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Mindanao Horizons

Volume 1, No. 2010-01

A monograph series on peace, justice and development in Mindanao

published by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government and the Institute
of Bangsamoro Studies through the support of the Australian Agency for
International Development
Mindanao Horizons
Volume 1, No. 2010-01

Steering Committee
Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña (ASoG)
Abhoud Syed M. Lingga (IBS)
Peter Bartu (AusAID)
Sam Chittick (AusAID)

Editor and Research Coordinator

Vanessa Remoquillo (ASoG)

Research Associate
Cristyl Mae B. Senajon (ASoG)

Administrative and Financial Assistant

Venus V. Vinluan (ASoG)
Alibai U. Mantukay (IBS)

Ray Leyesa

Cover Design
Narwin Espiritu

Views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect

those of the Ateneo de Manila University, the Ateneo School of Government,
the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies and the Australian Agency for
International Development.

Mindanao Horizons is a monograph series that gathers the viewpoints of think-

ers, opinion leaders and innovators in Mindanao, with the aim to contribute
constructively to the discourse on Mindanao—its peoples, its history and
heritage, and, most importantly, its future. It is our hope that Mindanao
Horizons will inspire new ideas that will strengthen dialogue and engagement,
spur deeper understanding, and give rise to lasting peace, justice, security and
development in the region.

Mindanao Horizons is published by the Ateneo de Manila School of

Government (ASoG) and the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) through
the generous support of the Australian Agency for International Development
(AusAID). The ASoG and the IBS have collaborated on the selection of
Mindanao-centered topics, and of the authors who can capably develop them
and put forward innovative thinking and fresh insight.

Each monograph is published with a joint editorial. When one of us is a

contributor to the monograph, the editorial appears under a singular byline.

Apart from the monograph series, the ASoG and the IBS also host Mindanao-
focused, thematic roundtable discussions in Manila and in various Mindanao
cities. In these gatherings, the ASoG and the IBS create the opportunity
for free, provocative and unconventional idea exchange on ways to advance
peace in Mindanao. For more information about Mindanao Horizons, visit the
website www.mindanaopeace.org.

Peace! Salam!

Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña Abhoud Syed M. Lingga

Dean, Ateneo de Manila Executive Director
School of Government Institute of Bangsamoro Studies
Assertions of Sovereignty and Abhoud Syed M. Lingga

The Philippine-Bangsamoro

This paper discusses the view that the armed conflict between the Philippine
Government and the Bangsamoro people is rooted in the assertion of the govern-
ment of its sovereignty and the assertion of the Bangsamoro to exercise their right
to self-determination, and argues that finding solutions that will take into consider-
ation the two positions will be the viable and sustainable way to achieve peace in the
Bangsamoro homeland.

Nature of the Conflict

The conflict in Mindanao between the Philippine Government and the
Bangsamoro people is seen from different perspectives. To the government, it is
the problem of integrating the national cultural communities into the body politic
(Republic Act 1888), while to the Bangsamoro, the problem is the refusal of the central
government to recognize and allow the exercise of their right to self-determination.
There are also some sectors of Philippine society who view the problem as Muslim-
Christian conflict.

Problem of integration

The situation of the Bangsamoro people as described by government is

backward (House of Representatives 1954:85), “poor and lacking education and
training.” (Abueva 1977) Summarizing his findings on the perceived problems of the
cultural minorities, Abueva (1977) wrote: “From available written sources and from
the responses of the delegates who were polled for this paper, one is struck by the
sense of relative deprivation, neglect, exploitation, misunderstanding, discrimination,
and therefore of a degree of elimination, felt by informed members of the cultural

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga is the Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro

Studies in Cotabatao City.

Government policymakers (House of Representatives 1954) believe that this

deprivation triggers the violence in Mindanao. The relationship of deprivation to
violence is explained by Magdalena (1983-1984:55) as follows:

“… communities which have higher deprivation and higher displacement tend

to experience more violence than those which are low on these. Together, the two
variables are much more highly related to the occurrence of violence than are the
separate effects of either one.”

In response to this deplorable situation, the central government adopted

the policy of integration. The objective of government’s national integration policy
towards the Bangsamoro, who were earlier categorized as Non-Christian Filipinos and
later re-categorized as National Cultural Minorities, is to render real, complete and
permanent their integration into the Philippine body politic. Their integration has to
be accomplished “by all adequate means and in systematic, rapid and complete manner”
and includes their “moral, material, economic, social and political advancement.” (Sec.
1, RA 1888)

The integration policy was reframed after President Ferdinand Marcos’ martial
law. The new policy emphasized the preservation and development of the culture,
traditions, institutions and wellbeing of Muslim Filipinos, in conformity with the
country’s laws and in consonance with national unity and development. (Executive
Order 122-A as amended by EO 295) Lately, with the passage of the law creating
the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, state policy was rephrased with the
aim “to ensure the rights and well-being of Muslim Filipinos with due regard to
their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions, as well as to further ensure their
contribution to national goals and aspirations and to make them active participants in
nation-building.” (RA 9997)


The Bangsamoro see the problem from a different perspective. They want to
exercise their right to self-determination, but the central government does not allow
them. They tried to use peaceful and democratic means, to no avail. When they resorted
to armed struggle to defend their communities from military incursions, the toll on
human life and property has been heavy on both the Bangsamoro and the government.

Realizing that the costs of being part of the Philippines far outweigh the
benefits derived, the Bangsamoro attempted several times to separate from the
republic. During the Fourth Congress, Representative Ombra Amilbangsa filed
House Bill No. 5682 that sought the granting and recognition of the independence
of Sulu. When the bill was sent to the archives without action, then-provincial
governor of Cotabato Datu Udtog Matalam made a dramatic move, issuing the

Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) manifesto calling for the independence

of Mindanao and Sulu to be known and referred to as the Republic of Mindanao
and Sulu. In 1974, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) issued a mani-
festo proclaiming that “the Bangsamoro people…are disbanding all their political,
economic and other bonds with the oppressive government of the Philippines”, and
appealing to the international community to accept the “Bangsamoro Republik as
one of the members of the family of independent and sovereign nations in the world”.
(MNLF Manifesto 1974)

Salah Jubair (2007:11), in defining the problem as seen by the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), writes: “Essentially, the problem, to the MILF,
is about giving the Moros their (right to self-determination) RSD as enunciated
in international law, which will in the end determine which of the various shades
of self-governance they freely choose: associative, federative or any other form of
self-determination, although the most natural meaning or expression of RSD is

Even Bangsamoro academics see the problem as that of self-determination.
In her suggestions to improve the relations between the Moros and Christians, Prof.
Carmen Abubakar (1987:134) of the University of the Philippines made it clear
that “(v)ital to this effort is understanding the Moros’ claim to self-determination
and their demand for self-rule. This is a demand that has moral, legal and historical
foundations and cannot be withheld or denied on the basis of colonial prerogatives.”

The Bangsamoro assertion of self-determination is anchored on historical
narrative and consideration of the costs that they pay for being part of the Philippine
republic. The Bangsamoro consist of 13 Muslim ethno-linguistic groups living in
contiguous areas in Mindanao. Prior to their incorporation to the Philippines, they
exercised sovereign power over 2/3 of Mindanao. Today only around 1/3 of their
original homeland remains in their possession after several decades of being part of
the Philippines.

The Bangsamoro claim that they have significant early experience in state
formation and governance compared to the Filipinos. In the middle of the 15th
century, Sultan Shariff ul-Hashim established the Sulu Sultanate, while in the
early part of the 16th century, Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuwan established the
Magindanaw Sultanate. These were followed by the establishment of the Sultanate
of Buayan and the Pat a Pangampong ko Ranao (Confederation of the Four Lake-
based Emirates). These states were already engaged in trade and diplomatic relations
with other countries, including China, before the creation of the new political entity
called the Republic of the Philippines. Administrative and political systems based on
the realities of the time existed in those states. In fact, it was through the existence of

the well-organized administrative and political systems that the Bangsamoro people
managed to survive the military campaign waged by Western colonial powers against
them for several centuries and to preserve their identity as a political and social

When the United States government promised to grant independence to

the Philippine Islands, the Bangsamoro leaders registered their strong objection to
be part of the Philippine republic. Unfortunately for the Bangsamoro, their territory
was made part of what the United States handed over to the Philippines in 1946. The
Bangsamoro view the annexation of their homeland as illegal and immoral as this was
done without their plebiscitary consent.

Despite their protests, some Bangsamoro leaders cooperated with the Philippine
government in the hopes of benefiting the Bangsamoro society, but their experience
under Philippine rule has been unsatisfactory to many Bangsamoro.

• Studies have shown that the Christian majority is prejudiced against Muslims.1
Prejudice has led to the exclusion of the Bangsamoro from opportunities in
jobs, education, housing and business, as recounted in the Philippine Human
Development Report (PHDR 2005).

The PHDR 2005 study reveals a considerable percentage (33% to 39%) of

Filipinos are biased against Muslims. The exclusion from job opportuni-
ties is very high. For example, 46% of the Christian population would
choose a Christian male worker, while 40% would choose a Christian
female domestic helper. Only 4% would choose a Muslim male worker,
while 7% would choose a Muslim female domestic helper. The majority
of the Christians have difficulty accepting Muslims as neighbors; a study
shows that in Metro Manila, 57% would opt to have a residence with
higher rent but far from a Muslim community.

An earlier study of Filipinas Foundation (1975) showed that Muslim-

Filipinos were the “least likeable group”. Fifty four percent of those
who responded to the question describing Muslims gave unfavorable
comments, using terms such as “treacherous” and “killers.”

In a study among youth in Mindanao, “majority (91%) of Christians

showed stronger biases and prejudices against the Muslims than the

See Filipina Foundation (1975) and Philippine Development Network (2005)
See Alfaras (2004)
See Rodil (2007)

Muslims had for Christians.” In terms of acceptance, the study reveals

that “more than 90% of the Muslim youth respondents were more will-
ing to accept Christians as associates or to work, live together, while
majority (87%) of the Christians are not.”2

• The Bangsamoro lost vast tracts of their lands and became a minority in their
own homeland. (Rodil 1994)

The Philippine government opened the whole of Mindanao to resettle-

ment and corporate investments. In 1903, the Philippine Commission
declared as null and void all land grants made by traditional leaders like
sultans, datus, and tribal leaders if done without government consent.
Through the years, the government implemented public land laws that
are discriminatory to the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples of
Mindanao, while being favorable to Filipino settlers and corporations.3
The introduction of public land laws, which were based on the Regalian
doctrine, “became an opportunity for the colonized north-Filipino elites
to own or lease substantial landholdings as well as a chance for the ‘legal’
or systematic land-grabbing of traditional lands” (Fianza 2004:5) of the

In 1954 the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration

(NARRA) was established. Under this program, from 1954 through
1958, nearly 23,400 Christian Filipino families were resettled in
Cotabato. (Mastura 1984:245)

The consequence of the state policies on land ownership and the

encouragement of Christian communities to settle in Mindanao was
the minoritization of the Bangsamoro in their traditional homeland.
The lands that remain to the Bangsamoro are those located in the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and small areas
in other provinces.

