Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

Philippines: Returning IDPs forced out again by political violence

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 13 May 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Philippines: Returning IDPs forced out again by political violence, 13 May 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4bf633a62.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

DATU PIANG, 13 May 2010 (IRIN) - Two rocket-propelled grenades landed just 100m away from a village in the southern Philippines, exploding near voters lined up at polling stations for national elections this week.

No one was hurt in the farming village of Magaslong, near the strife-torn town of Datu Piang, but the attack forced civilians on the run again.

Violence has always been a staple of elections in the Philippines, but it has taken a turn for the worse on the southern island of Mindanao. Blood feuds among local warlords and clashes between troops and Muslim separatist rebels have for generations led to a complicated, vicious cycle of displacements.

For Jasmin Rashid, 21, the new violence means again staying indefinitely at a makeshift shelter in Datu Piang's plaza, which has been her family's on-and-off home for the past 18 months.

"I thought we would be able to peacefully try to rebuild our life and plant on the farm, but now we have to pack our belongings again and lock up the house because we don't want to get caught in the middle of fighting," Rashid told IRIN.

Around her, neighbours from Masaglong were fleeing with their meagre belongings and farm animals, chaotically stacking them on tricycles and carts, as a column of soldiers scoured the nearby wooded area for those responsible for the grenade attacks.

Local police chief, Inspector Daniel Pumecha, said it was not clear who was behind it, although Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, who had earlier warned of causing chaos on election day, are known to operate nearby.

Rakmah Sayao, whose husband, a police officer, is working elsewhere in the south, locked up her two-bedroom shack in Magaslong. She and her three teenage sons will wait for their father at the evacuation site again.

"We haven't had a normal life for nearly two years, and just when you thought it was over, we will again live in a crowded, dirty evacuation camp," Sayao said, while her sons carried a television set and nets packed with ducks.

Magaslong, a community of about 50 families, was first evacuated in August 2008, when MILF rebels launched deadly raids across the southern Philippines after a proposed land deal with the government collapsed. At the height of the fighting, there were more than 700,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a humanitarian crisis that lasted months.

"What is clear is that the situation remains tense and we keep hearing of impending attacks," said police chief Pumecha.

The government says about 100,000 people are still displaced, living in makeshift shelters or with family. The International Committee of the Red Cross said that based on its own monitoring, about 60,000 people remain displaced.

There are no figures as to how many people have been displaced in the fresh wave of violence after the 10 May polls.

Opposition Senator Benigno Aquino, son of late former President Corazon Aquino, is tipped to succeed outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo although he has yet to be officially appointed.

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