By Elizabeth E. Escaño

‘MILF, gov’t forces work hand in hand vs violence’

Posted on April 29, 2015

A MUSLIM rebel group has been working with government security forces to stem violence arising from shadow economies such as kidnapping and the drug trade, data collected by the World Bank-funded Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) said.

“[T]here is clear evidence that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been working hand in hand with government security forces to stem violent shadow economies,” International Alert Country Manager Francisco J. Lara, Jr. said on Monday, citing data from the 2011-2014 BCMS report.

Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) -- through its spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito E. Kakilala said in a text message that he “has not come across” International Alert’s report -- MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal confirmed its findings.

“To a certain extent, yes, especially through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG),” Mr. Iqbal said through text, referring to the cooperative mechanism between the government and the MILF that responds to criminality and terrorism in areas with MILF presence.

Mr. Iqbal refused to elaborate although the BCMS presentation said that the “alliance with the MILF is crucial in countering the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) threat.”

Based on the same presentation, cases of violent conflict in the region rose to almost 1,200 cases in 2014 from only 700 the year before.

During both years, the largest causes of conflict were violence that arose from shadow economies, which cover illegal firearms, illegal drugs, kidnap for ransom, illegal gambling, human trafficking, financial scams, and extortion, BCMS Team Leader Liezl P. Bugtay said.

Out of these, Ms. Bugtay said that the “production and trade in illicit guns and drugs and kidnap for ransom activities produced more violent conflict than the other shadow or underground economies” from 2011 to 2014.

Moreover, shadow economies topped the causes of violent conflict from 2011 to 2014. Extrajudicial issues were the 2nd, with political issues, identity issues, governance issues and resource issues following.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lara said that data produced by the BCMS provides “a deeper understanding of the causes of conflict in an area important in the Philippines.”

Data can also be used to measure performance, he said.

“You can monitor the performance of state and non-state actors” with regards to conflict, to see the impact of work being done in the Bangsamoro.

“The third is for historical reasons, the injustices perpetrated in Mindanao. It’s a very relevant project that puts the spotlight on the different causes of violence,” Mr. Lara said.

During the open forum, International Alert methodology specialist Ever J. Abasolo said that they are not noting conflicts just for the sake of it.

“We hope at some point we can influence development planning and policy making,” Mr. Abasolo said, adding that “most plans are blind of conflict data” as violence is “currently not considered.”

The BCMS sources its data from police and media reports of violent crime, including ‘blotter reports, spot reports and progress reports.”

Multi-Stakeholder Validation Groups (MSVG) based in Western Mindanao State University, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology and Mindanao State University-General Santos City, International Alert’s partners, validate the reports in the BCMS.