• The government failed to deliver basic services and needed development

to Bangsamoro communities. In the ARMM, which comprises provinces
where the Bangsamoro are majority, poverty incidence was the highest in the
country. Poverty incidence among the population is 60% in 2000, 52.8% in
2003, and 61.8% in 2006, while the national figures are 33%, 30% and 32.9%,
respectively. Functional literacy rate in the region is 62.9% (2003) while the
national average is 84.1%. Out-of-school children and youth are also highest
in the ARMM (23.1%), whereas the national average is 14.7%. The ARMM’s
under-five mortality rate (UFMR) and child mortality rate (CMR) are very

high at 45 and 12 deaths per thousand live births, respectively—compared to

the country’s UFMR and CMR at 32 and 8 deaths per thousand live births in
2006, respectively.

• The government also failed to protect the Bangsamoro people. There were
reported massacres of Muslims and destruction of their properties, but the
government failed not only to give them protection but also to give them justice.
No serious investigations were conducted and no one was held responsible in
many of these incidents of human rights violations.

Muslim-Christian conflict

Those who see the religious factors in the conflict have labeled it “Muslim-
Christian conflict”. This label is used by observers whose sight is trained only on the
actors in the conflict, rather than on the issues involved.

Visibly it can be seen that the majority, if not all, of the soldiers fighting
the Bangsamoro forces, including the militias that the military are supporting, are
Christians. On the other side, the majority, if not all, of the Bangsamoro forces are
Muslims. It is also a fact that religious discourses are sometimes used to win over
supporters. However, these do not make the conflict a religious one.

Attempts to Resolve the Problem

Integration programs
To pursue the national integration program of the central government, the
Commission on National Integration (CNI) was established in 1957 for the purpose of
achieving the national policy “to foster, accelerate and accomplish by all adequate means
and in a systematic, rapid and complete manner the moral, material, economic, social
and political advancement of the non-Christian Filipinos, hereinafter called national
cultural minorities, and to render real, complete and permanent the integration of all
the said National Cultural Minorities into the body politic.” The Commission had
wide range of power and functions. With the creation of the Southern Philippines
Development Authority (SPDA), the CNI was abolished. After a while, the Ministry
of Muslim Affairs was established. This ministry was later abolished with the creation
of the Office for Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities (OMACC) by virtue of
the Executive Order No. 969.

During the presidency of Corazon Aquino, Executive Order No. 122-A was
issued in 1987 creating the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA). More recently, OMA

was abolished with the creation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos

To appeal to the religious sense of the Muslims, the Code of Muslim Personal
Laws of the Philippines was decreed into law in 1977. These laws were extracted from
Islamic jurisprudence on person and family. Shariah courts were subsequently orga-
nized in Muslim communities and Shariah judges were appointed to adjudicate cases
involving marriage and inheritance. In 1973, President Marcos created the Philippine
Amanah Bank, with a mandate to operate in accordance with Islamic banking prin-
ciples. Its charter as an Islamic bank was passed by Congress in 1989.

After half a century of the adoption of the integration policy, the central
government remained unable to integrate the national cultural communities to the
nation’s body politic. According to Quilop and Villamin (2009:9) of the AFP think
tank, the problem in Mindanao is the failure of the Philippine state to develop strong
sense of nationhood among its citizens.

“The situation in Mindanao reflects a fundamental issue the Philippines faces as a

society–a weak sense of nationhood and the inability of the Philippine state or government
to develop among the archipelago’s inhabitants the sense that they share and belong to the
Filipino nation.”

Development programs

To hasten the development of Mindanao, the Mindanao Development

Authority (MDA) was established in 1961. The objectives of the MDA were “to
foster the accelerated and balanced growth of the Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan
region…within the context of national plans and policies for social and economic
development, through the leadership, guidance and support of the government.”
(RA 3034)

After the conflict grew into armed confrontation between government and
MNLF forces in the early 1970s, the government created a Presidential Task Force for
Reconstruction and Development, the purpose of which was “to pool all government
resources from its economic development, financial, welfare, and health agencies as
well as military units” (Mastura 1984:248) in order to assess the damage caused by
the conflict, to prepare an integrated plan for the full reconstruction and rehabilitation
of Mindanao, and to restore peace and order. To attend to the needs of evacuees,
the Special Program of Assistance for the Rehabilitation of Evacuees (SPARE) was
created under Letter of Instruction No. 30.

In 1992, President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 512 creating the
Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO) with the task to “promote

and coordinate the active and extensive participation of all sectors to effect the socio-
economic development of Mindanao.” MEDCO was abolished in 2010 with the
passage of RA 9996 creating the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Autonomy experiment

Although the Marcos regime did not recognize the Bangsamoro right to self-
determination, after the start of the talks with the MNLF in 1975, the government
started to devolve powers to Regions 9 and 12 where Muslims have sizeable numbers.

On July 7, 1975 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 742, the Office of the
Regional Commissioner (ORC) for Regions 9 (Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Zamboanga
del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur) and 12 (Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North
Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat) were created by President Marcos.

On March 25, 1977, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1628, Marcos declared
autonomy in 13 provinces in Mindanao in response to the terms of the agreement
signed in Tripoli, Libya between the government and the MNLF on December
23, 1976. Following the proclamation, a plebiscite was conducted to determine
which of the 13 provinces mentioned in the Tripoli Agreement would join the
autonomous region, resulting in only 10 provinces, the areas comprising Regions 9
and 12, deciding in favor. Marcos retained the original arrangement of having two
autonomous regions, wherein the Muslim population became part of two regions
instead of having one autonomous unit. This arrangement was objected to and
largely discredited by the MNLF.

From administrative autonomy, Regions 9 and 12 evolved into political
autonomy in 1979 when Batas Pambansa Blg. 20 and Presidential Decree 1618 granted
the regions limited powers to exercise executive and limited legislative powers.

Under the administration of Corazon Aquino, changes were made in conso-
nance with the provision of the new constitution that provided for the creation of
autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera. An autonomous region
was established for the Muslim population in Mindanao, but this time only four prov-
inces constituted the autonomous unit. The ARMM, established in 1989 by virtue of
Republic Act No. 6734, enjoyed more powers compared to the defunct Regions 9 and
12. Despite its enhanced powers, its legitimacy was questioned by the MNLF because
the ARMM was established without the latter’s concurrence.

On September 2, 1996 the government and the MNLF reached the final
agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. The MNLF agreed
on the ARMM as the version of autonomy envisioned in the Tripoli Agreement with

the proviso that its charter would be amended to accommodate provisions of the agree-
ment that were not found in Republic Act 6734. Congress on February 1, 2001 passed
Republic Act No. 9054 that amended Republic Act 6734.

For about three decades, the national government attempted to set up political
institutions in Muslim areas to address the grievances of the Bangsamoro, but the
performance of the former Regions 9 and 12, and now the ARMM, was not encourag-
ing. A longtime resident of Cotabato City observed, “Thirty years into the movement,
the Muslim Autonomy has not taken off.” (Diaz 1998:144) A member of the ARMM
regional assembly admitted that “the ARMM is still struggling. It has not yet taken off
towards real development.”(Naraga 2004:140)

The autonomous region as a political institution that would give expression to
the Bangsamoro’s political aspirations was a disappointment. The observation of Vitug
and Gloria (2000:82) is indeed revealing:

“The value of the ARMM lies in giving recognition to a people’s need for a distinct identity and
in being a venue to govern themselves. But, given the dire conditions in the area–poverty, lack of
basic services, unresponsive leadership–the experiment in autonomy is a near failure.”

The creation of the autonomous government did not end the violent conflict in
Mindanao. The ARMM as an institution was “unable to solve the Mindanao problem.”
(Naraga 2004:139) It failed even to prevent the recurrence of violence between the
government forces and the MNLF, notwithstanding the fact that both parties reached
a final agreement in 1996.

The social wellbeing of the population in the area of autonomy has not improved
in the last three decades. The poor performance of the ARMM is attributable to some

• ARMM is not accepted as expression of Bangsamoro self-determination

For a political institution to generate wide political support from the

Bangsamoro, it has to be accepted as expression of their self-determination.
This is understandable since their struggle has been founded on their claim
to self-determination. The ARMM is perceived as “a form of political
accommodation that was meant to appease a restive Moro population,
rather than a well-thought out autonomy project.” (Bernabe 2003:4)

The problem with the ARMM, likewise with the regional governments of
Regions 9 and 12 before it, is that, from the beginning, it had been objected
to by the MNLF. The unilateral action of the central government to push

for the ARMM’s creation was seen as imposition rather than exercise of
right to self-determination. Its dismal performance in delivering services
to its constituents reinforces the impression that it was “destined to fail
right from the start.” (Bernabe 2003:4)

• Negative perceptions towards autonomy

Autonomy refers to self-governance. A political arrangement short of

independence falls within the ambit of the concept of autonomy. When
used in the context of the conflict between the government and the
Bangsamoro, autonomy becomes a “tired phrase” for the reason that it had
been opposed by the liberation fronts for years and the autonomy project
of the government failed to bring peace and development in the area of

To avoid the baggage of negative perception towards autonomy, a governing
institution has to keep away from using the term. A new name therefore
has to be conceptualized. Some sort of political repackaging is necessary.
Free association or any other term that implies power sharing between
the central government and the regional government would be helpful to
pursue this aim.

• Lack of participation by the Bangsamoro in the drafting of the Organic Act

The drafting of an organic charter of a Bangsamoro political institution will

be an opportunity to generate wide political support from the Bangsamoro
if done in a participatory manner without interference from the central

In 1988, before the establishment of the ARMM, the Regional Consultative

Commission (RCC) was created to draft the ARMM Organic Act. The
Muslim commissioners complained of interference from national officials
in their work, saying that they “did not have a free hand charting the
proceedings of the RCC.” (Basman, Lalanto and Madale 1987:45)

The drafting of an organic charter of a political institution has to be free

from outside interference and should involve all sectors of the Bangsamoro
society to generate their sense of ownership. The selection process for
membership into a body that will draft the organic charter should ensure
equitable representation of all ethno-linguistic groups, including indig-
enous people, and all sectors of the Bangsamoro society.

• Problem of representation

The ARMM population is composed of several ethno-linguistic groups.

The geographic configuration of the ARMM is highly dispersed though
contiguous. This makes access to the center of political power difficult
to many who live in the islands and in remote areas.

