President: Manuel Acuña Roxas July 4, 1946 to April 15, 1948 [as the first President of the Third Republic]
Chief of Staff: Major General Rafael Jalandoni, Philippine Constabulary December 21, 1945 to May 28, 1948

July 4, 1946

The Third Republic[1] of the Philippines was inaugurated, amidst the debris of the just concluded World War II. The fully independent Philippine state assumed full incorporation into it of the Muslim-populated parts of Mindanao.

July 10, 1946

The British Empire annexed what is now Sabah, which was ceded to it by the British North Borneo Company. The North Borneo Cession Order in Council stated: “the State of North Borneo shall be annexed to and shall form part of His Majesty’s dominions and shall be called, together with the Settlement of Labuan and its dependencies, the Colony of North Borneo.”

1946 and the immediate post-war period

Major General Rafael Jalandoni was the first Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who served his career entirely with the Philippine Constabulary (PC). The PC role in the ensuing armed conflict in the Mindanao, in the second half of the 20th C, was presaged by the actions during WWII by the 10th Infantry Regiment, PC, in the still undivided Mindanao provinces of Agusan, Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Misamis, and Zamboanga.

Then Lieutenant Pendatun became Governor of the undivided province of Cotabato, which at this time was the most prosperous in the Philippines. It was called the “rice basket.” Governor Pendatun was also the first Muslim Filipino to become Brigadier General of the AFP. Immediately after the war, already elected to the Senate, Pendatun famously voted with Lorenzo Tañada against the President Roxas Amnesty Proclamation that pardoned collaborators with the Japanese forces. It seems to scholars that Pendatun was the successor to the pre-war datu, notably Datu Piang. Pendatun read well the new, modernizing order that was creating a modern Philippines; and the opportunities for leadership roles that were different from the traditional socio-political structures embedded in the sultanates.

1946 to the 1950s

During this immediate postwar period, more than a million migrants from Luzon and the Visayas began a new life in Mindanao.

Sept 26 and Dec 8, 1946

On two occasions, Francis Burton Harrison, in his capacity as Presidential Adviser on Foreign Affairs, recommended launching a protest against Britain’s annexation of North Borneo (Sabah to Filipinos). He offered a fresh translation of the cession documents, by American anthropologist Henry Otley Beyer, as basis for the protest. Beyer interpreted the “cession” document as, rather, a lease. Harrison, former American Governor General of the Philippines, had become a naturalized Filipino in 1936.


The Marxism-inspired guerrilla force, the Hukbalahap, Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, transformed itself into the Hukbong Magpapalaya sa Bayan, or Huk, and openly rebelled against the State. A report of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) criticized the policy of naked repression, on the part of the Roxas government, as counterproductive. The Roxas policy was described as the “mailed fist” or “iron fist” policy against the Huks. The CIA described this approach as “gradual extermination.” Suspects were rounded up, some executed outright, and villages were mortared, shelled, and burned. The rebellion inflamed Central Luzon and Panay.

August 18, 1947

Executive Order No. 82 created Kidapawan into the 4th municipality of the (yet to be divided) province of Cotabato. Kidapawan was a district of Pikit, and thus part of the Buayan Maguindanao zone of influence in the upstream reaches of the Pulangi River. In having been administratively separated thus from that zone, Kidapawan gained a municipal personality as a Christian settler township. When the majority Christian settler provinces named North and South Cotabato were created in 1966, Kidapawan was to serve as capital of the North, which in due course was named Cotabato.

Late 1940s to the early 1950s

President: ELPIDIO RIVERA QUIRINO April 17, 1948 [upon the death of Manuel Roxas] to December 30, 1953

Settlers to Koronadal and Allah Valley, from Luzon and the Visayas, experienced waves of pestilence (rats and locusts), as well as drought, in the rice fields they had barely managed to carve out of forests that they themselves had to fell. Malaria was rampant at almost all the resettlement sites. Rodents that were “bigger than cats” overran the fields of the new migrants, particularly in Pigkawayan, Midsayap, Libungan, Mlang and Kabacan; also in the Koronadal and Allah Valley areas. From an ecological perspective, not available at that time, the rats and other vermin were a direct outcome of rapid deforestation, for conversion into farmland. The migrants endured severe tests of fortitude. Muslim families helped the migrants survive.


The population density of Mindanao and Sulu was 29 people per square kilometer.

1948 to 1950

A WWII guerrilla, the Tausug Hadji Kamlon, staged an anti-government rebellion from a base in Luuk, Sulu. He brandished weapons held from the Second World War, robbing the rich to give to the poor. Kamlon was assaulted in 1950 by as many as 5,000 ground forces, with air, naval, and mortar support. Reputedly protected by talismans, Kamlon escaped this assault that cost the government PHP180 million. A TIME Magazine essay exhibits the dramatic register with which the rebel was narrated during that period: “By plane and ship, Philippines Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay hurried south from Manila last week to a rendezvous 600 yards off the shore of Jolo Island, where the storied swashbucklers of the Philippines, the Moros, were on the rampage. Magsaysay had a secret date with one of the toughest Moros of all — clever, poker-faced Bandit Leader Kamlon…leader of the most formidable of the scores of Moro bands that terrorize Jolo, had agreed to surrender.”


Chief of Staff: Major General Mariano Castañeda, Philippine Constabulary December 21, 1948 to May 28, 1951

A report issued by Malacañang attributed to the “untimely death of General Paulino Santos” the chaotic conditions at the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA). The report pointed out the “evident lack of planning on the rehabilitation of the Koronadal Allah Valley Program from the dismal ruins of war.” These troubles were soon expressed as political polarization. Two camps involved in charges and counter-charges belonged to opposing camps representing the two presidential candidates for the 1945 election: the Osmeña and Roxas camps.

March 24, 1949

The Rice and Corn Production Administration (RCPA) was established to promote the production of the staples rice and corn. The RCPA was soon involved in the resettlement program because its mandate included reserving land for national self-sufficiency in these crops. The RCPA opened to settlement the areas of Buluan in Cotabato, and the Maramag to Wa-O axis at the Bukidnon-Lanao border. The Buluan reservation included the village of Colon-biao, populated by the B’laan people and, in earlier times, regarded as part of the essentially Maguindanao town of Buluan. Colon-biao was to be henceforth called Colombio. Later, in the 20th C, part of it will become Datu Paglas, site of an unprecedented social experiment in peace-building.

1949 to 1950

This two-year period saw the height of the insurgency waged by guerrillas who continued from anti-Japanese resistance during the Second World War, to a class war inspired by Soviet-style Communism. An estimated 11,000 to 15,000 men and women were active during these years as Huk anti-government guerrillas.


A global Islamic resurgence engaged the adherents in Mindanao, Western Indonesia, and Malaysia. Visits to the region by Muslim teachers increased, and new mosques were built. Southeast Asian Muslims traveled to the Middle East for higher education, for meetings with pan-Islamic organizations, and to perform the haj in Mecca. In Mindanao, some of the Islamic societies founded during this time (such as Ansar el Islam) would, in the next decade, buttress separatist ambition, as well as explorations to build an Islamic political party.

April 28, 1950

Congressional Concurrent Resolution No. 42 expressed the “sense of the Congress of the Philippines that North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines.” It sought to authorize President Quirino to pursue negotiations in this respect. The Senate disapproved this Resolution.[1]

August 31, 1950

President Quirino appointed Ramon Magsaysay Secretary of National Defense. Magsaysay reorganized the Armed Forces, integrating the Philippine Constabulary with the Army and creating a unified command under the Chief of Staff, with the express purpose of curbing abuse of the civilian population. Magsaysay offered the president an anti-guerrilla plan based on his experience five years prior, of leading a guerrilla force of 10,000 people in Zambales preparing for the arrival of US forces.

September 1, 1950

Republic Act No. 4054 or the Rice Tenancy Act, provided for a 50/50 sharing of harvests between tenants and landowners. It was already approved on February 27, 1933, but only took effect after WWII. This and other agrarian reform measures represented an appreciation, on the part of the national government, of the agrarian base of increasing civil strife in Luzon and the Visayas.

October 23, 1950

President Quirino issued Executive Order No. 355, replacing the National Land Settlement Administration (NLSA) with the Land Settlement Development Corporation (LASEDECO). The new office also took over the responsibilities of the Agricultural Machinery Equipment Corporation and the Rice and Corn Production Administration. Its mandate was the continuing, systematic resettlement of Luzon and Visayas landless peasants in Mindanao. At this juncture, the previous body, the NLSA, was deep in debt.


By the end of its existence, the NLSA had opened three major resettlement areas: Mallig Plains in Isabela in Luzon; Koronadal Valley made up of Tupi, Lagao, Marbel, and Polomolok, in what is now South Cotabato; and Banga, Norala, and Surallah in Allah Valley, also in South Cotabato. According to one estimate, the average cost for the NLSA to resettle one family was PHP1,325.00 — a cost considered high in the subsequent analyses. The National Economic Development Authority published in a 1997 analysis that upon the abolition of the NLSA, the cost of resettlement of 8,300 families was PHP11 million.

Defense Secretary Magsaysay collaborated closely with advertising specialist and CIA operative Col. Edward Lansdale, to woo rather than aggress upon the Huk guerrillas. Relief goods were among their arsenal. According to one analysis: “As in later American psy-war reform projects, from Vietnam to El Salvador, at least half of the funding for the rural development projects was provided by U.S. economic aid.” They succeeded, and this was soon to have impact on Mindanao, because Magsaysay’s reputation as a friend of the poor would greatly assist his call to surrendered Huk and other landless Filipinos to migrate to Mindanao according to his own resettlement architecture. Col. Lansdale was Magsaysay’s personal advisor from the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG).[1]

December 15, 1950

The Economic Development Corps (EDCOR) was established by law, and put under the operational management of the Department of National Defense. Secretary Magsaysay and Col. Edward Lansdale[1] jointly directed EDCOR. It was yet another resettlement project that brought farmers and peasants to Mindanao, but focused on promoting the image of government giving homesteads to surrendered fighters from the Communist insurgency. The Philippine Army managed the EDCOR settlements in Kapatagan, Lanao (6,500 hectares); in the still undivided province of Cotabato, the towns of Buldon (23,000 hectares), Parang, Alamada, and Libungan; and in Balimbing, Sulu; among others. The University of the Philippines College of Agriculture in Los Baños, Laguna, was tasked to provide the migrants technical assistance. This period, coinciding with the beginning of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, and their satellite and cohort states, produced in the Philippines an extraordinary fear of “Reds” on the part of the mainstream population; and a reflex on the part of the national leaders to find a way to displace civil unrest geographically southwards. When EDCOR was abolished in 1954, the estimated cost of resettling one family was more than PHP10,000.

February 22, 1951

Sixteen hundred hectares of Kapatagan, Lanao (still undivided), were opened for the first EDCOR military-run resettlement site. After the military cleared the forest, the first settlers arrived in May aboard a navy landing craft, the LST, consisting of “retired military personnel, their families, fifty-six Huk surrenderees, some with their families, along with household goods, cattle, and supplies.” The writer called the LST a “modern Noah’s ark.”


Chief of Staff: Major General Calixto Duque, Philippine Army June 2, 1951 to December 30, 1953

Magsaysay as Defense Secretary focused on the “land for the landless” social agenda that, in the hindsight view of many analysts, displaced imminent civil war in Luzon to Mindanao. Magsaysay took the phrase “land for the landless” from the Left labor and peasant organizations, in order to address their collective cry. Magsaysay’s innovation on resettlement involved the deployment of the military in opening up forested sites for agricultural migration; and in building up the support mechanisms (food rations, farm animal, and tools distribution, etc.) for the settlers.

December 31, 1950

Executive Order No. 392 created the Office of Local Government[1] to supervise the “special provinces,” including those under the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. This office abolished the Department of Interior and placed the Office of Local Government under the Office of the President. The direct hand of the presidency in managing social unrest and the social engineering of solutions indicated the gravity of the political ferment in Luzon. Mindanao was not thought of, at that time, as the locale of unrest; rather, as a “land of promise” that may be used to solve problems in Luzon and the Visayas.


In the view of the Philippine Left, then and in later decades, the EDCOR social experiment merely intended to be a well-publicized government initiative to appropriate the call for “land for the landless” from the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Huk Movement.

