(MINI-READS followed by FULL REPORTS below)


JUNE 15 ---MILF. AP FILE PHOTO The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., speaking during the weekly “Pilipinas, Pilipinas” public affairs radio program, said the President “will witness the first phase of the decommissioning process, which is considered strong proof of the MILF’s support and commitment to the peace process aimed at bringing lasting peace and progress to areas covered by the Bangsamoro.” 
“Under the decommissioning process, the BIAF fighters will be made to undergo a listing and assessment process, to be followed by the giving of cash assistance and PhilHealth cards, among other benefits,” Coloma said. Coloma, also head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said the decommissioned fighters are also entitled to “medium- to long-term aid under the supervision of the state Task Force on Decommissioned Combatants and Communities.” READ MORE...

ALSO MILF: No 2nd phase of arms, forces decommissioning if BBL is not approved

JUNE 17 ---President Aquino with DILG Sec. Mar Roxas at the decommisioning rites. SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines—Soon after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) handed over 75 weapons to the government on Tuesday, MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said any further surrender by the Front of its firearms would not continue without a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) taking effect. “The second phase will be tied up to the BBL because that’s what is in the (peace) agreement,” Murad told reporters after the ceremonial decommissioning of 75 MILF firearms and the decision of 145 MILF combatants to return to normal life. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a separate interview that the ceremonial decommissioning of the weapons was an “obligation” on the part of the MILF. “It’s in the signed document—that the MILF has to undertake the decommissioning process. That day has come,” Iqbal said. By signed document Iqbal was referring to the peace agreement called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF in March last year. READ MORE...

ALSO PNoy lashed at anti-BBL lawmakers: Where's your conscience?

JUNE 16 ---In this file photo in March, President Benigno Aquino III calls on “independent convenors” to lead a National Peace Summit in reviewing and objectively discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a national address at the Kalayaan Hall of the Malacañang Palace on Friday, March 27. Rey Baniquet / Malacañang Photo Bureau
- President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday lashed back at the lawmakers who oppose the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying they are delaying the peace process in Mindanao.
Speaking at the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, Aquino lamented that some lawmakers have chosen to derail the passage of the BBL instead of supporting the peace deal with the rebels. Aquino said there should be no turning back on the BBL now that the nation is about to attain long-lasting peace in the south. The president reminded critics of the BBL that the Bangsamoro people have long been oppressed and that the country has suffered enough from the decades-old conflict between Moro rebels and government forces. "Pagharap mo ba sa salamin, hindi ka ba uusigin ng iyong konsensiya? Kung sa pagharang mo sa napakagandang solusyon ay umabot ka sa puntong napahamak ang pamilya mo mismo, mahaharap mo ba sila para sabihing 'Sorry, pinigilan ko kasi ang kapayapaan?'" Aquino asked in his speech in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. READ MORE...

ALSO: MILF ceremony won’t speed up BBL — solons
[JUST A SMALL STEP IN CONFIDENCE BUILDING — MARCOS It’s not a major step,” Marcos said, adding that the 75 firearms to be surrendered is not even a tenth of a percent of the total armaments of the MILF.]

JUNE 16 ---The decommissioning process on Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) weapons and rebels scheduled today in Maguindanao will not have any effect in the pace of Congress’ deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), legislators said yesterday.
Some senators, including the sponsor of the Senate bill on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), remained cynical over the ceremonial decommissioning ceremony that President Aquino would preside over primarily in convincing legislators on the need to create a Bangsamoro substate.
The decommissioning process will cost the government a hefty P950 million which includes P25,000 for each surrendered arms and Philhealth cards for each of the initial 145 surrenderees but who are also guaranteed to be taken in under the Bangsamoro Integrated Armed Force (BIAF) when the proposed substate is created. Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chairman of the committee on local government deliberating the proposed BBL, dismissed any significance in the ceremonial turnover of 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons and the decommissioning of the 145 MILF members in convincing Congress to pass the BBL. “No (impact), none really. In terms of confidence-building, it’s a small step but it’s a very small step. It’s not a major step,” Marcos said, adding that the 75 firearms to be surrendered is not even a tenth of a percent of the total armaments of the MILF. READ MORE...

ALSO: MILF guns silenced in symbolic decommissioning rite

JUNE 17 ---BUCK FOR A BANG: President Benigno Aquino 3rd (center) views the guns handed over for decommissioning by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Tuesday in Sultan Kudarat. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN
SULTAN KUDARAT: At least 75 weapons, mostly old and rusty rifles, which were used by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were handed over to an independent multinational body tasked to decommission the rebel group’s armed component as part of the peace process it agreed to undertake with the Philippine government. The event held on Tuesday in an MILF camp and attended by President Benigno Aquino 3rd also saw the decommissioning of 145 combatants from the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). This process marks the start of the former fighters’ return to full civilian lives. The weapons, including mortars, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, were handed over to an independent decommissioning body headed led by Turkey’s former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Haydar Berk. It also includes experts from Norway, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines. The weapons handover was the first concrete action by the MILF to abandon a decades-old rebellion that has claimed more than 100,000 lives. Under the peace agreement, 30 percent of MILF fighters as well as weapons would be decommissioned once Congress passes the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. The weapons will be stored in a secured area controlled by the decommissioning body.READ MORE...

ALSO COMMENTARY: Decommissioning is a joke
[It’s a sham! All we have to recall is that slaughter of 44 police commandos. Their families are still crying out for justice, which has not come.]

JUNE 16 ---By Emil Jurado The so-called decommissioning or disarmament of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as part of the peace process, to be witnessed today by no less than President Aquino and other government officials in Cotabato City, is a big joke. Santa Banana, would the MILF really surrender their firearms when they know that their hold on power and their lives depend on their guns and their sophisticated weaponry? Ask any Mindanaoan and he will only laugh. They know that Moros would rather sleep with their guns than with their wives. That may be a joke in Mindanao, but in their tribal culture, money and power emanate from the barrel of a gun. Think about this: About 55 high-powered and 20 crew-served weapons will be surrendered by the MILF to the Independent Decommissioning Body. The President, together with peace panel head Miriam Coronel Ferrer and peace adviser Teresita Deles, naive as they are about the history and culture of the Moro rebels and so enamored with the MILF, will be praising them. The MILF claims it has 30,000 fully-armed Moro combatants. READ MORE...


Islam in Southeast Asia circa 2000 This paper examines the peace process in Mindanao, Philippines, situating it within broader national and international political economies. The paper argues that the root causes of the conflict can be found in the long-term processes of state formation and capital penetration in the region which have resulted in the displacement and marginalization of the indigenous groups of Mindanao under consecutive Spanish (Miguel De Legaspi), American (Philippine Moro Gov. John Park Finley), and independent Philippines control from the Marcos era to 2010 of P-NOY admin. Examining the peace process within this context, it argues that  mainstream approaches to peace processes that focus on particular ―actors (e.g. spoilers, third party interventions) and ―technologies (e.g. commitment mechanisms) provide some insights into the failure to achieve a lasting peace in the region, but that a full explanation requires consideration of two further issues. CONTINUE READING.....


Aquino guest of honor at MILF decommissioning rites

MILF. AP FILE PHOTO The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

MANILA, JUNE 22, 2015 (INQUIRER) By: Jerry E. Esplanada @inquirerdotnet June 15th, 2015 - Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., speaking during the weekly “Pilipinas, Pilipinas” public affairs radio program, said the President “will witness the first phase of the decommissioning process, which is considered strong proof of the MILF’s support and commitment to the peace process aimed at bringing lasting peace and progress to areas covered by the Bangsamoro.”

“Under the decommissioning process, the BIAF fighters will be made to undergo a listing and assessment process, to be followed by the giving of cash assistance and PhilHealth cards, among other benefits,” Coloma said.

Coloma, also head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said the decommissioned fighters are also entitled to “medium- to long-term aid under the supervision of the state Task Force on Decommissioned Combatants and Communities.”


“The process has three stages: Security, socioeconomic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation,” he said, stressing that the process aims to “give ex-MILF members the opportunity to engage in livelihood activities and live a peaceful life away from violence.”

Under the peace accord, the MILF agrees to end its armed struggle for a separate state in Mindanao in exchange for broader autonomy.

The President has said that he would work hard to convince Congress that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be passed to end the decades-long conflict in Muslim Mindanao.

The Senate and the House of Representative missed the June 11 deadline for the passage of the BBL, with some lawmakers questioning its constitutionality.

Last weekend, the Palace asserted that the proposed BBL is meant to “correct the mistakes of the past.”

Aquino had called the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) a “failed experiment,” as he announced in October 2012 that the government and the MILF had agreed to a framework for a peace agreement after 17 years of negotiations.