In designing a governing institution, a system of representation in the

legislative branch and the bureaucracy for every ethno-linguistic group
is necessary to generate political support. Preference has to be given
to representation by ethnic groups because they are more cohesive and
generally live in contiguous areas. Their representation in the bureau-
cracy is also necessary to ensure the delivery of basic services to their

Interfaith Dialogs

Those who see the problem as misunderstanding, mistrust and prejudices

between Muslims and Christians promote interfaith dialog as way of bridging under-
standing. Robert D. McAmis, an American missionary and among the pioneers of
Muslim-Christian dialog in Mindanao, sees dialog as a means to avoid violence and
conflict. “Truly, dialog is needed at all levels to understand and satisfy the legitimate
demands of the Muslim minority to avoid further violence and conflict because of the
Moro Problem.” (McAmis 1987:42.)

The first National Muslim-Christian dialog in Mindanao was held in
Zamboanga City on September 19-21, 1974. The Muslims included representa-
tives of major Muslim groups, while the Christians were composed of Catholics and
Protestants. Since then, various Muslim-Christian dialogs have taken place.

The objective of dialog is to promote understanding. It can be a good method
for conflicting parties to understand each other’s position. The problem of interfaith
dialog as practiced in Mindanao is that it has sometimes been used for counter-insur-
gency. In July 1996, in the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, then Defense
Secretary Renato De Villa organized the meeting of ulama and bishops, forming the
Bishop-Ulama Forum (BUF). According to De Villa, the objective of the dialog was “to
outflank Salamat (Hashim) because he was trying to unify the ulama and all religious
leaders of the Muslim South.” He continued, “(i)f he were able to bring into his fold all
the ulama, that would be dangerous. He would have been in command of the Muslims
minus the politicians and Nur Misuari. First, we needed a religious countervailing
force. Second, we needed to find a vehicle to examine Muslim-Christian relations.”
(Vitug and Gloria 2000:150)


Through the mediation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC),

negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and
the MNLF started in January 1975 and lasted until September 1996. The GRP and the
MNLF signed two significant agreements, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and Final
Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement. Both intended to
address Bangsamoro aspirations for self-governance.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who stayed in the sidelines during the
GRP-MNLF talks, evaluated the Final Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976
Tripoli Agreement and was convinced that the agreement fell short of the aspirations
of the Bangsamoro people to exercise the highest form of self-governance. The MILF,
with the end in view of achieving highest form of self-governance for the Bangsamoro
through power sharing and equitable sharing of resources between the Government
and the Bangsamoro State, entered into negotiations in January 1997. After more than
10 years of talks, the GRP and the MILF initialed the Memorandum of Agreement
on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which defined the power relationship between the
government and the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). MOA-AD also
defined Bangsamoro identity, delineated their homeland and provided the formula
for sharing of resources that are found in the Bangsamoro homeland. Both parties
initialed the document in July 2008, but the Supreme Court restrained the GRP peace
panel from formally signing the document and subsequently declared the agreement
unconstitutional. The negotiations were derailed. Although the talks are now back on
track, the positions of the two parties are poles apart.

In addressing the conflict between the Philippine Government and the
Bangsamoro, the following challenging issues will always emerge from discussions,
perhaps in same words as used in this paper or couched in more ambiguous terms.

Philippine sovereignty and Bangsamoro self-determination

The root cause of the problem is the assertion of the Bangsamoro to exercise
sovereign right over a territory where the Philippine Government is currently exercising
sovereign power and which the latter considers part of its national territory. The founda-
tion of the Philippine claim is that the territory was part of what the United States
granted to the Philippine State when independence was proclaimed on July 4, 1946.
The Bangsamoro contend that the incorporation of their territory into the Philippines
was without their plebiscitary consent, a blatant violation of their rights as guaranteed

by various United Nations instruments guaranteeing peoples’ right to determine their

political status.

The Philippine Government is determined in asserting its sovereignty, even to

the extent of going to war. In 2000 the Armed Forces of the Philippines waged war
against the MILF because “(i)t was the government’s course of action in assertion of
its sovereignty.” (Pobre and Quilop, 2008:117)

The Supreme Court decided against the Memorandum of Agreement on

Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) to prevent government peace negotiators from
making any concession to the Bangsamoro people that the latter could use to pursue
their struggle for liberation. That is why in the post-MOA-AD formulations of the
GRP peace panel the Supreme Court decision is always invoked.4

The Government fears that, if given an opening, the Bangsamoro people would
decide to separate from the Philippines. In fact, what had been contemplated in an
associative relationship between the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) and
the central government was not an independent Bangsamoro state. Still, the Supreme
Court declared the concept as unconstitutional because it “presupposes that the asso-
ciated entity is a state and implies that the same is on its way to independence.”

Ismael G. Khan Jr. (2008), former Supreme Court spokesperson, explains
why the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order against MOA-AD:
“Viewed against the backdrop of contemporary political events around the world,
there is little question that had the Supreme Court not issued its TRO when it did, an
inexorable chain of events would have been set in motion, culminating in the seces-
sion of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity from the Republic of the Philippines.” He
elaborated this fear in the following words:

“The GRP negotiators’ gratuitous description of the Bangsamoro as the ‘First Nation’ with
‘a defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity
and commerce with foreign nations’ would have had the effect of making it difficult for other
countries, especially unfriendly ones, not to recognize it as an independent state once the MILF
intensified its war of ‘liberation’ against a ‘central government’ that had, in the first place, already
declared that its relationship with the BJE ‘shall be associative, and characterized by shared
authority and responsibility’”.

This fear lingers, despite that the MNLF accepted the OIC formula of solving
the problem within the context of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and
that the MILF demands do not include independence but rather self-governance for
the Bangsamoro as well as equitable distribution of power and resources between the
Bangsamoro State and the central government.

See Seguis (2010)

On the other hand, the Bangsamoro are determined to seek recognition of their
right to self-determination. In negotiations, the MILF tried to include in the agreement
the phrase “Bangsamoro right to self-determination”. However, stiff resistance from the
government peace panel compelled the negotiators to use creative phraseology, such as
“the observance of international humanitarian law and respect for internationally recog-
nized human rights instruments and the protection of evacuees and displaced persons in
the conduct of their relations reinforce the Bangsamoro people’s fundamental right to
determine their own future and political status.” (2001 Tripoli Agreement)

Although the expression of self-determination includes separate political inde-
pendence, what the MILF is pursuing is the highest form of self-governance. The view
of the Office of Strategic and Special Studies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is
that only defense, foreign affairs and currency are non-negotiable, while all other issues
are negotiable (Pobre and Quilop 2009:216). This is a perspective that is encouraging
in the search for a solution to the problem, especially in that this view comes from the
military establishment. By all indications, the Bangsamoro can accept an arrangement
that defense, foreign affairs and currency will be exercised by the central government,
while all other powers will be exercised by the Bangsamoro State.

Bangsamoro identity and homeland

The Bangsamoro want to be identified as Bangsamoro, the identity by which they

want to be recognized by the Philippine Government and the international community.
Furthermore, the Bangsamoro want to take charge of the preservation and management
of their territory. This is understandable because under the stewardship of the Philippine
Government they lost most of their lands and became a minority in their traditional homeland.
The territory has to be delineated to include not only the land mass but also what are beneath
and above, and the body of waters and seas in between, as the Bangsamoro are a maritime
people. The delineation is necessary to identify the extent to which the Bangsamoro author-
ity can exercise power of preservation and management of the Bangsamoro patrimony.


Security arrangements shall be built on the concept that they are a shared
duty and responsibility between the central government and the Bangsamoro State.
To translate the concept of shared security into practice, national security shall be the
primary responsibility of the central government, while internal security of the region
shall be the primary duty and responsibility of the Bangsamoro authority.

Close cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro
State is the best approach in fighting lawlessness, terrorism and criminality. For years, the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the assistance of the United States military forces,

has been fighting terrorists in the South but never been able to eradicate the menace of
terrorism. For Bangsamoro security forces to be effective, a future agreement should include
the professionalization of Bangsamoro internal forces to the level of international standard.


In terms of governance, the power relationship between central government

and the Bangsamoro State has to be part of the negotiated agreement. Internal gover-
nance structures, policies and administration have to be decided by the Bangsamoro
State and the Bangsamoro people.

There is strong clamor from the Bangsamoro for good governance and the elimi-
nation of corruption. What may be needed is a broad power to restructure governance to
answer the needs of the population without necessarily going through the central govern-
ment. Government structures, policies and programs are dynamic and may undergo
changes from time to time to respond to changing situations. To have a responsible,
transparent and caring government for the Bangsamoro, the Bangsamoro State must be
empowered to build, develop and maintain political, judicial, administrative, financial and
banking, legislative, educational, civil service, electoral, police, and health institutions.

Wealth sharing

A Bangsamoro entity cannot be viable without its income base. Subsidy from the
central government works counter to the power-sharing principle. That is why a Bangsamoro
State must have greater share, at least 75%, of the income derived from within its territory.

Relations among Bangsamoro, IPs and Filipino settlers

It is true that in other parts of Mindanao there are indigenous peoples and
Filipino Christian settler communities. The Bangsamoro do not lay claim over these
areas. The Bangsamoro are interested only in the protection and preservation of areas
where they constitute the majority.

The Bangsamoro are also aware that these communities have their grievances,
too, particularly the indigenous peoples, but their grievances differ from those of the
Bangsamoro. The indigenous peoples have also their right to self-determination, but
the expression of the same to them is different from that of the Bangsamoro. While the
Bangsamoro seek territorial self-determination, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao
aspire for cultural self-determination.

For indigenous peoples who will be part of the claimed territory of the Bangsamoro,
the GRP-MILF Declaration on June 3, 2010 has given them equal rights with the

Bangsamoro and a guarantee of the protection of their economic rights, culture, belief
and traditions.

To address the concerns and grievances of the indigenous communities and

the Filipino Christian settlers, it might be useful for the indigenous communities
and the Christian settlers to seek the opening of new tracks of negotiations with the
government, separate from that of the government negotiations with the Bangsamoro.
Advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights have to assist the indigenous communities as
they negotiate regarding their grievances. To lump together the concerns and grievances
of the indigenous people, the Christians of Mindanao and the Bangsamoro would only
complicate matters and make solutions to the problems more elusive.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The conflict between the Philippines and the Bangsamoro people is rooted in the
assertion of the Philippine Government of its sovereignty and the assertion of the Bangsamoro
people to exercise their right to self-determination. To move forward in the search for solu-
tions to the conflict, it is necessary for the government and the Filipino people to overcome
their fear that the Bangsamoro will separate. First, the MNLF has accepted the OIC formula
of autonomy within the sovereignty of the Philippines. Second, the MILF demands do
not include independence but instead the highest form of self-governance. In order for the
Bangsamoro not to secede, the Philippine government should give them the opportunity to
govern themselves, with their welfare and security assured under a negotiated agreement.

To reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict, the following recommenda-

tions may be helpful:

• The GRP and the MILF should continue the negotiations. A military solution
will not succeed, a fact recognized even by the military think tank: “the issue
of rebellion or secession is basically a political problem requiring a political
solution, ideally through negotiations.” (Pobre and Quilop, 2008:117) Military
victory is not all that counts; according to Pobre and Quilop (2008:118), “mili-
tary initiatives must give way to the higher goal of finding a more meaningful
and lasting solution to a complex internal conflict phenomenon.”

• It is true there is no easy way to end a self-determination conflict, but peace

talks to address the issues should not be allowed to drag on with no closure in
sight. “Negotiations forever” and “ceasefire forever” will not solve the problem
and certainly will not work for peace in the long run. The danger in long-
drawn negotiations is that people might lose hope in the peace process, leading
to the radicalization of some groups, particularly the youth.

Until there is closure to the negotiations the impression of instability in

Mindanao will remain, affecting investments and development efforts. Speedy
resolution of the ongoing talks will be to the best interest of the business sector
and the larger Filipino society. The GRP, the MILF, the facilitator of the talks
and the international community have to find ways to secure early closure of
the GRP-MILF negotiations.

• The Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD gives the impression of a lack
of consensus and coherence within the Philippine Government as far as the
GRP-MILF peace process is concerned. It would be helpful to the negotiations
if the Philippine Government can make the peace process a national agendum
and bring key decision-makers on board.

• Informing the public about the negotiations may not be enough. What is
needed is to have both the GRP and MILF educate their respective constitu-
encies on the importance of success of the peace process and the costs they
have to shoulder if the conflict should continue.

• The new administration must be open to constitutional changes in addressing

the conflict. The Supreme Court decision on the MOA-AD makes it impos-
sible to form a power-sharing arrangement between the Bangsamoro and
the central government under the present constitution. If structural changes
cannot be negotiated, negotiations become an exercise in futility. Both parties,
but particularly the GRP peace panel, need to work out a formula to remove
constitutional and institutional barriers.

To allay the fears of some sectors that, in the process of amending the constitu-
tion, other provisions that they want protected might be affected, amendments
can be done either through a surgical way—that is, only a particular provision
will be amended—or by appending to the constitution an agreement between
the GRP and the MILF.

Because the constitution is limiting and restrictive, it should be not be used as

the framework of the negotiations. Invoking constitutional constraints in the
negotiations will lead the peace process nowhere.

• Once resumed, the negotiations should begin at the point where the parties
ended under the continued facilitation of Malaysia. Attempts to either disre-
gard the gains of the 14 years of negotiations or to replace Malaysia as the
facilitator will certainly derail the peace process.

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Rudy B. Rodil

Achieving peace and

justice in Mindanao
through the tri-people

There was a time when the populations of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago
were predominantly Moros and Lumad. As a result of the resettlement program initi-
ated by the American colonial administration and later sustained by the government
of the Philippines, settlers from the northern islands poured in droves into the region.
Within less than sixty years, they had displaced the indigenous inhabitants and became
the majority population. This created an unfeasible situation that did not benefit
the local population, for whom common good was measured in terms of numerical

Today we must consciously reshape the relationships of the present inhabitants

of the region if we are to live a life of peace and development. To this end, we propose
the tri-people approach. One way of accentuating the need for the tri-people approach
is by zeroing in on the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, which has been at
the center-stage of Mindanao history in the last 42 years, from 1968 to the present.

The May 1 Manifesto of the MIM (originally Muslim, later Mindanao

Independence Movement) declared its intention to establish an Islamic state in
predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao. The Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) led the Moro struggle for national liberation, declaring its desire to create
a Bangsamoro Republic within its claimed ancestral homeland, the entire area of
Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (Minsupala), through armed struggle.

From 1972 to 1996, no less than 75% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
were deployed in Moroland and between 100,000 to 120,000 lives were lost in that

Rudy B. Rodil is a former member of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel in

the GRP-MNLF talks (1993-96) and GRP-MILF talks (2004-2008). He is a retired
Professor of History at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology,
IIligan City.


war—50% MNLF, 30% AFP, and 20% civilians, mostly Moros in whose areas the war
raged. The Philippine government spent 73 billion pesos on combat expenses alone.

After the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the government in
1996, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) felt that the desired Bangsamoro
self-determination had yet to be attained and decided to resume the fight. Now it is
technically at war though engaged in peace negotiations with the government.

One may also include in the picture the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the
Abu Sayyaf Group, whose targets tended to be non-Muslims, mostly Christians and
Chinese businessmen, as a matter of fact.

The social turmoil that revolved around the Memorandum of Agreement

on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines (GRP) and the MILF highlights the reasons for the guardedness among
the tri-people. The negative public reaction from Christian settlers, encouraged by
opposition politicians, gave way to the petition for a Temporary Restraining Order
from the Supreme Court to prevent the signing of the MOA-AD and the court’s even-
tual ruling that the document is unconstitutional. The very position of Malacañang,
saying that it would no longer sign the document “in its present form or in any other
form” regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, may have triggered the fresh outbreak of
violence that was led by three top commanders of the MILF in central Mindanao. All
these indicate both the complexity of the problem and the grave urgency to resolve it.

One must add to this complexity the Lumad’s own collective manifestos
protesting their inclusion in the MILF-claimed Bangsamoro ancestral domain, along
with their political position, which states that they are not Bangsamoro and therefore
have their own ancestral domain and right to self-determination.

Three distinct interest groups are coming to a head. How to reconcile these
positions within the Philippine republic whose very foundation is being questioned is
one of the biggest challenges faced by the present Aquino administration.

This paper is divided into four parts. Part One is on the historical background
of the tri-people relationship; Part Two covers the Moro and Lumad assertions of right
to self-determination; Part Three focuses on the basic considerations in advocacy for
peace and development, and Part Four highlights specific recommendations.

Part One
The Concept of Tri-People Relationship
It is only in Mindanao that we speak of a tri-people relationship. By tri-people
we refer to the Moros or Muslims, the Lumad and the migrants, mostly Christian
settlers and their descendants, the greater number now belonging to the second, third
or fourth generations and are already considered homegrown Mindanawons; also, other
migrants who are not Christians. The grouping is loose and there are several overlaps in
between, but the designations are popularly used in the region.

The Moros

The name Moro was originally given by the Spaniards to those Muslims of
northern Africa who occupied Spain for nearly eight centuries, from 711 to 1492 A.D,
and later to the Muslims of the Philippine archipelago. Now it refers to the 13 ethno-
linguistic groups of the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Sama, Sangil, Iranun, Kalagan,
Kalibugan, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Panimusan, Molbog and Sama Dilaut, also popularly
known to outsiders as Badjaos. They are mostly Muslims, except for the Kalagan,
who are only partly Muslim, and the Sama Dilaut, who are generally non-Muslims.
They constitute, according to the 2000 census, about 18.9% of the entire population of
Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and they are the majority population only in the
provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and in fifteen
other towns—one in Cotabato, nine in Lanao del Norte, two in Sultan Kudarat, two in
Zamboanga del Norte, and one in Palawan.

The Lumad

The Lumad include approximately 35 tribes and sub-tribes indigenous to

Mindanao, among which are, in alphabetical order- Ata Manobo, Bagobo, Banwaon,
Bla-an, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaunon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan,
Manobo, Mansaka, Matigsalug, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Talaandig, Tigwa, T’boli, Teduray
and the Ubo Manuvu. There may be more because they normally refer to each other by
their geographical and not by their ethno-linguistic names. They constitute, according
to the 2000 census, about 8.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu
archipelago, and are the majority in only eleven towns—one in Agusan del Sur, four in
Bukidnon, two in Davao del Sur, two in Maguindanao, one in Sarangani, and one in
Zamboanga del Sur.

The name Lumad is Cebuano Bisaya but is the product of an agreement among
representatives of 15 out of 18 ethno-linguistic groups that was arrived at during
the founding congress of Lumad Mindanaw in June 1986. Cebuano is their lingua

franca. Although most of them are Christians, usually belonging to various Protestant
denominations, depending on which group arrived at their place first, they seldom refer
to themselves in their religious identities.

The Christian Settlers and their Descendants

Composed mostly of the settler population of the 20th century and their
descendants, the Christians settlers also include (in the census) the Bisayan-speaking
natives of Mindanao, majority of whom came from northern and eastern Mindanao and
who were converted into Christianity during the Spanish period, and the Chavacanos
of Zamboanga. Many of them are still known by their geographic place names,
such as Davaweño, Tandaganon, Surigaonon, Butuanon, Camiguinon, Cagayanon,
Misamisnon, Iliganon, Ozamiznon, Dapitanon, and so on and by some peculiarity in
their respective accents.

Table 1.1 Muslim-Lumad-Other Indigenous-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother
Tongue Classification By Province, 1970 Census

Province Total Muslim % Lumad % Indigenous % Migrant %

Agusan del Norte 278,053 1,350 0.49 1,998 0.72 3 0.00 274,702 98.79
Agusan del Sur 174,682 1,036 0.59 29,531 16.91 30 0.02 144,085 82.48
Bukidnon 414,762 3,998 0.96 73,359 17.69 5,533 1.33 331,872 80.02
Cotabato 1,136,007 438,134 38.57 62,326 5.49 4,703 0.41 630,844 55.53
South Cotabato 466,110 28,349 6.08 43,908 9.42 109 0.02 393,744 84.47
Davao del Norte 442,543 12,657 2.86 15,034 3.40 5,754 1.30 409,098 92.44
Davao Oriental 247,991 1,818 0.73 11,503 4.64 84,308 34.00 150,362 60.63
Davao del Sur 785,398 9,027 1.15 92,666 11.80 12,297 1.57 671,408 85.49
Lanao del Norte 349,942 83,921 23.98 999 0.29 11 265,011 75.73
Lanao del Sur 455,508 404,359 88.77 89 0.02 0 51,060 11.21
Misamis 326,855 485 0.15 2,828 0.87 0 323,542 98.99
Misamis Oriental 482,756 656 0.14 2,601 0.54 312 0.06 479,187 99.26
Sulu 425,617 412,591 96.94 1,573 0.37 581 0.14 10,872 2.55
Surigao del Norte 238,714 430 0.18 386 0.16 1 237,897 99.66
Surigao del Sur 258,680 1,701 0.66 2,204 0.85 698 0.27 254,077 98.22
Zamboanga del 411,381 22,098 5.37 43,684 10.62 3,050 0.74 342,549 83.27
Zamboanga del 1,029,479 178,146 17.30 47,103 4.58 154,710 15.03 649,520 63.09
Mindanao 7,924,478 1,600,756 20.20 431,792 5.45 272,100 3.43 5,619,830 70.92
Palawan 236,635 32,328 13.66 9,353 3.95 91,434 38.64 103,520 43.75
Grand Total 8,161,113 1,633,084 20.01 441,145 5.41 363,534 4.45 5,723,350 70.13

Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Statistics Office, Manila. 1970 Census of Population and Housing. Table III.15.
Classification by Sex, Major Mother Tongue and Municipality.

