At the Senate investigation, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal enumerated some of the injustices wrought against Moros throughout history.
By DEE AYROSO
At the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano operations on Feb. 12, Mohagher Iqbal tried to give a brief picture of why the Moro people have turned to armed struggle.
“We were the first ones to become victims,” said the MILF leader, in response to Senator Allan Peter Cayetano’s statements blaming the MILF for the conflict in Mindanao.
Iqbal said that after Moros fought should-to-shoulder with Christians against the Japanese colonizers in World War II, the government has passed many oppressive laws, such as the Quirino-Recto colonization of Mindanao, which treated the island as “colony.” He said the government thought of “the ultimate solution to the Moro problem” by settling people from Luzon and Visayas to Mindanao.
In 1968, there was the Jabidah Massacre, where Moro youths recruited to reclaim Sabah were gunned down in Corregidor Island, after some tried to report to higher ups about hardships in their covert training.
Iqbal said the incident was an “eye-opener” for many Moros. Then a student in Manila, he joined demonstrations, including the nine-day protest in Malacañang, to seek justice for the victims.
Moro leaders led by Cotabato governor Datu Udtug Matalam formed the Mindanao Independence Movement. In turn, Christians formed the “Ilaga,” a vigilante group, which was responsible for killing “tens of thousands of Moros,” Iqbal said.
“The Moros saw that the fight was not fair,” Iqbal said. And this was the turning point, when Moros took up arms. The secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was formed in 1969 by Nur Misuari.
During martial law, various massacres were committed by the Philippine government through its military, and Iqbal enumerated some of them at the senate hearing:
“On June 19, 1971, there was the Manili massacre, with 70 dead; on Oct. 24, 1971, 66 were dead in what was Magsaysay in Lanao (del Norte); in Taktako, four were killed on Nov. 22, 1971; in Pata island massacre, February 1981, there were 2,000 dead, but according to government there were only 750 dead; Patikul (Sulu) massacre, Oct 1977, 600 dead; and there were also those killed in Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, more than 1,000, women, children, the elderly.”
“Up to now there is no justice,” Iqbal said.
“We organized because it was not a fair match,” Iqbal said. “It would be on the same level if we use arms,” he said.
The MILF was formed in 1978, dissatisfied with the MNLF’s peace talks with the Marcos regime.
The MNLF later signed a peace agreement with the Corazon Aquino government. Later, in 1997, the MILF also entered in its own peace agreement, this time with the Ramos administration.
Seventeen years later, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (Cab) was signed with the Philippine government under President Aquino.