TOKYO – When the Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrilla movement took up arms in the Philippines in the 1960’s, Ferdinand Marcos had yet to become the country's president – let alone dictator. Despite the country’s many political transformations in the last half-century, the MILF’s campaign to achieve independence for the Bangsamoro nation – whose territory, they claim, covers the islands of Mindanao, Palawan, Sulu, and Sabah – remained constant, until President Benigno Aquino III resolved to change it.
The MILF was not deterred by the popular overthrow of Marcos’s 20-year dictatorship in 1986, following the assassination of the opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. Nor did the establishment of democracy – now deeply entrenched – inspire the group’s leaders to reconsider their approach. The MILF remained engaged in a brutal campaign of beheadings, assassination, kidnappings, and indiscriminate butchery.