Table 1.2 Moro-Lumad-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother Tongue Classification,
By Province, 2000 Census

Moro Lumad Migrant

Province Total % % %
Number Number Number
Mindanao 18,104,337 3,643,032 20.12 1,530,266 8.45 12,931,039 71.43

Basilan 332,579 255,239 76.75 197 0.06 77,143 23.20

Zamboanga Norte 821,921 41,335 5.03 139,265 16.94 641,321 78.03
Zamboanga Sur 1,930,822 261,224 13.53 124,421 6.44 1,545,177 80.03
Bukidnon 1,060,253 8,684 0.82 201,387 18.99 850,182 80.19
Camiguin 74,134 152 0.21 131 0.18 73,851 99.62
Misamis Occidental 485,978 1,055 0.22 21,809 4.49 463,114 95.30
Misamis Oriental 1,123,529 9,689 0.86 30,671 2.73 1,083,169 96.41
Davao (Norte) 742,206 16,005 2.16 45,276 6.10 680,925 91.74
Davao Del Sur 1,902,993 49,778 2.62 269,400 14.16 1,583,815 83.23
Davao Oriental 445,733 18,041 4.05 73,238 16.43 354,454 79.52
South Cotabato 1,100,511 50,636 4.60 126,624 11.51 923,251 83.89
Sarangani 410,137 37,633 9.18 120,638 29.41 251,866 61.41
Compostela Valley 579,719 9,779 1.69 65,846 11.36 504,094 86.95
Lanao Del Norte 757,084 189,120 24.98 5,509 0.73 562,455 74.29
Cotabato (North) 957,294 187,195 19.55 60,062 6.27 710,037 74.17
Sultan Kudarat 585,768 129,373 22.09 45,682 7.80 410,713 70.12
Cotabato City 161,517 97,218 60.19 1,573 0.97 62,726 38.84
Marawi City 129,809 125,072 96.35 120 0.09 4,617 3.56
Lanao Del Sur 668,860 616,873 92.23 1,316 0.20 50,671 7.58
Maguindanao 800,369 632,382 79.01 58,983 7.37 109,004 13.62
Sulu 619,550 590,948 95.38 213 0.03 28,389 4.58
Tawi-Tawi 322,066 306,804 95.26 112 0.03 15,150 4.70
551,265 4,698 0.85 14,407 2.61 532,160 96.53
Agusan Del Sur 558,414 1,640 0.29 103,851 18.60 452,923 81.11
Surigao Del Norte 480,691 679 0.14 2,534 0.53 477,478 99.33
Surigao Del Sur 501,135 1,780 0.36 17,001 3.39 482,354 96.25
Mindanao 18,104,337 3,643,032 1,530,266 12,931,039
Palawan 752,114 51,829 6.89 51829 6.89 648,456 86.22
Grand Total 18,856,451 3,694,861 19.59 1,582,095 8.39 13,579,495 72.02

Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Census and Statistics Office, Manila. 2000 Census.

The Chavacanos were originally the Mardicas or Merdicas (meaning “free
people”) who were natives of Ternate, Moluccas in present Indonesia. They were
brought to Manila as soldiers by the Spaniards in 1663. Later, they were settled in
Ternate, Cavite; some must have been assigned to Zamboanga, possibly about 1718.

Constituting nearly two hundred thousand in 1898, these native Christians are
now integrated into the majority population. The entire migrant Christian population
constitutes approximately 72.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu

Emergence of the Tri-People Concept

The tri-people concept did not emerge in our history until around the early 1980s,
shortly before Lumad Mindanaw was founded in June 1986. The Lumads asserted their
right to self-determination as a distinct segment of the Mindanao population and they
wanted to govern themselves within their ancestral domains in accordance with their
customary laws. Genuine autonomy within the republic was their battlecry.

The Moros, for their part, have been vocal in their demand for recognition
of their distinctness as a people. They are Muslims and would like to remain so. Their
political awakening reached its maturation under the leadership of the Moro National
Liberation Front, which originally advocated independence from the colonial clutches
of the Republic of the Philippines through armed struggle. They wanted their own
Bangsamoro Republic.

In the face of these Moro and Lumad assertions of their respective rights to
self-determination, the migrant population will have to rethink its position. Although
they constitute the majority population, it no longer seems appropriate to speak in simple
terms of majority rule. Democracy in Mindanao will have to be redefined. There are
fundamental rights, interests and sensibilities involved that should be considered.

Stepping Back into History: Clarifying Political Realities

In the 1998 commemoration of the centennial of the Philippine Revolution,
which culminated in the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1898, the
nation took great pride in recalling the long process through which, from the bondage of
colonialism, it rose to establish national identity and won independence.

But it is often overlooked, or many are simply not aware of it, that the Lumad
and the Moro in Mindanao cannot identify with these commemorative activities;
they were not part of that political process. Let us go back in history and examine
why this is so.

Political Situation in 1898

On December 10, 1898, at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris
between Spain and the United States, the Philippines was almost six months old, still

in its infancy but a perfectly legitimate de facto state. It declared its independence on
June 12, 1898, and it is this date that is now celebrated as Independence Day.

The Sultanate of Sulu, a state in its own right, was established in 1450, fought
the Spaniards for 333 years and had remained free until 1898. While it is true the sultan
signed a treaty with Spain in 1878 that technically reduced its political status to that of a
protectorate, Sulu remained a de facto state, uncolonized to the end.

The Sultanate of Maguindanao, formed in 1619 by the famous Sultan Kudarat

from the two powerful datuships of Rajah Buayan and Maguindanao, also fought the
same Spanish colonizers. Its leaders signed agreements with Spain in the last 50 years
of the 19th century that compromised the sultanate’s sovereign status but, like Sulu, it
remained uncolonized until 1898.

In short, there were at least two de facto states at that time, all free and indepen-
dent. If such was the case, which part of the Philippine archipelago belonged to Spain
that she had the right to cede to the United States in the Treaty of Paris? We could
probably say Intramuros, that city surrounded by stonewalls in Manila by the Pasig river.
The political leaders of the United States were aware of this situation but chose to ignore
it. When they paid the twenty million Mexican dollars to Spain for the Philippine
archipelago, they claimed that there were no nations in existence here at that time, only
scattered tribes fighting one another, thus neatly deflecting any possible accusation that
the United States was guilty of invading free nation states.

We say that the Treaty of Paris was a spurious transaction, in which Spain sold
what did not belong to her. The two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, including
the Moros of the Pat a Pongampong o Ranaw, were never her colonies, and the Filipino
people had just won their independence from her. But issues like these, questioning the
legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris, were rendered moot and academic by American victory
in arms in the wars that followed, specifically in the Filipino-American War and the
Moro-American War. The Philippine islands, including Moroland, became, as described
in American textbooks, “Our Insular Possessions”.

In 1946, independence was returned only to the Republic of the Philippines, but
not to the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and the Pat a Pongampong ko Ranaw.

What about the case of the other indigenous peoples? Apparently, they did not
have any social structures that would have merited the status of states. But in their simplicity,
they contributed immensely to the anti-colonial struggle. The peoples of the Cordillera
fought off the Spaniards successfully until 1898 and were never colonized. The Aetas of
Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the Lumads of
Mindanao chose to avoid or evaded contact with the Spaniards and so had remained free.

Ugly Twist in Our History

The stain of an ugly twist in our history remains with us until today. Those of
our people who were colonized and became Christians fought and struggled to eventu-
ally give birth to the Filipino nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. This is
what was commemorated in the Philippine centennial. Those of our people, the Moros
of the two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, and the Cordillerans who were never
conquered and colonized because they fought tooth and nail for their independence;
the Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and
the Lumads of Mindanao who succeeded in avoiding contact with the Spaniards and
also remained free—they all now suffer the status of cultural minorities.

Their own struggles against colonialism have yet to find a place in the Philippine
flag, while their own accomplishments have not been given their proper space activities
commemorating independence. Nor are their feats mentioned in Philippine history
textbooks used in schools. This is because we have yet to cleanse our consciousness of
the stains of colonial mentality deeply embedded in our social structures. Colonialism
contributed to the sowing of these stains, but the cleansing process is now in our

American Share in the Process

One of the achievements of the American colonizers that endured to this

day is the labels they neatly applied on us. First, in the census of 1903, they catego-
rized the population into two broad groupings of Christians and non-Christians.
The Christians were generally those belonging to any one of the eight linguistic
groups of the Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bikol, Iloko, Kapampangan,
and Pangasinan, who predominated the Christian population; they were also char-
acterized and called “civilized”. The Spaniards colonized them. It was this group
of people who rebelled against the colonizers and, after more than 300 years, their
struggle ripened into the Philippine Revolution. They gave birth to the Filipino
nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. In 1898, they were the Filipino

The non-Christians, also tagged as “uncivilized”, were those—let me reiter-

ate very quickly for emphasis—who fought back and were successful in maintain-
ing their independence throughout the period of Spanish presence. These were
the proud Moros of the two sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu and the Pat
a Pongampong o Ranaw, and the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, known
today as the Bontoc, Ibaloi and Kankanaey, Ifugao, Ikalahan or Kalangoya; Isneg;
Kalinga, Kankanais or Applais, and Tinguian. The others were those who kept

out of Spanish reach, thereby remaining free, among whom may be counted the
Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and
the more or less 35 Lumad tribes and sub-tribes of Mindanao already mentioned

Because they were unconquered and had not been colonized, they never
had to rebel against the Spaniards. The Moros and the Cordillerans were always at
war with these aggressors. They had their record of struggle against the Spaniards,
separate and apart from those fought by the Christians, and they are proud of it.
Naturally, they had no part in the formation of the Filipino nation and cannot
identify with the symbolisms of the Filipino flag.

Our Own Contribution to the Labeling Process

Within ten years after the Republic of the Philippines regained its inde-
pendence, Congress passed R.A. 1888 that formalized and made official the labels
National Cultural Minorities upon those earlier called non-Christians. The labels
have since taken deep root in our consciousness. Some minor changes in the
labels were later made to remove the social stigma – Cultural Communities in the
1973 Constitution and Indigenous Cultural Communities in the 1987 Constitution.
However, the public continues to refer to the Lumad groups and individuals as
non-Christian, uncivilized, or simply minorities.

Displacement in Their Ancestral Homelands,

Only One Aspect of Marginalization

Worse than the labels, it was the American-initiated resettlement programs

that created permanent damage on the lives of the indigenous population. It opened
the floodgates to a heavy influx of Filipino settlers from the north, starting from
1913, leading to the massive displacement of the local people from their ancestral
lands. This inflow of settlers was so heavy that by 1948, according to the census,
where once the indigenous population predominated, they now had become the
numerical minorities. By 1970, the Muslims retained numerical majority only in
the five provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The Lumads remained the majority in only eight towns all over Mindanao.

