As reported by MindaNews, The Senate Committee on Local Government in the Philippines is requesting to postpone the first parliamentary election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) from May 2022 to May 2025. This may prolong the peace resolution in the long-standing Moro conflict.
After decades of conflict, the Philippine government has clashed with various militias from Muslim Mindanao, due to the desire to establish an autonomous state in Mindanao, Philippines. This stems from past neglect against the Muslim Moros. Groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have fought violently to establish this autonomy. Nevertheless, through political methods in 2018, CNN Philippines reported that a peace negotiation was reached to ensure a transition to it. Although there have been complications, this negotiation marks hope for a peaceful resolution, but now the COVID-19 pandemic has stymied resources devoted towards this transition. According to Georgi Engelbrecht of The Diplomat, it is causing uncertainty and threatens the peace process.
CNN Philippines announced that Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed his disdain on this postponement saying, “…[I]f the pandemic is the reason for the postponement of the BARMM election next year, it could open floodgates to a no-el (no elections) situation in the national and local elections next year.” This postponement was debated to be a result of COVID-19 and the region not having the complete legal foundational frameworks needed to be able to run their own region. However, it reflects the Philippines’ need to reassess or reorganize resources and political processes, in order to achieve the goals of peaceful conflict resolution.
The peace process to ending the Moro conflict has been inconsistent over the years for various reasons. In one instance, a presentation at International Alert discussed that before the United States “war on terrorism,” there have been attempts to approach peace under the presidency of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, when the U.S. declared the war on terror, the government was leaning towards anti-terror campaigns while the MILF was threatened with being branded as a terrorist organization. Inconsistencies like this represent an unpredictable commitment of the government to grant the Bangsamoro region their autonomy.
CNN Philippines concluded that the Moro conflict is rooted in past violence and polarization against the Muslim Moros, so if the government continues with their inconsistent approaches, grievances might grow, and violent conflict may persist. Postponements for the parliamentary elections, with the reasoning of COVID-19, show the government’s lack of resource commitment that would assist peace processes like this. As the Philippines tackles the pandemic, their resources are concentrated elsewhere. This may be an indication of a need to reassess the allocation of resources, as well as tackling root causes and risk factors of the conflict. Tackling the conflict head-on may need to be approached in a way that addresses poverty, displacement, and lack of resources in the Philippines, to understand and develop methods from the root of the problem. As long as there are insufficient resources, the peace process will continue to be delayed.
If the Philippines truly desires to achieve a peaceful resolution to ending the Moro conflict, tackling root causes and risk factors, and re-prioritizing resources should be heavily considered. The political processes have successfully resulted in an established peace negotiation. Nevertheless, it is still full of inconsistencies and therefore, the country should consider other methods of resolution.