Neoliberalism and the Moro Struggle in Southern Philippines

By Imbong, Regletto Aldrich | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Neoliberalism and the Moro Struggle in Southern Philippines


Imbong, Regletto Aldrich, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


1. Introduction

The Philippines is a nation in perennial turmoil. Social unrests continue to rock the nation, especially in its southern island, Mindanao. The secessionist movement of the Moros, of whose fight could still be traced back to the valiant battles waged by independent sultanates against the Spanish and American colonialists, continues. The MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), in a much recent past, have mobilized thousands among their ranks and waged secessionist wars against the central government of the Philippines, in order to assert independence of what they deemed as the Bangsamoro. Peace has been so evasive in the island of Mindanao.

Extremist terror has likewise plagued the island of Mindanao. Offshoots of either of the two Moro movements have transformed into infamous terror groups. There is the notorious Abu Sayyaf group of whose terroristic activities were erroneously justified through the Islamic notion of the jihad (Liow 2006, 16). And just this 2017, a supposed ISIS-inspired clan called Maute sieged the Islamic City of Marawi in order to supposedly build a Caliphate in the region (Fonbuena 2017). The atrocities of the latter prompted President Duterte to declare Martial Law in the entire island of Mindanao.

This paper aims to elucidate the Moro resistance via a critique of neoliberalism. It will trace how neoliberalism has sparked resistance movements the world over and in the Philippines, especially among the Moros. The paper will also present alternatives as to how the current Moro struggle be regarded as a political resistance against neoliberalism.

2. Neoliberalism and Islam: The Market Economy and Muslim Resistance

As a global force, neoliberalism has permeated human existence yet, as we shall see, it has not actually alleviated the human condition but has pushed it to an unspeakable state of poverty. It is the aim of this section to analyze what neoliberalism means and how it has affected select Muslim societies.

2.1. Neoliberal Themes

David Harvey has argued that neoliberalism is "a political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore the power of the economic elites". While majority of the world population in the post-war years suffered appalling economic conditions, neolibe- ralism's implementation has succeeded in securing and, more importantly, monopolizing power among a few business interests. Neoliberalism is clearly capitalism's response to the problems it internally created and suffered. This response takes the form of saving a crises-stricken economic system, thereby putting premium on the progress of capital and profit over the needs of ordinary people. Harvey contended that neoliberalism "has not been very effective in revitalizing global capital accumulation, but it has succeeded remarkably well in restoring, or in some instances... creating, the power of economic elite" (Harvey 2005a, 19).

In advancing its aims, neoliberal architects in the industrialized countries, all throughout the period from its initial implementation in the 1970's up to the present, unwaveringly followed and implemented the model of the LPD: liberalization, privatization, and deregulation. This same model was also forcefully imposed on developing countries.

Liberalization, privatization, and deregulation were clarified by Chomsky (1999, 20) when he pointed out neoliberalism's rules. The first rule is to "liberalize trade and finance". Neoliberalism must guarantee the free flow of capital, commodities, services, and technologies as these cross transnational boundaries. The second is to "let markets set price". This essentially deregulates sovereign governments and restricts them from interfering on issues that concern the market. What is presupposed here is that the market is better managed if business interests are left freely to themselves to decide their own fate. The last rule is to "privatize" industries and services originally considered as public utilities (e. …

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