Tuesday, May 4, 2010
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW BRIEFING Philippines: Pre-election Tensions in Central Mindanao
Jakarta/Brussels, 4 May 2010: Whatever the outcome of the Philippine elections on 10 May, the new government should make Mindanao a priority, devoting serious attention to the peace process, the dissolution of private armies and justice for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.
Philippines: Pre-election Tensions in Central Mindanao, the latest update briefing from the International Crisis Group, says that voters in central Mindanao are thinking less about their next president than about what the polls will reveal about the continued power of the Ampatuans, the Maguindanao clan whose senior members are charged with murdering 57 people in November. Despite the detention of the clan patriarch and several of his sons, many candidates with links to the family are standing for local office; a few running their campaigns from prison. Even if their power is weakened, the system of clan politics will remain unchanged.
“The winning warlords may be a little more enlightened, but they will still be warlords”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser. The new automated election system will prevent the kind of rigging that the Ampatuans used in 2004 to the benefit of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but there are fears in central Mindanao, as elsewhere in the country, that machine malfunctions or large numbers of invalid ballots will result in post-election disputes and violence.
Peace in Mindanao has not been high on the agenda of any of the leading presidential candidates, but the winner will be responsible for continuing the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). A comprehensive power-sharing agreement would be a boon to political and economic development in central Mindanao, but it will not happen unless the government is willing to head off potential spoilers. The Arroyo government was never prepared to spend the necessary political capital to do so; it remains to be seen whether its successor will be any better.
Private armies continue to be a problem; few believe a commission set up by the Arroyo government to dismantle them has made much of an impact. “The new president should work with the Congress to obtain the necessary prohibitions on privately-financed military and police auxiliaries”, said Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “Eradicating private armies is key to reducing conflict”.