Land as central in the struggle of Mindanawons (1950’s to the present)

the role of Philippine populist presidents Magsaysay, Estrada and Duterte, a comparative historical study
15 Marzo 2018

Mindanao island is long considered as the Philippines’ backwater and a peace and order problem; what are the causes of insurgency in this area?

Current data shows that, then as now, the most impoverished provinces are found in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao). Secessionism, insurgency and terrorism thus earned the island’s most dangerous place in the country and, at the same time, the target for development assistance, particularly from the United States, Japan, Australia and the European Union. This study focuses on: First, the evolution of property rights as introduced by the colonizers, later codified, and eventually laid the bases for which to define public and private lands. History showed, thus, that the root cause for insurgency is inequality abetted by both external and internal colonialism. Land laws aided and legitimized Mindanao’s exploitation of its virgin natural resources. Second, populist presidents whose “mass appeal” catapulted them to presidency such as Ramon Magsaysay, Joseph Estrada, and Rodrigo Duterte were marked by their Mindanao policy of land resettlement, all-out-war and anti-ISIS measures, respectively. This paper will compare how these three presidents responded to the challenges of Mindanao’s underdevelopment as well as peace and order problems - central of which was the land - territory issue. Moreover, considering the nuance of responses coming from the tripeople Mindanawons: migrant settlers, moros/Muslims, and lumads, this paper will also tackle the differences on property rights as perceived by these three groups. Finally, from the comparative historical analysis offered by this study, it concludes with the problem of post - Marawi siege issues on land/property rights and their implications.