Acknowledging a historic massacre of Muslims, 45 years later, Philippine peace may finally have a chance

President Aquino builds trust by acknowledging a historic massacre of Muslims.

MILF Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace AquinoENLARGE

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels stand guard as their chief Murad Ebrahim (not pictured) holds a press conference inside camp on the southern island of Mindanao in October 2012. A framework agreement signed by President Benigno Aquino III could forge lasting peace after 45 years of conflict. (Mark Navales/Getty Images)

MANILA, Philippines — The violence began way back in 1968.

At the time, the Filipino military was secretly training Muslim fighters to occupy an island claimed by Malaysia.

When about two dozen Muslims mutinied, government troops summarily executed them. Word of the killings helped spark a Muslim uprising on the southern islands of Mindanao.

The fighting has since claimed some 150,000 lives.

In March, amid peace talks with Muslim separatists, President Benigno Aquino III traveled to Corregidor Island, the scene of the 1968 massacre.

Aquino’s trip sought to instill trust. “It is our responsibility to recognize this event as part of our national narrative,” Aquino said in the first official acknowledgement of the massacre. “How can a wound heal if we cannot bring ourselves to even look at it?”

National reconciliation could turn out to be Aquino’s legacy.

In October his government signed a preliminary peace agreement with the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front, though many details have yet to be worked out. Known as the MILF, the front has been fighting for a separate Muslim homeland on Mindanao since the mid-1970s.


Categories: Asia

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