“In the 1950s to the early 1960s, there was not much [Muslim] resistance to Manila for one fascinating reason: Differences in trading regimes and the degree of protectionism among the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia made smuggling, especially of U.S. cigarettes, highly profitable,”[1] wrote an analyst of militant Islam in Southeast Asia, who continues, quoting historian Thomas McKenna: ”Thus the early post-war era saw the emergence and growth of a vast illegal economy in the southern Philippines, with local politicians in the Muslim provinces (and elsewhere) evolving into ‘smuggling lords’ thanks to their control over law enforcement.” This smuggling circuit also included Batangas and Cavite. It was to be the lucrative circuit, with a focal point in Sabah and Sulu, that President Marcos would use in his clandestine plan to introduce trained destabilizers/commandos from the Philippines to Sabah in the 1960s Operation Merdeka.


Philippine requests for napalm, initially turned down by the US government, was granted in 1951 and used both for crop destruction and anti-personnel purposes. In the same vein, some 15,000 arrests were made in the first half of 1951, a large percentage of which were related to the peasant insurgency in Central Luzon.

August 14, 1952

Republic Act No. 821 created the Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration that provided loans to small farmers and share-tenants with low interest rates of six to eight percent.


The infamous Hadji Kamlon finally negotiated his surrender to a Tausug captain of the PC; and eventually to President Quirino. The Kamlon rebellion was by no means the only Muslim rebellion in the 1950s, but it was the man “terrorizing Jolo” with a formidable band (in the words of journalism of the period) who resurrected the pre-war image of the fearsome Moro in the national imagination.

June 12, 1954

President: RAMON DEL FIERO MAGSAYSAY December 30, 1953 to March 17, 1957
Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Jesus Vargas, Philippine Army December 30, 1953 to December 29, 1956

Republic Act No. 1035 changed the name of Dulawan into Datu Piang. Thus, did the municipality Dulawan/Datu Piang obscure the three-century line of sultans who preceded him as leaders of the Buayan domain. Within the same month, another settlement called Buayan (much smaller) at the southernmost exit of the Buayan River, would also be renamed.

June 15, 1954

Republic Act No. 1107 changed the name of the town called Buayan,[1] adjacent to the B’laan port of Dadiangas, to General Santos. The symbolic turn towards Santos, military administrator of the pre-WWII migration into Mindanao, paralleled the shift of power from the Buayan Maguindanao, Islam-informed leadership, to a settler, Christianity-informed version of polity. Settler-dominated South Cotabato thus emerged at the lowest reaches of the territories of the sa raya Maguindanao. Muslim Congressman Luminog Mangelen (of the still undivided Province of Cotabato), advocate of modernization through settler arrivals, authored the bill. Among other Muslim leaders, he offered clan lands in Central Mindanao to the government for distribution to migrants from the north.

June 18, 1954

Republic Act No. 1160 established the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA), and thus abolished the LASEDECO. The Law was intended “to help speed up the free distribution of agricultural lands of the public domain to landless tenants and farm workers who are citizens of the Philippines and to encourage migration to sparsely populated regions.”


The first woman elected to the Philippine Congress, Remedios Ozamis Fortich, was asked by President Magsaysay to head both LASEDECO and its successor agency, NARRA. Congresswoman Fortich used as base of operations the town of Maramag, Bukidnon. She was respected, admired, and indeed, loved by Christian settlers and Muslim old-timers alike. She not only presided over the actual movement of peoples into the resettlement sites, “Señora Meding” was also active in communications/recruitment strategies; vetting the bona fides of applicants; creating systems for efficient distribution (such as lotteries to establish priority land grants); distribution of rations and farm implements; setting up cooperatives; cross-cultural relations; and arbitration.

1953 to 1955

Remedios Fortich’s reputation as capable, effective, and fair encouraged Muslim leaders to offer to LASEDECO and NARRA their clan lands for the resettlement of migrants from the north. Notable, for example, is the donation of vast tracts of land by Congressman Luminog Mangelen from his clan lands in Central Cotabato. Datu Mangelen, born in Buluan, Cotabato, was elected representative of his province in 1953. It would be both ironic and tragic that this donor of lands to Christian settlers would experience being a refugee himself in the 1970s.

May 14, 1954

President Magsaysay asked Benigno Aquino Jr., a reporter for The Daily Mirror, to be the president’s emissary to Luis Taruc, leader of the Huk and of the Communist Party of the Philippines (the PKP or Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas). Taruc surrendered unconditionally to President Magsaysay, signaling the demise of this Marxism-inspired insurgency (a few years before its Maoist resurrection); and burnishing Magsaysay’s reputation as a president whose priorities are centered on social justice.

August 30, 1954

Republic Act No. 1199, or the Agricultural Tenancy Act, was passed. It governed the relationship between landowners and tenant farmers by organizing a share-tenancy and leasehold system. The law provided the security of tenure to tenants. It also created the Court of Agrarian Relations.

September 20, 1954

By the time of its demise, LASEDECO had opened up to resettlement the areas of what are now Tacurong, Isulan, Bagumbayan, Buluan, Sultan sa Barongis, and Ampatuan, in what are now Maguindanao and South Cotabato.

June 18, 1955

Republic Act 1387 established the Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The university emerged from a brainchild of Senator Domocao A. Alonto, who hoped that higher education could address what was then, and now, called “the Mindanao problem.” It is the only Philippine university with an explicit mission to promote national unity.

August 30, 1955

The Philippines and the United Kingdom signed an agreement providing for employment of 5,000 “skilled and unskilled” agricultural workers and miners in North Borneo. The agreement was not to produce the desired results.

September 9, 1955

Republic Act No. 1400, or the Land Reform Act, created the Land Tenure Administration (LTA). According to the official documents of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the LTA was tasked with “the acquisition and distribution of large tenanted rice and corn lands over 200 hectares to individuals and those in excess of 600 hectares to corporations.” This “Land for the Landless Law” would not progress in the face of the landlord lobby in Congress.


EDCOR, after half a decade of existence, only resettled 1,554 families on 8,892 hectares. Of this number, only a couple of hundred were ex-Huks. But its effectiveness as a promotional instrument for the government was widely regarded as immense. With the military establishment operating these resettlement sites, the efficiency was well documented, and the townships thrived, as they do up to today.

June 1956

Within two years from the establishment of NARRA, it had resettled 10,651 families, “5,914 of which came from areas of high tenancy.” In addition, according to this one analysis, NARRA “served 21,587 settler families in its 16 settlement projects.” In addition, President Magsaysay’s focus on community development (aside from rural social services, agrarian reform and agricultural development) gave impetus to “heightened, if uncoordinated, rural activity.” Unfortunately, the benefits to settlers did not accrue to the traditional residents of the resettlement sites in Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines thought to be unconditionally available for government to alienate.

January 1957

Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Alfonso Arellano, Philippine Army December 29, 1956 to December 31, 1958

President Magsaysay was presented with a resolution by 500 Filipino Muslims, calling for direct negotiations with the British for the return of North Borneo to the Philippines. This presentation transpired shortly after the Governor of North Borneo visited Manila concerning the implementation of the 1955 labor treaty. Magsaysay did not act on the resolution and the United Kingdom High Commissioner for Southeast Asia declined to seriously consider the matter.

November 25, 1957

The Sultan of Sulu, Muhammad Esmail Kiram, gave notice of the termination of the lease of Sabah based on the document of agreement with Gustavo Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent of the British North Borneo Company. The termination was to be effective January 22, 1958. Sultan Kiram (Ombra Amilbangsa) signed the proclamation “for himself and in behalf of the heirs of Muhammad Jamalul Alam,” who originally entered into the cession or lease agreement with the British North Borneo Company in the 19th C. All territories either ceded or leased were to be reverted to the sultanate.


Sto. Tomas, a town in Davao, was opened to migration by NARRA. It featured the rectangular street patterns evoking American style low cost housing projects. The town planning conventions of the US diffused thus into Mindanao.

In one evaluation after its short career, NARRA was said to have been thus: “Though NARRA may have claimed too many beneficial effects for its own accomplishments, it was not a failure within the frame of reference in which it was planned. It made the ownership of a 10-hectare plot of land in Mindanao a reality for several thousand families and a real alternative for thousands more who, even though they did not choose that alternative, were given new hope by the thought. Those who have proposed that NARRA funds would have opened more public land to settlement if they had been allotted to the Bureau of Lands, Bureau of Public Highways, and Bureau of Agricultural Extension for services to pioneers, are economically correct but have overlooked this psychological effect of the NARRA program and its political consequences.”

June 22, 1957

President: CARLOS POLESTICO GARCIA  March 18, 1957 to December 30, 1961

The Philippine Congress formed a Special Committee to investigate conflict situations in predominantly Muslim areas of the country. The Committee report assigned the blame for the restiveness on “ignorance and fanaticism,” regurgitating the colonial view. Maranao legislator Domocao Alonto headed the Committee. One study says that the Congressional Report “acknowledged the poverty plaguing Philippine Muslims but ignored the evidence linking the relative impoverishment of Muslims to Christian in-migration and blamed only Muslim culture for Muslim poverty,” asserting that “In their ignorance and in their trend toward religious fanaticism, the Muslims are sadly wanting in the advantages of normal health and social factors and functions.”

Late 1950s to 1960s

The Muslim populations of Mindanao were, in large measure, outpaced by settlers in their midst, whose arrival numbers have become phenomenal; whose familiarity with plantation techniques produced good harvests and substantial financial reward; and whose access to government assistance was assured by the resettlement authorities. The marked disparities produced resentment and mutually fueled fear and misunderstanding. Fights over water, cattle rustling, kidnappings for slavery on the part of the Muslims, and sundry opportunist behavior on the part of the settlers, would reach boiling point by the mid-1960s. Muslim leaders who offered their own lands for the resettlement of migrants through LASEDECO and NARRA, for the possibility of modernization, had by this time cause for regret.

June 22, 1957

Republic Act 1888 created the Commission on National Integration (CNI) that was given the responsibility of “completing the integration process of the economic, social, moral, and political aspects of the Moro people.” The Act stated: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of Congress to foster, accelerate and accomplish by all adequate means and in a systematic, rapid and complete manner the moral, material, economic, social and political advancement of the Non-Christian Filipinos, hereinafter called National Cultural Minorities, and to render real, complete and permanent the integration of all the said National Cultural Minorities into the National body politic.” The creation of the CNI was recommended by the Congressional Special Committee. Among its substantive accomplishments were scholarships for a significant number of the Muslim students to attend universities in Manila.

May 22, 1959

President: Lieutenant General Manuel Cabal, Philippine Constabulary January 1, 1959 to December 30, 1961

Through Republic Act No. 2228, the early 20th C province of Lanao was divided into northern and southern discrete political units. Marawi City was declared capital of Lanao del Sur; Iligan for the north. The southern division was majority Muslim, while Lanao del Norte was majority Christian. The first governor of Lanao del Norte was a Christian with 19th C roots in northern Mindanao. The subsequent governors of Lanao del Norte were almost a single clan of intermarried Christian and Muslim families. The Cebuano-speaking residents constituted 80% of the population, outnumbering the Muslim population 4 to 1.


The Bayanihan Dance Company of the Philippine Women’s University, having become world famous at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1959, institutionalized and popularized a version of “Muslim Philippines” as a fantastic realm of royal princesses and princes. Costume design and productions elaborated theatrically on the national imagination of Muslim Mindanao.


In both size and population, Davao City had become the biggest in Mindanao. Its residents numbered 231,000; its land area, 845 square miles. The entire Davao Province (subsequently to be divided into three provinces) would absorb 380,000 new settlers between 1948 and 1960.

June 17, 1961

Republic Act No. 3034 created the Mindanao Development Authority and Republic Act No. 3844 established the Agricultural Land Reform Code. Both laws set an order of priority for expropriation of lands. Act No. 3034 stated: “It is hereby declared to be the policy or Congress to foster the accelerated and balanced growth of the Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan region, within the context of national plans and policies for social and economic development, through the leadership, guidance and support of the government. To achieve this end, it is recognized that a government corporation should be created for the purpose of drawing up the necessary plans for regional development; providing leadership in the setting up of pioneering or ground-breaking industrial and agricultural enterprises; coordinating or integrating the diverse efforts of the various public and private entities directly engaged in implementing plans and projects affecting power, manufacturing, mining transportation and communication, conservation, resettlement, education, extension work, health and other activities leading to the rapid socio-economic growth of the region.” The Authority will have many reincarnations.

