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Study shows conflict incidents spike in ARMM in 2016

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) saw an "explosion of violence" in 2016, with conflict incidents recorded mostly in Maguindanao although most deaths were in Basilan, according to the Conflict Alert report released Wednesday.

The report titled "Guns, Drugs, and Extremism: Bangsamoro's New Wars" said the violence in ARMM occurred amid the holding of national elections and the "coming to power of a new administration dedicated to eradicating the drug problem in the Philippines."

The 63-page report, which was developed by International Alert Philippines, showed that there were a total of 4,356 conflict incidents in ARMM in 2016, an 89 percent increase from the previous year's 2,303.

Maguindanao (including Cotabato City) posted the highest number of conflict incidents followed by Basilan (including Isabela City) and Tawi-Tawi. Lanao del Sur had the smallest increase of conflict incidents.

The increase in Maguindanao and Basilan was attributed to the "intensification in urban violence in Cotabato City and Isabela City, respectively," the report said.

"Basilan more violent"

Basilan was ahead of Maguindanao and other provinces in terms of conflict per capita and deaths per capita, which means that "Basilan would turn out to be more violent than Maguindanao."

"Conflict per capita was most intense in Basilan. The data for Basilan showed a doubling of incidents per 100,000 persons to 167 in 2016 from 83 in 2015. Next to Basilan was Maguindanao with 153 incidents, rising from 75," it said.

"Basilan also led in terms of deaths per capita at 46 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2016, rising from 25 per 100,000 in 2015," it added. "However, Lanao del Sur tied with Maguindanao in second place with 29 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 from the previous year's 18 deaths."

In July and August, the number of conflict incidents in ARMM registered the highest with 543 and 472, respectively, the report also said, adding the number of illegal drug incidents had "skyrocketed in the first two months of implementation of the PNP's anti-illegal drug campaign, Project Double Barrel."

Illegal drugs

The biggest causes of violent conflict was due to "shadow economies" primarily caused by the illegal drug-related activities.

"The sharp rise in shadow economy-related incidents coincided with the start of President Rodrigo Duterte's term of office, specifically after a nationwide and coordinated anti-drug campaign was  announced in July 2016," the report said.

"The volume of illegal drug-related violence grew six-fold from the previous year. Bulk of shadow economy-related conflicts took place in Maguindanao, with illegal drug cases in this province comprising most of the cases," it added.

Conflict Alert team leader Judy Galane cited Maute group as an example of those who were tied to shadow economies as its members are being linked to cases of kidnapping, extortion of business and illegal drug-related activities.

The second major cause of violence in the ARMM in 2016 was gender-related, overtaking "illicit firearm-related violence, carjacking and robbery, and even other prominent identity-related issues such as rido or clan feuding."

Rebellion, extremism

While the shadow economy issues had "predominated" ARMM's "conflict landscape," it did not result in as many deaths as political issues, noting that "political issues such as rebellion and extremism caused more fatalities."

"The ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) accounted for many deaths, but paled in contrast to the Maute Group in terms of conflict per deaths per armed confrontation," Conflict Alert's 2017 report said.

Meanwhile, shooting was reported to be the most common manifestation of violent conflicts in the ARMM in 2016 or during the 2011 to 2016 period.

"The cause or causes of many of these incidents could not be determined, but where they were ascertained, rido, personal grudge cases, and illegal drug incidents frequently involved weapons use," it said.

"Conflict in Muslim Mindanao affected civilians and children the most. Shadow economy issues, identity issues and common crimes were the top causes of violent conflicts affecting these two," it added.

Conflict Alert which aims to shape policy-making, develop strategies and peace-building is a "subnational conflict monitoring system that track the incidence, causes, and human costs of violent conflict in the Philippines."

It is supported by the Korea Trust Fund for Economic and Peace-Building Transitions, The World Bank and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. —KBK, GMA News

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