Bangsamoro election tensions will create new strings of conflict

Incidents of election fraud and violence in the Bangsamoro region in the Philippines will lead to a multitude of conflicts, warned International Alert.

According to a postelection bulletin released by International Alert's Philippines Programme, the violence that attended the recent elections has created new strings of conflict, as fights between rival politicians morph into fights between clans exacting revenge.

International Alert's critical events monitoring system (CEMS) captured 144 reports of election-related incidents from 11-13 May in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao including Cotabato City, parts of North Cotabato, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Most of these incidents involved rival clans with the ability to engage in prolonged revenge killings.

CEMS is a real-time SMS-based monitoring platform used by International Alert and its early response network to disaster and conflict based in Marawi City.

Explosions and fistfights

According to International Alert’s postelection report, the election period saw fewer shooting incidents between rival candidates and supporters that were a staple of previous electoral battles. Instead, grenades and improvised explosive devices went off to scare voters and to preoccupy the police and military deputized by the Commission on Elections to ensure order during the polls. Meanwhile, there were reports of at least 20 fistfights and scuffles that broke out among candidates’ supporters and poll watchers within and outside polling places in International Alert’s areas of coverage.

Bombing and brawling seems to have replaced the violent gun battles of the past. A lot of this owes to the tight military and police presence and control in the Bangsamoro that started early this year during the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law and continued up to election day.

In December 2018, Congress approved a 12-month extension of martial law in Mindanao after President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for maintaining tough security measures in the region to stop extremist violence.

The important question now and in the post-election period is whether martial law will continue.

Clan feuding, revenge killings, and extremist violence are expected to rise in the absence of a negotiated post-election settlement on the carrying and use of firearms agreed by various groups such as the security sector, leaders in the new Bangsamoro government, local government officials, traditional leaders, and civil society.

Read the full postelection bulletin here and the preelection bulletin here.