November 20 to 22, 1961

The Malaya and British governments finalized negotiations that led to the creation of the state of Malaysia. The parties set out to determine whether the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak wish to be incorporated into Malaysia. In January 1962, a commission was formed to conduct such a survey.


Migrant Christians outnumbered Muslims in the Zamboanga Peninsula by a ratio of 4:1. The two Zamboanga provinces had a population of one million at this juncture. Nearly one half of the population of Zamboanga del Sur registered themselves as having been born outside this area.

In the Kapatagan area alone, the 93,000 migrants from Luzon vastly outnumbered the 7,000 Muslims.

There were 1,300,839 Muslims in Mindanao, and 3,846,759 Christians from settler families.

Mindanao demography increased by a million since the 1948 census. The increase was attributed by popular, official, and scholarly circles to phenomenal migration, and not to the expected dynamics of birth and death rates. Two American authors warned: “Although large areas on Mindanao are still available for future settlement, these must be viewed as having finite limits that will be reached and passed in the very near future, perhaps within a decade, if the present levels of migration continue. Furthermore, the recent patterns of settlement on Mindanao, with large blocks of land ending in single ownership, suggest the possibilities of developing land-tenure conditions reminiscent of those that continue to plague central Luzon.”

Early 1960s

More than 40% of the Agusan Province population was born in the Visayas. More than 80% speak Cebuano. The Agusanun Manobo (Manuvu) communities receded into the mountainous spine of the province, but even in these interior zones, Cebuano-zation gained momentum. There was significant migration into the riverine towns of Bunawan and San Francisco.


The eminent historian Cesar Adib Majul tracked the 1957-established CNI and reported that the number of CNI scholars increased from 109 in 1958 to 1,210 in 1967. While political maneuvering ensured that many of the CNI scholarships went to the children of datus, the scholarship program also represented the first opportunity for considerable numbers of non-elite Muslims to attend universities. Among the Muslim youth who availed of a CNI scholarship was the Tausug Nur Misuari, who would found the first large-scale secessionist front.

January 17, 1962

President: DIOSDADO PANGAN MACAPAGAL December 30, 1961 to December 30, 1965
Chief of Staff: Lieutenant General Pelagio Cruz, Philippine Air Force December 30, 1961 to August 31, 1962

A Commission of Enquiry, named after its head, Lord Cobbold of the Bank of England, was formed to survey if the relevant communities supported the creation of a Malaysian state that included North Borneo and Sarawak.

February 5, 1962

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, represented by their lawyers, asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to include the territory of Sabah as part of the national territory of the Philippines. Through their counsel, the heirs expressed their interest in regaining proprietary rights to Sabah and that the sovereignty claim be turned over to the Philippine Republic.

April 24, 1962

The Philippine Congress adopted Resolution No. 321, to wit: “Resolution urging the President of the Philippines to take the necessary steps for the recovery of a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands which belong to the Philippines.” Congress also enacted Republic Act No. 5446 amending the Baseline Law in Republic Act No. 3046, to assert that the “Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty” over Sabah situated in North Borneo. The resolution also read: “It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the claim to North Borneo is legal and valid.”

April 25, 1962

The Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, accepted the cession to the Philippines of the Sultanate of Sulu’s sovereignty claim to Sabah, following the sultanate’s wishes expressed the previous day.

April 29, 1962

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu formally petitioned the Department of Foreign Affairs to have the portion of North Borneo that the Sulu Sultanate owned a century prior, be made part of the national territory of the Philippines. The petition also made clear that the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu maintain their claims to proprietary rights, even without claim to the sovereignty rights.

June 21, 1962

The Cobbold Commission released its findings that “About one third of the population of each territory [i.e. of North Borneo and of Sarawak] strongly favours early realisation of Malaysia without too much concern over terms and conditions. Another third, many of them favourable to the Malaysia project, ask, with varying degrees of emphasis, for conditions and safeguards. The remaining third is divided between those who insist upon independence before Malaysia is considered and those who would strongly prefer to see British rule continue for some years to come.” It is noteworthy that no referendum was conducted in North Borneo and Sarawak, unlike in Singapore.

June 22, 1962

The Philippines filed its claim to Sabah or North Borneo with the United Kingdom.

August 29, 1962

The Ruma Bechara, council of elders, of Sulu authorized the Sultan in council to transfer his title and sovereignty over the inhabitants and territory of North Borneo to the Republic of the Philippines.

August to September 1962

The imminent inclusion of North Borneo (as well as Sarawak) into Malaysia, a new state, impelled President Macapagal to initiate the filing of the Philippine claim. It is noteworthy that Malaysian leader (and soon to be Prime Minister) Tungku Abdul Rahman was among the proponents of a Malaysian Sabah. At the same time, Indonesian President Sukarno — while making clear that Indonesia had no territorial ambitions over North Kalimantan — also supported anti-Malaysian Federation forces in Sarawak, North Borneo, and North Kalimantan. President Sukarno took a strong anti-colonial stand, which meant, in his view, opposing a British Empire-led disposition of conflicting claims in the region.

September 11, 1962

Chief of Staff: Brigadier General Alfredo M. Santos, Philippine Army September 1, 1962 to July 12, 1965

President Macapagal authorized Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez to formally accept, on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, the cession or transfer of sovereignty over the territory of North Borneo by Sultan Mohammad Esmail Kiram, Sultan of Sulu. This transfer paved the way for the government of the Philippines to legitimately negotiate for the Sabah property in behalf of the nation itself, separate from the proprietary claims of the sultanate.

September 12, 1962

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu issued a Declaration entitled “Recognition and Authority in Favour of the Republic of the Philippines.” It states [that] “the territory of Sabah as thus required by cession from the Sultan of Brunei was ceded and transferred in sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines.” It was thought that the Declaration gives legal support to the Philippine claim to sovereignty and dominion over a portion of North Borneo; that the Philippines is thus duty-bound as a sovereign to protect and preserve the contested areas of North Borneo. On the same day, the Republic of the Philippines accepted the cession of sovereignty over Sabah proclaimed by the Sultanate of Sabah.

September 27, 1962

Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez addressed the UN General Assembly, emphasizing the valid legal and historical grounds for the claim; however, with assurances that the Philippines will not exercise prejudice over the right to self-determination of the inhabitants of North Borneo.

December 1962

Sabah and Sarawak were incorporated into the Federation of Malaysia, following the vote of 111 elected representatives. Brunei declined a similar incorporation.


The pineapple plantation and packing company Dole leased 8,903 hectares of land from the government-owned National Development Corporation. Shortly after which, President Marcos, successor to Macapagal’s presidency, retooled the mission of the NDC, according to some scholars, in order to bypass constitutional limits on the land area that foreign corporations could control.

The Senate Committee on National Minorities reported that “lands applied by the natives were awarded to Christians and that government surveyors do not pay attention to the minorities… Connivance between influential people, local politicians and government agents in charge of disposition of land matters were blamed for the occurrence of land problems in Mindanao.”

January 28, 1963

An excerpt from the State of the Nation Address of President Macapagal: “The most important action taken in the field of foreign relations in the past year was the official filing on June 22, 1962 with the United Kingdom of the Philippine claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction and proprietary ownership over North Borneo as successor-in-interest of the Sultan of Sulu. We are gratified at the goodwill shown by the United Kingdom in holding the talks in London in pursuance of our note on June 22, 1962, in which talk an opportunity has been opened for a friendly scrutiny of the Philippine claim, together with the security problems of Southeast Asia. Contrary to allegations in some political quarters, this was not a precipitate action. We have personally studied this claim over a period of years. While serving in the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1946, upon a study of this claim in connection with our successful negotiation for the reacquisition of the Turtle Islands, we advocated the filing of this claim. In 1948, while serving in the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, we went over the claim with an American expert in Anglo-Saxon law in George Washington University who sustained the view that this is a valid claim. When we served in the Congress of the Philippines, we successfully authored and sponsored in 1950, a resolution for the filing of this claim. Upon becoming President of the Philippines, acting on the conviction that this was not only a valid claim but that its presentation was demanded by the national interest, it became our inescapable duty to act on the bipartisan resolution of the House of Representatives on April 24, 1962, that the claim be filed now or never.”

January 28 to February 1, 1963

A meeting was held in London, United Kingdom, where the Philippine delegation outlined the historical and legal foundation of the Philippine claim to Sabah, vis-à-vis the claims of the British delegation. The Philippine delegation was composed of Ambassadors Salvador P. Lopez and Eduardo Quintero, Defense Secretary Macario Peralta, Jr., Senator Raul Manglapus, Justice Secretary Juan R. Liwag, Representatives Godofredo P. Ramos and Jovito R. Salonga, under the leadership of Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez. The Report of the Philippine delegation on the Anglo-Philippine talks held in London, 1963, Manila: Department of Foreign Affairs, includes mention of the response of the British delegation, e.g., the claim is “not well-founded.” At the end of the report is an evaluation by Ambassador Leon Ma. Guerrero, who wrote that “the outright recognition of the validity of our claim [is] next to impossible.”

The report of the London talks was published under the title “Philippine Claim to North Borneo Vol. 1” by the Bureau of Printing, Philippines. The report included a security/strategic angle of concern, articulated thus: “…if Malaya were to be a communist country, with North Borneo under its jurisdiction, there would be created a situation in which a communist territory would be immediately at the southern frontier of the Philippines, which would pose a grave and intolerable threat to our country.” During this period of emergence of the Cold War, Leftist organizations in Borneo, Singapore, and peninsular Malaya were a concern to global powers supervising decolonization.

June 7 to 11, 1963

The events of these five days were described later, on July 21, 1968, by President Marcos: “The Foreign Ministers of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines met in Manila and in a Joint Communique issued by them agreed that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia ‘would not prejudice either the Philippine claim or any right thereunder.’ Furthermore, they bound themselves to exert their utmost endeavors to bring the claim to a just and expeditious solution by peaceful means such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement, and other peaceful means.”

July 30, 1963

The inheritors of the Sultan of Sulu relinquished all rights, proprietary, title, dominion, and sovereignty to the Philippine Republic. Secretary of Foreign Affairs sent a note to the British Ambassador asserting that the Philippine claim continues despite the London agreements on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia.

July 30 to Aug 5, 1963

President Macapagal hosted a Summit Conference in Manila, which Indonesian President Sukarno and Federation of Malaysia Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman attended. The Conference was to culminate in the Manila Accord of July 31, 1963. The discussions led to the proviso that “The Philippines made it clear that its position on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to Borneo. The Ministers took note of the Philippine claim and the right of the Philippines to continue to pursue it in accordance with international law and the principle of the pacific settlement of disputes. They agreed that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder. Moreover, in the context of their close association, the three countries agreed to exert the best endeavors to bring the claim to a just and expeditious solution by peaceful means…of the parties’ own choice…”

July 31 to Aug 5, 1963

President Macapagal launched the idea of a regional aggrupation called MAPHILINDO, consisting of the three entities where reside people of the “Malay race,” e.g., Indonesia, the Philippines, and incipient Malaysia. While the colonial period racial notion of the Malay was soon to be overtaken by the anthropological and linguistic position fixing Malay as a language[1] category, not a “race,” Malaysia and island Southeast Asia would be in the sway of this idea for another half century; as it possessed late 19th C and early 20th C statesmen of this region. MAPHILINDO was dismantled within a month, largely because it was thought to be a ploy to arrest the imminent statehood of Malaysia; and because Indonesia persisted with konfrontasi, a confrontational stance against Malaysia, which Indonesian President Sukarno had earlier declared on January 20, 1963.[2]

July 31, 1963

The Manila Accord was signed by the Federation of Malaysia and the Republics of the Philippines and Indonesia, stating that: “The deliberations were held in a frank manner and in a most cordial atmosphere in keeping with the spirit of friendship prevailing in the various meetings held between President Soekarno [Dutch spelling of Sukarno] of the Republic of Indonesia, and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra of the Federation of Malaya, and President Diosdado Macapagal. This Ministerial Conference was a manifestation of the determination of the nations in this region to achieve closer cooperation in their endeavour to chart their common future… The Ministers were of one mind that the three countries share a primary responsibility for the maintenance of the stability and security of the area from subversion in any form or manifestation in order to preserve their respective national identities, and to ensure the peaceful development of their respective countries and of their region, in accordance with the ideals and aspirations of their peoples.” And, “In the same spirit of common and constructive endeavor, they exchanged views on the proposed Confederation of nations of Malay origin, the proposed Federation of Malaysia, the Philippine claim to North Borneo and related problems.”