The two parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March 2014, after which they worked on the BBL, which would establish a Bangsamoro autonomous region to replace the ARMM


MILF: No 2nd phase of arms, forces decommissioning if BBL is not approved SHARES: 13 VIEW COMMENTS By: Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:52 AM June 17th, 2015

President Aquino with DILG Sec. Mar Roxas at the decommissioning rites.

SULTAN KUDARAT, Philippines—Soon after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) handed over 75 weapons to the government on Tuesday, MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said any further surrender by the Front of its firearms would not continue without a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) taking effect.

“The second phase will be tied up to the BBL because that’s what is in the (peace) agreement,” Murad told reporters after the ceremonial decommissioning of 75 MILF firearms and the decision of 145 MILF combatants to return to normal life.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said in a separate interview that the ceremonial decommissioning of the weapons was an “obligation” on the part of the MILF.

“It’s in the signed document—that the MILF has to undertake the decommissioning process. That day has come,” Iqbal said.

By signed document Iqbal was referring to the peace agreement called the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF in March last year.


Under the CAB, the normalization component takes place alongside the political component, which is embodied in the BBL. The law will establish the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The so-called decommissioning of MILF forces—meaning firearms and combatants—is part of the normalization component, addressing the security aspect of the rebels’ return to the normal life of a citizen of the Republic.

The normalization component also includes socio-development programs, confidence-building measures, such as the transformation of camps to ordinary communities and amnesty, and the creation of a reconciliation committee.

Under the peace agreement, the second phase of the decommissioning process will involve 30 percent of the MILF forces, meaning firearms and combatants.

As agreed upon by both parties, the second phase will take place upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will create a new Bangsamoro autonomous region. This would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

3rd, 4th phases

The third phase will involve decommissioning 65 percent of MILF forces. According to the CAB, this should take place upon the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The fourth and last phase will have 100 percent of the MILF forces decommissioned. Based on the CAB, this would take place upon the election of Bangsamoro officials of the new Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Not surrender

On allegations that the 75 firearms decommissioned on Tuesday were unserviceable weapons, Murad said these were all inspected and verified by members of the International Decommissioning Body (IDB).

“The IDB saw that all are functioning. These were all taken directly from the ground,” Murad said.

Iqbal said the MILF leadership held intense dialogues with their combatants, which included explaining that decommissioning does not mean “surrender” but “moving forward.”

“This is not a loss on the part of the MILF. We gain something out of it. It is showing that the MILF is an entity that complies with its obligations no matter how hard it is because it is an obligation,” Iqbal said.


PNoy to anti-BBL lawmakers: Where's your conscience? By Louis Bacani ( | Updated June 16, 2015 - 3:08pm

In this file photo in March, President Benigno Aquino III calls on “independent convenors” to lead a National Peace Summit in reviewing and objectively discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during a national address at the Kalayaan Hall of the Malacañang Palace on Friday, March 27. Rey Baniquet / Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday lashed back at the lawmakers who oppose the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying they are delaying the peace process in Mindanao.

Speaking at the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants, Aquino lamented that some lawmakers have chosen to derail the passage of the BBL instead of supporting the peace deal with the rebels.

Aquino said there should be no turning back on the BBL now that the nation is about to attain long-lasting peace in the south.

The president reminded critics of the BBL that the Bangsamoro people have long been oppressed and that the country has suffered enough from the decades-old conflict between Moro rebels and government forces.

"Pagharap mo ba sa salamin, hindi ka ba uusigin ng iyong konsensiya? Kung sa pagharang mo sa napakagandang solusyon ay umabot ka sa puntong napahamak ang pamilya mo mismo, mahaharap mo ba sila para sabihing 'Sorry, pinigilan ko kasi ang kapayapaan?'" Aquino asked in his speech in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.


He reminded lawmakers that they can help the Bangsamoro people by pursuing the controversial BBL.

"Sa inyo na bumabalangkas ng batas... alalahanin n'yo ang araw na ito. Tayong nagpabaya sa kanila, tayong nagmungkahi ng mga maling solusyon, tayo na hindi naging masigasig sa pagprotesta at pagpigil sa pang-aabuso sa kanila, aagawin ba natin sa kanila ang pagkakataong mabuhay nang may dignidad at matiwasay?"

Aquino said the nation should support the BBL to repay the trust given by the MILF, whose fighters have turned over their weapons and started going back to civilian lives.

"Ang panawagan ko po: Suklian naman natin ang pagtitiwalang ipinakita nila sa atin. Sikapin nating umabot sa puntong masasabi nating: Talagang binigay natin ang lahat ng pagkakataon upang mabago nila ang kanilang buhay at maabot ang kanilang mga pangarap," Aquino said.

"Hindi nga puwedeng sasabihin mong para ka sa kapayapaan, pero pinahirapan mo ang pagbabalangkas ng BBL," Aquino added. "Tulungan nga po ninyo ako: Ano po ba ang itutugon ko 'pag may nagtanong sa akin, 'Saan ba ‘yung konsensiya ng mga taong nagpapatagal ng proseso para magkaroon tayo ng kapayapaan?'" Aquino asked.

The BBL is the product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the MILF and the national government in January 2014.

The measure seeks to create an improved political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Its enactment has been delayed, however, after Moro rebels and Special Action Force commandos figured in a deadly encounter during an anti-terror operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January.

AN ESSAY: IBIS Discussion Paper No. 6 By Dr. Graham K Brown, PhD
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Dr Graham Brown is Director of the Centre for Development Studies and Senior; Lecturer in the Politics of Development at the Department of Social and Policy Sciences of the University of Bath. He is also Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) at the University of Oxford. His research is primarily concerned with the nexus of inequality, identity and political mobilisation, including violent conflict, with a focus on the Southeast Asian region.


THE LONG & WINDING ROAD: THE PEACE PROCESS IN MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES Graham K Brown, No. 6 in the Discussion Series: Patterns of Conflict Resolution, Institute for British-Irish Studies. University College Dublin

The author acknowledges funding from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and from the Conflict Resolution Unit of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

This paper examines the peace process in Mindanao, Philippines, situating it within broader national and international political economies.

The paper argues that the root causes of the conflict can be found in the long-term processes of state formation and capital penetration in the region which have resulted in the displacement and marginalization of the indigenous groups of Mindanao under consecutive Spanish, American, and independent Philippines control.

Examining the peace process within this context, it argues that mainstream approaches to peace processes that focus on particular ―actors (e.g. spoilers, third party interventions) and ―technologies (e.g. commitment mechanisms) provide some insights into the failure to achieve a lasting peace in the region, but that a full explanation requires consideration of two further issues.


Firstly, formal peace processes are often embedded within wider developmental programmes and the tensions and interactions within this broader dynamic are important to understand.

In Mindanao, while the formal peace process has moved towards explicitly addressing root concerns of the local population, the wider ―peace through development package promoted by the international community is, in fact, exacerbating many of the economic tensions behind the conflict.

Secondly, in localized conflict such as Mindanao, it is important to examine the peace process within the broader political context of the country in question.

In the Philippines, opposition to the peace settlement has, in recent times, been used for political opportunism by opposition forces at the national level.

Similarly, for incumbent presidents, a return to militaristic solutions and associated nationalist agenda has been used as a way to shore up popular support in the rest of the country, undermining moves towards peace.




Linguistic patterns and archaeological evidence suggest that the forefathers of the
vast majority of the contemporary population of the Philippines arrived in the islands between four and six thousand years ago from mainland China via Taiwan.

Expert seafarers who spoke the proto-form of Malayo-Polynesian languages that now dominate island Southeast Asia, they spread out across the region over the ensuing two or three millennia, displacing the smaller Negrito groups that had arrived much earlier and who remain in isolated pockets in the highlands of the Philippines and the Malay peninsula.

Linguistically, the Philippines rapidly diversified into three major language groups roughly approximating to the northern island of Luzon, the central Visayas archipelago, and the southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.

While the population and languages of the Philippines came from the north,
religious influences have come in waves from the West. The first of the major world religions to arrive in the islands was Hinduism. The earliest inscription found in the Philippines, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, dates to around 900CE and is written in a form of old Malay but shows clear Hindu influences.

By the thirteenth century, Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago had fallen under the control of the Hindu Majapahit empire, the great pre-colonial empire of Southeast Asia centred on West Java.

While traces of Hinduism remain embedded in the cultures of the Philippines, however, it was the arrival of first Islam and then Christianity that had the most enduring impact upon the region.

