Looking back at the armed conflict in Mindanao

By: Alyssa Aquino
August 08, 2017
2148

Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to declare an all-out war against the terrorist groups in Mindanao, insisting peace talks does not work with them.

Estrada is standing behind Duterte in placing Mindanao under martial law amid the ongoing clashes between government troops and Maute group terrorists in Marawi City. He also said that the president should take a step further in dealing with the situation in Marawi City by declaring an all-out war against the terrorists, noting that “it’s about time” terrorism in the region is wiped out . The former president said he would even suggest that an all-out military offensive be conducted to flush out terrorists in Mindanao, similar to what he did in 2000 when he ordered an "all-out war policy" against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) following a series of terrorist attacks in the southern islands.

TRACING BACK THE MUSLIM CONFLICT IN MINDANAO
Following the alleged killing of Moro soldiers by members of the Armed Forces of the Phiilippines (AFP), Muslim rebels led by Nur Misuari in the southern region of Mindanao formed the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1970. Then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to contain what he described as growing Muslim and communist insurgencies. Marcos attempted a peace settlement of the conflict with the Moro rebels realizing that a purely military solution to the problem was not feasible. At the height of the MNLF rebellion, the Marcos regime sought the intercession of Libya in the signing of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the MNLF. The accord provided for an immediate cessation of armed hostilities between the two parties and established the framework for an autonomous region for the Muslims in Mindanao.

PEACE TALKS
After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos, the Aquino administration launched peace talks with the MNLF. The Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was then signed into law. President Fidel Ramos continued the policy of his predecessor and met success with his peace initiative when the MNLF leadership. Nur Misuari signed a peace accord with the government in September 1996. The Agreement provided for the establishment of an interim institution called the Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), to be headed by Misuari, which would be responsible for supervising and coordinating development projects in an area designated as the Special Zone for Peace and Development (SZOPAD).

ALL-OUT WAR
By the time of President Joseph Estrada’s election in 1998, the threat was no longer emanating from the MNLF as most of its leading officials had joined government or were elected local government officials with tacit support from the administration. The new challenge was emanating from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a breakaway group from the MNLF, headed by Hashim Salamat operating largely in Central Mindanao. In response to alleged atrocities committed by the MILF, President Estrada declared an “all-out war policy” in April 2000 and mobilized a large military contingent to capture several MILF camps, including its main headquarters in Camp Abubakar. Although the assault was successful on the surface, it failed to crush the MILF which chose to avoid direct confrontation by splintering into smaller groups and hiding in the remote areas of the region.

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