Officials refute IAP’s Maguindanao security situation assessment PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 15 August 2014 13:10

Security officials found both ridiculous and debatable the assertions by the International Alert Philippines (IAP) that Maguindanao province accounts for most of the recorded cases of violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the past two years.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said commanding officers of Army units in Maguindanao, which is under the jurisdiction of 6th ID, were so amazed with IAP’s contention that political violence in the province had caused the deaths of 862 people from 2011 to 2013.

The report had stated that political violence in the province during the period had caused the death of 862 persons, with 973 wounded, 58 missing, or kidnapped.

The report also said that a total of 22,433 families in the province were displaced, as a result of violence in the area in the past two years.

“I don’t know from where those statistics have come from. We had relatively peaceful local elections in 2010 and in 2013 and we have been seeing the influx of foreign investors putting up banana and oil palm plantations in Maguindanao since early 2011,” Hermoso said.

“There were evacuations due to attacks by bandits and recurring floods in Maguindanao during that period and that is something we will not deny,” he said.

The command center of the 6th ID, Camp Gonzalo Siongco, is located in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

Hermoso said there were attacks by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the past two years, but both military and BIFF, and even civilian fatalities combined did not even reach 862.

Chief Supt. Robert Kiunisala, deputy director for administration of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, said the IAP’s report was “debatable” and needs elaboration to become substantive.

“The report should have stated the names of the victims, the names of those who were allegedly killed or got kidnapped, or went missing,” Kiunisala said.

Maguindanao covers 36 towns, all bastions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Records obtained from the government-MILF joint Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities indicated that there has not been any single encounter between the military and guerilla forces in the province since late 2009.

Hermoso said there were recorded evacuations by residents in some parts of Maguindanao due to attacks by bandits in the past 24 months, but local government units in affected areas had managed to work out the return of the evacuees to their villages with the help of the joint ceasefire committee and the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team.

“There were also evacuations of thousands of residents due to recurring floods because a big area in Maguindanao are lowlands that are adjacent to big rivers and marshes at the Liguasan Delta,” Hermoso said.

Many ARMM officials had told reporters they, too, were “flabbergasted” with the IAP’s report.

“Even in the entire ARMM there were no 862 deaths due to political violence in the past two years,” said a source at the Office of the Regional Governor, touted as the “little Malacañang of the south.”

The ARMM covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in Central Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Hermoso said foreign investors would not come to Maguindanao if the area is unsafe.

Foreign capitalists, of Hispanic descent, and their local counterparts launched last July 30, along with Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, who is 6th ID’s commander, and ARMM Regional Agriculture Secretary Makmod Mending, Jr. the country’s first ever “all organic” 1,500-hectare Cavendish banana plantation near the scene of the infamous 2009 “Maguindanao Massacre” in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan municipality.

The banana farm, said to be Asia’s first “organic plantation too,” was just of one of about a dozen established in Maguindanao from 2010 up to July this year, according to Hermoso.

The ARMM’s Regional Board of Investments had also confirmed the pouring in of almost P1 billion-worth of capitals by business groups for renewable energy projects in the province in the past two years.

The ARMM’s regional peace and order council, which is chaired by the region’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, has no record of the figures the IAP had stated in its report.

“Amazing,” was all Hataman could say about the IAP’s report on the alleged deaths and displacements in Maguindanao due to political violence.

The ARMM’s peace and order council is comprised of secretaries of all line agencies the national government devolved to the ARMM, as prescribed by its charter, the Republic Act 9054, and commanding officers of all military and police units in the region.

Mangudadatu, presiding chair of the provincial peace and order council, said what they have on record is the settlement of 39 clan wars involving big Moro families in the province from 2010 to early 2014.

IAP is a member of the International Alert, a global peace-building organization operating in 25 countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

Aside from the World Bank (WB), IAP is also a partner of the United Nations, Asian Institute of Management, Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers, Engineers without Borders, Indigenous Peoples Center for Development Services and the Mindanao Business Council.