Islam first arrived in Southeast Asia in Aceh at the northwestern tip of Sumatra
around the twelfth century and rapidly spread across the region.It is unclear at what stage Islam was first adopted by local inhabitants, and this clearly varied from place to place, but royal inscriptions found in what is now the east coast Malaysian state of Terengganu extolling the observation of the Islamic religion have been dated to the fourteenth century.

Lacking a priestly class, the spread of Islam was mediated primarily through merchants, ―accustomed to conducting their business under the protective umbrella of Muslim law. Indeed, given the absence of Islamic ―missionaries, in the sense of the Christian missionaries from Europe, it has been suggested that it was the existence of a coherent and comprehensive body of law relating to commercial transactions in the Islamic doctrines, along with the potential to improve trading relations with the Arab empires, that provided the first step in the local adoption of Islamic practices, rather than any ―spiritual.

Perceived commercial benefits were thus major factors in the official adoption of Islam in the broader Southeast Asian region. On the eve of the arrival of the European colonial powers, the major political centres of maritime Southeast Asia—Aceh, Melaka, Johor, and Brunei—were all Islamized with overlapping spheres of influences.

The exact date that Islam arrived in Mindanao itself is hard to determine, but it
appears to have been both the last and the farthest reach of Islam in the region.
Local legend attributes its arrival to one SaripKabungsuan, a scion of the Sultan of
Johor, around the early sixteenth century. By the mid sixteenth century, two major Islamic polities had emerged in the region, the Sultanates of Maguindanao (of which the word Mindanao is a corruption) and Sulu, although both were under the influence of the more powerful Sultan of Brunei (of which the word Borneo is a corruption).

The third wave of conversion that came to the Philippines was brought be the
Spanish colonial expansion. Under Miguel López de Legazpi, the Spanish landed in
the Visayas in 1565 and rapidly conquered Luzon, the Visayas and the northern
coast of Mindanao. European powers had been fighting with and over Southeast
Asia for half a century by this stage—Portugal had established the first colonial
base in the region with its conquest of Melaka in 1511—but the locus of their
conflicts had been the fabled Spice Islands of what is now eastern Indonesia.

While the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British fought over varying spheres of influence in Southeast Asia, the Spanish remained uncontested in their control of the Philippines and brought to their colonial empire a much greater religious zeal than the rest of the region, successfully converting the vast majority of the Filipinos under their control to Catholicism. Mindanao, however, eluded the Spanish both politically and religiously.

Despite numerous military attempts and rather fewer Britain nominally occupied the Philippines for two years from 1762 to 1764 during the Seven Years War between the European powers, although its de facto control did not extend much beyond Manila diplomatic accords, Spanish control of Mindanao never stretched much further than its original bases on the northern coast of the island.

At the same time, however, the Spanish sewed much of the seeds of communal antagonism through promoting in the areas of the Philippines under their control a form of popular theatre, the moro-moro plays that depicted the heroic attempts of Christian missionaries to bring civilization to the Muslims and the barbaric response of these Moros, the generic Spanish term for Muslims (i.e. Moors).

While separatist sympathizers in particular tend to present the conflict in the
southern Philippines as one between the Hispanized, Christianized colonial
subjects of Luzon and the Visayas against the pre-colonial authenticity of Islam in
Mindanao (see, e.g., Jubair, 1999), then, the timing of the arrival of Islam and
Christianity to what is now the Philippines differed by little more than a few

While Mindanao and Sulu certainly lie on the fuzzy border of two historic
―civilizational realms—Hispanized Filipino Christianity against Malay Islamdom—
the historical ―timelessness of this intersection is not nearly as deep as either side to the conflict typically believes.


While the ―ethnohistorical roots of the conflict in Mindanao can be traced to the
precolonial era and the overlapping spread of Islam and European colonialism, the
political economy of the separatist movement finds its roots in the era of the
American colonial administration in the Philippines—this despite the fact that the
Americans were, in many ways, much more sympathetic towards the Muslims than their Spanish predecessors.

While our focus in this section will be on the nature of the state that emerged in Mindanao over the longue duree (long term), it is important to understand the nature of the Philippine state itself because it had important ramifications for the peace process.

The state which emerged in the Philippines under the Spanish initially relied
overwhelming on the church for its legitimacy and its territorial control.

Through a policy termed reducción, populations in the areas controlled by the Spanish were coerced into new settlements centred—politically and physically—on a church with a resident friar. While a secular administration did exist, based on a system of provincial governors and coopted local ―big men, known as datu, it was ―weak in personnel…and it remained extremely dependent upon the friars for its most basic functions It was also highly corrupt.

Moreover, the two systems of authority—secular and religious—were often in
competition with each other. By the nineteenth century, Spain was attempting to
implement reform in the Philippines towards a more typically bureaucratic state, but met with resistance from both existing arms of government in the colony.

At the same period, a class of university-education ilustrado locals was emerging that had travelled to—and often studied in—Spain, where they had learned many Western liberal ideas, but also seen the relative weakness of Spain compared to its European rivals.

On the back of the ilustrado, a nationalist movement emerged agitating for independence. Two key figures epitomize this movement: José Rizal, a Spanish educated novelist, poet and intellectual, whom Benedict Anderson dubs
the ―First Filipino and Andrés Bonifacio, a man of more humble upbringing than Rizal, but more radical political agenda.

Rizal formed an organization, La Liga Filipina, to campaign peacefully for political reform in the Philippines.

Bonifacio joined La Liga, but was quickly disillusioned and formed a more radical secret society, Katipunan, planning armed struggle for full independence. This was reflective of a broader ideological split between the educated, elitist vision of the Philippines promoted by Rizal and later Aguinaldo; and Bonifacio populist atavism.

After an initia Katipunan revolt in Manila was discovered and put down by the Spanish in 1896, Rizal was tried and executed, but Bonifacio escaped.

Subsequently, however, the Katipunan revolt—known in its latter phase as the Philippine Revolution—gathered pace beyond Manila, but its leadership turned on Bonifacio and he was executed by his own party.

A more elite Filipino, Emilio Aguinaldo, replaced him. By this stage, however, Spain was separately embroiled in war with the US; after its heavy defeat
in that war, the Philippines were ceded to the US in reparations. Aguinaldo
responded by declaring Philippine independence and attempting to form a
government but in a relatively short but brutal Philippine-American war, the US
asserted its control over the territories.

Before turning to examine the American administration of the Philippines—which
constituted the first time that Mindanao had been fully brought within the same
political structure as the rest of the Philippines—it is worth reflecting briefly on how this first generation of Filipino nationalists saw the position of Mindanao and the Muslim population within their ―imagined community.

This is complicated by the fact that even among Filipino historians, remarkably little attention has been paid to Mindanao in the context of the Philippine Revolution.

Within the writings of Rizal and Bonifacio, there is little evidence that they had seriously contemplated the problematic position of the Moro within the imagined Filipino community.

While Rizal himself was lived in Mindanao for a period under internal exile imposed by the Spanish, this was in the area already dominated by Christians and he did not address the Moro regions in his writings.

The Katipunan manifesto that Bonifacio launched in exile in Hong Kong reached out to the Moro and urged them to participate in the uprising, addressing the Sultan of Sulu as his ―brother, but there was no attempt to recognize or reconcile the different historical and cultural traditions of the region in their conceptualization of an independent Philippines.

While the Katipunan did recruit some membership in Mindanao, this was very
limited and there is no evidence it stretched beyond the Christian areas Moro participation in the Philippine Revolution is likely to have been discouraged by
two further features of the movement.

Firstly, the popular interpretation of the revolution drew extensively upon Christian symbolism of martyrdom and suffering with Rizal painted by many as an explicitly Christ-like figure; a portrayal that remains popular to date.

Secondly, even among the Christianized Filipinos, there was in many parts of the country a sense that the Katipunan was primarily an ethnically Tagalog movement. In Negros, for instance, anti-Spanish insurgents formed a separate Negros Republic that ―affiliated with but did not become part of Aguinaldo‘s regime.

For the Moro, the heavily Christian nature of the revolution in particular made them wary, many seeing it as merely an extension of the hated Spanish regime.

American control over the Philippines came almost by accident as a result of its
crushing victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. While the US had initially
been relatively supportive of Aguinaldo in the interregnum between the end of the
Spanish-American War and Aguinaldo‘s declaration of independence—Aguinaldo
himself returned to the Philippines from exile accompanying by US troops—
relations quickly soured and Congress ratified the US-Spanish peace treaty that
transferred the Philippines to US control.

Nonetheless, American policy was from the start concerned with whether to maintain a colonial presence in Asia, and if not how to ―dispose of the territories. Writing in the North American Review in 1898, before the Spanish-American War had even been resolved, the US diplomat John Barrett observed that America would have four options in dealing with possession of the Philippines—to maintain them as a permanent colony, to return them to Spain, to give them independence, or to sell them to another state—and that none was particularly palatable.