August 8, 1963

Republic Act No. 3844 or the Agricultural Land Reform Code set an order of priority in expropriating lands, although covering only rice and corn plantations, to wit: firstly, idle or abandoned lands; secondly, land in excess of 1,024 hectares; third, land in excess of 500 hectares but is not more 1,024 hectares; fourth, land in excess of 144 hectares but is not more than 500 hectares; and land in excess of 75 hectares but is not more than 144 hectares.

Under this Agricultural Code, the offices of the National Land Reform Council and the Land Authority were created. Three years after the approval of the Land Reform Code, the Land Bank was organized. However, it later received only PHP13.6 million out of the PHP400 million supposed to have been appropriated to it. From 1966 to 1969, the bank was only able to buy 10 agricultural estates of about 997.6 hectares.

The United Nations (UN) sent two teams to Sabah and Sarawak to inquire into local sentiment and will about joining the Federation of Malaysia.

August 21, 1963

The Philippine government commenced an initiative to enjoin the United Kingdom to submit the Sabah dispute to the International Court of Justice. The Indonesian government expressed support for the Philippine initiative.

August 31, 1963

Anticipating a pro-Malaysian outcome of the UN inquiry into the wishes of its residents concerning incorporation into the incipient Malaysia, North Borneo and Sarawak declared independence. It was the 6th anniversary of Merdeka Day (the Federation of Malaya’s independence from the British Empire),[1] before the results of the inquiry were reported.

September 14, 1963

UN Secretary General U. Thant, speaking of and concluding the UN fact-finding mission to Sabah and Sarawak, said: “I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the peoples of Sabah (North Borneo) and of Sarawak, have given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future, and to the implications for them of participation in a Federation of Malaysia. I believe that the majority of them have concluded that they wish to bring their dependent status to an end and to realize their independence through freely chosen association with other peoples in their region with whom they feel ties of ethnic association, heritage, language, religion, culture, economic relationship, and ideals and objectives. Not all of these considerations are present in equal weight in all minds, but it is my conclusion that the majority of the peoples of the two territories, having taken them into account, wish to engage, with the peoples of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, in an enlarged Federation of Malaysia through which they can strive together to realize the fulfillment of their destiny.”

September 16, 1963

The Federation of Malaysia was officially established. It included Sabah and Sarawak, under terms spelled out in an 18-point Malaysia Agreement. President Macapagal withheld recognition pending formal assurances that the Manila Accord will be upheld. Indonesia supported the Philippines.

September 28, 1963

Raids began to be carried out by the Indonesian Army and its irregulars along the borders into Sabah and Sarawak. By 1964, Indonesian troops raided parts of Peninsular Malaysia. The United Kingdom defended Malaysia with Australian, British, and New Zealand soldiers in the ensuing battles. It may be said that the clandestine entry of Philippine operatives to destabilize Sabah in the second half of the 1960s, occurred in a larger theater that involved Indonesia.

September 1963

The Malaysia Agreement, which Sabah and Sarawak ratified upon incorporation into the Federation, specified that the title of the head of state of Sabah would be Yang di-Pertua Negara; that of Sarawak, Yang di-Pertua Negeri. These terms, incorporated into the Constitution of Malaysia from 1963 to 1976, referred to state (negara) and federation (negeri), in deference to the state of independence declared by both entities on June 22, 1963 (Sabah) and on August 31 (Sarawak), respectively, prior to the emergence of the Malaysian nation. In the 1950s, both Sabah and Sarawak had residents who worked towards the status of independent states.

Early 1960s

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the intelligence arm of the AFP, had already been spying on Sabah some years before General Rafael Ileto arrived back in the Philippines, in 1963, after attending an intelligence- training course in Israel. During this period, military and political circles working geopolitically were concerned about the possibility that Col. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya would include southern Philippines in a fundamentalist Islamic global domain. Ileto’s new tool kit included the latest communications technologies. He tested this tool kit in Sabah, with the help of an operative Ileto planted as the driver of Tun Mustapha, chief minister of the Malaysian state and regarded as the father of Sabahan independence. The Suluk-Bajau[1] Tun Mustapha, a distant relative of the Sultan of Sulu,[2] was the first Yang-Dipertua Negri (governor) of Sabah. Tungku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, was quoted as saying, “Tun Mustapha is an architect who has planned all the right moves to enable Sabah to join Malaysia.”


The 27th Battalion Combat Team, responsible for assisting government agencies performing mandates related to peace and development, was assigned to Mindanao. Its command post was in Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, close to the border of Muslim Lanao del Sur; subsequently further south, in the equally forested Impalambong, also in Bukidnon. This team was unusual in that, having been organized in response to the Huk rebellion on July 27, 1950, it specialized in psychological warfare. Camp Kibaritan was to figure in an early expression of violent military overreaction to a local altercation: the incident in nearby Wa-O, Lanao del Sur, where soldiers tortured and publicly executed Muslim participants in a cockfight-related spat that resulted in the death of a soldier from Camp Kibaritan.

November 1964

The Tausug student leader, Nur Misuari, founded a radical Muslim organization called Bagong Asya (New Asia). He edited the organ of the Muslim Nationalists League, “Philippine Muslim News.” Misuari was one of the founders of Kabataang Makabayan when he was a student leader inspired by Maoist ideology; indeed, he studied briefly in China (in 1966) with the help of Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The intellectual and firebrand was also mentored by the esteemed Muslim-Filipino scholar Cesar Adib Majul. Misuari was in Manila among radicalized youth groups, through a scholarship given by the Commission of National Integration (CNI). His humble birth in Tapul, Sulu,[1] would have, in previous centuries, denied him access to higher education. Instead, he was among the first generation of 20th C Muslim leaders whose authority drew from modern education. In 1966, Misuari would be hired as lecturer at the University of the Philippines.

October 11, 1965

Chief of Staff: Brigadier General Rigoberto J. Atienza, Philippine Army   July 13, 1965 to January 22, 1966

Proclamation No. 472 reserved the site of Campo Muslim along Rio Hondo of Zamboanga City for the use of Muslims, excluding this area from a government center reservation. It had become clear that Mindanao’s Muslims had to have government intervention to secure tenure of domicile in certain areas. This instrument signals an embryonic understanding on the part of government that the social engineering of the 1950s, involving large-scale migration into Mindanao, had transpired with nearly total disinterest in the original inhabitants; and that ameliorative projects were needed at this point.

July 18, 1966

President: FERDINAND EDRALIN MARCOS December 30, 1965 to February 24, 1986
Chief of Staff: Brigadier General Ernesto S. Mata, Philippine Army January 22, 1966 to January 21, 1967

Republic Act No. 4849 created the Province of South Cotabato, carved out of the large Cotabato of the American colonial period. The province of Cotabato as it was delineated geographically in 1914, was subdivided into two provinces, South Cotabato and Cotabato. South Cotabato, since establishment, has had a majority population of settlers. It encompassed the municipalities of Norala, Surala, Banga, Tantangan, Koronadal, Tupi, Polomolok, Kiamba, Maitum, Maasim, Tampacan, and Glan; and the City of Rajah Buayan (General Santos) — all the traditional homelands of the B’laan and T’boli peoples, with the Buayan Maguindanao traditionally exerting power over the river systems and coasts. Koronadal, the epicenter of migration into Mindanao for half a century, became the capital of South Cotabato.


Unable to prevent President Marcos from carving up the large, early 20th C Cotabato and from clipping his own powers in national politics, Salipada K. Pendatun “faced the prospects of losing control within his own territory as rival datus, with Marcos’ support, renewed their assault on his power…The only way Pendatun could survive this assault was to bargain at the national party level and to sacrifice some of his allies, notably his own brother-in-law [Datu Udtog Matalam].” Writing with hindsight view, historian Patricio Abinales added, “…the cost was high [for Pendatun]. He now was increasingly dependent not on a loyal provincial base, but on fragile and unwieldy alliances of convenience set up by Manila and Marcos. In the 1969, Pendatun was re-elected to Congress but his was a Pyrrhic victory. For as he reclaimed his seat in the legislature, Cotabato’s landscape was transformed into a zone of religious and ‘ethnic’ battles, confrontations that presaged the bloody war of the 1970s.”[1]

Second half of the 1960s

Two American co-authors of a 1967 book wrote: “Virtually all of the original dense tropical rain-forest cover of northern Mindanao has been cleared from the lowlands and foothills in order to bring as much land as possible under cultivation. Where the cleared areas have not been cultivated permanently much of the land has regenerated in poor secondary forest growth or cogonales. Only two areas of mature commercial forest growth remain in the region. Commercial forests are found in western Lanao del Norte along the eastern shores of Panguil Bay, and at the head of Gingoog Bay in eastern Misamis Oriental. The richness of the forest resource in these two areas is attested by the presence of several large logging and sawmilling operations. Some of the finest forest timber in Mindanao is found at these two locations. Large reserves of dense commercial forests occupy much of the interior lands, and although located outside the region, these forests are accessible to the coast operations.” Agusan alone was the source of 10,000 to 20,000 board feet of wood daily.

July 18, 1966

The municipality of Maganoy, Cotabato was created through Executive Order No. 47. It was carved out of the municipality Ampatuan, created in 1959, which was earlier carved out from Datu Piang, created in 1954. (Datu Piang was the name given in the 20th C to the centuries old core of the Buayan datus’ domain sa raya.) Maganoy, today’s Sharif Aguak, was a central Buayan settlement, which originally encompassed Mamasapano, the homeland of Datu Ampatuan Mamasapano of the early 20th C, nephew of Datu Piang.

Second half of the 1960s

Towards the end of the 1960s, the impact of massive migration into Cotabato Province was already observed. The two co-authors of an American book published in 1967 wrote: “The rapid increase in population… has posed serious problems of ethno-religious integration. Points of potential and actual conflict which demand considerable understanding include the varying attitudes towards land and landownership; strong economic competition between Moslem, Christian, and Chinese; conflicts for domination of the administrative and political structure of the region; and the diverse cultural values such as attitudes toward religion, leadership, divorce, and polygamy.”

Timber extraction was gaining irreversible momentum. Of the Zamboanga Peninsula alone: “The excellent stands of Philippine dipterocarps in Zamboanga are estimated to contain approximately 45 billion board feet of merchantable timber, some of which is of excellent quality. The Zamboanga forests contain an especially heavy volume of timber per acre.” Logging company security forces owned and used a substantial number of available firearms in private hands in Mindanao.

It was often the case, during this period, that the logging company security forces would be absorbed into quasi military formations before the end of the decade, as willing volunteers from Christian settler communities that have become anxious over Muslim restiveness related to economic inequality, cultural conflict, and political machinations at local, regional, and national levels. The proliferation of arms in Christian settler hands, in turn encouraged arms build-up among Muslim families.


The AFP was in “back to barracks” status, that is, in peacetime conditions marked by absence of combat operations. It was regarded as a strong armed forces, having succeeded in eliminating the threat from the Huk rebellion of the previous decade. Its successful 1950s anti-insurgency campaign, combining combat expertise, deft psychological warfare, and social engineering (i.e., migration to Mindanao), would be taught in overseas military schools such as the US’ Fort Bragg. Young Philippine Military Academy graduates who went to graduate school in the US would experience a curriculum that included study of the Philippine anti-Huk operations. Psychological warfare a la Edward Lansdale techniques, as well as the philosophy of civilian home defense, was institutionalized in academe.

