in congress under Duterte regime.
Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for bomb attack at market in Davao City 2 Sept which killed fifteen people and injured at least 68. President Duterte declared indefinite nationwide “state of lawless violence” following attack; said this was not martial law, but he “may invite uniformed personnel to run the country according to [his] specifications”. Duterte 6 Sept formally upgraded situation to “state of national emergency”. Police 9 Sept released sketches of main suspect in bombing, said alleged bomber suspected of involvement in “narco-terrorism”; 14 Sept filed charges against nine additional suspects. Davao City bombing came just days after Abu Sayyaf vowed to respond to late Aug launch of military operation in Sulu province in which at least 30 Abu Sayyaf militants were killed. Operation against Abu Sayyaf intensified throughout month, reportedly involving deployment of some 7,000 troops since late-Aug. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command 23 Sept reported that twenty members of Abu Sayyaf had surrendered to security forces 22 Sept, following three weeks of armed forces’ “relentless operation” in Sulu. Four Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and one Abu Sayyaf fighter reportedly killed 2 Sept in Sulu as violence broke out between Abu Sayyaf and MNLF, who were assisting AFP in operations against Abu Sayyaf. Meanwhile, Bangsamoro peace process appeared to maintain positive momentum. Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Al-Haj Murad 14 Sept expressed optimism about ongoing peace negotiations with govt, said negotiating panel had been changed into “implementation panel”, as agreed with Duterte administration. MNLF chair Muslimin Sema 16 Sept said MNLF “confident of very promising days soon for the Mindanao peace process”. Historic ceasefire between govt and National Democratic Front (NDFP) communist rebels continued to hold throughout month; ahead of second round of Oslo peace negotiations 6-10 Oct, NDFP 28 Sept said agenda will include general amnesty proclamation on release of all political prisoners, expected to “give a big push for the peace negotiations”; govt and NDFP said they hope to come up with draft of ceasefire document. Duterte 26 Sept said he would seek to open trade alliances with China and Russia during upcoming visits, while maintaining ties with U.S.; 28 Sept said upcoming joint military exercises with U.S. will be last, since China does not want them.
Govt and communist rebel group National Democratic Front (NDFP), which includes the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) insurgent group, resumed peace talks in Oslo 22-27 Aug, first meetings since negotiations to resolve 47-year-long conflict were suspended in 2012. Parties 21 Aug agreed ceasefire for duration of talks, 26 Aug extended ceasefire indefinitely and agreed to continue negotiations 8-12 Oct. Govt and MILF negotiators conducting peace talks in Malaysia 13-14 Aug signed joint statement agreeing to increase membership of newly reconstituted Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) from previous fifteen to 21 members, including new representatives from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and indigenous communities. Meetings reportedly focused on developing more inclusive implementation plan for peace roadmap, including plans to draft new version of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which President Duterte hopes to implement as part of country’s move toward federalism. In lead-up to talks, presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza 4 Aug said negotiations complete, committee now entering implementation phase of new peace roadmap approved by Duterte 18 July. MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim 13 Aug said MILF has “new solidified relationship” with new administration, hopes to see “final closure” to Mindanao conflict. Duterte announced crackdown on Abu Sayyaf group after it beheaded teenage hostage 24 Aug; over 1,200 military troops reportedly raided several areas of Sulu province 26-29 Aug, killing at least 21 alleged Abu Sayyaf militants including one commander. Abu Sayyaf reportedly kidnapped at least three other hostages in Sulu province during month. Army spokesman 29 Aug reported twelve soldiers killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu. Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa 23 Aug said over 1,900 people had been killed since 1 July in Duterte’s “War on Drugs” crackdown; police claimed responsibility for approximately 900 deaths. UN 18 Aug condemned crackdown and extrajudicial killings.
