Some people in Mindanao have resorted to purchasing their own weapons and ammunition to protect themselves from the government’s mailed-fist approach during lockdowns, a conflict monitoring group has reported.

International Alert said the purchase of small arms and light weapons was observed in the “Iranun corridor” towns of Barira, Buldon, Matanog, and Parang in northern Maguindanao.

“This happened during the pandemic and the holy month of Ramadan and in many cases were enabled by the access to subsidies targeted for food and medical support during the public health emergency that were rechanneled to purchase ammunition,” the group said.

The group monitors events in conflict areas, particularly in Mindanao, through its critical events monitoring system bulletin.

The bulletin reported that people bought weapons because they felt fear and anxiety due to the uncertainty and insecurity of jobs and livelihoods and the decline in the economy.

“The current pandemic and its economic consequences are expected to arrest economic growth, boost inequalities, and dangerously widen the human development gap,” the group said.

There was also anxiety over unresolved clan feuds that could intensify in the post-pandemic period and might lead to opportunistic attacks against those clans severely affected by the public health crisis, it said.

The group said that robust trade in weapons was one of the causes of the intensification of polarization — the creation of poles or extremes — along multiple fissures within the state and society in Mindanao.

“The situation can also provoke a more violent interlude of rising crime and community-level violence magnified by the loss of jobs and livelihoods on the one hand, and on the other, a mad scramble for the scarce economic and political resources that the 2022 national elections can bring,” they added. Jessica Ivy A. Zapata