Late 1960s

Labor and student unrest that culminated in mass protests towards the late 1960s led the military establishment to reactivate units experienced in various forms of physical and psychological warfare. The reactivated units of the military were firstly deployed in Luzon, before a greater focus on Mindanao would be demanded by increasing expressions of radicalizing Muslim identity. Since this period coincided with the escalation of the Vietnam War, the increased military presence in civic life was taken for granted by Filipinos.

At this juncture, Sabah had already absorbed substantial numbers of migrants from Mindanao, mostly consisting of Muslims dislocated from their birthplaces by the problems associated with the mass migration from Luzon and the Visayas. The Southeast Asian Communism-inspired movements, which prospered more in the Philippines’ Luzon and Visayas than in the Malaysian states, including Sabah and Singapore, was to thus, link again in these former British colonies via migration.

Fort Bragg and Philippine Military Academy-graduate Major Eduardo Martelino commenced a secret mission commanded directly by President Marcos through Defense Undersecretary Manuel Syquio. Code-named Oplan Merdeka, the operation to spy on, infiltrate, and invade Sabah, was to also recruit PMA graduate Lieutenant Rolando Abadilla; use the smuggling/fishing boats of young Cavite tycoon Lino Bocalan[1] for transport and cover; and deploy as further cover the newly-signed border control agreement between Sulu and Sabah, overtly espoused by President Marcos in staging his participation in the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).


Chief of Staff: General Victor Osias, Philippine Air Force January 21, 1967 to August 15, 1967

The Arab-Israeli War in the Middle East, occurring during a period when substantial numbers of Mindanao Muslims were studying in Cairo and other Muslim cities, demonstrated to these youths the ideals of Islamic nationalism. The youth would also be made keen, by the events surrounding them, to the geopolitical realm that notably included high-power play by the US.

The man who would eventually head the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Hashim Salamat, came back to Mindanao sometime during this period. Salamat was a nephew of Senator Salipada K. Pendatun; and like the esteemed Senator, was born in Pagalungan.[1] Salamat obtained his degree in Islamic philosophy from Al Azhar College in Cairo, Egypt in 1963; and proceeded to finish a master’s degree two years later, at the Al Azhar College of Theology. His stay in Cairo was partially supported by Egyptian President Gamel Abdul Nasser’s program to promote Pan-Islamism. Instead of pursuing his doctorate degree, Salamat returned to his birthplace (now in the province of Maguindanao) and founded Nur Islam to revive Islam in Cotabato.

May 8, 1967

Through Republic Act 4867, the early 20th C Davao Province was divided into three: Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, and Davao del Sur. The three resulting Davaos had the effect of separating the highly developed, urbanized areas from the hinterlands; the areas occupied by the consumers and traffickers of forest and mineral resources, from the areas occupied by these resources.

August 8, 1967

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was created. It was founded on three principles: respect for state sovereignty, non-intervention, and renunciation of the threat or use of force in resolving disputes. At this time, President Marcos’ plan to invade Sabah was in its final stages before execution.

September to December 1967

Chief of Staff: Brigadier General Segundo Velasco, Philippine Army August 15, 1967 to May 27, 1968

Army Major Martelino recruited mostly Tausug and some Sama youth (18 to 30 years old) from the municipalities of Jolo, Siasi, Tandubas, Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Bato-Bato, and Simunul, all in the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi archipelagos. The recruits were to train in Simunul and promised integration into the AFP as paratroopers. They were in fact to consist a commando unit called Jabidah,[1] to be led by Major Martelino, although the unit was publicly a part of the Defense Department’s Civil Affairs Office. The clandestine intention was to infiltrate Sabah, and to facilitate unrest that would justify Philippine entry into and control over Sabah; or to incite the residents to express support for Sabah opting out of its inclusion in Malaysia. Major Martelino believed that most of the Sabahans would choose the Philippines. He had converted to Islam, taking the name Abdul Latif, and married a Tawi-Tawi resident, Sophia Mirkusin, after whom the training camp was named. This plot transpired as Malaysia and Indonesia were forming their nations, a vulnerable period.

November 1967

Oplan Merdeka training included, “mountaineering, survival techniques, and the use of sophisticated communications equipment, weapons, and explosives in their camp in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. The men conducted make-believe patrols, raids, ambushes, and infiltration between enemy lines. But they specialized in demolition and sabotage, including incendiarism and field communications,” wrote journalists Marites Dangilan-Vitug and Glenda Gloria in their thorough reconstruction of this series of events.

Late 1967 to early 1968

Dangilan-Vitug and Gloria wrote in 2000: “All three factors converged and became the context as well as backdrop for Oplan Merdeka: the fear of a Pan-Islamic movement creeping into Mindanao, a vulnerable federation of Malaysia, and an anti-smuggling operation. All these played into the high-adventure scheme of taking over Sabah.”


The second volume of the Philippine Claim to North Borneo was published in two parts by the Philippine Government. During this period, the Philippine Government would publish numerous papers on the Sabah issue.[1]

December 30, 1967 to January 3, 1968

The trainees from Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, boarded a Philippine Navy vessel to continue their training on Corregidor Island. Reaching Corregidor by early January 1968, the 135 or 180 men (the total depends on the source, respectively, Benigno Aquino, Jr. or Capt. Oropesa) were prepared for war. The Jabidah unit was shielded from other units under training on Corregidor. Some of these other units included ex-Huks from Central Luzon, and included men called “Monkees,” well known then as death squads.

February to early March 1968

According Jibin Arula[1] — the sole known survivor, who escaped what he believed to have been a mass execution — mutinous feeling among the trainees emerged around non-payment of salaries. Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. recounted in a privilege speech at the Senate later in March: “Of the 135 who came from Simunul, 62 signed the petition (demanding payment of their salaries). Of the 62, a total of 58 remained in camp as of March 1, and they were considered resigned.”

March 18, 1968

Following Senator Aquino’s account:

Then on March 16, some 24 recruits were told that a Philippine Navy boat was docking early that morning to ferry them back to Sulu. They gathered their personal belongings and shortly before dawn they were brought to the island pier. They boarded the RP-68, the same vessel that had brought them from Simunul earlier in January. The remaining recruits, however, started to worry about the fate of their comrades. They doubted the assurances of their officers that the other boys had gone home. And with some reason, it seems.

For, first, their four leaders had disappeared. They had not come back. And the recruits worried about these four, their four leaders. Then 24 of their own brothers were taken out. Again, these did not return. Again, the remaining recruits worried. They worried some more. Some feared their petitioning companions had been ‘massacred.’ Then, on March 18, another 12 recruits were told to prepare for home. At 2 a.m. on March 18, the second batch of 12 recruits left the campsite and was never heard from.

So now we have 24 recruits leaving on March 18, another group leaving on March 16 or March 17. At 4 a.m. that same day, another batch of 12 recruits was transported to the Corregidor airstrip, purportedly for evacuation to Sulu. This batch, too, was never heard of, never heard from. Jibin Arula, in his sworn statement, said that upon reaching the airstrip they were told to get off their weapons carrier. They were told to form a line. They were now in civilian clothes and unarmed, while their escorts carried Armalites, automatic carbines, and other Special Forces weapons.

With all the stored-up suspicion in his mind, Jibin Arula must have thought that his time to be killed had come. We can only conjecture at this point what happened. Arula must have made a dash for his life, thinking that they had been brought to the airstrip for the “slaughter.” Told to halt by his escorts, he kept running. His escorts shot him in the leg to force him to stop. He kept going — and the rest is his story. But what happened to his eleven companions? Were they really ‘massacred’? Some say that when the firing started with Jibin Arula, his companions ducked. So that Arula was correct when he said that he saw his companions fall to the ground. But were they shot? Or did they duck because of the firing? The army says that the eleven are alive. As soon as the army authorities produce the other eleven recruits, the sorry mess of Corregidor should find its end. However, if the Army cannot produce these men, the question will press: What happened to them? They, the army authorities, will have to stand the accusation of murder and maybe — even mass slaughter.

Unknown date immediately after March 18, 1968

That the Oplan Merdeka handlers murdered at least Arula’s group of 12 trainees on the Corregidor airfield, is generally believed to be true. Other batches had been removed from Corregidor in previous days, and these batches appear to have survived. Members of at least one group earlier taken off Corregidor would later be found. Notably, this was the batch Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. would meet in Jolo later in the same month during the investigation he personally undertook. Arula’s recollection of firing-squad type executions squares with the narrative provided in 2000 by journalists Dangilan-Vitug and Gloria, who described mopping up operations involving (in the presence of) Philippine Army Chief Romeo Espino. A presidential helicopter brought men of the Army Special Forces, to erase all trace of what happened to the recruits, some of whose charred bodies were tied to trees. The bodies were collected into ponchos fitted with heavy stones; these were then dropped from a flying chopper into the seas surrounding Corregidor. In 1968, the earliest and singularly substantive report was Senator Aquino’s, who included a description from the autopsy report on a PC officer killed with a gunshot fired through his forehead, exiting the nape, also indicating execution. Aquino’s composite account is the generally accepted narrative, despite revisionist positions arising from the rhetorical, rather than from descriptive text/speech. Nonetheless, what has remained irrefutable is that the outrage over the inexplicable disappearance of the Jabidah recruits lit the fuse of the already highly combustible Muslim sentiment against the Christian majority.

March 1968

Activist Muslim youth held a vigil in front of Malacañang Palace to express their outrage over the Jabidah event. The radicalizing momentum for Muslim youth took a turn that was to lead shortly to the founding of an armed rebel group with secessionist ambitions.

March 18, 1968

This date was selected by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as its foundation day, even if the MNLF was yet to find organizational form beyond radicalized Muslim youth groups. The date of the Jabidah deaths was thus inscribed as the symbolic point of no return. The narrative is written thus: “The impact [of the Jabidah event] was an outrage among the Muslims in Mindanao especially those who are from Sulu where these military trainees were recruited. Not taking this lightly, Nur Misuari, a University of the Philippines professor rose to become the leader of this outraged group and he founded the Moro National Liberation Front in 1969. After a few months of setting up the organization, the MNLF officially proclaimed itself a political party in 1970. After recruiting sufficient number of freedom fighters, the MNLF launched a protracted armed struggle.”

May 1, 1968

Erstwhile republican and guerrilla veteran, Cotabato Governor Hadji Datu Udtog Matalam, was so incensed by the events surrounding the Jabidah fiasco, that he issued a manifesto seeking to create an independent Islamic State. In the Manila Times announcement, he called the state the Republic of Mindanao and Sulu. Matalam lit the fuse of separatism. He founded the Muslim Independence Movement (MIM), based in Pagalungan, Cotabato (only two years after it was separated from South Cotabato); and argued for a state composed of Mindanao, Palawan, and Sulu. The MIM was later to be interpreted as the Mindanao Independence Movement to signal the embrace of Muslim, Christians, and other residents of Mindanao in the cause. The MIM Manifesto listed a four-point Declaration of Principles:[1] 1) the Muslim right to self-determination; 2) Islam as the community religion, as ideology and way of life that entitled adherents to a defined territory within which its laws, beliefs and teachings would be safe-guarded; 3) economic advancement, cultural development and political independence inherent in territory; and 4) self-rule.

May 1968

In at least one account[1] (external to the MNLF), the loosely knit student organization that soon became the Moro National Liberation Front was the “student branch” of the MIM at this time. “The MIM was in fact a cover organization for the MNLF…What Datu Matalam and other datus associated with him did not realize at this point was that Misuari’s vision of the organization he was forming was that of a modern nationalist movement in which the traditional ‘feudalist’ position of datu in Moro society would eventually have to be overturned.”


Congressmen Haroun al-Rashid Lucman and Salipada K. Pendatun, Governor Udtog Matalam, and Senators Benigno Aquino Jr., Gerardo Roxas, and Sergio Osmeña, censured President Marcos for the Jabidah Massacre.

June 1, 1968

Chief of Staff: General Manuel T. Yan, Philippine Constabulary May 26, 1968 to January 15, 1972

The editorial of the Cotabato newspaper, Mindanao Cross, observed the irony in that the founder of the Muslim secessionist movement, Datu Udtog Matalam, was a former Cotabato governor. Up to this point, he also represented Muslim- Christian accord. But he had fallen victim to national politics playing out in his province. He was a member of the Liberal Party, to which belonged, as well, his brother-in-law and famous guerrilla leader, Congressman Salipada K. Pendatun. When the opposing Nacionalista Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency in 1965, Marcos moved to unseat Liberals from office through local elections, particularly in such provinces as Cotabato.

