Conflict in Mindanao

Topics: Philippines, Abu Sayyaf, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Pages: 5 (1887 words) Published: April 12, 2007
The Origin of Conflict in Mindanao and the Role of the Moro National Liberation Front Ever since the Philippines were first colonized by Spain over 400 years ago, the Manila government has struggled to mesh the Muslim population of Mindanao with the rest of the predominantly Catholic nation. The large number of violent separatist groups operating in Mindanao has been the primary factor in the long raging conflict. The leading revolutionary group, who also facilitated the creation of splinter groups, is the Moro National Liberation Front, or the MNLF as it is commonly called. Two of the more notorious of these splinter groups are the radically violent Abu Sayyaf, and another particularly aggressive group called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, or MILF. These Muslim factions have proven to be extremely hardy, after 300 years of testing the Spanish and United States mettle. Throughout their respective articles, "The Continuation of Civil Unrest and Poverty in Mindanao" and "Peace and Conflict in the Southern Philippines: Why the 1996 Peace Agreement is Fragile", Ringuet and Bertrand analyze similar concepts as they examine the deep rooted aggressions of the Mindanao based revolutionary groups. Although there are numerous reasons for this tension, the ones that are most responsible are the many internal conflicts that the Philippines have suffered. The declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 greatly exacerbated these issues. Marcos believed that if his military was not dealing with external threats, it should be used to work on the interior problems of the developing country. Marcos used this philosophy to keep himself in power, after his constitutional term ended. The Armed Forces of the Philippines became a dominant and corrupt force. This conflict has left approximately 120,000 dead since the 1970's, and greatly stunted the economic growth of one of the country's poorest areas. An estimated 700,000 people have been displaced during the ongoing fighting between the MNLF and the Philippines military. In the first part of this paper, I will discuss the major causes of the armed Muslim struggle. Ringuet says there were four factors responsible for the many uprisings and movements in the Philippines during the first forty years of the twentieth century (34). These four issues were: 1. the arrival of American colonialism, 2.religious beliefs, 3. government policies that consisted of theories of action used in relation to the Muslim problem, 4. and the local rivalries and persisting feuds found in the Muslim societies involving families or clans (Ringuet 34). American colonialism is a system of control which reduced traditional leaders to virtual powerlessness (Ringuet 34). Ringuet says, "With the arrival of the United States in 1898, the history of the Philippines began to be reshaped, particularly in the southern islands, as the Moros (Muslims) tried to reassert their ownership or rights to Mindanao" (34). The Moros found they could not match the Americans in battles on the seas, as they realized that gunboats were more effective (Ringuet 34). Because of this, the clashes became much more severe during land based encounters between the Muslims and the U.S. military (Ringuet 34). This battle to combat the American invaders and protect their land and right to self-rule, only served to propel the next issue of religion. The Muslims of the southern colonies have been fighting to protect their territory and religious identity against the intrusion of foreign powers, since they were colonized by the Spanish (Bertrand 41). Bertrand says the Muslims fiercely resisted the attempts by the Spanish to christianize them, and the Philippine attempts to mainstream them into the national life (41). Bertrand also states that the Philippine government further alienated the Moros by resettling Christian Filipinos from the north into Mindanao (41). Additionally, "American militarism in Mindanao, therefore, developed a...
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