03 April 2024

bangsamoro governors caucus.jpg
Key power brokers for the 2025 election. From left, Gov. Jim Hataman of Basilan, Gov. Abdulsakur Tan of Sulu, BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod B. Murad Ebrahim, Yshmael Sali of Tawi-Tawi and Gov. Abdulraof Macacua of Maguindanao del Norte. June 2023

[Jakarta, 3 April 2024] All parties to the peace process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) need to take steps now to reduce the potential for political violence in the lead-up to the 2025 parliamentary elections.

The latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), “Philippines: Political Jockeying and Violence before the 2025 Elections in BARMM”, analyses the different power blocs that will determine the outcome of the 2025 elections and the political jockeying and alliance-building that has already begun.  The stakes are huge. “While the peace process itself doesn’t hang in the balance,” says Sidney Jones, senior adviser to IPAC, “the quality of the peace does, and the impact of the 2025 elections will be enormous.”

The report explores the mechanics of the elections, the battle to control economic resources, the way in which traditional politicians have moved into king-maker roles, the implications of victory or defeat for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and some of the contentious issues that are raising hackles. These include the gerrymandering undertaken by the MILF leadership in an effort to boost the chances for its party, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), and a probably doomed effort to ban political dynasties. It also looks at why the last phase of “normalisation” and the decommissioning of MILF fighters has moved so slowly and why it would be in the interest of everyone to speedily complete it.

The 2025 elections for an 80-seat parliament will be the culmination of the peace process that produced the momentous 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The sources of potential violence, however, are many, from politicians determined to win seats at any cost, disgruntled combatants, a rift in the top ranks of the MILF leadership, and remnants of pro-ISIS groups determined to disrupt democratic procedures.

All parties need to take steps now to prevent deadly conflict. The government needs to map particularly tense areas and assign additional security forces. It also needs to work with civil society and universities to identify and respond to threats and disinformation on social media. Police need to avoid serving arrest warrants on former (and possibly armed) combatants without prior communication with those who can negotiate a peaceful surrender. The MILF needs to get its own house in order. Finally, all local political parties based on the Mindanao mainland need to reach out to the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to ensure their concerns are reflected in programs and Cabinet choices once the elections are over.

“Violence can’t be eliminated but it can surely be reduced,” says Jones. “Keeping conflict to a minimum before the elections will help give the new government, once in office, the best chance of living up to the aspirations of those who worked for so long to bring it into being.”



Electoral Violence

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