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The Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) is a political organization in the Philippines. It is accredited by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which allows it to represent Moro people with an observer status. Currently, the group is the ruling party of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mindanao became a land for new beginnings when broad tracts of land were given away by the Philippine government in the 1950s to poor farmers and other migrants from other parts of the country. Mindanao saw itself as the adopted home of a rapidly burgeoning population of Christian settlers who rapidly encroached on the living areas of the original Muslim and tribal residents, who now began to feel that they were also being robbed of their lands and the economic opportunities they provided. The natives, especially the original Muslim segment, developed a deep-seated distrust of the officials of the Republic, a Republic under which they felt they were being treated as second-class citizens.

Due to this, Mindanao would become a battle ground of conflict. When about 200 Filipino Muslim military trainees were murdered by the Philippine government under Ferdinand Marcos on March 18, 1968 in Corregidor, an outraged group of Muslims decided that the only alternative that muslim or descendant of the people of Sulu which were proclaim Sultan of Sulu "[Sabah Claim)", however violent and protracted the effort might be. Nur Misuari, a University of the Philippines professor, rose to become the leader of this group with the title of chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1970s. The M.N.L.F. proclaimed itself a Filipino Muslim liberation movement and proceeded to start the Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines, in the hope of achieving independence, or at the very least regional autonomy for the Southern Philippines. This struggle would eventually claim anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000 lives; at the height of its strength, the M.N.L.F. could count 30,000 armed men in its ranks.

Seeking an end to the hostilities, the Philippine government decided to hold peace talks in 1976. That same year, the Tripoli Agreement was negotiated by the government of Ferdinand Marcos and brokered by the Libyan politician Moammar Gadhafi and with the support of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The agreement provided for a ceasefire and called for autonomy under the broad principle that Mindanao would remain an integral part of the Republic of the Philippines. Thirteen provinces (eight of which had Christian majorities) were proclaimed subject to the provisions of the agreement, which allowed Muslims their own “courts, schools and administrative system” (according to writer Lela Noble). Furthermore, the autonomous Muslim areas would have “a legislative assembly, executive council, special regional security forces, and economic and financial system.”[1]

However, after securing an initial agreement, Marcos went ahead and held a referendum, which seemed to indicate opposition to the inclusion of certain provinces, opposition to the degree of autonomy presumably wanted by the M.N.L.F. and support for Marcos’ plan for two autonomous regions under central control. The initial ceasefire, which was beneficial to Misuari as it gave his battle-weary troops time to rest (an opportunity welcomed with equal relief by the Armed Forces of the Philippines), eventually worked against the M.N.L.F.'s interests. The group began to suffer from internal factionalism, fragmenting into three main groups. Disagreements between moderates and conservatives arose after the reluctance of the MNLF to hold a violent insurgency. In 1981, this caused the more conservative Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.) to break off from the group. In 1996, a compromise was finally reached by M.N.L.F. and the government. This gave autonomy to the areas with Muslim majorities. The area is currently called the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.


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