Moro Islamic Liberation Front

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Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Participant in Moro conflict
Flag of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.svg
Flag of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Active 1978 – March 27, 2014 (As a fighting force)[1]
Ideology Islamic democracy
Leaders Al-Hadj Murad Ibrahim
Headquarters Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao
Area of operations Mindanao, Philippines
Allies Philippines Government of the Philippines
Malaysia Government of Malaysia[2]

Abu Sayyaf

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF; Arabic: جبهة تحرير مورو الإسلامية‎‎ Jabhat Tahrīr Moro al-ʿIslāmiyyah) is a Moro group based in Mindanao, Philippines seeking an autonomous region of the Moro people from the central government.[3] The group has a presence in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, Palawan, Basilan, and other neighbouring islands.[4]


A Bangsamoro fighter trains with an M60 machine gun.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is a Moro and Lumad group formed in the 1960s following the alleged Jabidah massacre to achieve greater Bangsamoro autonomy in the southern Philippines.[5] The MNLF took part in terrorist attacks and assassinations to achieve their goals.[6][7] The government in Manila sent troops into the southern Philippines to control the insurgency. In 1976, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered a negotiation between the Philippine government and MNLF Leader Nur Misuari which led to the signing of the MNLF-GRPH Tripoli Agreement of 1976 wherein the MNLF accepted the Philippine government's offer of semi-autonomy of the regions in dispute.[8]

The signing of this agreement brought about a serious rift[9] in MNLF leadership, leading to the formation of a breakaway group in 1977 by Hashim Salamat and 57 MNLF officers. The group was initially known as "The New Leadership". Misuari expelled Salamat in December 1977, after which Salamat moved his new organization first to Cairo, Egypt and then, in 1980, to Lahore, Pakistan, where it engaged in diplomatic activities. This organization was formally established in 1984 as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.[8] Muammar Gaddafi became a longstanding supporter of the MILF after its emergence.[10][11][12]

In January 1987, the MNLF accepted the Philippine government's offer of semi-autonomy[9] of the regions in dispute, subsequently leading to the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao on 6 November 1990. The MILF, however, refused to accept this offer and continued their insurgency operations. A general cessation of hostilities between the government in Manila and the MILF was signed in July 1997 but this agreement was abolished in 2000 by the Philippine Army under the administration of Philippine President Joseph Estrada. In response, the MILF declared a jihad against the government, its citizens and supporters. Under President Gloria Arroyo, the government entered into a cease-fire agreement with the MILF and resumed peace talks.[13]

Despite peace negotiations and the cease-fire agreement, the MILF attacked government troops in Maguindanao resulting in at least twenty-three deaths in January 2005. The combined armies of the MILF and Abu Sayyaf were involved in days of fighting which necessitated government troops using heavy artillery to engage rebel forces.

The bombing incident in Davao Airport in 2003 which the Philippine government blamed on MILF members,[14] raised speculation that the peace negotiations might be ineffectual in bringing peace to Mindanao if the MILF is unable to control its operatives. The MILF denies ties with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, although Jemaah Islamiyah is considered to have provided them with training facilities in areas they control.[15][16] The MILF also continues to deny connections with Al-Qaeda, though it has admitted to sending around 600 volunteers to Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and that Osama Bin Laden sent money to the Philippines, though the group denies directly receiving any payment.[17]

From June 28 to July 6, 2006, conflict between the MILF and armed civilian volunteers under Maguindanao Province governor Andal Ampatuan who were supported by the Philippine Army had been reported. The fighting began after governor Ampatuan blamed the MILF for a June 23 bomb attack on his motorcade, which killed five in his entourage. The MILF denied responsibility, but Ampatuan sent police and civilian volunteers to arrest MILF members connected to the attack. Four thousand families were reported displaced by the fighting that followed, which was ended by a cease-fire agreement signed on July 10 and 11.[18]

Talks between the MILF and the government collapsed in 2008 after a Supreme Court decision in Sema vs. COMELEC which rejected a preliminary accord that would have expanded the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. In 2011, the MILF withdrew their demands for independence, instead saying that they would pursue substate status, likened to a U.S. state instead of independence from the Philippines.[19]


Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain[edit]

On August 4, 2008, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the Government and the MILF from officially signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which would conclude all dispute and begin formal talks that would lead to the drafting and eventual signing of a Final Comprehensive Compact between the two groups.[20] The Court accepted motions by the southern provincial governments that object to the extended boundaries for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao envisioned in the peace deal. The MOA-AD would have allowed the Moro people gained control of the region under the concept of human rights with the right to establish a police force and to control natural resources.[21]

The MOA-AD was initialed by former governor and peace panel chair Rodolfo García and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on July 27 in Malaysia. It was scheduled for formal signing on August 5, but the Supreme Court issued no negotiation preventing the executive department from signing the agreement.[22] The MOA-AD is the last of several agenda items under the 2001 agreement of the GRP-MILF. after security and relief and rehabilitation, prior to the discussion on the political settlement.[22]

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) appealed to the public not to be afraid of the MOA-AD and to "open your hearts to the Moro grievance".[23] The YMPN said in a statement dated August 21:

"In these times of hardship, we hold hands as one, with our Christian and Islamic neighbours, in the name of peace, acceptance and justice. We are committed to democratic and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Do not be afraid of the MOA-AD. To the national public, open your hearts to the Moro grievance.[23] "

Over the next month, several MILF commanders were tagged by government officials as having initiated an offensive campaign. This was responded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which immediately deployed ten battalions composed of a total of 6,000 soldiers into Mindanao under the command of Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna.[24] The violence displaced over 600,000 people and left about 300 dead.[25]

On October 14, 2008, the Court conducted a series of divided votes declared "contrary to law and the Constitution" the MOA-AD of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Tripoli Agreement of Peace on 2001. The document of Conchita Carpio-Morales ruled: "In sum, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation process. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof. It illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined."[26][27][28]

Civil society organizations such as Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society had submitted a Motion for Reconsideration. However, the Supreme Court affirmed its October 14 ruling that declared unconstitutional the initialed MOA-AD between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on November 21, 2008.[22]

MILF soldiers offered to help free the Irish priest father Michael Sinott, who was kidnapped in the Philippines on October 14, 2009 and sought permission to deploy about 100 of its soldiers in the area where Sinnott is believed to be held. However it was turned down by the Philippine government.

Modification of demands[edit]

On September 23, 2010, Mohagher Iqbal said that the MILF will pursue a substate, likened to a U.S. state, instead of independence from the Philippines. The Muslim substate would not exercise power over national defense, foreign affairs, currency and coinage, and postal services, which the central government exercises. Igbal further added that the substate would not have its own armed forces but instead would have troops for internal security.[29]

Peace talks[edit]

On October 7, 2012, President Benigno Aquino announced a peace deal with the MILF and that "This framework agreement paves the way for a final and enduring peace in Mindanao". MILF Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar is quoted as saying "We are very happy. We thank the president for this." The deal was signed on October 15, 2012. Its aim is to pave the way to enduring peace between the two parties by officially envisaging an autonomous region in Mindanao.[30] According to the framework, this semi-independent Muslim area would have a more just share of revenues from the extraction of its own plentiful resources, budgetary autonomy, its own police, and sharia law only for Muslims.[31] In exchange for this, the MILF will stop armed movements against the government for autonomy and will allow the national government to retain its control of national security and foreign policy.[32] The autonomy agreement to be gradually implemented will also rename the region Bangsamoro after the Moro people.[33]

Chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the government was cautiously optimistic for a final agreement soon following six days of talks on July 13, 2013. He said: "This signing indicates that both sides are really committed to finish the peace negotiations. Nobody wants this not to reach its fruition." The agreement would see government allowances for the MILF to have a 75 percent share of earnings from natural resources and metallic minerals in a proposed autonomous region. For other energy resources, earnings would be split equally in accordance with Malaysia-brokered talks.[34]

Peace agreement[edit]

