Lanao del Sur Citizens and Government Special Bodies Articulate Local Security Issues and Concerns Amid the Non-passage of the BBL

Written by Pro Politics for Peace.

The growing anxiety over the non-passage of the BBL and the jittery peace and security situation of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, compelled some concerned citizens and CSOs to call for an up-close dialogue between and among the leaders of government agencies and special bodies, leaders of the civil society, AFP officials, and the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) of the GPH-MILF talks.

It materialized in the form of a half-day Round Table Discussion (RTD) titled: “Moving the Peace Process Forward in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City: Linking Policies and Mechanisms for Local Security and Normalization” last February 12, 2016 in Makati City. It came amidst the standing clamour of insufficient actions that should dovetail the articulated issues and concerns from a number of previous forums and RTDs already undertaken – all aimed at addressing the Province’s security problems. Fifteen (15) participants from among the multi-stakeholder constituents of Marawi City and the whole Province of Lanao del Sur, voiced out some concrete policy recommendations and implementation strategies for enhanced peace and security.

The CSO-led roundtable discussion jumped off from the clamour that the peace and order environment of Lanao del Sur and Marawi City currently calls for citizens’ contribution to security sector efforts in consideration of the delay in the passage of the BBL, among others. Various incidents including the serious threat of drugs and extremist group are seen to be the causes of escalating criminality over the past months. A participant asserted: “We do not want endless series of discussions on these matters. Concrete policy and actions are needed right now”.

On the one hand, official report from the AFP enumerated the security concerns as follows: a) growing influence of Islamic extremism especially among the youth, b) effects of non-passage of BBL, c) laxity in the policing and justice system procedures, d) bombing of power transmission lines, killing of Christians/Non-Maranaos, e) trafficking and use of illegal drugs, and f) election-related violence in connection with the upcoming May 2016 Elections.

On the other, the JNC laid-out its program for normalization in the Bangsamoro: 1) Security Aspect (Policing, Transitional security arrangements, Decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons,Redeployment of AFP units and troops and Disbandment of private armed groups (PAGs)); 2)Socio-Economic Development; 3) Transitional Justice and Reconciliation; 4) and Confidence-Building Measures

The JNC explained further that with the non-passage of the BBL, some of those programs/activities could not be implemented, such as the decommissioning of MILF forces, policing (e.g. police force for the Bangsamoro), and the redeployment of the AFP. Nonetheless, there are activities that are “doable”, which includes the transitional components (JNC, JPSC and JPST), socio-economic programs, confidence-building measures which transform previously acknowledged MILF camps into peaceful and productive communities, disbandment of Private Armed Groups, and the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation.

The foregoing discussion has generated the following recommendations for policy formulation:

  1. The Provincial Government should follow-through and act on the previous recommendations endorsed in the Peace Summit in Cagayan de Oro last August 2014 and also from the output of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) meeting last October 2014.
  2. The provincial government should show that it is on top of the process. It should take up the truncheon in leading all the provincial LGUs to a concerted implementation of the agreed policies and strategies, especially in referrence to the output of the RPOC meeting. The provincial government should invest fully on the security concerns of Marawi City as it cannot ignore the realities in the city. Of great considerations are the crucial positionality of Marawi to the provincial administration: it is the provincial capital; it hosts all the offices of the provincial government agencies including the Islamic Universities; the provincial security agencies are based in Marawi and hence, it serves as always the measuring rod for the investment climate of the province. It is thus very crucial for the province to strengthen the security infrastructure of the city such as mobile patrols, communications equiptment, and police vehicles.
  3. Marawi City should articulate a clear peace and security policy that is backed-up with concrete ordinances. It should not wait for its citizens to initiate something drastic to cofront the problem.
  4. The Provincial Government and the City Government (Marawi) should collaborate in putting up a Technical Working Group (TWG) to get hold of and manage the worsening security situation.
  5. Looking forward to the next batch of provincial and city officials, the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) should workout a concrete and feasible program which it can propose to the newly installed local chief executives (after the May 2016 Elections). Dialogue should be pursued with the local chief executives up to the provincial level for a collaborative implementation of the normalization program – laying out to them the crucial contribution which the JNC can do in terms of ameliorating the security concerns of the whole province.
  6.  The Imams and religious leaders should pursue a strong campaign for the rule of law and security in terms of combating drug trade and drug abuse, among others. It has been observed that the religious sector has been weak in its engagement for peaceful governance.

Pro PolitiCS for Peace facilitated the direct and frank exchanges of opinions and recommendations. Prof. ReyDan Lacson, Program Manager of Pro Politics for Peace project, explained: “We have to keep the peace process moving in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City. Our concept of the peace process is evolutionary and incremental. We need to transition the peace process itself individually and communally in the peculiar social, political, and religious context of the province. The understanding and full appreciation of signed packages of agreements such as the CAB, FAB and BBL is cumulative and incremental on the part of the lawmakers, the political leaders, and more so the communities. This includes the concept of autonomy. All these are parts of the growing understanding and appreciation of the whole peace process”.

The Round Table Discussion was spearheaded by the Pro PolitiCS for Peace project implemented by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), and in partnership with the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA). The RTD was undertaken through the support of Australian Aid.