The Price of Lasting Peace: A Two-pronged Analysis of the Development Causes of Political Violence in the Bangsamoro Conflict
Like other developing nations, the Philippines has a long history of internal strife, especially in Mindanao where the Bangsamoro (Moro Nation) separatist struggle has extracted immense human and economic costs over the past five decades. Social science can offer a rich empirical understanding of the causes of these continued outbreaks of political violence in order to better inform policy responses and preventive measures.
This thesis examines the Bangsamoro conflict in terms of its relationship with economic development. Drawing on the grievance perspective derived from the cross-country civil war literature, it posits that political violence occurs disproportionately in areas with low levels of economic development. This overarching hypothesis is then tested using multidimensional indicators of development to include measures of social and material well-being and effective governance and service delivery.
It then conducts a two-pronged analysis of the causes of conflict. Factors associated with the incidence of political violence, operationally defined as armed clashes between government troops and rebel groups, are first examined using statistical analysis. Specifically, it applies regression analysis to the 2011-2015 Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) dataset to identify correlates of the incidence of political violence in municipalities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the epicentre of the Moro insurgency. Meanwhile, a process-tracing analysis adds a qualitative layer to the empirical findings by underlining the causal mechanisms that have appeared to either hinder or facilitate violence across two municipal-level case studies.
The quantitative findings show that political violence tends to be more frequent in municipalities where local governments are weak, access to particular social services are poor, and people are deprived of economic means such as education and land. Meanwhile, the qualitative findings explain the relationship found between underdevelopment and political violence in terms of the failure of the Philippine State and its local institutions to address these issues of underdevelopment, resulting in the erosion of legitimate authority on the ground and people’s receptivity to rebel alternatives. Taken together, the findings lead to an overarching conclusion that strengthening local government and governance practices is essential to consolidating peace in the region.
This thesis underscores that threat of Moro separatism in the Philippines is not just simply an issue of religious/ethnic ideology, but perhaps more importantly of local governance and development.