The provisions of the public land law and other related laws were stacked
against the non-Christians. For instance, there was the Philippine Commission
Act No. 718 of 1903 issued six months after the passage of the Land Registration
Act, making void land grants from Moro sultans or datus or from chiefs of non-
Christian tribes when made without government consent. The following table
shows the discriminatory land disposition provisions of the public land laws:

Table 1.3. Public Land Laws and Resettlement1

Hectarage Allowed
Year Homesteader Non-Christian Corporation
1903 16 has. No provision 1024 has.
1919 24 has. 10 has. 1024 has.

1936 16 has. 4 has. 1024 has.

The Moros and the Lumads lost their lands to the settlers mainly by operation
of law, in classic cases of class legislation. Their displacement and dispossession in their
own ancestral lands was legal!

This was only one aspect of their marginalization. Being now numerical
minorities, they had to submit to the dominance of majority rule. More concretely,
they had to submit to a majority-dominated uniform system of governance and justice,
to a majority-dominated uniform system of land landownership and land use, to a
majority-dominated uniform system of economic life and to a majority-dominated
uniform system of education. Needless to say, what emerged in media and common
usage is a majority-dominant culture.

Rodil, R. The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, Revised
Philippine Edition, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, Philippines, 2004.

Part Two
Moro and Lumad Assertions of Right of Self-Determination
Moro Rebellion

The MNLF-led revolution that erupted in late 1972 was the maturation of
a series of Moro protests against the discriminatory treatment that they experienced
within the Republic, the most infamous (prior to 1972) being the Jabidah massacre of
1968, wherein 26 of some 180 young Moro recruits undergoing secret military training
in Corregidor were massacred for alleged mutiny. This was followed by the formation
of the Muslim (later Mindanao) Independence Movement or MIM, and its declara-
tion of a definite desire to put up an Islamic state in predominantly Muslim areas of
Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan. There were also several other bloody events
in 1971, including the merciless massacres at Manili in Carmen, Cotabato and Tacub
in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

The groundswell of Moro protests, spiced with reports of secret military train-
ing, became one of two excuses for President Marcos’ declaration of martial rule; the
Communist rebellion was the other. Martial law provided the valve for the full-scale
eruption of the Bangsamoro armed struggle for national liberation from, as the MNLF
loves to say, the clutches of Philippine colonialism.

In the beginning, the MNLF referred to its people as Bangsamoro and stated
in unequivocal terms that Minsupala was its ancestral homeland; it wanted to establish
its own Bangsamoro Republic and it aimed to accomplish this through armed struggle.
The cost of that conflict was staggering to all concerned.

The MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement with the GRP in December 1976,
establishing autonomy for the Muslims in southern Philippines, more specifically in
the 13 provinces of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao,
Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte,
Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, and all the cities and villages therein. Paragraph
16 further states that the entire agreement would be implemented through consti-
tutional processes. After the two plebiscites of 1989 and 2001, only five provinces,
excluding the cities of Isabela in Basilan and Cotabato in Maguindanao, have remained
from the original 13 provinces.

It took the GRP and the MNLF 20 years to agree on how to implement the
document. Fourteen years after the two parties signed a final peace agreement, the full
implementation of the accord has yet to be seen, a shortcoming that the government

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement for the implementation of the Tripoli
Accord, however, was not acceptable to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and it
decided to pursue the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. At the same
time, it also announced its openness to peace negotiations. When the negotiations
started in January 1997, it submitted a single agenda item: to solve the Moro
problem. Much ground has been covered but the peace process is still going on
after 12 years, and there is no clear end in sight.

The GRP-MILF peace negotiations has so far resulted in several impor-

tant agreements, chief among which were the decision to a cessation of hostilities
and the Tripoli Agreement on Peace in 2001, which finalized the three agenda
items of security, rehabilitation and development, and ancestral domain. A high
point in the negotiations was the much publicized signing of the Memorandum
of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5, 2008. However,
opposition politicians, mainly from Cotabato, Zamboanga City and Iligan City,
petitioned the Supreme Court to forbid the signing with the issuance of a tempo-
rary restraining order. They got the TRO and the rest is history. Malacañang
announced that it would not sign the agreement “in its present form or in any
other form” regardless of Supreme Court ruling. Three commanders of the MILF
launched attacks on civilian targets in mid-August and by the summer of 2009, an
estimated 6,000 evacuees were displaced from their homes and farms.

By mid-October of 2008, the Supreme Court decided that the MOA-AD

was unconstitutional. The two parties have since issued separate orders for their
respective troops to cease hostilities, negotiations have resumed, and some vital
agreements have been reached (e.g. revival and expansion of the International
Monitoring Team IMT, the formation of the International Contact Group ICG,
among others). By the first week of June 2010, the same month on which the term of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to end, the two negotiating panels signed
a Declaration of Continuity, expressing the desire of the two parties to continue
the peace process. There has been neither interim agreement nor comprehensive
compact. The ball is now with the new president, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco
Aquino III.

Lumad Assertion
A Political Act

Although never advocating armed struggle, Lumad Mindanaw and all its
affiliate organizations have clearly indicated their desire to attain genuine autonomy
within the republic. Lumad Mindanaw as an organization is no longer in existence
but the concepts its advocates have sown are very much alive and attracting more
adherents. They wanted to govern themselves within their respective ancestral

domains in accordance with their own traditional laws. This is an assertion of

collective political right, not just cultural identity.

1987 Constitution Upholds Ancestral Domain of Indigenous Com-


For the first time in our political history, the 1987 Constitution states
its recognition of the ancestral domains of the indigenous communities. Being
a product of the EDSA Revolution, the 1987 Charter carries a sincere attempt
to cleanse our political and social system of the various stigmata of the martial
law regime and our colonial past. Regional autonomy is clearly provided for the
Cordillerans and the Muslims of Mindanao. But it was not until October 1997
that an enabling act for this constitutional recognition was promulgated for the
Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act

A Reason To Rejoice

Nurtured through the legislative process by committed and well informed

indigenous leaders, lobbyists and sympathetic legislators, R.A. 8371 or the
Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) deserves to be hailed as a strategic first
in the history of Philippine legislation. It was the long-awaited ancestral domain
law designed to protect the interests of the indigenous peoples and uphold their
identity and dignity. After 94 years, it eliminated the infamous Philippine
Commission Act No. 718 of l903.

Native title is now part of the law of the land. Ancestral lands and
ancestral domains include not only the physical environment but also the spiritual
and cultural bond to said territories. These ancestral lands or domains may now
be titled. As of 2007, of the total certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT)
and certificate of ancestral land title (CALT) applications covering 4.8 million
hectares, only 19% had been approved; the processing of the remaining 81% is
awaiting completion. Lack of funds has been identified as the cause.

The right to self-governance in accordance with customary laws is also

guaranteed. Communities living in contiguous areas where they constitute the
majority population may form a separate tribal barangay. The same guarantee
is given to the exercise of their own judicial system. They, too, shall have
priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of
any natural resources within the ancestral domains. Outsiders who wish to
tap said natural resources can only do so with the community’s free prior and
informed consent.

Need for Sympathetic Cooperation to Implement the IPRA

Like any good law designed to protect and uphold the rights of cultural
communities, numerical minorities that they are and vulnerable to manipulation due to
their unfamiliarity with the letter of the law and its operations, the success of IPRA’s
implementation will definitely require sympathetic cooperation from the rest of the
government bureaucracy as well as from the general population itself. There have been
recent instances of settler opposition to Lumad applications for ancestral domain claim.
It can be recalled that the Commission on National Integration (CNI) of the past had
very grand objectives but the government never released more than 50% of its budget

The inertia of history and cultural bias are very much alive and must be viewed
as a built-in obstacle to the fulfillment of the dreams visualized in this law. Decisive
efforts from all concerned must be exerted to generate a spirit of mutual acceptance and
mutual cooperation among the various peoples of Mindanao.

Part Three
Basic Considerations in Advocacy for Peace and Development
The tri-people approach is without substitute in our peace building and devel-
opment activities in the entirety of Mindanao and the archipelago of Sulu. It is also
imperative that the local government units (LGUs), the provinces, the municipalities
and the barangays should lead in the process. A way to carry this out is for central
government to institutionalize the primacy of the peace process nationwide, and to
engage the entire government machinery in the peace process, more specifically at the
level of LGUs. Combining peace and development is too big and too complex to be
confined to peace negotiations alone between the government and rebel forces. Given
the delicate nature of the problem in Mindanao, LGUs and the people themselves must
be engaged, not only through sectoral representation but also through institutionalized
peoples’ dialogue.

Citizens’ Participation in
Creating A Culture of Peace

The tri-people approach is best analyzed in microcosm, specifically within the

framework of the 13 provinces in the Tripoli Agreement. Creating a culture of peace
in these 15 provinces (from the original 13, following the recent creations of Sarangani
province out of South Cotabato and Zamboanga Sibugay out of Zamboanga del Sur) is
not a simple case of settling the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement. The MILF
have added a few more areas beyond those specified in the Tripoli Agreement, but the
basic elements affecting the inhabitants therein remain the same. The plebiscites of
1989 and 2001 merely touched on the territorial coverage of the autonomy but not on
the dynamics of the relationships of the tri-people within the autonomy and without.

While it is true that the Tripoli document clearly speaks of establishing

“autonomy for the Muslims in Southern Philippines” in the 13 provinces, which may
also be interpreted as the recognition of the ethnicity of the Muslim population, it
is equally true that the same document is silent about the other major segments of
the total population in the region. Naturally this is a major cause for concern among
the non-Muslims; they certainly find difficulty identifying with this autonomy. The
Government must constantly be conscious of the demographic peculiarity of the area
of autonomy. It is not possible to leave any sector out, especially the Lumad and the
Christians, whose population in 1970 and later in 2000 was decisively greater than
those of the Muslims.

In 1970, the total population of the region, Palawan included, based on mother
tongue classification, was 8,146,652. Of this, the Muslims were 1,630,650 or 19.98%,

the Lumad 443,501 or 5.43%. The Christian settlers and their descendants composed
the remaining 6,086,962 or 74.71%. There is a loose population of 363,534 or approxi-
mately 4.45% whose collective identity is classified as “Other Indigenous Inhabitants.”
Even if this number were deducted from the settler population, the majority status of
the Christian settlers remains overwhelming.

This was not much different from the figures of the 2000 census, where the
total population of Minsupala region had more than doubled at 18,856,451. Of this,
the total Muslim population was 3,683,073 or 19.53%, and the Lumad 1,607,744 or
8.53%. The Christian settler majority was an overwhelming 13,565,634 or 71.94%.