US plans for Hispanized Philippines quickly settled on a slow transition to independence, but the status of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago within that process was a matter of heated debate in the US Government and the Philippines itself.

The state that emerged in the Christianized Philippines under American tutelage
bore institutional resemblance to US-style democracy, with a bicameral parliament and a directly elected executive Presidency limited to two terms, but the nature ofpolitical power in the country was highly localized. Political expediency led American administrators to collaborate with elite Filipinos whose power was largely based on control of the large hacienda estates and patronage network.

As a result, come independence, democratic structures had already been
subverted and local ―big men and their families dominated political positions and
collected votes through extensive patron-client relationship as well as by more
dubious means—the infamous ―guns, goons, and gangs of Filipino politics.

At the national level, ideological differences between the two main parties, the Liberals and the Nationalists, were scant; at the local level, private armies were common and more influential than political parties.

As a result, neither party was able to attain lasting political domination and the presidency oscillated frequently between the two parties.

In 1969, Ferdinand Marcos, who had been elected in 1965 on the Nationalist slate having defected from the Liberal Party the previous year, became the first Philippine president to win re-election.

During his second term, Marcos began actively cultivating a personality cult and, with his final constitutional term expiring in 1972, he declared martial law—largely legitimized on the basis of the violence in the South as well as a wider Communist insurrection. Under martial law, the Philippine state became heavily centralized, with Marcos dominating the political structure.

Although martial law was lifted in 1981, Marcos had secured a new constitution which not only allowed him to run for president again, but also to serve concurrently as prime minister.

The assassination of Benigno Aquino, an  outspoken opponent of Marcos, as he stepped off a plane returning from a long exile fomented widespread opposition to Marcos, however. Marcos called snap presidential elections in 1986, in which Aquino‘s widow,Corazon Aquino, ran.

The official election body COMELEC declared Marcos the winner but this was contested by NAMFREL, a coalition of NGOs monitoring the election. Huge protests began—the famous People Power revolution—and after military leaders (notably Fidel Ramos, later himself president) backed the protestors and Reagan‘s administration in the US withdrew its previously solid support for Marcos, Marcos fled to the US and Corazon Aquino was installed as president.

A new constitution was drawn up that restored many of the democratic institutions of the pre-martial law era but limited the presidency to a single six-year term.

To the surprise of many observers, however, the centralized period of the Marcos administration had not effectively broken the local power structures and the post Marcos era has largely seen a return to the localized nature of political mobilization in the country

The Moro Constabulary during the colonial era.

State formation in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago took a very different
trajectory. In 1903, a Moro Province was created and directly administered as a
military regime by the US. Often vicious pacification campaigns were interspersed
with efforts to secure collaboration of leading datu (local chiefs).

By 1911, Moro Province was deemed pacified and transferred to civilian control.

In 1916, the Jones Law transferred control to the Philippine legislature, bring the region under the de facto control of Manila for the first time, and a Bureau for non-Christian Tribes created to manage the residual ―Moro problem. American politicians and academics alike began congratulating themselves that their policy was ―acknowledged by all unbiased observers as a decided success

In ways that would ultimately feed into the political economy of separatism in the
region, however, American policy towards Mindanao was in no small measure
shaped by the undoubted potential of the island of economic development and
resource exploitation.

The island was sparsely populated and was endowed with rich natural resources. General John Finley, the second US governor of Moro Province, wrote in 1913 that ―it has been clearly evident to the American army… that the regeneration of the uncivilized [i.e. non-Christian] tribes must be accomplished along industrial lines.

Finley himself set up a series of trading markets or ―Moro Exchanges designed both to ―teach the Moros the value of economic activity and to encourage peaceful interaction between the Muslim and non-Muslim groups.5 He also developed a scheme to allow nonChristians to register land in their name for free up to 40 acres. This scheme, however, turned out to be the first step in a long process of land displacement of Muslims in Mindanao, for two reasons.

Firstly, the scheme was in fact very poorly taken up due to the prevailing land customs in Mindanao in which land was sole held in usufruct. Explicit ―ownership of land was simply anathema to Moro traditions, even among the datuwho, while holding power of arbitration in disputes over land use, did not even ―own the land themselves.

Secondly, while Finley congratulated himself extensively on this policy (Finley,
1913), the 40 acres that could be registered by Muslims was, in fact, far smaller
than the acreage allowed to Christian settlers.

By the 1920s, the potential to develop Mindanao into a rubber economy was high on the agenda of US politicians and big business. In 1926, Harvey Firestone Jr., son of the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, made an exploratory trip to the Philippines and is reported as having told President Coolidge on his return that ―a fraction of the uncultivated acreage in the southern islands would, if developed, provide all the rubber needs of the United States.

At around the same time, the Republican senator for New York, Robert Bacon, introduced a bill to Congress to separate once again the administration of the Moro Province from the rest of the Philippines. In promoting the bill in Congress, Bacon was explicit: belief in ―altruistic motivations for the continued US presence in the Philippines was selfdelusional and America needed to secure ―a permanent and controlled source of food and raw materials.

Separating Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines would ―open the way for the production of rubber and other tropical articles by American capital, and mean that even if the Philippines were granted independence, the US would maintain its interest in—and control of—the Moro Province.

The Bacon Bill was not passed, but US capital remained interested in Mindanao for
agricultural exploitation. American capital was ready to move into Mindanao, but
exploitation required more than just capital—it required labour.

Writing in Foreign Affairs in 1928, the vice-governor general of the Philippines, Ralston Hayden, noted that ―those regions [of Mindanao] which possess the most valuable natural resources are the most nearly empty of inhabitants.

For Hayden, the economic logic of settling these regions for economic development was ―inescapable; the question was who should settle there. Hayden left no uncertainty about his views on this.

The ―Moros and primitive pagans who [inhabit Mindanao] are neither capable nor desirous of developing [these regions]…[but] only a few miles northward of vacant Mindanao lies a group of Christian islands which are greatly overcrowded. Hayden warned that the Moros must be allowed to ―participate in the development process, but argued that with a stable US policy in the region, good will and cooperation between the Moros and the Filipinos would grow and allow for the economic exploitation of Mindanao. In fact, the colonial administration in the Philippines had already been actively encouraging Christian migration to Mindanao for over a decade by this stage.

In 1917, the Philippine legislature set up a fund ―for aid to such inhabitants of the ―Philippine rubber production trivial up to date, Baltimore Sun, 8 Aug. 1926.

Particularly around the Cotabato area, colonies were set up and migrants from across the Philippines settled there, taking advantage of the preferential land policies. By the 1920s, non-Muslims outnumbered in Mindanao and Sulu, although Muslims remained the majority on the west coast of Mindanao, the Zamboanga peninsula and the Sulu archipelago, as they do still.

Figure 2: Population of Mindanao by religion, 1903-2000 {Source: Author‘s calculations from 1990 and 2000 census samples and Che Man (1990)}

After independence, however, the new governments in Manila began encouraging
even faster Christian migration to Mindanao. During 35 years of American control,
between 1903 and 1939, just short of 700,000 migrants came to Mindanao; during just 12 years between 1948 and 1960, more than 1.2 million Christian Filipinos migrated to Mindanao, an annual increase of 6.7% (Wernstedt and Simkins, 1965).

State-sponsored resettlement schemes, still with the ostensible aim of promoting agricultural production, brought thousands of poor Christians from Luzon and the Visayas islands to Mindanao (Abinales, 2000; Gutierrez and Borras, 2004).

While under the Americans, migration had been encouraged to serve the needs of
international capital, however, under the independent Philippines government in
Manila, liberalization of land ownership restrictions combined with monopolistic
laws on commodity exportsto allow a number of politically-linked Christian families to accumulate vast plantation holdings. Given the political links and personal biases of their owners, these haciendas tended to employ Christian labourers at the expense of Moros.

Thus, not only were the Moro displaced from their ―traditional lands, they were also denied access to the emerging money economy.

By 1965, observers were already noting that Christian ―penetration of Mindanao
was causing ―unrest and strife, with the dispute settlement processes usually
favouring the Christians as ―the better educated Christian has been able to present a stronger case to the courts…while Muslim litigants have been viewed as
obstructionists and anachronists.

Some local Muslim leaders began making claims for separation, although Lela Garner Noble argues that until the 1970s, ―Muslim leaders did not want to secede; they wanted rewards for not seceding.


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, a series of events drove the
politicization of Moro resentment towards the Christian statein Manila rather than
the migrant population in Mindanao.