Building on President Duterte’s campaign pledge to federalise country, administration 19 July announced it would launch simultaneous push for “enabling law” creating autonomous Bangsamoro region and work on shift to federal form of govt. New comprehensive peace roadmap approved by Duterte 18 July calls for all-Moro body to draft more inclusive law in lieu of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to consolidate existing peace agreements including 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and 1996 Final Peace Agreement with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); body which drafted BBL to be “reconstituted” with representation from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), MNLF and other Bangsamoro representatives. Duterte 22 July encouraged quick passage of enabling law, excluding constitutional issues, which he said could be incorporated into constitution under move to federalism. MILF said its Central Committee meeting late July to discuss proposal; presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and MILF leader Murad Ebrahim 21 July announced govt-MILF Implementing Team meeting early-Aug. Govt and MILF 12 July signed agreement to coordinate in combatting illegal drugs in areas formerly under MILF control. Duterte 25 July announced immediate, unilateral ceasefire with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); ceasefire lifted 30 July when no immediate reciprocal ceasefire was declared and after 27 July firefight between NPA and military in Davao del Norte in which one “civilian auxiliary force member” died and three wounded, according to Dureza. Govt earlier announced resumption of peace talks with NDFP to take place 20-27 Aug; NDFP requested govt release detained leaders to participate in negotiations. Military 11 July said troops killed 40 Abu Sayyaf fighters in early-July fighting on Jolo and Basilan islands; 17 July announced 33 members of Islamic State (IS)-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed in four days of fighting in Maguindanao province. Suspected Abu Sayyaf members 14 July killed three Philippine soldiers. Three Indonesians abducted 10 July, Abu Sayyaf suspected of responsibility; Dureza 19 July confirmed Abu Sayyaf kidnapped five Malaysians.
Govt peace negotiator Silvestre Bello met mid-June with exiled National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) communist leaders in Oslo, 15 June signed agreement to formally resume peace talks in July to end communist insurgency; previous round stalled 2013 when President Aquino halted negotiations and refused to release political prisoners. President-elect Duterte 17 June met with leaders of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); reiterated his campaign promise to pass Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). MILF Vice Chair Ghadzali Jaafar said MILF and MNLF working to come up with unified stance on Bangsamoro govt. Army 4 June reported it captured Islamic State (IS)-allied Maute militant group training camp in Lanao del Sur province; four soldiers and dozens of militants reported killed. Army 4 June said it would suspend operations in south during Ramadan out of respect, but remain on standby in Lanao del Sur. Army 17 June said some 5,000 soldiers deployed in Sulu province to track Abu Sayyaf group; at least three Abu Sayyaf killed, ten Abu Sayyaf and sixteen soldiers injured in clash with military in Patikul town 21 June. Four Malaysian hostages held by Abu Sayyaf since April 2016 freed 8 June, Filipina woman held since Sept 2015 freed 24 June; group 13 June executed Canadian hostage held since Sept 2015. Amid growing regional security challenges, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines 20 June agreed to increase air and sea patrols in common maritime areas to combat hijackings, kidnappings and robbery. One police killed, five police and two civilians injured in grenade attack by unidentified assailants 20 June in Sarangani province; Sarangani among strongholds of communist New People’s Army (NPA). Police 18-19 June killed eleven suspected drug dealers, bringing number of drug suspects killed since Duterte was elected 9 May to over 40.
Controversial longstanding mayor of Mindanao’s Davao City Rodrigo Duterte won 9 May presidential elections with 38.5% of vote. Pantaleon Alvarez, expected to be new house speaker under Duterte, 21 May said next Congress would not pass Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), would focus on federalisation of country which would address provisions of 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB); remarks contradict Duterte’s previous stated commitment to passing BBL. Chief govt negotiator on CAB 23 May urged passage of BBL; Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 24 May called Alvarez’s statement “non-starter” and said it did not build confidence in Duterte administration’s understanding of Bangsamoro issue. Govt and MILF peace panels met 29-30 May in Malaysia and signed Declaration of Continuity of the Partnership in the peace process. Poll results released 7 May showed 45% of Philippine population said new president should implement CAB. Islamic State (IS) claimed 9 May attack on army outpost in Maluso, said carried out by “IS Philippines”; second IS-claimed attack in Philippines. Seven soldiers wounded 18 May on Jolo Island in suspected Abu Sayyaf group grenade attack. Govt forces 24 May captured Abu Sayyaf camp in effort to rescue hostages; Abu Sayyaf set new ransom deadline for 13 June. Abu Sayyaf 11 May freed four Indonesians without ransom; release reportedly negotiated by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Govt forces late month reportedly killed 54 militants linked to Islamist terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah in Lanau del Sur. In other attacks: seven killed, one wounded 9 May by unknown attackers south of Manila. Four killed in Maguindanao mid-May in three clashes between Sabal and Buisan political clans with ties to MNLF and MILF.
