The genocidal war against Muslims during the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos was what prompted the Moros to embrace armed struggle, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.
Murad made the statement during his unprecedented visit to Camp Aguinaldo—the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines—on Monday.
However, Murad said that based on the teaching of Islam and the Code of Conduct of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF never considered the Armed Forces of the Philippines or any soldier of the republic as their enemy.
"What we have always considered the enemy is oppression and injustice. In the pursuit of our struggle for the right to self-determination of our people, we saw AFP then as an instrument of injustices committed against our people, such as the loss of our homeland, discrimination, prejudices, massacres, as well as the denial of our freedom to practice our religion," Murad said in a joint press conference with Armed Forces Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez, Jr.
"This was especially true during the Martial Law years of the Marcos regime," he added.
"The resort to an armed struggle was a last and difficult option from what we view then was a genocidal war being pursued by the Marcos regime against our people."
Murad cited the 1971 Manili massacre and the 1974 Malisbong massacre, in which more than 1,500 Moros were killed, if not raped and robbed of their homes, which were razed by government forces.
There was also the 1968 Jabidah massacre, also already during Marcos's presidency, in which Moro trainees were reportedly killed by their military handlers on Corregidor. It is largely seen as one of the causes of the Moro insurgency in the Philippines.
“There was a series of massacres. There’s the Manili, Malisbong…the massacre worsened in when the Martial Law was declared [in September 1972]. The atrocities of government forces worsened, maraming namatay na mga Moro. That’s why we organized [ourselves] in defense,” Murad said.
He clarified that the military has since undergone a gradual transformation, starting with its decision to side with the people during the 1986 People Power Revolution which ousted Marcos from Malacañang after a two-decade rule.
Murad also cited the Armed Forces’ refusal to engage the MILF in a full-scale war in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident in January 2015, in which 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops were killed by a combined force of MILF fighters and members of other rebel groups due to non-coordination of the operation to arrest and capture terrorist Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir alias Marwan between police and military forces.
“The Armed Forces has taken the path of justice and professionalism despite many challenges. Peace won and war was defeated,” Murad said.
“This singular incident [Mamasapano] restored our faith in the professionalism of Armed Forces and renewed our unrelenting commitment to pursue peace,” Murad added. — BM, GMA News