The first of these was the ―Corregidor Incident or ―Jabidah massacre of 1968. Corregidor Island, in the Manila bay, was the site for the secret training of a group of Muslim volunteers recruited by the Philippine Armed Forces, apparently for a planned infiltration of the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sabah, to which the Philippines retained a territorial claim through its former status as a dependency of the Sultan of Sulu.

In March 1968, the trainees mutinied and were massacred by their Christian officers. Whether this mutiny was caused by their perception that the planned ―invasion of Sabah was unjust or for the more prosaic reason that the recruits did not receive their promised paycheques is unclear, but whatever the reason, the massacre of Muslims recruits by Christian officers raised Muslim resentment against Manila.

Shortly afterwards, the Muslim governor of Cotabato province, Datu Udtog Matalam, announced the formation of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM), explicitly in response to the Corregidor Incident, although the MIM manifesto also asserted the theme of historical separateness elucidated above

Subsequently, in 1970, on-going disputes over land between Christian and Muslim groups broke out into fighting, with the Philippine Constabulary intervening on the Christian side.

These fights themselves stemmed largely from the competing cultural perceptions of land, and thus the inability of the Christians and Moros to agree even on a suitable legalistic venue to resolve their disputes, ―since there was no agreement on legal systems or judges. Fighting intensified as elections drew near and rival politicians mobilized ethnic and religious militias to gather votes and intimidate their opponents.


In 1972, with his second and constitutionally final term as president ending, Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, justifying it largely on the basis of the on-going violence in Mindanao. Martial law in turn provided the trigger for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which launched an armed movement for a separate Moro state.

Funded by Libya and given logistical assistance by Mustapha Harun, Chief Minister of neighbouring Sabah, the MNLF was led by a charismatic lecturer from the University of the Philippines (UP), Nur Misuari (photo), and brought together student radicals and the intelligentsia with Moro farmers displaced from their lands as well as religious leaders and local politicians.

At this early stage, however, religion played only a minor role in the rhetoric and mobilization of the movement and the MNLF was oriented towards a Moro ethnic nationalism.

How far, then, was conflict in Mindanao inevitable? As we have seen, major
protagonists on both sides, as well as American colonial powers, certainly saw
conflict as if not inevitable then at least difficult to avoid due to Huntingdon-style
―civilizational clashes (Huntington, 1996).

As early as 1908, the New York Times was reporting that many American colonial administrators ―believe that if the islands, including the Moro Province, were given independence to-day, the Moros would conquer the northern islands in a year or two.

Yet the socio-economic forces that drove the conflict were primarily linked to the ways in which successive regimes sought to open up Mindanao for integration into the national and global markets.

Some American colonial administrators were certainly aware that incorporating Muslim groups into this process was an important aspect of ―nation building. As we have seen, Rolston Hayden expressed this concern in the 1920s, while even earlier, NajeebSaleeby—a local Muslim who became an influential collaborator within the American administration—argued that ―a process of gradual development was necessary in order for the Moros to ―gradually rise in wealth and culture to the level of a democratic municipality  (Saleeby, 1913).

Yet these warnings were not acted upon in opening up Mindanao for development. Whether or not a more inclusive development strategy would have prevented any conflict from emerging is, of course, rather too counterfactual to answer conclusively, but it certainly seems plausible to assert that there would have been considerably less support for secessionist claims in Mindanao if the Moro had been better integrated into the development process.


In this section we examine the nature of and obstacles to the peace process in

We focus here on the political process; in the next section, we examine the socio-economic dynamics of the peace.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the peace process in Mindanao is that while the insurgency has rumbled on at varying degree of intensity for almost four decades now, the basic framework of a peace agreement was worked out relatively quickly in the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and while subsequent negotiations have sought to modify this agreement—either through its extension, particularly in terms of equalisation polices; or through its restriction, particularly in terms of territorial extent—none of the sides to the negotiations have entirely repudiated the Tripoli Agreement as the basis for a settlement.

Certainly, the peace process has been complicated by the splintering of the separatist movement, first with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) breaking away from the MNLF in the late 1980 and subsequently with the emergence of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Yet the role of ―spoilers (Stedman, 1997) in preventing the achievement of a lasting settlement has been, we shall see, only marginal. Instead, the obstacle to a lasting settlement have been primarily structural.

The first few years of the Moro insurgency from 1972 to 1976 were undoubtedly the most intense militarily, with thousands of fatalities on either side.

By the mid-1970s, the conflict had descended into a military stalemate along classic guerrilla warfare lines: while the MNLF was not strong enough to rout entirely the might of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the latter was unfamiliar with the terrain, unable to break local supply chains and hence unable to destroy the MNLF militarily either.

After 1975, however, both sides had greater reason to try to find a settlement. On
the one hand, the ouster of Mustapha from Sabah state in Malaysia had denied the MNLF its primary source of arms and other supplies.

On the other hand, Marcos was becoming increasingly concerned that Islamic countries in the Middle East were threatening to punish the Philippines out of sympathy with the Muslim
insurgents by denying or restricting oil supplies.


Under the auspices of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), officials
from the MNLF finally met with representatives of the Government of the
Philippines, including Imelda Marcos, in Tripoli in 1976 and fleshed out a ceasefire
agreement and the terms for a settlement.

The sixteen point agreement covered political autonomy, defence and foreign policy, and administrative and fiscal structures but in all cases, the details of these arrangements were to be ―fixed later.

What is noticeable about the Tripoli Agreement, however, is the extent to which its focus is primarily on the nature of political arrangements between the putative autonomous regime and the central government.

While vague in its commitments, the Tripoli agreement constituted a set of political arrangements that appeared to be very generous towards Mindanao.

The territorial extent of the autonomous region was agreed to include thirteen
provinces which, while eight short of the 21 provinces that made up the MNLF‘s
declared Moro homeland of Mindanao and Sulu, also included eight provinces with
that had a Christian majority population.

The Muslims of the autonomous region were also to be guaranteed representation at the central level, including in the judicial branch right up to the Supreme Court level, and in ―all other organs of the state.

On economic matters, however, while the agreement allowed for the autonomous
authority to have its own ―economic and financial system, there was no
commitment to equalisation policies or land reform to address the prevailing
horizontal inequalities within Mindanao and between Mindanao and the rest of the

Indeed, the sole explicit developmental policy mentioned in the agreement was that natural resources and mining within the autonomous region would remain the competence of the central government; a ―reasonable percentage of revenues therefrom was committed ―for the benefit of the areas of autonomy but what constituted ―reasonable was left unspecified, as was the channel through which this disbursement would happen—that is, whether the revenue share would be transferred to the new authority or whether it would be disbursed within Mindanao by the central government.

At the same time, the first major split in the MNLF emerged after NurMisuari fell out with his deputy HashimSalamat, who created the breakaway Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF). Three sets of issues appear to have influenced the schism.

Firstly, after the failure of the Tripoli Agreement, NurMisuari moved back to a more radical position demanding complete secession rather than autonomy; Hashim‘s MILF announced more limited demands for autonomy within the Philippines.

Secondly, as the respective names of the organisations suggest, Hashim and his
supporters were more committed to an Islamic notion of Moro autonomy whereas
NurMisuari had always emphasized Moro as a kind of ethnonation identity.

Finally, and less publicly, the split reflected internal ethnic tensions between the Tausug who largely lived on the Zamboanga Peninsula and the Sulu archipelago and the Magindanao and Maranao, who lived on mainland Mindanao. Misuari was Tausug; HashimMaranao.

There are some suggestions that Marcos was well aware of these tensions and that acquiescing to an early peace in Tripoli was a strategic ploy to capitalize on these tensions, with Marcos‘ regime gambling that the longer the war dragged on, the more unified the Moro would become. While the preliminary negotiations for Tripoli were underway, Marcos announced that his government would not treat the MNLF as the sole representative of the Moro people and instituted a number of parallel negotiations with Muslim leaders who had not joined the MNLF (Yegar, 2002).

The success of this strategy explains why Misuari and the MNLF agreed to a peace deal in Tripoli that did not seem to address the fundamental socio-economic marginalization of the Moro. Their fear was that without this deal, they risked eclipse as the major Moro power in the region.

The Tripoli Agreement committed the Government to ―take all necessary constitutional processes for the implementation of the entire agreement and, almost immediately after the agreement was signed, Marcos announced that this meant that the agreement required ratification in a plebiscite of the affected provinces.

It is not entirely clear whether the MNLF had understood this clause to entail a referendum, but contemporary documents from the Philippines—together with their lack of public criticism of Marcos‘ announcement—demonstrate that, at any rate, they were not opposed to a referendum (Noble, 1981).