This population reality has a direct bearing on the implementation of the Tripoli
Agreement, especially on the decision of the GRP and the MNLF to have a plebiscite,
and, as the events surrounding the GRP-MILF Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral
Domain have shown, also on the fate of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

Eight of the 13 provinces2 listed as the territory of the autonomous region in

the Tripoli Agreement were Christian-dominated; only five had a predominance of
Muslims. So the result of the plebiscite of 1989 was not entirely unexpected, except
for that inexplicable twist where the Muslim-dominated province of Basilan and the
Islamic City of Marawi voted no. These same areas voted yes in the 2001 plebiscite,
but the Christian dominated cities of Cotabato, a component city of the province of
Maguindanao, and Isabela, a component city of Basilan province, voted no.

The most intense opposition to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD of 2008 emerged

from the Christian-dominated provinces of Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and
Iligan. According to then Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol of Cotabato, 173 barangays
of his province were listed in the Category A of the MOA-AD without the benefit of
public consultation. Mayor Lawrence Cruz of Iligan City complained that the eight
barangays of Iligan enumerated in Category A constituted more than 82% of the entire
territory of the city. He argued that, while four of these barangays are Moro-dominated,
the other four cannot possibly be Moro ancestral domain because Moro population
there has always been a minority. In fact, two of them, Hindang and Mainit, had only
one Muslim each in the 2000 census. There were plebiscites in the territory of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and 2001. In both the
answer in Iligan was an overwhelming no to inclusion. In 2001, only a measly 2.67%
voted yes.

In 1976, when the agreement was signed, the area of autonomy included only 13 provinces. With the creation of
Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay, there are now 15. Both Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay are Christian-
dominated, bringing to 10 the number of Christian-dominated provinces in the Philippines.

Often taken for granted and therefore left unarticulated as such are the intense
emotional outbursts triggered by publicized concessions to Moros, represented by the
MNLF and the MILF. The settlers’ angry reactions to the MOA-AD were not new.
Similar expressions were exhibited in the 1988-1989 discussions on Muslim Mindanao
and ARMM and in the aftermath of the signing of the interim agreement on the
creation of Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) in
1995-1996. The following words have become triggers that set off loud and often angry
reactions among settlers: “Muslim Mindanao,” “SPCPD,” and “MOA-AD.” Feeling
rejected on a massive scale by these outbursts, the Muslims in turn naturally felt that
their fight for self-determination is fully justified.

It is equally important to bear in mind that the various Lumad tribes, all 12
ethno-linguistic groups within the 15 provinces, along with the rest of their kin all
over Mindanao, have since the mid-1980s started to articulate their own right to self-
determination within their ancestral domain.

The Christian population, most of whom are third or fourth generation descen-
dants of immigrants from Luzon and the Visayas but also of whom a large number is
indigenous, see themselves as genuine Mindanawons and distinct from the others. To
this extent, they may also be deemed to possess a certain level of “ethnicity”.

Need to Establish Commonalities

The tri-people must take part in identifying what is common among them and
work out a modus vivendi from there. This is not something that can be the subject of
negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF or the MILF. This cannot but be part
of the broader peace process. We are talking about harmonious relations at the commu-
nity level. The events from the early 1970s to 2008 are more than sufficient evidence
to prove this. Konsult Mindanaw pioneered by the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC)
and the succeeding Dialogue Mindanaw have amply documented the same popular call
for community dialogues, public consultation and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Perhaps, this is one moment in history when we must grapple with realities
in a manner radically different from the way the colonizers did. If we must unite,
we must do so as distinct entities; we must do so as equals accepting and respecting
each other’s unique identity and dignity, regardless of population size. We must do so
because unity in diversity is mutually beneficial and best for all concerned. This is an
important first step in the creation of a culture of peace. Balanced with one another,
ethnicity and recognition of each other’s political right to self-determination can be an
instrument for sustaining a peace culture, which, in turn, is a vital component for the
development not only of the autonomous region but also of Mindanao and the rest of
the Philippines.

Peace Credo; the Organic Whole; Implications to Development

A number of peace advocates and educators from all over Mindanao and
Sulu assembled at the Southeast Asia Rural Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN),
Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, in July 1996. This gathering was aptly called
Consultation-Workshop on Peace Education in Mindanao, with the theme “Journey to
Peace and Harmony”. It was hosted by the Mindanao Support and Communication
Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (MINCARRD) and the Office
of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The participants produced,
ratified and adopted a Peace Credo in Filipino. The English translation here is mine. It
is appropriate to recall it here.

Kalinaw Mindanaw!
Lumad, Muslim, Kristiyano
Magkaiba, Magkaisa
Isang Diyos
Isang Lupain
Isang Adhikain
Kalinaw Mindanaw!

[English Translation]

Peace Mindanaw!
Lumad, Muslim, Christian
They are different, they can be one
One God
One land
One dream
Peace Mindanaw!

What the Peace Credo advocates is that on the level of the people, the tri-
people approach in peace advocacy is creating a stream of unifying ideals among a
diverse population whose basic interests may sometimes be conflicting. It is molding a
common agenda and a common vision; it is creating unity out of diversity. It is seeing
ourselves as integral parts of an organic whole.

Following the idea of an organic whole, the same people will do well to see them-
selves as one with nature and the physical environment in which they live. Then from there,
find the inter-links, or the unifying thread among the various forces of nature. With a
closer look, one can easily see the interactive roles of the various resources or forces of devel-
opment in Mindanao in the overall forward movement of the region and the country.

Take industrialization as a case in point. One may say that industrialization is

possible only with a continuous flow of electrical energy. Electricity comes largely from
the Agus river hydroelectric plants, seven of them generating a total of 944 megawatts.
The six dams along the Pulangi river will produce a total of 1,003 megawatts and
service irrigation systems. Other smaller projects will have a combined capacity of
714 megawatts. The Mt. Apo geothermal plants alone are projected by the Philippine
National Oil Company to produce a total of 220 megawatts of electricity. The 22 sites,
excluding the geothermal plants, in Mindanao are expected to produce a total of 3,006

From the sources of energy to the distribution of electricity, we can feel a very
intimate interconnection between the peace process and the economic development.
Water, the source of power that turns the giant generators, is dependent on the integrity
of the watersheds. Keeping watersheds alive require the nurturing care of people, people
who share a common desire to keep the water flowing for the common welfare. The
vital watersheds in Mindanao are located in Moroland and within the ancestral lands
of Lumad communities. Maintaining the watersheds will mean not only preserving the
water resources in all lakes and major river systems, it will also mean a sustained supply
of water for agriculture, another strong component of Mindanao economic develop-
ment. The best illustration of the latter is the potential of the Cotabato and Agusan
river basins. For the Lumad communities in particular, sustaining the integrity of the
watersheds is respecting the sacredness of their domains, both physical and spiritual.
Sustained effort from a diverse population will only be possible if the same is unified by
a common goal.

What this boils down to is that peace in Moroland is a vital component in

the restoration and preservation of the watershed areas that will, in turn, assure us
of the continuous flow of electricity. This for its part will fuel the industries. The
cycle can continue ad infinitum. The cycle we have presented here is not meant to be
complete but the concept of the organic whole approach to development seems worth

Tri-People Approach: Implication to National History

The Filipinos of today are not the same as the Filipinos of 1898. In those days,
the Filipinos, the colonized segment of the population that felt the need to liberate
themselves from the clutches of Spanish colonizers, did so and in the process produced
the Filipino identity, the Filipino nation and the Filipino Republic. They put together
a flag which faithfully represented their political realities and consciousness.

But there were other segments of the population that we cannot so identify for
lack of bases in historical fact. The Sulu sultanate fought Spanish colonialism as a state;

so did the Maguindanao sultanate, of which the Moro are extremely proud. We cannot
take this away from them.

The Lumad, who avoided contact with the Spaniards and were therefore not
colonized, could not be identified as Filipinos either because they were not part of that
process that brought about the Filipino nation.

The American segment of our colonial experience changed all this. Having
conquered and colonized all of us, it was the American colonizers who decided that
we share the same territory and should all be Filipinos. This is why it can be said that
only one independence was restored in 1946. The Muslims were not particularly happy
about that. Content or not with what we have inherited from the American colonizers,
we have a problem to solve. We have a shared destiny and a shared territory but we have
conflicting views about it.

Mindanao is Shared Territory

At this point in our history, not a single segment of the population can claim Mindanao
as theirs. It is already shared territory. The three segments of the population are
capable of working out a modus vivendi that can make Mindanao a home of peace and
harmony. What Mindanao has taught us is that we can still be Filipinos, but the basis
of our unity cannot be our differing experiences with Spanish colonialism. Neither
can it be the present Filipino flag that is the product of a different era. It must be our
mutual acceptance of one another as distinct peoples in one nation, with our respective
histories, identities and dignity sharing the same territory. It must be our common
vision crafted from present realities.

Perhaps, we should explore the feasibility of designing an entirely new flag and a
new constitution, to represent an expanded historical experience and an expanded
nation that allows for sufficient social spaces for the tri-people. This will make future
commemorations of independence something all Mindanawons can identify with and
find more meaningful.

Part Four
There is no question that everybody wants peace and development in Mindanao.
But we must get our acts together. We can start by dreaming of producing a new generation
of Mindanawons in 20 years, Mindanawons who are not weighed down by deep-seated
prejudice, who can come to terms with each other’s differences and social spaces, and
who are willing to listen to one another in peace and define common dreams. But the
government must lead this process, especially the local government units, complemented
by non-government organizations and the private sector, including the various religious
institutions. To accomplish these goals, this paper makes the following recommendations.

First, nationalize the primacy of the peace process and engage the entire
mechanism of government in the peace process. This should not be limited to the Office
of the President through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and to
the security sector, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
The local government units must take the lead in their respective areas. Formal peace
negotiations alone will resolve neither the rebellion of the Bangsamoro nor the rebellion
of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA). The same
primacy of the peace process can be adopted in other areas of the country and adjusted to
their specific requirements. In particular, it will help if:

a) The LGUs at the provincial, municipal and barangay levels will be mandated to
institutionalize and lead in community dialogues where citizens of the LGU can
listen and decide on major community issues, especially peace and development
b) The national line agencies should have a peace component in their structure and
c) The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will
enshrine peace education in their curriculum, in the primary, secondary and tertiary
d) The universities and colleges, both public and private, will revise Philippine history
textbooks to include appropriate space for Mindanao history from the perspective
of the Bangsamoro and the Lumad.

Second, a new Constitution is imperative to solve Mindanao’s problems. The

resolution of ancestral domain and self-determination issues affecting the Bangsamoro
and the Lumad will ultimately require structural changes in governance. Bangsamoro
and Lumad communities need to have their ancestral territories and social spaces secured
constitutionally to make the solution permanent. It is time for a new constitution that
secures the Lumad and Bangsamoro where previous constitutions and legal frameworks

have been instrumental in marginalizing them. Community dialogues led by LGUs will
enable the non-Lumad and non-Bangsamoro to understand and appreciate the fundamen-
tal issues involved, such as defining the concrete meaning of self-determination and how
this will relate to the central government.