On January 24, 2014, Philippine government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal signed a peace agreement in Kuala Lumpur. The agreement would pave the way for the creation of the new Muslim autonomous entity called "Bangsamoro" under a law to be approved by the Philippine Congress. The government aims to set up the region by 2016. The agreement calls for Muslim self-rule in parts of the southern Philippines in exchange for a deactivation of rebel forces by the MILF. MILF forces would turn over their firearms to a third party selected by the MILF and the Philippine government. A regional police force would be established, and the Philippine military would reduce the presence of troops and help disband private armies in the area.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Isak Svensson (November 27, 2014). International Mediation Bias and Peacemaking: Taking Sides in Civil Wars. Routledge. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-135-10544-0. 
  3. ^ Orlando de Guzman (May 6, 2003). "Online Article:The Philippines' MILF rebels, Last accessed 23 October 2006". BBC News. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  4. ^ Philippines CIA World Factbook, 2006
  5. ^ "Guide to the Philippines conflict". BBC News. December 18, 2009. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Retrieved April 2, 2009 (12.20 GMT)". February 15, 2002. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ John Pike. "Retrieved April 2, 2009 (12.21 GMT)". Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Abuza, Zachary (2003). Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: crucible of terror. Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 39, 115 (note 3). ISBN 978-1-58826-237-0. 
  9. ^ a b "The CenSEI Report (Vol. 2, No. 13, April 2-8, 2012)". Scribd. 
  10. ^ Geoffrey Leslie Simons. Libya: the struggle for survival. p. 281. 
  11. ^ "A Rogue Returns - Libya quietly makes a comeback". AIJAC. February 2003. 
  12. ^ Qaddafi, terrorism, and the origins of the U.S. attack on Libya (1990). Brian Lee Davis
  13. ^ "In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front". Terrorism - Terrorist Network. Archived from the original on July 9, 2008. 
  14. ^ President: MILF has until June 1 to cut terror links, Guinto, J. Philippine - Daily Inquirer, 13 May (2003)
  15. ^ "MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base". Archived from the original on December 27, 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Terrorism - Terrorist Network - In the Spotlight: Moro Islamic Liberation Front". February 15, 2002. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  17. ^ Tentacles of terror: Al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian network, Abuza, Z. Contemporary Southeast Asia 24(3),(2002)
  18. ^ Buffer zones set up to prevent CVO-MILF clashes in Maguindanao , Carolyn Arguillas,, July 10, 2006
  19. ^ "Philippine Muslim Rebels Drop Independence Demand". September 23, 2011. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. 
  20. ^ ", Philippines high court blocks signing of regional peace agreement". August 4, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  21. ^ Parameswaran, Prashanth (August 18, 2008). "Preserving the Southern Philippines' Threatened Peace Deal". World Politics Review. Retrieved January 14, 2009. 
  22. ^ a b c Arguillas, C. (2008), SC affirms Oct. 14 ruling on "unconstitutional" MOA-AD, Mindanews
  23. ^ a b Mindanews (2009), Young Moro group appeals to public: "open your hearts to the Moro grievance", Mindanews
  24. ^ Mindanaws (2009), Military starts operations against Bravo, Mindanews
  25. ^ Gallardo, F. (2009), Thousands line up road for Mindanao Peace Power Day, Mindanews
  26. ^ ", SC Declares MOA-AD Unconstitutional". 
  27. ^ "abs-cbnnews, Palace loses ancestral domain case with 8-7 SC vote". October 14, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Peace adviser committed 'grave abuse of authority'". October 14, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  29. ^ Philippine Muslim rebels drop independence demand, ABC News International.
  30. ^ "Rebel leaders, Filipino officials sign landmark peace deal -". CNN. October 16, 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  31. ^ "The Bangsamoro roadshow". The Economist. December 17, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Philippines and Muslim rebels agree peace deal". BBC. October 7, 2012. 
  33. ^ "Philippines and Muslim rebels agree peace deal". BBC News. October 7, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Philippines and rebels reach 'wealth deal'". 
  35. ^ "Philippine peace breakthrough". Bangkok Post. January 25, 2014. 

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