While the MNLF may not have opposed a referendum in principle, however, differences quickly emerged over the wording of the questions that the referendum would pose. Intervention by the OIC failed to bring both sides to an agreement, and so after several delays, Marcos went ahead with his own version of the referendum questions.

The MNLF‘s success in getting eight non-Muslim majority provinces included in the purview of the agreement proved its downfall; the referendum was decisively rejected.

Marcos then created two new regional governments with very limited autonomy out of ten of the original thirteen provinces, and unilaterally declared the Tripoli Agreement implemented.

Several senior members of the MNLF and other influential datu were induced to join the autonomous governments, reportedly gaining lucrative concessions in the process. The bodies that Marcos created, the Autonomous Governments of Region IX (Western Mindanao) and Region XII (Southern Mindanao) were highly restricted in fund-raising powers and ―could only pass resolutions addressed to [central government bodies] requesting action or appealing for aid without any legal sanction to enforce its measures (Saideman Pangarungan, former Region XII assemblyman, quote in Che Man, 1990: p.156).


Moreover, the Tripoli agreement had mandated the creation of a single regional government, rather than the separate bodies that Marcos created. The MNLF cried foul and hostilities resumed.

After the People Power revolution of 1986, which received ―strong support from Muslim organizations in Manila,9 Corazon Aquino began to pursue options for a peace settlement in Mindanao. Aquilino Pimentel, a Christian politician from Mindanao who had generally favourable relations with the Muslim population, was sent to Jeddah to negotiate with Misuari, who was then living in exile.

Although this resulted in the signing of an accord between the MNLF and the new government, this accord did little more than agree to further talks, to be held in Manila. Pimentel himself concedes that the agreement ―did not amount to much, although claiming that the location of the proposed talks was important as it constituted an ―implicit admission [by Misuari] of the jurisdiction of the country over the issue.

The talks themselves were also largely a failure. While the Aquino government was prepared to concede the principle of greater autonomy for the thirteen provinces in the original Tripoli Agreement, Misuari continued to push for all 23 provinces of Mindanao and Sulu to be included, as well as the maintenance of the MNLF as, in effect, a separate army for the region (Hernandez, 1988).

Clearly, this was unlikely to be countenanced by the government in Manila, and the talks collapsed, although the MNLF did not return to armed combat.

Despite the failure of the peace talks, Aquino‘s government pushed ahead with regional autonomy.

The new constitution promulgated in 1987 expressly allowed for the creation of an autonomous regional government in Mindanao, subject to the formation a Regional Constitutional Commission.

In collaboration with some of the local datu leaders (Bertrand, 2000), Aquino‘s government went forward with plans for the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

In 1989, Congress passed a bill allowing for the creation of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in up to thirteen provinces in Mindanao, subject to a referendum in each province.

The extent of autonomy to be granted under the new act was much greater than that implemented by Marcos—including the creation of shari‘a courts, genuine revenue-raising powers, and the establishment of a regional police force—but still ruled out any move to independence, stating that the ARMM would remain ―an integral and inseperable part of the national territory of the Republic of the Philippines.

Misuari and the MNLF rejected the referendum as a transgression of the Tripoli Agreement, and asked Muslims to boycott participation, as did the MILF. In the event, only four provinces with mainly Muslim populations voted for inclusion
in the ARMM—Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.


The ARMM thus came into being in 1990, but without the backing of either of the major separatist groups. When Fidel Ramos replaced Aquino as president in 1992, negotiations with the MNLF were resumed in earnest, culminating in the 1996 Agreement on the Final Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

The intervening years had seen the MNLF‘s support base largely drained as its rival splinter group, the MILF, built up its own strength; Ramos‘ insistence on negotiating first with MNLF—still recognized by the OIC as the ―official voice of the Moro—gave Misuari ―renewed hope to recoup his shattered prestige (Serajul Islam, 1998: p.450).

The agreement mandated the creation of a transitional Southern Philippines Council of Peace and Development (SPCPD) and committed the government to the expansion of the ARMM, both territorially and in terms of power within three years.

The agreement also provided for the integration of demobilized MNLF guerrillas into the Armed Forces of the Philippines. At the same time, Misuari was appointed chairman of the SPCPD and agreed to run for election as governor of the existing ARMM in 1996 under the banner of Ramos‘ own party, which he won convincingly.

Despite the Ramos administration‘s assessment that he would prove an ―excellent administrator, Misuari‘s governorship of the ARMM was marked by incompetence and allegations of corruption.

As Bertrand (2000: p.40) notes, even prior to Misuari‘s stewardship, the creation of the ARMM ―provided an opportunity for the traditional datus to re-establish some of their political clout. Misuari himself ran an administration that was profligate in ―personnel expenditure but not so forthcoming with development project, despite massive investment in the region from both the central government and donor organizations such as USAID.


In 1997, some 84% of the ARMM budget was spent on ―personnel services, 14% on ―operating expenditure, and just 1% on capital outlays (Ibid.).

Misuari‘s lifestyle as governor was notoriously lavish, spending over 20 million Pesos (approx. £200,000) of ARMM funds on his own travel in just nine months and he reportedly ―pocketed funds allocated for the poverty alleviation programme.

With disillusionment running high, the MNLF itself finally had enough and ousted Misuari as its leader in April 2001, although this did not affect his position as governor of the ARMM.

With his term expiring later that year, however, Misuari‘s position looked bleak. Barely weeks before his term expired, Misuari announced a resumption of armed conflict against the Philippine state and attacked a police station together with a small contingent of still-loyal MNLF fighters.

The attack was a failure and Misuari fled to Malaysia, where he was arrested for illegal immigration and, after some prevarication, deported back to the Philippines, where he now languishes in jail.


The start of the twenty-first century saw an upsurge in violence in the Southern
Philippines, largely on the part of rebel groups such as the Abu Sayyaf which
emerged during the 1990s apparently more intent on extortion and profiteering that ―genuine separatist struggle (Turner, 2003).

Post September-11 analysts have also made much out of apparent links with Al Qaeda (e.g. Abuza, 2003), although the methodology and findings of these studies are disputed (Hamilton-Hart, 2005; Brown, 2006).

These developments, combined with the abject failure of the ARMM in any of its manifestations to bring about a lasting peace or any kind of socioeconomic development in Mindanao, has seen more protagonists of conflict resolution in the Philippines turn to a radical new option: the complete transformation of the country into a federal state.

Senator Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. 23rd President of the Senate of the Philippines Drafted the ARMM act.

Foremost among the proponents of a federal solution was Aquilino Pimentel, the
Christian Mindanao senator who negotiated with Misuari in 1986 and helped draft
the original ARMM act. For Pimentel, ―there is no other peaceful, feasible, constitutional solution to the problem than the creation of a federal state of the
Bangsamoro, within a federal republic of the Philippines.

Calls for the transformation of the Philippines into a federal parliamentary system have in fact been on-going for many years, but gained momentum in 2005 when the then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo threw her weight behind the proposals and set in place a Consultative Commission charged with designing a federal constitution.


The most ardent proponents of charter change have seen it as a virtual panacea for the Philippines political woes—a way of reaching a permanent settlement in the South and, more broadly, a way of reforming the national political system to break the stranglehold of big business and political clans over parliament and the

Arroyo‘s declaration of intent was, however, regarded with scepticism by many quarters.

Firstly, her proposed changes would have potentially allowed her to
continue as a prime ministerial head of state beyond the end of her presidential
term in 2010. 

Accusations of self-interest in proposals of charter change are not
new. The single-term nature of the presidency under the 1987 constitution,
designed to prevent the emergence of another Marcos, has meant that any
president seeking to amend the constitution is often interpreted as seeking to
preserve their own power.

Both the Aquino and Ramos administrations stood accused of such when they proposed changes that would allow the president to run for a second term.

Proponents of charter change had thus leapt on Arroyo‘s ascension to the presidency after the ouster of Estrada as a chance to push for charter change.

In 2001, house representative Constantino Jaraula argued that the timing was right for a constitutional debate because Arroyo was still qualified to run for the presidency in 2004 and hence could promote such changes without standing
accused of self-interest.

Unfortunately, Arroyo herself only publicly subscribed to charter change after the 2004 election.

Secondly, Arroyo‘s declaration came at the height of a vote-rigging scandal after the revelation of a taped telephone conversation between Arroyo and the head of the election commission, made during the counting of the 2004 presidential election, in which Arroyo apparently exhorted the commission to ensure she won by at least a million votes. The charter change issue was thus viewed by some as an attempt to divert attention from her own political woes.

