THREE DAYS after the May 13 midterm elections, troops under the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) seized firearms and other weapons in Talitay, Maguindanao in an operation intended to contain the escalation of conflict between the private armed groups (PAGs) of vice-mayoralty candidates Montasir Sabal and Suraida Ameril.

Among the items seized were M16 rifles, hand grenades, and drums containing suspected anti-personnel mine and bomb-making components.

WestMinCom said curbing the fight between the PAGs was particularly crucial in terms of preventing it from extending among the supporters of rival political families.

“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,” said International Alert Philippines in its post-election bulletin, released May 23, covering the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and neighboring areas.

The UK-based peace-building organization logged in 144 reports of election-related incidents from May 11-13 using its critical events monitoring system.

These incidents, aside from Maguindanao, took place in Cotabato City, Lanao del Sur, and parts of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, as well as North Cotabato.

“Most of these incidents involved rival clans with the ability to engage in prolonged revenge killings,” International Alert said as it called for the need to pursue “negotiated post-election settlement on the carrying and use of firearms” involving all stakeholders.

On a more positive note, International Alert said there were “fewer shooting incidents between rival candidates and supporters that were a staple of previous electoral battles… Bombing and brawling seems to have replaced the violent gun battles of the past.”

The organization attributes this mainly to the “tight military and police presence” since early this year for the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law. — MSJ