Researched Works

Post-colonial Philippines and the Code of Muslim Personal Laws

The Muslims' violent struggle for self-determination continues during the post-colonization period. The first peace agreement was signed in 1976 in Libya.

According to Justin Holbrook (2009) and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (n.d.). the Philippine government enacted several statutes related to Muslim personal laws after achieving independence from the US in 1946. These include (1) Republic Act (RA) 241 that exempted “Mohammedans and pagans” from civil marriage requirements; (2) RA 386 or the New Civil Code that “recognized marriages among Muslims and mixed marriages between Muslims and Christians”; (3) RA 394 that authorized divorce among Muslims; and (4) RA 6268 that “extended the applications on Muslim marriages for another ten years after the expiration of the 20-year period stipulated in RA 386.”

By 1957, non-Christian Filipinos were formally declared as “National Cultural Minorities”. Said identity was renamed “Cultural Communities” in the 1973 Constitution and “Indigenous Cultural Communities” in the 1987 Constitution.

Transmigration policies and the struggle of Filipino Muslims

In the decades of 1960s and 1970s, the Philippine government launched a resettlement policy, encouraging Filipino Catholics to migrate to uncrowded Mindanao, deemed as the “Land of Promise” for its rich, untapped resources. The policy was similar to what former Western colonizers did when they provided opportunities for non-Muslims from other regions to flock to Mindanao, thinking that the process would help integrate Muslims with the Christian majority. It was also a strategy to thwart communist insurgency among farmers in Luzon that began to loom during the American period. Non-Muslims from other regions also moved to Mindanao during the Japanese occupation.

Transmigration though further marginalized the Muslims, especially after World War II. It weakened the Moros’ political and economic hold of Mindanao; it also made them, along with the Lumads, “cultural minorities”. Based on their book on inter-ethnic dialogue, Susan Russell et al. (2006) report that back in 1903, Mindanao had an estimated Muslim population of 39.29 per cent; in 1975, it was only 20.17 per cent. The Lumads, on the other hand, were 22.11 per cent in 1903, down to 6.86 per cent in 1975. Both groups fought against Christian settlers.

Muslim secessionist groups and the Tripoli Agreement

A number of indignant Muslims formed the Moro National Liberation Front and engaged in armed rebellion against the State under then Pres. Marcos who declared Martial Law in 1972 to quell communist and rebel forces. The MNLF demanded for an independent Bangsamoro state, as well as to reclaim ancestral lands occupied by Filipino Christians and foreign corporations.

The Marcos government thought that the conflict would ease by establishing the Southern Philippines Development Authority and by seeking the assistance of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and other international agencies. However, the animosity continued, resulting in thousands of deaths since the 1960s.

When Libya’s Pres. Gaddafi stepped in, the Tripoli Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF was forged in 1976. It granted autonomy for southern Philippines but without marring the country's territorial integrity. It also allowed for the establishment of Shari’a courts. The formal truce, however, failed to achieve genuine autonomy for Mindanao, prompting two break-away groups: the MNLF-Reformist, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which was established in 1977 - the same year when the CMPL was enacted.


Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC). n.d. A Primer on the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines. (accessed September 20, 2010).

Holbrook, Justin G. 2009. “Legal Hybridity in the Philippines: Lessons in Legal Pluralism from Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago”. (accessed September 20, 2010).

Russell, Susan, Lina Davide Ong, Rey Ty, and April Gonzalez Anderson. 2006. Inter-ethnic Dialogue and Conflict Resolution in Southern Philippines: Access to Community and Civic Enrichment. International Training Office and Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Northern Illinois University. (accessed September 22, 2010).

Written by Leann Zarah (

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