Political machinations aside, Arroyo instituted a Consultative Commission
mandated with proposing amendments to the 1987 Constitution, headed by Jose
Abueva, a political scientist, former president of the University of the Philippines,
and advocate of federalism.

The commission‘s report, submitted in December 2005, recommended the immediate transformation of the republic into a unicameral parliamentary system with a prime ministerial executive and that the existing primary divisions of the country—provinces and chartered cities—be amalgamated into ―autonomous territories.

Parliament would be compelled to pass another law within a year, or after 60% of the existing administrative divisions had formed autonomous territories, transforming these autonomous territories into states within a federal structure.

The 1987 constitution provides two routes for constitutional amendment—a
constituent assembly or a constitutional convention. The constituent assembly (the term is not itself used in the constitution but this is how it is usually known) would comprise both houses of Congress, which would vote on proposals and make constitutional amendments with a three-quarters majority. Unfortunately, the constitution is not clear whether the two houses would vote separately or together, i.e. whether a three-quarters majority was required in both houses, or whether three quarters of the combined houses would suffice. This emerged as an issue of importance as there was a stark difference of attitude towards charter change in the current House of Representative and the Senate.

The alternative route, the constitutional convention, would involve the convening of a separate body elected by the public, which would then pass amendments to the constitution.

In either event, the amendments would then have required ratification through a popular plebiscite, which most observers consider unlikely to have resulted in confirmation.

While Arroyo‘s belated quest to transform the Philippines into a parliamentary system failed, her government‘s direct negotiations with the insurgents were more effective. Her predecessor, Joseph Estrada who had been ousted in massive street demonstrations, had favoured a military solution to the conflict and had launched an ―all-out war on the MILF, by this stage the militarily dominant faction in Mindanao.

The war resulted in massive casualties on both sides and the AFP overran the MILF headquarters at Camp Abubakar, but was not able to entirely destroy its forces.

When Arroyo replaced Estrada, however, she held out an offer of resumed
negotiations, and the MILF quickly agreed. A framework for a peace process was
worked out in Kuala Lumpur with the mediation of the Malaysian government in July 2001.

The subsequent peace process was slow and intermittently broke down with
accusations of breaches of the ceasefire on both sides, but by 2008 finally
produced an agreement, signed in Kuala Lumpur under continued Malaysian
mediation. Unlike previous negotiations, this process had dealt with—and been
bedevilled by—land issues, or what the MILF termed the issue of ―ancestral


The 2008 agreement, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was, by any standards, an extraordinary agreement. In contrast to the vague principles of the Tripoli Agreement, it was exceptionally detailed and dealt with all manner of economic and juridical issues, including land and water resources, explicit revenue sharing formulae that heavily favoured Mindanao (75:25), and detailed explanation of the territorial extent and governance structure of the proposed Bangsomoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

The agreement even entitled the BJE to conduct its own foreign relations and committed the GoP to help the BJE seek representation on such regional bodies as ASEAN.

Indeed, such was the extent of the agreement that a coalition of Christian politicians from Mindanao and opponents of Arroyo in Manila petitioned the Supreme Court to issue an injunction preventing the Government from signing the memorandum on the grounds that is constituted de facto complete independence and was hence unconstitutional.

In August 2008, the Supreme Court ordered a temporary restraining order preventing the signing of the document while it deliberated. The decision was followed by a resumption of violence in Mindanao, although the MILF maintained initially that this was rogue elements rather than an official withdrawal from the peace process.

The Government responded by announcing that it would not sign the MOA-AD whether or not the Supreme Court endorsed its constitutionality, and in October 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that the document was indeed unconstitutional.

The MILF and the GoP subsequently both officially withdrew from the peace process, and the military conflict resumed apace, with over 600,000 people displaced within a month.

In May 2010, Arroyo‘s term as president concluded and she was replaced by
Benigno Aquino III (photo), the son of the assassinated Benigno Aquino and Corazon Aquino. Aquino quickly committed himself to resuming peace talks with the MILF, and Indonesia, Malaysia and Libya all expressed support and offered logistical assistance and mediation.

As of this writing, however, nothing has yet solidified from this.


The administration of Benigno Aquino III resumed peace negotiations, the 20th round, with the MILF in February 2011, after the rebel group announced that they were no longer seeking secession from the Philippines.

But the prospects for peace remained elusive as rogue MILF forces conducted sporadic attacks against government forces in several areas in Mindanao despite the existing ceasefire agreement. Worst of these attacks came on October 18, 2011 when MILF forces ambushed an Army contingent in Al-Barka, Basilan killing 19 young soldiers and wounding 12 others.

Despite the MILF’s half-hearted efforts to make these rogue leaders answer for their attacks, the president and the military hierarchy rejected calls for an all-out-war approach to this problem.

The Al-Barka attack came just two months after Aquino’s controversial meeting with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo. This gave rise to concerns that the real reason for the stalled peace process is not just the government’s lukewarm effort to make peace, but also the lack of sincerity of the rebel groups in negotiating lasting peace with the government in Philippines military for 245.

Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Main article:

On October 15, 2012, the Philippine government signed a much-hyped document touted as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which culminates the Aquino Administration's effort to end the deadlock in the peace process.

This new document, while merely providing for a general framework for the actual peace negotiations, announces that "the status quo is unacceptable and that the Bangsamoro shall be established to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Bangsamoro is the new autonomous political entity (NPE) referred to in the Decision Points of Principles as of April 2012."

According to President Aquino, this is the agreement that "can finally seal genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao."

On January 24, 2014, Philippine government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal signed  the final annex of the peace agreement in Kuala Lumpur.

Two months later, on March 27, 2014, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in Manila and witnessed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law)

The agreement would pave the way for the creation of the new Muslim autonomous entity called "Bangsamoro" under a law to be approved by the Philippine Congress.

The government aims to set up the region by 2016.

The agreement calls for Muslim self-rule in parts of the southern Philippines in exchange for a deactivation of rebel forces by the MILF.

MILF forces would turn over their firearms to a third party to be selected by the MILF and the Philippine government.

A regional police force would be established and the Philippine military would reduce the presence of troops and help disband private armies in the area. 

This page was last modified on 5 May 2015, at 00:57. SOURCE WIKIPEDIA


If conflict between the Moros and the Hispanized Filipinos was not demographically inevitable, it was certainly imbued with the appearance of inevitability during the colonial era as the Spanish sowed the seeds of intrinsically opposing identities between the Christianized indiosand the Muslim moro.

The term moro itself was, of course, a Spanish import from the Iberian peninsula where, at the start of the colonial era, the expulsion of the ―moors (moro) from Grenada was within living memory.

In the Philippines, the Spanish used the term moro ―to indicate a moral boundary against which Spanish evangelical mission, and therefore Castilian hegemony, could be organized and legitimized (Blanchetti-Ravelli, 2003: p.49).

Key here was the promotion of the moro-moroplays mentioned above, a form of
popular theatre that portrayed the Muslims as uncivilized heathens, bringing their
religion by force with threats of unspeakable deaths, and the Christians as
unbowed and ultimately victorious moral agents.

Survey evidence from the early 1970s, on the eve of the conflict, suggests that the stereotypes promoted by the Spanish endured throughout the American era and independence (Lacar and Hunt, 1972).

Yet as noted above, the term ―Moro itself conceals a high degree of ethnic and
linguistic diversity, as indeed does the term ―Filipino for the Christianized groups.

Table 1 provides the ethnolinguistic breakdown of Mindanao in 1990, based on
census sample data. The three largest Muslim groups in Mindanao, the
Maguindanao, the Maranao, and the Tausog, are relatively evenly balanced, each
constituting just over a quarter of the Muslim population and around 5% of the
population of Mindanao as a whole.

They are concentrated in different parts of the region, however: the Maguindanao on the west coast of Mindanao; the Maranao in the northwestern provinces of Lanao; and the Tausog on the Zamboanga peninsular and the Sulu archipelago to the west of Mindanao itself.

The largest Christian ethnolinguistic group, the Cebuano, constitute around a quarter of the population of Mindanao—larger than the entire Muslim population, although even this may hide a degree of heterogeneity, as Cebuano is a lingua franca for many different groups originating in the central Visayas archipelago.

The Spanish colonial project of constructing the Moro as a single community was,
however, one that was taken up enthusiastically by the emergent separatist
movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Misuari in particular was adamant that the Bangsa Moro identity was one that transcended ethnic differences and, indeed, even held out the option that the primarily animist lumudtribes of the Mindanao highland were a constitutive part of the Bangsa Moro, despite not confessing Islam.