June 8, 1968

Datu Udtog Matalam circulated explanatory material regarding the MIM manifesto. The new material emphasized the duty and obligation of all Muslims to “wage jihad physically or spiritually, to change Dar al-Aman (the status of Muslim communities in the Philippines) to Dar al-Islam” and to prevent the conditions from becoming Dar al-Harb. This latter is a concept that viewed territory governed by principles not according to Islam, to be the territory of war. These concepts have changed over time, in different Muslim societies.

June 17 to 15, 1968

The Bangkok Talks were held with representatives of the Philippines and Malaysia, attempting to settle the Sabah dispute after the exposé of Oplan Merdeka. It was the generally held view that the talks failed, and it indeed, weighed down the already compromised diplomatic relations between these nations.

July 20, 1968

President Marcos severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia. The following day, he went on air, in a radio-television chat, reiterating peaceful means to resolve the Sabah claim, and advocating thus the filing of the case with the International Court of Justice. In the same breath, he assured the public of the military capability to engage military aggression when necessary. He also gave the following reasons for the severance of diplomatic ties: “1. The abrupt rejection of the Philippine claim to Sabah, couched in virulent and offensive language which was made by the Malaysian delegation at the Bangkok talks. These talks were held only for the clarification of the claim and to discuss means of settling it. The Malaysian delegation therefore had no authority or competence to settle the claim on its merits. But this the Malaysian panel proceeded to do. 2. The unilateral walkout by the Malaysian delegation and the truculent refusal to continue the talks even when the modes of settlement had not yet been discussed; 3. The unreasonable and arrogant refusal by Malaysia to continue negotiating the Philippine claim through the peaceful means to which both governments have bound and committed themselves in various solemn accords; 4. The Malaysian repudiation of the official understanding to pursue the negotiations at a higher level competent to decide this crucial issue of the greatest importance to both countries.”

July 26, 1968

Datu Udtog Matalam wrote to President Marcos to reiterate the principles of the MIM manifesto and to protest government disdain for Muslims, the redoubling of resettlement initiatives from the north to Mindanao, and increased militarization in Sulu.

September 22, 1968

President Marcos again went on the air on to articulate a policy statement subsequently published as “Pursue Sabah claim by peaceful means.”

August 26, 1968

Datu Udtog Matalam followed through on his MIM call with two additional documents: A Declaration of Policy and a memorandum articulating the Islamic state envisioned by the MIM.

November 1968

Eight officers and 16 enlisted men were court-martialed for their roles in what was already well known as the Jabidah Massacre on Corregidor Island. They were all cleared in 1971. No one has been held accountable.

September 18, 1968

The Philippine Congress passed Republic Act No. 5446, An Act to Define the Baselines of the Territorial Seas of the Philippines, which categorically stated that “this act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.” The Malaysian Cabinet held an emergency meeting, after which Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman denounced Philippine legislation as “a violation of Malaysia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and, as such, a highly provocative act tantamount to aggression.”

October 11, 1968

After a meeting in Cebu City, President Marcos appointed Datu Matalam as Presidential Adviser for Muslim Affairs. The MIM disintegrated with this development. Nevertheless, secession as a valid political path was installed securely in the imagination of the Muslims of Mindanao.

October 15, 1968

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Narciso Ramos delivered a statement (“Philippines brings the Sabah dispute to the United Nations”) before the UN General Assembly, calling for the Sabah claim to be submitted to the International Court of Justice.

December 30, 1968

The Maranao Congressman Haroun al-Rashid Lucman (incumbent during this period), together with Filipino and a number of Malaysian supporters, notably, Tun Mustapha, Chief Minister of Sabah, facilitated a series of warfare training camps outside Mindanao. The first batch of 20 left Karungdung, Tawi-Tawi on the eve of 1969, for Pulao Pangkor in West Malaysia. The group’s clandestine itinerary took them by speedboat to Kota Kinabalu, where they were flown to Kuala Lumpur. They reached Pulao Pangkor within days. There, Malaysian instructors provided the training. Nur Misuari was in the third batch.

1968 to 1970

Batches of select, young MIM affiliates were sent to Pulao Pangkor Island, Sabah, Malaysia for political orientation and training in guerrilla warfare, intelligence and counterintelligence, demolition, automatic firing, and jungle survival from Malaysian officers. According to oral, unverified sources, most of the early trainees were Marxists inspired Muslim students who became disillusioned with the traditional Muslim leadership and organization. They saw the need to form a more aggressive organization to effect change. From these emerged the “Group of 90,” the “Group of 300,” and the “Group of 67,” which would become the nucleus of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). It has since been known to the leadership of the Philippines that elements of the Malaysian government supported this training for warfare.


With the radicalizing effects of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965), foreign missionaries at the frontier mission areas in Mindanao and Negros formed the first Basic Ecclesiastical Communities (BECs). In time, especially after the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC), which was first held in 1971, these BECs were initiated all over Mindanao, with the local clergy and lay pastoral workers continuing what the foreign missionaries started. The first wave of BECs that emerged was formed under the Martial Law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The military and some bishops suspected many BECs of infiltration by the Left.

Small-scale separatist organizations emerged, including several that were affiliated with the short-lived MIM: Green Guards in 1968; Ansar el Islam in 1969; Kalimatu Sahadat in 1969; Lam Alip in 1970; Blackshirts in 1970; and Barracudas in 1971. The latter two groups would figure in the events of the next few years. The Barracudas, some 300 strong by some estimates, was associated with Second World War guerrilla and post-war warlord Muhammad Ali Dimaporo of Lanao, who remained a staunch Marcos ally.

Hashim Salamat was said to have aligned his Nurul Islam organization with the MIM of Udtog Matalam, because of the latter’s “break with party politics, his call for an Islamic state, and his willingness to associate himself with idealistic young men.” In the same year, Nur Misuari met Salipada K. Pendatun and Lanao’s Haroun al-Rashid Lucman, both Liberal Party Muslim politicians. Misuari would come to be closely associated with Congressman Lucman. Through Lucman, Misuari would also be connected to Sabah’s Chief Minister, Tun Mustapha. The embryonic liberation front already avowed the creation of a Bangsa Moro Republik (BMR), comprising the islands of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan. This incipient choice of term would precede the full emergence of “Bangsa[1] Moro” or “Bangsamoro” — meaning Moro nation — in the political life of the Philippines and the world.

The 1st Home Defense Forces Company (HDFC) or the Home Defense Forces Group (Airborne) was deployed to Mindanao in the face of open calls for secession and increased incidence of violent encounters.

During the ‘Symposium on Sabah’, convened by the National Historical Institute, the academic Rolando N. Quintos endeavored to define two aspects to the claim: first, the legal aspects as regards the proprietary rights of the heirs of the Sultanate; and second, the question of political jurisdiction over Sabah. In order to solve the deadlock between the Philippines and Malaysia during that time, Quintos proposed what he thought a just settlement: “Let the Philippines be willing to accept the justice of the Malaysian appeal to self-determination and accept as final the conclusion of the United Nations Secretary General [U Thant] of September 1963, if, in return, the Malaysians are willing to submit the purely legal claim of the Philippines in support of the proprietary rights of the Kiram heirs in Sabah to the World Court or to a mutually acceptable mediating body.”

The MIM open call for secession revived the formation of the Bangsa Moro Liberation Organization (BMLO). Nur Misuari and Hashim Salamat joined the guerrilla warfare training in Sabah. They subsequently left it to form another group, which was only to come out in the open in mid-1971: the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Aside from the two leading Muslim activist-intellectual leaders — the Tausug Nur Misuari and the Maguindanaon Hashim Salamat — the Maranao Abul Khayr Alonto also co-founded the MNLF. Misuari became primus inter pares at the outset, a status he would preserve for himself through the entire career of the MNLF. The secessionist objective — the creation of a Bangsamoro Republic — committed the MNLF to an armed battle with the Philippine state, at that time headed by the most authoritarian leader the Philippines has produced, Ferdinand Marcos. Three grievances were articulated: firstly, the disappearance of Muslim trainees in the Corregidor debacle of 1968 (a massacre in their view); land grabbing of traditional Muslim lands by Christian Filipinos; and thirdly, the disappointment of the Muslim population over the Philippine government’s failure to solve socio-economic problems in Mindanao and Sulu. The MNLF leadership base consisted of youth who enjoyed education in Manila and overseas. Although secession was already on their minds in the mid-1960s, it was only in early 1969 that the name “Moro National Liberation Front” was formalized and adopted. The name was not to be circulated in the public realm for a few more years.

The first 90 trainees organized themselves into a political organization. A Central Committee was formed with Nur Misuari as Chairman; Abul Khayer Alonto as Vice-Chairman; Jamil Lucman, Caloy Bundaying, Utoh Salahuddin, Ramit Hassan, and Sali Wali as members. This Central Committee named their organization the Moro National Liberation Front, but chose to keep its existence a secret, even from key supporters such as Congressman Lucman. Chairman Misuari and the MNLF leadership chose to disassociate themselves from the traditional Muslim elite, whom they regarded as feudal. They also regarded the traditional Muslim leadership to be implicated in the oppression of Philippine Muslim societies.

The foreign-trained Muslim freedom fighters returned to their respective provinces and within the year, formed the nucleus of the Bangsa Moro Army (BMA), the military arm of the MNLF. In Lanao, according to an uncorroborated account of their recruiter, 10,000 Maranao recruits were brought clandestinely into 10 training camps: one camp for every three Lanao towns.

1969 to 1971

About the role of Sabah’s Chief Minister, Tun Mustapha, in the events of this period concerning the emergence of an armed secessionist movement in Mindanao: “The man responsible for Malaysian support to the Filipino Muslim rebels was Tun Datu Haji Mustapha, the Chief Minister of Sabah. He was born in Sulu and had several relatives in elective positions there. He was also a guerrilla fighter in Jolo during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War Two. Mustapha earned the friendship of most of the Muslim rulers in the Middle East, most especially King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi by his demonstrated religious zeal in converting the natives and the Chinese in Sabah to Islam. As Secretary General of the OIC he endorsed the Moro case submitted to him in 1972 and asked King Faisal and President Qaddafi to help persuade other OIC member states to support it. Mustapha provided aid to the rebels and allowed the use of Sabah as training camp, supply depot, communication center and sanctuary. He let the rebels acquire motorboats in Sabah for smuggling of arms and ammunition to their forces in Mindanao and for bringing back rebel casualties for treatment in Sabah. He supplied the rebels with arms and money, either on his own or as a conduit for Colonel Qaddafi. Mustapha believed that by helping the Muslims in the Southern Philippines, he was helping his people. Many Muslims however believed that he decided to support the rebels only after the Philippines laid formal claim to Sabah in the early 1960s, an act that led the two countries to break diplomatic relations twice.” The Malaysian government denied that this assistance was being given, and it has been pointed out that the new state may not have had adequate control over Mustapha.


The AFP revived the Barrio Home Defense Units (BHDU), although purposively to counter Left-wing insurgency and not for the Mindanao theater of war at the outset.


Up to this year, the violence in Mindanao involved conflicts over cattle, land, and uneven economic opportunities. Beyond this point, the conflicts would be described as centuries-old discrimination by a Christian state against a “Bangsa Moro”— retroactively constructed as an ancient pan-Mindanao unity.


Central Mindanao absorbed the most number of Mindanao-bound migrants. In 1948, it accepted 700,000 new settlers. By this year, 2,300,000 migrants arrived. This represents an increase of 229%. The national rate of demographic increase was 100%.


1,584,394 Muslims lived in Mindanao, and 5,610,709 Christians from settler families. The increase in the Muslim population from 1918 to 1970 was 5.3%. In the same period, the increase in the Christian settler population was 29.9%.

