From Reflections on the Bangsa Moro

Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let loose the dogs of war.”

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the dogs are let loose. For years, the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been hammering out a peace agreement that would satisfy both parties. This has been done under the auspices of the Malaysian government with the blessings and cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

But was it really done to satisfy both parties? Or was the MILF merely hoodwinked into believing that the Philippine government was sincere? Because of the so-called peace process, which is what the GRP-MILF negotiations is called, the MILF has been co-opted into a “non-revolutionary” existence and abiding by the Ceasefire Agreement.

Yet while the ‘peace process’ was going on, the government’s propaganda machine continually picture the MILF as a band of bandits, allied with the Abu Sayyaf, responsible for killings and bombings including beheading 10 Marines. At least twice, Philippine courts issued warrants of arrests for MILF leaders, including the top leadership, as if they were ordinary criminals subject to Philippine laws.

But the MILF persevered in the ‘peace process’. And just when they were about to cross the finish line, the cat was let out of the bag, and the dogs are everywhere ready to tear it to pieces.


The MILF should have learned from the Tripoli Agreement. The Moros were winning the war in the 1970s. President Marcos begged for a Ceasefire. The Tripoli Agreement was signed. Then Marcos distorted the Agreement by claiming “constitutional process”. Everything the Moros fought for was turned upside down by the government which gave the Moros a non-autonomous “autonomous government” instead.

When Marcos left, Cory Aquino completed Marcos’s “constitutional process” via the 1987 Constitution and Organic Act (RA 6734) to systemically destroy the Tripoli Agreement. Together with my brother and other Moros, we filed a petition at the Supreme Court (GR 89651) questioning the Organic Act. Of course, the court ruled against us.

Our prime argument was that the Tripoli Agreement was an international treaty and binding to the Philippine government. It was thus part of the law of the land.

And since the Tripoli Agreement was in conflict with the Organic Act, the Organic Act should be deemed invalid.

The Supreme Court did not rule on the validity of the Tripoli Agreement but it declared:

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Tripoli Agreement is a binding treaty or international agreement, it would then constitute part of the law of the land. But as internal law it would not be superior to R.A. No. 6734, an enactment of the Congress of the Philippines, rather it would be in the same class as the latter … Thus, if at all, R.A. No. 6734 would be amendatory of the Tripoli Agreement, being a subsequent law.

From this ruling, it would seem that the government can sign any treaty or agreement with the Moros, and simply pass a subsequent law that would radically amend it. As simple as that.

The Organic Act was the final straw that broke the Tripoli Agreement. Because of the Organic Act, the Bangsa Moro homeland was reduced to a handful of provinces and did not even include Cotabato City. At first, even Marawi City opted out but joined the ARMM later.


In 1996, Misuari was persuaded (some say strong-armed) to sign the Jakarta Accord and to come back to the Philippines. And so he did amidst the applause of Filipinos, OIC leaders and some Moros.

But the honeymoon was short-lived. From a virtual head-of-state recognized by many Muslim countries, Nur Misuari was ignominiously arrested and imprisoned by the Philippine government for years. Only recently, Misuari was released on bail and is now drumming up support in Mindanao.

Misuari, presumably, opposes the GRP-MILF pact. He says he has nothing to do with it.


The recent developments have shown to all and sundry – including foreign observers – that the Philippine government cannot be trusted with peace agreements. The Philippine government will sign a million peace agreements but it will never abide by them. This has been proven by the Tripoli Agreement, the Jakarta Accord, the Final Peace Agreement and now, the Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

It is high time that the Bangsa Moro people wake up to reality.


The no peace-no war situation is Mindanao should stop as it has been hindering the growth of the country and hampering the lives of the people. While our Asian neighbors leapfrog into 21st century as newly industrialized countries and world’s leading economies, the Philippine government last year trumpeted as its greatest achievement a GDP growth of 7.3 % — its highest since 1976, the year the Tripoli Agreement was signed and the country was in the grip of Martial Law.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Philippines was the second most progressive economy in Asia (next only to Japan). But then the Mindanao war erupted. And from then on the Philippines has become “the sick man of Asia.” Isn’t there a clear connection?

From the 1970s to today, the standard of living of our Asian neighbors – Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, India, etc. have improved hundreds-fold. While the poor Filipino standard of living has even declined such that the government last year was so happy to have reached a GDP growth it hasn’t had since the 1970s. This is a crime to the people of the Philippines.

And the only reason that that GDP growth was achieved was because millions of Filipinos have to slave away abroad, working hard to earn precious dollars and send them to their relatives back home.

A stop to the no-war no-peace situation in Mindanao is the only way for the country to develop as it will stop the billions of pesos spent on military spending, encourage foreign investments in the country and promote tourism in Mindanao and elsewhere.

But there will be no peace if the Bangsa Moro peoples will be deprived of their heritage, culture, lands and resources as well as the opportunities for a decent way of life.


It is the right of every nation, every people to determine its own destiny, its own path. The Bangsa Moro cannot rely on the other party’s good faith.

One peaceful way for the Bangsa Moro people is to petition the United Nations to conduct a clean and honest Referendum for and by the Moro people to determine what they want – Independence, Greater Autonomy in a Federal State or Integration with the dominant Filipino people in one nation-state. And everybody should abide by the results.

The alternative to real peace is real war.


The territories of a Homeland is not subject to the will of illegal occupants.

MORO homeland is Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan

The GRP – MILF Peace Agreement — on Ancestral Domain has the Indios – otherwise known as Filipinos — up in arms against their government. They are aghast that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines ((GRP) has agreed to give a few hundred square kilometers of territory to what would be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

But the territory mentioned in that agreement is nothing compared to the Bangsa Moro homeland envisioned in the Tripoli Agreement. In the the Tripoli Agreement, the Homeland is composed of 13 (now 14 since Sarangani was made into a new province) provinces; namely: Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, Palawan and South Cotabato, which included Sarangani and all the cities in those provinces.

In the Final Peace Agreement signed between the GRP and the MNLF in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1996 states that it constitutes “the full implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement in letter and spirit…”

The MILF – GRP agreement therefore adds nothing to the moro territory. Instead, it greatly reduced it by agreeing to have only the present ARMM and a few more villages.

The Bangsa Moro homeland is based on historical rights. The Sultanate of Maguindanao and Sulu and the Rajaship of Buayan were recognized by foreign powers — the British, Spanish and Dutch empires. Even the US had treaties with the Sultanate of Sulu. The Ranao Confederacy (Pat a Pangampung ku Ranaw) was never conquered by the Spaniards. In fact, Spain’s only claim to Mindanao was the establishment of a few forts peopled with a sprinkling of Spaniards and settlements of Indios from the Visayas.

Spain had absolutely no right to cede Moroland to the Americans in the 1898 Treaty of Paris because it had not conquered Moroland.

America realized that fact so it signed the Bates Treaty with the Sulu Sultanate afterwards.

In 1946, America had no right to include Moroland to the Philippines when it granted the Indios independence.

In a bizarre twist of fate, the unconquered Moroland became the colonies of the former subject peoples of Spain and America, the Indios who now call themselves Filipinos.

With laws such as the “Colonization of Mindanao Act”, the Indios promptly colonized Moroland by sending millions of Indios to grab the lands and resources of the indigenous peoples of Moroland.

The 1968 Jabidah Massacre and the series of massacres that followed in the early 1970s woke the Moro people from a long slumber. And so the Moros rose up as a people in the 1970s.

The Tripoli Agreement, the Jakarta Accord and the MILF-GRP MOA are but mere setbacks in the centuries-long struggle of the Moros for Freedom, Islam and Homeland.