On 18 August 2015 the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur hosted the Lanao del Sur Peace Summit 2015: Linking Normalization Mechanisms with Local Security Concerns. The summit gathered the Mayors, civil society organizations, media, PNP, AFP, PDEA, as well as Persons With Disabilities (PWD) to a one-day discussion and workshop to tackle the alarming security concerns in the Province of Lanao del Sur. The participants joined the members of the normalization bodies to workout and come up with recommendations by which they can collaborate to address the provincial security and policing concerns.
The subsequent workshop produced the following inventory of existing security threats in Lanao del Sur: drug trafficking/abuse, extremism (ISIS), kidnapping/extortion, murder, theft/robbery, rape, illegal possession of firearms, and rido (clan feud). One Non-Government Organization (NGO) observer noticed that the issue of production and trafficking of illegal firearms is remarkably missing in the list of security issues of the province.
The peace summit was in line with the larger program to interface the functions and also to improve the working relations between the Provincial Peace and Order Councils (PPOC) and the normalization bodies, such as the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC), Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC), Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
In his keynote address, Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Adiong, Jr. encouraged and rallied the more or less 120 summit participants to actively participate in discuss and tackle the security issues head-on. He stressed: “…because the call of the times needs us to focus on security issues affecting not just Iligan City, or Cagayan de Oro, but Marawi City including areas of Lanao del Norte and on how we can empower our communities to protect their families and friends and neighbors from these threats”.
Early on, Governor Adiong, hinted of the alarming security threats already existing in the province. He frankly announced: “Drug abuse has become a rampant social problem in Marawi City where schoolgirls and young women are susceptible to harassment. And we have not mentioned yet how endangered our lives are every day, because of the threats of carnapping, kidnapping, thievery, among many other crimes. We can’t allow cycle of fear and violence to tear at the fabric of our communities”.
He further presented a very specific appeal, “…to confront the warped ideologies espoused by some groups, especially their attempt to use Islam to justify their violence. And that hurts all of us, including Islam, and especially Muslims, who are the ones most likely to be their targets nowadays. All of us regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it”.
Security Issues and Recommended Solutions
Drug trafficking/abuse. The summit participants presented the general observation that the selling and use of illegal drugs have become rampant in the province. Accordingly, the population of drug pushers and users/dependents has increased in Marawi City (e.g. Lumber, Lilod Madaya, Bliss, Matampay), which correlates with the increase of incidents in drug-related crimes. The latest of which involves the rape-slay of a 13 years old girl by 4 alleged drug addicts (see https://sg.news.yahoo.com/4-detained-rapists-vice-gov-000000288.html). In addition, some participants claim that illegal drug production is also happening in the province, although the provincial government and the police outrightly denied such observation. The participants admit that most of these observations have remained rumours and allegations due to the reluctance of victims and witnesses to talk for fear of reprisals from the drug dealers. They recommended the reinstatement of the death penalty for drug-related crimes. Specifically, there was insinuation to utilize of the tambay ago mga tigas (muscled males and able-bodied young males) as community watchdogs and intelligence groups against the aggressiveness of drug pushers. On the more positive tone, the establishment of more rehabilitation centers was also recommended to take care of the users and prevent further victimization of the drug dependents.
Extremist/ISIS presence. There is general claim that the ISIS or individuals supporting this extremist group are present in the province. There are also allegations of massive recruitment by the extremist group among the youths, who eventually undergo training on terrorism in the clandestine training camps of the ISIS group in Lanao del Sur. More specifically, they are trained to target and kill non-Muslims in the province. The recent killings of 2 Christian soldiers and Christian civilians have been attributed to the extremists’ agenda. Intensification of intelligence data gathering was recommended as the most effective means to pinpoint the lairs of extremist groups. Then massive military operations must be launch to destroy the camps and lairs and to arrest the leaders and members of the groups. A parallel education of the youths on true Islamic values must be undertaken in earnest to insulate them from extremist brainwashing.
Kidnapping. The workshop output pointed to extortion as the primary reason for the high incidence of this threat in Lanao del Sur. It is specifically rampant in Marawi City where many victims of the Pyramiding Scam (Coco’s scam) resorted to kidnapping to recover quickly their lost investments. Furthermore, it is even anticipated that kidnapping incidence will rise with the advent of the elections period when some candidates will attempt to raise election funds through kidnapping and extortion. To arrest the continuous upward spiral of this crime, the workshop participants insisted that LGUs should first manifest the political will to confront it. Such should be strongly manifest around the university and academic institutions including Saguiaran, Piagapo, Marawi, Marantao, Marawi-Piagapo Road, Marawi-Basak Road, and the lakeshore areas. In addition, formation and activation of vigilant groups (community volunteers) was suggested as augmentation force to the police. This suggestion resonated with the recommendation by the regional PNP leadership for the barangays to actively function in the policing task among their specific communities.
Killing/Murder. The report indicated the rampant incidence of killing as caused mostly by rido, land disputes, and political rivalry. The recommended solutions to this problem included the following suggestions:
- Strengthening of arbitrary council of each municipalities/establishment
- Interference of tribal leaders (Sultanate)
- Strengthening the tax mapping program
- Transparency during voting periods and canvassing
- Implement automated election in 2016
- Sustain the procedure of the re-shuffling the EO during the Election
- Provision of security personnel in voting centers (PNP and AFP)
The Lanao del Sur Peace Summit 2015 was spearheaded by the Pro PolitiCS for Peace in collaboration with the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur and the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), and in partnership with the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). The peace summit was supported by the Australian Government.