Posted by: JWP | 12/08/2009

Collusion and collision in Muslim Mindanao



The eruption of violence and the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao expose the dynamics of collaboration and conflict between allies who advance their interests in conditions of war. Without this backdrop the recent declaration of martial law will be seen as baseless, unnecessary, and rife with hidden agendas. Why should government declare martial law in an area which had been under de-facto military rule over the past two weeks?

To follow this reasoning is to insist that martial law in Maguindanao constitutes an overkill given the arsenal of coercive instruments that the central state commands. Yet the imposition actually makes sense when seen through the prism of political economy – or the shifting power relations between Malacanang and Maguindanao, and between Ampatuan and the other warlord clans of Mindanao. In short, martial law possesses political traction even if the legal basis does not exist.

Prior to the massacre, the Ampatuan clan was the “stationary bandit” in Maguindanao and the overlord of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Witness the line of governors from the ARMM that made obeisance to Andal Sr. and pledged their unwavering support to his regime. It demonstrates the elite bargain purchased and coerced by the Ampatuan clan among the Moro elite, which transformed the regional authority into a powerful force unmatched by previous administrations.

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