Williams, Timothy (2010), The MoA-AD Debacle – An Analysis of Individuals’ Voices, Provincial Propaganda and National Disinterest, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29, 1, 121-144. ISSN: 1868-4882 (online), ISSN: 1868-1034 (print) The online version of this article can be found at:
Published by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Institute of Asian Studies and Hamburg University Press. The Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs is an Open Access publication. It may be read, copied and distributed free of charge according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. To subscribe to the print edition: For an e-mail alert please register at: The Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs is part of the GIGA Journal Family which includes: Africa Spectrum • Journal of Current Chinese Affairs • Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs • Journal of Politics in Latin America •
Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 1/2010: 121-144
The MoA-AD Debacle – An Analysis of Individuals’ Voices, Provincial Propaganda and National Disinterest Timothy Williams
Abstract: For nearly forty years a violent conflict has been raging in Mindanao where the Moros are fighting for independence from the Philippine state. On August 5th 2008 the peace negotiation panels of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were set to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD), a final stepping stone on the way to a comprehensive peace agreement. However, a well-organised wave of protest swept from Christian settlers in Mindanao to the Supreme Court in Manila which declared the agreement unconstitutional. This paper presents a chronology of events surrounding the debate, analyses the arguments used in support and opposition of the MoA-AD and searches for causes of its demise, before looking at lessons to be learned for the future, especially regarding what President Arroyo can achieve before leaving office this year and what will be left to her successor. Keywords: Philippines, Mindanao, MILF, independence movements, liberation movements Timothy Williams (born in 1987) studies political science and economics at the University of Mannheim, and is a student assistant at the Chair for Comparative Government (Political Science III). E-mail:
Over 120,000 people dead by 1996 and three “all-out-wars” since. Up to 140 million EUR spent yearly by the state. Over half a million citizens displaced since mid 2008. This is the situation on Mindanao in the Philippines where the Moros 1 have been fighting for an independent Muslim state as their homeland (Bangsamoro) since 1972. The conflict goes back to Spanish colonial times, however intensified since Philippines independence in 1946 with the state encouraging Christian Filipinos from densely populated regions to migrate to the South. Here the settlers were given land as part of this internal migration process and resources were systematically exploited. In this unchecked environment the violence between the indigenous population and the new immigrants grew and by 1972 a full-scale civil war broke out. Today the Christians living in Mindanao are the majority in many places and have successfully marginalised the Moros, some Muslim provinces being the poorest in the country and having the highest rates of illiteracy. However, the Christians are no longer the original settlers but their descendants, and this proves problematic as they have inherited their land rights legitimately and cannot be held accountable for the deeds of their fore-fathers. The Moros on the other hand contest their rights to this land claiming that it was unrightfully taken away from the Muslim population and claiming ownership rights on some tracts of land. The violent conflict was first...