May 13, 1970

A platoon of Headquarters Service Company[1] was assigned to Camp Paulino Santos Training Center in Alamada, Cotabato, and set itself up to train recruits. Other units, such as the B and A Companies of Task Force Habagat, also attended to training new soldiers. B Company was called to San Gabriel, Davao City; and the rest of the 27th Infantry Battalion went to Kabacan, Cotabato, and attached to Task Force Pagkakaisa. The 27th Infantry Battalion at this juncture absorbed three rifle companies, an engineering platoon, a combat support company, and a Home Defense Forces Platoon. It had a strength consisting of 50 officers and 850 enlisted men. This newly organized Task Force Pagkakaisa was deployed in the Cotabato towns of Pikit, Midsayap, Pagalungan, Alamada, Kabacan, Carmen, Matalam, Mlang, Tulunan, Columbia, Lutayan, and Sultan sa Barongis — where it was soon to be engaged in a guerrilla war.

March 22, 1970

Upi,[1] Maguindano, was the site of an attack on Muslims, leaving six of them dead and an undetermined large number of their houses burned. The dead exhibited body mutilation. Ears, nipples, and eyes were absent: severed, slashed, and plucked out. Crosses were carved onto some of the bodies.

March 22, 1970

According to several analysts, the large-scale “shooting war” between Christians and Muslims can be said to have commenced when the aforementioned six Muslims were killed in an incident attributed to one Kumander Toothpick of Upi, South Cotabato. Toothpick will be much better known shortly. The Muslim victims’ bodies were mutilated. Myriad similar events followed, perpetrated by these Christian militias, self-named the ilagâ, often recruited into the Civilian Home Defense units and legitimately armed by the State through the PC; and sometimes through the AFP. Unconfirmed accounts place the “organization” of the ilagâ as early as 1968. However, the matter of being organized for or by whom was most likely to have been an organically rather than formally shaped development. Upi was a restive community of Christian settlers and the original inhabitants, the Teduray-speaking people, under the political control of the Cotabato sa ilud (downstream) Maguindanao politicians.

Early 1970

Historian Thomas McKenna summarizes the circumstances that surrounded and evolved Kumander Toothpick: “…the municipality of Upi had been under the political control of the Sinsuat family. By 1970, the tensions produced by postwar immigration to Upi were released in violent responses to perceived exploitation. Early newspaper accounts and letters to the editor portrayed Toothpick’s armed exploits as those of a Robin Hood defending poor Tiruray, Christians, and Muslims from Muslim outlaws in the employ of wealthy and powerful men. Newspaper reports suggest two causes for the outbreak of violence in Upi: “land-grabbing” and extortions by elites. Influential Muslims and Christians had reportedly titled a good deal of occupied land in the area and were using Muslim outlaw bands to gain possession by scaring off the inhabitants. In addition, Muslim datus had been coercing tribute from Christian and Tiruray villagers. The Tiruray band led by Toothpick was originally organized as a response to both those provocations. Later, Toothpick apparently was employed by a Liberalista Christian politician in a violent but unsuccessful attempt to oust the Sinsuats from power in Upi. The anti-Muslim reputation of Toothpick seems to have derived from those efforts.” Kumander Toothpick was the precursor of myriad brutal sects used by the military throughout the succeeding decades.

February 4, 1970

On this date, President Marcos wrote the following diary entry on pages with the Office of the President letterhead: “Everything has returned to normalcy. But I feel that the HMB’s [Hukbong Magpapalaya sa Bayan] with Dante and Ninoy masterminding them are planning some sabotage…Talked to Ex-Sen. Rodolfo Ganzon and Ex-Rep Raschid Lucman and his wife Princess Tarhata…I have asked Roding Ganzon to infiltrate the LP. He says that Lopez, Laurel and Osmeña have agreed on an NP-LP ticket in 1973. Osmeña wants to run again and Doy Laurel may be his Vice. But of course, Gerry Roxas and Ninoy Aquino want to run as President…And Lucman I asked to keep peace in Lanao and to placate the Liberals… Boni Isip, Joe Luckban and Johnny Echiverri saw me. They told me of Joe Maristela and of Ex-Sen Estanislao Fernandez urging the students to attack at Mendiola and plying them with whiskey from a jeep without any number and loaded with whiskey bottles…I hope to see Rep. Salipada Pendatun, brother in law of Ex. Gov. Udtog Matalam, leader of the Moslem Independence Movement, tomorrow. As well as Ex-Sen. Domocao Alonto and Ex-Gen. Alonto…We are building pillboxes at the gates and mortar defenses including baffled walls for my gymnasium where we can seek shelter in case of mortar attack.”

August 10, 1970

Muslims were attacked by ilagâ in Polomolok, South Cotabato, leaving eight dead.

September 10, 1970

Another attack on Muslims in Upi, marked by ilagâ atrocities, left six dead.

Late September 1970

The Ilonggo settler named Feliciano Luces burst fully in national news as Kumander Toothpick, leading a band of men of the Teduray language group. The Teduray, or Tiruray, in large measure a non-Muslim ethnic group, live in the highlands adjacent to the Maguindanao downstream core area that includes Dinaig and Cotabato City. Toothpick’s symbolic self- and gossip-propagated reputation rested on reports of the mutilation of the bodies of enemies (severed body parts strung bandolier-style across the fighters’ torsos, and other flourishes). The bands that followed his example and/or his lead would be infamous for cannibalism, either for ritual or actual food purposes. Their collective name, ilagâ, or rat, worked in Christian settler imagination as a sign of nearly invisible destructive force — clearly owing to the destruction wrought by rodents on their first rice harvests upon arrival in Mindanao. The ilagâ were possessed of various talismanic texts on cloths and small bottles of mysterious oil that they believed made them invulnerable to bullets and bladed weapons. They were used by various mayors, mostly of previously Muslim towns that by this time already had a Christian majority.

September 1970 [allegedly]

It is (still) alleged[1] that the militias self-ascribed as ilagâ and which used grisly terror tactics against Muslims, was founded in Cotabato City on this month by Wenceslao de la Serna of Alamada; Esteban Doruelo of Pigkawayan, who was then running for Governor in Cotabato Province; Pacifico de la Serna of Libungan; Nicholas Dequiña,[2] a former officer of the Philippine Constabulary; Bonifacio Tejada of Mlang; Conrado Lemana of Tulunan; and Mayor Jose Escribano of Tacurong. These towns string up almost the entire north-south axis of the now divided Cotabato. All these towns had, by this time, Christian demographic majorities in what were, centuries prior, Muslim settlements of various types and sizes. While widely believed in Mindanao, the involvement of these individuals has never been proven. What has been incontrovertible, however, is the collusion between these informal, loosely networked quasi militias and the PC; and also, in some documented cases, with the AFP.

December 3, 1970

The ilagâ attacked Muslims in Alamada, Cotabato, leaving 13 dead. Thirty-six houses were burned. By this time, it was widely reported that the ilagâ were at least partially funded by logging companies, plantation principals and local politicians with vested interests in a momentum of takeover of Muslim land and power bases.

December 16, 1970

The ilagâ attacked Muslims in Midsayap, Cotabato, leaving 18 dead and an unknown number of houses burned. As in the previous attacks involving the ilagâ, both the BHDU and the PC were active participants in the murderous attack. Victims point out that the ilagâ were mostly BHDU members.

December 21, 1970

Seven Muslims were killed and an unknown number of houses burned in the barrios of Ahan, Lampugo, and Montid, of the municipality of Datu Piang (formerly Dulawan), Cotabato (the part that today is within the Province of Maguindanao). This would be the turning point towards rapid intensification of rampages by the iIagâ, whose terror tactics were understood in Mindanao, at face value, as an anti-crime (against cattle rustling, murders perpetrated by Muslim brigands, and so forth); but equally widely understood for the underlying purpose of dispossessing Muslims of their land.


The secret training continued for the MNLF overseas. The MNLF Central Committee sent the next group of 300 additional recruits to Sabah. In Mindanao, clandestine recruitment gained momentum; and some recruits were drawn to actual combat where the ilagâ showed strength.

The Philippine Senate Committee on National Minorities reported that until that year, there were no irrigation projects in any municipality in Mindanao where Muslims were a majority. According to one study: “…collusions between speculators and bureaucrats were still common [as it was in] the 1950s and 1960s. Speculators received information on roads to be constructed through undeveloped sections and gained title to the best adjoining lots for later resale. Legal limitations on the size of landholdings were circumvented by, among other means, titling lots in the names of fictitious persons or absent relatives and hiring children to simulate (by using their big toes) the required thumbprints. PC officers were reportedly able to obtain large and valuable tracts of land for themselves.”

The 3rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army — which was responsible for over 16 provinces in the Visayas, responding to Communist insurgency problems — deployed four of its original Infantry Battalions to the quickly intensifying Mindanao theater of war, to form the nucleus of what would become the Unified Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM) in 1973.

Newly arrived from service in the Vietnam War as part of the non-combatant Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG), Fidel V. Ramos assumed the role of Chief, PC; and subsequently Director-General of the Integrated National Police (INP). He would remain in this position until 1986. All PC activities during those 16 years, under his command, would transpire under his style of leadership, which featured a mix of psychological warfare and combat skills.

Late 1970

Kumander Toothpick was received by President Marcos at Malacañang Palace, albeit as a surrender ceremony. Like many Muslims, Congressman Pendatun was appalled, and in a speech given in mid-1971, he said: “The President of the Philippines received a certain ‘toothpick’ at the Palace of the People with all the fanfare and honors due only a visiting dignitary. But who is Toothpick? He is a plain outlaw, a cutthroat and murderer who have a string of criminal cases against him. At the time the President of the Philippines honored him with an audience at the Palace, there were several warrants previously issued for his arrest. But wonder of all wonders, after this renegade from the law has paid obeisance to President Ferdinand Marcos, the latter knighted the outlaw and bade him go back to his kingdom to bear more arms and commit further depredations against Muslims. It occurs to me now that when Toothpick was sent home, complete with military escorts headed by certain Captain Manuel Tronco, to sow further chaos and confusion among the Muslims of that province. With the benediction and blessings of the Chief Executive, he resumed his predatory adventures in Cotabato and expanded his realm as far as into the heart of Cotabato City itself. All along, the military closed its eyes to the activities of Toothpick and the Muslims have strong reasons to believe that this notorious outlaw moved according to a prearranged master plan drawn up by the military themselves.”

End of 1970

By the end of the decade, 30,000 mostly Muslim and also Christian refugees were on-the-run in Mindanao. In this period commenced a half century of recurrent refugee crises — to be compounded as the 20th C ended by climatically-driven evacuations.

January 1, 1971

Twelve Muslims were killed in an ilagâ attack on Bagumbayan, in what is now Sultan Kudarat province. An unknown number of houses were burned. Manila lawyer-delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention presented a memorandum documenting the takeover by Christian settlers of lands, such as in Bagumbayan, from where Muslim families were driven away by terror campaigns.

January 17, 1971

Seventy-three Muslims were killed in an attack on Alamada, Cotabato. The pattern of the terrorizing activities was beginning to set: Muslims were being driven out of towns that already had substantially large Christian populations to wrest or shore up political power with Christians.

April 6, 1971

Eighteen Muslims were killed, 25 wounded, and an unknown number of houses were burned in an ilagâ attack on Carmen, Cotabato.

June 7, 1971

This was the date of the first reported contact with an isolated Cotabato group that came to be known as the Tasaday. The accounts called them a “stone age” people. They were described as having stepped out of “the stone age to the space age.” Manda Elizalde’s PANAMIN was responsible for the sensational encounter and the subsequent media hoopla, which intensified when the Tasaday was featured on the cover of the National Geographic Magazine, on August 1972. However, it was what Elizalde described as a “vast and undulating sea of tropical rainforest” that was to also signify Mindanao’s “untapped wealth” to the Filipino mainstream.

