The Ilaga (Visayan: rat) is a Philippine Catholic extremist militia predominantly composed of Visayan groups (Hiligaynon and Cebuano) mixed deep in Shamanism and amulets that operated, led and largely used by the Philippine Constabulary as a militia force during the 1970s in Southern Mindanao while battling against the Bangsa Moro Rebellion.
Increased tensions in the Philippines since 2008 have since seen the reemergence of the armed vigilante group calling themselves the Bag-ong Ilaga (Visayan: New Ilaga). Since 2008, violence flared up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines after the Supreme Court of the Philippines overruled the proposed treaty for an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The group committed its bloodiest act in June 1971 when it massacred 65 civilians in a mosque.
As part of their ritual, they eat parts of their victims ears, nose and internal organs sure as heart and liver. Most of them have amulets of some sort, even strange smelling oils to make them, as they believe, impervious to bullets and Moro sword strikes. They are also reported to cut limbs, foot and breast of women that they captured.Norberto Manero is the most infamous member of this group,confessed in killing and cannibalizing the Italian priest and missionary,Tulio Favalli.
Moro Civilians Massacred in mosque
Violence attributed to the Ilaga reached its bloodiest in June 1971 with the massacre of 65 old men, women and children inside a mosque at Barangay Manili in Carmen, North Cotabato. The group was composed of Settler villagers used by the Philippine Constabulary to attack Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities. Some members reportedly cut off the ears of dead Moro and wore them around their necks as trophies. One senior member, Norberto Manero, aka Kumander Bukay, also gained notoriety in the 1980s after he was convicted of murdering and eating the brain of Italian priest Tullio Favali whom he had suspected of having links with Communist insurgents, yet surprisingly was released. in a suspected Local Government Officials and military collusion. Santiago (spokesperson of the Reform Ilaga Movement), who is in his mid-60s, claimed that his group had at least 10,000 armed members and 10,000 more supporters. At the press conference, the Philippine Daily Inquirer saw some 300 armed men present. Some fighters had strange amulets, which, Santiago said, “came from their elders during the time of Kumander Toothpick.” The religious yet pagan based amulets are believed to lose their powers when a person using it had done something bad. “Our instruction to them is not to go to battle if they have done something wrong against other people. To follow some divine commandments to avoid accidents that may lead to their deaths,” Santiago said.
Deep scar on peace efforts
The effect of Ilaga extremism is the mutual animosity created between neighboring Moro and Settler communities. Mistrust and cycle of revenge are still felt today due to the creation of this militia. Long cooperative neighborhood is now divided due to past violent experiences. Some Ilaga leaders has amassed large tracts of land taken forcibly from defenseless and overwhelmed Moro and Lumad communities.
- “2 New Vigilante Groups Surface in Mindanao” by Cheryll D. Fiel, Bulatlat Alipato Publications, retrieved September 14, 2008
- “In Philippines, Abandoned Deal Reignites Rebel War” by Blaine Harden, Washington Post, retrieved September 14, 2008
- “Mindanao civilians under threat from MILF units and militias” Amnesty International August 22, 2008, retrieved September 14, 2008
- “The evolution of Philippine Muslim insurgency” by Marco Garrido, Asia Times Online March 6, 2003, retrieved September 14, 2008