Residents flock around a mill to gather corn morsels for food in Maguindanao, the poorest province in the Philippine island of Mindanao. For most families living here, poverty is made even worse by armed conflict, whether between government forces and rebels, or between feuding clans. Land-grabbing by transnational corporations gave birth to secessionist groups such as the New People’s Army, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, further isolating the island from development.
Armed confrontations between the government and armed rebel groups in the province have resulted in the deaths of an estimated 120,000 people, mostly civilians, and the displacement of some two million more. Last year, a ceasefire was enacted to pave the way for the passage of a comprehensive law to address the issues presented by the secessionist rebel groups, in the hope of ending decades of armed conflict. The proposed law failed to pass congress.