Police intensify BARMM security as region’s Christian minority observes Holy Week

Rommel Rebollido

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Police intensify BARMM security as region’s Christian minority observes Holy Week

ALERT. Bangsamoro police officials discuss the deployment of police officers in the region during Holy Week.


The BARMM hosts the smallest number of Christians nationwide. About 91% of the region's inhabitants are Muslims, while around 5.3% or 261,963 individuals identify as Catholics.

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Police have heightened security measures throughout the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), deploying close to 1,300 officers to safeguard crucial installations, including churches, during the Holy Week.

Brigadier General Allan Nobleza announced on Monday, March 25, that police personnel would rotate duties to protect land transport terminals, airports, seaports, parks, public areas, and churches where many non-Muslims are expected to gather in the predominantly Muslim region in the coming days.

The BARMM hosts the smallest number of Christians, predominantly Catholics, nationwide. According to the 2020 Census of Population and Housing by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), approximately 91% of the region’s inhabitants are Muslims, while around 5.3% or 261,963 individuals identify as Catholics.

The Brussels-based nonprofit organization International Crisis Group estimated the Christian population in the BARMM to be at least 200,000. Notably, areas such as Upi and South Upi in the two Maguindanao provinces comprise the majority of this demographic.

The Crisis Group also noted sizeable Christian communities in Wao town in Lanao del Sur, Lamitan in Basilan, and various villages in the Maguindanao area and the BARMM’s Special Geographic Area in Cotabato province.

Nobleza said the government also has a standby force ready for deployment, particularly in the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Basilan, should the need arise.

He clarified though that there have been no credible threats monitored in the BARMM during the Holy Week, adding that the security measures are in place solely to ensure authorities can promptly respond to emergency situations.

Meanwhile, authorities in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao del Norte raised the alert level on Monday night following reports of an armed group allegedly preparing to launch attacks in the town center. Military and police authorities emphasized that they are taking such threats seriously.

This came after the Karialan faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) claimed responsibility for the March 17 ambush that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers in neighboring Maguindanao del Sur province. The faction warned of further attacks in retaliation for recent military offensives that have claimed the lives of several of its members.

Abu Sapyun, spokesperson of the BIFF faction, said they were out to avenge the deaths of Abdul Kader Animbang and Hamidi Animbang, brother and nephew of BIFF leader Kagi Karialan.

On Friday dawn, March 22, soldiers killed a senior BIFF leader, Abu Halil, during an encounter in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, Maguindanao del Sur. 

Halil served as the training officer for the BIFF-Karialan faction and was a brother of Khadafi Abdulatif, purportedly the group’s chief of staff, according to Brigadier General Jose Vladimir Cagara, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Brigade combat team.

Brigadier General Oriel Pangcog, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said their orders were to eliminate the remaining BIFF forces in their area of responsibility by the end of March. 

“We will continue to carry out our duties undeterred,” Pangcog said. –

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