Prof. Violeta E. Sioson
Political conflict is the clash between groups of people for the control of power, authority, prestige, and resources. In many societies, only the state is legally empowered to use force to resolve many political conflicts like feuds, banditry, raids, ethnic conflicts and revolution.
At the southern end of the Philippine archipelago, close to Indonesia and Malaysia, lies Mindanao—a large island about the size of Greece, with a current population of about 18 million. Contact with Mindanao by Muslim traders from today’s Indonesia and Malaysia long predated the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th century, and was responsible for the conversion to Islam of the inhabitants, and the formation of the Muslim Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu, among others, in the western part of the island. Spain subdued the northern island of Luzon (where Manila is located) and most of the “in-between” islands of the Visayas, converting most of the inhabitants to Catholicism, but never succeeded in controlling Mindanao. Only with the arrival of the Americans at the turn of the 20th century, and after the end of the Philippine-American War, was most of the island brought under central control, although hostility and conflict remained endemic.
Thus, persisting for some five centuries, the Mindanao conflict is the second-oldest on earth, after the conflict between North and South Sudan (which can be dated back to the 10th century, or much earlier if one includes the continual strife between Egyptians and Nubians in Pharaonic times). The Philippines was comparatively calm for a period after independence in 1946, but conflict flared up again in the late 1960s as growing numbers of Christians settled in Mindanao. Settlers arrived particularly from Central Luzon and Panay Island in the Visayas. The resettlement was fostered by deliberate policy of the central government, in Manila, and eventually resulted in Mindanao having a Christian majority overall, with Muslim-majority areas concentrated in the central and southwestern regions.
THE MINDANAO CONFLICT
Frequent armed clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups occur primarily on the southern island of Mindanao, although a peace accord has been signed with one group and there is an ongoing cease-fire and peace talks with another.
After the Philippines gained independence in 1946, a massive resettlement program begun that drastically changed the religious makeup of the southern island of Mindanao, which had historically been populated and ruled by Muslims. By 1983, 80 percent of the population of Mindanao was Christian, a shift that caused deep resentment among the Muslim population. Since 1971, the government of the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines has faced armed opposition from several Muslim groups. Earlier, opposition came from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which sought greater autonomy for the island of Mindanao. More recently, it does from breakaway groups the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), both of which seek Mindanao independence. The government agreed to a framework that led to the establishment of an autonomous region of four Mindanao provinces in 1990. In 1996, the government and the MNLF signed a peace agreement, but other Mindanao Muslim rebels and Christian groups opposed the settlement. The 2009 ceasefire signed by the government and MILF largely held and fatalities and incidents of violence were significantly reduced. The government and MILF resumed talks in January 2011.
CLAN VIOLENCE & CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN MINDANAO
Mindanao, in southern Philippines, is home to a majority of the country’s Muslims. The region suffers from poor infrastructure, high poverty incidence, and violence that has claimed more than 120,000 lives in the last...