Yet, as we have seen in relation to the Tripoli negotiations, internal divisions within the Moro community remained sensitive. As noted above, the Misuari regime in the ARMM was noted for its personalized profligacy, but also, opponents claimed, for favouring of the ethnic Tausog, his own community.17 Using census sample data from 1990 and 2000, we can examine the validity of these claims.

Table 2 shows the results of logistic regression results predicting the likelihood of skilled employment for males of working age living in the ARMM after holding for age and educational attainment.18 In 1990, before Misuari took up his position at the helm of the ARMM, the probability of an ethnic Tausog male holding a skilled job was around one-fifth of the rest of the population, even after holding for age and educational level.

Relative to other Muslims in the region, they fared slightly better but still had only around two-fifths the skilled employment rate relative to those of equal age and education.

A decade later, however, after five years of Misuari‘s regime, there was no statistically significant difference in the skilled employment rate of ethnic Tausog from the rest of the population after 17 holding for level of qualifications, while among the Muslim population they held a slight advantage with a 20% higher chance. In fact, all three major Muslim ethnic groups improved their skilled employment position over this period relative to the
population as a whole.

This was reflective however, of an absolute decrease in Christian employment in these occupations, from 11% of Christian employment in ARMM in 1990 to 6.5% in 2000.

Within the Muslim population, however, the improvement in the Tausog employment position was markedly at the expense of the ethnic Maguindanao.

In 1990, there were twice as many ethnic Maguindanao employed in skilled occupations as ethnic Tausog; by 2000, this situation was almost exactly reversed.

While Misuari‘s regime was in many ways undoing the extreme socio-economic exclusion of the Tausog of earlier years, it is nonetheless easy to understand a sense of ethnic marginalization among other Muslim groups in the face of their rapid improvement in socio-economic position.

Table 2: Logistic regression results - skilled employment, males aged 16-60 in ARMM


What can we make of this drawn out process analytically?

It is clear that the role of third parties has been critical, but not always beneficial.

While both Libya and Malaysia initially supported the insurgency—the former
openly, the latter more covertly—since the mid-1970s, they have both sought to
contribute to a negotiated settlement by offering neutral venues trusted by both

For the MNLF and the MILF, this trust emerged from shared religious values
in Islam.

For the GoP, Libya and Malaysia‘s position as members of the international community afforded them legitimacy as mediators who could not afford
to be seen to be biased.

While outside intervention has facilitated negotiation when both sides to the conflict have sought it, however, they have not been successful in creating opportunities for negotiation or preventing the collapse of talks, with the exception of the initial period in 1975 when combined pressure from the OIC on the GoP and withdrawal of support for the MNLF from Malaysia forced both parties to the negotiating table.

In 1982, Saudi Arabia attempted to force a resumption of talks by boycotting oil supplies to the Philippines, but Marcos‘ regime did not respond and after six months the boycott was dropped.

While the intervention of the Muslim world has generally supported the peace process, Western involvement has been less beneficial, as detailed below. What has bedevilled the peace process constantly over four decades has been both economic and political issues.

Economically, the major issue has been land reform and equalisation policies.

The MNLF probably did no favours for a long-term settlement by agreeing in 1976 to the Tripoli Agreement that had no mention of land whatsoever and only the vaguest reference to resources use.

The continued perception of Tripoli as the ―benchmark for subsequent peace deals arguably hamstrung later attempts to bring economic issues to the table although, as we saw above, the 2008 MOA-AD eventually did so in spectacular fashion.

Running alongside this formal peace process has been the wider issue of land
reform, which affects not only Mindanao but the whole country. In 1988, the
administration of Corazon Aquino initiated a Comprehensive Agrarian Reform

While committed to redistributing land to smaller landowners, the package was flawed for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it stipulated that remuneration would be required for the land redistributed, making it difficult for poorer people to claim land.

Secondly, it deferred including commercial estates in its purview for ten
years, subsequently extended for another ten years by Ramos.

As a result, the actual amount of land redistributed under CARP was minimal and actually resulted in a higher concentration of land holding among commercial companies and multinationals.

In Mindanao this process was, ironically enough, exacerbated by Western donors
commitments to assist peace through economic development programme, because they tended to favour large scale commercial enterprises (often with international corporations involved)—with the presumption of employment generation—rather than redistributing land to landless Muslim farmers.

Hence, for instance, the EU donated 13 million for the development of 13 rubber plantations in Mindanao covering over 500 hectares. More generally, and in line with Mark Duffield‘s broader critique of the ―liberal peace (Duffield, 2001), Western donor assistance to Mindanao—which has been bountiful—has tended to view market-oriented solutions, with an emphasis on export-oriented commodities, as the best ways to encourage development and, hence, reduce the grievances of the Moro population.

Critical voices see donor ―peace-building engagement in Mindanao as little different from the US colonial era policy of shaping the region for the entry of
Western capital.

Politically, two major stumbling blocks have hampered the peace process.

Firstly, successive regimes in Manila have followed a political strategy of one-sided implementation of accords accompanied by the co-optation of individual members of the insurgent groups and other Moro leaders into these bodies and strategies that intensified internal divisions within the Moro, whether deliberately—as appears to have been the case in the Tripoli era—or accidentally—as was more the case in Ramos‘ selection of Misu ari to lead the ARMM.

While often successful in the short term at reducing hostilities, this has ultimately undermined the peace process by generating distrust within the Moro community and a general sense of disillusionment towards their own leaders and the prospects for an equitable negotiated settlement. NurMisuari‘s inglorious end as the corrupt overlord of the toothless ARMM and the subsequent collapse of the MNLF epitomized this process.

Secondly, the peace process in Mindanao has become something of a political
football in Manila. On the one hand, for successive presidents facing other political
problems, a renewed offensive in Mindanao has often provided useful distraction.
Marcos‘ initial declaration of emergency that enabled him to remain in power for
another fourteen years was legitimated in part by the violence in the South, while
both Estrada and Arroyo launched new offensives when their popularity was

On the other hand, however, for opponents of incumbent presidents, peace negotiations have occasionally provided opportunities to score points against the administration by depicting them as betraying the territorial unity of the Philippines.

The geographically restricted nature of the Mindanao conflict and the highly localized nature of the Philippines‘ ―cacique democracy (Anderson, 1998) has meant that it has rarely figured majorly in national political discourse unless
summonsed there for the political advantage of elites contesting power in Manila,
not Mindanao.

This was particularly notable during the Arroyo administration, both in opposition to her proposed federalization of the Philippines and in the application to the Supreme Court to abrogate the 2008 MOA-AD.

[For the extensive list of the Author's References pls go to the pdf document.]

Click this link For ANNEX I & II: TEXT OF THE TRIPOLI AGREEMENT which starts like this:

In the Name of God, the Omnipotent, the Merciful.
Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro National Liberation Front with the Participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial CommissionMembers of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the organization of Islamic Conference.

In accordance with the Resolution No. 4 Para. 5 adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Islamic conference in its Fourth Session held in Benghazi, Libyan Arab Republic during the month of Safar 1393 H. corresponding to March 1973, calling for the formation of Quadripartite Ministerial Commission representing the Libyan Arab Republic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Somalia, to enter into discussions with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines concerning the situation of the Muslims in the South of the Philippines.

And in accordance with the Resolution No. (18) adopted by the Islamic conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in Jumada Alakhir 1393 H. corresponding to June 1974 A.D. which recommends the searching for a just and peaceful political solution to the problem of the Muslims in the South of the Philippines through the negotiations.

And in accordance with the Resolution No. 12/7/S adopted by the Islamic conference held in Istanbul in Jumada El-Ula 1396 H. corresponding to May 1976 A.D. empowering the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Islamic Conference to take the necessary steps for the resumption of negotiations.

And following the task undertaken by the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission and the Secretary General of the Islamic Conference and the discussions held with H.E. President Marcos, President of the Republic of the Philippines.

During these negotiations which were marked by a spirit of conciliation and understanding, it has been agreed on the following:

First: The establishment of Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.

Second: The areas of the autonomy for the Muslims in the Southern Philippines shall comprise the following:
1. Basilan
2. Sulu
3. Tawi-tawi
4. Zamboanga del Sur
5. Zamboanga del Norte
6. North Cotabato
7. Maguindanao
8. Sultan Kudarat
9. Lanao del Norte
10.Lanao del Sur
11.Davao del Sur
12.South Cotabato

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the undersigned, being the representatives of the Parties
hereby affix their signatures.
Done this 5th day of August, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
FOR THE GRP (Govt Republic of the Phl):
Chairman, GRP Peace Negotiating Panel
(SGD) MOHAGHER IQBAL, Chairman MILF Peace Negotiating Panel
Special Adviser to the Prime Minister
Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia


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