For years, state policy was for amalgamation or integration of the non-Christian
populations. The result was marginalization. The 1987 constitution gave way to autonomy
and the recognition of the ancestral domain rights and distinct cultures of these peoples.
Now we have the Organic Act for the ARMM and IPRA for the indigenous peoples.
These obviously are not enough. There is a need for government to loosen up and allow for
secured social spaces for the Bangsamoro and the Lumad, within they can develop at their
own pace.

It must finally be admitted that the country’s basic laws, such as the Treaty of Paris,
the Philippine Bill of 1902 (The Philippine Organic Act), the Jones Law of 1916 (The
Philippine Autonomy Act), the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippine Constitution of
1935, the 1973 Constitution, and the present 1987 Constitution, operated within colonial
logic: that there were no nations here when the American colonizers arrived and there was
only room for one independent Republic of the Philippines in 1946. The 1935 Constitution,
in particular, affirmed the legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris. It was within the framework
of these laws that the amalgamation and marginalization of the Bangsamoro and Lumad
communities took place and were justified. We must now rethink whether the same laws
that created the problem can still be used to resolve the same problem.

Third, fast-track the processing of Lumad applications for Certificates of

Ancestral Domain Title and Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles. After a century of
displacement, this requires no further elucidation. Every day of delay leaves the door open
for settlers to insert themselves into Lumad domains. A CADT or a CALT is the Lumad’s
best defense against unwanted intrusions; it is also their best assurance of long-term peace.

Fourth, the details of the peace talks with the MILF and with the CPP-NPA
should be disclosed to the LGUs and the public so that these can be discussed openly.
It should be the task of OPAPP, and not of the negotiating panels, to deal with public
information and public consultation.

Fifth, the President of the Republic must stand by the signed agreements
with rebel groups and ensure that these are duly communicated to the other branches
of government and for implementation. By the non-full implementation of the 1996
Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, for instance, the government is actually missing
by default on a crucial opportunity to stabilize the situation in Moro Mindanao. What
happened to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD has delivered its lessons; the least that we can do
is learn from them.
Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña
Complementary approaches to
the Mindanao peace process:
From diverse perspectives
to a united effort

The tangled contentiousness of the Mindanao peace process and all its
challenges can only be matched by the ingenuity and perseverance of the solutions
put forward to achieve true peace. Two papers were written for this monograph by
natives of Mindanao; the authors are deeply embedded in the island’s history and
bring their insights to the discussion of the peace process.

Abhoud Syed M. Lingga of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies submits his

thesis on the origins of the Bangsamoro as a political identity and, concurrent to this,
their assertion to the right to self-determination, vis-à-vis the position of the Philippine
Government regarding its sovereignty and authority in Mindanao. His paper, Assertions
of Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Philippine–Bangsamoro Conflict, traces the
history of both sides of the conflict, the Bangsamoro community and Philippine
government, on how each attempted to assert, defend, and then negotiate their respec-
tive positions on Mindanao. This history takes the reader from the years of war and
government attempts to integrate the Bangsamoro with the rest of the country, through
the establishment Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), right up to
the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Through discussing how the Philippine
government attempted to integrate the Bangsamoro with the rest of the country and
the responses of the Bangsamoro people, Lingga points out the challenges raised by the
conflicting positions, and offers his own suggestions on how the GRP and MILF can
meet in the middle.

In Achieving Peace and Justice in Mindanao through the Tri-People Approach, histo-
rian and former peace panel member Rudy Rodil advocates a “popular” approach based
on the peoples in Mindanao and not simply on institutions grounded in law. Mindanao
is home to three groups of different historical and cultural lineages: the Moros who were
the historical majority in Mindanao but now comprise its minority; the Lumad tribes
indigenous to Mindanao, and the descendants of Christian settlers who had taken their
place in the land, yet had done so at the political, economic, and social expense of the
other two groups. Rodil challenges these three disparate groups to overcome the pain of
their shared yet contentious history in order to restore the social and cultural dignity of
the Moro and Lumad peoples, through meaningful reparations for past injuries, such as
land grabs of ancestral territories, and a continuing commitment to peace.


The authors take their respective approaches to resolving the Mindanao

conflict—Lingga speaks to the leadership of the parties in conflict (GRP and MILF)
while Rodil makes an appeal to the peoples of Mindanao to join hands for “One
God, One Land, One Dream, Peace Mindanaw”. The two papers have a great deal in
common, in that they actually reflect what is at the heart of the Mindanao conflict:
a gap in perception driven by a history that saw the political, economic, and social
marginalization of the Bangsamoro people.

By outlining historical perspectives in their individual approaches, Lingga

and Rodil bring to light this division in perception. Lingga explicitly points out the
differences. The Philippine government saw their objective as one of integrating the
South with the rest of the Philippines as a duly recognized territory even at the cost
of conflict. This objective was later amended to finding ways within the peace process
to maintain that Mindanao is part of Philippine territory. The MILF, along with the
MNLF and other groups before them, have seen their right to self-determination
denied by Manila, either by legal action, military deployment, or resettlement of their
population. Even the establishment of the ARMM is contentious—the government
and sectors of Philippine society may view it as a breakthrough concession in the
name of peace, but Lingga argues that it is actually seen by the Bangsamoro people
as an imposition from the top, not genuine self-determination, and simply a sop “to
appease a restive Moro population”. Thus, the Moro and Lumad communities have
been reluctant to support or embrace the ARMM, if not hostile to the concept.

Rodil, on the other hand, emphasizes that Lumad and Moros do not see eye
to eye with the rest of the country in terms of national history. Philippine history
as it has been written and popularly disseminated glosses over Moro and Lumad
independence from Spanish dominion. As a consequence of the Treaty of Paris,
Mindanao became part of the continuous political domain that Spain ceded to the
United States. This, however, grossly failed to consider existing autonomous states
in Mindanao, such as the Sultanates of Sulu and Magindanaw, and the individual
Moro communities and Lumad tribes over which Spain had no control. Subsequent
migration of Christian populations from other parts of the country to Mindanao
exacerbated the problem by displacing Lumad or Moro populations from their
territories and marginalizing them in the political and economic arenas. Even
Rodil’s suggestion of a “new (Philippine) flag” and “new constitution”, so that future
commemorations of Philippine independence could truly become “something all
Mindanawons can identify with” is reflective of this division in perspective; main-
stream Philippine history cannot be comfortably embraced by a population that was
marginalized by that same history.

A second area of convergence is the emphasis on the need for the actors in
the conflict to bridge this gap. Government and the MILF meet in the middle in

Lingga’s approach, but they have the benefit of encountering each other in peace talks.
Rodil calls for people themselves to meet in the middle, through community dialogue,
a more inclusive Philippine history taught in classrooms, peace education, and even
a “new Constitution…[that secures] the Lumad and Bangsamoro where previous
constitutions [have marginalized them]”. As he looks back on the MOA-AD affair,
Rodil writes that a population whose emotions have been heightened by the conflict
in Mindanao may not be so easily placated. He mentions the “loud and often angry
reactions” of Christian settlers regarding perceived concessions to the MNLF and
MILF. Lingga also notes how Christians have been shown to be more prejudiced
against Muslims than Muslims were against Christians. These, in turn, engendered
a feeling of “rejection” among the Moro, Rodil states, feeding into their struggle for

The third convergence between the two approaches is that both authors
identify the Philippine government as the party capable of making, and needing to
make, significant steps and confidence-building measures to sustain the momentum
of the peace process. Lingga argues that, as the MILF has not explicitly declared that
it is seeking Bangsamoro independence, there is no reason for the Supreme Court
to fear an “inexorable chain of events” that would lead to eventual secession, the
cause underlined by the Supreme Court for issuing a Temporary Restraining Order
against MOA-AD. Taking the long view, Rodil calls for a government-led effort
to review and retell the history of the Philippines, taking into account the disparate
histories of the Moro and Lumad peoples, and to educate Filipino children in the
ways and necessary concessions of peace. Both authors also underscore the need to
amend the Philippine Constitution, seeing it either as an institutional roadblock that
strangles negotiations, or an expression of national identity within which the Moro
and Lumad minorities cannot locate themselves.

Here both authors do not speak just to the GRP negotiating party. Rodil
and Lingga address the branches and agencies of the Philippine government that can
contribute to the peace process (e.g., Supreme Court, Congress, the executive depart-
ment etc). They also address the rest of Philippine society, calling for support for
these confidence-building measures. Amendments to or revision of the Constitution
encourage the Filipino people to participate in the peace process through the poten-
tial Constitutional Convention that may result, or through their representatives in
Congress, in the court of public opinion, and ultimately in the ratification of the

The authors’ recommendations include measures by which the Philippine

government can rebuild confidence not only with the MILF as a negotiating partner,
but also among the Bangsamoro who had been marginalized in the course of history.
They ask sectors of Philippine government and society to rethink their premises

about the Philippines, or the national identity, the Constitution, history and culture,
economics, and politics. This rethinking will not be comfortable and can certainly
inspire either a spirited defense of the status quo, or a gradual advance from there.
Both parties have to make a move to converge and bridge the gap, and from both
approaches as well. The tri-peoples and self-determination formulation approaches
are complementary. Neither approach can thrive or survive without the other. Either
needs the other to succeed.

As the MOA-AD affair shows, if the rest of the Philippines cannot get
behind a promulgated peace plan, the government’s hands are tied. If the government
cannot convince the public of the merits of its concessions in peace negotiations,
public opinion may prefer confrontation or at least inaction due to the perceived
capitulation in these concessions. Filipinos do not want war, but do not like “losing”

The government and the people it represents must approach the conflict as
one. A house divided against itself cannot stand. The Bangsamoro, the Lumad and
the rest of the Philippines must be able to meet as one, not in acrimony but in amity,
considerate of the other’s interests and sensitivities, if their respective advocates can
have any honest chance at meaningful negotiations. In this monograph, Lingga
and Rodil attempt to bridge the gulf between two institutions (Philippine govern-
ment and the MILF), three peoples (Moro, Lumad, and settler-descendant), and two
sides to the argument (Philippine integrity and Bangsamoro self-determination).
In bringing together diverse perspectives, perhaps a united effort to achieve peace,
justice and development will succeed.

Consider the title Supreme Court spokesperson Ismael Khan chose for his Philippine Daily Inquirer (September 29,
2008) opinion article: “Who Lost Mindanao?” The article is a critique of the MOA-AD and the proposed Bangsamoro
Judicial Entity (BJE) vis-à-vis the Philippine Constitution and the Arroyo Administration’s handling of the affair. Yet
in the same article Khan argues that, should the MILF “refuse to agree” on negotiations within the framework of the
Constitution, “to uphold [it] and swear allegiance and fidelity to the Philippines… the government should insist on the
demobilization and disarmament of MILF forces. The country should be prepared to take on the MILF, with its armed
force of 12,000, at that point.”