Local stakeholders and civil society look into the security situations in Ramain , Pualas, and Piagapo towns of Lanao del Sur.
Security officials examined their respective situations in accord to the mandates of the peace and order councils amid anti-drug campaign, the alleged prevalence of violent extremism tendencies, and the influx of internally displaced communities in the areas following the Marawi siege in March 2017.
The assessment is inspired by Conflict Resilient Communities and Development Initiatives in Muslim Mindanao (CORE-CODE) program of International Alert-Philippines (IA-Phil).
This is still consistent to IA’s goal of establishing a monitoring system to understand the causes and cost of conflict and to capacitate stakeholders to mitigate the potential risks. Such includes a mission of shaping policies and practices to support community peace.
AI partners with Maradeca in this conflict monitoring initiative.
In Ramain town, police officials reported that the municipal anti-drug abuse council (MADAC) focused on suppressing illegal drug proliferation in the hope to declare the towns a “drug free community.”
Police forces are also in regular assessment of “events and validate reports on alleged movements of violent extremists” while monitoring the consequential developments of Marawi siege.
There are only 17 PNP personnel here and only 11 are in active duty while five others are either advancing their education or are detailed in other police-related functions.
Official reports also cited an unfortunate incident when “a local mayor and others were accidentally fired by military personnel when a reported artillery landed within the vicinity of residential area.
“The incident happened because of poor coordination,” a police officer said.
“Ramain is a peaceful town and almost free from rido due to hard work of the Agama Arbitration Council and other community leaders,” they opined.
Participants in the security assessment in Ramain town are led by representatives of municipal police forces, local legislators, elders, women, and youths.
Also present were Mobashar M. Abbas, project coordinator; Aquila M. Kahar and Faizah A. Ali, project officers.
Meanwhile, in Pualas, “there is no presence of extremists here and there is no religious-inspired social gathering that could be used as platform in recruiting violent extremists ,” declared police inspector Knievel J. Salem, municipal chief of police.
Salem reported that the PNP is closely monitoring the rido in barangay Dapao. Armed groups were sighted at Pagayawan, probably in support to their relatives in conflict with another group.
“The areas in Iyaran and Tagoranao also posed a security concern. Rido are critical to the security of the town as extremist might exploit the situation by taking side in any of the conflicting party to boost their membership,” Salem reported.
“There are reported drug users but the suppliers are coming from other municipalities,” he added.
The security meeting was attended by 32 participants in Pualas.
These include local executives, law enforcers, educators, local legislators, barangay chairmen, municipal administrative officers, and elders.
The community highlighted the importance of security to usher development agenda. They cited rido as hindrance to pursue development plans.
Local executives also encouraged barangay officials to “observe equal distribution of benefits and to treat their constituents fairly to avoid resentment.”
“The problem with terrorism is we don’t know who we must blame for the resurgence of their leaders and followers,” said Pualas vice mayor Tony Tanog.
Educators, on the other hand, have already commenced implementing the 12-point program to prevent youths involvement in violent extremism, said Alinasher G. Sarip, principal of Pualas National High School.
In Piagapo town, Maradeca staff have difficulty convening the entire peace and order council in a slated meeting with officials.
Police officers however, reported that they are have hardship in validating reported suspicious presence of armed elements or the presence of possible activities of violent groups because none of the residents could offer accurate information.
Policemen in Piagapo are enforcing laws against illegal possession of firearms among residents.
Rido is still present but only caused by minor problems.
The security assessments were done from January 22-23, 2018. (Aquila M. Kahar)