Month saw heavy fighting on Basilan island as military launched major operation against Abu Sayyaf Group. Eighteen soldiers killed, over 50 injured 9 April after over 100 Abu Sayyaf attacked military in Tipo-Tipo, highest death toll of single military operation since 2011. Islamic State (IS), to which Abu Sayyaf has claimed allegiance, 14 April issued first official communiqué on attacks in Philippines claiming to have blown up seven trucks carrying soldiers during Basilan clashes; Philippine military rejected claim as propaganda. Military 10 April deployed over 2,000 soldiers to pursue Abu Sayyaf leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Furuji Indama. 37 militants reported killed in clashes 9-16 April. Military captured at least three Abu Sayyaf camps throughout month. Military 6 April confirmed foreign nationals held by Abu Sayyaf include fourteen Indonesians, four Malaysians kidnapped from ship 3 April. Abu Sayyaf 8 April freed former Italian missionary after six months; 25 April murdered Canadian hostage held since Sept 2015; 1 May released ten Indonesian sailors held since late March. Govt’s chief peace negotiator 14 April said operations against Abu Sayyaf highlight importance of Mindanao peace process with MILF in curbing terrorist groups. As campaigning got underway for 9 May general elections, candidates debated significance of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). All presidential contenders have also declared supporting the continuation of peace process.
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim 7 March said MILF will uphold Mindanao peace process ahead of May elections, appealed to international supporters of process to influence new govt to implement 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB); warned about growing frustration over Congress’s failure to pass Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) leading to fringe militant groups allying with Islamic State (IS) to establish stronghold on southern islands; said MILF working to dissuade IS-allied militants from launching attacks. Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., author and sponsor of alternative to BBL, 24 March said implementing peace process best deterrent against IS influence in Philippines. Clashes continued between military and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Da- tu Salibo, Maguindanao. Two New People’s Army (NPA) bomb attacks 20 March wounded four soldiers and two civilians in Bicol region. Military confirmed Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militant Radullan Sahiron, wanted by U.S. for $1 mn, injured in 18 March firefight with govt security forces in Patikul. One ASG reported killed 23 March in MILF ambush. ASG reportedly kidnapped ten Indonesian sailors late month. IS-linked Ansaru’l Khilafah Philippines 17 March released video purporting to show beheading of man working for police.
Congress went on recess 3 Feb without passing Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), meaning that bill, which is required to implement 2013 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) through creation of autonomous Bangsamoro region, will not be passed before May elections. Chief peace negotiator criticised legislators’ “indifference” and “chronic absenteeism” in the 16th Congress. Following talks in Malaysia 10-11 Feb, govt and MILF issued joint statement expressing disappointment but agreeing to extend ceasefire until March 2017. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal warned of frustration and anxiety within MILF; MILF leader Murad Ebrahim 18 Feb also expressed commitment to peace, urged patience and calm among Bangsamoro communities. Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) 26 Feb said that Jan 2015 Mamasapano incident, in which 44 police commandos and eighteen MILF were killed, not only halted passage of BBL but also may have made extremism more attractive to young Muslims. Military 10 Feb reported arrest of top Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militant Hassan Indal alias Abu Hazam west of Cotabato City. BIFF suspected of responsibility for roadside bombs in Maguindanao killing four people 17 Feb and one soldier 20 Feb. Six suspected BIFF fighters reported killed in clash with military 16 Feb. MILF 25 Feb announced it was repositioning its fighters in south to avoid “mis-encounters” with army fighting BIFF. Military reported 42 suspected militants claiming links to Islamic State killed during clashes in Lanao del Sur province late month; three soldiers also killed. Military reported clash between Abu Sayyaf Group and Moro National Liberation Front in Sulu 20 Feb, two killed. Six policemen killed in attack by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Cagayan 16 Feb. Military reported NPA leader shot dead by soldiers in Bukidnon province 23 Feb.
Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) which tracks implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) 3 Jan urged govt and MILF to promote passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and manage public expectations in case congress does not pass it; also expressed concerns over whether BBL would be compliant with CAB. Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte 28 Jan conceded BBL will not be passed before May 2016 elections. Tensions heightened 27 Jan with reopening of Senate probe into 25 Jan Mamasapano incident in which 44 police commandos and eighteen MILF were killed. MILF 27 Jan reported it has set up task force following reports of recruitment activities by Islamic State in south Mindanao, expressed concern over rising radicalism among region’s youth. Thousands of civilians reportedly fled areas in southern Philippines early month following attacks by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Continued clashes between military and Abu Sayyaf Group.
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