Peacemaking and State-Society Interactions in Conflict-torn Mindanao, Philippines


This paper is divided into three major parts. The first section provides an historic overview of the conflict in Mindanao and takes the view that this conflict is as much a history of integration as it is a history of confrontation. Large parts of the Muslim elite have always been reluctant to engage in open warfare and have been more interested in reinforcing their authority through an accommodation within the Philippine state. As a consequence, shortly after the eruption of violence in the early seventies, a process of continuous consultation has unfolded between the Philippine state and representatives of the main rebel movements in the region. As a result, violence between the MNLF/MILF and the Philippine state has largely been over the particular terms and conditions by which large sections of the Muslim population wish to integrate within this state and cannot be understood as a conflict solely in opposition to the state.

The second section of the paper attempts to understand the role of violence and coercion in the local political economy. While the overall narrative of 'Muslim minority versus Philippine state' is still acknowledged as an important one, the paper illustrates how everyday violence in the region has some particular, heterogeneous and ambiguous characteristics. First of all, rebel commanders, although formally representing a main organisation such as the MILF or the MNLF, have considerable autonomy vis-à-vis their mother organisation. This implies that such rebel groups cannot be approached as tightly structured organisations and the authority they exert should be understood as a type of mediated authority which is exercised through these commanders. A second observation relates to the highly fluid nature of identity labels in the region. Elite constellations, necessary for preserving or obtaining control over the local political economy, transgress Christian versus Muslim, or MNLF versus MILF, dichotomies and different actors from different denominations become part of these alliances. It is in particular when these elite constellations are subject to change, as is often the case in the run-up to local elections, that violence tends to be prevalent.

Lastly, the authors argue that in a region characterised by a high level of legal insecurity, the capacity for coercion becomes a vital asset in the creation of political legitimacy. This is obvious in the field of resource management which is characterised by low levels of tenure security and land titling. Within this context, the capacity for coercion becomes a central tool to guarantee secure access to a certain property rights regime.The final section of the paper thus addresses the implications for peacebuilding and conflict management by focusing on two case studies of land conflicts in the region.


Adam, J.; Verbrugge, B.; vanden Boer, D. Peacemaking and State-Society Interactions in Conflict-torn Mindanao, Philippines. Justice and Security Research Programme, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), London, UK (2014) 40 pp. [JSRP Paper 18. Theories in Practice Series]

Peacemaking and State-Society Interactions in Conflict-torn Mindanao, Philippines

Published 1 January 2014