Chapter I. The Problem and Its Scope
The term Bangsamoro is the generic name for the thirteen ethnolinguistic Muslim tribes of the southern Philippines. The thirteen groups are Sama, Badjao Tausug, Yakan,Maranao, Maguindanao, Iranun, Kalibugan, Kalagan, Sangil, Palawani, Molbog, and Jamamapun. In the 2000 Philippine census, Islam was given as the religious affiliation by 20.44% of the population of Mindanao, all in all approximately 3.7 million persons (National Statistics Office Manila, Philippines). The map below indicates those provinces of the southern Philippines which accommodate a Muslim ethnic population.
The majority of the Muslim Bangsamoro of the southern Philippines are represented by two main political and paramilitary groups the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The common aim of both groups would be to have autonomy and to live according to Sharia law. However as Vitug & Gloria (2000) point out this promotes a conflict of interest, because Philippine law has the Constitution as its authority and the Philippine Constitution ‘still hovers above the Koran’. Whilst the MILF have been engaging in official peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since March 2003, the MNLF has not been as fortunate. Although the GRP signed the historic 1996 Peace Agreement with the MNLF most of the conditions have not been implemented, and this in turn has led to unrest with the Muslim Bangsamoro who are represented by the MNLF. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
This paper examines the challenges for peace and independence of a Muslim Bangsamoro group of the southern Philippines namely the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and examines the social and political changes occurring in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The paper will give a brief history of Islam in the Philippines then chronologically trace the formation of the MNLF. Important features of the paper will be the eras before and after 1996, necessary, because this was the year that the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) signed an historic Peace Agreement. And the paper will attempt to explain why the MNLF has been largely ignored in the peace processes of the 21st Century, and why the GRP is reluctant to negotiate with them with the same enthusiasm as they are doing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The paper will conclude with a prediction as to the future of the MNLF. RELATED LITERATURE AND STUDIES
The history and struggle for survival of Islam in the southern Philippines can be chronologically placed into four eras. They are (1) 1450 (establishment of Sulu Sultanate) to 1764 (end of the Moro Wars), (2) 1764 to 1898 (end of Spanish colonialism), (3) 1898 to 1946 (Philippine independence), and (4) 1946 to the present time. (1) According to Lingga (2004) the exact arrival date of Islam in the Philippines is difficult to determine. However it is now widely accepted that the first Sultanate in Sulu was established in 1450, and by the time the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan (who was commissioned by Spain) visited the Philippines in 1521, there had been four Sultans in Sulu (Local Government Unit: Province of Sulu, 2005). As well by 1521 Islam was being practiced in vast areas of the entire Philippines. Nevertheless Spain believed its duty lay in proselytizing the population of the Philippines to Christianity. This course of action inevitably led to hostilities with the local Muslim population: the first being near Cebu (an island in the Visayas group, equidistant between Luzon and Mindanao) in 1569. The armed conflicts between the Spanish colonialists and the Muslim Bangsamoro in the Philippines from 1569 to 1764 were known as the Moro Wars. Throughout the 17th Century the Muslims in the southern Philippines were successful in repelling...