June 19, 1971

Seventy Muslims were killed and 17 were wounded at the site of the burning mosque in Manili, a barrio of the large municipality of Carmen, in the northern area of the old Cotabato. Grenades were lobbed into the mosque, where Manili villagers were asked to come to a meeting concerning the spread of anti-Muslim violence. Gunfire met those who tried to escape. The quasi- legitimate armed bands often included the Muslim-hunting Christian ilagâ. One survivor, Teng Nagli Adi, recalled: “The community was called for a meeting inside the mosque at dawn by PC Captain Langgan. He said, men, women and children braved the rain and biting cold to be able to attend the meeting. We had no idea that the supposed-to-be peace and order meeting would snuff the lives of many of our relatives and neighbors. When all the people were inside the mosque, the armed men bolted the men’s entrance but kicked open the women’s entrance. Then the armed men ordered (my) father to go out and surrender his guns and other firearms, (but) we had no firearms so there was nothing to surrender. They brought my father to our house a few meters away from the mosque and then I heard shots. They killed my father at close range. Captain Langgan then told the people inside the mosque to call on their God and pray because they would all be killed. So, they lobbed a grenade at the mosque and I felt myself lifted from the ground. Then I saw body parts stick to the ceiling of the mosque.”[1]

Immediately after June 19, 1971

Colonel Mu’ammar Qaddafi of Libya took notice of BBC News about the massacre at Manili. He reached out to refugees from Mindanao’s Muslim communities, commencing an aid program and religious activities. This was the beginning of his personal and official involvement in the Mindanao conflict. Qaddafi, at this juncture, was only two years into his long rule over Libya, which he commenced after he led a coup d’etat against the hereditary king of Libya.

The event that would be known, infamously, as the Manili Massacre, was singularly large-scale. Nevertheless, other events produced remarkable numbers of dead, mutilated, wounded, and permanently traumatized villagers and refugees. The horrific murders were perpetrated in large measure by militias recruited into the Civilian Home Defense Units (CDHU) and legitimately armed by the State through the PC; and sometimes through the AFP. The ilagâ also included non-CHDU men, who were ordinary Christian settlers who chose to join up in one or another attack on Muslims.

June 21, 1971

Muslim leaders broadcast a manifesto decrying the violence deployed against their communities and demanding a stop to the assaults.

July 4, 1971

Wa-O, Lanao del Sur was attacked by the ilagâ, leaving 60 houses burned and unknown numbers dead. From the hamlet of Milaya escaped its entire Muslim community. They were tracked, pursued, and then were massacred in a nearby forest. Their homes and lands were taken over by Christians, some of whom were them among the murderers. The Muslim evacuee families have not returned since. They fled into the interiors of Lanao del Sur.


The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari convened a Moro assembly in Zamboanga City. The assembly outcome was a consensus to strip traditional Muslim leaders of their status and legitimacy as spokesmen for the Bangsamoro. The first secessionist organization, Congressman Matalam’s MIM, was dissolved and the MNLF was formally established.

The eminent historian Cesar Adib Majul wrote: “In preparation for the November 1971 gubernatorial and municipal elections, Ilaga bands systematically perpetrated a series of massacres of Muslims to force them to flee and consequently ensure the elections of Christian politicians who belonged to the political party in power — the same party to which then- President Ferdinand Marcos belonged.”

August 5, 1971

Wa-O was attacked by the ilagâ again and 36 Muslims died. An estimated 50 houses were razed. As elsewhere, many refugees did not return.

August 9, 1971

The ilagâ attacked Karuan, Ampatuan, Cotabato, leaving four dead, and an unknown number of houses burned.

August 5, 1971

An ambush of a PC team in Bura, Cotabato, precipitated retaliatory action. Earlier, Muslims had killed Christian loggers. Elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion were sent to reinforce the PC in Buldon. The reinforcement was ambushed as well, prompting the deployment of the entire 27th Infantry on August 9. Initially, 14 Muslims were killed. But it was in Buldon where a more organized Muslim resistance would find expression in the appearance of the so-called “Blackshirts” — armed men associated with MIM’s Udtog Malatam. Buldon was bombarded by artillery and mortar fire for a week. The Battalion took operational control over the Gallego EDCOR farm in Buldon. The Muslim resistance fighters surrendered on August 25 and Buldon was reverted to the jurisdiction of the PC. The 27th Infantry returned before the end of the month to their headquarters in Kabacan, Cotabato.

August 9, 1971

The Battle of Buldon ended with 60 Muslims killed among a total of 100 fatalities. The battle marked the turn to large-scale warfare in Mindanao between the government and secessionist forces. The government, had at this point, already addressed its lack of preparation (due to the back-to-barracks status of the previous decade) and the MNLF already constituted a trained and battle-ready force.

September 10, 1971

President Marcos passed two agrarian reform laws. Republic Act No. 6389, on one hand, changed the Land Reform Code to the Code of Agrarian Reform. Republic Act No. 6390, on the other hand, created an agrarian reform special account that encouraged the creation of cooperatives that were soon known as Samahang Nayon. The highest levels of government understood the links between agrarian development and entitlements to land and produce, on one hand, and on the other, the revolutionary zeal of both Communists and Muslim separatists. However, the exact policy formulations and implementing practices were in due course seen to have uneven, unsuccessful effects.

October 4, 1971

Republic Act No. 6406 created Meranaw Province from Lanao del Sur. This law was only partially implemented due to the unrest and disorganization caused by the declaration of Martial Law the following year.

October 23, 1971

The ilagâ attacked Muslims in Kisolon, Bukidnon, leaving 67 dead and an unknown number of houses burned. This attack brought the ilagâ terror to predominantly Christian Bukidnon.

October 24, 1971

Four Muslims were killed in Taktako, Lanao del Sur, in an election-related attack.

Second half of 1971

Recalling the events of this period, 2010 senatorial candidate Yasmin Busran Lao wrote the 21st C: “The above discussed Ilaga and military atrocities against the Muslims had a strong radicalizing effect on the Moro masses than the Jabidah massacre. This time, some form of mass mobilization among the various sectors of the Moro society occurred, including those Muslim areas where the Ilaga had not operated, like Sulu, Basilan and Tawi- Tawi. This was due to the fact that practically almost all Muslim areas felt the intensity of the incidents. Even the Muslim residents in areas outside the centers of atrocities felt the gravity of the situation as thousands and thousands of evacuees flooded their areas. Many of the evacuees have not returned to their respective communities until now for various reasons, which include the occupation of their lands by some Christian individuals and companies and certainly, fear for their lives.”

November 8, 1971

The Philippine general elections, held late because of the bombing of the opposition Liberal Party rally in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila, on August 21, 1971, ended with the election of opposition candidates to seven seats[1] in the Senate, including Salipada K. Pendatun. In Mindanao, the opposition to President Marcos was eroded. Handpicked by the president, PC Colonel Carlos Cajelo became governor of the newly formed province of North Cotabato, ensuring — not only the rise to the top of a Christian leader with right-wing military credentials, but — the consolidation of a Christian-dominated Cotabato.

November 22, 1971

National elections played out in Mindanao as intense conflicts between the surrogates of the Liberal and Nationalista parties. In Lanao del Norte, Muslims were pitted against Christians, and numerical superiority facilitated Christian win. Special elections were scheduled on November 22, 1971 in Sapad, Magsaysay, Salvador, and Nunungan in Lanao del Norte. The national significance of these special elections in these obscure Mindanao towns had to do with the 22,000 votes that would make the difference in the contest between Alejandro Almendras and PANAMIN’s Manuel Elizalde, both Nacionalistas, who were only a few thousand votes apart for the last available Senate seat.

November 22, 1971

Sixty-six Maranao men and women aboard five trucks, in route to Magsaysay town, in Lanao del Norte, to cast their votes during a special election, were killed when they reached Barangay Tacub of the EDCOR resettlement site of Kauswagan. Some sources place the figure at 39 or 40. A group of reporters who came upon the scene in the immediate aftermath observed the presence of men with the distinctive white cloth headband of the ilagâ, clearly on good terms with soldiers of the local patrol. Both soldiers and ilagâ were thought by the reporters to have perpetrated the crime. This massacre advanced the widespread perception, among Mindanao’s Muslims, of State support for terror, if not State-operated. Muslims accused the government of genocide. According to anthropologist G. Carter Bentley: “The Tacub Massacre set off an intensifying spiral of violence as Muslim irregulars and government troops each sought revenge for wrongs suffered at the hands of the other. The massacre had outraged Muslims throughout the Philippines, and had drawn international attention…In this expanded conflict, all Muslim belligerents in Lanao came to be called Barracudas, so that the name lost its earlier association with [Ali] Dimaporo.” Dimaporo was a Maranao leader who had always sided with President Marcos.

End of November 1971

“Due in large part to voter fraud, illegal payoffs, and gerrymandering, the November 1971 elections saw many municipalities which were formerly under Muslim control fall to Christian politicians. At this point, there was a lull in the battles between Muslim groups on the one hand and the Ilagas and the Philippine Army on the other,” wrote historian Cesar Adib Majul.

October to December 1971

An estimated 500 bolo-armed farmers occupied part of the 3,401 hectares of the Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon. The occupation by these members of the Federation of Free Farmers lasted three months. The crisis was the culmination of a drawn-out conflict about land ownership, that involved settlers, the university, and indigenous peoples; and that began with the move of the university to Musuan in 1946. Indigenous peoples and peasants were increasingly restive as well, and ready for overt political action. The armed Left prospered in relation to this restiveness.

November 1971

The ilagâ attacked Siay, Zamboanga del Sur, leaving an unknown number of dead and of houses burned. At this juncture, ilagâ depredations were no longer confined to the Central Mindanao area.

December 1971

The ilagâ attacked Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, leaving an unknown number of dead and of houses burned.

More than 100,000 refugees were pushed on the road before the year was over. A substantial number — predominantly Muslim — would never return to their birthplaces. Many Christian settlers also left their homesteads. But in large measure, Christian settlers took over the lands of Muslim refugees, either immediately after the massacres and evacuations; or at later times, when it was untenable for the Muslims to come back to the sites of their former homes and farms. There were substantial numbers of cases when the Muslim families chose to sell far below actual cost of land, to Christians who have already in any case taken over their previous properties.


No accurate aggregate figures have been gathered to provide a true picture the conflict thus far. But in 1971, newspaper reports showed figures that can be tallied. Homes were razed to the ground thus: 50 houses in Carmen, North Cotabato; 18 houses in Pikit, North Cotabato; 25 houses in Kidapawan, North Cotabato; 22 houses in Buldon, North Cotabato; and 50 houses in Wa-O, Lanao del Norte. Entire families (and domestic animals) were killed indiscriminately. Mutilation of corpses and cannibalism continued to be reported — repeatedly and consistently — during this and the other horrific events during this period.

January 15, 1972

The government took eight Muslim ambassadors on a tour of Mindanao to show that the charges of genocide were exaggerated. These were the ambassadors of Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The visitors agreed that the prevailing troubles did not constitute genocide, but that Muslims, nevertheless, have to be protected.

January 22, 1972

The ilagâ attacked Palembang, in what is now South Cotabato, leaving an unknown number of dead and of houses burned.


At this juncture, Muslim ownership of lands had been reduced to 30% of Mindanao.

January 15, 1972

Chief of Staff: Brigadier General Romeo C. Espino, Philippine Army January 15, 1972 to August 15, 1981

General Yan, the youngest soldier to have served as Chief of Staff of the AFP, resigned his post in 1972 to avoid involvement in the implementation of Martial Law.

February 29 to March 4, 1972

The 3rd Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, took up the problems of the Muslims of southern Philippines. The ICFM resolved to raise the problems at the 7th Conference of the Research Academy of the al-Azhar University of Egypt, which was scheduled to meet in Cairo on September 9, 1972. ICFM Resolution No. 12/3, “The Conditions of Muslims in the Philippines,” states that “The Conference, having reviewed the condition of Muslims in the Philippines and the information it has received from the Secretary General; Expresses serious concern over the plight of Muslims living in the Philippines; and Deems it necessary to seek the good offices of the Government of the Philippines to guarantee the safety and property of the Muslims there as citizens of that country. Their problems should be thoroughly considered and satisfactory solutions thereof should be worked out immediately.”

September 9, 1972

The Islamic Conference Organization (OIC) passed a resolution expressing grave concern over the situation of Muslim Filipinos.

End of 1960s to early 1970s

From 1969 to 1970, Mindanao was the source of 90% of wood veneer products and 76% of the period’s commercial logs. While in 1960, Mindanao retained 60% forest cover (15% lower than the 75% forest cover in 1900), from 1960 onwards, logging will take out an average of 210,000 hectares annually. Marcos cronies and military officers had already captured all logging licenses in Mindanao.